So you’ve finished your book! Congratulations! Or maybe you’re just getting the lay of the land before you start your opus? In either case, we at Elite Authors have compiled a handy guide on how to market your book to publishers or, if you’re self-publishing, directly to your readers!
In 2015, in the United States alone, 2.7 billion (that’s billion with a b) books were sold, and yearly figures since 2015 have yet to dip below those numbers. So you won’t be surprised to learn that how you market your book can be just as important as the book itself. In the veritable sea of new work, all looking to get some attention, you have to make sure that your book stands out.
“Well, that’s easier said than done,” you may be thinking. “Isn’t this the whole point of publishing companies and literary agencies?” And you’d be right—traditional publishing relies on any number of strategies to market books, and they really know what they’re doing. But they must also wade through a vast number of literary hopefuls, and it takes some effort to catch their eye. For those looking to publish their work independently, there are relatively inexpensive alternatives, from taking care of all the book promotion yourself to taking advantage of book marketing services as the need arises.
Before your release date, sketch out a plan for how you’re going to promote your book. It’s important to ensure that flexibility is built into your plan because it will (and should!) change over time. Taking your book from inception to its market-ready form can take a while, and it’s always a good idea to give yourself room to improvise if necessary.
Make no mistake: promoting your book on your own will be a marathon undertaking, but if you stay organized and adhere to some general principles, you’ll get and keep a handle on it. Here are a few book marketing strategies that will constitute the core of your promotion plan.
As we mentioned, there’s a truly vast number of books written each year. Those 2.7 billion? Those are just the ones that made it to market. There were likely many more that never quite got the traction they needed. We’re constantly bombarded with information, and attention is in short supply, so it’s essential that you can summarize what your book is about in a compelling way. Find a great hook—something exciting about your characters, theme, or plot—and sharpen it to a point so you can give the essence of your book in one sentence.
You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but this point does warrant emphasis: not everyone will love your book. It’s best to get used to this idea as early as possible. The very best book marketing strategy is to narrow down your demographics and then market to that group or groups as effectively as possible. For instance, a teen vampire romance will likely play very well with young women aged sixteen to twenty-four, and a coming-of-age story about a middle-school-aged wizard will be reliably appealing to a younger group. As we know, of course, despite being aimed at a particular target audience, teen vampire romances and plucky young wizards facing impossible odds can gain virtually universal popularity, but even they needed that initial purchase on the market first.
Take advantage of the wide availability of statistical information and marketing data on websites like Amazon and Goodreads—look for other titles in the same genre as your book, ones that have similar plot elements or themes. Then learn what you can about their authors and how they published their work. Did they self-publish? Did they go with a small press or a large company? How does the length of your book compare to other, similar books? What types of books are best marketed to specific groups of people? What are the marketing strategies employed by other successful authors?
Whatever you learn about other authors’ book promotion approaches will inform your own marketing strategy, whether you’re bringing your work to the attention of traditional publishers or promoting and distributing your book yourself.
At the risk of defying a certain proverb, we have to stress that your book will be judged by its cover. Compelling cover design is essential, particularly in the age of Instagram. Your cover should be among the first things you attend to because it will help you think about the rest of the marketing process. Also, it’ll form the basis your visual branding. As you did when thinking about your demographic and your marketing strategy, do some research on the design elements that are popular in your genre. You’ll learn what you need to set your cover apart but also how to visually broadcast your genre.
We all know about social media—finally, just about everyone has succumbed. Social media now constitutes one of the pillars of every successful book marketing strategy. As an author, you neglect it at your peril, especially if you plan to self-publish. Maintaining a social media presence will give you direct access to your potential readers. What’s more, it’s cheap and effective.
No one knows your book better than you do. No one can advocate for it better than you can. Decide which social media platform works best for you—it’s important that you feel comfortable and natural—and cultivate your audience by engaging with it directly. Many writers favor Twitter with its simple, text-based structure. Instagram has incorporated a marketing component that allows users to promote their product while keeping it personal and casual.
The age of your demographic is also a very important factor. Lately, Facebook has become home to older users while the youngest millennials and Gen Z kids have decamped to Snapchat. Make your choice depending on the group you’re trying to reach.
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to engage with your audience online. Online book communities and websites are a great place to start: you’re likely to find support from people you already know are enthusiastic about books, and that can help you build your potential readership.
Keep an eye on the calendar to find holidays or milestones that might relate to your book—this can also help you strengthen your social media strategy. For instance, if you’re writing a horror novel, it would make sense for you to make a marketing push around Halloween.
No one can buy your book if they don’t know your book (and you!) exist. You’ve got to get the word out.
For all that social media will likely spearhead your book marketing strategy, online marketing doesn’t replace in-person meetings. Having your card handy is a great way to network and leave an impression.
Once fans (or potential fans) have found you on social media platform of choice, they’ll want to be able to visit a website to learn more about you and your work. Your website will collect all the information available throughout your social media accounts and will include things like upcoming reading dates, contact information, a bio, and a link to buy your book, both directly from you and from online vendors like Amazon.
Don’t be shy about reaching out to the authors of comparable titles, reviewers, and influencers to ask for blurbs to use in your book promotion. With social media, the literary community has become smaller in that everyone involved is highly available to everyone else. It never hurts to build relationships in this way.
Your social calendar is going to be very, very full once you start promoting your book! As much as you can, attend readings, conferences, and other events to meet people in person. Find your local bookstore, and talk to them about organizing an event where you can read from your book and get to meet interested readers. Independent bookstores love local authors!
You can beef up your email list from the contacts you make when you attend events and from visitors to your website. Offer to email people your newsletter so they can keep track of upcoming events and appearances, sneak peeks, and other fun stuff.
Giving away books and other merchandise is a great way to get more people interested in your book. If it makes sense for your particular book, think about fun accompaniments like candy, keychains, or bookmarks.
The best way to do this is to advertise on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all offer paid promotions that can be customized to your needs.
Getting your book published is a grueling and taxing process, but staying organized and focused will help make a long and involved undertaking straightforward. Do your best not to get overwhelmed or to overextend yourself! Pick and choose from the marketing strategies we’ve listed above, and customize your own approach.