Start as you’re writing your story! Build up a following either on your social media or directly on your publishing platform.
Your followers will be the people you first advertise to. And some might preorder/buy your book right off the bat once you announce its release. Marketing is daunting, exhausting, and can break your spirit. But it takes time. The sooner you start the better. I constantly kick myself for not joining twitter and instagram sooner when my older comics were in their full swing and had some momentum. Now I’m struggling to get followers. But all I can do is just keep posting and making content.
Have free parts to read: I plan on keeping Secunda free to read on Tapas, and that’s my plan for all my major series. Free content will reach the most people. To entice readers to buy a copy though, I found that the best way is to offer
1. Extra content, like bonus illustrations for my comics
or 2. An extremely polished version. The final edit of Secunda with all the fixes and extra tidbits only exist in paid forms, paperback and ebook. Plus there is still a section of the population that enjoys physical media! People who love holding books in their hands still exist! So simply having a paperback version of a story may be incentive enough for them to buy it.
Consider a Giveaway: I hosted a preorder and launch giveaway where I offered a free book kit to anyone who ordered a paperback copy from the time of the preorder period through the first month of Secunda’s official release. The book kit includes a double-sided bookmark, a signed bookplate, an ex libris bookplate, and a sticker. They’re relatively inexpensive things that I can produce with online vendors.
I made the bookmarks with vistaprint, and the ex libris and sticker with stickerapp. For the signed bookplates, I simply bought a set of blank bookplates from Amazon and signed them with a metallic sharpie.
The beauty is all these things can be sent to people through the mail with regular letter postage. I made a Google Form for people to submit their addresses to me. Since these items aren’t high-value, I did not require a proof of purchase to be eligible. I had envelopes already and just had to buy some more forever stamps (domestic and international) and I was good to go!
For those interested in the terms of my giveaway, you can see how I worded it in the form here.
I initially hoped that this would push sales, but I don’t think it had much of an impact. Twitter was the worst with each post only having a small amount of engagement, not even surpassing 15 likes and even fewer retweets. People say to succeed on twitter it’s all about engaging with other posts, but I have yet to crack that puzzle. (I’m terribly introverted >_< ) Instagram and tumblr fared slightly better, though. Despite not performing as well as I hoped, I still genuinely liked mailing these freebies to people who supported me!
And once the giveaway period ended, I simply listed the remaining book kits on my gumroad store.
Honestly, for my level of willingness to engage with others, I think the best marketing strategy is to continue making illustrations of my novel characters and posting them with relevant tags.
I’m fortunate that I’m an artist and can produce my own assets for promotion, but for those whose drawing skills are a bit lacking, you can find royalty free images online and whip up something nice with Canva for bookmarks and things.
I would suggest spending money on a cover artist though. If you have to loosen your wallet for one artistic asset, it’s that.