When I see bad book marketing out in the wild, I wish I could do something productive to help that author (or sometimes publisher!) see how they’re wasting their time.
What is bad book marketing? It’s whenever I receive:
- A tweet from a total stranger asking me to look at their book
- An e-mail from a total stranger asking me to look at their book
- A Facebook message from a total stranger asking me to look at their book
And so on—I think you get the idea.
Here are 4 ways to immediately improve your book marketing efforts. Perhaps you should save the link to this post, and offer it up via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail to anyone engaging in time-wasting activity as described above.
1. Use your website for hard selling. Do not lean on social media for hard selling. Social media typically works best for long-term awareness efforts, relationship building, audience development, and general networking. It is not terribly effective for repeatedly telling people, in your own voice, over and over again, “Buy my book.” All of the information about why people might like your book—along with the hard-hitting sales pitch—should be on your website. If you don’t have your own website where you control the content and presentation, it’s next to impossible to have a successful book marketing campaign.
2. Brainstorm a list of all the meaningful relationships you have—people who you can count on to read your e-mails. Divide the list into three groups: (a) people who would probably like to be alerted to your new work, e.g., old classmates or coworkers, (b) people who have significant reach or influence with your target readership, e.g., a blogger or established author, and (c) your existing and devoted fans who may be willing to spread the word about your new work to their friends and connections. For Group A, write a brief announcement and include a link to your website for all the book details. For Group B, write a brief, personalized note to each person about your book promotion efforts, and offer 1-3 concrete ways they could help you—e.g., tweet about the book on a specific day, excerpt the book on their blog/site, run a Q&A, etc. For Group C, write a brief, general note asking for support in any way they feel comfortable, and provide examples of what that support might look like. If there are any influencers in Group C, consider moving them to Group B and writing something more personalized. Note: So few authors do any of this. Taking the time to write personalized e-mails will dramatically increase support from your network. You shouldn’t try to market and promote your book on your own; it takes a village, as they say.
3. Brainstorm a list of all the gatekeepers to your readers with whom you do not have a relationship yet—specific individuals and specific websites/blogs. For example, if you write romance, then popular romance review blogs would act as a gatekeeper. Do those blogs accept guest posts? Can you contribute to their community in some way? If you want to grow your readership, you’ll have to work beyond your existing network. Find a way to help gatekeepers—rather than demanding something of them—and you’ll find the whole process more successful AND enjoyable.
4. Invest in professional design and presentation for all marketing and self-promotion materials. This includes your website, your author photos, your book cover (the No. 1 book marketing tool, whether print or digital), your business cards, your Twitter avatar, your Facebook cover photo, etc. If you appear professional, that’s half the battle. Amateur design hurts you tremendously in the long run—especially when it comes to gatekeepers and influencers. Sorry, but appearance matters, and a professional presentation shows that you take yourself and your work seriously.
What do you think are some other concrete ways to immediately improve book marketing efforts? Share in the comments.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.