Indie Book Marketing—Step One (Editing)

Before I launch into this series, I just want to elaborate that these are my pre and post-publication marketing strategies as of today. The big news no one wants to speak aloud is this:

Your marketing strategies will change over time, or you won’t be a relevant marketer.

Harsh, eh? I would just say that the marketing techniques I used a mere eight months ago for my debut book launch weren’t exactly the same ones I used for my second launch (this June). Why? Marketing trends have already changed, and I’ve cut things that weren’t worth the time the first time around.

This is where I see independent authors getting ahead and even beating the traditional publishing “game.” They must, by necessity, stay plugged in and be very attuned to the direct effects their marketing techniques have on their sales.

In this series, I am going to share what has worked for me, but it might not work for you. This is not a prescription for success. It’s simply a bunch of suggestions that will, in some small or great measure, help you build buzz around your book. The first step is non-negotiable, however—you don’t want to rush the actual editing process and put out a sub-par book.

I’m honored and floored that Jessica asked me to share this series. Sometimes I feel I’ve missed the marketing boat miserably. But I’m happy to share techniques that I’ve used or I’ve seen others use with good results.

And now, with no further rambling, let’s start! I will focus on fiction marketing since that’s what I write and market.

Step One: Before any marketing can start, even pre-release marketing, you need to have a complete novel that is nearly completely edited. That way, you know what you’re working with, how it ends, where it fits, your demographic, etc.

I’ll elaborate on the types of edits I use (again, it may be different for you). Please note: at all stages in-between these edits, I am going in and self-editing the book as well:

a) My crit partner is my first reader. I trust her judgment and I also love and admire her writing style. She gets my writing style, my motivations, and is willing to tell me when something doesn’t work. She’s worth more money than I could ever pay her.

b) Second in line is my beta readers. These are the earliest of early readers, those who read for content issues, character issues, etc. I try to choose readers of the genre I’m writing in. And I wouldn’t recommend over five. It’s easy to get so many conflicting opinions, you lose sight of what your book is about (too many cooks stirring the pot, so-to-speak). If two of these betas agree and mention the same issue, I know it’s mostly likely something I have to fix.

c) Early readers are third on my list. Early readers get the cleanest draft I can send them, along with the book cover art. These are readers I hope will endorse, or influence for my novel. They will hopefully prepare Amazon reviews and be willing to post when the book goes live. We’ll talk much more about the importance of early readers in my second post.

At some point in this process, you can also invest in an editor. For my first two novels, my agent/editor did edits–primarily content edits on the first, line edits on the second. I would strongly recommend a trial period with any editor, giving them only your first few chapters, and making sure they understand which edits you are seeking (line edits for grammar, wording, etc., or content edits). You also need to be able to respect said editor’s style and be able to integrate their edits. If not, keep looking. A good editor can teach you so much. A bad editor can undermine your writing style and even torpedo your book idea.

The basic rule of thumb is if you have any doubt about your writing polish, hire an editor. It is costly, but it will be an investment in your writing career. Even if your first book doesn’t pay off the expense, your books will be something you can stand behind as a good example of how you write.

I know we only covered one step today, but it’s crucial not to rush this step. This book will go out and represent you as author to everyone who buys it. You need to make sure your debut, in particular, is as polished and reader-friendly as possible.

Next post, I’ll be talking about Step Two: Title/Cover Art and Blurb. I might even get to Step Three!