What's the best way to market a sci-fi space opera as a new author?

Feb 13, 2021
Hey everyone,
I'm new here.

And I'm still learning the ropes of this forum, and this industry.

Can anyone give me pointers?
A belated Hello and Welcome to the Chrons!

I can't help at all with self-publishing, beyond suggesting you have a look in the other threads in this sub-forum, but with luck more knowledgeable members will be here soon to give help and advice.

Meanwhile, I know you've posted elsewhere, but do have a look at our Introductions sub-forum and perhaps start a thread there and tell us about yourself and what books you're reading/TV or films you're watching at the moment! https://www.sffchronicles.com/forum/introductions/
One friend of mine (already published) always jokes that if you want to market something, you have to imagine an existing bookshelf from a book store you know, imagine where your book would sit and what would be the comparison. If the store has a broad selection of, for example, Dan Abnett and David Weber, it probably means those are selling well, and so you can think what would a) make the reader of those assume your book would suite the tastes of an Abnett or Weber fan, and b) would there be enough separating you from them. When you have this comparison, imagine another suitable bookshelf, and son on. Once you have a good enough idea what kind of market you are aiming for, you can always find fans of those books and start a conversation on the internet for even more information.
Hey everyone,
I'm new here.

And I'm still learning the ropes of this forum, and this industry.

Can anyone give me pointers?

Well, now you're asking.

There's a number of different ways you can market a book, and a lot depends on you having a clear understanding of your brand (your unique selling point and where you sit in the market place) and gathering as much intelligence on your niche as possible - such as: who are the nearest "competitors" in your niche? Who are the key influencers? Who are your readers and what is the most effective way to reach them? There's no short cut or golden rule here - the important thing is to research, research, research - and treat anyone who says you can buy mailing lists or likes with extreme skepticism.

You can split the marketing process into the following sub-processes:

1. Research the market.

Know where you fit, what sells, who your competitors are and how they sell it. Researching the right keywords to use in publicity material. Also try and locate niche's that aren't too saturated. A YA story about a wizard at wizard school might face difficulties getting attention in a crowded market dominated by a few key figures.

2. Research your audience.

Who they are, what they like and how they look for it and where you can reach them. Get to know your keywords, and which keywords are under exploited (i.e. that lots of people search for, but where there isn't too much competition for clicks).

3. Define your brand

Building your author profile - having a basic web and social media presence so people can find about you and your writings.
Submit shorts to different story markets to build credibility.
Clearly communicate who you are, and what you're about.
Building or exploiting sales platforms - Amazon, Smashwords, Wattpad etc etc.

4. Choose the right Marketing Channel

Which channel will get your book in front of the right people for the right price (Preferably free)?

Marketing channels include:

* Paid ads - Google / Facebook / Amazon / Instagram
* Social media - Twitter / Facebook / Tik Tok / Instagram / Wattpad
* Your own website - building mailing lists, sending out regular mailings, creating a beta reading platform, getting reviews on Amazon / Smashwords.
* Crowdfunding - sites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter etc.
* Content sites - Substack, Medium - generating articles to raise your author profile and links to your book.
* Search Engine Optimization - making sure your books feature high on search engine results.
* Book preview sites like Book bub / Book sprout.
* Sponsoring content - in youtube videos, on banner ads on websites etc.
* Reviewers - people who love the medium and want to talk about it.
* Freebies, competitions, author list builders etc.
* Awards - Nebulas / Hugos etc.

5. Develop Marketing content

Developing the right copy to convert browsers into buyers. What's your angle? What can people get from your book they can't get from anywhere else? What blurb is going to hook readers and get them keen to know more?
Monitor what works, and constantly refine your ad copy and promotional material.
Define the purpose of an ad campaign - do you want to drive people to your site to buy things or are you trying to build brand awareness?

6. Building an audience

Building a mailing list, capture them in your ecosystem and regularly engage readers. The industry standard is something like 10 contacts leading to 1 conversion, or something like that.
Press releases - getting stories in front of journalists.
Get together a team of beta readers who will deliver useful, honest feedback.

7. Monitor results

Which campaigns are most effective? What's working? What isn't working?

One of the best forums I've found for marketing books is, strangely enough, the erotica writers forum on reddit. Erotica tends to be written with a clear understanding of niche, but where writers are writing to market and don't tend to be too precious about their content. But, they do have a good understanding of what works to get your books seen in a crowded market place and all the tricks and tips necessary to maximise income.
A few suggestions:

1. A book is written first and the blurb, usually on the back cover, is the hook. The brief summary that draws potential readers in. One could go to an actual bookstore for inspiration or see examples online. The finished product determines the final niche.

2. Look at awards for books in the science fiction category. This should give authors a good idea of what's popular now and which books are benchmarks, and hence, competitors. Sometimes readers are drawn to the similar but your book can stand out by being different.

3. As far as finding an audience, it would help to see which sites offer free promotion and look into sites that offer ad space. Setting up an author site is a must. However, there is a bit of practical design work to make the page attractive and functional. The page should include an obvious feature to allow for feedback and direct sales. Ask readers/buyers if it's OK to get emails from you for promotional purposes. The company I work for took many years building a mailing list.

4. Something Amazon does, and the author himself can do, is select a portion of the book to post as a sample (always include a copyright notice). My experience as a book editor who has seen hundreds of manuscripts is this: If I'm not interested by page 8, it is highly unlikely that I will be more interested by page 20, much less page 200. I do the same thing with interesting looking books I pull from the shelves. The first 6 pages need to grab me. If they don't, I put it back. Or if I pick up a book and suddenly find myself past page 12, it may be a purchase.

5. A marketing campaign does not mean much if the book is getting negative reviews. It has to sell on its own merits first and then the author becomes someone to look for should he write another book. And continuing to write books that people like and that sell good numbers is what draws attention. I mean reviewers can't write good reviews otherwise.

I commend MonOZerO, above, for his suggestions.

Kickstarter is a bit more complicated. It requires having the book in hand but how will readers know it's going to be good? Perhaps it could be used to fund another book by an author who can post glowing reviews of his previous work. Kickstarter is more suited for non-fiction devoted to a niche subject with some built-in interest.

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