10 Reasons to Market your own Book by Lucy Rycroft
I sense a tension whenever book marketing posts are discussed in the Association of Christian Writers Facebook group (or, indeed, other online forums of authors and publishers).
Much responsibility is placed on today's writers to market and sell their own books. Yet those who have been releasing books for decades remember a time when their publisher did it for them - nay, in some cases, even offered (wait for it...) an ADVANCE!! Yes, a real, live financial sum of money to tide them over whilst writing the book. It seems like a fantasy to those of us just starting out in 2019!
Rather than mourn the golden age, I thought it would be good to look at the positives of marketing your own book. I'm just at the end of a three-month period marketing my first book, Redeeming Advent, which has sold twice the number of copies I was hoping it would sell.
Undoubtedly, a positive, 'can-do' attitude towards book marketing has been at the foundation of my book's success, so here's what has helped me remain positive, and avoid the temptation of wishing my publisher would do more:
1. You have a much better idea who's buying your book. Getting out there, selling face-to-face, leaving copies with a bookshop or cafe manager, making the email correspondence, attending events, speaking, answering questions, engaging with people - it gives you a much better idea of your demographic.
2. You learn as you go. Some places never get back to you. Others take 30 copies, or offer you a speaking gig or similar. I started this book launch with a looooong list of places and people to contact - I've now managed to whittle that down, or at least prioritise, with the contacts who will be most likely to take my books. This will save me lots of time when it comes to marketing my next book.
3. You make a better royalty on author copies. I make over £3 per book when I buy them direct from my publisher - whereas my normal royalty will probably be more like 30p/book (I haven't had any yet, hence the guesstimate!). Whilst £3 sounds like a lot, I should stress that this has covered expenses such as postage, train fares to different promotional events, and an exclusive discount I offered my subscribers. I won't be making much income from this book. The point is: getting out there and selling your author copies is always going to be more profitable for you than simply relying on online sales - although these are important too.
4. With your decent royalty, you can offer an exclusive incentive to subscribers. I sold around 160 copies before the launch date, simply by offering a week-long 'pre-launch' discount ONLY to those on my mailing list. With a mailing list of around 500 at the time, I secured 160 orders. Offering discounts and deals keeps people on your mailing list, as they feel they are getting value from you - but it also encourages those early sales which are important, especially for a seasonal book like mine. Once someone has ordered and seen the book in the flesh, they're more likely to recommend it in person or on social media, order more copies for friends, or decide to study it as a group - all of which will add up to more books sold!
5. You make new friends! Having spoken of mainly face-to-face sales, I'm now thinking about my launch team, who I had an ongoing online relationship with for around three months. Some of them were already known to me - blog readers, fellow ACW members, authors, bloggers - whilst others were new to me. I've 'met' some fabulous people running this launch team, and got to know their writing/work/books/resources! It's been a mutually blessed experience.
6. You learn more about your readers. Meeting your readers at an event, or messaging them online, is a great way of picking up tips about your target audience. What do they like to read? What are they looking for? What are their challenges? Count this as research towards your next book, blog or article: with more information of what people are actually looking for, you can tailor your next project to match this need, and hopefully sell lots of that book too! (For example: I've learnt that many people are happy to read a daily devotional as a straight book, all in one night, or over a week or two, or over a couple of months so that they finish it in time for Christmas! This has helped me consider whether to write future devotionals, or whether to write undated books for people to dip into.)
7. You pick up new followers. As I've been active on social media, I've picked up new followers, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, but also on Facebook. I think at least some of these must be because people have seen my posts, through others liking/retweeting/sharing them. It is my hope that I can nurture these new followers into subscribers, so that the next time I have a book coming out, I have a larger audience to sell to.
8. You can control what you put out and when. Two weeks ago, my publisher alerted me to the fact that I was no.2 on the Amazon Christian Education Bestseller list. I put out a Facebook post or two, and within a few hours I'd been bumped up to the no.1 spot! I only stayed there for a day or two, but it was enough to show Amazon that my book was worth recommending to people. Today, if you type 'Advent devotional' in the Amazon search bar, my book comes up first - all because I directed people to Amazon when it mattered.
9. You can answer people's queries, and increase sales. For a reason known only to themselves, Eden bumped up the price of my book to over £12 (RRP £7.95) a few weeks ago. My aunt got in touch to say that someone in her church wanted 12 copies for their small group, but couldn't afford Eden prices - was there another option? She didn't want to use Amazon. I was able to direct her to the publisher's website, where the order was placed within hours. Another friend asked whether there was an audio version available for a visually impaired man in her group - there wasn't, but it got me thinking. A fortuitous message from another friend, totally independently, got me onto the ACX website, narrating and recording my book in order to make an audio version accessible. I am waiting with baited breath to see whether it's been approved...!
10. You gain experience to share with others. The danger with a post like this is that it ends up sounding like a boast. "Look what I can do!" But the truth is that everything I've done for this book is what I've learnt from other writers and bloggers. It's useful to pick up tips from those who have gone before you - and don't feel afraid to send messages to people you want to learn from and ask their tips. If it wasn't for Joanna May Chee, I'd never have known how to get my book sold on Eden. If it wasn't for being part of Tracy Williamson's launch team, I'd never have known how to run one myself. And seeing the way Liz Carter utilised other bloggers to help market her book inspired me to plan my own blog tour.
Similarly, I hope that what I've learnt this time round can be helpful to those of you just starting out on your publishing journey - I will no doubt learn from you when you publish your book, and each time we will make our marketing better and more successful, because we are taking others' ideas and adding them to a melting pot which is getting fuller all the time!
It's one of the wonderful things about being in a Christian writing network. We are not in competition, we are all aiming at the same goal: to draw others closer to Jesus. The more we can spread Jesus' message of forgiveness and grace, redemption and love - in as many voices as God has given us - the better the gain for His Kingdom. Let's use our collective gifts to bring others closer to Him this Christmas, and beyond.
Lucy Rycroft writes Christian parenting blog Desertmum. Formerly a teacher and PGCE lecturer, she now divides her time between freelance writing, blogging and raising her kids. She writes regularly for Home for Good and is the author of Redeeming Advent. Lucy lives in
her husband and their four children. York