Start Marketing Your Book Now (Here’s How)

marketing your book

Adapted from our BookBaby Live series, Steven Spatz, BookBaby president and self-published author, talks about the benefits of marketing before your book is even completed.

BookBaby has been around for 10 years and, when you think about it, that’s a long time in the digital publishing world and the self-publishing world. We’ve learned a lot in the past decade, and one thing we’ve really stressed to writers — beyond writing a great book and creating a beautiful cover — is this truth: you’ve got to market and promote your own books. No one else is going to do it for you.

And let me be clear, simply having your book listed on Amazon is not marketing. That’s distribution, and that’s important, but how are you going to lead people to find and buy your book? You’ve got to do that . Yes, you can hire it out, but the responsibility is yours.

I’m pleased to say that, after 10 years of preaching this message, most self-published authors get it. They understand that sales and marketing are part of the job of being a self-published author.

But, with so much information available about book marketing, it’s difficult to determine what to do or where to start. It can be totally overwhelming, so I’m going to try to help simplify your approach to marketing and promoting your book.

When to start marketing

A couple of years ago, we did a survey of our self-publishing community. We had over 9,000 responses, and we homed in on the most successful authors — writers who made five figures with their book in a 12-month period. We’re talking folks who did pretty darn well with their book sales and promotion.

In the survey, we posed bunch of statements and asked these authors to agree or disagree, strongly or not, and the one the one I’d like to focus on relates to when the marketing of a book should begin. An overwhelming number — 83 percent — of these high-earning authors asserted that you’ve got to start marketing way before you’ve compled your book if you want to have success.

If you’re going to start early, there are a lot of things you can be doing to promote your book. I know you need to finish writing your manuscript and you need to get it edited, so you can’t spend a huge percentage of your time on marketing, so I’ll focus on three areas where I think you can get a return spending 10 minutes a day.

Networking

First, focus your early marketing efforts on networking. Now, I’m not talking about the the after-hours cocktail events we used to have when everybody worked in offices and you’d have those funky little name tags and you’d pass around business cards.

I want you to think more inclusive. I want you to think about gathering people who are going to be FOBs: friends of your book.

Writer’s organizations

Start big. Think about writer’s organizations or associations. There are some great ones out there. BookBaby is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which is which is a UK-based organization that provides fantastic advice and resources. Think about joining these sorts of organizations and meet people and get your name out there and connect with people who can help you.

Successful authors and influencers

This is also about targeting authors and individuals with some loyal and large social media followings, because the people who are following them could very well be your readers. I don’t know anybody who just reads books by one author. They like a genre, they like a style of writing, perhaps they like the subject matter — and authors, generally, are very open and friendly and willing to engage with fellow writers.

If you’re a nonfiction writer, there could be institutions or academic groups you might want to want to join to get to know the thought leaders in your area of interest. And there might be journalists who are covering the book scene — try to get them interested in your book early on.

Email list

This will be the topic of another presentation, but building an email list is a powerful networking and marketing tool that dovetails with networking and needs to be started well before your book launch.

Search Engine Optimization

I think a lot of people are intimidated by SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization. No one expects you to be an expert on SEO — but you should know some of the key points and what you can do to optimize your SEO in your publishing efforts. It starts with your keywords. As I say, they’re key to your success.

Catalog Hana BannerKeywords are words and phrases that can help people find your book. When people type words into a search engine like Google or Bing trying to find information on a topic, if you select the right set of keywords that relate to the topic or themes in your book, you can drive people to your book’s page.

A blog is a fantastic way to harness the concepts behind SEO as you’re able to put a lot of content out there, which boosts your chance of being discovered. Maybe you work on your manuscript six days a week and on the seventh, you write a post on a blog you’re hosting or guest post on somebody else’s.

Finally, if you do have your own website or your own blog, you’ll be able to share links between other influential blogs or websites that are related to the topics and themes in your book.

Social media

Using social media for book promotion doesn’t mean you need to spend all day on Facebook, but social media is another avenue to get discovered. Find the platform that makes the most sense to you — it’s not about being a master of all the various social media platforms (and the ones to come in the future). Pick and choose what feels right for you and your book. LinkedIn, for instance, might be best for business books or self-help books, but if I wrote a book of poetry, my audience is likely to be found elsewhere.

Lead a tribe

You don’t need a million followers to be successful. I subscribe to Seth Godin’s definition of a tribe. He says you only need two things to form a tribe: a shared interest and a means to communicate. The difference between a tribe and a crowd is the presence of a leader and an effective way to talk to one other. Social media gives you the opportunity to have that personality and attracting the kind of people who could be likely readers. Identify them and start to interact even before your book is finished.

Make a contribution

You might want to share some some sections of your book, sometimes you might want to have your characters speak — just understand it can’t be about you all the time.

The best way to think about it is to imagine you’re walking into a cocktail party. You’re not going to just walk up to somebody and say, “Hi, my name is Steven, want to buy my book about ducks?” No, you’re going to join the conversation and contribute to the exchange of ideas.

Don’t worry if you only have a Twitter audience of 400 people. There’s some who say your tribe could be as small as a hundred as long as the quality is there.

Start marketing now

Market early and often — it’s what our most successful authors are doing. Network, amass your friends of the book; understand basic SEO, it can have a huge impact on your traffic and sales; and identify the most effective and efficient social media platforms, so as your book is being launched, you feel comfortable and already have a voice.

Catch up on all of our BookBaby Live presentations.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. marketing to many talented writers, is a miasma. We understand the need, the concept, but wading in, is another matter altogether. Not all writers, are born promoters. So when you say… that promotion is up to the writer, that is understandable. It is also…. hopeless.

  2. This has been so helpful. I have a manuscript and just finances to invest in are holding me back. In Zambia, my poetry textbook has been approved for use in secondary schools and colleges of education by the Curriculum Development Center (CDC). In this case, how do I advertise in secondary schools and colleges?

    • You are not alone, Monde. I write Bemba fiction series named Namwelenga. Two of them have been approved by CDC. Our major market is the Ministry of General Education, through the Examination Council of Zambia (ECZ). Once they adopt your book as one to be used for examining students in that subject for that year, boom! So, next move just like me, is to convince ECZ to use your book. I understand they have books in queue that takes over 5 years. It is here our hurdle lies. However, you can rest assured that your book will be bought someday. Meanwhile, continue marketing it elsewhere, to individual pupils and teachers, parents, etc.

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