I think we can all agree that book marketing promotions and publishing were heavily impacted in 2020. But while many in-person events were canceled, not all of the changes were bad.
In some ways, 2020 leveled the playing field for authors who didn’t have the interest or budget to travel extensively to promote their books. It also sparked creative new ideas that won’t break your book promotion budget.
In this piece, we’re going to look at 21 book marketing predictions, layered with book marketing promotions, that will carry you through 2021 and beyond!
- Experiment with Video. It’s no secret that Zoom meetings and events dominated 2020 – and while this was mostly out of necessity, it’s a trend that’s not going away. In fact, 2021 is going to see an even bigger explosion of this as more folks become familiar with creating video.
If you haven’t familiarized yourself with video promotion or aren’t comfortable being on camera, take some time to get used to being on video. For some of you, this may not sound like a big deal, but I’ve spoken to a lot of authors who are afraid to experiment with new things, like a fun Zoom event, and have missed lots of opportunities.
One thing 2020 has pushed us to do is to get comfortable with technology, and tech is going to greatly impact how author events are done in 2021.
- Plan Creative Author Events. While in-person book signings were largely canceled or postponed, authors really got creative with their events. Some bookstores still hosted author events using a Zoom meeting or Facebook live event.
I think this trend will continue, so if you’re considering more bookstore events in the new year but are still concerned about doing in-person events, try a virtual book talk. It’s a great and creative way to gather more exposure for your book and reach new audiences.
Even as in-person events start popping back up on our 2021 calendars, you’ll still see virtual and video events as part of a creative book marketing and promotion package.
- Collaborate with Other Authors. One thing we saw a lot of this year was greater author collaboration for book marketing and promotion. Authors in similar genres whose book launches were postponed came together to collaborate on virtual book clubs.
Combining forces with three or four authors for an event or other co-promotion is a great way to pull in lots of new readership for your book. Sharing new release newsletter announcements and cross-promoting eBook discounts or other promotions are great ways to build your own audience and help out other authors in the process.
I think author collaboration is not going away, even as this pandemic fades – we’re likely to see a lot of teamwork in 2021 and beyond!
- Visit Virtual Book Clubs. Virtual book clubs have also seen a substantial uptick, understandably since most of us weren’t doing in-person events in 2020. But even more notably, book clubs are finding that these creative ways to meet are actually better for attendance. I mean how fun that you don’t have to get in your car and drive somewhere, right?
Though the camaraderie of an in-person event is a huge draw, a lot of book clubs may continue to meet online, and even if they don’t, they’ve opened the virtual door for future meetings.
We’ve become so accustomed to Zoom meetings this year that many book clubs are considering adopting and adapting their author invitees to include virtual attendees as well.
If you have been putting off pitching yourself to book clubs, now might be a fun time to consider researching a few and pitching them on your book/topic for a future event!
- Consider More MeetUp Events. Speaking of virtual events – in the past Meetups have been hesitant to invite virtual attendees. Many groups were unfamiliar with the technology, but all that’s changed now.
In fact, many of the author groups and book clubs I belong to are eager to roll out more online events, so if you haven’t considered Meetup groups, you might want to give them a second look. Pitching them means more exposure and limited or no travel – which for the foreseeable future is a great way to promote your book without risking your health.
- Consider School Events. In keeping with the virtual event’s theme, schools are another great option for readings, talks, or an author Q&A. Schools of all levels have been inviting authors into their classrooms.
We’ve had authors do readings in schools across the country – all virtual of course. It’s a great way to promote your book to an eager audience. Get in touch with your local schools or reach out to some parents you know.
- Investigate Audio Books. If you haven’t done an audiobook for any of your titles, you may want to consider it. The explosion of audiobook titles is continually increasing, and the pandemic has added to this boom.
Self-publishing audiobooks is not only a big deal but a must for certain genres. If an entire audiobook seems like a big commitment, many authors are using platforms like Spotify to create content using music and words.
Check out “Word of Mouth” in the Free Resources and Downloads section at the end of this post. This is a trend that’s going to continue to grow, and you can get in on the action while it’s still relatively new.
