Whether you’re working with a traditional publisher or you’re going the self-publishing route, one thing’s the same: You need to market your book.
Most published authors, especially of the first time variety, won’t have access to a full-suite of marketing. Chances are, you’re working with a smaller publisher that has an even smaller marketing budget, and won’t be able to afford to promote your book like you hope in dream. No morning show interviews, no full-page ads in big literary magazines, and certainly no TV commercials to announce the arrival of your book.
Alas. You may get a mention on the publisher’s website. Your book may get passed around to book reviewers. But don’t hold your breath.
It’s up to you to truly market your book like it deserves. This burden is especially great when you’re a new author without a proven track record. You must do everything you can to get the word out.
But what do you do?
Keep reading. In this post, we’re discussing the most important steps you can take to promote the heck out of your first book. Just when you thought you were a writer— plot twist! You’re actually a marketer. Let’s get started.
1. Start by Creating Your Brand
Creating a brand is an important step for all writers, but it becomes even more essential when you’re getting ready to release a book. Potential readers who are interested in reading your work will want to learn more about you. What is your background? What else have you done? What books do you read?
You need to forge a relationship with your audience, and the best way to do that (when you’re promoting yourself alone) is to carefully cultivate a brand persona. Control what people see and know about you.
2. Create a Website
As a now-published author, you need a website. Need— as in, it’s not optional. Your website is where you establish your brand persona. It’s always where you invite people to learn more about you. Ultimately, your website is your home online and where people will go when they want to follow you and find out more about you.
An author’s website should contain the following information:
- Your bio
- Your photo
- Excerpts from your book
- A link to buy your book
- A way to contact you
- Links to find you on social media
- A downloadable media kit (includes your photo, a short bio, a blurb about your book, and a few reviews)
Your website doesn’t need to be lengthy or elaborate to get the job done. For now, it can be a one-page information sheet for all things related to you, the author.
3. Create an Email List
Another element to add to your writer’s website is a newsletter signup form. It’s highly unlikely for people to keep checking your site for new updates. However, if they’re on your list, you can send out an email to give them updates. That way, you keep in touch with people who are interested in you.
Once you sign up for an email marketing service (such as MailChimp or ConvertKit), you’ll have access to an email signup box that you can add directly to your website with minimal to no coding required. Some authors choose to add a so-called lead magnet to encourage people to sign up for their email list. A lead magnet is a free gift, like a chapter excerpt from the book. You can offer this in exchange for the email address and their ongoing permission to receive your marketing emails.
Creating and maintaining an email list is one of the best things you can do to secure the sales of your current and future books. You can develop a real relationship with your email subscribers and turn them into paying customers. Because email marketing is a long-term strategy, you should get it set up right now.
Remember to send out monthly email updates to stay top of mind with your customers. You can share news about your upcoming book signings or promotions. Try to be consistent with sending your monthly newsletters because this is how you’ll establish a loyal audience.
4. Choose the Right Audience for Marketing
How will you promote your book? Going beyond what your book is about, think about its natural audience. Who would want to read your book? Where do they go to find suggestions for new books? Online, in-store? If online, would they look at book reviewer suggestions? Would they peruse the newest releases? Would they be persuaded by ads in their favorite communities? With which communities are they affiliated?
5. Reach Out to Book Reviewers
It’s essential that you get as many book reviews as possible, especially for Amazon. The more reviews you get, the higher your book’s visibility.
Look for book reviewers and bloggers who read work from your genre. Ask them, beg them, convince them (in the nicest, non-annoying way possible) to read your book and leave a review. When marketing your first book, you need to check your pride at the door and be just a tad bit shameless.
6. Choose the Right Book Cover
A lot rests on your book cover. Remember that old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover? Yeah, people still do that. It’s essential that you choose a cover for your book that stands out from the crowd.
While you can technically design your own cover, why not leave it to the professionals? These days, you can get a handsome book design for only a few hundred bucks or less. While that may sound like a lot of money, consider it an investment. The right book cover can stop potential readers mid scroll down the page or mid stroll down the aisle.
7. Offer Your Book for Free on Amazon
There are several tactics for getting noticed on Amazon as a first-time author.
Perhaps the most tried and true strategy is to simply give away your book for free. Before you burn me at the stake, note that I don’t mean permanently. A free launch can help you get noticed and build up those all-important reviews on Amazon. It’s vital that you have a good amount of reviews for your book (at least 20, but the more the merrier). Many potential readers won’t even look at a book that hasn’t been reviewed yet (with an Amazon-verified purchase stamp of approval).
As a side note, be sure to choose the right category for your book on Amazon. Some shoppers stick to genres that interest them and are more likely to narrow their book hunt by category. If you choose the right category for your book, you’ll have a better chance of getting found by your target reader.
8. Use Ads on Amazon to Boost Your Sales
In addition to selling your book on Amazon, you can also promote it there, too. If you do decide to buy advertising, choose the sponsored product ads option. This pay-per-click ad allows you to target Amazon users with keywords that are related to your book.
While setting up an ad campaign with Amazon means that you’re actually paying them to sell your book, there is a benefit. You’ll enjoy better book visibility. You only need to pay when an interested shopper clicks on your ad, and you control the maximum daily amount that you wish to spend.
9. Use Facebook Marketing to Build Awareness
First things first, you need a Facebook business page. Your personal profile just won’t cut it, especially if you’re planning to market your book. You need a business account to do that. But don’t worry, creating a business account is free. You will need to spend money to market yourself and your book. But you’ll be happy to know that Facebook works with every budget. Even if you can only spend $5 a day to promote your book, it can get you in front of a large group of people.
I do not recommend using Facebook to market your book if it’s still listed as free on Amazon.
When marketing on Facebook, follow these best practices:
- Choose a custom audience of readers who’ve shown interest in your genre.
- Make an ad that’s targeted specifically to these readers and their interests.
- Link your ad to the excerpt page on your website (which contains a link to your book’s Amazon sales page).
- Control costs by only running ads on Facebook on the most popular days/ times (Facebook ad manager will provide this information).
- Don’t waste your time with seeking after page likes– use ads to push click-throughs to your website.
Still need more information about book marketing? Check out these related posts:
- What You Need to Know About Working With Beta Readers
- Crowdfunding for Authors: Should You Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Novel?
- A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing