One of the biggest parts of any self-publishing journey is marketing. Author J D Kizza continues her insights and advice coming from her practical experience in part 2 of her marketing story.
- The story came first, and the blog came after.
The Journals started out as individual chapters told in flashbacks or in hindsight. I would share them in PDF format with some of my closest friends. When I reached 17 chapters, I realized that I had something going, and so I started to flesh it all out. I built that world, and when I was halfway through Journals III, I decided to launch the blog and make it a thing.
- I posted my blog on WordPress back in 2017. It’s very easy to use, very user-friendly, and it’s free. If you have the funds, there are paid plans that you can use, but I’m not there yet.
Because I had a vision in mind, I was able to create it without difficulty, all from my old Blackberry smart phone. It is so easy to do, that you don’t need a PC to do it. The templates are already there, you just need to fill them with your creativity.
Check it out here : thejournalsofhe.wordpress.com.
- I used social media to get the word out. I am a very anxious and socially awkward person, and so I used this to my advantage.
Back then, it was brilliant because everyone was on social media, so that meant that everyone would see it, even in a sea of accounts. Now, pretty much everyone is at home because of Pandemicus. They are on their phones and computers for distraction from real life, or are otherwise looking to connect with the world outside.
So I would use a method called Post Boosting or Ads.
Look it up, make it happen, and if you follow the rules, I promise you won’t regret it.
- Facebook and Instagram are powerhouses for this, but I believe that Google does it as well. REMEMBER : You should start a Facebook PAGE and not just use your personal PROFILE to build your audience. You have access to so much more resources as a page than you do as a profile.
In terms of frequency of posting, it’s recommended that you post every day or every second day. I post every two or three days, and I keep it varied in terms of content.
A majority of my Instagram and Facebook posts are poems with gorgeous art, which I find on Pinterest, but I don’t just post poetry. My followers need to know that I am a person, so I will post the occasional piece on what is happening in my life.
I chronicle my author journey, for example. I talk about my epiphanies at the post office. I talk about my rejection letters, my distribution deals, my writers block, my job and how it fits into my dreams of being an author.
- I learnt all of this by trial and error, and I’m learning from it, with good results.
When you boost a post, you’ll be asked to create an audience that you want to advertise to. Pay close attention to the kinds of accounts that interact with yours, and tailor your audience to that. Look at their bios and fit your audience into what they’re saying. Check where they come from and fit that into the geography. Look at their ages from the stats and metric data that Facebook and Instagram gives you. Build your audience around that.
- I already had a significant-enough following before I did anything, and that was deliberate. What I learnt, especially here in SA, is that reading culture isn’t a thing.
- It’s a luxury that not everyone can afford. The kinds of stories that some people want to read, are by international authors, with big price tags on them. It doesn’t matter if we know who the author is here in SA. If they are from abroad, the tag will be upwards of R300 in most cases.
- I knew from experience, that most people attach value to things before they buy them.
- I am a South African born Ugandan female author – most of my followers were not aware of any of it when The Journals and JaneAuthor went live. They all assumed that I was based in the Americas or Europe and I didn’t question it. For some reason, the thought that I wasn’t from around here, made them want to stick around. I boosted and advertised some of my most catching teaser chapters and some of my most resonant poetry and the following grew.
- I allowed them to think what they wanted to think and by the time the following was beyond 5000 on both pages, I slowly let them know that I was local.
- I let them know that my publisher was not only independent, but local.
- In the middle of that, I would share content across all of my platforms so that I could cross-pollinate, so to speak.
- The Poets are far more interactive than the Readers, and so I am trying to drive awareness of the book up, by reaching out to the Poets.
- It is still early days – and bear in mind, that online clicks don’t always mean print sales – but I am getting there, slowly. I made my first 19 sales out of 42 books in the space of 3 weeks this passed July – more than what I could have hoped for.
- Meaning has been attached to the book, by virtue of the fact that I am JaneAuthor, the Poet. And now, they will also see that local authors are capable of creating art and they don’t need to fly the coop to do it. In effect, I was already marketing The Journals long before they had a name. Marketing your skill, will eventually market your work.
- After publication, I used the book’s full cover to bring legitimacy to the publication (applaud yourself Rochelle, you did good!).
- I put it on my personal profile and on my pages and in my Facebook and Instagram stories and my WhatsApp statuses. I included music that fit the mood. I would share poems and quotes from other authors that fit the same aesthetic.
- I made sure to include the publisher’s name and socials so that everyone would see that I did actually go to professionals to get it out there.
- I made sure that the barcode and the logo of the publishing house were visible.
- At that point, it was no longer an idea in their heads, but an actual product that they could own.
- I have been marketing the book myself across social media – and like I said, clicks don’t always mean sales, but this drives traffic to the page and gets the word out there. Even though there are pretty much 2 stories running concurrently, I am testing the theory that people will want to bridge that gap. And so I’ve reduced everything to teasers and I’ve removed some chapter teasers from the sites entirely just to throw some spice into it.
- I have yet to find a good team that has some experience with appealing to literary audiences, but I will keep doing what I do until I do – music, reels, pictures, whatever I can get my brain to create, I use.
- With regards to availability, the most obvious one is ME – I push that agenda confidently. I always lead with it. I tell anyone who asks, that yes, I can provide you with a signed copy and these are the details. I make good on my word, provided they make good on theirs.
- It is available from Profound Books here in Johannesburg (thank you Richard!)
- It will soon be available in the Western Cape : in the City of Cape Town, by Lotus Bookstore + Blog, and in Strand, from BalaKudu Online Bookstore.
- And of course, it is available from Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback.
I haven’t really started promoting Journals II yet.
I want to make Journals I available in as many of the provinces as I can, and try and get people on the bandwagon with regards to indie stores and online purchases, because those are the current avenues that I have available to me.
Once that is up and running, and once Journals III is complete, it’s on.
In terms of strategy, I probably will use the skeleton of the current model, and adjust accordingly, because algorithms are always changing. So I will have to focus up and get innovative so that I draw in the new pool of Readers – the ones who have never heard of The Journals, and are only now finding it as a book and not a blog.
Social media is your friend right now. Research it and use it to your advantage. If you’re on Facebook, start a Page because of the huge benefits you can have from it. If you can create a website for your authorship, get that done too (I’m working on my own).
Save up, because it will cost you.
Tell your friends and tell them to tell their friends.
Communicate with your readers. Engage them.
Ignore the trolls. Don’t listen to those who say that it can’t be done. It can.
Don’t just focus on your book, focus on your skill as a writer.
Use your ability with words to garner interest in your book. You are a published author now. Your ability to write is not exclusive to the content of your book, it’s in your status updates and your stories and posts and your comments.
Use your eye for art to catch the eyes of those watching, so that they will be interested in reading what you have written.
You are the voice of your characters, the theme song to your topic of choice.
And know WHY you are doing it. Once that happens, the innovation comes through. You’ll be open to learning and doing new things – I posted my first ever video of myself, talking about the book for Beyond The Vale Publishing. And I did it because I knew WHY I was doing it.
And keep going. Some days will suck, but you cannot quit until there is no other option but to. Be confident. You’ve got this.
Thank you very much for your insights and advice, Daisy. If anyone has any queries about self-publishing or marketing then please drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.