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Top Tips for Self-Publishers to Promote your First Titles
16 April 2014

Debbie Flint and her first novel, Hawaiian Affair Debbie Flint and her first novel, Hawaiian Affair

12 tips on which easy to use tools to help promote your first ever self-published book

When a new author presses the ‘publish’ button and creates their first ever title, what happens next? The answer is not always obvious. Sometimes it is, but here are some extra insights which may help the newbie.

Now more than ever, success in self-publishing is all about ‘discoverability’, especially if you want to spread the word about your very first self-published novel (or your second or third but for the complete beginner in particular, it’s even more daunting).

Which extra strategies will best help spread the word?

What you may already know is that it’s a good idea to have lots of followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook/likes on your Facebook author page, plus connections on Goodreads. And you probably also know that you don’t ‘market’ people in social media nowadays, you build a relationship with them, posts being more akin to the chat you would hear across an open office floor; that way when it’s time to announce your new title, they’re receptive to it like friends would be. You have also probably heard that best of all is to build up substantial subscribers to your website newsletter – people who have actively opted in for updates about your new book, which you can often do by including links to your website in the back of your eBooks etc. And many of you will also be aware about pre-launch tactics, like doing a cover-reveal, for instance on Goodreads, and whetting appetites by featuring a series of excerpts from your novel on your blog, all to build anticipation for the big day.

But once the big day has come and gone and the initial rush of sales has (hopefully) happened, once you’ve told everyone you already know that it’s out there and numbers have begun to stall, how then do you continue to spread the word without continuously tweeting ‘buy my book, here’s my book, oh by the way buy my book?’

First, obviously build your literary community just as Joanna Penn recommends in her recent blog post.

Then investigate the actual technical tools you can toy around with to help progress your reach. (Many of these are Amazon based - for obvious reasons, but some are not related to Amazon and are available to all.)

 1.       Freebie launch – ALSO BOUGHTS

Build up your ‘also boughts’ and reviews with a freebie launch. As you may know on Amazon you can opt to be in KDP select and utilize their promotional tools. One of them is being able to offer your book free for a certain period (up to 5 days in every three month period). These work best when you have more than one title, creating a knock-on effect on sales of your back catalogue as new readers (hopefully) like your freebie and come back for more, so increasing the sales of your other titles.

BUT if you only have one book so far, it’s still worth considering, if you’re aiming for credibility – making it look like your freebie is right up there amongst the works of other top selling authors – because a book page with many ‘also boughts’ fulfils a browsing reader’s need for social proof.  Many downloads leads to more chances of building awareness. Plus, with enough downloads of your freebie, you could end up with more than 14 pages or so of ‘also boughts’ listed right underneath your book on Amazon, (up to 70 or so other books all bought by customers who downloaded yours), which in turn means your book may appear on those others’ pages too. With a good thumbnail pic of your cover and a tempting title, yours may be the next book they click on. Voila more sales without you soliciting them.

 2.       Freebie launch - REVIEWS

Offering a freebie at launch makes it more likely that you will get more (hopefully) good reviews early on. (Whether they’re good or not is the risk you take – as is offering your book out to the top 500 reviewers pre-launch, but it’s rare they’ll take a first title if you’re not a reality star or an octogenarian actress.)

CASE STORY – In one recent promotion When Dreams Return, a 14000 word spooky romantic suspense, was uploaded and initially offered free for 5 days across Mothers’ Day weekend. It led to 12 reviews on - off the back of 2400 free UK downloads.  

Only 2400? NB – the landscape is changing, and whilst this was a spooky (more niche) romantic, short (more niche) story, it’s still an indication of current levels of downloads achievable, depending upon the book. The heady heights of Xmas 2012 are a thing of the past – when many self-published authors reported 10,000 downloads just by putting up a 5 day freebie.  

PERMAFREE – a quick note. Once you have more than one title available, offering a permanently free or ‘permafree’ first book in a series is a good tactic that’s familiar to many. (In case you’re not one of them, you basically set the price as free on other platforms (via Smashwords or d2d which automatically uploads to Barnes & Noble, Kobo & Apple, or via Googleplay which is separate again.) Then Amazon has to price match, side-stepping the five day limit. You just tick ‘price match’ when you upload onto KDP.

However, for a new author, purely to build up reviews the launch freebie may be worth considering, as a review will still show ‘Amazon verified purchase’ even if it was free – proving that person downloaded it from Amazon, and are more likely a genuine review, they’re not your mum or your daughter’s friend’s mum’s neighbour. Or you.


Amidst all the fervent counting down to launch and pre-launch cover-teases, Facebookers amongst you may have noticed the occasional ‘sponsored link’ or paid-for promotion pop up on your feed. Use it yourself. This is surprisingly easy to do if you have a Paypal account. The promotion is only as good as the post itself however, and a rubbish headline or badly worded post may not get much reaction anyway whether 100 or 10,000 people see it.

