As a first-time author the idea of promoting and marketing your book can be daunting. It’s not what you know or are even necessarily that good at! But there are tons that you can actually do to build your audience, get word out about your upcoming works and boost the sales of your book. I talk in detail about this in Let’s Sell Your First Book! But I’ve included 30 things that you can do right now to help your sales.
1. Set up Your Author Website
A website is a sure mark of your online presence. It’s your identity and brand on the internet. And it is the first thing people will go to when they want information on you and your work. Once you’re done with your final draft and are ready to start querying agents or are starting to format for your self-publishing needs, that is the time to finally get a website. Platforms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and Persona are awesome to use. Ensure that your website has the following information:
- An author bio.
- A list of your already published books or to-be-published books (with testimonials and book reviews, if any) with links to websites and stores that sell them. This should preferably be your ‘Homepage’ or ‘Landing Page’.
- A list of writing samples that maybe have been published in online magazines, literary magazines, as articles, short stories, anthologies etc.
- Your contact info. This includes your email id, social media accounts, and a contact form.
- A blog.
- A newsletter that gives members useful information.
2. Start Maintaining a Steady Blog
A blog is a great way to communicate with your audience. Provide “behind the scenes” posts for your reader, where you talk about developing your book cover. Put up excerpts or sample chapters as posts. Or blog about the journey and the difficulties you’ve faced while writing or self-publishing and how to go about solving them, list of events that you maybe appearing at, book signings, readings and so on. Feeding your readers fresh content regularly will do wonders for your email list, and that’ll add to your book sales.
3. Start Vlogging
While, as writers, you may feel it’s much easier to write than to appear in front of a camera, vlogging might actually be a great way too gain exposure! Take a clue from John Green. Set up a Youtube and a Vimeo channel, put a camera up on a tripod and start vlogging. Introduce yourself to your readers, talk about the inspiration behind your upcoming book. Do a reading of your first chapter from the book or answer fan questions. Do live Tweet sessions and take questions from your viewers. Announce a giveaway on your vlog. Partner with another author to interview each other and list book recommendations. Video content has gained more ground written content over the last years, and your viewers may just turn into your readers. Remember to:
- Focus on the content before you start thinking about production quality and about getting fancy, expensive equipment for each shoot.
- Embed each video in your blog posts and upload them to your social media platforms, as well.
4. Build a Mailing List
Including an email Sign Up form on your website, can encourage people visiting your site to add their names and email ids to it, which leads to them being informed of all your book releases and appearances, and other updates. Like your blog, it lets you build a direct relationship with your audience. This mailing list will later help when you send out an email about your book launch to all the readers who have added their emails.
5. Fine Tune Your Social Media Platforms
I have met so many writers who loathe maintaining their social media profiles, and yet that is where all the traffic and the readers and the sales come from! This is the time to reclaim your profiles. Figure out which platforms work best for you. There are authors for whom the world of 140 characters (now 280) of Twitter works best. For other writers posting snippets of their work and other pieces of creativity on Instagram, helps to attract a crowd of younger readers. Tumblr is great for directly interacting with your followers of a certain type or a certain fandom. While Facebook is a must if you want to be part a global network of readers’ groups and writers’ groups and send out promotional materials. Claiming your profile on Google+ will enable Google to relate your profile to all posts and material published by you online. For writers, of course, Goodreads is a must. You have already heard of it, and you know what to do. While maintaining your social media platforms:
- Ensure that you cross-post all your content on each of the platforms that you want to be present on.
- Try and keep your profile picture the same on every platform, so it’s easier for your reader to find you.
- Post regularly. Ignoring one platform for more than a few days at a stretch will result in followers swiftly un-following you.
6. Prepare and Submit ARCs to Reviewers
ARCs are Advanced Readers’ Copies (which can be either hard copies or PDF versions) that you can distribute to a few good reviewers, other writers, journalists, local bookstores, ardent fans and publications. These are usually distributed four to six months prior to your book release, so all the reviews can come in before the actual book with its dust-jacket can be printed. ARCs may contain slightly different text than the final edit of the book, of course. Most reviews that are printed on the dust-jacket come from the reviewers based on the ARC. Well-known reviewers may want to submit blurbs that you can print on the back of your book.
7. Submit Your Book to Book Discovery Sites
8. Submit Your Book for Editorial Reviews
This can take a bit of planning and strategy. Talk to publications, online and offline, that focus on book reviews and coordinate a book review release along with the actual release of the book. You’ll have to send in an ARC or a soft-copy version of your book ahead of its release. Many genres have publications like RT Book Reviews where authors can submit their books for editorial reviews. Keep in mind:
- Some of these publications require submitting your book months before publication, so plan accordingly.
