Promotion can feel overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of promotional opportunities out there, and more every day. It can feel like you need to be everywhere, and do everything, which is impossible– especially if you’re writing the next book.
So I’ve narrowed the discussion down to what I’ll call Must-Dos, in that they’re a good foundation for you to start. Some may consider even this too much, and if that fits with your personal book goals, that’s fine. But for authors who want to promote their books and try to reach new readers, but don’t want to feel married to their computers, this is a good starting point.
Online, you should have an author website, an Amazon Author Page, a Goodreads page, a social media presence all of which can help you get reviews for your book.
Your in person promotion can include networking with booksellers, libraries, fans and other authors, through live events like signings, book talks and conferences. Print copies of your book are a must if you’re considering any of these, and marketing materials that support your author brand are also nice to have
Who here has started a website?
As we talked about in Session 2, your beginning author website should include basic information about you and your book. That can include your biography, a photo, and information about your book, like the cover, the description, reviews, bonus content which can be a lot of fun to create, and links to your sales pages w/the various online retailers.
It can also include a mailing list sign-up, links to your social media accounts, and possibly, a blog.
Blogging can be extremely helpful for non-fiction authors to
establish their expertise in their subject area, share excerpts from their
book, or posts about topics that are related to the book, but not actually in
it. For fiction authors, it’s helpful as well, to give readers a behind the
scenes look at the book, your writing process, or things about you that aren’t
related to writing at all, but make you an interesting well-rounded person.
These can include your job, other hobbies, your family, pets, food, whatever
This is my new website, still under construction, but I’ll walk you through some of the things I’ve done.
My domain name is elizabethharmonauthor, which matches my Facebook page name and my Twitter handle, eharmonauthor.
At the top is my author tagline, “Feel good fiction with a dash of different, and authentic heart” and I’ve used red as an accent color throughout the site, to give my marketing a cohesive look. I have a Welcome letter that talks about my writing and my books, and I hope will entice visitors to look around.
The page on the left is actually the last page of the website, and it’s where I plan to host periodic contests and giveaways which I’ll promote through social media. The idea is to build traffic to the site, and improve it’s visibility, while introducing more people to my books.
Each of my books has a dedicated page on my website, that includes the cover, descriptive copy, buy links, blurbs from reviewers, and that fun bonus content I mentioned.
I created trailers for my books using Windows Movie Maker, which I’ve also posted on YouTube and other social media. I also have photos that relate to the book and characters.
This is the contact page which features a link to contact me through email, links to my social media, and a mailing list sign-up. Actually the mailing list sign up is on each of the pages. I’ve heard said that the mailing list is an authors most valuable promotional tool. I’m not sure I agree with that– I’ve honestly found in person networking and social media to be more effective, but its still worth building a list. I have added subscribers through my mailing list, through giveaways I’ve run on romance blogs, social media, and also through a sign-up sheet at book signings.
I began by using MailChimp which is an excellent, easy to use platform that’s free until you reach 2000 subscribers. After that, it’s $35 a month, which was more than I wanted to pay, since I only send email when I have news to share– no more than 3-6 times a year. When I redid my site, I added a mailing list plug in which is free. I’m still learning to use it, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but I can’t complain about the price.
Another thing I plan to add before my next release is a
media kit about myself and my work. I created it to help with outreach for my
previous release and found it enormously helpful. During a book release, authors are asked to
provide the same information over and over, so having that collected in one
easy file was great.
The last component of my website is my blog. I call it Ramblings of a Romance Writer Girl which incorporated my original domain name, and also the sweet nickname my husband bestowed on me back when I first started writing. The blog mostly covers writing or book-related topics. I don’t write a lot about my personal life or my family– because their lives aren’t fair game for posts. Occasionally, I’ll write about controversies going on in the publishing world– or the larger one– but generally I keep things light and friendly and want everyone to feel welcome. But a blog is a very personal thing, so what’s most important is that it’s an authentic expression of who you are.
