There is one thing that both first-time and previously published authors have in common: they want to sell books. As an author, you need to generate buzz for your new book. That means you either have to market your book yourself or hire someone to do it.
In most cases, successful authors play a critical role in promoting their books. Even bestselling writers with millions in book sales under their belt appear on multiple podcasts and morning shows to talk about their latest works.
Book buyers don’t want to read advertisements about books; they want to hear from you, the author. Luckily, book marketing doesn’t have to be as arduous as you might think. In fact, you may find you actually enjoy the process.
Why You Need to Actively Participate in Marketing Your Book
I could go on and on about why authors need to learn book marketing, but the following true story will illustrate my point much better than any lecture I could share.
Several years ago, I was sitting at a writers conference in Denver. The event was hosted by Hay House Publishing, which specializes in transformational and inspirational books. Reid Tracey, the CEO of Hay House, gave a presentation about the author’s role in book marketing.
Reid said that the success of a book was up to the author. Writers who mastered book marketing and public relations would fare way better than those who didn’t. Even great books would go unnoticed without the proper author support behind them.
An overwhelming number of conference participants were aghast at the idea that they had to play any part in selling their books. The tension Reid’s words had caused was palpable.
Hand after hand popped up to argue with this very successful CEO. Objections sounded more or less like this:
“Isn’t marketing YOUR job as the publisher? It’s not mine!”
“I don’t want to be a marketer. I want to be a writer.”
“Maybe Hay House isn’t the best place to publish if that’s your attitude!”
Now, Reid Tracey’s publishing credits are about a mile and half long and wide and he knows what works. He was well able to handle the crowd’s objections, but much to our surprise, a best-selling author popped up on stage to tell the mostly unpublished writers in the crowd just how right Reid was.
The highly acclaimed writer was Wayne Dyer, author of more than 30 books, his first being Your Erroneous Zones; that book alone sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. Wayne recounted that he didn’t achieve those sales numbers by accident.
Wayne recounted the story of how he loaded up his car with copies of his first book and drove around the country to speak with newspaper editors, radio hosts, and local bookstore owners about his book. [The year was 1976, so Wayne didn’t have the online resources you’re so lucky to have as an author today. ]
Wayne was adamant that the main factor that drove his success as a top-selling author was his unwavering commitment to marketing his books himself. And, in his gentle way, Wayne told the audience that if they weren’t willing to market their own books, they might as well pick another profession because being a best-selling author was simply not going to be in the cards for them.
Why You Shouldn't Dread Book Marketing (Even Though Most New Authors Do)
Marketing sometimes gets a bad rap. You don’t need to create a smarmy or overly polished version of yourself to promote your book. You merely need to be you and arm yourself with a megaphone that helps you shout out to your ideal readers, “my book is great, here’s why.”
Marketing isn’t as hard as you think, either. I’m not going to lie — books won’t magically fly off the shelves. Book marketing requires consistent effort using a proven marketing system. You’re about to learn the essentials of book marketing right here. These fundamentals will carry you a long way.
Nowadays, online channels and publishing forums (your marketing megaphone) make it much easier to get the word out about your amazing book. Your goal is to find the right places where your audience hangs out and grab their attention. Once you have that, you’re ready to show folks why your book is a must-read.
A Couple of Basics Before We Dig In
I want to clear up a few questions you may have right now. The first question is, “How does marketing differ if you’re self-publishing versus going through a traditional publisher?” The second question is, “Does book marketing work the same for fiction and nonfiction books?”
Book Marketing When Self-Publishing vs. Using a Traditional Publisher
The rules of marketing your book apply whether you’re going through a traditional publisher or you intend to self-publish. Most publishers will offer a little PR help, but they expect you to actively promote your book. In fact, many traditional publishers require you to have an active online following before agreeing to publish your work. That’s just one more reason to get comfy developing some marketing chops.
Book Marketing for Fiction vs. Nonfiction Books
The primary objective when marketing any book — whether fiction or nonfiction — is to find your ideal audience and give them an irresistible reason to buy your book.
