‘Writing a book without promoting it is like waving to someone in a dark room. You know what you have done but nobody else does.’
Whether your book is fiction or non-fiction, and whether it’s published commercially or independently, as an author today you’re expected to take an active role in its promotion. For better or worse, the days of writers handing over their manuscripts to publishers who take charge of all publicity and marketing are over – the era of author-marketers has arrived! So I want to give you some tips on how to promote your book.
The Internet abounds in advice on how to promote your book and marketing ‘packages’ – but beware, you’re still required to do most of the grunt work yourself. So let’s distill the essential strategies in book promotion so you can build your own tailored marketing campaign.
Editing and design
It may sound obvious, but before you release your book make sure that it has been properly edited and designed. It will be competing with an avalanche of self-published titles of varying quality so yours must stand out from the crowd as being professionally produced.
Also referred to as the imprint page, this is vital for your book to be identified to the distribution systems and library suppliers. In addition to giving its publishing history and the name of the copyright holder, it also contains a copyright statement and ISBN, or international standard book number (note that printed books and e-books require separate ISBNs). Include a cataloguing statement which is freely available from your national library. Used to categorise upcoming titles, it helps give your book exposure especially among libraries.
Okay, so now your book is finished and ready to go! What next? By far the majority of sales happen online, so you’ll need to harness the considerable power of the Internet. There’s no need to wait until your book is launched to begin promoting it; the earlier you start, the better.
When considering how to promote your book, this is a must. Create your own website for your book or series of books, making sure it’s mobile responsive. Keep it simple, clear and uncluttered and update it regularly (e.g. with cover, blurb, extracts and reviews). If you can include a landing page for your book within your author website, this is a definite plus. Consider also building up an email list and/or blog of readers with whom to connect and update as to the progress of your book and other related topics of mutual interest.
This is the page to which you direct all your traffic; that is, the link used in publicity material, blogs, emails, press releases and so on. It is where you want your prospective readers to ‘land’ to find out about your book. Its purpose? To sell, to convert views to sales. It gathers together the key information about your book. Its essential elements include: front cover image, one-line summary of the book and its target audience, a brief ‘About the author’ bio with photo, snippets of industry or customer reviews, a ‘Read more’ link to featured excerpts, a ‘To buy’ button with retail links, and a list of recommended or related titles (when those titles are search for, your own book’s visibility is raised).
Search engine optimisation (SEO) raises your book’s visibility in online searches. Typical categories of internet book searches include: random searching, searching for favourite authors to see what else pops up, searching for niche topics, and genre-driven searches based on bestsellers in favourite categories. Careful inclusion of metadata (essential book information including title, author, blurb, publication date, publisher and price) at every opportunity is vital, as is an awareness of BISAC codes (industry-approved list of subject descriptors) will maximise your book’s discoverability online. The more you feed your metadata to printing and distribution services, the more is fed to bookselling databases including libraries and retailers, and the greater your online visibility will be.
Compose a press release and disseminate it as widely as possible, both online through your social media platforms and at your book launch. Use a single page (500 words maximum) and include a high-resolution front cover image, a strong and succinct blurb, an author bio, review highlights and links to any interviews or adverts. Write a strong headline and use the ‘hook factor’; that is, get to the point in the first sentence, answering the five W’s (who, what, when, why and where). Keep your language direct and conversational, use quotes and bullet lists, and include your contact details.
Create (or commission) a book trailer with carefully selected visuals, script and music. Keep it brief (maximum 90 seconds) and post it on your website as well as distributing it on YouTube and your social media platforms. Used strategically, a book trailer can reach many viewers who may otherwise not hear about it and push up your book’s visibility.
Social media platforms
More than anything else, social media has changed the dynamics of book promotion, putting it firmly within reach of each author. So, cultivate a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Join appropriate groups, both literary and promotional, and engage with other like authors. Take the same interest in the work of others that you would like your book to receive; seek to forge genuine relationships rather than simply accruing friends, followers or likes. Post regularly, being careful to follow the rules regarding posting promotional material, or material that may be viewed as such.
Amazon and Goodreads
Join Amazon, the world’s biggest online store, and Goodreads, the world’s biggest book club. Create an Amazon Author Page and join the Goodreads Author Program. Depending on your budget, consider advertising your book within both forums or organising carefully timed giveaways. For your adverts to be effective, research the demographics of your audience (e.g. age, gender, language and interests) and filter them according to people’s profiles.
Last but not least, don’t ignore your local community! Contact your local libraries, bookshops or community centres to create interest in your book. There may be a centre where you could organise a launch with cut-price advance copies or offer a talk or discussion together with a book-signing. In our age where contact is increasingly virtual, meeting the author in the flesh is for most readers a powerful incentive to buy a book!