Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Everybody’s got to start somewhere.
Book readers are a lot like rabbits – the more of them you have, the faster they multiply. As new fans discover your book, they tell their friends, sharing your story with more and more people. And that’s great, if you have some fans to start with.
In this article, I’m going to look at some techniques you can use to start the ball rolling, to convince people that your book is worth reading.
We’ve discussed many of these ideas before, but think of this as a one-stop-shop for advice for beginners, with links to more detailed articles if any of the suggestions catch your eye.
While we’re talking specifically about how to build a readership from scratch, all the ideas here work just as well for seasoned writers with an existing fan base. So as you’re reading, no matter what rung of the ladder you’re on, have a think about how you can use these ideas, and let us know in the comments below.
Finding readers is a numbers game
Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘build it and they will come’? Sadly, this doesn’t always work too well on the internet.
While online marketing is great for your book because it gives you access to millions of potential buyers, there are so many other people trying to attract their attention that unless you actively seek out an audience, nobody will be able to find your book.
Sharing begins at home
The best place to start promoting your book is among people you already know. Your existing social media following – your friends, family and work colleagues – may show an interest in your writing. This circle is wider than you think: I once posted some of my work on Facebook and had an old colleague I hadn’t seen in years tell me that he wanted to buy my book.
Giving your family the hard sell is obviously going to be difficult – you won’t want to force your great aunt Agatha to buy your collected works in hardback. So offer copies to friends and family for free – they make fantastic Christmas and birthday gifts, even in digital form.
The trick is to get your existing contacts to share your book with their friends. Set up a Facebook page for your book, and encourage your loved ones to follow it. Many will be more than happy to give you a little free publicity.
If you’d like to know more about how to convince your friends and family to promote your book to others, there’s a full article on the subject that you can read here.
Find like-minded readers
Fans on the internet have a tendency to congregate together. Forums, Facebook groups and websites are an excellent place to start promoting your stories.
Have a look for online communities that are interested in your book’s genre, or who like the works of authors that inspired you. For example, if your story is a Steampunk adventure novel, there are plenty of Steampunk groups online who are always looking for new books to read.
In sharing your work with these groups, it’s important not to just join the community and instantly post links to your Amazon page. Nobody will take you seriously if you’re obviously only there for some cheap publicity.
Instead, take the time to get involved in the group, post about things you enjoy, engage in discussions, and when the time is right, tell people about your book. They’ll be far more receptive if they trust you, and if you’ve proven your worth to the community.
For more suggestions on how to engage with existing communities, check out this article.
Get big names on your side
Building a following from scratch can be hard, so it helps a lot if you’re not trying to do this alone. Send emails and messages to websites that you read that you think might be interested in your book, offering to do an interview. Book news sites are often eager for fresh and original content, so you never can predict the response you’ll get.
Contact authors whose work has inspired you and point them to your novel. They may be interested to see how they’ve influenced your book, and they may choose to plug your novel to their own following.
There’s nothing to lose in asking people for help – most people on the internet are very friendly and will be more than happy to give you some of their time. That said, be sure to be polite and friendly, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.
If you’d like some more advice on convincing other people to promote your book, have a look here.
Never give up looking for readers
Probably the hardest part of self-promoting your book is continuing to do so even when things don’t work out immediately. It can take time to get started, and progress can be slow.
But the more you work at expanding your readership, the more success you’ll have. Your first ten followers will always be the hardest ten to gain: after that, as you learn what techniques work for you, things will progress faster and faster.
Hopefully these tips will give you an idea of where to start. I can guarantee that they work, as they’re all ideas that I’ve relied on myself to build my own online following.
I really want to help you as much as possible so if you have any questions about how to get started, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to give you some helpful tips.
Alternatively, if you’re a more seasoned writer and you’d like to share your own successful ideas for marketing, leave a comment – we’ll all be thrilled to hear your advice.
Thanks, and good luck.