Marketing a book properly is equally as important as writing an excellent book in the first place, they go hand in hand, and one element alone won’t bring you success.
But marketing a book can also feel like a second job, and a confusing one at that, because there’s a lot of information out there, including plenty of misinformation, and the reality is what works for one author and their books may not work for you, at least not in the exact same way.
In fact, finding success as an author relies a lot on not only understanding different marketing and branding strategies, but understanding how to assess what’s working, and being able to pivot when needed to stay on a positive trajectory.
So let’s dig into the top challenges and solutions and get you on the right path!
Problem #1: Limited Budget
I hear this a lot from authors who don’t have a lot to spend on marketing. Or maybe you’ve started pricing publicity campaigns and feel like they’re just out of your range. I get it. But there is definitely a solution.
First off, figure out what you can comfortably spend and then start emailing a few firms and be very upfront about your budget. When I talk to authors a lot of times they seem embarrassed by what they can spend – don’t be! We all have to start somewhere.
If you’ve emailed some PR firms like mine and still can’t find a good fit with your budget, let’s look at a few things you can do on your own.
- Focus on cost-effective marketing channels like social media, blogging, and email newsletters. Focus on building your reader list. Even if you do hire a firm to help you market, this reader list is still invaluable to have.
- Collaborate with other authors for cross-promotion to expand your reach without additional costs. And in fact, even if you’re hiring a book marketing firm, you should still network with other, similar authors
Problem #2: Limited Time
Just when you thought the hard work was over, a reality check comes knocking on your office door in the form of marketing. Authors (regardless of how they are published) are always balancing other commitments, family, responsibilities – the list goes on. Oh! And of course, you’d like to be writing another book, right?
I get it, I’m an author and I feel the same way. If it wasn’t for my team helping me market my book, I’m honestly not sure anything would get done. Between running a book marketing and PR firm, writing books and, you know, life in general, there’s not a lot of time left over for other things. This is why I always encourage authors to start with one thing, and we’ll dig into that more below.
- It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of all the new book promotion ideas that flood your way, but not all of it will work for your book – and also, you don’t have to do all of it right now. There’s a belief in the industry that the launch of your book is like shooting a cannon. Lots of power, lots of *bang* and maybe even some fireworks. The truth is this: the best kind of book marketing is long-term marketing. Most authors don’t see a lot of return in the first 30 days of their book launch, maybe not even in the first 90 days. Remember you’re seed planting and it takes a bit of time for these to germinate and grow. So create a manageable marketing schedule by setting aside a specific time each day or week for promotional activities. We have a cool marketing planner (yes, it’s free!) that can help you get started!
- Delegate any tasks you can.
- Don’t feel like you need to be on every single social media site. If you’re new to all of this book promotion and book marketing *stuff* I recommend starting with one social media site and adding more sites once you’ve gotten the hang of all of this.
Problem #3: Identifying Your Target Audience
Yikes, this is a big one. So many times I speak with authors who have no real idea who their audience is, or who they wrote for. And this matters because targeting to the wrong readers is like trying to sell a puppy to a cat person. They may think your puppy is adorable, but you’ll never make the sale. The same is true for book promotion. And marketing to the wrong people can cost you time and money. And it’s also, frankly, discouraging. So let’s look at how you can fix this.
- Stephen King was once quoted as saying that a good author is also a good reader and this is true, but moreover you *must* be a fan of your genre. Read in your genre, know what readers want and expect. Your book does have to fit a particular mold, and this is where being too unique actually becomes a hindrance and can slow down how quickly you start moving the needle.
- Follow other, similar authors to you and see what they’re putting out online (also, buy their books and read them), be honest with yourself – is there a market match? Because if there isn’t, you’re likely sitting in the wrong genre.
Problem #4: Fierce Competition
I get it, there are a lot of books published each day in the US – 8,216 to be exact, and yes, that number is daunting. And book publishing is highly competitive. But here’s the thing: the majority of authors don’t do anything to market their books. I’m not kidding. If I had a dime for every time I spoke with an author who said something to the effect of, “My book has been out for a while, I was hoping it would gain traction on its own.” I’d be writing you from my summer villa in the South of France.
- Stop focusing on the competition, unless you’re using it to inspire more, new work, or you’re engaging with other, similar authors (you are, aren’t you?), then just forget about who else is publishing their books and how many new books have been released this week in your genre. The sad truth is that there are a lot of shortcuts available to authors these days, from AI writing all or portions of your book, to self-designed covers – and, while we all love a shortcut, when it comes to publishing a book, shortcuts don’t generally equate to a quality book or book sales.
- Find your people, find your tribe – this goes back to what I said earlier, be hyper-focused on who your reader is and where you will find them.
