This article came to be when I was asked by the Historical Novel Society to write something outlining how I went about launching my latest novel, The Druid. Some of the tips will not be relevant to you, and that’s fine – these are just things that I tried with this particular book and it seemed to work well, as The Druid remained high in Amazon UK’s charts for a good few months after publication. The main thing for me when launching a new book or series is to have fun and explore different ideas, instead of doing what everyone else is doing because, as you know, there’s millions of books out there vying for attention. So stand out from the crowd!
The VAST majority of my sales are ebooks, and I publish them exclusively with KDP Select, so this article is geared towards that, but it should be helpful to anyone. Ultimately, the platform the HNS planned to publish this piece on never came to fruition, so I thought I’d just put it out on my own website. I hope you find it useful!
As authors all most of us want to do is write, right? But whether you’re traditionally published or doing it yourself, nowadays we all need to try and give our work the biggest push possible on publication day. If you’re experienced you may have some tried and trusted methods that you always rely on, but the business is continually changing as platforms grow and evolve and it can be confusing or even costly trying to keep up. Goodreads Giveaways, for example, used to be a free tool that every author could use to try and reach a wider audience with only the cost of a paperback and postage, but they now charge quite a lot for that service, effectively pricing many of us out of the system. Bookbub on the other hand now offer some paid ads which may be useful.
It’s all about experimenting to find out what works for you, like anything in marketing, and then adding to your existing toolset as you go along. With the recent publication of my latest novel The Druid I was able to try a few new things which a lot of authors might not have considered, so hopefully this article gives you some cool ideas for ways to think outside the box.
First – write a song!
Yes, you read that right, I wrote and recorded two songs that tie in with The Druid in some way. Since my main character is a druid, and part of their duties was telling tales and singing songs, I had to come up with some lyrics for a scene in the very first chapter. I put them to music and posted a simple video on Youtube months before publication of the book, just to start the ball rolling.
You might not be musical yourself, but using Microsoft Movie Maker it’s easy to make a video trailer for your book using free stock music and, as more becomes available to you, such as cover art or reviewer’s quotes, you can modify the video and upload a new version (which does reset likes and comments, but never mind!).
Here is the latest version of my song “Rhydderch The Red”
Character drawings/ concept art.
It’s always good to use your cover art in promotional things but seeing the same image repeatedly might be a bit boring for some people, so I decided to have a professional artist do some pencil drawings of my characters. It took me a bit of time to find someone (Robert Travis) who would do a fantastic job and his work speaks for itself. I’ve been using these pictures along with relevant quotes from The Druid for months to drum up interest in the book.
You might not like the idea of showing readers what a character looks like, preferring instead to let them make up their own mental picture, so you could pick something else instead, such as a location or a weapon or an item of clothing or…well, you choose!
If you are on friendly terms with other authors in your genre there’s no harm in asking them very politely if they would read your book and give you an endorsement for the cover. This is, I think, much easier for traditionally published authors who share agents/publishers but I managed to get Glyn Iliffe to give me a great line for my debut novel Wolf’s Head and rising histfic star Matthew Harffy said of The Druid: “Dark age adventure at its gripping best.”
I would not approach an author unless I was a fan of their books and had supported them on social media by interacting with them and sharing their stuff. There’s not much more annoying than a new author who has never read your books suddenly befriending you and hassling you to endorse their stuff!
Share and share alike and always be respectful. Social media is an excellent tool to engage readers and to build relationships with other authors.
I wouldn’t share your new cover on social media too far in advance of publication day as people will soon forget it. Instead, use it along with all the other things here to build buzz a couple of weeks to a month before the book comes out.
Send out Advance Review Copies
Traditional publishers might not let you do this (Amazon Publishing didn’t want me sending out copies of my novella The Abbey of Death) but, if you can, it’s a great way to build buzz in time for a book’s release. If you’ve already published a few books you will likely already know some bloggers who like your stuff and you can ask them if they’ll check out your new one. If you’re new to this, check out reviewers who enjoy authors similar to you.
The best way to do it is to have reviewers ready to post a review within the first few days of the book’s launch, to try and build momentum. Share one on your social media pages on publication day, then another on day two, another on day three and so on, depending on how many you get.
You can also take the best lines from those reviews and use them in your social media posts and ads, like I’ve done here:
There are various places to advertise your new book, with Facebook being one of my favourites and Bookbub now giving decent results (better in the UK than the USA in my case). You don’t have to spend a fortune on these – even a few pounds/dollars a day over two or three days should bring in a few extra sales and that in turn will push your book up the chart. I use Canva to make Bookbub sized ads then experiment by targeting them at fans of different authors to see which work best.
