Of course, if you self-publish, you are both author and publisher. Then you’d also do standard “publisher” marketing tasks:
- send review copies to key review periodicals, sites, and influential people;
- design a standard catalog sheet or flyer with key specs, summary, and order/availability details;
- create any additional sales tools (postcards, shelf cards, etc.);
- make sure the book is listed in key books-in-print databases and online sellers;
- create web pages with ways to order the book;
- create & post extra online enhancements: tables of contents, first chapters, sample material, author interviews, etc.;
- reach out to and field queries from media;
- and fill any other needs of a specific marketing plan for that title.
Beyond basic publisher efforts, however, authors can do some specific and helpful marketing activities better than publishers. You have deeper knowledge of your book’s contents. You also have local or personal/professional contacts of your own. You have a long-term motive to promote and push your book (and yourself as the author.) You can choose to tackle things that a publisher doesn’t have the resources (or strategic benefit) to do.
Here are specific things (in 3 sections) that an author can do to help promote a book.
- Working with your publisher
- Primary things to do on your own
- Secondary things to consider
Working with your publisher
You will often get good results by working with your publisher to leverage promotions.
Ask about coop efforts. There are always extra promotional opportunities. If you give them a good pitch for how something can benefit sales (and leverage more effort from you), publishers might be willing arrange to print a batch of bookmarks, or postcards, or a special flyer, if you have opportunities to hand them out at good venues. Publishers might pitch in to share costs of a book-sales table at a local conference, or an ad for a specialty publication. They might fork out money, or arrange items themselves, such as a useful, short how-to video, if you detail how you could use it and how you would help create it. It never hurts to ask, and then come to a joint understanding about the cost, benefit, and creative and production effort involved and who is responsible for what.
Enhancements for online websites. You can create a list of 10 interesting things about your book, or a teacher’s guide with activities, or a book-club guide with questions and behind-the-scenes tidbits about the book. Post them on your own online site(s), and your publisher might also post or help promote them.
Provide a self-interview and a fun-to-read bio. A good, well-written About the Author bio is always interesting, and you might be able to write an extended one for your publisher’s direct use, linking, or social-media fodder. I like the concept of the self-interview because you can cover everything you want. Plus you reveal more of your true personality. (Outside interviews are wonderful, but let’s face it, they often drift a bit off-message.)
Share any good news with your publisher. Be sure to pass on any reviews or testimonials, or info about events you’ll be involved in.
Primary Marketing To Do Yourself
Reviews at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, GoodReads. Round up friends, acquaintances, or colleagues to post reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, etc. Yes, this is legitimate. You’re not telling them what to write, just encouraging them (of course, you’re looking for friends or colleagues who like the book!) It helps if they are scattered about the country.
Send a copy and book info to your alumni magazine. Contact them to let them know you’ve a graduate, have written a book. Send them a copy. Mention that you are willing to furnish more info or do a brief interview. Send them any major reviews or awards. Alumni magazines have an amazing reach across space and time, many also have online versions as well as print magazines, and they reach audiences that are well-educated book-buyers.
Send a copy and/or book info to organizations you belong to. These might be literary, professional, social, etc. Many have websites, newsletters, etc. (If you don’t belong to regional or genre writer groups, etc., this a good reason to join.)
Contact local media with book info. You may have more appeal as an individual, compared to your publisher, when you contact your local NPR affiliate, newspaper, magazines, etc. You’re a local person, can be interviewed, have a circle of local friends, can put a local spin on the news that you’ve been published.
Contact influential people in your field for blurbs. Offer them review copies (your publisher may be willing provide a small batch of copies for your use). Request a very short blurb (just a few descriptive words or sentences is plenty), a brief bit of feedback that you can use to help promote the book (if they deem it worthy). You may have more direct channels to these people, and can talk to them in ways that involve your field or genre.
Contact local bookstores, libraries, clubs, or special-interest groups and offer to do a program. Consider a talk or workshop on a useful subject; this is often a better draw for a lesser-known author than a reading/signing. Think outside the box – not how to promote your book, but what topic involved with your book is most likely to attract an audience.
Maintain & update your online profiles. You already have or could have profiles at Facebook, Amazon’s Author Central, and other online sites. Also, there are often state-by-state listings of authors maintained by various literary organizations, or listings of authors and their works maintained by genre organizations (groups of mystery, romance, science fiction & fantasy, Western, etc. writers.) or other author associations. It’s easiest and most logical for you to find those and make sure your contact information is up-to-date and that any new works you’ve published are correctly cited, with any possible links to sales or informational channels provided.
Secondary Marketing To Do Yourself
These are “secondary” only in that they involve somewhat more effort or more time. But these can really make a difference.
Plan a fun kick-off book launch event. While a launch party is good to do, you can also plan, announce, and host a simple event for things that happen long after a book is released. The promotional visibility on Facebook and other social media is always good, even if it ends up being just a few friends showing up to share a beer or glass of wine or a piece of celebratory cake. Here’s a link to more tips for a good book launch.
Hold a party to celebrate an award. Maybe you missed the chance to do a book launch. Whether you did or not, you might consider a festive event to celebrate a later event: the book getting an award, a mention in a major magazine, a great testimonial from a famous person. If it’s worthy of celebrating, invite others and make it a public party at a favorite locale.
Offer a book giveaway on GoodReads. Three or four copies are sufficient. As author, you can note that these are signed copies. (Maybe your publisher will provide the books, if you promise to do the work to send the books to winners.)
Brainstorm fun and buzz-worthy ideas. Any out-of-the-box creative idea? Do you know creative friends who could help you brainstorm a list of zany, fun, creative, buzz-worthy, ideas? Some of the best viral stuff online comes from the odd idea that proves to be too much fun not to do. (Like any brainstorming session, though, be selective.)
Get involved – and stay involved with your local literary community. Keep in touch with local writer gatherings, events, bookstore readings, etc. Get to know the bookstore owners, librarians, media people, organizational officers, other prominent and active and well-connected authors. Stay in touch, and help them out as you can. Give of your time and share your knowledge and contacts; this will eventually be repaid in kind. Help announce good books by others, review them, post their events on your Facebook page, etc.
Be reasonably active online. Maintain a Facebook presence. Do a blog (steady and persistent) focused on you as a writer and your book and its subject matter/genre. It doesn’t need to be wildly active; just write a post at least once a month. What do you write about? Here’s a link to some things a book author can writer about. Book news, behind-the-scenes tidbits about the book, sources of specific ideas, favorite short excerpts, why you love a given passage or character, how you dealt with a writing challenge . . . Of course, this is the place to mention great reviews, thank people, announce coming appearances, report on how to after those events . . .
Do ongoing web searches in your area of interest. Look for bloggers, media people interested in your topic, regional book events, interest groups, etc.
Book Marketing Planning Spreadsheet
developed by Jenny Blake, author of Life After College.
I use my own version, but this is excellent.
Here’s info on doing book giveaways.
[This post is a work-in-progress, to be expanded.]