A few blogging guidelines- 300 words is a good average length. Use photos that you’ve taken when possible, as it avoids the issue of copyright infringement and having to get permission to use an image. That said, there are some good options out there for royalty-free images– Creative Commons offers a search feature to let you search for photos that are free for public use, or ask only for attribution. You can also subscribe to a stock art service, which is a good idea if you’re also doing a lot book promotion creating ads and book trailers. These can run about $100 for a year. I’ve used Deposit Photo and like being able to go in and quickly find a photo when I need one.
Lastly, promote your blog posts on your social media accounts, your Amazon Author page and Goodreads. You can do this either by manually posting links to your blog, or by setting up an automatic cross-posting option.
Which brings me to the Amazon Author page.
This is a neat little feature that you can access through Amazon Author Central and includes a lot of the same info that your website has. It’s also an opportunity for readers to follow you and learn about new releases, blog posts, and more. It’s also where people are shopping for books, so it’s very useful to authors that people visiting your author page have easy access to buy more of your books.
Can you use this instead of a website? You could, but Amazon owns the real estate and makes the rules, you don’t. Also if you’re selling on other retail sites beside Amazon, not all of them offer comparable pages, so you’re missing valuable opportunity to connect with those customers.
Who is familiar with Goodreads?
If you’re not, you should definitely get acquainted. It’s a social media site dedicated to readers and authors. Most users join as readers to list and review the books they’ve read, but GR also allows authors to set up a page for themselves and for their books.
Books can include links to your social media, retailer buy links and more. Mine links to my social media pages, my Amazon page and also to my blog. I’ve put the book trailers and a short excerpt of each book up too.
GR offers a paid advertising program, and opportunities to do giveaways.
All of these online connections can be used to help you get one of the most important promotional tools– reviews. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts for getting them.
First, reach out to bloggers and reviewers in your genre, if possible well ahead of your publication. Because most bloggers and reviewers are overwhelmed by requests, it can take months to get a review Follow their submission instructions exactly, be polite and be patient.
It’s fine to encourage your readers to leave reviews on Goodreads and retail sites. The reviews don’t have to be long, a star rating and a few sentences count, and will help boost your visibility and your social credibility. That goes for less flattering reviews, too. Think about it. When you a product with nothing but stellar 5 star reviews, what’s your reaction? Having some more critical reviews gives readers a sense that your book is being reviewed by actual readers and can be believed.
Which leads me to our list of Review Don’ts. Top on the list, is purchase reviews. Like everything else with self-publishing, there are vendors to provide book reviews as well. Some like Kirkus have credibility, but are very expensive, roughly $500. If you’re going to work your personal contacts for reviews– and most authors do– caution them not to disclose your relationship in the review, because Amazon will take the review. While they’re lax about enforcing some rules, they’re strict on that one.
If you’re in Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited, where your payment is determined by the number of pages read, don’t resort to click-farming, book stuffing and other sleazy tactics. While Amazon doesn’t seem as vigilant about police this, your fellow authors will hate you.
Waiting until release day to start blogger coverage. It’s helpful to have reviews and coverage up when your book goes live, and the bigger your release day splash is, the more people are likely to find you. So because bloggers are so backed up, it can take months for a review to post, so start early. Keep in mind, that these are best practices, and advance coverage isn’t always possible. Promoting your book is a long game, rather that a short one
Social media is the biggest piece of your online promotion.
I’ll go through each of the major sites to give you an idea of how they work,
and who is using them. Remember, you don’t have to be everywhere. Decide which
is the best for reaching your audience and focus your efforts. Most of these
sites offer paid advertising to help expand your reach.
I’m going in order of the most used social media sites.
You Tube is number one with both adults and teens, and as you probably know is a video sharing site. It’s a great place for your book trailers, you can also use it for video talks about writing, or your book topic. Authors with non-fiction books can use it for demonstrations, to record live audience events, or little clips that relate to your book topic. Fiction authors can use it much the same way.
