The Basics of Marketing Your Book
The moment is finally here – after copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears, countless hours of staring blankly into space, litres upon litres of coffee, and the odd eureka moment, your book is finally published. You’re an author now; congratulations! The challenge of being a self-published writer isn’t over yet however. In an age of constant distraction and countless options, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and market your book if you want to get it into the hands of your readers.
This may very well seem like the absolute hardest part of the whole endeavour. Considering the challenges involved in writing a whole book, this realization may seem daunting. Don’t worry though – you’re not alone; we’re here to help you get the word out, starting with this guide. In it, we’ll go over some of the main concepts, tips, and tricks you can make use of as a self-published author in order to get your book noticed.
Define a Target Demographic
The first thing you should do is think about who’s going to be reading your book. You’ve probably already done this while writing, so it should be easy. What type of person would be interested in the type of story you’re writing? How old are they, what are their interests and hobbies, where do they live, and what other books do they read?
These questions are important, as the answers will indicate on which digital platforms your readers-to-be congregate (different age groups tend to favour different platforms) to interact and share news and interests with each other. Once you have an idea about this, you can devise a more detailed strategy, involving e.g. which specific hashtags to use, which online fora to frequent, or which groups to post in.
Imagining the type of person who would be interested in reading your book might seem like a difficult and needlessly abstract task. Just remember that specifying a target demographic doesn’t mean you’re excluding everyone who doesn’t belong to it; you’re just figuring out the best place to direct your marketing efforts.
The neat thing about this approach is that as you market your book, you’ll be getting feedback and data from the people responding to your efforts. Whether it’s the resulting hits on your website, or user data gleaned from your Instagram insights – the more you promote your book, the more you’ll be able to refine your target demographic. You can then further improve your marketing strategy based on this information.
First impressions are vital, and your book cover is the primary tool you can use to make it a good one. People process images much faster than words, and even the most open-minded individuals will judge a book by its cover. Getting a leg up on the competition by standing out with a great cover could therefore make all the difference.
To do this, strive to secure a strong visual and emotional connection with your prospective reader. A good place to start might be researching books similar to yours in terms of genre and style, and use the best ones as inspiration for your own cover. Which of the covers you looked up made the strongest impression? Which ones did you like the most? Try to figure out which elements these covers have in common, and apply them in your own cover.
Of course, you may not like any of the covers used for your particular genre, and wish to stand out from the rest by breaking with any and all existing practices. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this course of action, this is your book, and you should be happy with the final result. Just keep in mind that current bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason, and that their covers have been professionally designed for quite a bit of money.
Speaking of money, there are several ways to go about actually designing your cover; some are free, and some aren’t:
- Hire a freelance designer/artist
- Ask a friend or relative who’s good at using Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop
- Use our own free cover designer tool, which you can find in step 5 on the Mybestseller platform
- Try designing your own cover with a different software, e.g. Canva (you can read our tutorial on how to design a cover using Canva here)
Can’t Choose a Cover?
If you have several cover designs to choose from, and you’re not sure which one you like best, why not ask your readers’ opinions on your social media channels and other digital platforms? They’ll love being so intimately involved in the book creation process, become more invested in the end product, and your decision will be made much easier!
Don’t Know Where to Start?
Much like with writing, a blank page can be daunting; especially if your creative side is more comfortable with words than images. Not to worry though – check out our beginner’s guide to cover design for self-published authors for some ideas on where to start!
As a book-lover on the internet, you’re probably already familiar with Goodreads, the IMDb of books. Now that you’re a published author, you should definitely create a profile here to list and promote your work.
Make sure to link to the other digital platforms on which you’re active (including social media) and vice versa. Also, if you’ve managed to secure some ambassadors for your book, make sure to ask them to rate and review your book on Goodreads. There are a lot of potential readers using this site to determine which book to spend their hard-earned money on; a detailed review and a good rating will make all the difference when it comes to influencing their decision-making process.
While Goodreads is by far the most popular social book site, there are several other alternatives available that may be worth checking out if you want to maximize your reach. You can take a look at this comprehensive list to get started.
Readings and/or Book Presentations
Brick-and-mortar bookstores have been struggling for quite a while now. It’s a shame, but with a bit of luck and charm, you can take advantage of this situation to promote your work. One strategy that some of our authors have had success with is to write to their local bookstores and organizing a reading event with them.
Ideally, it’s a win-win situation – you get to captivate and convert potential fans by presenting and/or reading your book, and the bookstore gets much needed foot traffic. To motivate both the bookstore and potential guests even further, it might be smart to organize some snacks and drinks for the event. This will keep everyone interested and engaged for much longer.