There are many categories and subcategories in both fiction and nonfiction books. Romance readers won’t necessarily be found where sci-fi fantasy readers hang out. Business book buyers are typically not hanging out on the sites frequented by cookbook buyers.
Whether you’re writing a fiction or nonfiction book, you need to find where your ideal audience type is spending their time. Then you need to devise your plan to reach that audience.
Ready to learn the essential steps of marketing your new book? Let’s go.
1. Create an Amazing Book
You may think that step one goes without saying, but to be honest, this is where a lot of new authors blow it out of the gate. If you’re publishing your book through a traditional publisher, you probably have some help with book development, organization, editing and proofing. If you’re going the self-publishing route, you will have to acquire that help yourself.
Even if you’re on a shoestring budget, you’ll still want to work with an editor. You can find freelancers to help you on sites writing sites like Book Editing Associates or Reedsy. You’ll also find book editors on general freelance sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
I also recommend chatting with other authors for editor recommendations. To do this, check out online writers communities like WritersCafe, The Writer’s Path Writers Club, StoryWrite, or Almost An Author.
2. Develop an Irresistible Book Pitch
Imagine you’ve just entered an elevator with a person who’s an ideal reader for your book. It’s just the two of you for two minutes. Your goal is to explain your book to that person and convince her to buy it. Your pitch should be around 300 words. What do you say?
If you’re not clear on the message you want your would-be readers to hear, it’s important to get clear before you reach out to anyone about your book. Your pitch should include the following:
- An attention-grabbing intro sentence (20 words or less)
- A vivid book description — match the tone of the description to the vibe of the book, such as funny, mysterious, inspirational, or serious
- A clear message about who should read the book
- An intriguing closing hook that makes the person with whom you’re speaking beg, “tell me more!”
Polish your elevator pitch to make it as tight and imaginative as you can. If your goal is to sell books, it’s important that you get really good at describing your book.
3. Build Your Author Platform & Attract Your Own Audience
An author platform is the stage you create for gaining attention for yourself, your work, and your books. A large, well-targeted platform translates to a large audience reach, which in turn, can greatly influence total book sales.
Your complete author platform includes the spaces you carve out yourself, such as your website and social channels, as well as the other channels on which you appear, for example, as a regular contributor to a magazine or talk show.
Developing a platform is all about gaining visibility. The better you become at attracting positive attention for yourself and your work, the greater the odds you can generate significant book sales.
For the moment, let’s focus on the elements of the author platform that you create.
Build Your Author Website
Some authors prefer to create a website for each book they create while others develop a single author site for marketing their books. Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction writer, I recommend that you create a website around your own name.
I’m a fan of creating a single site that’s all about you, your writing, places you’ll be, where to buy your books, etc. Establishing brand awareness for both your name and your book titles sets the stage for both current book sales and future book sales.
Set Up Social Channels as Part of Your Author Platform
Posting to multiple social channels can be a huge time suck. Worse, it doesn’t always produce results. That’s why it’s best to focus on one or two social channels at first.
Make sure you’re selecting social outlets that make the most sense for you. For example, if you’re a business writer, you’ll want to be on LinkedIn where biz folks hang out. If you’re a fashion writer, you’ll want to hang on Instagram where users crave fashion content.
Facebook has a lot — I’m talking hundreds — of Facebook groups devoted to a variety of book authors, clubs, networking groups, and genre-specific discussions. That’s why I like Facebook for both fiction and nonfiction authors.
4. Piggyback on Others’ Platforms
When you’re first starting out, growing your own author platform assets may be a bit frustrating. In fact, new authors sometimes report that they feel progress is happening on a geological time frame.
Take heart; hearing crickets on your own author channels is normal at first. The best way to change that is to reach out to book influencers and get in front of their audiences so you can increase visibility for yourself and your books.
