Published on October 23, 2023, at 11:50 a.m.
by Shaley Brown.
Independent authors often find themselves facing an uphill battle when trying to share their creative works with the world. Not only do they have to write their own books; they also have to sell them. Independent authors essentially become their own public relations agents, struggling to emerge in the literary market where over three million books are published each year.
Traditional publishing houses like Simon and Schuster and Penguin Random House enable authors to sit back while professionals handle the marketing and distribution of their books. Young adult fiction writer Jeff Solomon said, “It gives me an advocate that will really be able to take the lead on all of those things.”
On the other hand, traditional publishers often prioritize marketability over an author’s vision; therefore, revisions of the final manuscript may not align with the author’s perspective. Shane Clark, author of “The Devil Won’t Keep Us Apart,” emphasized his desire for creative control over the entire process. “I didn’t want to give someone the ability to change my story,” he said.
The creative limitations have led more and more authors to self-publish.
The main character
As an independent author, understanding one’s target audience is the first step to success. It allows authors to effectively create content, foster engagement and build a loyal fanbase. Engaging with readers on a personal level — like responding to their comments on social media and reading feedback online — can lead to positive reviews and recommendations from readers. Mark Jenkins, author of the award-winning novel “With One Stone,” gets to know his readers by researching popular books and authors in the same genre for insights and other best practices.
The plot thickens
Today’s digital world has allowed independent authors to advocate for themselves in many ways. One way to self-advocate is through social media platforms. Establishing a platform on sites like Facebook, X (formally Twitter), Instagram and TikTok gives authors access to engage with broader audiences.
Jenkins has made use of social media marketing through influencer engagement platforms like Bookstagram and BookTok. He has sent his book to several TikTok influencers with the hope they will read and share their opinion of his book with a larger audience. He also began an independent psychological thriller book club on Facebook, which has amassed over 9,000 members.
Psychological thriller author Rob Kaufman also emphasized the use of Facebook groups to engage with his audience online. “I had fans guess the date my books would reach 10 million Kindle page reads. The three who came closest received a signed copy of my most recent release,” he explained. Offering promotional contests allows authors to interact with readers in real time to build a sense of community around their work.
Establishing an online presence through personal websites also provides authors with a direct line of communication with their readers. In addition, email marketing is useful for updating readers about upcoming books, exclusive content and promotions. Visibility and approachability are key to building one’s reputation as an author.
Other forms of self-promotion include participating in book clubs and doing interviews. Recently, Jenkins interviewed with his hometown news station to highlight his book. Such platforms can provide personal insights, feedback and a chance to discuss the author’s work, creating a deeper connection with readers.
While the use of social media platforms can reach a larger audience, traditional online reviews can be more reputable. Clark said, “I still believe word of mouth and reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads give me the best opportunity to earn readers.” Credibility and authenticity can expand an author’s readership just as much as self-promotion strategies through social media.
Judging a book by its cover
Precision and creativity also play a vital role in building an author’s reputation and brand image. The cover graphic is the first thing people see when a book is sitting on a shelf. The book’s cover is its first impression. Hiring a designer who is skilled in graphics to create a cover for a book will not only take the task off the author’s hands but will also allow an expert to create a professional image.
When it comes to the content of the book itself, Kaufman has an important tip: “Make sure there are no errors because people will call you out on it.” Hiring beta readers for feedback on works in progress can be essential in the editing process of a book. Ensuring that an author’s work is precise before publishing can aid in the promotion of their credibility as an author.
For most authors, self-promotion is the hardest part of self-publishing. Not having a PR professional can be challenging, but it shouldn’t stop aspiring independent authors from employing best practices in communication. Building a reputation, engaging with readers, and establishing effective marketing and PR strategies are crucial steps to an author’s success. Writing a book is merely the beginning; the true story lies in sharing the author’s passion with the world.