There have never been more books published than there are today. According to a recent report, for example, in 2019 there were 4 million books published in the U.S. alone. That’s 10 times more published titles than the same report said in 2007.
At the same time, books are having a more difficult time selling than ever. In fact, book sales actually peaked in 2007, and have been declining ever since. So while we’ve collectively doubled down on publishing, we seem to have flooded the market.
This is very important for new authors to keep in mind, because publishing a book — especially if you’re self-publishing — doesn’t end once your book is launched. Unfortunately, it’s up to the authors to drive readers to their book, and then convince them to buy it. This can be a challenging feat in a sea of competition.
Fortunately, we’ve been helping authors publish and market their books for over a decade, and we’ve learned a few book promotion strategies to help you increase sales.
Book Promotion Strategies That Work for Self-Published Authors
1. Get a professional website
It should go without saying, but if you want people to buy your book, you need a website. You don’t have to sell your book directly on your site (in fact, we advise against this; a simple Amazon button will suffice), but it’s an important tool to add credibility to your book, give potential readers a chance to learn more about you and why you wrote the book, view your other work, and anything else you might want them to know. Plus, it’s much more professional to drive your marketing efforts to your own website, than directly to Amazon, or wherever your book is sold.
Having a website will also allow you to write a blog, should you wish to do so. This can be a good way to keep up your writing practice, share information that didn’t make it into the book, update your readers on other things related to your writing life, or the craft of writing, etc. If you’re really savvy, you can learn about and utilize search engine optimization to start ranking your blog articles in Google searches, so you attract more potential readers for free.
Also, a website allows you to collect email addresses (usually in return for offering something of value for free, like a discount code or an ebook), so you can grow an email newsletter list of your own and retain a warm audience to reach out to should you ever write another book.
One important note: it’s important to make sure your website is professional, and your branding is consistent. It’s better to have no website at all, than to have one that looks like an amatuer did it, or is totally outdated. Here are our tips for making a good author website.
2. Get Amazon reviews
Regardless of where or how you published your book, you should definitely make sure it’s available to buy on Amazon. The site is the largest provider of books, and the people who visit come ready to buy. Unless they go looking specifically for your book, reviews will help potential readers decide if they want to purchase it among all the other options out there. People associate both the number and quality of reviews with the quality of the book, so the more positive reviews you can get, the better.
How do you get Amazon reviews? We’ve found two solid ways. First, you can ask your friends, family, and networks (email subscribers and social media) to leave a review for you once the book is out. Second, you can review books in your genre and find reviews from people that Amazon ranks as top reviewers. You can usually find contact info for these reviewers on their Amazon profiles and reach out asking if they’d be interested in reviewing your book. Many of them will do it if you’re willing to send them a book!
3. Run a niche outreach campaign
Outreach campaigns are old school to the core, but just because something is old, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. The same people who thought books were dead probably also thought email was dead, but neither have proven true, and grassroots outreach campaigns prove them wrong on both accounts. This is especially useful for nonfiction authors who can create a list of contacts in their niche, or area of expertise, but it can work for fiction authors, too.
We like to gather contacts in the following categories: people, platforms and organizations.
The people section will include influencers who have a wide network and might be willing to mention or promote your book, other well-known authors with similar books who might be willing to write an endorsement and/or experts in the industry/niche you’ve written about. These experts could be asked to write endorsements, or perhaps they’d be willing to have a recorded conversation or live interview to really give your book some exposure.
The platforms section are media outlets, of which podcasts are the most important (in fact, you could run a podcast-specific campaign and probably be quite successful if you have an interesting topic and you’re a good communicator!). You’ll want to research a variety of podcasts that might be interested in interviewing you about your field of expertise, as well as discuss your new book. It’s also worth adding print media and popular websites or blogs to this list.
Lastly, organizations will be those that share a similar mission to yours, given the topic of your book. For example, if you wrote a book to inspire more children to become interested in science, you might reach out to children’s museums with STEM programs like summer camps, virtual classes, and even book talks.
Once you’ve compiled a list of names and companies, you’ll want to find their contact information. After you have that, create a strategy for reaching out to each one personally. Yes, it’s time consuming, but the more personal your outreach is, the better your chances for success. This is your chance to get creative and explain to them how your book can help them. Remember, it’s always about what you can do for them, not the other way around.
4. Join Facebook groups in your niche
Many authors hate social media, even if they already have an account with a few hundred followers. While it might be possible to have a successful book promotion without social media, it will be much more challenging. The reach and power of the popular social sites, if done correctly, is unrivaled.
We’ll soon have a separate post on the best social media platforms and a recommended strategy for authors, but perhaps one of the best free book promotion tools you have available to you is Facebook, specifically its groups.
This goes along with the niche outreach campaign we mentioned above, but it’s a good idea to join groups of like minded people, who already want to talk about the topics in your book. The best thing to do is join those groups and become active in them by commenting on other people’s posts, or posting some of your own….without directly selling your book. The goal is to prove that you’re an expert on the chosen topic, and hey, you have a whole book to prove it. If groups in your niche don’t already exist, or they aren’t very engaged, start your own!
5. Try Amazon ads
While this is technically advertising, not marketing, Amazon ads can be a great way to generate more book sales. Yes, it will cost some money up front, but it might be worth it to get your book into the hands of readers who might never have otherwise found it. The beauty of Amazon ads is that you can run a campaign based on search terms (what users type into the Amazon search bar), and/or you can run ads focused on similar books to yours (so when someone searches for a competitor’s book, yours will also show up).
The downside to any pay-per-click advertising is that it can take some time to learn what works for your specific book, and that can mean losing money in the process. But if you stick with it, learn what you’re doing, and consistently tweak your campaigns, it will usually pay off.
6. Create a Goodreads strategy
There is some debate about the usefulness of Goodreads in the author community, with its outdated user interface and sometimes harsh reviews. However, it is still the only social media platform built just for book people, and at the very least, it’s worth it to create an author page, fill it out completely, and then claim your book so you can 1) start getting reviews and 2) be easily found by anyone who happens to look for you there.
If you want to put in a little more effort than that, head over to Goodreads lists and start searching for book promotion lists that pertain to your book. You’ll notice there’s an option to add your book to the chosen list. Do that, and you’ll increase your chances of new readers discovering you for free!
7. Record video interviews
People love video, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere fast. Why not join the trend? There are a couple of ways you can easily create video content for your website and/or social media accounts:
1) record yourself talking about your book, why you wrote it and who it’s for. This can become a book trailer of sorts.
2) set up live author readings if you already have a following. You could organize a reading group, or just read live on Facebook, or even see if the Facebook groups you’re now involved in would be open to you doing a reading for its members.
3) interview experts in your niche, other authors with similar books, and/or major fans of your work, and record them. You can do this over Zoom super easily, and it can be interview style or just a conversation, podcast style.
Of course, there are numerous other book promotion strategies to help you sell more books, but these are seven of the easiest and most affordable options, and therefore a good place for every author to start.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that selling books is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes both time and dedication to marketing if you want to see success.
Download our free ebook to learn how to run your book launch!