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As summer came to a close earlier this week and the first fall chills came over the area where I live, I realized something: this month will be one year since I self-published my first book.

Wow! A whole year has gone by since I officially became an author! It was my life-long dream to publish a book and I finally did it last year. I was thrilled and excited when I got the email on the morning of September 14th from Amazon Kindle, telling me “The Dark Proposal” was live. A new era in my life had begun.

But I had much to learn about being an author, publishing books and getting the attention of readers worldwide. And I think I still do. Although I researched like crazy on how to promote my book, I was not sure if I was doing it right. There seemed to be a million different ways to do promotions and marketing, and some I wasn’t so sure would work but tried anyway.

Here’s what I’ve learned about marketing and promotions, one year later:

Blurbs are so important: Duh, right? Blurbs give readers a summary of what the book is about, while using the correct words to lure the readers into at least reading the preview. I thought I had a good idea on what was a good blurb, but boy was I wrong! I actually rewrote my blurb a few times after my book’s release once I realized that a few words made “The Dark Proposal” sound like a paranormal romance, something is definitely is not (one reader has called it the “anti-Twilight’). I was embarrassed that I probably misled my audience and I totally regret not having my blurb checked with my editor. Lesson learned, painfully learned.

Choose the right sample to display: When I did my blog tour upon my book’s release, I chose the first chapter to be used as a sample. I wanted to show potential readers what kind of person Claire was, what motivated her to first speak to Daniel, and what kind of person he was when he first appears. I figured this way people would have a good understanding on what was going on, and understand Claire before all hell broke loose, plus not give away any spoilers. But I think I should’ve gone with a different scene then. I realize now that any sample I use needs to give the reader a good idea of what the whole book entails, not a more innocent time. The sample I use now is enough to show who Claire is, as well as what goes on in the story.

Social media is not the only way to promote: So many self-published authors say promoting your book on social media is the best way to spread the word about it. That maybe true for some, but I didn’t sell numerous copies on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. I got some buzz on my blog tour, which was only for five days. But nothing stellar happened. So when some author swears social media is the best way to sell books, be skeptical. Especially when they say to flood Twitter with the same tweets every 15 minutes saying “buy my book! buy my book!” I never did that, thankfully, because I saw a few authors do that before I released my book and saw how tasteless it was. Oh yeah, no DMs on Twitter when you get new followers.

Be careful who you ask to help promote your book: Because I so dearly wanted word to spread about my book, I searched for various avenues to do that. I found some indie book promo company – if that’s the right word – that promised to tweet indie books for a whole month and feature it on its website for a fair price of $20. So I signed up and paid, but nothing came of it. Even worse, the tweets they did were embarrassing. The tweets included the line, “not your grandmother’s vampire story!” Oh boy. I asked for them to change it, since after all I was paying them. They were a little reluctant but they finally did. So that was $20 wasted. Learn from me: research like crazy to make sure anyone who can help promote your book will actually do a good job and be worth every penny.

Be flexible when it comes to giveaways and free days: Even though I signed up for the Amazon KDP Select, which allows five free days, I was reluctant to give my book away for free. I had worked hard on it and I wanted some compensation for all the money I spent editing, getting a book cover, copyrighting, etc. But when I read about how free days and giveaways can help spread the word about your book, I gave in. For the sake of Halloween, I made “The Dark Proposal” free on Amazon on October 30th and 31st. Whoa, did I get a response! This is when I got the vast majority of my downloads. I was amazed and excited to see my book do so well. I saw a boost in sales this past June when I re-released “The Dark Proposal” – sans typos – and had it on sale for 99 cents. These days my book is back at $2.99 on both Amazon and Smashwords, and I’ll put it on sale again soon. Hey, this is the sacrifice self-published authors have to make. We all want to see our work and investments pay off, but that’s a tough road. You have to gain an audience, and sometimes in order to do that, you need to be flexible on how readers can get your book. If selling it for 99 cents or for free does the trick, then so be it. If all goes well, you wouldn’t need to do that for long.

So that is what I’ve learned from marketing and promoting “The Dark Proposal” one year later. I had read a lot of author blogs on how to do this, mainly from author Catherine Ryan Howard on her superb blog, Catherine Caffeinated (please check it out, she’s great!). But a lot of it I had to learn on my own. Granted, I’m the type of person who dives into a new task without reading the directions properly, which is a bit of a personal flaw of mine. But I’ve learned a lot. Some of the things I did right I’ll apply again the next time. As for the others, hell no!

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