Before my book came out earlier this year, I did a lot of research to understand exactly what I was getting into. One of the key aspects of self-publishing that virtually every book, blog, and discussion board mentioned was marketing. On a purely intellectual level, this was very easy to grasp. After all, marketing is one of the things that publishing houses handle for authors, especially their most popular authors. And self-publishing, by definition, means the author will have to be both author and publicist.
On a practical level, however, it was more difficult to implement — and implement well — than I’d anticipated.
Because my book is about wineries in Virginia, my first step was to draw up a mailing list of wineries, limo services providing wine tours, bed & breakfast inns (many of which sponsor wine tours), and independent bookstores, and then to send them postcards advertising the book’s release on Amazon. In addition, I bought ad space (basic ads, both print and online versions, nothing fancy) in several weekly papers popular with younger readers in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, cities that are launchpads for many weekend wine tourists. And I gave out book copies to various family and friends, using the postcards as bookmarks. These efforts have generated a modest amount of sales.
In retrospect, though, I made a rookie error with the mailing list. It’s quite true that the wineries, limo services, and B&Bs all share my interest in encouraging people to visit Virginia wineries, but they are not my potential readers and customers. This is because they are not interested in learning more about the wineries themselves; they already know, or think they know, what they need to know for business purposes.
Instead, my potential readers and customers are the people who actually visit those wineries. Now, this is a much harder audience to reach and perhaps that was why the idea of mailings to wineries, limo services, and B&Bs was attractive, both because the audience was easier to identify and the task easier to accomplish.
It would have been much more helpful to have given additional thought to two key questions: Who are my potential readers, and where would they be likely to find (or find out) about my book? Spending more quality time reflecting on the answers to these questions would have helped me clarify exactly who my target audience was and to think more creatively about how to reach them.
My marketing now is focused more on those potential readers and customers. I’ve bought ad space in two travel-related publications, including one specifically focused on Virginia wine tourism, that will come out next month. When we travel in Virginia, we always have a box of books, postcards, and postcard display holders along so that we have a ready stock of material to share with winery owners or local tourism offices (Virginia state tourism offices don’t allow commercial advertising for books). And, of course, I’ve now started this blog, focused mostly on independent publishing in general but with occasional future segues into the topic of my book.
One great article I read recently is by Joel Friedlander, who also writes for CreateSpace’s marketing boards. He encourages clients to work at developing their audience and gives a number of ideas for how to do that. (Truth be told, he says he advises clients to begin this development process up to three years before their books are published, which is about three years too late for me. But better late than never.)
Regardless of where you are in your own publishing process, though, the ideas in his article are good ones and include such things as building an online or social media presence, using keywords and tags creatively, and reading other resources (listed in his piece) to learn more about audience development. I recommend it as part of your own initiatives to further market your books.