If you want to get your book into the hands of more readers, you have to work on book marketing just as hard, if not harder, than you did on writing and editing.
My first legal mystery novel, Land Sharks: #HonoluluLaw, #Triathletes, and a #TVStar, was published by indie publisher, Written Dreams, in May of 2016. That was the easy part.
Unlike many authors, I started writing my series with a marketing plan in mind. After the book was published, it was time to start promoting and putting my marketing plan into practice.
Here are the 10 best book marketing tips that have worked for me:
1. Make your title work for you
Land Sharks is a catchy, search-engine-friendly title. By using the word “sharks” I provide an opportunity for readers to stumble across my book while searching for the non-attorney variety.
When my publisher asked me to create a subtitle, I added hashtags in order to reference the social media storyline—each chapter has a tweet heading—but also to allow those searching for my subtitle terms to find my book.
2. Build a social media following well before publication, and set goals for growth
Before Land Sharks hit the press, I built a 40,000-plus network on social media, keeping my target market of triathletes, insurance professionals, athletes, attorneys, and legal mystery fans in mind.
It took me years to connect to more than 20,000 people on Linkedin.com and several years to attract more than 20,000 followers to my Twitter account, @TriathlonNovels. My Instagram.com, Goodreads.com, Facebook author page, and Flipboard.com numbers are low but growing slowly.
My goal is to grow my social media following to 250,000 in order to reach a much larger audience, gain credibility and spread the word about my books faster. Authors can increase their social media following by posting entertaining content and engaging in conversations.
3. Identify and serve your core social media followers
I have close to 1,000 friends on my personal Facebook page. I have identified these as my core social media followers because they are people I know and the people most likely to buy and review any books I write.
To keep this special group entertained, I do things like occasionally posting images of my Land Sharks book in all sorts of crazy settings.
4. Photograph your book in creative ways
Naturally, I want to expose potential readers to Land Sharks, but I don’t want to annoy my followers with the same mundane posts. I’m constantly coming up with new and creative poses for my book and bookmark while traveling the world or my own neighborhood.
I’ve photographed the book surrounded by orchids in Hawaii, with a cat or dog who appears to be reading it, taking the train and in front of a windmill in Copenhagen, with a picture of the royal family and on a faux place setting in London, held by a Lego man in Las Vegas, on train tracks in New Orleans, and in the hands of a professional triathlete at the Kona Ironman Triathlon World Championships. These photos are posted all over social media with carefully selected hashtags in order to maximize exposure.
5. Engage in meaningful conversations, and tell everyone about your book.
The best way I’ve found to sell books is to have meaningful conversations with everyone I encounter. If I start talking to someone about the weather, I’m sure to quickly shift the topic to my book and hand her a bookmark with instructions on where she can buy it.
Don’t forget to tell the postman, the Starbucks barista, the shopkeeper, the bank teller, and the building manager about your book. My CPA emailed me a few days ago to rave about Land Sharks and posted a review on Amazon.com after my urging. My building maintenance man loves my book and passed it on to his daughter, who read it in two days.
6. Always be ready to pitch
Faces light up when I describe Land Sharks as “Allie McBeal meets Hawaii Five-0”, without the dancing baby or cops. My pitch changes, depending upon who I meet. If I’m talking to a triathlete, I emphasize the Olympic triathlon wanna-be character.
If I’m speaking with an attorney or mystery fan, I explain about the Honolulu law firm setting and the plot. If I’m talking to an insurance professional, I mention the insurance company, Friendly Isle Mutual, prominently featured in the book.
7. Always carry promotional materials, your book, and a camera
Everywhere I go, I’m armed with my book, a pile of bookmarks, and a smartphone, ready to hand out my self-imposed quota of bookmarks for the day and to take pictures of friendly people and, hopefully, famous people, holding my book. I look for opportunities to take a photo of a group, and then in return, I ask them to pose with my bookmark.
8. Take at least 5 action steps per day to market your book
The minimum number of action steps I take toward book marketing per day is five. This may mean passing out a bookmark, posting a picture on social media, writing a guest blog, pinning a bookmark on a public bulletin board, or appearing on a radio show. If I’m traveling or attending a conference, my bookmark quota is higher.
When I attended Bouchercon Mystery Convention in New Orleans, my self-imposed quota was 25 bookmarks per day and 5 for a friend traveling with me. While I was in Las Vegas last week, I managed to give away all of the 90 bookmarks I’d brought with me. When I flew to Kona a few days before the Ironman World Championships, I had 70 meaningful conversations, all of which included a bookmark gift, a friendly pitch, and a smile.
9. Airports, airplanes, and public places provide unique promotional opportunities
Airports and planes are my favorite venue for book promotion, because travelers often take advantage of long flights to read for enjoyment. If I see someone reading a physical book on an airplane, mall or other public place, I strike up a conversation and give him a Land Sharks bookmark.
My practice is to hold my novel in my hand in the airline boarding area or on the plane to expose hundreds of other passengers to its cover. Sometimes they will ask me about the book or my Ironman backpack I wear purposefully as a conversation starter.
Now that many of our neighborhood bookstores have closed, book sales in airports are big business. Land Sharks isn’t distributed alongside James Patterson’s and John Grisham’s popular paperbacks, but I have mentioned my book to passengers browsing for books.
While flying, I often tweet about my book with a #UnitedAirlines so anyone searching for the company will see an image of Land Sharks. I also post images of my book with hashtags paired with trending topics to increase exposure even when I’m not traveling.
10. Speak to groups and promote your book.
I also promote my novel when speaking to groups about my expertise in sports law and risk management or insurance law issues. At the close of my talks, I mention Land Sharks, pass out bookmarks, and sometimes offer books for sale. I’ve also given a few readings and held a book-launch party at a Seattle bookstore.
If you take 5 action steps per day and follow the steps listed above, you’ll surely experience increased book sales. But remember, marketing requires the stamina of an Ironman triathlete, a tremendous amount of patience, and thick skin.
Other Books By Katharine M. Nohr:
Managing Risk in Sport and Recreation: The Essential Guide for Loss Prevention (Human Kinetics 2009)
Want More Book Marketing Tips?
If you’re looking for even more book marketing strategies and ideas, check out some of these blogs on marketing and book promotion: