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Promoting a self-published book

Updated: May 19, 2023

Have you ever tried to organize a good party? It takes a lot, doesn't it? Oh, sometimes there will be that odd spontaneous yet perfect get-together, the one where just the right people are at just the right place and someone just happens to have the perfect playlist and maybe an unhealthy supply of drinks and finger food - but, let's face it, those are rare. The way most good parties happen is a lot of forethought and work. And the way good books get good sales is - a lot of forethought and work. ​A good marketing strategy starts long before your book is available for sale. It may start as early as your first idea for the book, if you are the type to talk about it to others, because it's all about taking advantage of every possible opportunity to generate some buzz and excitement before the book even hits the press. It's easy to get too busy writing and forget about marketing and it's natural to not want to beat one's own drum - but marketing a book is an important step in getting it into the hands of its future reader, even more so for indie authors who don't have the might of a big publishing house behind them. It's best to start thinking about your marketing strategy as early as possible to help build an enthusiastic, involved audience.

Here are some items that you ideally want to have done and ready before launching your book marketing campaign:

- Choose a good book title

Decide on a catchy or intriguing title for your book and, in order to avoid having your book confused with competition, remember to check if there are other books in the same genre/area with the same or too similar title. A quick search can also show you if searching for the words from your title brings up too many books you might have a hard time competing against. In terms of improving your sales, it's good if your title is easily searchable.

- Get Your Book Edited

Have a final, polished manuscript and files ready. It's probably the least fun part of writing a book, but avoiding the trap of pushing it off means you are ready for the next phase. Consider hiring an editor in some capacity if it helps you move forward on time.

- Have metadata ready

Apart from the book title and subtitle, meta data are things like book description, price, trim size, and subgenre. Choosing the right subgenre on Amazon, for example, can influence your sales significantly.

- Look into getting an ISBN

If you're unsure what ISBN is and whether you need it, we have a

- Interior design and Typesetting

Before your book is off to the printers, you want to make sure it looks great on the page. Make it a joy to read!

- Get a good professional cover designed

We may be biased, but we think a good cover can bring your story to life and set it apart among its competition. It should also work well on a technical level; whether you are DIY-ing it or getting professional design done, when evaluating it, remember that it will be seen in high or low resolution, in full size or as thumbnail, in full color or black and white or grayscale. The key elements of the cover should still work even in limited preview or mobile thumbnail size.

All done? Now is the time to get down to the business of publishing and marketing your masterpiece. Here are the major steps to ensure your visibility and reach the right readership.

For making a good first impression and to be able to communicate with your readership on your terms and timing, rather than just posting on Amazon and Facebook, create your own website and consider a separate landing page for each book, if you have a few or a series. This will be the space where new readers can learn more about you and your book and any events or publishing materials you have out. Your website is where you have the most freedom with the design and content, so let your creativity shine through. Show off great visuals if you have them, write an author blog if you feel like it, post updates as you build your work and presence.

Email list

If you are not versed in marketing, you may be surprised to learn that the humble email is still the most effective way to connect with your future audience and send them regular updates, especially in the weeks leading up to your final publishing date. Email is relatively low-tech and platform-independent; everyone has it, and it's virtually free to use. There are good mailing platforms out there and we have clients who have done well for years using nothing but the free membership plan, but be sure to create and maintain your own database or backup of your contact list because that's your direct line to your readers. Make sure you own it, not your mailing provider or your website hosting company, and keep a backup file in more than one place, because laptops get rained on and USB drives get dropped in the parking lot.

Social Media

If you aren't already using it, start now. If you are already using it, consider adding more. This is definitely one item on your check-list that you should start with early in your marketing efforts, as it takes time to build a presence and get your readers used to regular interactions. As you probably won't have the time to maintain a great level of activity on many channels, choose those you feel comfortable with that also have your target audience present. A younger audience may be using whichever platform is the latest in social media; the business crowd will be on LinkedIn; Facebook may have yet another demographic. It may be best to try and test for a while to see what works out.

Advanced reader copies and giveaways to get reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

Advanced reader copies are copies of your book you print and send in advance to booksellers or book reviewers generate interest and buzz before your actual publication and to get endorsements you can add to the final cover of your book. You can also list your book on book promotion sites or email blogs that review books in your genre or for your target audience. Most of them will have contact forms and guidelines for how to submit and it's a good idea to follow their process to increase your chances and leave a good impression. Other options include giveaways on Goodreads, or to your friends and family and social media friends in exchange for a review. So long as you are not offering incentives that make it look like you are buying reviews, this is accepted practice and a great way to get started. And finally, at the end of your e-book, you can include links to review sites and ask the reader to leave a review, and/or a link to your website or landing page where the readers can connect with you or your other fans and help spread the word.

Plan your timing well

Timing is an important, often neglected aspect of every marketing plan. You'll probably want to schedule most of your promotions and ad campaigns close to your publishing date, but staggered enough over time to keep the number of sales growing over time. Online market algorithms and search engines prefer steady organic growth to quick bursts of sales followed by weeks of inactivity. Try to keep your reviews and purchases going over longer periods of time and you'll be able to reach more readers and outperform the short-term campaign by a wide margin.

Sales sheet

A sales sheet is a simple one-pager that provides high-level information about your book or series (title, subtitle, publisher, publication date, etc.). It's like a brochure, but more focused on business-to-business interactions than the readership, and the information contained should be crisp and condensed. It is usually sent to bookstores and press, sometimes along with an advanced reader copy of the book.

Author events

A book launch party or an author reading at a bookstore, local library or another suitable venue can be the most direct and fun way to connect with your fans and readers. After all that time writing alone and promoting your book online, it's also a great way to celebrate and relax!

Plan for what's next

Is your book doing well? How wonderful! If you are still writing, consider continuing to build your brand and presence. Multiple books or a series can create momentum and increase interest, and now that you've been down this path once, it's easy to repurpose and expand on your marketing strategy and continue building your success. Use this time to better understand your audience and keep them interested in what you are doing and the prospect of reading your next book.


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