The 12-Step Approach to Book Marketing

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image: Maia Habegger for Unsplash

So you’ve written a book. Whew! Most writers think that the hard part is now long behind them… unfortunately, that just isn’t true. Gone are the days when all an author needed was a good book — and time to spend traveling around on the publisher’s dime doing readings and signings. If you’ve self-published, you already know that the marketing piece is in your court; but now even traditional publishers expect their authors to do the lion’s share of the book marketing.

No, no one likes to do it. We’re all artistes, after all, we’re above all that money-grubbing stuff, right? Not so, Grasshopper. Suck it up. You want people to buy your book, you have to sell it.

The first thing you need to do is get some materials together that will help you sell. Write a summary of your book and categorize it into a genre if applicable: This is important to do, and important to do right. Try it verbally as an elevator speech: condense the book’s summary into the time it would take an elevator to go up three floors. This is what will be your marketing handshake.

The next question you need to ask when you’re putting together your book marketing plan (um, you are putting together a book marketing plan, aren’t you?) is this: who is my audience?

If you can’t answer that, then selling your book is going to be an uphill battle all the way. A mystery novel will have a different audience than a technical book, and their readers hang out in very different places. You’ll need to ascertain where each set of readers do hang out, and how to reach them there. This should be your major research: who is my ideal audience, and where are they?

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image: PJ Accetturo for Unsplash

In the meantime, here are a few places you can start:

1. Facebook. Set up a “page” for your book (or, alternately, for yourself as an author) and invite everyone you know to join it. Facebook’s terms of service forbid contests, but there are ways you still can encourage people to sign on. Once they have, update the page frequently — at least a couple of times a week. You don’t have to keep talking about the book (in fact, don’t, or you’ll lose whatever audience you have!). Be creative. One of my novels takes place in the middle ages, so my “author” Facebook page, among other things, gives updates about historical finds, shares pretty illuminated manuscripts, and so on. The more engagement, the better.

2. Twitter. Hashtags are your friend: they’re how you get noticed on Twitter. Tweet at least once a day (you can invest in a service such as HootSuite that will remember to do it if you’re like me and don’t have the social media gene). What I’ve found works well is tweeting a snippet from a review.

3. Reviews. In my opinion, this is what sells books. Obviously you want some blurbs by recognizable names; but don’t neglect reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. You can use these reviews in all sorts of different ways: on postcards, in press releases, in introduction letters, etc. So urge everyone you know to read and review. Make a list of reviewers and of sites geared toward your genre. Send out ARCs (advanced reader copies) for review. Follow up to make sure reviewers received the book. Remember to do it before the book is published so you can use feedback as blurbs on the cover, or later on to increase your following.

4. Press releases. Write one, and write it well — if you’re new to marketing writing, there’s a pretty strict format to use, so look it up. Then send it everywhere, to online publications, local publications, local radio and television stations, anywhere you can think where there might be an interest in interviewing you.

5. Blog tours. Of course you’ve been maintaining your own blog, but blog tours are an increasingly popular way of getting the word out. Schedule one and send out another press release about it. What this means is becoming a guest contributor on other people’s blogs — it’s labor-intensive, but delivers results in new interest, different readers, and SEO mileage.

6. Book clubs. Offer a free copy of your book to every book club you can find and offer to visit if they’ll discuss it. You don’t have to be physically present: Skype or Zoom work just fine, and book clubs are often thrilled to have the author pay attention to them.

7. Website. Create an author website, and have a separate landing page for your new book or feature it in some other way.. Add shopping cart features so readers can buy the book directly from you, or put in a link to your favorite online bookstore.

8. Sell sheet. Design a sell sheet. This is a handout summarizing your book. Include a picture of the cover, a headshot of yourself, contact information, one or two choice reviews. Send the sell sheet to relevant contacts (bookstores, reading groups, post on social networks, etc.).

9. Promotional materials. Print promotional postcards or bookmarks and distribute them everywhere you can think of. Leave a few wherever you go.

10. Legwork. Go to local bookstores, introduce yourself, and inform them of your new book. Contact online bookstores that cater to your genre. Do the same with local newspapers. Give them postcards and one-sheets, and make sure that you write “local author” on everything.

11. Sig lines. Create a small blurb at the end of each email you send out marketing your book. Put your website URL in your signature and on all marketing materials and direct readers to your site.

12. Articles. Write articles that tie into the theme of your book (especially good with nonfiction). Make sure your bio includes a reference to your book.

These 12 steps aren’t meant to be exhaustive: hopefully, you’ll come up with a marketing plan that will go way beyond them! But if you want people to read your book — and don’t we all want that? — these are some places to start.

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image: Julian Reinhart for Unsplash

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Bestselling novelist of mystery and historical fiction. Writer, editor, & business storyteller at

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