This post first appeared at The Cabin Goddess
Having worked with authors for more than seven years, two of the most common phrases I hear are, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have money” for self-publishing or book marketing. I agree that book publishing is a hard business, one that is also changing every day. With millions of books in the marketplace, how do you set yourself apart? What makes you different?
First, ditch the attitude. No, really. Keep an open mind. Learn, learn, learn. No one owes you anything. You’ve published a great book? So did my neigbour’s grandmother and 100,000 other people. I’m not the only one who says this. Chuck Wendig says it better.
Second, try new things. Be creative. Don’t know much about something? Ask. Instead of utilising writing forums or groups to moan about low sales or other writers, join forums or groups that can help you develop as a writer. Ideally, writing groups should not be a time suck. If you are spending more time in a forum or group than writing and focusing on your author brand, something is not right.
Here are 52 ways authors can maximise their book marketing efforts and increase visibility. One for every week. Make the time, save the money. You’ll get there.
1. Identify your target audience. Pushing your romance book to someone who likes fantasy is going to end badly. Do this as early as you possibly can so you have more time to plan your book marketing before you publish. More on that here.
3. Finalise your budget. How much can you spend a month? Be as detailed as you can to avoid running out of funds. More on that here. Look at your other expenses, what can you cut to make room for your book marketing budget.
4. Finish your book. DO NOT overlook a good cover, a good description and professional editing. If you have already published your book and it isn’t selling as well as you expect, revisit these three items. A good eye-catching cover is a must. You know your book, a potential reader does not. Professional editing makes all the difference in the world. Use beta readers to polish your work. More on that here.
5. Author bio. Have a professional, clear picture. This is just as important as your book description. Be as detailed as you can about your past experiences, your qualifications and why you write. More on that here.
6. Author website. If you don’t have one, get one. Sign up for a web host (reliable ones include Arvixe, Dream Host) and then create a site with WordPress.org. While WordPress.com and Blogger are easy fixes, these site providers can’t do as much for your SEO – see point 9. More on that here and here and here. Purchase a domain that is your author name or as close to that as possible. More on that here.
7. Make it easy for your readers to find you. Include your website and social media links in your bio wherever allowed including the back or front of your book.
8. Include information about your other books. If you have published more than one book be sure to include information about your other books and purchase links in each book. Encourage readers to leave reviews for your books.
9. SEO. If you have already got your website up and running, work on your SEO. What is SEO? It’s short form for Search Engine Optimisation. In a nutshell, there is no single fix for SEO. It is ongoing. If you are using WordPress.org you can sign up for the plugin known as Yoast. Sign up to Google Webmaster for better control. This will also help you understand how people find your site. More on that here. Here’s how Google Webmaster is different from Google Analytics. If you are thinking of using Google Adwords to boost your visibility, it has worked for some authors. More on that here and here.
10. Make it easy for readers to share your site. Include share buttons or if you have a WordPress site use the Shareholic plugin.
11. Purchase links for your books. Your website is a gateway for readers to purchase your books. Make sure all purchase links are up to date on your site. You can even sign up to be an Amazon affiliate and encourage your readers to do the same if they would like you to help sell your books. Each sale they make earns them something. Amazon encourages you do this and shows you how. More on that here.
12. Improve your blog posts with keywords, tags and categories. Your goal as an author is visibility. The more you blog about what is relevant to you, the more your target audience is able to find you. More on that here.
13. Create a promotional kit. This can be a print or online catalogue of all your work and contains more details about you. This can be one page or more but it has to be as attractive as possible. More on that here and here.
14. Discussion questions. Include discussion pointers and questions at the end of your book. This makes your book more accessible to book clubs and increases reader interaction. You can also share a series of this on your website. More on that here.
15. Sign up for Twitter. Social media is only a waste of time if all you do is talk about your book. Twitter can help you build relationships with your target audience. Reach out to others who write your genre. Interact. I cannot say this enough. If someone asks you a question, answer. Get involved in Twitter discussions. Participate in Twitter chats. More on that here.
16. Learn about hashtags. How do you find people with similar interests? Use Twitter’s search function to look for hashtags. For example, #fantasy, #yalit will show you other people who are sharing content related to these hashtags. More on that here. And please, no more than 2 or 3 hashtags in a single sentence or description. The goal is to meet others with your interests not create sentences that don’t make sense.
17. Create a hashtag that is yours. Twubs lets you register your own hashtag. SumAll helps you track it. Twitter only allows 140 characters so keep your hashtag to less than 10 words. This leaves you with enough space to include other hashtags and other words.
18. Create your Amazon author page. I see so many authors skip this step and I don’t understand why. Amazon offers guidelines on how you can do this and it will help readers to find you more easily.
