2.06.2020

Here's How to Market a Book (as best I know how)




Note: this article was created as a presentation for the 2020 Business of Art conference put on by Arts Partners of Central Illinois and held at Bradley University. 
This is the second article in a series based on my experience of getting my own book, Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, written and released, from proposal to publication. 
The other articles are:
Here's How to Write a Book Proposal (as best I know how)
12 Days of Christmas Book Marketing Blitz!

The first two articles in this series detailed my approach to writing and getting a book proposal accepted by a publisher and then everything I did to market that book once it was published. This final article explains my approach to how I marketed the book. 

Disclaimer: The suggestions in this article are in no way comprehensive!


I am one writer and I tend to be an idealist and an impractical dreamer. Anything I have ever attempted by way of marketing has come through diligence and perseverance and continually trying to figure out what works. It has also come through years of writing a blog and producing a podcast and then asking people I know for suggestions/advice. But I'm getting ahead of myself . . . 

So, here now are my suggestions for an approach to marketing a book:

  • The marketing of your book starts even as you are writing it and before it is published. Whether you are updating people on social media, making connections with people who will help your book find an audience, or brainstorming about different marketing ideas, it is key to utilize your pre-publishing season to include people in your process and come up with your strategy. There are other who have insights into finding a book agent or hiring a marketing team, but I don't have that experience as of yet. So far, it's just been me hoofing it on my own!
  • Think about every social connection and media outlet that you know of. Who are the people and organizations that are going to get excited about your book and want to share about it? I wrote a book to the church world, which is a vast web of connections. Where does your web exist? There are crafting worlds, gaming worlds, sport worlds, fantasy-fiction worlds, vegetarian cooking worlds, and on and on it goes. Every single sub-culture has their own set of publications, blogs, podcasts, and Youtube channels. Find out what they are, figure out their approach and what kind of content they look for, and build relationship where you can. Learning how to engage with your community in the years leading up to publication is key to the success of your book.
  • Along these lines, establish yourself in various Facebook and Reddit groups, or more generally on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or wherever you feel like a community is gathering with like-minded people who might be interested in your book. 
  • You almost have to think nonstop about how you are going to market your book, while also planning for and then writing your next book. No pressure!
  • In the buildup to your book being released and for a few months post-release, consider how you can create social media posts and livestream videos that will engage with your audience and friends. You might offer quotes from your book, ask survey questions relating to your book, ask trivia questions for giveaways of your book, or share articles and news items that relate to it.
  • Come up with a hook that will interest all of your local media outlets (TV, radio, newspaper) and then contact them or have a person of influence you know contact them.
  • Contact as many local, regional, and national bookstores and libraries to see if they'll stock your book.
  • If possible, come up with a few article ideas that you can propose to different print and online publications.
  • Create your own Amazon and Goodreads author pages (and any kind of profile you learn is helpful for your exposure).
  • Then ask friends and acquaintances to rate and review your book on Amazon, Goodreads, and wherever else the public is allowed to leaves reviews.
  • Contact book release websites and bloggers and ask them to review the book.
  • Plan ahead and make a list of all author fairs, vendor fairs, pop culture events (like the various Comic Cons), summer fairs, conferences, or any public event that would be a good fit to sell your book at or to be a speaker at.
  • Contact all local groups that would be open to having you as a speaker or to do a book reading and signing.
  • Inform any of your alma maters that you have published a book.
  • Use all the connections and any platform that you have. Some authors, who have their own website, have begun interviewing other authors as a way of networking and using combined promotion to help each other.
  • If you are not a podcaster, either a.) ask a podcaster friend if they would be willing to feature you for a short series of episodes featuring different discussions surrounding your book, or b.) ask a podcaster friend to help you record, produce, and set up a short run podcast with similar discussion. The latter option is similar to the first, except that it involves you having your own stand alone podcast. The value of this idea is that even if you only produce a few episodes the first time, thus creating the first "season" of your podcast, when/if you release a second book or you have news to update your readers with, you can do a second season. With this in mind, it's important to choose a title for your podcast that will reflect your career more generally, rather than one that is specific to your first book.
  • Develop your own "press kit" and anything you will need for public appearances. What you need will include: business cards, posters or some kind of larger display of your book, any merchandise other than your book that people will buy or you can give away (such as bookmarks, tote bags, t-shirts, and printed pencils/pen), book stands, a table cloth, a credit card reader for purchases, pens, an email signup list, and a bowl of candy as a way of bribing people to stop at your table!

Finally, get it into your head that there is no magic bullet, no "winning the lottery" when it comes to "making it" as an author. Launching your career will take years of work and perseverance and you will always need to have multiple ideas going. The more ideas you have and the more you are able to make connections and friendships, the more likely you are to get established and to make a career for yourself. The best advice I have ever heard on this subject came from Christopher McQuarrie and C. Robert Cargill in this episode of the Write Along Podcast:
Write Along Podcast: Episode 52-It's Struggling and it's pain and it's failure


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