Back in the pre-Internet era, self-published authors not only had to contend with the stigma widely associated with DIY status in those dark days, but they didn't have the marketing tools readily available to today's literary entrepreneurs. For instance, James Redfield self-published his book The Celestine Prophecy way back in 1993, eventually selling 10,000 copies out of the trunk of his car! By May 2005, the book, since reprinted by Warner Books, has sold 20 millions copies worldwide.
Not everyone who self-publishes, or gets published at all, will achieve that degree of success. Frankly, given the harsh realities of the intensely competitive marketplace, most will not. But thanks to social media, writers now have a better chance at building their reader base without having to sell their wares on the street. They don't even have to leave the house.
One of the biggest self-made literary success stories of all time is Amanda Hocking, who self-published 17 ebooks in the young adult (paranormal/romantic) genre in 2010, and by 2011 was selling 9,000 copies per day! She has since signed a two million contract with St. Martin's Press to reprint many of her bestsellers. But the road to dreamland was paved with a lot of interactive, online networking, including her own blog and the popular site Goodreads. She describes herself as an “obsessive tweeter” as well.
As further explained here, Hocking believes that keeping in direct touch with your target audience is key to both maintaining and growing your following. It's true she chose to write in a lucrative field, but she made herself stand out in the crowd by reaching out to like-minded readers, who then further spread the word amongst their peers.
This article also includes some useful advice from authors who successfully exploited social media to promote their own work, including Mignon Fogarty of Grammar Girl fame, who has not only a busy Facebook page and Twitter account, but also a popular podcast.
But with all these blogs and podcasts competing for attention, you may have to get not only creative, but innovative, starting with a customized eBook trailer.
But no matter how hard you work to promote your book, the bottom line is that in many cases, you just have to get lucky. But that also means increasing those odds in your favor by being in the right place at the right time.
This Publisher's Weekly article relates several inspirational stories of self-published authors who scored major sales after being reviewed by PW Select, but that was a random quirk of fate. The first step, as fast rising sci-fi author Russ Colchamiro explains, is establishing your own network. “I do a lot of things you have to do in today's market," he says. "You have to be on Twitter. You have to be on Facebook. Some writers I know are on Pinterest, but you can't be everywhere because there are not enough hours in the day.”
So is there a slam-dunk formula for marketing success? No. It's always a dice roll. These examples are exceptions to the rule. Still, they happened. Bottom line: the possibilities for your eBook are limited only to your imagination, and that includes both content and marketing.
What are some unique ideas you can share for promoting an eBook?