Okay, you’ve done it! You’ve written your YA novel, and either sold it to a publisher or decided to self-publish it. Either way, it’s about to “go out into the world”! Congrats!
Now you just want to make sure that readers can actually find your gem out in the crowded marketplace. You must promote! But how? I’m going to tell you what’s worked best for me. Keep in mind that your mileage my vary.
First off, whether your book is available both digitally and in bookstores or just digitally, word-of-mouth is very important to your sales. You need to get people talking about your book–and the best people to get talking are bloggers. If your publisher’s publicity department isn’t getting ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) into their hands, then you should make sure they get copies–either ARCs or electronic galleys, or even finished copies. I’m not saying send out copies to everyone who asks, but you should definitely be out there on social media, building relationships with bloggers/reviewers, and giving some of them the opportunity to review your book without having to purchase a copy. And don’t worry–while I do think that blogger/reviewer love can actually “make” a book (i.e. bring it to the attention of readers who might have missed it, giving it unexpected success), I don’t believe that bad reviews necessarily “kill” a book. But, for better or for worse, you need to get readers talking about your book.
Piggy-backing onto that, participate in social media! Make sure you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Goodreads account. But warning: Do NOT use social media to simply hawk your book! Use Facebook and Twitter (Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) to simply have a presence–make friends, talk about books and other things that interest you. Beyond that, I try to think of it this way–make yourself available to your readers and potential readers, if they want to ask you about your books, but never, ever try to come off as a sales pitch.
Some very important social media “Don’ts”: Don’t insert yourself into conversations uninvited (i.e. “Hey, if you like paranormal romances, you might like my new YA paranormal…..”). Don’t mass “invite” people to like your Facebook page. Don’t post “introductory” blurbs about yourself/your book on other people’s (including other authors’!) Facebook pages. Don’t send out endless “invites” on Goodreads (i.e. “Mary Shelley invites you to try out her new book, Frankenstein!”). And please, please, PLEASE don’t respond to reviews on Goodreads. I promise you, these are all sure-fire ways to turn off readers, not draw them in.
Make sure you have a website, and keep the content current. If you blog, keep up with the blog. Make sure you have a way for readers to contact you and interact with you. Offer bookmarks if readers send you an SASE. Exchange swag (bookmarks, signed bookplates, rubber/silicone bracelets, other inexpensive jewelry, pens, custom t-shirts, etc.) with other authors for “cross promotional” purposes. Hold contests asking entrants to help spread the word (i.e. “bonus entries” for posting about your book on Facebook or Twitter). If your publisher doesn’t offer an ARC or finished copy giveaway on Goodreads, set one up yourself (you will get lots of exposure this way!). Consider a well-done, targeted Facebook ad. Send a press release to your local newspaper (unfortunate, if, like me, your local paper happens to be The New York Times) and local news affiliate (I’m told that small-town local affiliates sometimes have trouble coming up with content for their weekend morning shows).
Lastly, if you’re traditionally published, you need to remember that a large percentage of your sales will still occur at the bookstore–as in, people buying print copies. Teens buy lots of books, and parents/grandparents buy lots of books for them. Some of these readers may not be tuned in to the online book blogging community. So, how do you reach these readers? There are several ways: One, build relationships with your local booksellers, particularly local independents who do such an amazing job hand-selling to their customers. Trust me on this one–I’ve worked at a local indie, and so many customers come in, not looking for something specific, but relying on the booksellers to make recommendations. So don’t be afraid to call (or visit) your local stores and introduce yourself and your book. Give them an ARC, if you can (if your publisher hasn’t sent them one). Offer to do a signing at their store (or better yet, suggest a group signing, and then corral other authors to join you, if possible). A warning for those of you self-published, however (and this might change as the market evolves): Self-published/POD titles are financially risky for indie stores (and major chains, too), which is why they often won’t carry them. They’re non-returnable, and generally far pricier than their traditionally published counterparts, which makes them harder to “move”. It’s going to be a “hard sell” to get the bookseller interested in your book, and you might have to offer them on consignment, rather than expecting them to take the financial risk. Also, booksellers are inundated with such calls/visits from self-published authors, sometimes receiving several on any given day. I guess what I’m trying to say is, unless you already have a good relationship with a bookseller, don’t expect success–I truly think your promotion/marketing efforts are best served elsewhere.
Two: Once your book is out on the shelves, do drive-by stock signings. Go to stores, locate your book on the shelves, then find an employee and introduce yourself and ask if you can sign the stock. Generally, I’ve found that booksellers are happy to have you do so. The signed/stickered (“autographed by the author” or “local author”) books are often moved to prime store locations–end caps or featured tables–giving them more exposure. Ask if you can leave stacks of bookmarks for the store (signed is even better!). I do this here in my own community, when I’m on vacation–anywhere I happen to be while my books are on the shelves!
And if you’re self-publishing, definitely seek out online communities (Kindle Boards, etc.) of self-published authors. Find out how you can get more exposure for your book (i.e. pricing strategies, as well as ways to work those elusive Amazon algorithms). Unfortunately, I don’t know much about this kind of promotion, but there are plenty of people out there who do!
Whew! I know it sounds like a lot of effort, and I’m not suggesting you do everything I’ve listed (I certainly didn’t!). Do what you can, and what you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good results. Just remember, always be professional, and you will, in turn, be viewed as a professional. Good luck, and feel free to add any promotional tips in the comments below![author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/KristiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Kristi’s YA debut, HAVEN, was released by Simon Pulse in Feb. 2011. She also writes adult fiction (historical romance) as Kristina Cook and Kristi Astor. Visit her online at www.kristi-cook.com.[/author_info] [/author]
Thanks for the good information. I can’t agree with you more about not using social media solely to hawk your book. I’ve considered dropping someone on Twitter when I realized nearly all of her tweets were things about her book. J W Manus wrote about the obligation factor for free ebooks in this post. I think a similar sense of obligation weariness comes when all you see are plugs for the writer’s current book.