What’s Your Book Marketing Plan? 6 Crucial Steps to Include

What's your book marketing plan?
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Every publisher and literary agent will tell you that responsibility for the success of your book rests heavily upon you, its author. Although traditional media campaigns still play an important role in the marketing plans for new books, they are no longer enough. To maximize — or perhaps even replace — a traditional publicity campaign, you need to reach out to your audience directly by building and nurturing a strong online author platform.

Before founding a publishing company, I was a longtime arts and lifestyle newspaper editor. Over my 15 years in media, I saw our book coverage capacity plummet as reporting staff was relentlessly cut back and the newspapers themselves shrunk in size. I was dismayed to have to turn down highly appealing pitches from authors and their publicists every day, despite my interest in their books, simply because we no longer had the resources to cover them.

Every media outlet in the world is facing a similar crisis today. That’s why as a publisher, I now counsel all of our authors to build a relationship directly with their readers. I’ve seen first-hand that a strong grounding in online book marketing makes a decisive difference to any book’s ability to succeed in the market.

This is true for traditionally published authors as well as those who are self-publishing. Traditional publishers are far more likely to take a chance on an author when they know that he comes with an engaged following. If you’re planning to self-publish, a strong online platform is even more critical because you are entirely dependent upon your own ability to promote and distribute your work.

Here’s how to market your book to make it a winner.

1. Start early

It’s never too soon to begin raising awareness of your book, and of you as an author. If you’re starting from scratch with very little presence online, you should ideally begin your platform-building efforts even while you are writing.

It takes a while to gain traction and build a following. And by sharing updates or asking for feedback on your book while you write, you stimulate curiosity and a sense of personal investment in your audience.

2. Build your website around yourself

You need to have a website, and it needs to be built around you, not around your business or your book. It’s surprising how many authors still overlook this critical piece of advice, relying on Facebook or their publisher’s website to act as their main online home.

But think about it. Your website will forever be under your control, and will never become obsolete. Instead, its power and relevance will only grow stronger as your career develops.

Your site doesn’t need to be fancy — in fact, it’s better not to pack it full of unnecessary features and distracting design elements. Aside from a page dedicated to your book and an “About me” page, the most critical element of your site will be a blog. By maintaining a regular blog you can build a following even while you write, and when your book is ready for publication, your readers will feel they already know you.

3. Focus on growing an email list

Email is the most effective marketing tool available today, and if you’re serious about selling your book, you must use it.

Offer a flagship piece of content on your website such as a mini ebook as an incentive to join your list, then send out a monthly or even weekly newsletter to stay top-of-mind with your followers. To keep their interest high, your newsletter ought to contain more than just “news” about you. By offering something useful, insightful or entertaining, you’ll gradually build an engaged audience who looks forward to hearing from you.

Choose the nature of your newsletter content based on the type of reader you’re courting, and the nature of the relationship you want to cultivate with those readers. This could be as simple as a stripped-down, letter-style email filled with links to top news from your industry, perhaps embellished with your own analysis. Or if your target readership is highly visual, you might choose to create a monthly mini-magazine filled with your own inspiring graphics, articles from your blog, embedded videos, quizzes and more.

4. Be generous

Marketing has changed in the digital age. Intrusive and coercive advertising has given way to permission marketing, in which book-buyers (and consumers of all types) follow their own pathways to find the things they care about. To bring them to your door, you’re going to have to drop some breadcrumbs — plenty of them.

Show the world what you know by blogging and guest posting. Draw people to your site by offering tools and resources for free. Above all, if your publishing arrangement permits it, consider making a free ebook or PDF version of your book. It’s possible that you might cannibalize a few sales this way, but you’re more likely to win others simply by spreading the word.

5. Use social media strategically

Social media quality is much better than quantity: you don’t have to be on every social network, and when you’re just starting out, you really shouldn’t try. It’s much better to do a few things really well than to take a scattershot approach that has no focus and no goals.

Determine where your target readership is most likely to be concentrated, and start by building a strong presence on that network.

6. Seed early reviews

I can’t overstate the importance of those first few weeks after release. To improve your book’s discoverability on Amazon, it’s critical to have a handful of solid reviews — aim for 10, at a minimum. It’s ok for some of these to come from family and friends, but it’s even better for those to come from top Amazon reviewers and verified buyers.

How do you get them? Start by asking, of course. Offering a free copy of your book to the right people in exchange for a review can give an enormous boost to your sales. Go to Amazon’s list of top reviewers and look for reviewers who have reviewed books similar to yours. You can also simply look up reviewers whose reviews you have enjoyed!

Each reviewer has a profile with an email address. Reach out to them with a non-pushy personal note, and a copy of your ebook or PDF version. Be gracious, be grateful and respect their opinion if they don’t love your book. Sour grapes will sour your reputation, but being a good sport demonstrates the professionalism you want to be known for as a career author.

What marketing strategies have helped you spread the word about your book?

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Maggie Langrick is the founder and publisher at LifeTree Media. For more book marketing tips, sign up for her free course.... .

LifeTree Media | @MaggieLangrick

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so to-the-point and helpful, something that gives authors real tools to get started on promoting their work right away. A short piece yet a gold mine of help. Again — thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for the article. It’s so detailed and structured. Actually, Social Media really helps my books advertising.

  3. Thanks again for a great article. I’m having a terrible time coming up with ways to promote my novel and you’ve got some good tips here.

    You’re spot on when you say that a writer should build a website around him/herself. You are your own brand, and the more people feel that they personally connect with you, the more likely they’ll be to read your stuff and support you as a writer.

    Anyhow, stuff like this is why The Write Life remains on my daily reading list.

  4. Lyndsay says:

    Excellent blog post, Maggie! Especially like the tip about giving something away in order to build an email list.

    I do have one question. I am a writer but also (like many or most writers!) an avid reader. I’ve set up a blog and have already done a few video based book reviews.

    Is this wise? My reviews are fair and generally very positive. It obviously appeals to my target market, however, I do worry that it will have some negative effects once I finish my book and put it out there. What do you think?

    • Hi Lyndsay,

      Thanks for the kind words – glad you liked the article. And good for you for getting your blog up and running, and for embracing video! It is one of the best ways to get your personality across online and build a bond with your fans.

      I don’t think offering book reviews would hurt you in any way, unless you took a mean-spirited approach, which it sounds like you are not doing. Sharing constructive criticism of books similar to yours demonstrates your understanding of your genre and will definitely attract the attention of your target market. It’s also a generous gesture toward your fellow authors, who will appreciate the coverage!

      I also don’t think you have to worry too much about sharing a little negative feedback, when it’s warranted. Your honest assessment is valuable to readers and will enhance your own credibility, and as long as it’s delivered with kindness and respect.

      Your turn will come when your own book comes out. At that point you’ll really see the value of peer reviews and will appreciate a fair and professional approach from others.

      Good luck!

      • Lyndsay says:

        Thank you so much, Maggie, for your kind reply.

        It makes me feel a lot more confident about my blog now!

        Lyndsay

  5. I found these steps very useful! Good job. I will make sure to incorporate all of them as I have four books to release this year and need to keep on top of my game when it comes to marketing for book launches.

  6. Anna Dobritt says:

    Great article. I need to update my website 😀

  7. Great advice, I will remember it as I work on my book.

    Thank you!

  8. Thanks so much for this excellent post! I have a book coming out in July and can’t tell you how overwhelming it is to determine best steps for marketing. The Internet is flooded with information on this topic but your post is succinct and well-written and takes away my overwhelmed-ness. 🙂

  9. Book signings are a MUST!! Try local places in your town. Call the local paper to get PR. Tell a story of how to get self-Published.
    I took a year off from writing and marketing for personal reasons. I came back with a BANG! I re-launched the books with a fresh mind and a book signing. Then another signing. Brag, talk, inspire and sell. I carry my business cards and tell people “I’m an author!” They ask what I write, I tell them and hand out cards to get them to my website. Get excited when you talk about your books! A SMILE too.
    A big part is being your own advocate and sales person. Do art fairs or anything to get your cards leading to your site out there. Facebook is Okay. But really, friends are sick of me talking about the books. You have to find your readers outside the friends to grow. I also use constant contact 2 times a month. Just a FYI to my readers and what’s going on. I also ask readers to review a book before it is ready for final proof. Give them a PDF or copy and get feedback. It helps since I post their reviews. Face it, it is a business and lots of work. But so worth it when a ready says they LOVED the book! Good luck everyone.

  10. Great advice, very concise. I especially like the point about social media. I am of a certain generation and I’ve had a huge learning curve in this area. I was told by my ex-small press publisher that in order to sell 1,000 books I would need 20K+ engaged followers across every social media platform you can name. My failure to “grow” my fan base from zero to thousands in a matter of months was their excuse for putting my manuscript to the bottom of their to-be-edited queue. Needless to say, they are now my ex-publisher.

  11. Hi
    As a published author I can relate to this article but not entirely. My facebook page has a following of 29000 followers but I have sold only 5000 copies of my novel: “The Quest of the Sparrows.”

    I have had chats with many digital agency veterans because I myself work as a copywriter in an event and experiential marketing company. Their view is universal: Digital media is only good to create awareness at a very low cost. But it very rarely benefits sales. It is too easy to ‘like’ or say ‘wow’ but the actual purchase process is a different thing altogether.

    Reviews help greatly but they are not entirely in your hands. The big book houses pay newspapers to get their book reviewed and I strongly feel that if an Author can strike a deal it would be good for them. But ethically this is sticky ground and so we did not try this. But any agency you hire for your book, surely will do that and spend a lot of money to get very little results for you.

    Digital reviews are another good way. Be generous and send copies to anyone who will review your book – good or bad doesnt matter.

    While digital is a huge universe, you will have to be selective about where you want your book to be seen – The best place would be Goodreads. I have found it to be the most effective, economical and one with maximum returns.

