Promotion Cheatsheet for Indie Authors

An portion of a short fact sheet of the same name

Introduction

You spend a week, or a month, or a year or more, writing your book. You make your way through the tangled web, which is modern publishing. Then, you wait. The sales start to trickle in. Maybe you get lucky, one of the first buyers of your book absolutely loves it, and they talk ten of their friends into buying it. Each of them gets ten friends to read it, and your book is off to the races.

Yeah, maybe you will get lucky. Most Writers do not get lucky. Luck is not a great plan for getting your book into the hands of people who will appreciate it. Most of us spend a short time writing the thing, and then we spend the rest of our lives promoting the damn thing.
Promotion starts at the beginning. You need to write a great book, that someone out there who you can reach wants to read. You have to be able to target the proper audience, so that they find out that the book exists. Then you have to make the book look like exactly what the reader wants to read next.
You first have to write a great book, and then you have to select the perfect category, and create the perfect search terms, so that the reader can find it on their browsers. You have to create, or have created for you, a wonderful book cover that makes the searching reader want to know more about the book.
You need a great book description. It needs to convince the Reader that he or she will get something they want by reading your book. It does not need to tell the whole story of the book. It is a sales letter for the book, not a synopsis of the book.
You need to get many reviews on the book, because the Readers, on the fence about buying your book, will go there next to see what other Readers thought about your book. You usually want the reviews to be positive, but even negative reviews may tell some Readers that your book should be their next read.
Once you have the book in place, and some sales and reviews coming in, you need to get your Author’s platform up to speed. You need to create an Author’s page at each platform from which you publish.

You may want to have a blog, and a website, to push your book. You do need
Twitter, and you can direct the Tweetys to your website or blog with 140 characters or less, so that is good. You want to be up and running with Facebook, Tweeter, Pinterest, and any of the other social media sites that you can actually use to promote your book.

Do not forget to make a book trailer, and put it up on YouTube.
Finally, there are many Bloggers out there, who would be happy to use your book as content for their blogs, and some of them actually have Readers! There are also many websites who specialize in the promotion of books and eBooks. Go wild!
This little Cheat sheet will try to get you squared away on how to promote your book, from the beginning to the end.

Make a Great Book

You have feverishly written your book, the concepts and scenes that are contained within it poured out of you in a flood. You look at the book, and you wonder if anyone will want to read it. You cannot tell whether you have given birth to a magical Tome like unto a god, or if it is just another ugly monster.
Writing it was a creative agony. Getting it into the hands of the right Readers will be an ongoing process. You have written it, and now you have to do anything you can to find Readers who will like it. That is what promotion is all about.
You picked a great title, one that tells the Reader the type of book he or she will be reading, and you have used the great software that I provided links for in Editing Cheatsheet For Indie Authors to make sure that you have no grammatical or spelling errors, and that it is not too hard to read. Maybe you even sprung for a real live Editor to check it over.
Your text sizzles, and now you need to actually ask the Reader for his review of the book, and to tell him about the other undiscovered best sellers you have in store for him or her, if you have any other books you would like to sell the Reader. You put these things in the back of the book, so that the Reader has read the book, before they are asked to do something for you.
The reason you put the request for reviews in the back matter is that you have a better chance of the Reader liking your book, if they actually completed it before asking for a review. If he did not make it to the end, he probably did not like it, and would not give you a positive review. If he did make it to the end, it was probably because he did like it.
The reason you put the list of other books you wrote in the back, is because the Reader is more likely to want to read more of your work, if they liked what they just read. The same logic applies here as for the reviews. You may also want to put a chapter of one of your other books at the end of the book to hook the reader.
If you do not have another book yet, what about asking another Author if they will send you a teaser chapter from one of their books to put at the end of your book, and then they can append your teaser chapter of your book to the end of their book. This is what it known as cross promotion.
There are two parts to the making of a good book. Write something that a large number of Readers will enjoy reading. Make it obvious to the Readers that they will enjoy reading the book. Make them see what they will gain by reading your book, whether it is an entertaining Sunday afternoon read, or some information that will make their life a lot easier.
The next few chapters will tell you how to do the second part. The first part is done by your hard work in writing the book. Someone out there will like what you have to write. If there are enough of them, and you can get them to buy the book, it will be a success.
When you have published your book, there are two goals they you should complete next. The obvious one is to write another book. The less obvious one is to expand your market. Let us say that you have published your book as an eBook on Amazon. You should also publish a paperback version of your book, for those people who only read print books. What about creating an Audio book version? You probably also want your book in the i-Store, and at the other online, and brick and mortar stores. You will need to publish your book on other multiple channel platforms, such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital, as well.
You can publish your book everywhere, and let the people who only use one source have a chance at discovering you as well. Each channel you open up will result in some sales each month. All of these trickles of money will help with your bottom line.
One last subject to cover in this chapter is the subject of exclusive publication requirements. One of the primary restrictive publishing platforms is enrollment into KDP Select. Kindle would love to make sure that they are the only place that anyone can buy your book, and so they created KDP Select to entice you to publish exclusively through them.
When you start the publishing process on Kindle, it will first ask you if you would like to enroll into KDP Select, which allows you to price your book at FREE for five days of your choice out of the next three months. This used to be a useful choice, back when you could not find an endless supply of free books for the reading. It would allow you to get many ‘sales’ at the beginning, and with luck many reviews from the readers.
I no longer use KDP Select. I do not consider it useful, since what you wind up doing is getting a large number of freebie hunters to download your book on a free day, but they usually will not write a review, or if they do, it is usually a bad one. They will also not download your books in sufficient numbers to get you the ranking you would like to have, unless you are very lucky.
One of the big rules is that you cannot sell your book on any other platform, as long as you are enrolled in Select. That is a deal-killer for me. You enroll in Select for three months at a time, and this means that people that only shop in other venues will never see your book. Several of the online bookstores have similar programs, which benefit them far more than they benefit you. Don’t fall for it.

