If you’re a writer (published or unpublished), I’m sure you’ve heard about or experienced the difficulty of marketing a book. It’s hard to draw attention to your book when there are thousands of other books competing for readers’ attention. I’ve blogged about this topic before, so I know I’m not the only one who struggles to shine the spotlight on my book. There’s no single magical, free, easy way to sell books, but for those of you who have time, energy, and very thick skin, here is a list of marketing strategies that have been very effective for many authors:
- Blog Tours: You can pay a tour host to organize interviews, book spotlights, and reviews, or you can contact bloggers on your own. It is possible to organize your own blog tour, but it is very time consuming. Some bloggers have huge backlogs. Others will not respond. (Note: I’ve tried both approaches. Sometimes you can find tour companies who are offering sales.)
- Seek Reviews: This is a spin-off of tip #1. Contact book reviewers and offer to send them a free book in exchange for an honest review. Again, some bloggers have huge backlogs, so they might not be able to review your book for a long time. Others might not be able to review your book at all. Most bloggers are willing to accept an electronic version of your book. (Note: I usually avoid reviewers who ask for a paperback copy. I’ve sent paperback books to reviewers who never bothered to review the book. It was a costly mistake I’ll never make again.)
- Paid advertisements on Facebook, Google, Goodreads, etc. This can get very expensive, but if you have an advertising budget, it might be worth your while.
- Contests and giveaways: The rate of return may vary, but some authors swear by giveaways. Rafflecopter and Goodreads are good venues for giveaways. Giveaways can be held in conjunction with blog tours for maximum exposure. If the prizes you’re offering are particularly appealing (Amazon gift cards, a free Kindle Fire, etc), people will be more apt to enter your giveaway and hopefully spread the word. If you’re giving away a signed paperback and some mediocre sway, the response to your giveaway might be somewhat lackluster.
- Pimp your book on Facebook: By joining Facebook groups, you’ll have the opportunity to network with other authors and sometimes readers. Some groups will let you promote your books; others will not. You can also ask Facebook Pages to promote your book.
- Pimp your book on Twitter: Some authors swear by Twitter. They use hashtags to target certain groups and readers. With Twitter, you can promote your book several times a day by automating Tweets. If you have a huge following on Twitter, you might gets some re-Tweets, thus expanding your audience.
- Beat the pavement: Go to local bookshops and ask them to stock your book on their shelf. Contact book clubs and offer to gift everyone a free copy of your book if they agree to discuss your book at their next meeting. Give bookmarks or business cards to everyone you come in contact with: the teller at the bank, your hairdresser, etc.
- Book signings: Call local bookshops and libraries and ask them if they will allow you to have a book signing.
- Write a press release. Send it to local and national newspapers and magazines and let them know about your book.
- Call the newspaper and see if they’d like to interview you. (Note: This worked for one author I know)
- Get a free or paid listing on the numerous online book sites. Ask David, The Fussy Librarian, Manic Readers, Awesome Gang, Authors Den, Authors DB, Indies Unlimited, and many other sites offer to feature your book. Some of these sites offer free listings. (Note: I have free listings on a few of these sites, but it hasn’t helped sales. It’s unclear how many readers actually frequent these sites, but it might be worth a try.)
Some of you are probably bookmarking this post, ready to dive headfirst into marketing.
Some of you have already figured this out on your own and are waiting to hear back from the editor at your local newspaper.
Others might be shaking their heads, wondering how they’ll ever have the time or money to follow up on these suggestions.
Still others are recoiling in horror at the thought of visiting their local bookshop or writing a press release.
For those who are shaking your head or recoiling in horror, I understand. I’m with you. I have zero marketing budget and no backbone. I have heart palpitations at the thought of picking up the phone to order a pizza, so the very idea of waltzing into a bookstore with a stack of books to sell fills me with terror. The list of marketing strategies above have worked for some authors, but they might not work for you. This list if for those who are ready to take a fearless approach to marketing. It’s for those who have the time and resources to invest in their books.
For the rest of us–the introverts, the writers with full-time jobs, the author with four kids, the novelist battling health problems–this list might not offer much comfort. So, what do I have to offer you?
I offer you unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding. I understand why you’re terrified at the idea of showing up at your local bookstore with an armload of books and a stack of business cards. I understand why you don’t have time to contact reviewers. I understand why you can’t spend this month’s grocery money on a Goodreads ad. I understand.
We all do what we can. Sometimes we have to step outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we have to take risks. I challenge everyone to try just one tip on the list above. Send one Tweet. If you don’t want to tell everyone how great your book is, I’ll do it for you. If you don’t have time to contact a list of bloggers, send me an email. I’ll promote your book on Authors to Watch. It might not make an immediate difference in terms of sales, but that one Tweet might be the start of something. That one feature on Authors to Watch might give you the incentive to reach for more.
I’ve recently decided to promote myself on Twitter once a day. For some authors, this might sound like nothing, but for me, this is a big step. Maybe one day I’ll work up the nerve to contact a local bookshop, but for now, I do what I can. I believe in myself even if I might not be in a position to act on some of the marketing tips I listed above. I haven’t given up. Neither should you.
I believe in you. I have faith in you. Your books deserve to sell. Even though marketing can be expensive, time-consuming, and frightening, we owe it to ourselves to do what we can, even if it’s only one Tweet per week. At least it’s something. So, don’t give up. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be featured on Authors to Watch, or if you just want to talk. If you have any marketing tips, leave a comment and I’ll update the list above.