These days, it’s become easier than ever to write – and sell – books. Whether you’re working on your hot new military sci-fi series or a non-fiction guide to support your consulting business, you have a ton more options for how to promote your book.
There are online platforms like Amazon and iBooks, of course, and you can also sell your book through your own e-commerce website. But just putting a book up for sale doesn’t mean it’ll get noticed.
And isn’t getting noticed the point?
I’m going to start by acknowledging that this is a huge huge topic, about which entire books have been written. (One of my favorites is Joanna Penn’s book, How to Market a Book.)
Some book marketing tactics – like creating sales funnels, email marketing, paid advertising, etc. – are the same no matter what product you’re selling online. The thing is, though, those tactics are the most effective when you’re further along in your writing career and have several books to promote. So in this post I’m going to talk more about the “tribe-building” aspects of marketing a book, rather than the “get-rich-quick advertising” aspects.
(Check out the links at the end of this post for more book marketing advice.)
Be warned that this is the long game. But if you’re interested in building a sustainable career as an author – whether fiction or nonfiction – building your audience, your tribe, is one of the most important marketing things you can do.
Well, that and write more books.
But you already know how to do that one.
How to Promote Your Book
Who needs your book?
On some level, marketing a book is a lot like marketing any other e-commerce product – you’re solving a need for your customers. But unlike a soluble fiber supplement or an app that does your to-do list for you (you guys let me know when you make that one, OK?), the problem your book is solving may not be immediately clear at first. Particularly if it’s fiction.
Who did you write your book for? A nonfiction book may be something that you wrote to promote your expertise or your business, like a definitive guide to social selling written by a sales consultant. In that case, the people who need your book are the same people who need your services: sales professionals who aren’t seeing the results they want.
In my experience most fiction writers – myself included – wrote their books because they had a burning desire to tell their stories. I didn’t first identify a group of people who needed a story about a mother of three who gets possessed by her sisters dead boyfriend before I wrote my first novel, Shifting Borders, I just wrote the novel that I was dying to write.
By putting that book into the world, I’ve found that the people who enjoy it are the sorts of people who like to get caught up reading all night about characters that they really enjoy spending time with. Does anyone need another supernatural thriller novel? Probably not. But have I brought many of my readers a lot of pleasure? Sure!
The goal in answering the question of “who needs your book” is to find out who your readers are – whether you’re trying to build a tribe of people you can tap into to be clients, or you’re trying to build a tribe of people who are eagerly waiting for your next romance novel.
If you’re a fiction author, start by thinking about why you read. What do you love about your favorite authors? What have people told you they love about your book?
For me, I adore getting to know characters and watching their interplay together, while at the same time being desperate to know what happens next. That’s why my favorite books are essentially thrillers with well-developed ensemble casts, no matter which genre shelf they sit on. In Shifting Borders, I didn’t just want to write a ghost story – I wanted to write about the relationship between two sisters.
And, of course, how that already fragile relationship comes under pressure when the younger sister botches her dead boyfriend’s resurrection.
How do you connect with your tribe?
Once you’ve identified the group of people who most need your book, how do you connect with them? The answer is by being open and generous with yourself, and attracting them to you over time.
(Remember, I said this wasn’t the “get rich quick” marketing technique – it’s the “build a sustainable career” marketing technique.)
I recently heard an interview with Ron Vitale, who writes young adult novels. In it, he mentioned that he regularly blogs about anxiety and stress management, because those themes in his books really resonate with his millennial readership. If you’ve written a nonfiction book, of course, your topic is probably a little better defined.
Social media is another fantastic way to seek out and join the conversation – but remember that it’s a conversation. Don’t go on social media only to flog your own book. Go there to seek out people who are like-minded, and start to build relationships with them. If you’re open and genuine, your social media circles will grow.
Building a mailing list is also a crucial way to build your relationship with your tribe. I won’t talk about the tactics of email marketing here – it’s way too huge a topic for this post – but remember when you email your list that you’re still building a relationship. Be open and honest, and people will listen. Be spammy, and they’ll unsubscribe.
For a great example, I love Laura Vanderkam’s email newsletter. She writes fiction, as well as nonfiction about time management and modern life, and her newsletters are always filled with deeply personal stories and tips for making the most of every day.
Beyond the tribe
Want to know more? I’m still getting started in my book marketing journey, so I’m get a pass you off to the experts.
- Nick Stephenson – Your First 10k Readers – Great marketing advice about sales funnels and email marketing.
- Joanna Penn – The Creative Penn – Lots of fantastic advice, and interviews with other authors
- Mark Dawson – Self Publishing Formula – Here’s your place to learn Facebook advertising and other marketing techniques
Got any advice or questions on how to promote your book? Leave a comment below!
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