Getting your novel published — plan, write, market
This is the first in a series of articles I am writing in the run up to publication of my next novel, Teenage Kicks, in March 2023. Over the next ten months I’ll share everything that led to publication of the novel — where I go my ideas from, how I got a publisher, and how I market my novels. I hope you enjoy this series — you can find it by searching ‘Teenage Kicks’ in tags.
Marketing yourself and your book is a controversial subject in the writing world. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard authors tell me their job is writing and the publisher’s job is marketing and publicity, only to find that the publisher does very little. By the time your novel is published and launched it’s too late to build up the excitement and — yes — the algorithm.
I would argue that marketing, that is, writing copy about your novel and posting graphics, is now part of the writing process.
My experience in publishing
I’m a hybrid writer. I’ve been traditionally published, published by a digital first imprint, and self-published. While it is true that traditionally publishing takes the heavy business lifting out of publishing, the royalty rate reflects this. Self-published authors enjoy much higher royalties.
But let’s talk about marketing. As a debut lead title or an established writer with a traditional publishing house you will receive a high level of publicity and marketing — they want your book to do well as they will have invested with an advance payment. Most traditional publishers publicise each author, but increasingly expect authors to do their share too.
Likewise, digital first publishers will expect authors to publicise their work and build a profile for themselves. In both these cases the publisher will likely provide content for sharing and social media assets, and sometimes will garner press reviews. But it is not a given.
Self-publishing gives the author the freedom to plan your own campaign and promote yourself in diverse and disruptive ways.
But do authors want to promote themselves? Or do they just want to write? Here’s my experience of producing bestselling novels.
How I began in publishing
After writing for fifteen years I got an agent. I was overwhelmed with gratitude when she submitted my book to the Big 5 UK publishers. But it didn’t sell. I was initially devastated, believing this was the end for my story, decided to enter my book into Kindle Scout — a now defunct Amazon boot camp for authors resulting in digital first publication with Amazon Imprint Kindle Press.
I embarked on a month of full-on self training in marketing and publicity. To win Kindle Scout I had to learn how to direct readers to my books landing page — and get them to click. The winning criteria was a cracking story and the most clicks. My crime novel, Random Acts of Unkindness won and went on to become a best-seller in the US and UK.
Since then I have self published the prequel after Kindle Press published the Sequel. Both were successful. But the market was flooding with authors who were marketing savvy. I needed to change up my skills and go the extra mile.
I get another agent and this time was successful with a traditional deal. My books Perfect Ten and How to Play Dead were published with Corvus Atlantic Books and nationally reviewed. Yet I still needed to do a lot of publicity.
With my digital first and self publishing experience I knew I needed a plan. I needed a strategy. And now I need to do it again.
My next novel Teenage Kicks will be released on 23rd March 2023 and over the next ten months I will be publishing notes and practical information on how to build a marketing strategy as well as how I built my novel.
But first, and overview.
The first step is to plan. When I say plan, I mean before you start to write really think about what your novel is going to be about. The likelihood is that you won’t full know until you have finished writing it. You also won’t know the publication route (unless you are in contract) until much later. But you can:
- Plan the genre
- Understand the emotional engagement
- Research your reader audience
- Visualise a brand or aesthetic (cover, colour set etc)
- Identify a theme
These will help you plan the tone of your publicity and marketing and allow you to make an early start.
After the planning stage you will be busy writing. For a long time. Marketing and publicity might not cross your mind, and it shouldn’t.
While you are writing focus on the story. When you have finished writing and sent out your novel, you will begin to understand where its home will be. You might strike a huge traditional deal. Or you might decide to self-publish. Or go with a digital first and retained some rights. Your story will find the home that is right for it, and none are better than the other — planning and carrying out your marketing will guide your story to the readers.
Some people are born to market and others are not. If you are confident and excited by the thought of it, you will probably want to build an author profile alongside your book.
But if not, that’s fine. Your book is the product. The story is what people want. You don’t have to make podcasts or record videos to be successful or market your book. You need branding and know-how.
The basics are:
- take a course in Amazon/Facebook ads
- make Bookbub Profile
- get readers to subscribe to your newsletter
- learn how to use Canva to make your own social media assets
Writers are generous people and you can find free tutorials on all the above on YouTube or elsewhere eon the internet. You have a head start because you have your plan. You know where your book sits amongst other publications.
Make some goals. Think big. It doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve them all, one goal achieved is better than if you had not marketed your book at all.
Finally, how will you measure success? I use SMART goals — you will see my very ambitious criteria when I share my completed strategy for Teenage Kicks later!
The real success is that someone read your story. That someone engaged with your characters and smiled or cried. Bestseller lists are all well and good, but think back to when you begin to write — you didn’t imagine your story and your world and your characters so that they would make money. No. You wanted to share that story. Make rankings and earnings a goal if you will, but prioritize story.
Noah’s Marketing Ark — surviving the flood
The book market is flooded. Like any commercial market, once everyone starts to paddle, you have to too. In publishing, this equates to marketing tools such Bookbub and paid, targeted advertising. The truth is, you need to build this into your marketing plan, but if you can’t afford to or simply don’t want to, think outside the box.
You need to get your book noticed. Writing isn’t enough.