It can be difficult to promote a book in what is increasingly a crowded digital marketing place. Moreover, book promotion often isn’t where writers specialize; after all, they’re writers, not marketing experts. The good news is that anyone can learn.
If you’d like to learn how to promote a book or are interested in a fresh take on a matter, look no further. Today we’ll review some actionable, go-to tips for promoting a book in a cost- and time-effective manner.
1: Use Social Media Sites
Many writers don’t like social media. That’s understandable; many of the most popular websites have grown infamous for their toxic communities. However, they’re also the best way to sell books.
Social media is a versatile marketing tool with a huge advantage: it’s free, at least financially speaking. The greater a following a writer attracts, the more they can promote their book at no cost beyond a few minutes to write out a message to fans.
This type of promotion is called social media marketing and is a cornerstone of modern sales. It allows a writer to connect with a community of people who might be interested in what they offer.
The reality is that the world of book sales is a crowded place. Getting eyes on one’s content is hard and arguably is getting harder. While it’s great that publishing is easier than ever, it also means a lot of books are being published.
2: Interact with Other Authors
If you accept you need to use social media (and you do, unless you’re lucky or have a strong marketing team), the ways you can approach book promotion open up.
One of the best ways to market yourself and your book is to interact with other authors. This approach does a few things at once.
First, it helps you develop a positive relationship with someone who can give useful advice. Other writers can give tips and also talk to you about mistakes they made that you can avoid.
Second, in terms of promotion, they can help your message escape your echo chamber and get into the wider social media landscape. Often authors will help you do this in exchange for just helping them do the same.
Third, a strong relationship with another author may open up business opportunities in the future. They may know about get-togethers, key industry giants asking for pitches, and more that you will want to hear about.
3: Offer Options
There are quite a lot of ways to consume a book. People read them on digital devices like Kindles, from traditional hardbacks and paperbacks, and even listen to them via audio recordings. The possibilities are endless.
Now it bears mentioning that not all these options are viable for every release. Audiobooks, for instance, can have a high initial cost that will need a promise of at least somewhat good sales to justify. That said, it’s something to consider.
The odds are good when a book is being released that there will be some group of people who would like its content but won’t make a purchase because it’s not in their preferred form.
Some people like the look and feel of a hardback; some like the low cost of a paperback or digital copy. Others only listen to audiobooks.
We mention this because the more options available to customers, the easier a book is to promote. It gives a book broader appeal and makes the purchase easier for the average customer to justify.
4: Build a Strong Website
If you’re an author living in the digital age, you should have a website. The reason for this is much the same reason you should be involved on social media. It gives people a place to “congregate” and see what you have to offer.
While it’s easy to get a website, it is harder to build a strong website. In fact, it may be worth your time to pay someone else to build it for you, unless you want to take the time to research how to do it right.
Once a website is constructed, you’ll then have to work on raising its ranking on search engines. This is done through what is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a topic complex enough we can’t cover it here.
Like a strong social media presence, the benefit of a high-ranking website is you more or less don’t have to spend anything once the pieces are in place.
So long as your website is attracting visitors, all you need to do is make sure the site is designed such that they are funneled towards making the decisions you want them to. In the case of an author, this is (usually) buying books.
5: Try Cross-Promotion
You may notice when some properties drop, related non-book content is often also released.
For major properties, cross-promotion can take almost any form. TV shows, movies, and video games are all possibilities (although these days it’d often be the book used to cross-promote those more expensive products).
However, smaller authors also have a few options. Cross-promotion isn’t free and has to be done wisely, but it’s still worth considering.
One option might be a short digital or, if the budget allows, a physical comic run. This is a common go-to for authors and the comic might retell the first chapters of a book or the events leading up to its start.
The trick with cross-promotion is to balance the budget with quality. A low-quality cross-promotional item isn’t going to get people excited. Meanwhile, an expensive one still needs to recoup its cost before it’s worth it.
