I’ve saved the best for last: contests and giveaways.
If you’re planning the release of an independently published book, contests are a great way to build buzz and interest. No site makes that easier than Goodreads, a social networking site centered around what people are reading. If you haven’t already, sign up for their author program and upload your book’s information (ISBN, cover art, synopsis, etc.). Sign up to run a book giveaway. You decide how many copies you’re willing to give away and Goodsreads does the rest. They’ll advertise it on their site and you can check daily to see how many people have entered to win. You also decide how long the contest will run.
I ran a month-long giveaway for three signed copies of my novel. Over 700 people entered, but more importantly, over 200 people added it to their “to-read” shelf. It was exposure that didn’t cost me anything. Goodreads will notify you at the end of the giveaway with the winner(s)’ names and addresses – just sign the books and drop them in the mail. Of the three winners, two reviewed my book on the site and both were positive.
Goodreads is an excellent way to interact with people who are reading and reviewing your book. I’ve accepted friend requests from readers and it’s always interesting to see their daily status updates, indicating how far along they are in my book. I even set up a Q&A chat where readers could ask questions about the book – character development, plot structure, etc.
Tip: I set up a search for my book’s title in Tweetdeck so I could see any time it was tweeted. A lot of Goodreads users link their account to Twitter so their reading status updates are shared there. If you see someone is reading your book, reach out!
You can also host your own contests at your book’s site and promote it on Facebook and Twitter. I did a proof-of-purchase giveaway in which three prizes were available: a new Kindle, a signed paperback of the book and a chance to be a character in the next book. The latter was my favorite because – as I mentioned before – all of this marketing is on you and at your expense. People purchased the book for a shot to win and that prize cost me nothing to give. Of course, the winner’s last name is very unique, hard to spell and even harder to say, but hey, it gives my book character.
I had no experience with Facebook ads, so when they sent an email offering me $50 worth of advertising, right when the contest was beginning, I jumped on it. I had impressions in the six figures and it led people to the site advertising the contest. I don’t know what percentage translated into sales, but (again) it didn’t cost me anything and it put my book and name in front of potential new readers who might not have otherwise heard of either.
Finally, I want to talk about book bloggers. Independent author, Amanda Hocking, cited book bloggers as having a big part in her success. Last year, she began publishing her YA books on Amazon.com and recently signed a multi-million dollar deal with a traditional publishing house. Of course not every independent author will see that kind of success and some may not want to, but there’s no denying that getting positive reviews from trusted book bloggers is a good thing.
You’ll have to research bloggers that review the genre you’ve published. Carefully read their review guidelines and be prepared to send out hard or soft copies of your book. Also, be prepared that an agreement to review your book doesn’t guarantee a positive response. The book bloggers I’ve dealt with review with integrity. Most importantly, research the book blogger’s audience. Make sure they are the type of readers who will enjoy your type of book. Here’s a good database of book bloggers to get you started.
As I prepare for the second book in my series to be released (December, 2011) I’ll be researching other avenues to market my work. I’ll share what I’ve found – the good and the bad – here. I’ll be experimenting with podcasting soon and next month I’ll be attending the Indie Book Event in NYC. Look for a post on that event in early August.
I’m curious to hear how you’ve used Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc., to market your book. What has worked for you?