- Get a professional book edit done and a professional cover. Don’t scrimp on either of these.
Problem #5: Creating Online Visibility
I get it, visibility takes time. But start with the easy stuff, start with your website and one social media site. Yes, I said one. But then, don’t ignore or overlook Amazon. There’s a lot of free stuff you can do on that site to enhance your online visibility, let’s dig in.
- Create a website if you don’t have one. Make it easy. If you’re short on funds, there are a lot of places that will literally just walk you through the steps to create a basic site for under $500.
- Pick one social media site and stick with that site until you feel like you’ve mastered it, until you feel comfortable with what your audience wants and responds to. And if you want to branch out into another site at that juncture, then go for it.
- Don’t ignore Amazon. Make sure your keywords are you to speed, add your categories or change them up. Enhance your author bio with content you maybe forgot the first time around – won an award? Add it! Also, consider adding A+ content to your Amazon book page – or ask your publisher to do it for you.
Problem #6: Building a Platform
The industry talks about an author’s platform all the time. But what is it, really? Well, it’s your website, your social media account(s), your newsletter, your blog if you have one, and sites like Goodreads. Sounds like a lot, huh? Here are some tips.
- A newsletter is kind of a must, even if you were to tell me that you could only drum up 5 followers (and one of them is your mom) I would still encourage you to start one. Create a direct link to your readers and start this process early!
- Always, always, always engage with your readers. If they write you, write them back. Don’t post and ditch on social, respond to everyone who responds to your posts.
- And as a way to entice readers to your newsletter, offer fun, additional content like book excerpts, behind-the-scenes insights, or bonus material to keep readers interested.
Problem #7: Measuring Effectiveness
Ok I’ll admit, this one is tricky. Authors often want a direct correlation between an ad they ran on Facebook and book sales, and granted, that’s not without merit, but it’s often tough to track. Authors also want to know the ROI in getting bloggers or influencers to review their book – the answer is: it’s not that simple. But there are still things you can do to keep a tighter hold on your marketing efforts. Let’s unpack a few!
- Bitly links are great ways to track link clicks, so use them whenever you can.
- Google Analytics installed on your website is fantastic to track traffic patterns and it’s super easy to install, it’s a tiny bit of code and even if you’re self-designing your own website, most platforms like WordPress, etc. offer quick plug-ins to help with this.
- Amazon ads are great, but the reporting on them leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re running ads on Amazon (or anywhere) keep track of *all* of your sales when you kick off any ad sets and ignore the stats that Amazon gives you because these are often delayed and, in some cases, wrong.
Problem #8: Getting Book Reviews
Yep, this is another tough one. Getting genuine (and positive) book reviews is crucial for credibility, but it can be difficult to persuade readers to leave reviews or secure reviews from reputable sources. So what can an author do? Let’s explore some solutions.
- Spend some time getting to know bloggers, bookstagrammers, and influencers in your market – and start this process early. Authors often ask me what they can do while they’re waiting for their book to go live on Amazon – well this is one thing you can do!
- Once you have that list, offer Advance Review Copies (ARCs) to potential reviewers, book bloggers, and influencers.
- Run occasional giveaways or provide incentives for readers to leave reviews on platforms like Amazon and Goodreads.
Problem #9: An Ineffective Book Cover
There’s an art to creating a great book cover and if you’re not sure if your book cover is right for your genre, or there isn’t another clear reason why your book isn’t selling, maybe it’s time to get back to the drawing board.
- It’s easy to say, “Just invest in a professional cover designer” and yes, there’s that, but you have to know what you want and that’s where this often falls apart. So spend some time sifting through your genre either on Amazon or (even better) go to a bookstore and nose around.
- Ask a bookstore owner or manager for their input. I’ve done this a bunch of times with authors I work with who are uncertain about the cover they chose. And bookstore folks are the front-line people, if you can impress them, you know you have a winner.
Problem #10: Everything Changes
It feels like you just got used to one thing, and something changes. Like the recent Amazon book category changes – and BOOM, you feel like you’re starting from scratch.
- Follow people you trust to get your publishing industry news from and don’t slack on staying up to date on their content.
- Don’t feel like you need to hop on every single trend. Sure, some people sell a boatload of books on TikTok, and some of it may seem like chance, but most of it was just a lot (a lot) of hard work, so before you jump headlong into any new trend, make sure that it makes sense for you and your book.
- One of the biggest pieces of advice I give to authors is this: be consistent. Whatever you do, do it regularly. That alone will separate you from the pack. Find the things you can tackle yourself, in between all of your other obligations, and stick with those things till you’ve mastered them.
Remember that consistency and adaptability are key to a successful book marketing journey.
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