I also paid Bargain Booksy to run a feature in their daily email. It wasn’t hugely expensive and there’s other sites out there, like Free Kindle Books & Tips, Kindle Nation Daily etc, that charge about $25-$50 which you can use, depending on your budget. Bookbub remains the king of this but it’s very hard to get them to accept you and is quite expensive (like $700+) – it’s worth it though, so do look into it.
I think the point here is: you don’t need to run adverts to have a successful launch, BUT, if you manage to do it right, ads will help so I suggest trying to find at least a little money to do some. It’ll be worth it, even if you only spend £2 per day on a Bookbub ad and run it over a few days, it will drive up your chart placing and lead to more sales as a result. I see tangible results with some of my shorter books which never sell much – place an ad on Bookbub or Facebook and even half-a-dozen sales can fire something from 100,000 in the Amazon overall rankings into the top 10 – 20,000. That might not seem impressive, but it could mean your book going from the obscurity of number 80 in a sub-category chart (Christian fantasy for example) into the top 10 or even number 1, and THAT brings visibility and even more sales.
I have sold a few signed copies of The Druid since it was published two weeks ago but any profit I’ve made from those has gone straight into adverts.
Also, very importantly, figure out which sites work for each country. Bargain Booksy targets the USA, as do Amazon’s own AMS ads. So, if you put some money into those, use Bookbub or Facebook to target the UK, Canada, Australia etc.
This was something I wasn’t sure myself how to pull off to the best effect. Should you make it available for pre-order a month in advance? Two weeks? Two days? I researched it and found the general consensus to be two weeks is the optimal time, so that’s what I did with The Druid. However, although this resulted in the book rocketing up the Amazon charts on the first day it was available as a pre-order, it steadily dropped again over the next fortnight. So, for my next release I might try doing just a week. Again – it’s about what works for you and experimenting.
As I mentioned before, Goodreads used to be one way to run a giveaway but they now charge a fair bit for the service so I didn’t bother this time around. Instead, use your Facebook, Twitter and email list (if you have one – I’ve yet to be convinced they’re worth the hassle) to run a couple of giveaways. You can make it even more attractive by offering signed proof copies if you’re self-published. I prefer to choose a winner on publication day, as some readers might not buy the book straight away if they think they might win it for free a week down the line and those early sales are super important!
(Sign up for my email list HERE if you like, and get a FREE Forest Lord story as a thank you.)
If you know other authors who have a blog you can offer to do a guest post for them – people are always looking for content for their websites so don’t be afraid to ask. Or, if you don’t have material ready for a blog post, ask if they’d like to do an interview with you (like THIS one) about your new book instead. Anything that puts your work out there is a positive, especially if you can get yourself on a blog with lots of traffic.
You can also write simple posts for your own blog. I was working near a location in The Druid recently, the site of an old Roman fort, so I nipped along, took some photos to give readers an idea of what my character would have seen at that point in the book, and posted an article on my website.
Things like that, and the songs I mentioned earlier, are probably not going to draw a huge amount of interest, but some readers really like it and see it as a way to experience the book on a slightly deeper level.
I think, for me, social media is the most powerful tool in an author’s marketing arsenal and I highly recommend you use it. Pretty much everything I’ve mentioned here can be shared and amplified on Facebook in particular, so try and build a powerful profile on there whether you enjoy it or not.
Make sure to try and entice new readers, unsure of modern technology, by telling them the Kindle app is FREE to download and can be used on their phone or tablet. Just copy and paste this link and email it to them –>> FREE KINDLE APP
People might not want to shell out £10 on a paperback by an unknown author, so a £3 Kindle edition is a great way to draw new people into your work.
And then, finally, when your book is published and you experiment with the tips in this article, and others of your own—please share your results here with us!
In other news, Lucia, my standalone novel about a Roman slave girl which will appear exclusively on Audible, has finished the editing stages and I’m now waiting to hear who they will cast as the narrator. I am really excited about this project as I think it will appeal to a lot of readers who wouldn’t normally try my stuff and Audible always do an amazing job with their productions so…it should be truly epic in every sense!
On top of that, Song of the Centurion, the sequel to The Druid, is almost finished and on track for a summer 2019 release. I have more concept art to go with it and it’s superb, and I’m also working on recording the titular song, so look out for it coming soon.
To buy a copy of The Druid, click these links: