A couple of weeks ago I talked about how to promote a book based on a well-planned publishing schedule (see link in resources at the bottom if you missed it). But book promotion also relies on planning – because book marketing is essential.
And though authors realize it’s essential, it’s rarely included in any kind of long-range planning. Yet there are huge benefits to mapping out your entire year.
For one thing, planning drives purpose and grounds you in a way that no free-floating marketing ideas ever will. I love brainstorming and letting the creativity fly, but if you don’t pave the runway, you won’t stay on track.
Why do I refer to it as a runway and not a road? I have a friend in the industry who refers to marketing as the long runway – how long that runway is depends on your goals and much like a jet, the bigger and more heftier the plane, the longer the engines need to ramp up and take off.
You should approach the question of how to promote a book in the same way. If you don’t have a book coming out this year, for example, your runway may be shorter, while if you do, your runway will be much longer.
Book marketing is often driven by your publishing schedule and will vary depending on genre, goals, market, etc. So for this post I’ll get as narrow as I can, in terms of plotting out ideas and paving the runway, so your book promotion can take off in the new year!
Start with Long-Range Book Marketing Goals
Step one in how to promote a book is identifying your goals.
First, get away from big, flashy goals: I want to sell 10,000 books, I want a Netflix movie, I want to be on national television.
There’s nothing wrong with goals like this, but often authors put these goals out there with no roadmap (or runway) to actually make them happen. It’s a bit like saying: I want to go from a size 14 to a size 6 with no real plan to get there.
This is the number one reason why goals fail (whether it’s book or life related). There’s nothing wrong with starting with the end in mind, but remember you’ll have to set up the steps to get there.
Let’s say you’re releasing a book this year and you want to get 100 new reviews on it within the first 90-days. What will you do to get there?
If this is your first book, you might start by creating a great website and a newsletter to start building your fan base. Why? Because most reviews don’t just “appear” – they’re left by fans. Sure, you can “buy” reviews, but most review-only services will only get you up to 10, maybe 20 reviews.
So your end goal of 100 reviews, now has its first steps: build a website, add a newsletter. Within each of those steps are micro-steps that you’ll need to implement.
Like, for example, actually sending out your newsletter and maybe getting on social media to start building your reader/fan base.
But what about that movie deal and the TV appearances – can you make goals for that?
Absolutely, but these types of goals should be very, very long term goals – unless you have an existing platform that will help drive these. Like you’ve done a ton of national television and you’re a known expert in the field you’re writing about, or you work in the TV industry as a writer and know how to make deals.
Otherwise, you’ll need to plan out all of your micro goals between getting published and getting famous. As you can see, thinking about how to promote a book asks you to dig deep.
Let’s look at some individual publishing situations and their accompanying plans!
Not yet published, but probably publishing in 2022:
Now is a great time to lay the foundation for your success. While you’re finishing that book, start to look at your branding. How will you show up in the world? What’s your reader promise?
Setting up your website is next – it’s never a bad idea to start this part of the process early. While you’re researching looks and covers, get a sense of what your readers look for in a book.
If you’ve written a historical book, for example, readers are accustomed to websites with lots of content. If you’re a non-fiction author, let’s say self-help – you’re going to need a blog for sure as well as some time to update it.
Setting up a basic infrastructure is an important foundational component of how to promote a book, and planning early gives you time to pace your goals in such a way that they don’t interfere with finishing your book – while also taking into account the investments you’ll want to make in good web design, etc.
And here’s another thought: take some classes. Start attending writing events whether virtually or in-person. You should be doing this anyway (even if you have 11 books out) but I always recommend starting early. Get in the habit of learning.
You’re publishing your first novel this year:
Hopefully you have your website and brand focused on your market, and you’re ready to go. Your goal should be to hit the ground running as soon as your book comes out, so if you’re hiring a book promotion company to help you, start interviewing them early.
Make a plan that includes what you want to do on your own and what you’d like to hire out. Get more creative than “I’ll just run some Facebook ads” because believe me, I hear that a lot from authors. It works for some, but not for all.
Be mindful of what works in your industry. Not sure? Then it’s time to start researching your marketplace for best practices in your genre regarding how to promote a book.
Follow other authors in your market and see what’s working for them. Sign up for their mailing lists, follow them on social and share their stuff. Comment on their posts, get to know your marketplace, and learn from the pros.
This will also help you strategize better.
And what about reviews?
Yes, reviews are great but often that’s the only thing authors focus on. There are a lot more pieces to the book sales pie – reviews are a good slice, but not the only way to sell more books.
Here are some other things to think about as you consider how to promote a book:
- Are you going to do a pre-order? If so, for how long?
- Are you going to do an eBook promo?
- Will you pitch bloggers? Do you have a list? If not, you’ll need to create one or hire this piece out to a book marketing company.
- Are you going to do any local media? I love local media for authors. Grab some local newspapers and magazines (even the free ones at your grocery store) and see whether these outlets might be good places to pitch yourself.
- Local events? They’ll be coming back soon enough, so if you want to do some in-person stuff, this will also require planning.
I could go on about how to promote a book, but you get the idea. All of these smaller steps lead you to bigger pieces and bigger goals. So that movie deal you want with Netflix? Guess what? It’ll require the list above times 20. I’m not trying to discourage you, but there are no shortcuts to this level of success.
You have a book out (or a few) but nothing new coming out this year:
This is no time to ride on your success. If you have some books out and want to keep writing and driving attention to your work, then you’ll want to plan out things that keep your books top of mind.
Maybe creating smaller books – novellas if you’re a fiction author – or other forms of content. Not into creating more content? Maybe some eBook promotions, discounted deals, Amazon ads – and for sure keep your social media humming.
You have a second, third, or fourth book coming out this year:
Now is the time to make all of your other books work for the new one. I love doing promotions with authors who have multiple titles because you can use the prior books to pivot attention to the new one and the new one always helps to drive attention to your prior books, too.
But even for multi-book authors, you still have to do the legwork mentioned above – though your goals might look different this time around. As you consider how to promote a book, think about the tools you might already have in your toolbox.
You may have a mailing list you can call upon to get early cover feedback; you may want to plan some events with your fan base or street team. Maybe you want to involve them more in the process of your book launch in other ways like a contest or early reader access (in exchange for a review).
Consider your options because they’re really endless when you have multiple titles out. You’ve probably done the reviews, you have relationships with bloggers, your plan is set there.
But now is the time to take all of this up to a new level. You’re established, your groundwork is done, your foundation is set.
The Benefits of Planning out How to Promote a Book
One of the biggest reasons you want to create this level of detail in your plan for how to promote a book is because it takes the pressure off of staring at your computer wondering: “how will I promote my book today?” It also helps you to plan financially where you’ll invest and how you’ll spend your book marketing dollars.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the bigger your book marketing goals, the more time you’ll need to ramp up. Here’s a tip: allocate more time than you think you’ll need. You’ll be glad you did.
Track your success: I can’t emphasize this enough. Keep track of everything you’re doing. We have a book marketing planner you’ll love (link below); it’ll help you stay on track by planning out what you are going to do as well as keeping track of what you’ve already done.
Readers matter: In every example above, I mentioned readers, either engaging with them or growing their numbers. One of your main goals, regardless of what your publishing plans are for this year, should be to build your reader base.
A lot of authors like to keep pumping out books and that’s great, but focusing on building your reader list will give you much more traction and will help you get to your goals even faster.
So as you consider how to promote a book in 2021, remember: PLANNING is key. If you need some help, don’t hesitate to get in touch!