19. Join Goodreads. Yes, many bad things have been said about this place. But many good things have also been said about this place. It is a still a place where many, many readers meet to discuss books. Be nice, approach others. Again, interact. If your book is already published, you have the option to create a Goodreads author page, do this. Remember, all of this increases your visibility on the world wide web. More on that here.
20. Become a guest blogger. As of early 2014, Google and WordPress.com have become very strict about duplicate content on blogs so you will need to submit original content. Approach blogs with your target audience and ask them if you can write for them. See what their requirements are. However ‘fussy’ a blogger may seem to you, please remember that blogs are second homes to many so be nice. More on that here.
21. Host other authors. Again, original content is king. Be careful when asking others to write a guest post for your website. Make sure the content is relevant to your target audience. Minimise participating in book blasts that send out a single post to a huge amount of bloggers. If you do participate, personalise posts as best as you can. More on that here.
22. Join blog hops. Hops are an interesting way to meet people. Some hops can be genre specific where you will have to write a post on a specific topic, most are generic ones where you will either have to sign up with a small fee that goes towards a giveaway or you will have to sponsor a gift card. More on that here.
23. Blog comments. So you’ve got your smoking website, you’ve started to blog, you’ve joined the platforms that need joining but your site has nothing more than a few visitors. Remedy this by visiting and following other people’s blogs. Again, keep it relevant. If you find a post that reaches out to you, leave a comment. Most sites allow a backlink to your site so people will be able to come back to your blog. When people comment at your blog, be sure to respond. More on that here.
24. Cash & gift card giveaways. As tedious and as expensive as it may seem to put one together, these are not a waste of time. Everyone likes a freebie. Yes, you will meet the giveaway junkies who won’t bat an eyelid in the direction of your book but remember the long-term goal, visibility. Promote your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter and GoodReads. Let it run for no less than 3 weeks. Repeat at least once every two months. More on that here. Facebook has recently changed their policy on giveaways in return for likes and Google Plus has never allowed this so be sure to take this into account when creating a giveaway.
25. Book giveaways. Utilise sites likes Goodreads, Library Thing and BookBuzzr to create book giveaways. Utilise KDP Select for at least one term and be sure to promote your free days. This helps with increased verified book reviews which in turns helps with your visibility on Amazon. More on that here.
26. Monthly newsletter. I highly recommend Mailchimp for this. The key to monthly newsletters is pulling readers to your blog. So don’t make this about you. Make it about your readers. Yes, you can mention a new release but include competitions, things they don’t already know or topics of general interest. More on that here.
27. Work with other authors. Anthologies are a good idea but so are discussion blog posts. Write a post on a certain topic but include opinions of other authors. Be controversial, draw attention to topics that interest you which in turn will attract readers to your blog.
28. Create a book trailer. It’s a lot of work but Google search loves videos and images so this will give your visibility a major boost. More on that here.
29. Facebook page. In general, I recommend creating only one page that focuses on you as an author. Creating a single page for every book is time consuming to manage and if you have only one book published, it is redundant. Facebook has changed their search algorithms more than once in 2014 so page visibility is also a key issue. Attract your readers with competitions and by posting relevant topics other than your book. Essentially you want readers to share your posts from your Facebook page. More on that here.
30. Pinterest & Instagram. Visual images will help readers connect with you. You can also promote your author brand and books with quote images by you and character sketches. More on that here.
31. YouTube and Google Hangouts. Don’t underestimate the power of video. Create live readings with chapters from your book or organise discussions with other authors and readers. More on that here.
32. Skype. Approach online and offline book clubs. Most book clubs are open to having Skype discussions with their readers. Alternatively, they can also send you their questions via email and you can answer them via a blog post. More on that here.
33. Google plus. It may seem that Google themselves are sometimes confused by this feature given that things have changed so many times with how Google plus influences blog authors. But it remains a key element to your visibility as it is still controlled by Google who also controls the largest search engine. More on that here.
34. Create a pitch letter. Please do this as early as you can. Most bloggers and readers have long queues and asking them to review your book right this instant is NOT going to happen. The sooner you have a pitch letter to send to readers asking them to review your book the better for you. When sending pitch letters, be mindful of the review policy of each blogger. More on that here.
35. Early book reviews. Strategise your approach so that you have minimum 25 reviews within the first three weeks of your book being published. Not all tour companies or bloggers will be able to meet this deadline so approach more bloggers than you need and work with more than one tour company. More on that here.