If you’re a first-time author, be careful with cross-promotion as you need to watch costs with some degree of care. If you’ve published a few books and have something of a following, there is less a risk your promotion goes unnoticed and becomes a burdensome expense.
6: Press Releases
A (good) press release is a statement released by an author (or their representation) to answer the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” of their recent work.
What throws off many people, even marketing experts, is that a press release is for industry professionals. Consumers only rarely read them; this is different from writing another advertisement meant only to sell your book.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out a press release sample to see the general idea of how a release is structured. One will notice a release is often very informative with perhaps some marketing lingo but without that being the point.
Now, in fairness, this is still marketing. A press release should make your book sound like it is worth someone’s time. However, it needs to be written through the lens that a professional will read it, care, and spread the word.
The hope is that one will court editors, journalists, or even TV producers through the release. Remember that the way these people approach media is different.
These people often come from the point of view of “What can these media offer me?” rather than “Would I enjoy this media?” In essence, they want to feel your story offers something they, in turn, can sell to consumers.
7: In-Person Events
While the pandemic has somewhat changed how the world views in-person events, they’re becoming more common again. Done right, they allow an author to connect with fans in a way not really possible online.
Two of the most common types of events are book signings and book readings (often done together). This helps get people excited about a book and can offer something that feels “exclusive” to people who decide to go.
A signed copy of your book is going to feel special to a reader (even more so if they were there to see you sign it). It will help to deepen their connection to you and have more positive associations with your brand.
It’s also worth noting these events don’t only ingratiate you to those who attend. They also make good publicity events, often getting in local or even wider papers and blogs.
In-person events are easy wins too; it’s hard to look bad signing books and reading to fans.
However, remember to promote the event beforehand. It’s not unheard of for authors to run these events and almost nobody shows up because they weren’t aware the author would be there!
8: Produce Exclusive Content
While it may seem a bit pretentious to market “exclusive” or “limited edition” content, it works and it’s something a lot of consumers have an interest in.
The viability of this approach will, however, depend on a number of factors, namely:
- Time constraints
- Your relationship with your publisher
- Strength of your following
One of the most common types of “exclusive” content is something we’ve touched on in the section above: signed books.
Plenty of people will feel the need to race to buy signed copies if they’re made available since there are only going to be so many copies. Whether they saw you sign the book or not, it helps increase their feeling of connection to you as the author.
Another common book marketing technique is to use limited-edition covers when either first releasing a book or rereleasing it. This will both help encourage consumers to buy fast and may encourage them to buy the standard cover book later.
If you’d like to offer consumers something a bit more, some authors add forwards or tiny snippets into limited-release versions of their book. This can take many forms, from added lore to a nice message from you to fans.
One note we’ll make is that it is often best for “exclusive” content to feel additive to those who buy rather than subtractive from those who don’t. If you put critical story beats in limited-release copies of books, fans will get mad.
9: Combine, Combine, Combine
We’ve discussed quite a few book promotion ideas today, so we’ve decided to end on an important point. Book promotion is marketing a product and any good marketing drive will have more than one avenue of attack.
These ideas shouldn’t be viewed as exclusive from one another. In fact, a promotion campaign would be pretty weak if it focused on only one of these points. The only real limiting factors should be time and money.
While promotion often doesn’t excite authors as much as writing does, it’s often as important a part of the job as the actual making of the book. If nobody buys a book, it doesn’t matter how good it is.
You want a social media presence to build fandom. You want press releases to attract industry professionals. You want friends in the industry who can help you when you stumble or warn you when they do.
The bad news is that this can be time-consuming at first. The good news is that it gets easier the more you do it. The great news is it also can help you attract a lot of attention to your book and boost sales tremendously.
You Need to Promote a Book to Sell It
Like the header says, you need to promote a book to sell it. That’s the annoying “business” part of being an author and the one that can blindside some people. However, with the right approach, it isn’t as bad as it seems.
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