Offer Value to Others & Be Positively Persistent
This stage of marketing your book will require creativity, patience, experimentation, and persistence on your part. Recall the Wayne Dyer story I shared previously? He said he drove that book-filled car around the U.S. for nearly two years. Talk about perseverance. Not every door he opened was receptive to his book pitch, but Wayne did not let rejection get him down.
I believe this is a very important message for you right now. When promoting your book, you will be ignored, rejected, and possibly even ridiculed by people who tell you that you don’t have what it takes. Don’t believe them. Selling books is not for the faint of heart, so buck up little soldier; you CAN do this!
Here are just a few of the many ways you can market your book and yourself as an author by tapping into others’ platforms:
- Find (research!), follow, and reach out to book influencers in your genre.
- Appear as a guest on subject- or audience-relevant podcasts.
- Offer to speak at local or online community groups or clubs.
- Become a contributing author for a magazine, journal, or newspaper.
- Appear as a guest on subject- or audience-relevant podcasts.
- Offer to do book readings at local libraries or bookstores.
- Participate in online or in-personal writers groups.
- Attend conferences to network with fellow writers, book influencers, and publishers.
- Offer to interview authors on your platform and ask (don’t demand) that they share the interview with their audience.
- Reach out to your current network and ask them if they have connections to sources for promoting your book. Or, just ask them to share your book promos with their networks.
- Write a press release about your book and send it to appropriate media outlets.
Tips on Finding & Reaching Out to Book Influencers
When figuring out who to reach out to about your new book, think through the following questions:
- Where do you go to discover new books like yours?
- Who are the influencers for your genre? Who do you trust the most?
- Which online or offline podcasts, channels, or shows offer a reasonable chance to reach your ideal reader?
- Who’s writing about new books being published in your niche?
Influencer Outreach Success Tip
The secret to success in reaching out to influencers is ALWAYS offer extreme value to the platform owner. Find a way to save them time, help them make money, entertain them, or satisfy their audience in ways they can’t etc.
Facebook Groups for Authors
There are hundreds of book author groups and book clubs on Facebook. Here are just a few:
- Children’s books authors, writers, illustrators, readers, teachers, Kid Lit
- Rebel Magic Writers
- The FRIENDS & FICTION Official Book Club
- Authors and Writers Helping Each Other Grow
- Publishers, eBooks, Book Creators & Writers Sharing Group
- Fiction Writers Cafe ~ Book Promotion
- Authors & Readers of Christian Books
- Everything Marketing Group for Authors
- Guerrilla Publishing: Book Marketing Support and Feedback for Authors
- Personal Development Worldwide (Self-growth, Self-help, Self-improvement)
- Ebook and book promotion
- Fantasy & Sci-fi Authors & Readers
- Paranormal and Fantasy Romance Writers
Here are just a few author focused podcasts you might want to check out …
- Reading Women — This podcast exclusively for women authors hosts author interviews and the yearly Reading Women Award.
- Smart Bitches Trashy Books — Focusing mostly on romance novels, this podcast features interviews with authors as well as lively reader discussions.
- The Guardian Books Podcast — Features interviews from authors all over the world
- Nerdette — This WBEZ Chicago NPR news program interviews authors, artists and more.
- Get Booked — Listeners of this podcast are treated to book recommendations from Book Riot.
Remember that book podcasts may not be the best outlets for you. If you’re a personal growth offer, you may fare better appearing on the Design Your Dream Life or the 10% Happier podcast. Whatever your niche, do your research to find out who’s talking about the things you cover in your book.
Example of a Clever Book Outreach Effort that Netted Big Results
I once saw an interview with Sarah Ban Breathnach where she recounted how she got Oprah’s attention for the book Simple Abundance. Sarah sent dozens of copies of her Simple Abundance book to Oprah’s staff, and the staff fell in love with it. Oprah took notice of the thick pink book that seemed to be at everyone’s desk, glanced at it, loved it, and invited Sarah to be on the Oprah Show.
To date, Simple Abundance has sold over seven million copies. That’s what’s known as the “Oprah Effect” — the power of one influencer with a big audience to radically change one author’s life overnight.
