Being a writer, much like being a parent, doesn’t come with a rule book. Should you get a creative writing degree? Should you get a literary agent? Try to get a publisher? Self-publish your work? How do you go about marketing your book? The list of questions goes on.
Personally, I’m a fan of learning on the job. I think there is no harm in trial and error, provided I learn from my mistakes. Over the course of 14 years of publishing short stories and poetry in magazines and anthologies, then graduating onto poetry collections, short story books and novels, I’ve learned many things and made some mistakes along the way. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made has been spending money on advertising without setting a budget, or considering the ‘return rate’ in terms of likelihood of sales – or at least value for money.
At the start of this year, a colleague asked whether I used Booktok. I’m a self-confessed ‘old fogie’ and didn’t know what this was. I had heard of TikTok, but thought it was a place to share homemade dance videos, or other funny crazes, and hadn’t considered it as an option to use for marketing; I already use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, and wasn’t sure I wanted another social media account to manage. However, my colleague told me that some books had gone viral on Booktok and that you didn’t need a huge amount of followers to get a lot of exposure, so I decided to set up a TikTok account. What did I find?
Since I started using TikTok in January, I most certainly haven’t gone ‘viral’; in fact I only have a handful of followers and get several hundred views, and a few likes, at best. But the other day, while a writer friend had promoted my latest book Diabolical Dreamscapes on Instagram, I noticed that someone wrote in the comments “Oh, I saw this book on TikTok!” Until that point, I had been wondering how effective reels and videos were in gaining exposure for my books. There is no direct correlation that I can see between posting a video and seeing a spike in sales on my KDP dashboard. This comment, on the other hand, was a trackable way of indicating that my reels and videos are reaching an audience. Whether or not that audience translates into readers and paid sales is another matter. My modest goal for now is to increase visibility of my books; if viewers are seeing my book cover appear enough, hopefully some folks might remember the title and head on over to Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble or Foyles, etc. and buy a copy.
How do I know this works? I myself do this; if I see a book on TikTok or Instagram that sounds like my kind of read, I tend to Google it right away. If I do it, chances are others may do the same for my books. I told you I was ‘learning on the job, didn’t I?
If you’re still feeling unconvinced about making reels or videos to promote your books, another factor might convince you: it’s free. All it costs is my time in making the videos. If you’re not a fan of physically appearing in promotional videos, you can always do as I do and make slideshows or book teasers using Canva, as I do.
I thought about giving it a go, maybe I will try it to see what happens next.
Sorry for the late reply, Paula. I didn’t get a notification for your comment. I definitely think this is worth a go. I know there’s much to be said against what seems to be termed ‘shameless self promotion’, but I’m personally in favour of exposure, especially when it’s free. All it costs me is time in making the videos, so it’s really a win win.