36. Book launch. A book launch is more than a single Facebook post and repeated posts about how good your book is. Organise an online or offline launch with creative activities and giveaways. Plan in advance, at least 2 months before. Book advertising spots on book blogs and book related websites such as GoodReads, Author Marketing Club, Book Bub and so on. Some may require a minimum number of reviews so keep them in view for when you have enough reviews. Repeat advertising at least once every three months, although monthly advertising achieves better results. More on that here.
37. Approach bloggers for reviews. I recently met an author who told me she had set a goal of receiving 500 reviews for her book in one year. I found this admirable for many reasons. She had a clear defined goal. 500 reviews in a year is 42 reviews a month. She will probably have to approach 1000 bloggers or more to achieve her goal and work with more than one blog tour company but she had a goal which some authors don’t. Some bloggers take more time to review your books and if you are signed up with Netgalley it can take six months or more. Do not write these off. Reviews are reviews. The key to successful book marketing is long-term visibility. No point putting all your effort and resources into the first three months and then expecting miracles from the the fourth month onwards.
38. Approach Goodreads members for reviews. Not all Goodreads members have blogs but based on their Goodreads following and reading preferences, ask them nicely if they would like to post a review for your book. Reviews are never an easy task because most readers who accept review requests are quickly faced with more books than they can handle so be patient. A review is a reader’s opinion of your work. Respect this. Even if it means they understood it differently than you expected. Do not email or harass reviewers into saying what you want said.
39. Approach Amazon reviewers. Author Marketing Club recently made this very easy for authors. Approach those with similar interests to your book and not everyone you can find. More on that here. Again, not everyone will say yes and not everyone will have good things to say. Don’t attempt to force feed reviewers your opinion to change their opinion. All that time spent on arguing can be better spent approaching other reviewers and writing your next book.
40. Work on your author brand. With multiple social media platforms, be sure that each offers a similar description of who you are. Stick to one name, one picture and where possible one description. This helps readers to find you more easily and recognise your work. More on that here.
41. Social media timing & calendar. Timing is everything even online. Depending on where you are, start to map out timings when your blog posts get the most response. Schedule posts in advance. Evaluate your social media platforms and plan out your posts and availability. No one expects you to be everywhere all at once and you still need time to write. More on that here and here.
42. Reader interaction. Ask readers to send you pictures of them reading your book. Share this on social media. Be respectful of a reader’s privacy and don’t forget to remove personal identifiers such as home address or phone numbers.
43. Make readers a part of your book. Ask readers to name your next character or identify a location for you.
44. Merchandising. Design simple items you can mail to your readers as a token of appreciation. Better yet, if you have a small group of readers who go out of their way to support you, send them gifts for Christmas or their birthdays. These can include bookmarks, fridge magnets and so on. Vistaprint has some good options.
45.Business cards. Remember, self-publishing is a business. And just like other businesses, you need to introduce yourself to people. Moo has great options for creative, memorable business cards.
46. Public readings. As much as social media helps with an author brand, local appearances are also a great boost for your visibility. Talk with your local library, bookshops, schools or community centres about public readings.
47. Offline book tours. Organise short trips to places around you to meet with readers. Approach local authors or bookshops within the area to help. You may not sell boxes of books but again the key to this is visibility.
48. Local newspapers, magazines and radio. Approach local media outlets about interviews or joining their causes. For print publications ask them if you can write an article.
49. Organise a street team. Online or offline, it works in your favour to have a group of people who are dedicated to sharing your work. Keep the group small so it easier to manage and if you have problems getting one going, you can get someone to do it for you. More on that here.
50. Host Q&A sessions with your readers. You can do this via a Google Hangout, your Facebook page or as a blog post. Ask them to email you questions and answer one or two a week.
51.Get feedback from your readers. Use polls or online surveys to ask them how you can improve and what else they would like to see from your website.
52. Stand for something other than your book. Support a cause. Be open but don’t brag about this on social media. Be charitable. Look up charities online or offline that you can contribute too. Share this with your readers. One author, I know recently organised a cooking session at her local orphanage with her readers. Yes, it didn’t sell her any books on that day but she contributed towards a good cause and interacted with her readers in real life.
BONUS Revisit, rethink, revise. Give each marketing effort at least three months before you change it. Given that there are so many books and readers may not immediately hop and skip to buy or review your book, you must understand that some marketing efforts take far longer for results to trickle in. What worked for your friend’s book, may not work for yours and vice versa. Every three months, revisit your marketing plan. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Change and try again.
It’s a lot to take in, I know. But like I said at the beginning try one thing a week and you will eventually get there. All the best with marketing your book and building your author brand. If there are any more ideas you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.
Disclosure: As you can see, this post has external links to other sites that also offer paid services and promotions. These external links do not serve as endorsements. I did not receive any monetary compensation to include these links and the links were included based on my own experiences from working with authors.