- Keep track of your ARCs and who you have submitted to, so you don’t lose track.
- It might be wise to put in a confidentiality agreement in place before you hand out review copies.
9. Offer Free Copies to Amazon “Top Reviewers”
Reach out to Amazon users with a “Top Reviewer” badge who’ve reviewed books similar to yours. They’ve proven themselves to be experienced reviewers — they know what makes a good review, they’re willing to take the time to write a truly helpful review, and they will likely have a quick turnaround on reading and reviewing.
10. Put up Sample Chapters for Free
Choose a few exhilarating, gripping chapters (or informative ones if you’re book is non-fiction) and put them up for free download on your social media and website. Let readers get a taste of what you have on offer. Add a purchase link or pre-order link to the full book at the end of the downloadable chapters.
11. Re-Launch a Book with a New Cover
Redesigning a book cover can be a great way to reinvigorate book sales. It gives you the opportunity to “re-launch” your book according to the ever-evolving tastes of genre readers. Do a “behind the scenes” of re-designing your cover and blog/vlog about it. Ask your readers on Social Media to choose between cover shortlists. Announce the “re-launch” on your blog and social media platforms.
12. Cross-Promote Books in the Back-Pages
Put a list of all your other books and titles on the back pages of your current book and vice versa. Update this information and “re-launch” or launch a new release.
13. Conduct a Book Giveaway
Book Giveaways are a great way to engage with your readers and get them excited about your work. Keep aside three or four copies that you can giveaway for free to the winners of a giveaway contest or to random commenters on a post, or to hand-picked loyal fans. Make sure you run the promotion for at least 14–20 days for maximum interest and announce it on all your social media platforms, newsletter and blog/vlog.
14. Make Book Available for Pre-Order
A surprising amount of authors don’t do this! But it is a must. Encouraging your readers to get on the pre-order list, ensure tat they feel like they’re part of an exclusive community that will get the back earlier and at a lower price. This will drive your sales immensely. On the retailers that allow them, you may want to get your future titles up for pre-order as soon as possible.
15. Publish a Book Trailer
If you’re on a meager budget, the idea of spending a ton on a book trailer might turn you off. But don’t be disheartened. Your book trailer doesn’t have to be of a multi-million-dollar-movie quality like that of Divergent or Red Queen. You can just write a quick script of what you want to show in your trailer, get your friends or local community actors to act it out and get the video edited in a free video editor or by a hiring a professional video editor from Upwork or Fiverr. Add music, go on Fiverr to get a voice over recorded, add credits and book information and you’re done!
- Don’t forget to put the trailer up on Youtube and Vimeo and all your other social media platforms.
- You can use free stock videos or buy licensed stock videos, to put your trailer together.
- You can even play your trailer at book signing events, conferences, comic-cons (if at all) and local book fairs.
- Definitely post your video on your website and your Amazon Author Page.
16. Discount the First Book in Your Series.
Not just for pre-order, but on launch, try and hook new genre-readers into a series by reducing the prices. 77% of bargain readers buy full-priced ebooks, so getting them hooked on a series via a discount often leads to full-priced sales later.
17. Hold Book Signings
Before your book is about to be launched, set up a rapport with local bookshops, libraries, literary cafes, colleges, literary communities and book clubs. These will prove invaluable when your book actually releases. Talk to these organisations and set up book signings. Work with them to get the word out on social media and be ready for the day. You can even conduct a small reading and arrange for refreshments, before you start signing books.
18. Take Part in Podcasts
Do a bit of research and list all the local literary podcasts that you can potentially appear on. Build a rapport or ask the host if they want do an interview or a discussion on your book. Podcasts are a great way to attract readers from a niche pool.
19. Sign up as a HAR source.
Help a Reporter (HAR) connects journalists with relevant experts, and you are the expert of your niche! By signing up, you’ll receive an email three times per day that includes media opportunities in which you could be quoted. Reply quickly for the best chance of getting selected for a quote in an article, and ask for a link back to your site.
20. Conduct Interviews of Industry Experts
It’s always a good idea to interview agents, publishers, book cover designers, editors and other writers in your genre. Publishing their insightful interviews on your blog and social media, will not only create fresh content for your sites but will attract your fans as well as theirs. More often than not, other writers may want to reciprocate and put up your interviews on their site, which will give you a chance to talk about your book!
21. Guest Posting
Guest posting is a great way to exchange content and build a reputation. It works both ways, when you guest post on someone else’s blog and when someone else posts on your blog. Keep a few things in mind:
- When you write for another blog, limit yourself to talking about your genre and things that are specific to your expertise.
