So you’ve written your first novel! Isn’t it a gem? Don’t you love it? Yes, and so you should – it’s a bit like having children, isn’t it? Well, as the author of three published novels (with another two on the way) and three feature film screenplays, I’m here to let you know about the road ahead.
Now, eyes wide-open, folks; this is a journey of discovery. Of the three principal parts to a novel’s life (the writing, the editing and publishing, and the marketing) you are about to enter the most challenging.
Firstly, let me get the bad news out of the way – nobody cares! That’s right! The cold hard fact is that unless you have written the next Harry Potter series, have an established following of many thousands who eagerly await your next word, or have a high-profile publisher who is willing to market a new author (good luck on that one), the marketing and promotion are up to you.
Now, after such a dampener, let’s focus on the good stuff.
The first diamond I wish to give you are some underpinnings to the marketing process. These are:
- Do something every day
- Believe in your message and your story
- Never, ever give up.
Marketing your book is a laborious business, particularly so if you don’t have a predilection for ‘selling yourself’. Let’s face it, we authors are a solitary bunch. Remember, when YOU stop marketing, your book will stop selling. Even if you have a large publisher, if your book hasn’t sold to satisfactory numbers after three to six months, potential readers will probably lose interest and move on to the next ‘big’ thing.
So here are a few ideas that may serve you well.
Get real clarity on your book’s target audience
This may include demographics (age, sex, family life cycle, i.e. single, married, children, etc.), geography (whether it relates to a particular regional or urban area) and behaviour (whether the topic relates to aspects of lifestyle, e.g. food, family or new age seekers).
Define the activities that will underpin the sales
For example, my next book, The Power of the Possible is a self-help narrative for young adults. The age range for the readers will be 13 to 18 years, but will they buy the books? I don’t think so. The buyers will be the frustrated parents who are trying their best to guide their teenage children through the scourges of drugs, alcohol and self-harm. Does this give us some sense of where the marketing will occur? Sure! Schools and libraries are an obvious choice. Local media will love the idea of a book that aims at reducing children’s self-harm. Even more so, the myriad social-networking sites may just create a bit of demand. Also, approaching business networks, Parents and Citizens Associations and sporting clubs (the places where overworked parents hang out) may be a good idea.
Marketing costs money. Be really clear where your hard-earned cash is going
Personal websites, roadshows, seminars and so on can cost a lot of dough. Spend your money where you believe you will get maximum exposure. One really cool and cheap way to get the word out there is a postscript and link under your email signature – you send a lot of emails, don’t you?
Go through your own list of contacts
If you combine your family members’ lists, you will find a whole raft of really nice people. Who could be a ‘centre of influence’? Who may be your book’s ‘champion’? Who may know someone, who knows someone? You never know, you may only be two or three contacts away from someone who can really make a difference.
So here’s the real deal. Yes, you want your book to ‘sell’ – but more particularly you want your book to ‘gain momentum’ (think Fifty Shades of Grey). To spread the word about how good your book is, you need to do something every day – oops, sorry, you can have Sundays off. Even if it’s an email to a media outlet, a phone call to a bookstore, or a talk at a book club, do a little something each day that contributes to getting your book to its target audience. There is such a thing as a ‘tipping point’. So keep on going until you find it.
And remember – never, ever give up.
Stephen Chong is the author of: The Book of Testaments (2009), The Music of the Soul (2011) and Letters across Time (2013) and three screenplays: A Meaningful Life, The Power of the Possible and Mean Paradise