Debbie Young is one such person. Debbie is an absolute expert on book promotion and marketing. She has 30 years experience in the industry and runs Off The Shelf Book Promotions which offers a bespoke marketing and promotion service to self-published authors (she also maintains a very useful blog of book promotion tips here.)
Debbie’s book Sell Your Books! has just been published (I’ve read it and it’s excellent – well worth buying if you want to give your book the push it deserves). I asked her a few questions about selling books and her answers were so comprehensive that I’ve split them into two blog posts. Here we go with number 1:
It’s often said that a writer needs to build a potential readership before their book is published. Do you agree and if so, how would you recommend doing this?
Try to define your potential readership, so that you can bear them in mind whilst writing the book. But don’t let it distract or divert you from actually getting the writing done nor from writing the book you want to write. Be true to yourself.
Always be on the look out for practical ways of reaching your target audience. Keep a note of useful websites, interest groups etc that you can come back to when you are ready. Watch out for what others in your field are doing to promote their books.
By all means engage with your potential readership but don’t show them your hand before you are ready – your book may evolve into something quite different to what you expected!
Consider also: other influential writers who you might ask to review your book; book reviewers; book bloggers; local booksellers; interest groups for your genre or topic. Follow their blogs and comment on their blog posts. Follow them on Twitter, befriend them on Facebook and GoodReads. Write reviews of their books. Comment on their book reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Post worthwhile comments on their websites. Go to their public events. When commenting online anywhere, include a link to all your contact details (website, Twitter, email etc) so they can track back to you and the relationship can be a two-way thing. Then, when your book is published, you will be a familiar (and hopefully respected!) name to them and they will be well-disposed towards your new book.
Secure your own website address (URL) in advance so that it can be printed on your book jacket. But don’t be tempted to promote the book before it exists. This can be counter-productive. You’ll have much more impact on a bookshop, for example, if you can go in with actual samples of your book, a fully functional website and a few reviews, than with nothing physical to show. These things give you much more credibility as an author whose books are going to make a profit for the store.
There’s a lull between finishing your manuscript, proofing it and it being on sale as a finished product – that’s a really good time to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. But don’t rush things. In this digital age of e-books and on-demand printing, there’s no rush to start marketing your book, because it’s never actually too late. Your book doesn’t come with a sell-by date, and it won’t be remaindered or de-listed by your publisher (i.e. you!). There’s more about this on my blog here.
On the other hand, don’t err on the side of sloth! You do HAVE to put in the effort sooner or later if your book is going to be successful, because no matter how good it is, it won’t sell itself if you don’t promote it at some time.