By Dan Smith, CEO, Smith Publicity
Some people don't realize that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a self-published piece of Twilight fan fiction, released by a small Australian virtual publisher, The Writers’ Coffee Shop (a long-time previous Smith Publicity client, by the way). With a tight book marketing budget, the publisher mostly relied on book blogs, and then word-of-mouth started happening. From there, the first book went viral and at one point accounted for 25% of all book sales.
While the success of Fifty Shades of Grey is rare, there are lessons authors can learn from its success, both in terms of book marketing and the book itself.
- Respect the power of bloggers and online reviewers.
The Internet is a limitless platform full of people who love books, love to review them, and love to tell others about them.
Lesson learned - If we could reverse engineer the Fifty Shades path to success, we would find that it all started with one person, one blogger or online book reviewer. Think about that for a minute …
- Make it easy for readers to freely enjoy your book.
One reason Fifty Shades caught fire is because it was in originally in eBook format. This enabled readers to openly read the book and enjoy some guilty pleasures in public, on trains, in Starbucks … anywhere, without others knowing what they were reading.
Lesson learned - You should, if at all possible, have your book in both print and eBook formats. Readers may not have reason to hide your book while reading it, but eBooks provide another way for people to easily find and enjoy your book.
- Take punishing reviews in stride.
At Smith Publicity, we sometimes secure book reviews that are not favorable, and some that are downright vicious. It’s going to happen; someone isn't going to like your book. Fifty Shades received many brutal reviews, and still does.
Lesson Learned – Develop thick skin. Understand that even bad reviews are proof that someone took the time to read your entire book and then took the time to write a review. You got their attention. If you see books on Amazon with nothing but positive reviews, something’s not right – some of the reviews aren't legitimate. Negative book reviews are part of this business.
- Be an exhibitionist.
You want your book to be as public as possible, and to be as discoverable as possible. Make it happen with services like NetGalley, something we at Smith Publicity both sell to authors and incorporate into book publicity campaigns.
Lesson Learned – Find as many forums as possible to make your book available for review. Let your book loose.
- Let go of your inhibitions.
To effectively promote a book, most authors need to try things they aren't initially confortable with. If you dread the thought of being on radio or TV, for example, fight the fear head on … you might just end up liking it.
Lesson Learned – Let go. Be free. Give your book every possible chance for success.