Naturally, the success of this approach is heavily dependent on context; the size of the bookstore, the size of the city or town, and the number of people you can get to join. As a rule of thumb, it’s more likely to work if the bookstore in question is small and independent. While this could make it seem like it’s not worth the effort, it might actually be a blessing in disguise. The patrons of smaller bookstores are most likely very serious about their reading hobby, and are likely to spend more money on books. If you can turn them into fans, then you’ve got yourself a loyal, long-term reader.
Make sure to inform the local and regional press about your book presentation; be clear about the date, time and location! Every little bit of media attention helps, and it’ll also add some extra flair to the event. This might also be a good opportunity to provide media outlets with a press release about the publication of your book. Mybestseller automatically generates a modifiable first draft of your press release, which you can tailor to your specifications. You can find this document in your account after publishing your book.
Now, you may not be able to secure a bookstore for your event, and that’s fine; another venue would also suffice. In fact, you might want to hold your event somewhere entirely different. Why not check out our blog post on how to organize a book launch event for more tips and inspiration?
There are almost as many book bloggers (and booktubers) out there as there are authors, and most of them do a lot of book reviews. This is a great opportunity for you as a writer; both in terms of the reviews themselves (assuming they’re good of course), and increasing the number of times your book is mentioned online, which makes it a lot easier for others to find.
Do some research and find a number of book bloggers you like. Many of them have specific genre preferences, so make sure you contact those which are relevant to you and have a decent audience.
Once you’ve selected a few promising book bloggers you want to contact, take some time to write a really good, enticing review request to send them. These bloggers get hundreds, if not thousands, of review requests, and they’re often working alone. So again, just like with your book cover, it’s vital to stand out from all the competition. Familiarize yourself with the blog and the blogger, so that you can write a charming, personalized review request. Think of it as a cover letter, and your book as the resumé.
An author website is a great tool for self-published writers. Not only does it make you look more legitimate and respectable as an author, but it’s a great way to introduce your book to the reader, entice them with and immerse them in the story with well-written blurbs and atmospheric visuals, and ultimately, sell them the book.
There are two main ways to go about creating your website. The first is to simply use the feature integrated in the Mybestseller platform. By logging into your account and clicking “My Profile”, you can choose to create your own website at the bottom of the page. Once created, you’ll be able to write blog posts, send out newsletters, and get people to follow you for instant updates on your published work. It’s a basic setup suitable for those who’d rather not spend time on creating a custom site from scratch.
If you want something that offers more creative and visual flexibility however, you might want to consider simply making your own website. It’s not hard to set one up, though you will probably have to invest some time in order to make it look like what you had in mind when you started (unless of course, you’re already the tech-savvy type). We recommend checking out The Creative Penn’s article on how to set up an author website if you’re curious about how to get started.
Contests & Give-Aways
It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but giving away copies of your book can be a solid marketing strategy, if done correctly.
To start off, select the channel through which you want to organize your giveaway. This could be one or several of your social media profiles, your website, or an enthusiastic subreddit for instance. Obviously, the more people that see the giveaway, the more potential readers you’ll reach, so you probably want to choose a communication channel that lets you contact a lot of people.
When it comes to the actual model of your giveaway, think about whether you want to make it time-based or copy-based. For the former, you could specify a certain time-frame during which people can claim a copy of your book for free; for the latter, you could announce that you’re giving away a certain number of copies and that it’s first come, first serve.
If your book is good enough, a fair amount of people will probably want to buy it anyway – either to show you support or to own a print copy. Once you’ve whet your readers’ appetites, you can organize contests, where only a select few get the prize
These giveaways might also be a good opportunity for you to start building a readers’ network. You could, for example, ask people who want to download your book to provide you with their email addresses, so that you can reach out to them in the future with updates, offers, and other relevant information.
These are just a few ideas of how to go about marketing your book using the book itself, so if you have some ideas of your own, don’t feel restricted by what we’re suggesting here.
If you’ve managed to collect a few email addresses, either through your giveaways or otherwise, then you should put those contact details to good use. They offer a direct line of communication to your readers, after all.
You can send them newsletters with information about your book; upcoming sequels, sales, or giveaways for example. You can also include events like readings, award announcements, interviews or webinars you’re taking part in. Make sure that you include links to all your social media profiles and other online platforms somewhere in the newsletter.
Even more importantly – only send emails to people if you have something to say! People hate spam, and for good reason. Try to see it from their perspective; don’t be a spammer!
If there’s a local newspaper, website, or popular blogger(s) based in your area, it’s worth informing them of your new book. The local press is always on the lookout for a relatable story, and a member of the community publishing their own book is definitely newsworthy! You might not land a story in every local news outlet, but chances are that you’ll get at least some ink; be it real or digital. Having your work talked about in official news channels is a great way to promote your book, as you can share legitimizing articles to stimulate sales.
