Marketing your book is not necessarily something that comes easy to all authors. Unfortunately, gone are the days when you could exclusively rely on your agent, publisher and publicist to handle marketing your book. It’s not that agents and publishers have become lazier, it’s that the way marketing is done en masse has changed.
I remember when I was attending Ryerson University from 2005 to 2010, taking marketing as a major. Social media was in its infancy and didn’t even make it into the course curriculums. Now, you can’t think of the word ‘marketing’ without hearing ‘social media marketing’ in the back of your mind. Today’s reader wants to connect with the book’s author. You, as the author, have a duty to engage with your readers and audience, in a way that plain and simply wasn’t done, even as little as ten years ago.
At least… you have to do this if you want people to buy more of your books. That’s what this is all about, right? Marketing your book.
In this article, we’ll be looking at 10 tips for marketing your book and making money. These are things you can do once your book has already been released, although, some of them you can certainly start doing well before that day comes.
10. Build Your Platform
I’ve recently been reading a book called Create Your Writer Platform, by Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. In it, he talks about the importance of building an audience and making yourself available to your followers.
Building your platform is in every way an important first step towards marketing your book. It’s so important, in fact, that when I attended Toronto Writing Workshop, with Chuck as the target speaker, he spent the entire afternoon lecturing about this subject.
What exactly is a platform?
In the simplest terms, a platform is the number of people who will listen to you. It’s the people who you can influence the purchasing decisions of. A platform can comprise of:
- A website or a blog with a large readership
- A mailing list where people have opted in
- An audience on a blog you’ve written guest posts for
- Your personal contacts who have followers of their own
- Your social media followers
- Members in relevant organizations you’re a part of
And so forth. Let me be clear, though. Building a platform for marketing your book is not about creating a website and using it to talk all about yourself. It’s like when you meet someone in real life and you want them to like you. You don’t engage in a wordy discussion about yourself and how great you are. You ask them questions. You share experiences and you make them feel special.
Building a platform is the same. In order to get people to follow you, like you, and want to associate with you, you must be generous and giving. You need to help them on their journey towards success, and in turn, they will help you with yours.
Let’s look at Writing a Book Café for example. This is my platform. The only page on this website where I talk about myself is the About page. All the other posts and articles are about helping you with planning, writing, editing, publishing or marketing your book. Sure, sometimes I’ll use examples from my own experience, but it’s never the focus. The focus is about helping you succeed. In turn, if you like the information I’m providing, you’re more likely to share my articles on social media or sign-up for my mailing list; win-win.
One more thing I want to mention – having a platform is nice if you’re a fiction author. If you’re a non-fiction author then it’s a necessity. When non-fiction authors look for an agent, they must submit a ‘Book Proposal,’ which is sort of like a marketing document. Part of this document is about who you can currently influence. In other words – who is listening to you on your current platform?
Fiction authors don’t need a platform to get an agent, but for marketing your book, it certainly helps.
9. Reach Out to Book Reviewers
While it would be nice for influential book reviewers to review your book on their own… you can increase the likelihood of obtaining a review simply… by asking!
Of course, there’s a difference between cultivating a relationship with a potential book reviewer, rather than cold-stone asking someone who has never heard of you before to give you one. Taking the time to connect with a potential reviewer while you’re still writing a book can go a long way when you’re hoping for a review, later.
How do you connect with a book reviewer?
- Follow them on social media and interact with their posts and tweets.
- Read their book reviews and leave comments on their posts.
- Stalk them relentlessly and email them pictures of your cat.
- Show up at their house bearing gifts and copies of your book.
I’m joking about the latter two, but seriously, don’t.
How do you find potential book reviewers?
Before even searching for potential book reviewers, let’s qualify them first. When you find a book reviewer, here are two questions to ask:
- Does this person review my genre?
- What is this person’s potential reach?
By reach, I mean, who is following them? What is their social media presence? If their Twitter account only has 500 followers then it might not be worth your time to get a book review from them. After all, if a book review gets written, you want it to be read. That’s the point of marketing your book.
