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My Book Is Finished, Now What? Building an Audience

Building an audience: the art of the soft sell

Ideally, you should be thinking about building an audience months (or years) ahead of publication. Audiences grow based on trust–trust that you’re a real person, trust that you’re going to deliver on the promise of good storytelling. Once you’ve got a few folks to trust your work, they’ll work to build trust in their circles, and it snowballs from there.

The hardest part of building an audience is the very beginning. When you “break onto” the scene as an unknown, nobody pays attention to you. Some folks decide to go all-in by throwing their work in people’s faces through emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. We’ve all seen those folks. The ones who respond to an Instagram post with, “Hey, have you read this book by me? Readers are saying it’s amazing!”

ProTip: Nobody believes you.

For those at the very start of the ultra-marathon, we’ve put together some tips to help you get that all-important base. We’ll repeat that it’s much easier to build a following for a book once you have a following as an author, but if you’re like most self-pubbed authors, you’ll have book first.

The Art of the Soft Sell

When someone sends you an automated DM that says, “Hi, thanks for following, Buy my book!” that is called a hard sell. Don’t get us wrong, hard selling has its place. Like the vendor floor of a convention, where people are there to purchase. But in every day situations, you don’t walk up to a stranger and say, “Hey, I just met you, this is crazy, buy my book!”

Online, it’s about the same. Soft selling is the art of building relationships (trust) first, and then selling later. Many times, folks that follow our alter-ego online have never read her book, but they like what she’s putting out. Eventually, when there’s a sale, they’ll purchase and read. Then, they move from casual fan to involved fan and go on to purchase more.

Soft selling doesn’t happen overnight. Effective frequency is the number of times a consumer must be exposed to an advertising message for them to take the desired action. The average person is exposed to ads 362 times per day. There are also over one million books published every year.

But once you’ve got this relationship-building down, it’s easy to see how it transitions into audience-building

Start With Fellow Authors

Now that we know how to sell, it’s time to find people to build relationships with. A good place to start is with other authors. For some, this seems counter-intuitive. Why would you want to partner with your competition? But bookselling isn’t a zero-sum game. Partnering with others in your same genre will help find readers who are more willing to take a chance on an unknown author.

And that’s key to understand: Not everyone will read a self-published book, especially by someone without any brand recognition.

Where do you find fellow authors? Goodreads groups are where our alter-ego, S. Usher Evans began, followed by Facebook groups. You can follow successful authors in your genre, too, if only to see how they interact with their readers.

Building Relationships

When you start out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., the very first thing you do is follow a bunch of people, right? When you’re finding people’s content to consume, make sure you add a few bloggers and authors who read your genre. And then the difficult part…

Talk to them!

When they ask questions, answer. When they post something, reply with something real and constructive. Eventually, they’ll see you and remember who you are. Do that enough times and with enough real human interest, and they might even feel comfortable enough to give you a follow*. Once they start seeing your content more, they might be interested enough to buy, read, and there you go.

*Don’t pester people to follow you. Especially if someone is an author of some renown, keeping their following to those they like and trust is essential to their online safety.

Get Others to Soft Sell You

Once you’ve developed a nice contingent of folks who know you, trust you, and, even better, have read what you’ve put out, then the trick becomes having them soft sell for you. Ideally, this happens naturally. When people ask for a recommendation, your book is on the forefront of their mind, and they’ll tell their friends about it. It may take a few months or years to reach this point, however, so be patient.

The other, best way to have others sell your book for you is to garner reviews. Next week, we’ll talk about ways you can clear that hurdle.

 Why soft selling sells more books

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Why Preorders Sell More Books

Preorder Periods

Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about how to set up your book in stores–from using Amazon’s KDP to Smashwords to which type of ISBN to choose when publishing the print version of the book. Now, it’s time to move into some release strategies. First up: Preorders and picking release dates.

Why Preorders?

Preorders are exactly that–books available for presale before publication date. Many times, we see authors implement a “write-edit-publish” strategy, meaning: as soon as the book is finished, it’s available for sale. This is a viable strategy for some authors, and we aren’t knocking it, but consider the following:

  • If you publish a book without building awareness early, you’ll be playing catch up.
  • Early reviews help build buzz
  • When talking about books in a series, readers will want to buy the next when they finish a book. Having preorders means you can capture that sale months ahead of release date


Setting Up Preorders

Depending on your distributer, you may have some limitations on when and how you can set up preorders. CreateSpace does not offer them at all, so if you’re looking to have your print books available early, you might consider IngramSpark instead. Amazon Kindle Direct only allows preorders up to 90 days in advance.Preorder periods for eBooks


Smashwords and IngramSpark, on the other hand, offer 12 months advance preorders. Smashwords doesn’t even require you to have a manuscript, simply the metadata. (Ingram does require a manuscript).

When should you set up your preorders, then? We like to start the process around the same time we submit our manuscript for line editing. For our process, that means the manuscript is more or less the final length, which means we can start guesstimating cover wrap sizes.

Tips for Preorder Periods

Just like publishing your book to Amazon doesn’t automatically result in sales, neither does setting your book for preorder result in preorders either. In both cases, you have to do the work to increase both awareness of your book and trust that it’s a book to be paid for.

Since Amazon allows us to upload 90 days in advance, we generally call that the “Preorder Period,” and focus our efforts on raising awareness for a particular series. If we’re releasing the first in a brand new series, we’d actually recommend starting the awareness effort even earlier than 90 days, because you’ll be starting from scratch with your audience (yes, even if you have an established audience).

  • Obviously, first you want to let your readers know that you have a book. Run a 1-2 day ad blitz using your newsletter, social media, and blog/website.
  • Expand your reach outside your own social circle by posting the book to NetGalley using a Co-Op or paid service for reviews (keep in mind schedules fill up fast)
  • Seek out book bloggers in your genre and ask if they’d like to read your book and/or participate in a blog tour. (Although by the time you’re here, you should have already been building relationships)
  • Schedule regular, fresh content about your book, from teasers to behind-the-scenes blog posts to character aesthetics.
  • Make sure your author website is up-to-date and all your links are working to the sales sites
  • Establish or check on your author page is ready on Amazon Central, and don’t forget to add the preorder book to your list of books (you’ll have to do that every time).

Later on this year, we’ll have a more in-depth discussion on how to use social media for book-brand awareness.

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