If you are to pay for promotion on Facebook it’s often most effective for promoting a freebie eBook. Using an attention grabbing headline, for an attractive proposition like a worthwhile freebie, it may be worth spending the money.

You just click on the ‘boost post’ button at the side of your post on your Facebook page. (That is, on your Fan page or author page, the one which Facebookers just ‘like’ as opposed to your personal Facebook where you have to request to be a friend. You need to have a personal Facebook account in order to set up a page if you didn’t realise.)

Click on the ‘boost post’ button and you’re offered a choice of fee to reach a certain number of people and your post appears amongst the other feeds more frequently than it would otherwise do, so more people notice it and (hopefully) read it and (even more hopefully) action it.

EXAMPLE - Currently the £18 price band promises an est. reach of up to 12.7k views and so on. Once it’s up and running it counts down the amount of money left to use, and gives you a running total of how many it reached. And if enough of these thousands of extra people finding out about your freebie with its laser sharp headline, and download it as a result, this paid for promotion – which anyone can do - could well get you higher up the free kindle charts. Which can then lead to even more benefits. You also get a summary once the promotion is over, like this one – which was for a post promoting my website newsletter sign up in return for a free steamy download.

CHART POSITIONS – of course if you get in the top 100 in the Free Chart then even more people will see your offer since Amazon list the top 100 free right next to the top 100 paid for. A great cover and a good title can catch the reader’s eye amidst the 99 other choices, making yours the next one they download, thereby taking you even higher up the chart.

CASE STORY - Pre the above promotion, When Dreams Return languished around number 120 in the Free chart in UK. Once the promotion was up and running it dipped inside the 100 and headed on upwards as more and more thousands saw it due to the ‘boost post’. It peaked at No. 23 on day 5, just as the promotion reaching 22,300 people for £66 ended.

If you care to experiment, it’s worth dabbling in the lower bands to test the efficacy of your post/headline. If you see it start to take effect, you can always add more money to the promotion and continue it. It’s hit and miss if you don’t get the right offer or the right headline – but it’s a weapon in your armoury over which you have total control and full reporting afterwards. And it’s especially good for freebie offers.

NB nearly two weeks after the freebie promotion, this title is still selling enough to remain at around 1880 in the Kindle UK paid charts, possibly helped by still being in the top 5 on these niche categories. See 9 below.



 4.       Freebie or Reduced Price Offer – OTHER PAID PROMOTIONS, EG BOOKBUB

Readers of The Creative Penn blog will know about Book Bub alerts, but for those who don’t it’s another paid-for promotion tool offering authors the option to get their offers in front of thousands of subscribers on a pay-by-genre service. BookBub is mainly for the US market but most books click through from to the same offer in the UK. Also look for other similar services. For instance, my short story could be offered as a freebie and if accepted (they carefully vet first) could reach an average 6000 downloads to new US customers from a mailing list of 150000+ on their supernatural suspense category. If it’s not a free book, reach naturally changes. Go explore, it’s very interesting if you have marketing spend and want to reach out to the US.


5. Reduced Price Offer - KDP COUNTDOWN – once your book has been at a certain higher price for at least a month, you can use the relatively new KDP Countdown system. It allows you to run a reduced price offer – preferably a substantial reduction – for a short period, all the while showing how many days and hours left before the price reverts to the higher level. The most useful aspect of this, if you’re a little geeky, is the statistics chart you can generate at any moment from ‘Reports,’ showing the difference the offer has made to sales, pounds per hour and items per hour, comparing figures from before and after the offer.

CASE STORY- Till the Fat Lady Slims, a weight loss book down from £2.99 to 99p for just four days over Mothers’ Day weekend, went from 20p per hour to £2.23 per hour royalties, an increase of 1015% on the previous week. This type of reporting can really help you decide whether to do price promotions again, monitor more specifically the various variations on your offers, (eg do it at £1.49 next time) and whether therefore to remain in KDP Select (click here for an alternative viewpoint), or abandon it and use other platforms not just Amazon (see below.)

This promotion will also (hopefully) enhance numbers sold, which in turn can raise chart position, increase number of reviews and improve ‘also boughts.’


6. Permanent Price Reduction – OTHER PLATFORMS

You may already be aware of the other platforms you can use to promote your eBook apart from Amazon. But if you’re not, do the research – some say the few sales on other platforms are not worth the loss of KDP select promotions and share of the ‘lending library’ fund (you get a payment if someone ‘borrows’ your eBook from Amazon too.)

Others say it’s a useful income stream.

If you intend promoting your eBooks worldwide, in some markets Amazon is not the top platform.  



In any case, whatever platform you use to sell your books, you are quite within your rights to run your own individual promotions, created manually, by reducing the regular price of your book on Amazon yourself (click on the relevant box within the KDP upload pages) and changing the first line of the product description so people are aware of your temporary offer, or upcoming offer. You can pretty much change the product description of your book at any time, and it just takes from a few hours to a day or so to update. NB your previous book info is still visible and the book can be bought at the old price whilst the change is being carried out.