Search Terms and SEO

The Reader that is looking for a good book will put in some search terms to find a book that contains the sort of thing they are seeking. If they select good search terms, they will get a list of books on the browser, in the form of a Book Cover and the metadata on each book.
You have probably noticed that some of the books that come up on a search are not the sort of thing that you want to read. This is probably because some of the search terms associated with the book are not appropriate for the content. Let us take an example.
Let us assume that you just wrote a wonderful Romance novel. It has everything. Men and women throwing their clothing off, and having at each other, in a way that screams romance. There are many sappy romantic situations, and the Heroine doubting if her Hero’s love is true.
Just for fun, you replaced the guns in the story with ray guns. The story may even be on another planet. When you are publishing your sappy love story, you chose to put it into the category of science fiction, because of the ray guns. You were thinking about the science fiction aspect when you picked your SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) terms, so you put ray guns, and alien world, and forgot to put such things as Kissy Face, wedding dress, and romance in the terms.
You also called the book ‘Under a Distant Sun’, leading some of us to think it was traditional science fiction. Your book cover was something astronomical that you found online, so it certainly looks like science fiction. You toned down the book description you wrote for the book, because you did not want to overdo the romance thing. It reads like a slightly sexy science fiction novel.
I do a search for books, and I notice yours. I am a hard-core science fiction fan, which in my case means that I am an unsocial science nerd, who gets uncomfortable with normal social situations, let alone romance. I naively believe that your book is the sort of thing I want to read.
I struggle to finish the book, and somehow, I finally do finish it. What sort of review do you think I will write about it? Do you think I will be recommending your book to my friends?
This is the reason why the search terms associated with your book need to be inclusive of people who want to read books like you, but need to be exclusive of the people who will hate your book.
It is better to be honest, and have folks reading your work that might actually like what you write. When someone puts a search term into a browser search, the search engine will look for terms in the title, the book description, the category, and any text that is associated with the book that the search engine can access. In the case of the Romance novel turned Science Fiction, the book should have been in the Romance category, instead of the Science Fiction niche. The Title should have suggested Romance more than it did Science Fiction. The book description should
have been full of that kissy-face stuff, and the SEO terms that you selected during publication should all be related to the actual content of your book.
Make sure that the terms you select, or the descriptions you write, and the title you select for your book tell the potential Reader what the book is about, otherwise you may not have happy Readers. If you do a good and honest job with this, and it will pay off for you.