- Create good, brief and well-informed pitch that is based on prior research, so that the blog (online publication) that you want to write for, accepts your content.
- Writing good pitches is an art. And should always be tailored individually for each individual website.
- It is always preferable to set-up an editorial content strategy for you blog. Make a list of topics you want to post on your blog. Ask guest bloggers if they’d be interested to cover one or more of the shortlisted topics and go from there.
22. Run Targeted Ads on Social Media
Sites like Facebook and Twitter let you target ads to a fine-tuned audience based on preferences users have expressed on those social platforms. This lets you advertise the discount to people interested in similar books or genres. Invest a small amount of money on these ads, just enough to run them for a couple of months before and after the release.
23. Run a Google Adwords Campaign
Jot down keywords that are popular in your genre and target keywords that your audience would likely search for to find books similar to yours. Create several versions of ad copy within each ad group and let Google automatically run each variation and determine a winner. While spending too much money on hiring a promoter or a PR professional might not be the best thing to do when you’re on a budget, it would be wise to hire a digital marketer for a small sum just to get started with Google Adwords, till you’re able to get a handle around it.
24. Use Quora to Build a Reputation
Set up a profile and bio on Quora. Answer relevant questions on your writing, or those that are specific to your genre. If you’ve written a nonfiction book or have become a subject-matter expert via research you’ve done for your fiction book, follow relevant topics on Quora and answer questions as you see fit. Include the link to your book in your Quora bio. Promote your Quora profile on your social media accounts too. Gaining followers on Quora will lead to more sales, since curious fans will always want to find out more about your book.
25. Professional Book Cover Design
Unless you have extensive graphic design experience, I will always advise you to get your cover designed by a professional. It is one advice I always stand by, because I have seen the cases where self-designed covers have lead to dismal sales and professionally redesigned covers have increased sales ten-fold. For eg., R.L. Mathewson went from selling five or six copies per day of her novel, “Playing for Keeps”, to over 1000 per day, just by updating her cover design. If you’re on a budget, buy a pre-made cover and just edit the text or use a template from Canva or Adobe Spark.
26. Take Part in Book Cover Contests
If your book cover is impressive, designed by a professional (or by yourself, if you have experience in graphic design), submit them to design contest websites like 50 Books or AuthorsDB or The Book Designer.
27. Give a Talk in a Conference
Public speaking can do wonders for your book sale, especially if you have written a non-fiction book. Before your book is about to release, spend some time building rapports with the community and keep track of their upcoming events. It could be a library event or a bookshop opening or a literary meet or a writing workshop. Or it could be a conference on the topic of your non-fiction book. Pitch your expertise and try and get a spot where you can give a short and informative speech. Carry extra copies of your book, if you need to give them away.
28. Get a Business Card
Whether your attending a writers’ meet or a bloggers’ event or doing book signings or networking at a conference, a well-design, informative business card can help get the word out. Don’t forget to list your contact info along with links to your blog, website and social media profiles, as well as a small image of your upcoming book at the back. Instead of spending a ton of money, getting a graphic designer to do it, get on Moo and choose a template to work with.
29. Fine Tune Your Pitches
Fine tune your book blurb, your synopses and your elevator pitches and keep them handy. Nothing like being asked for a quote from a publication and then grasping around for words and asking for time to create one. Instead have your book blurbs, synopses, and elevator pitches ready.
30. Create a Media Kit
A Media Kit or a Press Kit, is an extremely useful tool while promoting your novel. Bloggers, startups, freelancers have used them since long as it acts like a capsule of business information for potential employees and sponsors. For writers, a Media Kit becomes handy when contacting Agents, Editors, Bloggers, Publishers, Journalists, Book-sellers, Libraries, Promoters, Event planners, PR professionals. It gives them a quick snapshot of who you are, what you have accomplished so far, and of course, your professional statistics. Try and keep it brief and within a single page. Use of bullet points with headings is best. A good Media Kit should include:
- Author Bio, Contact Information,
- Book title, subtitle, series name and Publisher
- Links to other media (book trailer, interviews, social media)
- Buy-links to where the book is sold (Amazon, Kindle, Indibound etc)
- Release date
- ISBN (Digital & Print)
- Page count & word count
- Book blurb
- Praises for your book, if any.
- You could possibly include upcoming events, however, keep them updated.
- Book Excerpts & Synopsis.
- It is also always a good idea to include the first or first two chapters as a sampler.
Have you used any of the above? And which one worked best for you?