(Originally published April, 18, 2019)
Hello Indie Authors! Welcome to Part Two of the The Indie Writer Book Launch Guide, where we discuss ARC Readers, Indie Bookstore Appearances, Advertising and Book Trailers, New Release Promotions and Book Blog Tours. (If you missed it, you can find Part One, about the importance and types of Book Reviews, here.)
ARC is an acronym for “Advance Reader Copy”. It is defined as “a free copy of a new book given by a publisher to booksellers, librarians, journalists, celebrities, or [reviewers], or as a contest or school prize, before the book is printed for mass distribution.” ARCs are distributed up to six months before a book’s release and usually have incomplete covers. Nowadays, most ARCs are in electronic format such as PDF and distributed through websites such as NetGalley and Edelweiss [EDITOR’S NOTE: While Edelweiss is similar in function to NetGalley it is far less expensive and can be purchased through IndieReader]. I mention ARCs here because as an indie writer, ARCs can be distributed as a means to get advance notice for your new book and a way to get reader reviews as soon as possible on Amazon or other book retailers. Also, versions of your book that you have submitted for review to professional review services and book bloggers can be considered ARCs because without review blurbs inside your book or on the cover, they are in essence incomplete.
If you already have fans and can email them through your website, then contacting your fans and requesting advance readers is a must. But if you do not have an email list of fans yet (put this on your to-do list for later), then simply asking family and friends to be advance readers is totally acceptable. Just let them know that your expectation is. If they enjoy your book, then you would like for them to leave a review or rating on places like Amazon or Goodreads when the book is published, or sooner if possible.
Another way to acquire advance readers is through book giveaways. Offering to giveaway an ARC of your upcoming book for free is a great way to attract new readers as well as get valuable reviews on retailer and social book websites. For one, LibraryThing offers free giveaways, so I opted to use their service (Goodreads has a giveaway service but it is very expensive). I gave away 50 ARCs of my new novel and asked that they leave reviews if they enjoyed it. Second, I ran my own giveaway through my social media channels, directing interested readers to signup for my newsletter. The ones that did were emailed an ARC of my new novel in the file format of their choice. Finally, I used a service through Fiverr.com to find ARC readers. They were instructed to signup for my ARC newsletter, then I would email it to them. That service cost only $25.
Building your team of ARC readers is an important part of your book launch for acquiring book reviews and ratings as well as getting some additional feedback about your book.
Indie Bookstore Appearances
One of the parts of a book launch that I enjoy the most is scheduling an appearance at my favorite local indie bookstore. In Austin, Texas, my favorite local indie bookstore is Malvern Books and that’s where I had my book launch for my latest novel. I feel it is very important to establish a relationship with a local bookstore, not only to sell your books, but to be a part of your literary community. You will gain a relationship with a local bookseller and see what people in your community are reading. An appearance is a great way to celebrate your book launch with your family and friends. It will be your rock star moment! If you’re brave enough, then you should read a selection from your book as well. Once your appearance is done, speak to the bookseller at the store about carrying your new book on their shelves as well as any of your other books, if you have a back catalog. Finally, this is where I direct local readers that are interested in buying a paperback of my new book. The “Buy Local” movement is strong in many U.S. cities and this is an excellent way to be a part of it. Inevitably, when I talk to people in my hometown about being a writer, they always ask where they can buy my books. Of course, you could tell them to buy it online. But you could also tell them to keep their money in the community by buying locally. Pretty cool!
If there is not an indie bookstore in your community, then there are other options. Ask your local library if you could host an event there, then donate a copy of your new book to the library. I’ve heard from other indie writers that certain chain bookstores like Half Price Books or Barnes & Noble are open to hosting local authors. A coffee shop in your area would also be an ideal location for an author event as coffee and books go hand in hand. As you can see, there are many options for hosting your book launch in your community.
Advertising and Book Trailers
Once you have completed the long, arduous task of requesting book reviews (and you’re patiently waiting for them to come back), it is time to focus on advertising your new release and the strategy you want to employ. This topic, advertising, and the next topic, new release promotion, are very similar and can run concurrently if you are savvy enough to know how to use each effectively. But in my mind, they are slightly different and, in my experience, I prefer new release promotions over advertising. I will explain that later. In the meantime, let’s talk about advertising and where I feel book trailers fits into this topic.
