As I write this, it is T+ 6 weeks and counting, since my debut novel, Another Ocean to Cross, was released to the world. Since then, I have sold about 150 copies through all outlets, received 12 reviews (all positive,) held 4 launch events, and scheduled 3 more for April, and had the pleasant experience of depositing money in the bank, for a change.
I’d like to share with you some of the things I have done that are working well for me.
Talk to the Groups You Know Ahead of Time
I belong to a church choir, a golf league, a retirees group, and a dog lovers’ group in my home town of Mesa, Arizona. I spoke with them about my book, and to my surprise, they were all interested. As a result, I scheduled three events, and sold sixty books.
Create a Presentation
I created a twenty-minute Powerpoint presentation, with photos, about how I researched my book. The listeners positively ate it up. One of them told me afterwards, she had never before given any thought to how much work the writer had put into it a book.
Then, I let people ask questions. (A planned book reading disappeared into the black hole of my overstimulated brain, but my error did not dampen the excitement of the day, and I won’t leave it out next time.)
Refreshments, including a gorgeous cake and champagne, went over very well. However, I bought too much food and drink. People were far more interested in buying their book and talking with one another.
Enlist your Friends
I enlisted the help of several friends to answer the door, look after the food, drinks, and take photographs. Another accepted payments, while I signed the books, inserted a bookmark, and smiled beatifically. It made a tremendous difference, not having to worry about anything but my presentation.
You’re Starting a Business
I decided to form an LLC, which costs little, and adds professionalism to my work. The LLC and government EIN number allowed me to open a separate checking and credit card account for my business. This is not required, but makes life a lot easier in tax season.
I obtained a local business license, which obligates me to collect and remit sales tax. Check with your local or state government.
After looking in my garage for a decent substitute and finding none, I sprung for a cash box and keep a decent float in it. I purchased a “for deposit only” stamp for the backs of checks.
What about credit cards? I agonized over this a bit, since one doesn’t have to take them, but decided I did not want to lose potential sales. I opted for the Square device that plugs into your smartphone or tablet. It is easy to use, the service fee is reasonable, and hey, I got those sales!
I paid to have my books (the financial kind) professionally set up. I loathe this end of the business, but the $150 I spent on my bookkeeper has given me confidence that I won’t run afoul of the IRS next year.
The Marketing, oh, the Marketing
The biggest rule of marketing is, “make it easy for people to find and buy your book.”
Others, more experienced than me, have written plenty on this intimidating subject. I’m not going to do more than scrape the thinnest bit off the crust, but here’s what I have done so far:
- I posted links to websites carrying my book, on my social media sites.
- I opted to use com for my newsletter list. It wasn’t as hard as I had expected. I only have 185 names on it so far, but it is a start, and every time I sell a book in person, I ask the buyer if she wants to be on my list. The vast majority say, “yes.”
- I advertised all my launch events anywhere I could, while not spending a fortune.
- My readers are probably tired of me asking for reviews, but now I have twelve.
- I created an author Amazon page.
- My website has undergone a lot of updating, now that I have reviewer quotes to share.
- A blog post forces me to think about what I have learned, so I can share with others who might want to know.
- Keep alert for unusual places to get the word out. For example, I attended a local women’s networking meeting, and now I have contributed an article about my book to their magazine with a circulation of over 6000.
- I visited my local library, and the helpful librarian quickly signed me up for a local author book fair, an individual presentation/signing, and local author of the month next October.
- What about friends in Tuscaloosa who want a signed copy? I had unique bookplates designed and printed. I mail signed bookplates, as readers request them.
- I’m currently in discussion with bookstores in Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario, and sent an optimistic letter to a bookstore in Yorkshire, England, asking for a book signing event.
My life has changed since I published my book. People look at me differently. They treat me as though I am an authority on writing. (If they only knew!) Even other writers give me a new level of respect. I feel different, too, having accomplished an enormous goal I set years ago. So for those of you not quite in the “published” world yet, don’t give up! The effort and time will be worth it.
Do you have additional tips for what to do when self- or traditional-publishing? Do you have questions for Ann?
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Ann Griffin has lived in three countries (UK, Canada, and USA) and four states, so the hardest question anyone can ask her is, “Where are you from?” She loves historical fiction. Family stories and family secrets have provided her with much fodder for her writing, and she does not anticipate running out of ideas anytime soon.