To be honest, getting in front of Oprah isn’t going to be easy (though never say never, as it’s happened for some authors). Yet, there are thousands of influencers around who command loyal audiences that may be ideal for your book. When you get those influencers on your side, your visibility can expand exponentially.
5. Build a Strong, Supportive Author Network
Let’s walk through a simple example of the power of one author versus the power of a supportive network of just ten authors. Imagine each of the ten authors have a small loyal following and an email base of 1,000 names.
When you promote your book to just your list, you can reach 1,000 people. When you join other like-minded authors who have similar readerships, and you each agree to promote each other’s work, you have a reach of 10,000 people.
A much larger audience reach is just one benefit of building a supportive author network. Here are a few more ways adding more authors to your professional network will work to your advantage:
- You can share book writing, marketing, and publishing tips.
- You can obtain high-quality referrals to editors, proofreaders, and graphic pros you may need to create and promote your book.
- You’ll learn success tips from authors who are killing it (as well as mistakes to avoid from other authors).
- Your author network might be a good place to find early readers for your book.
- Other writers can serve as a great sounding board when you’re working through plot and other book development issues.
6. Be Proactive in Getting Positive Book Reviews
Positive books reviews help you sell more books. You need lots and lots of positive, authentic book reviews to help you promote your book. To be clear, you want positive Amazon reviews (and lots of them!) as well as reviews on multiple blogs and news sites. Both can help you get more readers for your book.
FACT: Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world. They have 67% of the ebook market and sell 64% of the printed books sold online.
Getting Book Reviews
So how do you get these amazing reviews? Be proactive and persistent in reaching out to audiences that you feel are a good fit for your book. Here are a few suggestions for where to reach out to get book reviews:
- Your Current Audience/Network: Reach out to your current network via your email list or social channels and invite your audience to be part of your special pre-launch book screening team.
- Book Bloggers: Find book bloggers in your genre and offer them a free preview copy of your book. Reedsy, the BookBloggersList, The Indie View, and the Book Review Yellow Pages are just a few places where you’ll find book bloggers. Along with your review request, be sure to tell bloggers how they can reach you in case they’d like to schedule an interview.
- Goodreads Groups: Join some Goodreads Groups and ask fellow members if they’d be interested in reviewing your book Tip: double check group rules to make sure this is allowed.
- Facebook Book Clubs and Author Groups: There are many book clubs and author groups on Facebook (see sample list shared above. Once again, only do this if the group rules allow it.
- Paid Reviews (Careful!) Consider using a legitimate paid review service, such as BookRazor.
- Giveaways: Offer your book for free as a member giveaway on LibraryThing.
- Author Review Exchanges: Offer to review other authors’ books in exchange for a review of yours.
Remember that people won’t read and review your book overnight. That’s why you need to contact potential reviewers multiple times; I suggest at least three contacts, with at least three weeks in between each contact. Try to get at least 50 reviews on Amazon that average 4+ stars. A hundred or more reviews would be even better.
7. Start Marketing Your Book Before It's Published
There are a few very good reasons to start marketing your book before it’s published. For example, many retailers, including Amazon, count all book preorders in launch day sales.If you have plenty of book presales for your book category, you could hit a bestseller list. This not only gives you bragging rights that you can use in future book marketing efforts, it can help you gain more exposure for your book.
Another reason to promote your book before it’s published is to generate buzz. Your biggest fans might buy your book as soon as they hear about it, but others might need to be reminded about it multiple times before making a purchase decision.
8. Talk About Your Book to Lots and Lots and Lots of People
It should be clear by now that the best way to market your book is to talk to lots of people. Lots and lots of people, in fact.
Reaching out to others who have big audiences that overlap with your ideal book audience is a great step. If you’re a new author, you may find resistance getting in front of Oprah or a top-fifty podcast. Don’t let that discourage you. There are plenty of lesser-known influencers out there who are craving new things to talk about. Those small audiences can add up. And, if your book is as great as I think it is, word will spread about it.