The Book Cover

One of the first things the customer sees is your Book Cover. When they look at the cover, it should tell them what sort of book it represents. They can decide if it looks like it was carefully and professionally made, and they will assume the same level of skill applies to the book itself.
If the book cover blends into the background, or it does not convey an understandable message, the Reader will probably go on to the next Book Cover, and you will lose a customer. The artwork should be bright and understandable, it should be a high quality image with a clear and easy to read title and Author name showing.
If you are a great photographer, so you know the providence of the photographs you use as the base background on your Book Cover, and you are expert using Photoshop, and you are expert in book marketing, and a very good Artist, then make your own Book Cover. Otherwise, you probably want to farm this one out, or use one of the cover creator programs on one of the publishing platforms you use.
Either way, look online at many book covers, and pick a few out that look like something you think would look good on your book. Decide what attracts you to those covers, and set out to have the same factors in your own Book Cover.
I tend to farm out my Book Cover creation to contractors online. They know what they are doing, while I can barely draw a stick figure. Several hundred very professional Artists online will gladly let you pay them to do a cover for you, so a Google search will give you many potential sources.
I tend to like to use fiverr.com to get my Book Covers made for a cheap price. Most of them give you good work, and they will work with you to make sure that you are happy. You can check them out at fiverr.com. Just go there and search for eBook covers and related terms.
Make sure that your Book Cover attracts the kind of customers you want reading your book. It is the first thing your customer sees, and it is true that we all judge a book by its cover.

The Book Description

After the Book Cover, your Book Description is probably the next thing that your potential Reader will look at. He or she is looking to see if the book will give them the benefits that they are looking for when shopping for a book. Your book description should make clear what benefits they will get from reading your book.
If your book is a work of fiction, you should describe what sort of action takes place in the book, and something about the type of characters doing the action. If your book is nonfiction, you should make it clear what subjects your book will cover, and state simply and clearly things that will make the customer understand that your book will help them more than those of your competitors.
You have two things to consider here. Does your description have what your customer is looking for? Does it look good, and is it clear and simple? You probably want your description to be organized, with a clean, simple body ‘stating the facts’, a headline that is bigger than the body to draw attention to the central idea of the book, and a last line which is a simple request for the Reader to buy your book NOW!
In order to get this control over your fonts and format, you will need to use html where you can. You cannot use html on Smashwords and other sites, but you can use it on Amazon, if you write your description on the Kindle side. Let me give you an example.
I recently wrote a book about losing weight, using an approach that is a ‘whole life’ approach to losing weight. I suggested that you would need to change some of your habits and personality traits, as well as changing your menu, exercise and other factors. I went on to describe the easy ways to make the changes.
When I decided to write the description, I put this description together to tell the customer what the book is about. Let me know what you think.
**********************************************

Need to lose a little weight?

I will show you how.

Lose weight naturally and easily.
No more fad diets, eat like a human.
Be healthy and happy.
Your Self-Esteem will be better than it ever was before.
Enjoy life, and start getting what you want in life.
Buy Lose Weight Naturally and get started now.
*************************************************
This is what the html looked like to make that description:
<h1>Need to lose a little weight?</h1>
<h3><i>I will show you how.</i></h3>
<li>Lose weight naturally and easily.</li>
<li>No more fad diets, eat like a human.</li>
<li>Be healthy and happy.</li>
<li>Your Self-Esteem will be better than it ever was before.</li>
<li>Enjoy life, and start getting what you want in life.</li>
<h1>Buy <u><i>Lose Weight Naturally</i></u> and get started now.</h1>

You do not have to use html on Kindle, either, but it would be a shame to let the chance to pretty up your description, so use it. The next little bit of this paper will describe some of the more useful html, and show you the results, so that you can use this stuff.

Here are some of the more popular html tags that you can use to spruce up your description on your kindle book page. If you use them in the description that you insert into the box, it will change the text in the appropriate ways, and the html will not show up in the description.
<h1>This is Header 1</h1>
This is Header 1
It produces Times New Roman bold 24 point font
<h2>This is Header 2</h2>
This is Header 2
It produces Times New Roman bold 18 point font
<h3>This is header 3</h3>
This is header 3
It produces Times New Roman bold 13.5 point font
This is Header 4
This is header 5
This is Header 6
<br> Use this one for breaks
Use this one for breaks
<i>Use this one for italics</i>
Use this one for italics
<u>Try this to underline</u>
Try this to underline
<b> Try this one for bold</b>
Try this one for bold
< ol >Try this one for big indents</ ol >
Try this one for big indents
<strike>Try this one for strike throughs</strike>
Try this one for strike throughs
<li>Try this one for bullet points.</li>
T Try this one for bullet points.
And so forth.

Write your description with an eye to what would make you want to read the book, and use the tags to give each part the best presentation. Remember that you are writing sells copy here, so that the customer wants to buy the book. You should not be providing a complete retelling of the story here, or the customer will not need to read your book.

