I love to ask myself questions that I don’t know the answer to and spend time considering them at length, then spend time discussing them at length in a blog post. So, somewhat surprisingly, when I asked myself the question “Should you market your book, yourself or both?” I realised I already knew the answer. Of course, all writers seeking an audience for their work must market both their books and themselves. It’s everything that comes after that realisation that tends to be a lot more difficult.
I’ve previously admitted that I have a problem with marketing myself and I’m not much better at marketing my books, not because I don’t think they’re any good but because a lifetime of reinforcement that humility is more important than confidence when it comes to self-promotion is hard to overcome.
So here’s an exercise in “do as I say, not as I do”. You don’t have to do them all – in fact, you probably shouldn’t, at least not all at once in an effort to avoid overkill. But by selecting the right combination over the right length of time, your marketing efforts may just pay off. Today I’m looking at marketing your book and on Thursday I’ll look at marketing yourself and together those two approaches will hopefully translate into book sales now and in the future.
Become an Expert on your Book
Before beginning any sort of marketing exercise, you need to be an expert in the thing you are marketing. Of course, you are already an expert in your book. You wrote it. But you need to be able to identify the things about your book that are going to sell it in the shortest number of words possible.
If somebody asks you what your book is about and it takes five minutes for you to explain it, then it’s likely they will have stopped listening somewhere around the one minute thirty seconds mark. But if you can tell them in thirty seconds and include “the hook”, the one thing that makes your book worth reading over all the other options readers have, then you will be more likely to have made a sale. Sometimes this is referred to as “the elevator pitch” – when you’re lucky enough to just happen to be riding in an elevator with someone who has the power to get your book published, it’s the complete pitch of your story before the elevator reaches its destination floor and allows them to escape.
If your pitch is intriguing enough, whoever you’re pitching to will want to know more and will ask for the details that had to be excluded to reduce its length from five minutes to thirty seconds. And the more you pitch, the more likely you are to be asked almost identical follow-up questions. So it’s a good thing to anticipate what those questions might be and have your answers ready. Examples include:
*Why did you write this book?
*How long did it take to write?
*What is your next book about?
Hold a Book Launch
Who doesn’t love a party? And that’s pretty much what a book launch is – finger food, drinks, copies of your book spread around the room (or posters of the cover if it’s an ebook) and everybody you’ve ever met in your life invited to dress up, eat, drink and listen to a short speech from you, then eat and drink some more while they socialise and celebrate your achievement. You can even invite a few journalists and industry types and you might be lucky enough that they show up.
If you’re very lucky, everybody in the room will buy a copy of your book, either because they want to read it or because they feel obligated. And once the evening is over, you can write about it, thanking people who showed up and posting pictures. You always have to think about how each marketing event leads into the next.
Give a Talk at a Library or Do a Reading and a Signing at a Book Store
People love to meet the people behind the books they read so if you can tee up a library talk or a book store signing/reading, it can generate a little more publicity. It’s a labour intensive form of marketing and requires a certain amount of confidence and public speaking, but if you can master it, then it’s a great way to get your book in front of more potential readers.
Publish an Excerpt
Publishing an excerpt from a book is a very common marketing tool. Whether it’s on your website, on someone else’s, in a magazine, journal or other periodical, or as a sample on the platforms it is available for sale, it gives readers the chance to experience your writing and your story and assess whether your book is likely to be something they will enjoy reading. Quite a few people make these assessments very early in a book and will decide to read on (or not) based on the first few chapters.
You never know who might publish an excerpt of your book. I love having guest posts on my blog to support other writers and good writing and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Paid advertising isn’t as expensive as you might think. Yes, a half or quarter page ad in the Saturday edition of a broadsheet newspaper, a fifteen second spot on commercial networks and bus shelter posters are probably beyond most of us, but there are plenty of smaller, more infrequent periodicals, community television and online options that might provide better, more targeted options. I’m a member of Writers Victoria and part of my membership entitles me to a few free mentions in their bi-monthly magazine and more frequent email newsletters. There is also paid advertising available.
