Last week, I talked about how you, the author, are ultimately responsible for marketing your book and finding your readers. This week I’m back with a few tips for how to do that.
Let me start by admitting that I’m no expert in this area, but if you’re just starting out as an author, these tips should give you a place to start.
1. Start right now.
You don’t have to wait until your book is published to begin gathering readers. Start building a following now, creating anticipation for when your book does come out.
Book launches are a big deal in the life of your book, not just for its rating on the New York Times Bestsellers list. It’s much harder to gain momentum when you start your journey crawling instead of bursting out of the gate. And the sooner you start, the more momentum you’ll have on launch day.
2. Make social media work for you.
Those of us who didn’t grow up in the age of social media often fail to appreciate what a powerful tool it can be. But the fact is if you or your book can’t be found on social media, it may as well not even exist for a significant portion of your audience.
And there are so many platforms to choose from: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, even LinkedIn. Or if you want to reach the younger crowds, you could play with newer platforms like TikTok.
If you’re new to social media, you might start with the platform you’re most comfortable with, but you’ll eventually want to start looking at which ones can get you the best reach. If you have tons of friends who would be willing to like and share your posts, Facebook could work just fine for you, but you’ll get much better reach on Instagram.
Also, keep in mind that pictures are more powerful than text, and video beats both.
The bottom line, though, is that some presence on social media is better than none.
3. Do you need a website?
Honestly, yes. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but you do need some central place that you control to present information about what you’re doing.
If you don’t want to invest a lot of money or time at this point, most website hosts offer free versions that at least allow you to get something up. Sure, it looks nice to get the premium package or have a custom domain name, but it’s not something you have to do starting out, and you can always go back later and upgrade. And most hosts try hard to make their sites user friendly, so you could even try out a couple by building some free test sites and sticking with the one you like best.
The point of having a website is that you control what goes on there, while on social media, you’re at the mercy of their policies and decisions. No one can edit or dictate your content on your own website.
It also gives you a central location to send people for information on your book and what you’re doing now.
4. Start a blog/newsletter.
Once you start building a following, a blog or a newsletter is a great way to keep people up to date on what you’re up to and how you’re progressing. Once you pique people’s interest enough to get them started following you, they’re doing just that: following you just as much as they’re following your project.
It’s a great way to keep readers engaged and excited for when your book finally comes out.
5. Offer free material.
Whether you tease with sample chapters and snippets or offer independent short stories, giving away bits of free material is a great way to let people know what kind of writer you are and what you can do.
Also, everyone loves free stuff, especially if it’s good. And if the little tidbits you give away for free are awesome, the stuff you charge for must be even better, right? That’s what your readers are going to be thinking, anyway, and they’ll want to share their good fortune with others, too.
6. Collaborate with other authors.
You should be socializing and networking with other authors anyway in writing groups, but you can also collaborate to promote each other’s work. That way, you’re combining your audiences and growing your reach.
You can feature their book on your blog, newsletter, or social media, and they can do the same for you. Instead of thinking of other authors as competition, build a mutually beneficial community. I can’t tell you how many new authors I’ve found to read because an author I was already reading featured another author’s book in a newsletter.
7. ARCs produce valuable reviews.
Next time you sit down to read, take a second to notice the list of reviews either on the cover or on the first few pages. Where do you think they came from? And I don’t mean the specific writer of the review.
In order to get those reviews, someone had to read the book before it was finalized for print. It’s common practice to send out ARCs (advance reader copies) of a book to various bloggers and reviewers.
This practice produces two useful results. First, the positive reviews are featured in or on the book itself to improve its appeal and give it legitimacy in the eyes of readers. Second, those reviewers and bloggers have their own audience, and if they like your book, they’re likely to feature it, helping you reach even more potential readers.
8. Promote your book in person.
This is that part of the process most of us think of when we talk about book marketing, but it can be more than signing events at bookstores.
Because of the pandemic, authors and bookstores are having to rethink and adjust how they do things. A lot of events are going virtual; an author might do an online Q&A with readers and patrons of a particular bookstore. It’s one of the ways small independent bookstores are working to stay in business.
Also, libraries love to promote local authors. You might reach out to see if they’d be willing to organize an event featuring your book.
In-person appearances can even extend to social media, both your own and the platforms of others. Video can be intimidating, but its effectiveness can’t be ignored.
I hope these tips prove useful or at least give you a place to start. There are too many great books and writers that get lost in the crowd simply because they weren’t promoted well. Readers are starving for good material; they just need a little help finding it.
If you have some experience publishing your books, you could probably add to my list. Please do! Just drop a comment below and share your wisdom and experience with the community.
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.