The Mybestseller platform automatically generates a press release for you, based on the information you fill during the publishing process. You can then edit this press release, or just send it out as it is. If you do decide to edit, or write your own, remember to include the name of the book and author, a short summary, information on where to buy it, and the sales price.
Maintaining a regular, engaging social media presence is essential to keep your readers invested in your work. Based on your target demographic, you’ll probably want to focus on different platforms. However, make sure to invest time and energy into maintaining the ones you do choose to be active on. For an introduction to the topic, check out the article we wrote on social media marketing for self-published authors.
Use your social media platforms to build excitement amongst your readers. Post updates, behind the scenes photos, and sample chapters, for example. Make all your major announcements on social media; the publication date, the final cover design, and any events, contests, or giveaways that you’re hosting.
Also, try to make your posts engagement-friendly, i.e. encourage your followers to comment and contribute with their own opinions, or even make their own posts. This will do wonders for your channel by making it easier to find, as well as making it seem more attractive to the people who find it.
Lastly, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your social media followers to buy your book. Include visible links to the stores which sell it on your main profile page. You can also share purchase widgets to a number of social media platforms directly from your Mybestseller account.
Podcasts are one of the more underrated forms of media when it comes to marketing, but it’s also one of the fastest growing when it comes to consumption. The accessibility and relatively low production costs compared to other forms of entertainment enable practically anyone to make a podcast, should they wish to – and they do. If there’s a particular subject you’re interested in, there’s almost definitely a podcast on the topic, and it’s usually hosted by someone as interested in it as you are.
Podcasters are always on the lookout for guests and experts for their shows, and since they’re often working on a fairly limited budget, they’ll usually be very happy to have you on. Put together a list of podcasts that could be relevant to your book; whether they be general ones on literature and/or publishing, or if they discuss a historical period or event which your book is based on. Even tangentially related podcasts could be interesting – perhaps both you and the host have been researching the same topic for different reasons and can have an entertaining discussion about it?
Once you have your list, contact the host of each show and suggest a collaboration. Let them do things their way and respect their methods, but ask if they’d be willing to introduce you and your book, as well as link to the various places your book is for sale on the podcast’s website.
If you’re willing to invest some money to promote your book, why not buy some Google ads? By setting a daily budget for yourself, you can directly control how much money you want to spend on ads.
This particular marketing method should also be right up your alley as a writer, considering that it involves a fair bit of copywriting. A well-written ad targeted at the right demographic (which you defined in step one) can do wonders for your sales. Make sure the ad text is snappy, to the point, and involves a call to action.
In order to maximize the cost efficiency of your ads, you’re probably going to want to do some keyword research before you begin. This involves figuring out what people are typing into Google when looking for a certain thing. The easiest way to do this is using Google’s built in keyword planner. It’s simple to use – type in the search terms that you want to trigger your ads. Google will then give you related search terms, with a bunch of useful data related to each one.
For example – say you’ve written a fantasy novel. You might open up the keyword planner and type in “fantasy novel”, thinking you want Google to show your ad to people who search for that specific term. Google will then give you a bunch of similar terms that people also tend to use. You can then add these to your list of keywords in order to reach a larger audience with your ads.
Of course, there’s much more to Google ads than this. There are innumerable tweaks, tricks and strategies you could implement. However, this is far too big a topic for us to cover here; there are entire websites dedicated exclusively to unraveling Google’s advertising platform. This article, for example, is a good start if you want to dig deeper into the world of Google Ads.
While Google is the most popular ad platform, there is an argument to be made for Facebook’s service as well. Facebook tends to be very good at collecting user data. This in turn allows you to get really specific with your targeting. Let’s return to the example of your imaginary fantasy book. You could tell Facebook to show your ads to people who have interacted with pages that deal with Lord of the Rings or role-playing games, for example.
In theory, this will allow you to get a lot of bang for your buck, as you minimize the amount of irrelevant impressions you get on your ads; i.e. people who see your ads without necessarily being interested in fantasy books.
Facebook Ads also provides you with a step-by-step walkthrough on how to use the platform. This can save you a lot of time when learning how best to create your ad campaigns.
Interacting with Your Readers
Most of the tips mentioned in the previous steps involve you communicating directly with your readers. This means that a huge part of your marketing strategy hinges on the image you project. That’s why it is absolutely essential to take any opportunity you can to interact with your followers, readers, and fans. Answer their comments and emails, and interact with their posts (that relate to you and your book). Like, comment on, and share their posts – they’ll really appreciate the attention. This also means they’re more likely to buy your books, as well as recommend them to others.