There are several avenues for advertising but the most popular by far are display ads on websites from the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so many more. They are usually sold as cost per click (CPC), cost per thousand (CPM), or cost per action CPA). I’m not going to differentiate between these and their effectiveness because that would be an in-depth article in itself. Some authors love display ads, particularly authors that already have large followings. But what I have found in my experience with my particular genre of books was that my return on investment (ROI) was very low. My ads would get a ton of likes and views but almost no actual book sales. So, I would like to suggest an alternative.
Book trailers are a cost-effective way for you to create an advertisement for your new book. Similar to movie trailers, book trailers are brief videos with enticing imagery, sound, and information about your book. Create excitement by using the inciting event of your story as well as excellent book review blurbs (if some reviews for your new book have arrived in your inbox) or accolades like starred book reviews or book awards. Usually no longer than a minute and a half, a book trailer utilizes one of the most popular media elements on the internet: video. Here’s an example of one I had created for one of my books.
You may be asking, How do I create a book trailer?
You can create a book trailer yourself by using iMovie on a Mac or Wondershare Filmora on a PC. Both are very easy to learn and use. Another option would be to use a web service like Animoto that provides a ton of pre-built templates for a very low monthly subscription. If these options all seem too daunting, then you could always hire a professional. Since book trailers are short, the cost of hiring a pro should be low and the upside is that you own the book trailer when they’re done. Now here’s the best part once you have your book trailer: you can post it everywhere for FREE! Upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, your Goodreads profile, your Amazon author profile, your website, and share it til your heart’s content. This gives you a lot of advertising value for a low price on the very same websites where you would be buying display ads.
New Release Promotions and Book Blog Tours
By this point, book reviews from paid review services and book bloggers should be trickling in (if traditional media or literary journals will be reviewing your new book, then they won’t be published until around your publication date). And hopefully, your book reviews are excellent. When reaching out to blog tour hosts and applying for new release promotions, having excellent reviews for your new book will be crucial. Otherwise, your book is an unknown commodity. Having excellent book reviews will go a long way in helping validate the quality of your new book.
Book blog tours are a simple way to give your book exposure through a variety of book blogs to their excited readers and book enthusiasts. There are literally thousands of blogs dedicated to books. So, the easiest way to schedule book blog tours is through a host who can contact the book bloggers they feel best suit your genre of book. Xpresso Book Tours is an excellent and comprehensive service. Unfortunately for me, I discovered after contacting quite a few book blog hosts that the genre of my book (humorous literary fiction) wasn’t suited for book blog tours. They seemed to prefer popular genres like romance, thrillers, and paranormal books over literary fiction, although they said they’d still take on my book, if I insisted. Rather than be disappointed in a low turnout when my book wasn’t the appropriate genre, I opted to apply for new release promotions instead.
A new release promotion is through a book promotion service like BookBub or Written Word Media (parent company of BargainBooksy). These websites along with Early Bird Books, BookSends, My Book Cave, and the like, specialize in promoting book deals and are very popular with book lovers looking for low prices on bestsellers and quality books. BookBub and Written Word Media’s foray into new release promotion is a relatively new but exciting addition to their services because they have huge email lists in the hundreds of thousands and, in BookBub’s case, millions. So, with excellent book reviews under your belt for your new book, I suggest applying for a new release promotion. It will be the most cost-effective way to get your book in front of a ton of people who actually buy books–unlike display ads which have a broader audience, but only a fraction of them will be book lovers. In addition to emailing their audience, they will post a page about your book and some of these services post an author interview and other tailored features like social media posts. But without excellent book reviews, the likelihood of these selective services to help promote your book will be very low. BookBub is notoriously fickle and very selective of the books they promote. So, make sure to keep those excellent book reviews coming in.
Watch for the third and final post next Thursday, where I will discuss the following important steps for your indie book launch: Update Your Website, Update the Backmatter of Your Other Books, Author Social Media Outreach, Post Publication Date To-do List, and Recap.
Scott Semegran lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, four kids, two cats, and a dog. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English. He is an award-winning writer. He can also bend metal with his mind and run really fast, if chased by a pack of wolves.