These days, it’s not enough to write a great book. Whether you self-publish, publish with an independent or small publisher, or even land a big book deal with one of the “Big Five” publishers, you need to do as much of your own marketing and promotion as you can. Here are some tools you can use.
1. E-mail lists – Statistics show that e-mail marketing is still one of the most effective strategies. Encourage readers, visitors to your blog, and social media followers to sign up for your mailing list. Give people an incentive to sign up, whether it’s a discount on your book, a free bookmark, a free chapter sample, or something else. Find a way to make your e-mails more than just promotional. Include beneficial information related to your book. (For example, if your book is set in the South and features a lot of Southern cooking, include some fun recipes. Get creative!)
2. Social media – Every social network has a different audience and a different purpose. Get to know the different social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Goodreads etc.) and find out which sites your target audience visits most often. (Tumblr is popular among teenagers, for example. If your book features fashionable or crafty characters, Pinterest may be a good place to promote it.) Don’t just use the social networks to be promotional, though. Support other writers, engage with your readers, and post interesting, funny, or thought-provoking posts.
3. Swag – Whether it’s a bookmark, coffee mug, t-shirt, bracelet, postcard, journal, or any other item, merch is an excellent way to get the word out about your book. You may have to invest a little money, but these physical items can often make people remember you and your book. I used to be in a band called Pocket the Moon. I ordered a ton of plastic toy unicorns, wrote our band name on them, and we sold these at our shows for five bucks. We also gave out free moon pies. These kinds of unique items helped people to remember us, and it made our shows a more fun experience. Find some creative swag that will make people remember your book.
4. Contests and giveaways – These are a great way to create buzz around your book. You can host a giveaway or contest on your website, Goodreads, YouTube, or many other places. You can give away signed copies of your book or some of the fun swag mentioned above. You can team up with local bookstores and giveaway coupons or gift certificates.
5. Blog tours – A blog tour is a virtual tour to help an author promote his or her book. These “tours” go from one book blog to the next with interesting posts such as reviews, guest blog posts, cover reveals, etc., and they are a useful tool to help you connect with potential readers. While it is possible to organize your own blog tour, there are many different services that will do this for you for a low fee.
6. Attend or organize live events – Contact your local library or bookstore to schedule a reading or a signing. Visit nearby schools to discuss your book with students (particularly if your book is for children or teens). Schedule talks and/or workshops about writing and sell your book in the back of the room. Find book festivals and conferences you can attend, and see if you can get on one of the panels. You can also schedule unconventional events. For example, if your book is about music, maybe organize a live musical performance and read a short section in between performers.
7. Team up with other authors – Find two or three authors with books in your genre, and organize events. These may be panel discussions, readings, or book signings. It’s easier to do a regional or even national promotional book tour as well if you have other authors to split expenses, especially if you don’t have a huge marketing budget.
8. Encourage readers to leave reviews and spread the word – A lot of authors have a section at the end of their books (I see this a lot with e-books especially) asking readers specifically to review their book on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. if they enjoyed it. You could also just mention this when you do live events. Readers are more likely to leave reviews if you ask!
9. Think outside of the box – How can you make your book promotion fun for both you and your readers? Are there any unique products you can create based on the content of your book? Can you organize events that tie in with any sort of organization or cause related to the subject matter of your book? These are great questions to ask yourself when coming up with a marketing plan.
Sara Crawford is a writer and internet marketer from Atlanta, Georgia. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. Her upcoming debut young adult novel is called WE OWN THE SKY. In addition to her writing blog, she maintains THE DAILY WRITER mailing list providing daily inspiration for writers.