Getting Reviews

If your prospective customer is on the fence about buying your book, after seeing the book cover, and the book description, the thing most likely to shake him off the fence on the ‘buy that book’ side, is the heap of reviews that he can read, telling him what other people liked, or did not like, about your book. Reviews are vital for getting new Readers.
Getting reviews are a paradox for new Authors. You do not yet have avid fans, who will snatch up your next book, read it, review it, and tell all of their friends that they have to read your newest book. There are so many books out there now, and millions of Readers can pick and choose among millions of free and cheap books for their next reads. How do you find anyone to actually read, and then take the time to review your book?
I am a typical writer. I write a book, because the concepts that I put to pen insist that I write them down. I am driven to write, not because of any particular notion of success, but because something inside me insists that there is something that I must attempt to let people understand.
When I have finished the book, I see all of the possible flaws, and I fear that my Readers will focus on them, instead of focusing on the message. I have a fragile ego, and I am fearful that not everyone will love the book. I am afraid every time I receive a rare review that it will be a negative review.
I am also a typical Reader. I read between two hundred and four hundred books a year. Most of them are of the information book type, with a limited number of pages. Since I also write, I write reviews on some of these books. When I read a book, I either like the book, or I do not like it. If I did not like the book, but it was an honest attempt by the Author to provide what he promised the Reader, I will usually not write a review. I reserve bad reviews for bad people, not bad books.
If I liked the book, and I have a little time available, I look to see how many reviews they have. If they have a large number of reviews, I will usually not leave a review, since they have enough already. If they need reviews, I will try to leave one for the book.
If I leave a review, it will almost certainly be a five star review. I reserve the right to leave a four star, but usually, it will have five stars. I think that any real attempt to write a helpful or entertaining book deserves the highest ranking I can give.
Even though I give almost all five star ranks, I still try to speak to what I liked, and what I didn’t like, about the book. I am not usually bothered by grammatical errors, unless they make the book hard to read. I will still note that they exist, or I will say that I did (or did not) like characterizations, actions, concepts or other details of the book. I have read Romance novels, and I have given five stars to ones that deserved them, but I also noted that I did not like the subject matter. I recognize that the new Reader may love the things I do not like, so I try to provide an objective analysis of the book, regardless of my preferences. The trick is to try to accept that the book may not be my cup of tea, but still being fair to the Author for his or her work.
If the book that I read is horrible, but the concept is good, I will sometimes try to make contact with the Author privately, and suggest, as gently as I can, some possible ways that they can improve the book.
Amazon and other platforms are continually changing their opinions of the ethical ways that an Author can seek and get reviews for their books. The only 100% safe way to get a review is to just let the Readers give them out organically, hoping that they will just review the book without any action of the Author’s part. If you are lucky, this may garner you one review per year, doing you no good at all.
The various publishing platforms are critical of any ‘relationships’ that may exist between the Author and the reviewer. This used to mean that you could not pay someone to give you a great review, because they would then feel compelled to give you a good one. It evolved to mean almost any situation where any direct contact was made between Author and Reader, and it changes all of the time.
No matter how carefully you seek reviews, you will likely have the occasional ethical problem, and the platform will remove the reviews they think crosses the line. There is nothing you can do about this, other than try to be ethical when seeking the review, and adjust your methods as needed.
If you are lucky, at some point, after you have already obtained a few good reviews, you will attract more Readers, and the reviews will start coming in without you doing anything. As long as you understand that most people do not leave reviews, you can rejoice in the ones who do.
Out of the few thousand books that I have read over the last decade or so, I have left only a couple hundred reviews on all platforms combined. I am sympathetic to the plight of Writers, so I am prolific in leaving reviews, compared to most Readers.
There are essentially four actions that the Author can take to get reviews. They can do nothing, and let the Readers review, or not review, with no encouragement from the Author. The Author can passively leave a request for reviews in the back matter of their books, as I have left just such a plea in this book. You can directly contact people who have reviewed books similar to yours, and request that they review your book. You can also use Bloggers and website owners to promote your book, and sometimes, this will also result in a review from the owner of the Blog or website, as well as increasing sales.
If you look in the back of this book, you will see my feeble attempt to solicit a review from you. I will quote this request below:
If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a favorable Five Star review at the site where you purchased it. Good reviews are life or death for Authors, and I would really appreciate a good review from you!
Most Readers will ignore this request, but a few may be kind enough to leave a review. As a wise salesperson once said, “You have to ask, if you expect to get.”
The third method to get reviews is probably the most useful one. Look for books similar to yours, and look up all of the reviewers that have left a contact email. Send the Reviewer a very respectful email, asking them if they might be interested in reviewing your book as well, if you sent them a free copy of the book. Some of them will actually be nice enough to do this for you.
There are many variations of this method of getting reviews, and I do not consider myself an expert on them, by any means. If you would like to try getting reviews using this method, a good short book you can read is called Amazon Kindle Reviews, by John Smith.
There is also some online software, which will search the reviewer listings to find contact information for you. You can use this sort of software if you are a premium member of Author Marketing Club.
Finally, there are a number of Blogs and websites out there that will put your book under the noses of prospective new Readers. They offer to display your book cover and some information on the book, possible also publishing an interview of the Author (You), conducting giveaway contests, and some of these web sites will also publish a review as part of their activity. You can Google for all kinds of online sites that will advertise your book by any or all of these methods, sometimes free, and sometimes for money.

