We work with authors everyday who are at various stages of writing and publishing a book. One thing we tell them upfront is that the journey doesn’t end with publishing. Marketing goes hand in hand with writing and publishing any book but especially a self-published book. For a lot of authors the marketing side feels pretty daunting, but it doesn’t have to.
Here are our top five ways to market a self-published book that actually work (and one that doesn’t):
1. Create an Author Website. Having an author website where people can learn more about you and find links to purchase your books is our very best piece of advice for new and seasoned authors. An active and professional website can be a really valuable tool in reaching new readers and selling books. It’s simple, but impactful. A professional website is also your chance to let your readers get to know you and why you wrote this book. Your website is where you can collect emails from readers and potential readers to grow your mailing list (more on that later) and where you can continue to practice your writing skills through a blog. An effective blog strategy can boost your SEO which will drive more people to your website, and subsequently sell more books. But, like all marketing efforts it can’t be stagnant. Your website isn’t a tool that you create that just “sits on a shelf.” It will require a strategy to keep Google engaged and help your audience find you.
2. Run a Marketing Outreach Campaign. One of the most effective marketing tools for your book is developing partnerships with people, platforms, and organizations who might be interested in interviewing you or spreading the word about your book. You might be thinking: I don’t know anything about marketing, how can I run a campaign like this? Relax. It’s really not that hard and, if you take the time to do it correctly it can be highly effective. The first step is research and development. We like to start by gathering lists of contacts in three categories: people, platforms and organizations. It can take some time but just start Googling using specific keywords that are relevant to your book and genre, and asking questions that you have the answer to. See what comes up and who else is out there in your area of expertise. For people this could include influencers who already have a wide network of followers; other authors; and industry experts in your book’s field. For platforms these are your media outlets like podcasters, bloggers, and other websites that might entertain a guest article. Don’t discount your local media, either. When I was working as an editor for a local newspaper we would receive free copies of books written by local authors or that had a local connection all the time asking for reviews or asking us to run a press release about the book and/or author. Nine times out of ten if they would send us something to run we would print it. For organizations, depending on your book this might be a list of organizations that share a similar mission to yours who would be interested in hosting you for a talk or a book reading.
Once you have your list you will want to create a strategy for reaching out to each one individually. This could be an email, a phone call, or a direct message depending on the platform. We find the more personal the outreach the better. Explain to them why your book will help their audience and benefit them. It’s time consuming and arduous but if you break it up into doing a few a week you can actually send a ton of outreach materials in only 30 days. We usually find when we run campaigns like this we have about a 20% ROI. (If you’d rather just buy a list of contacts, we have several lists available for purchase that we keep updated for marketing outreach campaigns.)
3. Utilize Facebook Groups. If you have written a book about literally any topic, it is very likely that a portion of your audience is on social media. The question is where. Depending on your book genre there is likely a Facebook group out there full of people who are interested in what you have to say, they just don’t know it yet. While many groups have anti-promotion rules, sometimes they will allow promotions on specific days. Make sure you read the rules for each group and follow them accordingly. And, even if you can’t promote your book directly it is still a way to go in and engage with potential buyers. We like to think of social media as a way to build your brand and your authority but not really to sell your books. That part will come with time, but you can use these platforms to share your expertise in authentic ways that will, with time, grow your audience.
4. Try Amazon Ads and Free Promotions. If you published your book through Amazon KDP you can try Amazon Ads as a way to reach more readers. This will cost money, and in the beginning you will have to lose some money to make sales, but if you stick with it Amazon ads can be an effective way to earn more readers. If you enroll your book in KDP Select, you can also take advantage of some of Amazon’s promotions like Kindle Countdown Deals and free promotions.
5. Grow your Mailing List. At the end of the day, don’t discount email as an effective way to reach readers and sell books. You can use your professional author website that we already talked about to help collect emails through free downloads, or a personalized quiz. When you are writing guest articles for other websites or interviewing on a podcast be sure to let people know that they can keep in touch with you through your newsletter. Everytime you write a new blog post for your website you can email your subscribers alerting them of the new content. Email marketing should be one of the cornerstones of your marketing efforts so be sure you keep a regular schedule.
6. Don’t Worry about Getting in Bookstores. We always tell people that being in bookstores no longer guarantees book sales, and bookstores are also not where the majority of your potential customers are buying their books. Though we all hate to admit it a little, Amazon has changed the book buying game and is currently the world’s largest book retailer. Why? Because it’s fast, convenient and easy to search for books. What this means for authors is that you need to have your book listed on Amazon to be successful, and have a marketing strategy to drive customers to your book page.
Now, there are ways to make your book more attractive to bookstores, and certainly there are marketing tactics you can use to get in bookstores, but if your main goal is selling your book and reaching readers then you are going to need a marketing strategy beyond getting your book in bookstores.
Bonus: Don’t forget that people judge a book by its cover. If you are still in the writing/development process of your book, we highly recommend spending some time on the cover. A compelling cover can make or break your book, which is why we always recommend hiring a professional cover designer over trying to do it yourself. You can do all the right things – joining the right Facebook groups, send out weekly emails, and even run promotion ads on Amazon- but if your book doesn’t look appealing to a reader they are less likely to engage with you.