Besides just looking for the number of Twitter followers, here are some other things you can look for:
- Do their blog posts have any comments? A lot of comments?
- Do their blog posts get many social media shares?
- Do they have a mailing list?
- Does their blog show how many followers they have? (many Google blogs display this feature)
- Do they have followers on other social media platforms?
Okay… how do you actually find them?
There are a number of ways to find potential book reviewers, so let’s examine them.
Go to the search tab on Twitter and copy+paste the following: “new blog post” AND “book review”
This will bring up a list of tweets by book reviewers who have recently posted new book reviews. This can be a great resource since everyone you see posting is guaranteed to be actively posting book reviews.
Blog Search Engine:
You can filter out book review blogs exclusively by searching for “book reviews” on the Blog Search Engine. This can be a terrific resource in addition to the previous ones.
Keep in mind that no matter which method you pick, book reviewers are likely to have submission guidelines. Check out their blog for pages that indicate what they’re looking for. When you do eventually reach out for a review, make sure your pitch tells them about who you are, as well as what your book is about. Include the genre, the word count and a short blurb to build curiosity and make them (hopefully) want to read it. Also include who your publisher is or whether you’re self-published, plus a link to your website.
Interested in learning more? Here’s a great post on ‘Your Writer Platform’ about getting book reviews.
8. Guest Post on Other Blogs
Guest posting is an art of its own and one when cultivated well, it can make marketing your book extremely efficient.
As far as learning how to find guest blogging opportunities, there’s no better place to look than on the Guest Blogging course run by Jon Morrow. I’m a member of this program and have been for a number of years now. The course is organized into four modules.
- Social Espionage: How to find quality guest blogging opportunities
- Networking with A-List Bloggers: How to build connections with other bloggers
- Pitching Made Easy: How to pitch and get a guest blogging opportunity
- Traffic Training: How to write blog posts that get you website traffic
What I will say is this. When you’re starting a brand new website, you won’t have any immediate traffic. Guest blogging is a great workaround for this. If you visit a popular blog, write a quality guest blog post, and then link back to your own website in your bio at the bottom, a lot of people are going to come check you out. And when they do that – direct them to a page that welcomes them specifically. Now this is marketing your book done right.
As for where to find awesome guest blogging opportunities, one great resource is Make a Living Writing, run by freelance writer, Carol Tice. Every year (or at least for 2015 and 2016 so far) Carol posts a gigantic list of websites that pay writers. This is good news for you because not only can you do some guest blogging, but you can make a bit of money while you’re at it :D.
So get to guest blogging and marketing your book.
7. Engage With Followers
If there’s one thing that gets me to unfollow someone on Twitter, it’s receiving an automated tweet from them moments after following, promoting some product they have.
It doesn’t matter if you think you have the greatest book in the world – please don’t be the person who does this.
Setting up a social media profile, sending out a few promotional tweets or posts and then getting discouraged when nothing happens is a huge reason why many people get frustrated with social media and stop posting. It’s called social media for a reason. The point is to be engaging with followers, not directly marketing your book.
What should be the first thing you do when someone follows you Twitter?
Wrong: Thanks for following! Check out my new fantasy novel – Here’s a link!
Right: Hi , thanks for the follow! I see you tweet about sci-fi a lot. Who’s your favourite author?
Not only does it create more goodwill, but because you initiated a pleasant conversation, they’re more likely to engage with you and your tweets in the future.
The same holds true if someone retweets your post. Send them a message and thank them for the retweet. Reference something else they recently talked about. This way they know you actually took the time to look at their profile.
Keep in mind that although I’m using Twitter as an example, you can convey these strategies to just about any social media platform.
By the way, did you know that you can see who has recently linked to your website by entering your website in Twitter’s search bar?
Because they didn’t retweet me directly, I never received any notifications about my article being linked. However, searching for my domain directly shows who recently tweeted it, even when they used a URL shortener. Thanks to this, I was able to reply directly and thank them!