- Give Preferential Treatment to Podcasts: While it may seem like podcasts are a bit like indoor plumbing (everyone seems to have one these days), the growth of this medium can’t be overstated. Back in 2017, the average podcast listener was young-ish – early 30’s and under – but now the demographic is aging as well.
Podcasts pull in listeners of all age groups and because of this, it’s become a go-to for publishing deals as well as movie/TV series deals (see link below to a recent Deadline piece that discusses this).
How you can benefit? I think that 2021 is going to see an even bigger surge in podcasts, so if you’re eager to get into this market, now is the time to plan. Keep in mind that while there are thousands of podcasts, many of them don’t do interviews, and those that do are also hard to score an invite from.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of smaller podcasts that you could pitch yourself to; just be mindful of the fact that they may not have a large listener base. You could also start your own podcast – which isn’t easy but may be worth it, especially if you have a topic that works well episodically.
Podcasts are definitely worth exploring, whether you appear on one or tour the circuit with your book!
- Get into Google Play. There’s a new eBook contender in town, and it’s Google Play. They just upped their royalty to 70%, thereby competing with Amazon.
Google Play is going to continue to grow in popularity in 2021, but you have to register for an account and to gain access (which isn’t always immediate), so if you want to explore Google Play as another resource for selling books, I recommend registering soon!
10. Fortify Your Author Platform. When everything shut down, authors who had mailing lists, and solid platforms, did well. They could communicate one-on-one with their readers, planning virtual events and other online pieces to keep the momentum going.
They could also communicate via their email newsletters about what was happening, new releases, and/or shifting publication dates. The reason this is worth mentioning is that going forward, you are really going to want to focus on your platform.
While there’s a lot of mystery around how to best create and use an author platform for book marketing and promotion, it’s really not that difficult. A platform can be anything from your newsletter, social media following, speaking career, business – anything that connects you to readers.
An author platform is crucial in your marketing because being connected to readers involves more than just developing a following on Facebook. With a real connection, you can communicate directly, and without a lot of noise, to your followers.
A direct link to your market will be key in the new year. Not sure where to start? Focus on building your mailing list and getting used to consistently communicating with your readers. Just that one element will help you up your book marketing game in 2021.
I’ll be doing more on author platforms as my new book, From Book to Bestseller, launches in 2021, so be sure to look out for that!
- Take Note of the Publishing Explosion. We all had a lot of downtime in 2020, and many of us turned our attention to publishing – putting out hundreds of thousands of new titles. Going forward, we’ll see even more of that as many of the books folks worked on in 2020 are released in 2021.
Why does this matter? Well, I don’t at all want to discourage you from publishing, but I do recommend you up your game, as competition will be fierce.
You’ll also need to start your marketing efforts earlier because lots of authors may be pitching bloggers, media, and Amazon reviewers. There will be no waiting till the last minute for successful book marketing and promotion in 2021.
- Find Some Facebook Groups. Though Facebook groups aren’t new, interest in them reached a new level in 2020. Authors looking for solid readers found their way into groups that were both general (for example, women’s fiction) and narrower, like groups dedicated to specialties like dietary restrictions (gluten-free recipes), grief and teen suicide, over 50 dating, etc.
As much as the number and variety of Facebook groups exploded, we still haven’t hit the summit. New groups are formed all the time, so the key is finding the right ones for you.
Look for groups that have some traction, consistent comments on posts, and engaged members. It will take some time to build rapport with other group members.
Start by joining one or two groups and begin to share helpful answers to questions people ask or contribute in some other way before you share your book with them.
- Love Local Media. We all experienced a lot of supply chain issues this past year – and Amazon prioritized almost everything over print book shipments, which was really frustrating. Because I think these issues will continue into the new year, it’s worth having another look at your local media.
If you haven’t pitched yourself there, maybe it’s time you do. Make it a focus in 2021 by looking for local opportunities or anchoring your message to something already in the news.
Hometown heroes and heroines can sell a lot of books locally, and with supply chains stuttering to keep up, local media can be a gift horse.
