So you’ve finished your manuscript masterpiece, you’ve even let an editor pick it apart, and allowed a slew of beta readers to test your scribblings and they have rewarded you with a chorus of praises. You may have even cracked open that bottle of bubbly that you have been chilling for this occasion, and may even be nursing a hangover from drinking the whole bottle. And yet, you are left with one nagging question. Now what?

Surely you’re ready to activate your vast social network on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, your author website and via email. What? You don’t know what Twitter is? You don’t have a website or even a Facebook page dedicated to your author persona? Oh crap!

Okay…while that may be a bit dramatic, I am trying to make an important point. Ready? My point is simply this…MARKETING AND PROMOTION ARE AS IMPORTANT AS WRITING A GOOD STORY. Did you catch that? Good. Because I meant it.

This, of course, assumes you are actually interested in selling books. If not, move along. But if you want people to read your work and pay for the opportunity, then you need to get serious about marketing and promotion. And yes, marketing and promotion are two very different tasks, although doing the first well can make the second so much easier and highly effective.

You should start marketing your book early. How early? Well…as you begin writing the first words of the first chapter, you should already have your marketing channels set up. There are four marketing channels that will get you 90% of your sales as an indie author. They are your dedicated author persona website, Twitter, Facebook, and of course, Amazon.com.

As an indie you must publish an e-book edition. This is where more than 90% of your sales will come from. And like it or not, Amazon.com IS the e-book market. Sorry all you iBook, Nook, Kobo, and Sony e-reader fans, but the truth hurts sometimes. The war is over and Amazon won.

So if you don’t already have a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account, stop reading this, click here and sign up. If you already have an account then it’s time to do some marketing.

It might seem strange to start marketing your book long before you even finished writing it, but really, it is almost never too early to start. Now…if you have been working on a manuscript for years, and you really have no idea when you’ll finish it, then I would recommend you wait to begin marketing until you have a relatively firm target publication date. I am a big believer in goal-setting, so I set my publication date, tell everyone when it is, then get busy. Having a hard deadline is a great motivator for me and keeps me focused.

The place to begin your marketing is with a dedicated author website. The website is your nexus for all marketing and promotion and is the one place where you have complete control over the design and the messaging. Whether you build it yourself or pay someone else to do it…it’s a must.

Once your website is up and running you can start using the other two marketing channels to drive traffic to your site and get prospective readers engaged and salivating for your new book. First, let’s look at Facebook.

Facebook is the #1 social media site in the world with nearly 1 billion users. It is very likely that you already have a Facebook account. Great, but that is not where you are going to market your book. Instead, you need to set up a separate author page dedicated to your publications. There are many advantages to Facebook, but the primary benefit for authors is you get to actively engage with readers and readers get to interact with each other. Building a community of fans is the single best way to sell books and, as we’ll see later, promote your current and future books.

Second…you must master Twitter. If you’re not familiar with Twitter it is a micro-blogging site that gives you the ability to send small, focused messages called “Tweets” of 140 characters or less. You can include links to websites, photos, and even videos in your messages too. One of the cool features of Twitter is that you can search for topics of interest and “follow” people who Tweet about stuff you care about. This is solid gold for celebrities, media personalities, and of course, authors!

Now I will say this…there is a subtle art to using Twitter effectively. Like many social media sites, there is a certain etiquette, so you should do your homework and learn to use it as a marketing tool correctly. But if you master it, it will give you an invaluable capability that absolutely will impact your ability to build a fan base and sell books. Search YouTube and you will find literally scores of videos about how to market with Twitter.

Twitter gives you a way to “touch” your target market whenever you like, with a tailored message and call to action. Here is a typical Tweet that I send out…

Do you like epic #scifi with a #supernatural twist? Get the #bestseller THE WATCHERS OF UR: CRADLE for #Kindle today! amzn.to/twucradle

The message is simple and clear and achieves a number of very important objectives. Most importantly it gives the reader a direct link to my book on Amazon where they can read the blurb, check out a free samples, read the reviews, and buy the book. But by using hashtags (the words preceded by the # symbol), people who are searching Twitter for a particular interest, like Tweets about the “supernatural” or “scifi” can find my Tweet and hopefully check out my book. Pretty cool.

The other cool thing about Twitter is that your followers or anyone who reads your Tweet can tell others about it by retweeting (forwarding) it to their followers. This is where the network effect comes into play. Here’s an example. If I send a Tweet and three of my author pals (Mike Hicks, Steve Umstead, and Joe Konrath) decide to retweet it, my message could potentially reach nearly 100,000 people immediately. If even a fraction of those people retweet it, the network effect quickly gets into the millions of eyeballs very quickly.

Tell me…what other marketing channel could you as an independent author access that has anything close to that kind of reach and flexibility? Hmmm? I rest my case.

In my next installment I will discuss promoting your book by bringing joy to your fans.

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