Author’s Platform

Most of the publishing platforms where you publish your book will offer you a chance to establish an Author profile page, sometimes just called an Author Page. On the page, you can add your biographical information, picture, the books you have written, and sometimes you can add your social media information, Blog link, website link, and all manner of other stuff that your wild fans will love to check out.
Beyond your Author profile pages, you can consider your accounts on Goodreads.com,
YouTube.com, Pinterest.com, your personal Blog, and your website to be parts of your Author’s platform. I am separating out the other social sites, such as Face Book for a different section of this report.
If you go to Goodreads.com, you will find that you can establish yourself there as both a Reader, and an Author. On the Author page, you can show all of your work, provide links for your blogs, website and many of your activities. On the Reader side of Goodreads, you can set up shelves for the books you have read, are reading, or plan to read, and you can post reviews of the books you have read. You can also post in the various forums, and as an Author, you can post to your Readers, possibly enticing them into reviewing your books, or deal with any other issue you want to talk about to the community at large.
You can establish your own ‘Channel’ on YouTube, and that is a very good place to upload your book trailers, or put together a audiobook sample, using something like Microsoft movie maker to add the narration to your audiobook cover, or whatever else you want to add it to. It is potentially a good way to get information about your book into the hands of a bunch of new potential customers.
If you establish an account on Pinterest.com, you can post images related to your books on boards such as https://www.pinterest.com/bayajack/indie-authors-and-self-published/, or https://
www.pinterest.com/jdlovil9/my-publishing-empire/, and you can show your Readers all of the other things that you enjoy. This will help them to form a connection with you as an Author. It is also said that the back links to pins on Pinterest are very searchable by Google, so somebody might actually see your book related pins!
You can also establish a book oriented website, or blog, and rant and rave to your heart’s content about anything that you want to rave about. Raving about your books, and some of your fellow Authors may be a good idea. WordPress.com would be glad to provide you a free blog site to get you started.

Social Media

You can definitely push your book on Twitter, and on Facebook.com. Just try to make sure that you add in enough non-book related stuff, so that your peeps do not start thinking that you are not interested in their own interests and thoughts.
Use these two site extensively, but do not waste your time on them that could be better devoted to writing your next book. You can try using Linkedin.com for books, but it is more oriented toward a corporate position, so it may not be worth your time. Google Plus is fun, also, but I have found it to only have limited use in marketing books. Maybe your experience will be different.
In addition to these, there are dozens of other social sites out there. I do not really use any others, because I do not have the time. Check out the ones that you think you might like.

Web sites that Promote

There are a ton of websites out there that will promote your book to their Readers. Sometimes they want you to pay them for the service. Sometimes they will do it free for the content to put on their site. It will not hurt for you to put your book on as many of these sites as you can that are free submission sites. You should be aware that a lot of them will only have a handful of Readers, but that is still a handful more than you had before you submitted. Some of the site will surprise you with a good response to their posting.
Blogs are especially good for promoting your books, with the same cautions in place, as the ones for the regular websites. I will close out this section with a few of the websites and blogs I have used at one time or another.

 

http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/join-us-today.html
https://www.authorsden.com/login.asp
http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bestsellers
http://www.ebookplanet2014.com/
http://www.bookhitch.com
http://audavoxx.com
http://www.virtualbooktourcafe.com/cafe-authors.html
http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/free-ebook-promotion/53134?red=as
http://www.writersinterviews.com/
http://www.sagesblogtours.com/book-your-blog-tour.html
http://www.nothingbinding.com
https://indiesfreviewers.wordpress.com/

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