Note: This post contains a bunch of terrific links to blog posts and affordable books/ebooks that amount to a terrific, actionable set of resources for learning how to promote your book, developing a specific plan of action, and executing that plan. If you’re in a rush, skip this intro and head straight down to the list of links–we won’t be offended (much).
We spend a lot of time around here planning and executing book promotions and marketing, and that work can take many forms: running newfangled ad campaigns, sending mass emails to targeted lists, partnering with high-traffic websites, leveraging social media accounts, and doing contests, giveaways, press releases, and so on. We’ve dropped postcards in coffee shops and bars. We’ve announced book endorsements from A-list authors. We’ve had authors stand up in front of 7,000 people and announce their book launch.
Depending on the title, we can do a lot for our authors. But there’s one thing we can’t do, and that thing is perhaps the single most important factor in their book’s ultimate sales: We can’t make them promote their own book.
Fortunately, most of our authors are happy to do the work of promotion. That’s good, because author-led promotions are powerful. In many cases, authors are the biggest difference-maker in a book’s performance. Read publishing news sites, book blogs, and industry interviews with successful authors, and the constant theme you’ll hear from top-sellers is that the authors got involved and stayed involved with the promotion of their books. Some best-selling authors were already celebrities or authors with strong writing credentials and deep experience. But many of today’s top authors were relative nobodies who (1) had a killer book and (2) simply did the quiet, careful, and (at times) frankly ordinary work of book promotion.
But what is that work, exactly? Especially for lesser-known writers? How can authors help sell their own books if they don’t have 50,000 followers on Twitter and a million fans on Facebook? What can be done by the writer whose speaking opportunities are few and who won’t be getting an invitation from Terry Gross anytime soon?
Lots, actually. The links at the end of this post will point you in many useful directions. To begin, however, it’s important that you don’t ignore the obvious assets you already have at your disposal. No matter who you are, if you have a book that’s being published (even if you publish it yourself, though we hope you’ll talk to us first), and you have any sort of network of friends, family, and colleagues, then you already have the two starting points of any successful book promotion: your book, and your network.
Don’t overlook the obvious: If you think about it the right way, your book itself is a powerful sales tool. The title, subtitle, and cover were designed with the book’s value in mind. Every good book makes a value proposition to the reader: If you read this book, you will . . . X. Your job is to solve for X. You will laugh. You will cry. You will turn pages until the wee hours. You will learn about the history of China. You will be inspired to make more money. Make less money. Teach underprivileged children. Become a better mother. Stop drinking. Start cooking. Understand economics. And so on. Every book makes a promise of bringing some value to the reader’s life.
The best book promotions make value propositions clear and specific. They can be stated simply and succinctly. To promote your book successfully, you must know your value proposition backwards and forward. Look to the title and subtitle you chose for clues–and make those better and clearer if need be. Think about the marketing description that was written (or is being written) for the book’s landing page or back cover. Isolate the terms that are most likely to move people, to meet some felt need, to answer some aching desire or question.
Write it down. If you read my book, you will X. You’ll be stating this in a variety of ways as you talk, Tweet, blog, and etc. about your book, so you want to know it backwards and forwards.
The other powerful sales tool you have right now is your network. Whether that’s a huge Twitter following or simply a list of email addresses in your Contacts folder, it’s important to recognize it and decide how best to use it. You likely need to build a bigger and stronger network in order to really maximize sales, but it’s crucial to start with what you’ve already got.
So, capture it. Make lists of the people you know. Think about the categories of your life–family, work, church, gym, neighborhood association. You can’t and should not treat all these people in the same way–it might be appropriate to force your sister to email-blast all her friends with a link to your book’s Amazon page, but your coworkers might not do the same favor–but you should familiarize yourself with the size and reach of your network so you can begin to think about its full potential.
With those two basic assets in hand, you’re ready to learn about the many tasks of book promotion that you might want to do.
To educate you on those tasks, we’ll give the mic to 7 (mostly) short posts, in order of reading priority. (If you read only one, read the Hyatt post.) If taken seriously and applied, these resources will help you to sell far more copies of your book than you would otherwise. Some of the guidance you’ll find here is general, some of it highly specific. Some of it won’t apply to you, depending on your situation. All of it is malleable–a set of suggestions that you should adapt and put to use in a way that makes sense for you.
1. “How to Launch a Bestselling Book” — Michael Hyatt
2. “Let’s Get Visible” — David Gaugrahn (promo page for his ebook, which we highly recommend)
3. “A Checklist for Marketing Your eBook” — Jane Friedman (skip down to the subhead “Promotion” in particular)
4. “Why Is My Book Not Selling?” — David Gaugrahn
5. “The Ultimate Guide to Goodreads for Authors” — Joanna Penn
6. “Stats from My Latest Book Launch” — Nathan Barry
7. “How Readers Discovered a Debut Novel” — “Otis” at Goodreads