My second published book, Steal the Demon, hit the shelves this week. While the development process was similar in many ways to my first book, Downstation Blues, there were also some significant differences in how I brought Steal the Demon to market.
As with Downstation Blues, I sent the first completed draft for Steal the Demon to a handful of trusted test readers. The feedback I received from the testers was crucial to my final story development. Tester readers are essential because they’ll represent your audience and tell you whether or not your story works. I don’t necessarily need all of my readers to know exactly what I intended a passage or plot point to mean, but they mostly should.
Case in point: In a different work (still in production), none of my test readers realized that the mysterious characters who appeared in two separate chapters were the same character. I thought it was apparent, but I was wrong. It helped me to learn this early in the writing process and make some necessary updates without disrupting the overall story.
Unlike Downstation Blues, I also audience tested the Steal the Demon cover art. The early cover art featured the Demon, a spaceship and significant plot element for the story. It also reflected my somewhat minimalist personal design style. But it didn’t generate enough interest. I received feedback that told me it was lackluster and didn’t represent the breakneck pace of the story’s action well enough. So I shifted gears and featured the story’s main character instead, in a more action-style pose and in a color scheme that stands out.
Side note: I’m also a designer and illustrator, so I do my own cover art. If you’re hiring an artist/designer for your cover, be sure to include a description of the feeling you hope to achieve with their artwork, in addition to the elements they should include.
It should go without saying that reviews are crucial to your book’s potential buzz. Good ones are best, but the number of reviews–good or bad–is just as significant. Be as bold as you’re comfortable being with family and friends in seeking out reviews. But, if you’re like me and don’t have many friends with the time for or interest in reading and reviewing your work, there are some places you can go to seek out potential reviewers.
I used an online service that offered to host an Advance Reader Copy of Steal the Demon for a small fee and share it with their built-in audience of reviewers, who could then download and read it and offer a review if they choose to. The readers are unpaid. While they’re encouraged to leave reviews, they’re not required to do so. All the reviews I got from their readers were four to five stars (out of five), so I’m pleased with the results so far.
Other sites allow you to pay for editorial reviews, which I plan to do for my next book.
I don’t have a publicist (yet), but I do run my own communications, design, and marketing firm, so I’ve got the chops to put together my own ad campaign. I went with a combination of paid and free ads for Steal the Demon.
I paid for two different ads on Facebook/Instagram, one the week before publishing and one starting the day it was published. The first ad response was disappointing, but the second ad seemed to work well.
In the final days leading up to the publish date, I messaged some friends and contacts to help spread the word by making a post/tweet encouraging people to buy my book. I suggested some things to write and some hashtags to use but asked them to make the text their own. Be sure to ask as many people as you’re comfortable with. In my case, all but one of the people I asked agreed to do it. And all but two of those people actually did.
I also planned out a series of posts for the day the book was published. They combined a variety of mockup images of the book cover, both printed and electronic, with a series of messages detailing six reasons why people should buy the book. All of those posts used the same set of hashtags and a link to buy the book. I posted them on all of the different social media sites I used to capture the broadest possible audience.
Give Some Away
I gave final electronic copies of my book to everyone that helped me throughout the process, and a few others I hoped would actually read it. These are longshot ways to get reviews and build an audience, but it’s helpful to play the long game, too. Investments like this can pay off in the long run.