Personally, I would rather have 1,000 followers who engage with me than 10,000 who don’t. Following people in the hopes they follow back is an artificial means of inflating your numbers. If you’re doing this to build a platform, savvy agents will notice.
How many social media followers are enough?
In Chuck’s book, Create Your Writer Platform, he presents some numbers that you should strive for if you are a non-fiction author building your platform:
Very Notable: 15,000
Impressive By Any Means: 50,000
6. Develop Print Marketing Materials
In a digital age where we delete emails in bulk faster than we can scan their subject lines, it’s oddly pleasant to have something tangible to hold onto. Especially when it’s designed well and contains a personal touch.
Earlier this year I hired freelance editor, Katie McCoach, to take a look at the first two chapters of my novel, Elementalists: The Fires of Canicus. A week or two after receiving her edits, there was an envelope in my mailbox, addressed to me, all the way from Los Angeles, California. Who would be snail mailing me from across both the border and the entire continent?
What a nice touch! Not only do I keep this on my desk next to where I work, but now I’m posting a picture of it in this article, giving Katie and her editing services all that extra free marketing. All because she delivered a printed and handwritten thank you card.
Of course, thank you cards are only one example of printed materials for marketing your book. Here are a few other ideas:
- Bookmarks with your book title and graphics
- Posters advertising your book like a movie
- Business cards with your contact info, website and a QR code
- Rack cards to give a quick idea of what your book is all about
In terms of designing materials, if you have the extra cash you can hire a professional (which may honestly be worth it in this case), or you can go to a do-it-yourself shop like Vistaprint. You can also use tools like Photoshop or the GIMP for more professional design options. Finally, if you’re stuck, check out YouTube for design tutorials. Reddit also has some great design forums to make your work look more professional, such as /r/PhotoshopRequest, /r/PicRequests, or /r/Icandrawthat.
5. Networking and Events
Attending things like networking events and writers conferences may not help you with marketing your book directly, but it will help you build your network and increase your knowledge. As you expand your circles, opportunities have a tendency of appearing, often in ways you never imagined.
In addition, attending events can give you a huge boost to your inspiration and moral.
When I attended Toronto Writing Workshop in August, 2016, I paid a little extra to meet with literary agents one-on-one and pitch my novel, Elementalists: The Fires of Canicus. During these sessions, I inevitably also ended up telling the literary agents about Writing a Book Café, (which was still being built and behind a ‘coming soon’ page at the time). Nevertheless, Ali McDonald from The Rights Factory loved the idea and asked me to email her the link so she could refer other aspiring authors here who need help with their books.
It certainly wasn’t the reason I had attended the conference, but hey, that’s the beauty of networking. Things happen that you never planned for.
While I wouldn’t outright recommend asking others to buy your book at a conference, it’s a good idea to have an elevator pitch memorized, as well as print marketing materials in your wallet. Good idea = giving people an elevator pitch for your book and then handing them a free bookmark. Who doesn’t love getting swag?
Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch for your book is an extremely short summary that might entice someone to want to read more. It’s usually no longer than 2-3 sentences in length, and only highlights the main character and the main conflict.
In ELEMENTALISTS: THE FIRES OF CANICUS, only 16-year-old Joel knows an ancient elemental weapon still exists, until he started telling people anyway. Now he needs to stop it falling into the wrong hands and starting a new war.
Does it tell you about all the secondary characters, the world, and subplots I have lined out? No. It doesn’t have to, nor does it have time to. But it might build enough curiosity to make you want to read more. If the elevator pitch has accomplished that much then it has done its job.
By the way, if you want to test out your elevator pitch, leave a comment down below with it, requesting feedback.
Also, if you intend to go to a writer’s conference and pitch to literary agents, here’s a useful YouTube video. I highly suggest watching the part that starts around 3:54 about creating a ‘one sheet.’ I used this technique when I pitched to agents and they loved it.