However, you shouldn’t just throw money at advertising. It should be part of an overall campaign and specifically aimed at the right demographic. Some companies that offer advertising will help you with this if you’re prepared to spend enough money. You might know someone in marketing whose brain you can pick. Or you can hook up with a student studying advertising as part of a marketing degree for a mutually beneficial arrangement – you get an advertising campaign devised for free and they get to use you as a guinea pig client.
Reviews of your book, especially four and five star reviews, can really help generate sales. It’s one thing to make people aware of your book but it’s another to actually get them to buy it. In order to get some reviews, it might be worth giving away copies to book review bloggers. There are no guarantees they will like your book but it’s more publicity.
An interview allows more in-depth analysis of your book and if you’re not lucky enough to land five minutes talking to a DJ on a local radio station (of which there are many – and it doesn’t have to be your local, there are “local” radio stations across the world and they are always looking for content to fill the schedule), then there are websites that will publish interviews (sometimes for free, sometimes paid) or you could even interview yourself and post it to your own website and social media.
So what should you talk about in an interview? The questions I listed above will come up. Some questions might take you by surprise if you have a particularly insightful interviewer but you are more than likely to be asked variations of the same questions over and over again. So practising your answers beforehand will help with any nervousness you might feel when talking about yourself and your work.
Support from Relevant Organisations
If your book contains elements like a particular disease or a particular social cause, charity and support organisations might be interested in helping you market it, particularly if there is the potential for donations as a result of the awareness your book might raise.
If you have established contacts with these types of organisations, great. If you haven’t, then you can cold call them and speak to their marketing departments to see whether they’d be interested. But remember, they don’t owe you anything and they’re more interested in their cause than helping you sell books.
Also, they might not want to be associated with somebody controversial so you’ll need to disclose anything that there’s a possibility they won’t like and let them make an informed decision about any arrangement. They will probably want to read the book first as well before making a commitment. No, it’s not a short process but it can be an extremely helpful and beneficial one on both ends.
Friends and Family
What are friends and family for it not supporting you when you are trying to get the word out about your book? Most will be happy to help, especially if you tell them exactly what you need them to do. Remember, most of them won’t be marketing experts either so will need a little guidance.
So what can they do? Buying, reading and reviewing your book is a great start (either on Goodreads if they are signed up to it, on their social media or on the online platform where they bought the book if they bought it online). Liking and sharing your social media can also help. And telling everybody they know about the book to get a little word-of-mouth going. If every family member and friend you have can get a few people to buy a copy of your book, then you’ll make quite a few sales. And if those few people enjoy it and mention it to someone else, maybe it will snowball. Maybe it won’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t give it a go.
Social media is a niche marketing skill in itself and well-crafted social media posts can go viral and get a lot of attention. But it’s really important to have an established social media presence well before you publish your book. It’s also really important that you don’t use your platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn, to just yell about the existence of your book. There are plenty of examples of this and I’ve yet to be convinced to buy a book through this method.
Before you even publish your book, you should be tempting your connections and followers with tidbits about the book’s topic, release date, cover, pre-release reviews, anything you can think of. A little bit here and a little bit there won’t overwhelm or annoy anyone but will keep your book in the back of their mind. And then when you actually release it, you do a little bit more here and a little bit more there. Link to places the book can be bought. Post key sentences from complete reviews. Like and share other people’s social media posts about your book. But keep it fresh and sharp.
Try to find examples of social media marketing campaigns that you like and emulate their approach.
Hire a Professional
If any or all of the suggestions above fill you with dread or you feel they are beyond your capabilities, you can always hire a professional marketer to advise and support you or even just do the marketing for you. Yes, it will cost money, potentially a lot of money, and there are no guarantees it will lead to your book being a bestseller. But sometimes you just need to admit that you can’t do everything by yourself and that you need to spend a bit of money to make a bit more.
Check out Thursday’s post on the complementary approach to marketing your book, which is, of course, marketing yourself.