I feel, as a self publisher, as if I am a bit ‘out of the loop.’ Bookshops aren’t interested in self published books, and you cannot enter them into competitions in the Children’s Literature Centre. I still have many books left over from my book launch in 2013, and I don’t know how to sell them. If you have any answers, please let me know.
I’m only just getting into the marketing side of things myself now but have learned that a great deal depends on two things. Your next book, and doing the legwork yourself.
Your Next Book
It’s very difficult to push and promote one or two titles but every new book you write and release expands on your audience for all of the ones that came before it. If you’re building your mailing list then every time you release a new title you can email your list to let them know and that new title will draw in more people for your list that you can promote your old titles to. The larger your catalogue, the better your reach so one of the best marketing tools is to write more books.
Doing The Legwork
Beyond that, it’s about actually getting out there with the books and going into places to ask for the sale/consignment. You MUST have an incredibly high-quality product for this to work. It’s so easy for self-published and vanity-press published books to look home-made and retailers will reject them on sight so make sure you’ve followed all the typesetting, size and formatting trends of traditional publishing so that your book is indistinguishable from traditionally published books. Book shops, especially independent booksellers, DO take self-published books, but only if they are done to industry standards and under industry terms.
Then it’s about building the networks, taking the books into schools, libraries, book stores, visitors centres, newsagents, gift shops, etc. Think about who your target market is and where they congregate then go there with them. If you’ve got books for toddlers offer to do readings at local parenting groups, playgroups, and library story time; if you’ve got books that have kids playing soccer you can approach your local sports groups, etc. Think outside the box here because it’s not just about getting your book onto bookshelves, it’s about getting it into the hands of your readers and you can often do that directly.
Look into your target market and build a list of contacts. Put together a press kit to send out to schools/libraries (with product descriptions, order forms, speaker rates, etc.) Offer ARCs to book bloggers, magazines, newspapers. Find news ways to tie what’s timely in the media now with what’s in your books. It doesn’t matter if your book is already 2 years old if the content is relevant to a newsworthy event today.
Ultimately, it’s putting the foot to pavement and getting out there to spread the word and to ask for the sale.
Do The Research
I guess there is a third part but it doesn’t necessarily convert to sales as effectively as the first two and it’s a long game strategy, but the truth is you must do your industry research. If you’re serious about being an author as a career rather than a hobby then you must be in the know, learn the lingo/jargon, understand what terms like trade discount and arc mean, sign up for professional memberships and use the services these groups provide, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on not just in the local industry but world wide. The more you connect deeply with the roots of the industry the better informed you’ll be about opportunities and the greater your odds are of making connections with people who can guide and influence you.
Ultimately, you’ve got to think of this as being in the book business. The creative side of writing is one part of the job, but when you take off that hat you put on the publisher hat and that means thinking of things like distribution, marketing, accounting, and all those other business angles that authors often don’t consider. Approach it like you would any other career, with a professional and business mindset committed to developing fantastic product with a good sense of who your target market is and how best to reach them.
I hope this helps.