- Selling from Your Website. Maybe this isn’t something you really want to do, but if you’re eager to keep selling print books, and if you maybe experienced some significant delays because of the supply chain issues I mentioned in the previous point, it might be time to consider setting up a store and an ordering system on your website.
Your sales funnel doesn’t have to be complicated. You can easily add a PayPal or Amazon shopping button that will allow you to fulfill orders – even drop ship them to local addresses.
If you’re dead set against an online store, make sure your titles are available in digital formats so shoppers aren’t frustrated as they wait for your books.
- Add eBooks to Your Formats. Surprisingly not every author I speak with has digital versions of their titles. Some haven’t gotten around to creating them, while other authors think that their book isn’t right for eBook audiences.
If Amazon is your go-to for book sales, make sure you have a digital format of your book. eBooks saved the day for lots of authors this year. But if your audience reads mostly in print – return back to point #14 and consider doing some website sales!
- Cross-Promote Your Book. We saw a lot of cross-promotion in 2020. Some of this I already covered in point #3.
One new version of this involved books being promoted alongside a movie or a streaming series. Another included books in similar genres being pushed out as one campaign.
You can do this, too – and you should because this trend is only going to get bigger in 2021. Pair your book with a hot book series that’s out (“If you like that, you’ll like this”) or a television series or movie that’s similar to your book topic.
While vaccines are on the horizon, it’s still going to be a while before everything goes back to normal, and readers love pairings. Plus, this easy book marketing and promotion trick will put your book in the hands of an audience that wants more entertainment similar to their current faves.
- Educate Yourself. If the surge in online class enrollment is any indication, people like using extra time to get smarter. Join them.
There are loads of great free online courses that can help you learn more about marketing, budgeting, and writing. There’s a lot to learn, but the more you know, the better you’ll do, and the more you’ll avoid costly mistakes.
- Market to the Pandemic. I’m a bit lukewarm on this and have discussed this on my podcast. I think books about the pandemic – particularly memoirs in nonfiction and fiction in general – had better be insanely unique.
With so many of us Covid-weary, a book that addresses the pandemic had better be exquisitely well-done.
- Tend to Your Mailing List and Fans. I talked about author platforms previously, but this is really worth a second bullet point: build your fan base. Not a fan base on Facebook, or Instagram, but one that you have access to via your mailing list.
A solid mailing list is crucial not just during trying Covid-times, but anytime. A mailing list and a fan base you can access anytime may become a make or break resource for authors in the new year.
Not sure what you’d put in a newsletter? Worry about that later. Get your mailing list built. Trust me when I say that this is one of the best ways to stay in touch with existing fans and grow your reader base.
- Only Connect. We’ve been encouraged, for almost a year now, to distance ourselves from others. And this has only brought about a real need for human connection.
Reaching out to folks in a personal way is so important. When you’re addressing a Facebook group, your email list, a Meetup group, or another audience, be personal first. Send hand-written thank you notes, take the time to craft thoughtful responses – be human.
The authors I’ve seen who do better in their book marketing and promotion efforts are the ones who take the time to get personal with their readers. Not in a creepy, oversharing kind of a way, but in an appreciative way that acknowledges that readers chose to spend time reading their books.
- Bring Your AA+ Game. It’s no longer a matter of bringing your A-game – 2021 is going to demand your AA+ game.
As I said previously, lots and lots of books will get published this year, and the majority of these authors will be by newbies trying to find their way. Some will do a fantastic job at branding and marketing – but the majority, sadly, won’t.
Don’t be part of the latter group. Learn all you can, prep your book release, work with a designer on a fantastic cover, and be prepared to roll up your sleeves. Book marketing doesn’t have to be a 24/7 endeavor, but if your book is your passion (and you produced a quality book), your efforts will feel much less daunting.
The pandemic has really pushed changes in book marketing and promotion that are, in many cases, for the better. Lots of exciting new book tools are either on the horizon or already available, so jump on a few of these ideas and let’s see where the book marketing train takes you.
Have a safe, healthy, and super successful 2021!
Resources and Free Downloads