    Email marketing gives mixed results. Both good and bad. Yes they are spam but while too much fuss is being made out of it, our newspapers, TVs, Movie Halls and magazines have hoards of ads which we would never like to see but are forced to see. So email is a necessary evil you can try to experiment if it works for you. People might abuse you for sending spams but you have to grin and bear. Everything is fair in marketing and war.

    Dont for a moment think that marketing agencies can help you better with their copy about the book. You might want to believe that marketing language is different from fiction. False. Only you know the soul of your book and only you can write something about it that will connect it with your audience. Tell the agency to check hygiene things like call to action, free sample links etc. Listen to all those things that MUST be included in emails but the sales pitch must come for you. You might feel you are failing but emails are known to have not more than 3% conversions. So dont lose heart.

    Last of all, dont fall in the trap of loading yourself with books from digital marketing gurus! They will claim how their books help them sell THOUSANDS of copies. They will make you believe they know the secret formula of marketing. It doesnt exist! All the knowledge about marketing is in the internet for FREE, like here in this blog and many others. You dont need a marketing guru to teach you. They are simply conning you by writing blogs about their book and masking a sales pitch with a false concern that makes you feel that they are genuinely there to help you. In the end there will be the: “If you need to find out more about marketing your book, you can check out the book “XYZ” I have written. LOLS! Transparently apparent marketing strategy. Buy ONE book if you really disagree with me on this as yes, someone might have found a gem after burning their thousands of dollars and are recovering them by marketing the TRUTH they found. But I have shared with you my experiences for free. WHY?

    In the hope that you become aware of my book (Which has nothing to do with marketing) as well as come out as a really genuine author trying to help you find your way, just as a few helped me in mine.

    Yes, you have to blog. Genuine blogs. Make a rapport with your audience. But the first book is almost always a loser in terms of money because it is an investment. Only when you have 2-3 books can you be successful in monetizing your effort. And there is a real danger of you getting trapped in marketing, instead of writing because it can be obsessive. You end up building a brand without steam and without the creative process necessary for creating another book. So balance out your obsession.

    Like I said, it is a formula that cant be decoded. Its write, market and HOPE.

    All the best!

  12. Hi Maggie,
    Great article here! I especially like point #1 – starting early is a must to build a buzz and get people talking.

    Thank you for posting this, it’s wonderful advice!

    Ted

  13. Working on my website now and doing a final (and probably fiftieth) edit. One reason I have not finalized my YA Fantasy, is that I was so overwhelmed and confused with what to do.

    Thank you for laying this out in such a straightforward order and for taking away the burden of needing to take part in fifteen different Social Media Sites.

    I really appreciate this help. Sheryl

  14. hello, very good advice, I enjoyed reading this post, it’s always good to learn new tips. I help promote authors by interviewing the about their writing, I find it helps readers to know more about the book and the author.

  15. Lilly Brock says:

    Your article is the most encouraging and informative one I have read thus far.

    I’m close to being finished with my first book, 97,000 words. I’ve created some beta readers. If I create a website, how do I get people to know about it other than handing out business cards and word of mouth?

    • Hey Lilly,

      Congrats on the 97,000 words!

      Who are your target audience? There are numerous ways to promote your website. From guest posting on other sites (with the same or a similar audience), social media ads to those with your interests, joining communities and forums etc.

      Get an idea of your typical reader and identify where they hang out (online) and the types of content that they readily share.

      Maybe you can create some buzz with a sneak preview of the first chapter or your book cover reveal etc. Or get bloggers to review the work in progress and link back to your site.

      Just a few ideas.

      Best of luck!

  16. Great tips for budding authors there, Maggie. I think social media is a fantastic tool to help get the word out about your latest (or first) book. Twitter is especially useful at connecting fellow authors and potential readers. Courtesy of author Tony Riches, I have recently shared a post on the topic – http://doxzoo.com/blog/twitter-for-authors-ten-top-tips/

    Good old-fashioned networking (both online and offline) is key to raising your profile. The writing community does seem very active and willing to help others, which is a huge advantage for many. From attending writing groups to interviewing fellow authors and trading reviews etc. It’s a thriving community!

  17. I’m starting off with nothing. I just wrote my book and I didn’t know what to do next. This is in bite size pieces, easy to understand and I believe I can accomplish this list of to-do’s.
    Thank you,

    Tamara, (different Tamara)

  18. I’ve done all of those for my book, back when I launched it, but it’s been slow going.

Trackbacks

  1. […] What’s Your Book Marketing Plan? 6 Crucial Steps to Include […]

  2. […] This is a big one and is particularly true if you pick a popular medium size publisher like Cedar Fort, Inc. They publish over 160 titles a year, yet maintain a marketing team of only 2 – 4 individuals. If you do the math, then you will realize that you will not get much time devoted to your book. The top publishing houses like Simon and Schuster maintain a larger marketing team with more time and resources, however, they, as well, will expect you to help them market your own book. […]

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