Writers write, and many of us would be more than happy stay in that cozy little corner and let the experts take care of the scary stuff, like marketing.
But today, whether you’re a self-published author or signed with a major publisher, you’ll need at least some marketing savvy to show on your part. The good news is, there’s nothing to be scared of—but it will take effort.
In this post, we’ll show you everything you need to know about marketing a book, and the tools that will help you get the job done.
How to Market a Book
Follow these 11 steps for a successful book marketing strategy.
1. Do thorough market research.
Market research is something you should be actively working on before you even start writing your book. That is, you should have a pretty concrete idea of the kind of book you want to write, as well as who would be interested in reading it.
Your answers to these questions will guide your writing and the marketing strategies you’ll use to promote your book.
You’ll want to research the following:
Understand the conventions of your chosen genre. After all, genres offer guidelines for reader expectations, and when it comes to those expectations, surprises are rarely a good thing.
For example, if you’re going to write a romance novel, you don’t need to craft a cookie-cutter story, but you should respect the conventions of that genre, which include a generally happy ending. (So if you choose to have your two leading lovers die tragically at the end of the book, that’s fine, but don’t market it as a romance and throw readers for a loop. Sell it as a drama or tragedy, instead.)
Search for comparable, best-selling titles within the genre you’ve chosen. Take some time to study what they have in common as far as their content, titles, descriptions, and even book covers. Keep notes of what you observe so you can come back to these important details later.
Once you have a solid idea of the kind of book you want to write, it’s time to learn more about the people who would read it.
Study reader profiles on Goodreads to learn more about your target audience’s demographics, including their gender, age, income level, their reading habits, where they buy books, and other common interests.
Filling in these details will give you a reader profile that will help guide the rest of your marketing decisions and strategies.
2. Make a plan and start early.
Create a detailed marketing plan before you even finish writing your book. Don’t think that this is something you can wing and pull together at the last minute!
In fact, it’s best to start marketing your book around 6–12 months before your planned launch. (For a more detailed strategy, check out our post on how to start marketing your book early.)
Your ideal marketing plan will vary depending on your book, but you’ll definitely want to have at least some sort of timeline planned out to help you stay on track.
3. Grow your online presence.
Build and optimize an author website. Set up an author website as soon as you can, well before your book’s release. This is essential, as it will serve as a main hub for all things related to you and your book. You can use your website to easily connect readers to your social media profiles, your email list, and of course, your books.
You should also use your website as a blog, where you post valuable content (depending on your audience, this could be informative, entertaining, or insightful), and engage with your readers. Read more about how you can blog your book to build your author platform.
From your website, your readers should easily be able to sign up for your mailing list. (If you don’t have an email list yet, start one!) Your email subscribers will be an invaluable resource when it comes to spreading the word about your book and even getting reviews.
In addition to your website, you’ll want to build a social media presence—but use it wisely! That means using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to connect and engage with your followers, but don’t let it zap your productivity. Know when it’s time to turn off notifications for a while and get back to writing or working on your marketing plan.
4. Learn the ins and outs of Amazon.
Even if Amazon isn’t the only retailer you’ll be using, most likely you’ll still make a good bulk of your sales through them, which is why it’s so important that you’re set up for success.
Set up your book page with a captivating book description that will sell your book. (For help with this, look back to your market research and see what kinds of descriptions have succeeded in the past.)
5. Run ads and promotions.
Familiarize yourself with important advertising and promotional tools, including ads on Amazon and Facebook, and promotions like Kindle Countdown Deals.
Amazon ads are displayed on the product pages of other books, and also in the search results when shoppers are browsing. You can choose to use product display ads, which require you to target individual books, or sponsored product ads, which allow an author to target keywords for their book.
You can learn more about how to use Amazon book ads in our interview with bestselling author Derek Doepker.
Facebook ads appear on Facebook and can be used to sell your book directly, and they can also be a powerful tool for advertising your email list to get more subscribers.
BookBub ads appear at the bottom of BookBub’s Featured Deals newsletter emails. Advertisers can target readers based on their author interests, preferred categories, geographic location, and favorite retailers, and choose between PPC (pay-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) ads. Learn more in our BookBub ads tutorial.
Of course, BookBub also runs promotions, where authors can submit the details of their price promotion for a chance to be featured in BookBub’s Featured Deals newsletters, which reach thousands of readers.
