Self-Publishing Companies and book marketing: What should you expect?
It’s easy to assume that because you are paying a self-publishing services provider to assist you with the publication of your book, you can take more of a back seat than if you were self-publishing alone. However, in the self-publishing world, the more you put into a project, the more you get out and nowhere is this more true than with the marketing of your book. Marketing is an essential part of the process to ensure discoverability of your book. However, it can be expensive and some of what is included in ‘packages’ from a self-publishing service provider may not be suitable for your book.
There is information available – including the Writers & Artists Yearbook, the Internet and other indie authors. Educate yourself about what kind of marketing is likely to work for your book and then make sure that the marketing you carry out is appropriate.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MARKETING
The best marketing for your book will be bespoke and incorporate elements from each of the following categories. Make sure that any marketing service you pay for is targeting the areas you don’t feel you can do yourself.
Marketing to bookshops and the book trade… through Advance Information (AI), catalogues, alerts, enhanced data and adverts in trade publications, as well as ensuring you have proper distribution set up for orders. Consider distribution and availability early on; it needs to be sorted well in advance of publication. How is your marketing provider suggesting that your book is notified to key retailers?
Marketing the book to the media… via press releases (PR), making contacts with journalists and sending review copies. This stage is all about seeking reviews and editorial coverage for the book, and for you as the author. Many publications need a book a long time in advance of the official publication date to meet their publication schedule – don’t leave it to the last minute. How does your marketing provider target the relevant media to get the best shot at coverage?
Marketing to readers… via blogs, online reviews, social media, Goodreads, marketing materials, author videos and more. This is ongoing pre- and post-publication. Is this something that is handled by your marketing provider? If so, how?
FACT 1 – Many self-publishing companies offer no or very limited marketing
Marketing is a specialist skill and is therefore not something that is offered by every self-publishing firm. It is common for firms to offer marketing advice rather than to actively market a book. You may find yourself having to do the marketing yourself, even after paying for help. Claiming that you get 1000 leaflets featuring your book is not actually offering a marketing service! If marketing is something you know you need, then pick a company that offers the style of marketing you need – and set aside a budget for this. Alternatively, you could source a marketing expert to help you.
The marketing undertaken by a self-publishing services provider can be scattergun – some firms, for example, send their PRs to the same contacts, regardless of whether or not the book is relevant. Such relentless bombardment is unlikely to gain results. Make sure you have input, ie. if they are writing a press release, do you get to approve it before it is sent out? What say do you have in the marketing that is carried out? Packages are just that – packages. They can be inflexible and may not suit your project.
Metadata is an essential part of book marketing. More comprehensive metadata has been proven to lead to more sales. Is the firm you are using submitting enhanced bibliographic data, or just the bare minimum? Good data helps sell books…
There are firms who offer realistic marketing for indie authors and who do get results – again, do your research!
FACT 2 – Marketing is not an afterthought
To be effective, marketing needs to be done at the start of the publishing process, not tacked on as the book rolls off the press. Newspapers and magazines have deadlines that can fall in advance of your publication date – if they’ve not had advance notification of your title, the book becomes old news and won’t be covered.
Mainstream publishers send out book information well in advance of the book being available; you need to make sure this is happening. If you have plans to sell your book via bookshops then the book needs to be published to a timescale that suits the industry. For example, books for Christmas are selected by retailers at the end of the summer, so deciding to publish your Christmas book in late November not only means you’ve missed lots of selling opportunities, but you’ve also not left yourself enough time to do a good enough job. Does your marketing contact understand this?
Understand what is included in the price you are paying
If marketing is included in the price of your package, make sure you understand what is being offered. Don’t by swayed by grand descriptions. Ask to talk to former clients and for a list of recent publicity highlights and successes. Don’t necessarily trust the media pasted on a website if it is undated and can’t be verified. Ask if the coverage was down to an author’s contacts or the contacts and abilities of the self-publishing marketing provider.
Once you understand the different types of marketing, you can work out if what is being offered is actually going to suit you and your book. Do you need banners if you are not going to be doing a bookshop signing? Will 500 ‘free’ leaflets advertising your book be useful or not?
Check time limits – does the marketing run for one week, four months, six weeks? When does it begin – the minute your book is published, or right at the start of the process? What happens if the book is delayed – is the marketing wasted?
Ask how they will actually market your book – do they have personal contact with journalists? Do they subscribe to media databases? Will this be handled by a trained marketing professional in-house, or a freelancer?
Marketing can be expensive
Set a budget. To manage costs, make sure your marketing budget is spent where you need it. For example, if you are doing a print on demand book (which is never going to be stocked by bookshops) is it worth having a campaign to market to the major chain buyers? Check for hidden costs in your marketing contract. And remember, even with marketing, there is never a guarantee of sales success.
Without distribution, your marketing can be wasted
If your self-publishing company is not offering any distribution – or the distribution they offer is limited – then any marketing you have spent money on could be wasted. Good distribution ensures that your book is available for readers to buy from a wide range of places – after they have heard about the book from your marketing efforts.
Things to think about:
– Will the books be orderable from a bookshop?
– Will the book be available online as well as offline?
– Does your provider have a website that sells books?
– Is the book only purchasable from you?
There are many reputable companies that offer a comprehensive, fairly priced marketing service that is tailored to self-published authors. As with everything, do your research before choosing your expert. Hopefully, this article has helped you to collate a list of questions to ask a company before signing up.