Since I started publishing my novellas last year, I’ve seen many new authors both in the self-publishing and the indie world that seem lost on how to make readers actually read their books. This is a common fear when you first publish a story. Will my books find their audience? Does anyone actually care about my stories? Some people have even asked my help on how to promote their book. Honestly, I’m just another small writer lost in this world just like anyone else. But I decided to bring a few tips that may help someone out there. This post is mostly for people who are just starting and want a better idea of what to do to find readers.
It’s good to remember that advice from other people is not the end all of how to promote something. You never know for sure what can work or not. Or better yet, each author needs to know how to work with a different audience that fits their story. What works for one person may not work for the other.
If there’s not an easy way to find your book, readers won’t find it for themselves. Make a Goodreads page with title, synopsis and your author info. I usually make one available as soon as I finish the first rough drafts of a book I know I’ll be publishing soon.
Hype your book for readers! It’s good to make a cover reveal one or two months before you publish something. Find book bloggers interested in that and use this as the first promo for your story. You can also just do it yourself on your blog or author page if that’s how you prefer. This brings me to one of my favorite parts in item 3!
Early reviews help so much to hype a book before its publishing date. Open requests for reviewers and book bloggers at least a month before your book comes out. This gives enough time for people to read the book and write the reviews needed. You can just use a Google form for that, it’s quite simple once you play around with it and figure the basic things. Or if you have the money, NetGalley is a cool website to use for this service.
I think many authors are worried about giving ARCs away for fear of piracy or that this will make you lose sales. Yes, there’s the downside of people who want to take advantage, but I still encourage new authors to send ARCs out. Ask people to send their names, emails, blogs and Goodreads accounts in their requests so you can know if they’re really interested in reading the book. Maybe not all of them will have the time to write a review, but many will still want to write something about it. Readers who don’t know you or your work look for reviews to know if it’s worth it to buy and read your story. A book without reviews is hard to sell.
Something extremely important is to try to get your ARCs for marginalized readers. This story you wrote is not just yours, you are telling this story for someone. Remember that. Reviewers who share identities with your characters will love to read and promote your book.
Despite being in the book community for a few years now, I only learned about Blog Tours when I was about to publish The Melody of You and Me, my first novella. Blog Tours are usually done in a week where Bloggers will write a post to promote your book. Authors and Bloggers work together on this and it can be super fun! Facecast, playlists, author and characters interviews are some ideas for posts to promote your book. In case you don’t have time to do all of this on your own but have the money, you can use paid hosts to help you organize the Tour. Rich in Variety is a nice place to look for this kind of service. Blog Tours usually happen in the week your book comes out so this helps a lot in promoting your story. It’s so cool to see the original posts that bloggers will make for your stuff!
Book Bloggers and even more important, Diverse Book Bloggers are eager to help in promoting marginalized authors and their work. Do create a nice relationship with them. Readers want cool books to read, authors want people to read their cool books. Why not join our works to make publishing a better place for everyone?
Twitter and other social medias can be fun to use for promotion but are you using this just to talk about your books? Use them to tell readers who you are and what you read too. They are interested in you as an author and look up to you to find more media to support and enjoy. I love making threads or talking about diverse books and authors I admire so that more people can also read their works.
Twitter is a really nice place to meet other authors and help each other. It’s definitely the place that helped me the most so far. Being a part of the book community can be hard some days but you are also going to find so much love and support there. Remember that you’ll need self-care days and take a break from it from time to time. Come back and help when you can. We all have limits and personal lives to take care of. Work inside your limits and what you can do. The good is in the small steps we take together.
No one is perfect. You’re going to make mistakes along the way. If you get called out or if you write something problematic and people ask you about it, remember to always apologize. Your readers deserve respect and to be heard. Take this as a learning experience so that next time you can do better. Writing is about being open to always try better in your next works. It’s just another part of being an author.
Be sure you make your research for the characters and the story you’re writing. Google is your friend. A nice website to check for research is Writing With Color. They have many links and posts there, and you can also send them an ask. Hiring sensitivity readers can be super helpful on catching harmful representation, but be sure you have enough knowledge way before you write a story. It’s never too much to be careful when touching on matters that aren’t common to your experience.
Look for tropes, stereotypes, read threads and reviews by marginalized people that will help you understand how to write an inclusive story. Read books by other marginalized authors that share different identities from yours. Don’t try to overstep your limits. Diversity is about opening space for more people to write more stories, not about you writing everyone else’s story.
All these items may seem too much, but do what you can do. Step by step, you can get your books in the hands of people who are looking for the stories you are writing. Being an author is not just about writing words down on a page, especially if you don’t have a team behind you promoting your book. Just because you aren’t mainstream, doesn’t mean you need to do all of this alone! We’re all here to help.
Maria Hollis is the writer of the New Adult F/F Novellas The Melody of You and Me and The Paths we Choose. When she isn’t scrolling around her social media accounts or reading lots of femslash fanfiction, you’ll find her crying about female characters and baking cookies. She hopes to keep writing many stories for women who love other women with happy endings.