If you write only because you love to, you won’t need to bother with marketing. But if you are publishing by yourself and wish to be read by as many among your target audience as possible, you will have to learn an additional skill—how to market your books. It would help to be clear about your goals at the outset, because effective book marketing takes some early planning and effort.
For authors, marketing essentially involves drawing and engaging your target audience by sharing more about yourself and your book. It really is as simple as communicating. But it involves work. In this article, we share 11 book promotion ideas that will improve your book’s visibility among your target audience and help you sell more books. Some of the suggestions, like entering metadata, are inherent to a book’s publishing process and would require little additional effort. Some other ways to market suggested here may appear unnecessary; but remember your goals, and exercise the same discipline with your book marketing plan as you would in your writing.
You can help potential readers find you even before you finish writing your book. Update your site with articles that would surface in your target audience’s organic search results. For example, if your book is about managing emotional well-being, cover the latest scientific developments in the field, and intersperse them with insights from your book. If your book is a work of fiction, you could review the most popular books or memorable characters in the genre.
As you come close to the launch date, you can create buzz around your book through contests and book giveaways. Post high-quality content that encourages your target audience to subscribe for updates. If your site has about a year’s lead over your book’s launch date, it will give you time to build a substantial mailing list and improve your site’s ranking.
There are several ways in which you can increase your online presence. For example, you can post your articles on popular websites that receive a lot of traffic, or contribute on forums that discuss topics related to your book, or request websites or blogs that are popular among your target audience to feature you in an interview or guest post.
In your byline, remember to include a link to your website and the books you have written or are presently writing.
Set up an author page on Facebook and an account with Twitter. Observe what kind of posts and promotions get the most likes, shares, and retweets, and apply the insights to increase your social media following and engage with them better.
Examining their titles, cover designs, and typography will show you what works in your genre. Shortlist the ones that you like best or do not like at all, and think through your reasons for each inference.
There are more benefits to studying the best books. As you read their reviews, you will come across words and phrases that connect with and characterize your target audience. By including these in descriptions for your book’s metadata, you can help your book be discovered by your target audience through their search queries.
As you go about this process, keep your eyes open for balanced and insightful reviews; you can add the reviewers to your shortlist and approach them for a review when your book is ready.
One of the quickest ways to get reviews for your new book is to approach reviewers of any of your previous books with a free copy and a polite request.
If you are a first-time author, you could look up Amazon’s top reviewers and shortlist the ones who have reviewed books from your genre.
While Amazon does not support reviews for pre-order books, if you have released a paperback version of your book and linked it to your unreleased ebook, any reviews posted for the paperback will copy over to your ebook. This way, your book will be ready with social proof right from the day it is launched.
You can also promote your pre-release book among Goodread’s network of over 65 million members through a featured giveaway. Goodreads allows reviews to be posted for pre-release books. Take note that even though Amazon owns Goodreads, reviews posted on one site cannot be migrated to the other.
As a rule of thumb, contact four times as many reviewers as the number of reviews you are aiming for. Follow up at least once, preferably a week or two after your first email.
You should also approach influential book bloggers, popular authors in your genre, and newspapers for editorial reviews.
A book blurb is a short promotional piece of about 100–150 words. It appears on the back cover of print books and on online sales pages.
To write an effective blurb, begin with a clever opening line that piques the reader’s curiosity and has them reading for more. Follow that up with a hint about your plot and characters (for fiction) or the core concept (for nonfiction), using compelling words such as amazing, incredible, mysterious, powerful, life-altering—depending on your book’s genre. The closing should grip your reader. For fiction, you could present a crossroads or turning point in the story; for nonfiction, you could mention who should read the book and why.
If your book has received any editorial reviews, add them to the blurb.
Would anyone spare a second glance for a book whose cover is too busy, has jarring colors and typeface, or looks unpolished and unprofessional? A well-designed cover is crucial to a book’s salability, and this is better achieved by using a professional book cover design service.
Amazon is the biggest retailer of digital and print books and owns 2 self-publishing service companies—Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for ebooks and CreateSpace for print books. If you include Amazon’s KDP, Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Kobo in your distribution plan, you would have covered the channels that account for 97% of ebook sales. Smaller retailers account for a negligible proportion of sales, but they help to increase visibility.
If you do not want to deal with individual companies, you can publish with an ebook aggregator such as *Smashwords or Draft2Digital. Ebook aggregators distribute to multiple retailers and format books to the requirements of each. They also give access to channels that authors cannot approach directly, such as Scribd, a digital library with a subscription service used by 80 million people worldwide.
Amazon has a formidable range of promotional tools and programs that you should put to good use.
KDP Select: To enroll into this program, you must give Amazon exclusive distribution rights to your ebook for a 90-day period. Discounting is known to be very effective in improving visibility and sales, and for any five days during this period, you can offer your book for free or set up a countdown deal. Moreover, any book sales generated under this program will fetch you Amazon’s highest royalty rate of 70%.
KDP Select would also enter your book into Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service that helps subscribers discover and read books, and pays authors depending on the number of pages read.
If KDP Select works well for you, you can re-enroll into the program as many times as you want.
Amazon Author Central: By setting up an Author Central account, you can have your own page on Amazon, with your biography, photos, videos, events, and details of every book you have published. This page also attaches to the sales pages of all the books you are selling on Amazon. You can personalize the contents of your page and even share its URL on your social media sites and in your email signature to drive more traffic to it.
Expanded Distribution Program: This program offers authors the opportunity to make their print books available at various online retailers and physical bookstores, libraries, and academic institutions in the United States. If you enroll into this program, your book will be listed in the catalogs of distributors and can be ordered by sellers and libraries connected to the distributors’ ordering systems.
Bookbub and Book Gorilla are book recommendation services whose subscribers receive a daily email, recommending titles from book genres or authors they have professed interest in. In order to be recommended, you will have to offer your book for free or at a minimum discount of 50% for a limited period.
While some services offer free book promotion, most of the good ones charge a fee, which depends on the price and genre of the book. For Bookbub’s hottest category of crime fiction, the listing fee is about $400 for books being offered for free, and about $2000 for books being sold in the price range of $2–$3.
Bookbub’s growing popularity among authors, as understood from online reviews and message boards, tells us that book promotions do indeed drive sales above pre-promotion levels, even after the promotion is over. The benefits apply not only to the book being promoted but also to other books written by the author. Authors have also observed that promotions are followed by a spike in book reviews.
Goodreads’ network of over 65 million members makes it a useful promotional platform. You can create your own profile page to share about yourself and your books, seek reviews, organize book giveaways, host discussions regarding your books, add your books to the appropriate lists on Listopia where they can be seen and voted for by your target audience, and more!
Strategizing about book marketing holds little importance for authors going through a traditional book publisher. The publisher will take care of book marketing and distribution, including arranging for editorial reviews, book launch and signing events, a spot in a book fair, featured articles in newspapers, and a place in bookstores. Self-publishing authors, on the other hand, have to figure these things out for themselves, drawing advice and inspiration from as many sources as possible.
This article does not intend to provide an exhaustive list of book marketing ideas. Rather, its purpose is to help you understand that at its core, marketing is communicating about your book and making it available on as many platforms as possible. As you get started on the book marketing tips offered here, you will come across many more ways to promote your book and reach more readers. One thing will lead to another. The key is to get started. Happy marketing!
*Smashwords does not distribute to Amazon.