Facebook is the second most widely used social media site, with a demographic that’s growing older each year. This probably has more to do with the core audience aging, rather than a big influx of new users who happen to be seniors, but if your ideal reader is over 35, this is definitely a place you want to be. You can be on Facebook two ways– with either a Personal Profile, which is what most social users have, and a Professional Page, which is what businesses use. Personal Profiles collect Friends, Pages collect Likes and Followers. While you can promote your book on a Personal Profile, you’re capped at a certain number of Friends (2000, I think) and being too promotional is going to annoy people. There’s also the issue of keeping your personal life and author life separately. I use a Page as my primary posting point, and share it with my Personal Profile. For items I only want close friends and family to see, I post it directly to my Personal Profile, and don’t put it on the Page at all.
Instagram is popular with teens and young adults, and emphasizes visual content. It’s owned by Facebook, so there’s the opportunity to link your accounts and share content. If you’re a YA author, but also have strong adult readership, this might be a good strategy to consider.
Pinterest is an excellent social media site to consider if your audience is women, as mine is, and if you enjoy posting photos and image-based content. I know of fiction authors who create Pinterest boards for each of their books, with pictures of characters, locations, things that inspired them. It’s also a platform that doesn’t need a lot of interaction, so if time or being “present” on social media is an issue, Pinterest might be a good fit.
If you’re trying to reach teens and young adults, Snapchat should be part of your mix. Posts can be different types of content, similar to FB, but the difference is that the content is short lived, so there’s always something new. Since I don’t use this one, I can’t speak specifically about how it works best but there’s a lot of good information out there, and I’d advise, as with any of these others, to simply open an account and observe other users, especially following other authors for ideas.
LinkedIn is a professional site, and if you’re a fiction
author, it’s probably not going to be part of your mix. Non-fiction authors
however should consider this, especially if your book sells your professional
expertise, such as tax or legal advice, job hunting, or if you want to use your
book to obtain other work– such as freelance writing assignments.
The last social media option I’ll talk about is Twitter, which is used by about a quarter of U.S. adults and a third of teens. Twitter’s short post format fits the elevator pitch format well, but it’s really geared toward conversation. If you’re a person who likes to share your opinions, start debates, this can be a really good way to interact with readers, and have them get to know you and what you care about.
Like in business, marketing yourself as an author is all about making connections. But instead of networking at your local Chamber of Commerce mixer, you’re going to be networking with other authors. We’ve talked already about writers groups, and I should mention that there are also lots of online writers groups you can join, particularly on Facebook, and likely those will lead you to in person events like workshops and conferences.
If your book is in print, you’ll be reaching out to local booksellers as well. Many will offer a local author a book signing, and this can be lots of fun– though I’ll be honest, there are times when I’ve not sold a single book at one of these events. If possible, partner with a couple of other local authors, and promote the event though social media posts targeting a certain geographic area. Booksellers will often want to work with you on a consignment basis, which means that you provide books for them to sell and set the price, while they take a percentage of the sale price, Many have written policies for independent authors, so check their website before you approach them. It’s also helpful to visit the store and see what they carry. We have a lovely independent bookstore in my area, that’s happy to carry books by local authors– ‘provided they don’t write romance novels.
Libraries will hold events catering to writers, so this is a good place to network with other authors, and also to meet the people at the library. Libraries are awesome places to work on your book too, so this can be a great way to open a door. You might offer to give a program about your book’s topic, or donate a book to the library. Some libraries hold large group signings, and though I’ve done several of these, I find them more useful for networking with writers and library staff, than for selling books.
If you’re planning to do in person events, print copies of your book are a necessity. As of yet, there’s no easy way to sign eBooks, other than using post cards, or printed samples. Most often, book signing purchases are impulse buys, so if you don’t have copies readily available, it’s hard to take advantage of that.
You can purchase books for signings at a discounted rate
through retailers or your aggregator, if they offer print. Order well in
advance, because the turnaround can be slow. Get as many as you can comfortable
store- but I’d say no more than 50. They’re also great to donate for prize baskets,
libraries, and online giveaways.
When you’re doing a signing, you’ll want to have an attractive table that might have some items that attract people to come over and talk to you about your book. I have a Team USA scarf draped across my table which pertains to my Olympic figure skater characters, and I’ve also given out Russian candy, which is a great conversation starter.
Here’s an excellent article about social media that includes examples of authors effectively using each platform: