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Authors try all kinds of things to promote their book – here's what really works

Words by Amy Lord

For writers, marketing can be a dirty word.

After months or even years locked away with a story, they have to turn their gaze outward and embrace self-promotion.

This usually happens after the book comes out. But never one to do things the easy way, I’ve flipped the publishing process on its head by deciding to crowdfund my debut novel with Unbound. That means I’ve spent a large portion of the last few months shouting about my book and trying to persuade people to pledge to the campaign.

Crowdfunding isn’t that different to marketing, it simply brings the hard work to the beginning of the publishing process. If the campaign is unsuccessful, the book won’t be released.

Throughout my campaign, I’ve heard people say again and again that the one thing guaranteed to secure pledges is to approach your friends, family and colleagues directly. People try all kinds of things to fund their books, but that is the one thing that really works.

But what that does mean is you need a large network to have a chance of reaching your target.

Crowdfunding has so far taken me on a journey through multiple guest blogs, radio interviews, endless posts on social media, a new Medium profile, videos of me talking about why I wrote the book and chose to crowdfund it, visits to book clubs and a couple of hundred emails, Facebook DMs and private messages on Twitter.

"Many other writers are in the same position: your voice is always competing to be the loudest, to reach the audience most likely to be interested in your book."

I’ve featured on the alumni newsletter at my university, been promoted by New Writing North and retweeted by the Bath Novel Award. It helps that I have a track record with both organisations, having won a Northern Writers’ Award and been longlisted for the Bath Novel Award. Any success for their writers is something they want to shout about. But many other writers are in the same position: your voice is always competing to be the loudest, to reach the audience most likely to be interested in your book.

And that’s what you really need: people who will support you, who will shout from the rooftops that this book is worth reading. They’ll take your network and amplify it with their own. They will introduce you to new readers and give you inspired ideas just when your campaign is running dry.

Whether you’re crowdfunding or promoting a published book, it helps to have a plan. Before you start, take a look at your network and think about what opportunities it might offer. The book groups I visited were run by friends who were happy to have a guest author come along to read and talk about the publishing process.

I’ve been blogging for years and know plenty of bloggers happy to publish a guest post or an interview, or share my campaign on social media. Other posts have come about through networking on Twitter and Facebook groups, or because I’ve targeted local publications that might have an interest in my story.

When approaching bloggers, media or other organisations to feature your book, the key thing is to just ask. But be sure to do it politely and do your research first. Don’t pitch your crime novel to a blogger who is only interested in romance novels, or who doesn’t accept guest posts. Look for the people who enjoy books similar to yours, or whose followers might respond positively to you.

I’ve contacted a lot of people about my campaign. Not all responded, but many were happy to help in some way. The return for each article hasn’t been huge, but it’s so important to build word of mouth. And many bloggers will also review your book on Amazon or Goodreads, so it all adds up. Plus, all these articles mean you have a steady stream of content to keep your social media followers engaged.

Some people will tell you that a book must make an impact on its release but there are ways to extend the life of your promotional campaign.

The more you can do to promote your book, the better your chance of success. Not everything has to be high impact, just a simple tweet or contacting someone online each day can be enough to keep things moving. If you’re always chipping away, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed.

After years of being rejected by agents and publishers, crowdfunding and book promotion will introduce you to a whole new realm of rejection. It turns out securing a publishing contract isn’t the hardest part of becoming an author; crowdfunding has been tough, but it’s also given me an insight into the work I’ll need to do to promote my book when it’s released.

This process has taught me to be confident in standing up and shouting: I’m a writer and I have a story you should read.

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from North East England. Check out the Unbound page for her novel The Disappeared here and find Amy on Twitter here.

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