Similarly, with Kindle Countdown Deals, authors can put their books on sale in the Kindle Store for a set period of time, showing audiences the huge savings that are on the line and reminding them time is running out. To participate, your book needs to be exclusive to the Amazon Kindle store (and not published on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, or anywhere else). Learn more in our Kindle Countdown Deals tutorial.
Check out this list of book promotion sites for more options.
6. Get book reviews.
Book reviews are critical to the success of your book. Many readers look to a book’s reviews on Amazon or Goodreads before deciding whether or not to buy the book.
Actively seeking book reviews should be an ongoing effort. Before your book is released, you can send out some advanced copies to friends, colleagues, or fans and ask them kindly to write a review.
This effort should continue once your book is released, and even in the months and years after. Your book could have 50 stellar reviews on Amazon, but if they’re all from 2 years ago and older, that could signal to shoppers that your book is dated, so be sure you get consistent reviews.
For tips and a template for emails you can actually send, check out our post on how to get book reviews.
7. Schedule virtual tours and do interviews.
Okay, so you may find it a bit challenging to book a signing tour of Barnes & Noble stores across the country unless you’re already a NYT bestseller, or a celebrity who’s written a cookbook. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a successful book tour!
Virtual book tours and blog tours are just two of the ways you can get exposure for your book and your author platform by reaching hundreds and even thousands of people (that’s much more than can fit in a Barnes & Noble!).
Of course, you can still work with book shops to organize in-person events as well. Learn more in our guide to hosting a book signing.
8. Create a book trailer.
Trailers aren’t just for movies—you can make them for your books, too! Book trailers can be great tools for fiction and nonfiction books alike, you just have to find the best way to communicate your book’s idea and the value it will give readers.
The reason these trailers are so effective is that they are easy to share on social media, and they’re more engaging than simply posting a synopsis to Twitter or Facebook.
For inspiration, check out these 10 examples of effective book trailers.
9. Build a fan base.
No matter how “unknown” you may feel, it’s never too late (or too early) to start building a fan base.
To do this, you’ll need to frequently engage with your readers. Talk to them online, answer their questions, comment on their fan-fiction—you can even ask them for ideas and poll them on what your hero should do next.
Do what you can to create a following that’s rooted in both your work and your personality. Once you’ve built up a fan base, you can ask their help in assembling a street team to help you promote your book.
10. Measure results.
Whenever possible, try to find ways to track the results of your efforts so you can figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
This goes for ad campaigns, social media posts, promotions, and everything else you can think of. If you see that your target audience responds well to something, definitely keep doing more of that. For more on tracking your Amazon sales, learn how to create a universal Amazon affiliate link.
11. Keep it up.
It’s not enough to focus all of your marketing budget and efforts on the weeks surrounding your book’s launch. Most of these steps are things you’ll need to work at consistently, even after your book has been published.
And since social media and marketing strategies are always evolving, it’s important to keep studying and stay informed. Try reading up on the top marketing books, and make use of helpful marketing tools to make sure your plans run smoothly.
How Do I Promote My Book?
The efforts that publishers put into marketing their books can vary greatly. If you’ve been picked up by one of the Big Five, you’ll certainly have more connections and resources at your disposal, but that doesn’t mean that traditional publishers will do everything for you.
It’s still ultimately up to authors to build their platform and grow their base, and that’s just the minimum. With smaller, independent publishers, it can still vary, but those that do invest a good deal in marketing tend to be pretty hands-on.
For example, at TCK Publishing, we help our authors schedule promotions, grow their email lists (and use our own), seek reviews, and more.
If you’re deciding whether or not to sign with a publisher, definitely ask them how much and what exactly they’ll do (if anything) to help you market your book, so at least you know what to expect. In any case, though, it’s best to learn as much as you can about these strategies so you can stay involved and monitor progress.
More Book Marketing Tips
No matter which publishing route you pursue, take some time to learn more about these marketing strategies so you can ensure you’re on the right path with your book.
For more tips on getting publicity for your book and your author platform, check out our post on how to get book publicity.
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- Why People Buy Books: 13 Reasons Readers Choose to Spend
- List of 100+ Author Tools: The Best Tools for Writing, Publishing, and Marketing Your Book
- 10 Best Marketing Books: Strategies to Up Your Marketing Game
- A Simple Book Marketing Plan: 3 Great Ways to Drive More Book Sales
As a blog writer for TCK Publishing, Kaelyn loves crafting fun and helpful content for writers, readers, and creative minds alike. She has a degree in International Affairs with a minor in Italian Studies, but her true passion has always been writing. Working remotely allows her to do even more of the things she loves, like traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.