Back in January, I shared my writing goals for 2023 and what I was planning for this website and my YouTube channel this year.
One of my goals was to finally take the first steps towards self-publishing a book. (I like the term “indie publishing” better, but I’m using the term “self-publishing” for SEO reasons).
This book will be the first I ever self-publish. So, as I wrote in my January post, I’ll be focusing on researching and experimenting to find out what works and what doesn’t. Then I’ll share what I learn here on the blog. I’m excited for this adventure, and I hope you will enjoy reading these updates and find them helpful.
In February, I began working on planning out a marketing strategy. While my book is a novel, I believe these strategies can be used for a nonfiction book as well.
I’ll break these down into steps for those of you who also want to self-publish a book or more effectively market a traditionally published book.
Without further ado, let’s dive into chapter one of my indie publishing adventure.
Step 1. Write the Book
My adventure obviously started several years back when I finished writing the first draft of my novel. At the time, I hadn’t decided whether I would indie publish or would try to get the book traditionally published.
The main goal was just to get it written.
If you’re writing a nonfiction book, I think you could definitely plan out your marketing steps while you’re busy writing. In fact, your nonfiction book might be a key piece of the marketing strategy for your business. You might already have a system in place to promote it to your audience. Or you might want to build your audience while you’re writing.
However, writing a 60,000-word (or longer!) first draft takes a lot of focus and perseverance. You don’t want to get distracted by marketing and never finish your book.
But then, once you finish writing, you also don’t want to get so caught up in editing your book to perfection that you don’t spend the time you need on marketing.
After all, you probably want people to read your book.
That’s the stage I’m at now. I’ve finished writing and re-writing the book, and I’ve edited it several times as well. I ultimately decided to self-publish it. Over the coming months, I’ll dive into researching professional editing, proofreading, beta readers, and how to get the book ready for publication.
But, first, I want to start growing an audience. That way, when I do self-publish the book, I’ll have readers eagerly waiting to buy a copy. That leads to the next step.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Target Audience
It’s true that I already have an audience here at nicolebianchi.com. I have an email list of over 6,000 subscribers. And I’ve shared my short stories here, and many of you have kindly written to say how much you enjoy them. Thank you!
But the truth is that the target audience for this website is not the target audience for my book. I’m actually excited by this because it will make this indie publishing adventure more interesting.
My book is a middle grade summer adventure novel, which means the target audience is kids aged 8-12. I was inspired by the books I’d loved as a kid, like Swallows and Amazons and The Secret Garden. These books were set in the real world but had a magical feel. I wanted to write a story like that but set in the present day.
I think anybody who enjoys my short stories will probably enjoy this book too. But, naturally, I want to try and share this story with as many kids as I can because that’s who I was writing for.
So, my marketing plan began by jotting down the answer to this question: who is going to buy my book?
This was a very important question because I soon realized that kids aren’t going to buy my book. Their parents are (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.). That means, I have to market it to parents, not to kids. (Of course, some of the marketing can be for kids, but I need to think about how to reach parents first and foremost.)
And, then, I can also think about who is the ideal parent? For my book, I think it would be parents who enjoyed those classic children’s books too and are looking for something similar for their own kids but with a modern spin. Obviously, I can refine that audience even more.
Once I get clear on exactly who my ideal buyers (and readers) are, I’ll have a better understanding of what to write on my website and how to get people to join the email list. More about that in the next step.
Quick note here: From my research, it seems that most successful self-published fiction authors write in one popular genre (for example, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, mystery). And they’ll write a whole series of books. This makes sense as it does seem like it would be much easier to market your work when it is all directed at one ideal reader group.
All right. Onto the next steps.
Step 3: Build a Website
After figuring out my target audience, I now was thinking about how to reach parents who would want to buy my novel for their kids.
Naturally, I’d need a website where I’d promote my book.
I could just create a dedicated page for it here on nicolebianchi.com. But it happened that I’d already been thinking of re-launching an old website of mine, and I thought this would be a better solution as I could have that website dedicated to this new audience.
Here’s the backstory behind that website. Up until a few years ago, I had a writing tutoring business and taught elementary, middle school, and high school students. At one time, I had a blog for this business where I published writing and educational resources for kids. Then, I shifted my focus and created this website and have been writing here ever since.
But I still have the domain of that other site and have often considered reviving it and having a second website where I again offer writing resources for kids. (I have lots of resources I made about writing and storytelling during my tutoring days!)
Well, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I could create a website where I offer resources for teaching kids writing and storytelling, and then I could promote my book to that audience.
As you can see, my little indie publishing adventure suddenly became more ambitious.
In February, I spent time redesigning the website and rewriting the homepage and about page. Writing the about page was another fantastic way to get clear on my target audience. I followed the exact same worksheets I include in my website copywriting course.
Naturally, as I continue working on that website, I need to keep in mind how to integrate my novel with the other resources I offer there. I want the resources to attract an audience who will also enjoy my book. I’ll share more about this in upcoming blog posts.
Essentially, this step is all about considering what to write and offer on your website that will attract a community for your book. I love that self-published authors can think creatively and create something that is much bigger than just their books. That’s what I want to do with this new site.
Step 4: Start an Email List
The next step was to start an email list and set up email subscribe forms on the site.
All of the published authors I’ve spoken to have said that the most effective free way to market books is through an email list. In fact, one told me that his biggest regret was not starting an email list sooner.
An email list gives you a direct line of communication with your most loyal fans. Your messages go directly into your subscribers’ inboxes. This is a much better way to stay in touch with your audience than social media where changing algorithms often prevent your messages from being shown to followers. An email list is a fantastic way to organize a book launch team and to let your fans know about future books you publish.
I have experience building an email list for nicolebianchi.com. In my email course, I detail all of the strategies I’ve followed, and I plan to follow the same steps for growing this new email list. I’ll be updating that course with any new strategies I discover along the way.
But, for now, I started with exactly the same steps I followed when I created my email newsletter for this site.
First, I set up an opt-in gift (or lead magnet). This is something that email subscribers will receive for free when they sign up for your list. For example, it could be a short story or a worksheet or a PDF guide. One of my opt-in gifts for nicolebianchi.com is my eBook Famous Writers’ Productivity Hacks. Essentially, the opt-in gift is something that incentivizes a person to sign up for your email list.
In my email course, I explain more about opt-in gifts and how to choose the right one for your email list.
For my new website, I already had a free resource that I had created for the site years ago and used with my tutoring students. It was an eBook of 31 writing prompts for kids. I needed to update and edit it, but I soon got that finished. I might change this opt-in gift as I develop the site, but I thought it would work for now. My thinking is that the resources on the site will be for kids who enjoy reading and want to write their own stories.
Second, I chose an email service provider. I use MailerLite for my email list for this site, but I’ve been hearing so much about Substack and reading several newsletters on that platform that I decided to give it a go (mostly because I want to try it out and then report back here about my experience with it). I do see a few drawbacks, but I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post. I’m interested to see if I can tap into the existing audience on Substack’s platform to get subscribers.
Here’s some surprising news. I haven’t promoted the new website at all or written any email newsletters. The website only gets a small trickle of Google search traffic from several old blog posts published there. And, yet, I’ve already gotten four subscribers. That’s kind of cool.
So I can’t wait to see what happens when I officially launch that site. But that will have to wait for a future blog post. There’s still much more to do, and I want to get various writing resources published there. I can’t wait to share it with you when it’s ready.
I hope you found this post helpful, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. If you’ve indie published, I’d love to hear your experience and any resources you can point me to that you found helpful.
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Thank you! God bless.
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This is a great article, Nicole. You are right by saying these steps will work for a non-fiction piece as well. I am still in the writing phase, but I’m going to print your article and keep it near so I can reference it when I am farther along. Thanks again. I always look forward to reading your blog.
Nicole Bianchi says
Thank you, James! I’m glad to hear you found the article helpful. Wishing you all the best with the writing of your book! I think the marketing part becomes much easier to strategize once the book is finished.
Marvin Waschke says
Have you thought about using Substack in promoting your book? The community there seems to be thriving, taking some of the energy that is drifting away from Twitter.
Nicole Bianchi says
Yes, I set up a Substack account, but I need to figure out what I want to include in the newsletters and the best way to promote the book that way. I’m looking forward to testing out that platform as it seems to have a lot of potential.