Pick out a specific section of your book and upload it as a separate title as a freebie, making it very clear it’s an initial instalment – particularly useful if you have only one title.

However, it’s got to satisfy, and be worthwhile as a stand-alone – or should have a really tempting cliff-hanger at the end – so that the freebie may entice readers to go for the rest of the novel once they’ve read the first bit.

Make sure it’s well written in order to (hopefully) counteract any chance the reader might feel cheated eg if you haven’t made it clear it’s only the first part of your story.

It may also be worth ‘unpublishing’ that instalment once the freebie is over, to avoid bad reviews if someone inadvertently pays for it, not realising it’s short or incomplete (not everyone reads the product description). Unpublishing is fairly easy, but if you are in KDP Select, the title can’t be published elsewhere for the desired length of time (90 days even if a book is unpublished.)


9. CHOOSE A NICHE CATEGORY - to Enhance the Chances of Charting Higher

As it sounds – explore the niche categories on Amazon and pick your two genre/categories wisely – aim for the more niche ones if you think it will enhance the chances of getting to the top of that chart. Whatever you’re writing, there will be some people exploring the other books in the chart their last book appeared in. Fewer obviously in more niche categories, but if you get to number one in that chart in a paid for offer (not a freebie) you can legitimately call yourself a ‘best seller’ on Amazon as your book got to number one in that chart – even if it was ‘KindleStore/Books/Fiction/Romance/Paranormal/Ghosts.’

CASE STORY – By the time it was number 44 in the overall Kindle Free UK Chart, When Dreams Return  also got to number 1 in the more important ‘KindleStore/Books/Fiction/Horror’ chart too. If I’d chosen ‘short stories’ as the second category, not Horror, I may not have charted that highly at all.


 10. GOODREADS – there is a whole host of info about how Amazon’s latest acquisition, Goodreads, can help promote your book – and for a first time author, building a relationship with readers and other authors on Goodreads is a very worthwhile foray into the world of writing. More here.


11. TWEETING SERVICES – again, another paid for service - well worth it for some, a waste of money for others. Find out what type of book they work best for. Steamy Romance freebies probably attract the most hits. Research some background about the many book tweeting organisations before you opt for one, and ask authors who have used them for feedback. It at least means you are not mithering your followers with updates on your own titles. Letting someone else do it looks a bit better and is more forgivable to many. For others, they skim over book tweeting services’ tweets, as they’re one constant sales pitch. There are lots, and there are many varied opinions about their efficacy so buyer beware! Just google ‘best book tweeting services’ for some alternative opinions.


12. UPDATES, FROM A PERSONAL ANGLE – finally, if you are left with only your own social media platforms to try to encourage more people to click on your book link, at least make it personal.

 ‘Had a really nice review already from A James on my new freebie romance eBook – how lovely it feels to read such positive feedback – thank you @A L James! #WhenDreamsReturn. Still at 99p till midnight’ may be a better approach, if it’s not ten times a day, than something like this; 

‘My short story #WhenDreamsReturn still 99p till midnight – lots of good reviews, check it out! (Plus link).'  It's the link that can be the problem. 

Often any tweet with a link is just overlooked by the seasoned Tweeter, as they merely skim down the newsfeed on the home page - they follow so many people on Twitter it’s impossible to keep up with them all.

Do your own research by looking down the twitter newsfeed and deciding which tweets you’d ignore and which you’d read. And as they say, always comment on others’ tweets, thoughts, observations, if you expect to get it back in return, someday.

Just a few observations which are easily accessible and possible of use in building your reach for your first novel. Any other ideas? Let me know!



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Debbie Flint IS A SELF-PUBLISHED author of several romance titles and short stories, and by day, presents on QVC The Shopping Channel (well, by night actually, as she's nocturnal!).  Having done three years of courses, workshops and conferences, including Cornerstones, Writers' Workshop, Watermill Posara, Arvon and Julie Cohen, she reached the final of the top ten 'Best 100 First Words' competition at York Festival 2011 for her first full length novel, Hawaiian Affair. Her fiction includes the Hawaiian Trilogy, the third part of which will be out in June 2014, and several short stories. With a professional script-writing partner she has co-written 'French or Dutch' (working title) a cross between 'Mr Selfridge', 'Call the Midwife' and 'Downton Abbey' set in the 1920's, which is currently doing the rounds with the production companies in UK and LA.

Previously, she wrote short stories for children's TV (Buena Vista, 'Rise and Shine'), and published a semi-autobiographical weight-loss book called Till The Fat Lady Slims in 2002 (now reissued on amazon in eBook or paperback.)

She lives in Dorking, Surrey and has two grown up children and three feisty labradors. She eternally believes that when she's a grown up, she wants to live in LA and write movies! We can but dream. And in the meantime, we self-publish...

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