You've spent months, maybe even years writing your novel. You've edited every page a dozen times; you checked your formatting and it is now perfect. Your book cover and description are both captivating. You hit "publish" and your masterpiece is now officially on sale.
Many new authors may think that they are now done and that they can sit back and wait for the money to flow in. But they are wrong, and the real work has just begun!
As an indie author, simply writing and publishing your work is not enough, you now have to market your book. Even if you have written the best story ever, what good is it if no one knows it exists?
The first step in getting your book noticed by readers is to ensure you have an excellent book cover and description. While the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" may ring true in some instances, when you are trying to sell your book online in a sea of millions of other books, you want it to stand out and be noticed.
If you are like most indie authors, you will most likely start by selling your book on Amazon, the leader in e-book and print book sales. Amazon owns most of the retail e-book market so it makes sense to sell your book with them, but getting your book noticed by potential readers can be tough.
You will have to spend some money to advertise your book. This doesn't mean you should go and drain your savings account and spend, spend, spend on advertising; but you will need to pay for an effective campaign, and it is something you can do on your own.
There are dozens of websites that are eager to take your money, often promising to make your book a best seller overnight. I have yet to find one that actually works, and from my experience communicating with other indie authors, the story is the same. Make sure you do your research before paying someone else to market your book.
The best way I have found to get the word out about my book is to use a multi-pronged approach. You need to let as many people as possible know you have written a book and you can do that through social media. However, your friends and family may soon tire of your book promotions, so you may want to set up secondary social media accounts using a pen name. Use photos of your book cover and be sure to include a link (or links) to where an interested reader can purchase your book.
You will also need an author page. Amazon offers a free author page to anyone who publishes through them. Be sure and take advantage of this helpful service. When you create your author page, make sure you say you are an author - not a housewife that is trying to be an author, or a part-time author. Once you have published a book, you ARE an author. Period. No one cares what else you do, and letting people know that you are writing as a hobbie can sometimes turn them away. Review the author pages of other indie authors to see what is effective.
You should also invest in creating your own website where you can post snippits of your stories, show your books and provide links to where people can purchase your books. Setting up a website doesn't have to involve a lot of money, and many sites like Wix have excellent, easy to use templates allowing you to set up your own website quickly.
Now that you have done all of this, you're finished, right? Wrong!
In order to keep your book visible to potential readers, you will have to invest some cash in targetted advertising. If you are published on Amazon, I recommend using their AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) where you can set up an advertising campaign. I have found this service to be effective, and it does not have to be expensive.
Using AMS, I suggest you select the Sponsored Products advertising. This type of campaign allows you to set a budget, either daily or for a set period of time, with which you are comfortable. You can then select key words which are used to place your ad in front of readers searching for those key words. Using the correct keywords though, is of paramount importance.
If you have written a fictional story about ghosts, for instance, you should include obvious key words such as ghost, haunting, etc. What a lot of authors fail to do however, is to include the names of other well-known, established authors who write in the same genre as your book. Using the example above, you would add Stephen King, Dean Koontz and other authors known for writing ghost or supernatural stories. Why do this? You do this to put YOUR book in front of a reader who enjoys reading this type of story.
With AMS and key words, you will need to place a bid per click. This is the amount of money you are willing to pay to Amazon when a potential customer clicks on your ad. Don't be afraid to put a higher amount on the key word that suggested as most actual costs come in lower than your bid price. If you are spending too much for the clicks on your key word, and are not getting the sales to pay for the clicks, simply reduce the amount. Setting a daily limit for your ads will help you stay within your advertising budget.
There are other sites that offer pay-per-click advertising, but make sure you do your research before parting with your hard-earned money. Other than Amazon, I have found Book Bub to be effective, but other advertising has not been effective, at least for my books. This doesn't mean that other sites are not effective, but these two sites are the "big ones" in the US market, and that is where my particular target market is located.
If, after you have done all of this, your books are still not selling, try changing your ads. It may be as simple as your key words being off, or your blurb. You may need to change your cover or book description on your main book page. Try this and if sales increase, you know you are on the right track. If changes do not work, you may have a problem with your writing. Amazon offers a "Look Inside" feature for interested readers where they can preview up to 10% of your story. If that preview is full of grammatical, spelling or formating mistakes, it will turn off the reader. You should also make sure that your story immediately grabs the reader's interest, making them want to read more.
Effective and repetitive marketing takes time, effort and some expense, but if you want your book to be exposed to the largest possible reader base, it is a necessary evil.
No one said that being an indie author was easy, but once things start rolling, it makes the effort worthwhile.