Have you ever wondered how to market a book? You spend months, maybe even years writing, editing, then rewriting your book until it's a masterpiece (or at least finished). Now what? How do you turn all that hard work into sales and, if it's not too much to ask, money?
There are hundreds of things to discuss when it comes to how to market a book, but what are the first steps you need to take, if you're starting from scratch? That's what were going to talk about in this article. Ready to get started?
Marketing a Book Doesn't Have to Be Overwhelming if You're Generous
If you Google “How to Market a Book,” you can find articles with dozens, even hundreds of marketing ideas.
And while those ideas might be helpful, they can also be overwhelming.
Here are the two fundamental marketing ideas you really need:
- Be generous
- Ask for help
Be generous with your writing by writing books, articles, and stories your readers will love and be challenged by.
Be generous with your readers by sharing some (not all) of your best writing for free.
Be generous with other writers by reading their writing, telling your friends and readers about it, and helping them whenever you can. (In other words, be generous by marketing the books of other writers.)
And then ask for help. Ask your readers for help when you launch a book and need them to buy it and share it with their friends.
Ask other writers to give their feedback on your writing to make it the best it can be. Ask them help when you need blurbs for your book. Ask them to share your book with their audiences on social media and their blogs.
All book marketing comes down to these two simple principles: Be generous and then ask for help.
If you focus on those two things, you will never be overwhelmed.
Why Marketing a Book Is So Hard
And yet, most writers I talk to are still uncomfortable with the idea of marketing. It feels salesy to them. Part of the reason is that the two principles I talked about above aren't actually easy.
For many writers, the idea of sharing your best writing for free makes them feel used. They rightfully believe they should get paid for their work, and that giving it away for free cheapens it.
And at the same time, most people struggle with asking for help. It's like having to ask for directions. Many people would rather get lost trying to figure it out on their own instead of asking a stranger for directions.
But when you do these two things together, when you're extremely generous and then you ask for help, it makes all the difference. You don't feel guilty asking for help because you've spent so much time giving. And you give so generously because you know that someday, when you need help, someone will be willing to step up.
Besides, if you truly believe in your book, if you believe that it will entertain and inspire anyone who reads it, then sharing it with the world isn't marketing. It's an act of generosity.
10 Steps to Start Marketing Your Book
How do you apply those two all-important “marketing” principles we talked about above? What are the first steps to market your book? Here they are, in chronological order.
(By the way, this assumes you've already written a great book! If you're still writing, check out this post on how to write a book in 100 days.)
1. Build an Author Website
All book marketing revolves around the idea of building a relationship with readers and turning them into raving fans, and your author website where you can start building those relationships is the first place that happens.
If you don't have some kind of web presence (and I'm not talking about Twitter, Facebook, or even Goodreads), you need one.
Why an author website? Why not just build up your following on social media? I cover this in our building an author website tutorial, but here are the three reasons in brief.
- Social media doesn’t sell books, but an email list does.
- The best place to build your email list is on a website.
- You OWN your website. You don’t own your social media following.
So if you don't have a website, bookmark this page for later, stop reading, and go build one.
Get started: Get our step-by-step guide on building an author website here.
2. Create an Email List
Email far outperforms social media when it comes to marketing and selling books, and so building your email list to 1,000 or more followers should be among your top marketing goals.
There are two email services I usually recommend (and no, Gmail doesn't work for building your email list):
- Convertkit. We use and love Convertkit here at The Write Practice because it's incredibly powerful while also being user-friendly, intuitive, and simple. It's a little pricey though ($29 / month to start), so this might be for the professional writer or something to upgrade to as you get more serious about your writing. Your email list is a great investment, though, so don't take this for granted. You can sign up for Convertkit here.
- Mailchimp. Mailchimp is a great company and is a very friendly service, but personally, I find it to be clunky, unintuitive, and hard to find the things you need. The only reason I recommend it is because it's free for your first 2,000 subscribers. Assuming you’re using Mailchimp, you can learn how to create your first email list and sign up form here.
3. Give Away a Free Short Story, Chapter of Your Book, eBook, or Something Else to Get Email Subscribers
One of the best ways to grow your email list is by giving something away for free to prospective readers.
Before you say, “But I deserve to be paid for everything I write!” go back and reread the section on generosity above. Be generous with your readers and share something you're proud of for free. Not only is it a great marketing tactic, you'll feel better about yourself and the world when you do it.
My friend CG Cooper is the best at this. He's built a huge reader base of military thriller fans through the power of generosity by giving away his best books. Cooper goes so far to give away full novels, and by doing so, he now has tens of thousands of readers on his email list, all of whom are the first to hear about his new releases.
Giving a novel away works best if you're writing a series and giving away the first book, but if you don't have the first book in a series to give away, here are a few things you might give instead:
- A short story
- The first three chapters in your book (they're free as sample chapters on Amazon anyway)
- A manifesto
- A 1-page download (like this one)
- A short eBook (5,000 words or less is best)
Convertkit, the email service I recommend above, makes this very easy, but it's a little more complicated with Mailchimp (and is one reason I don't like recommending them). Here's how to do this with Mailchimp.
4. Do a Giveaway
Giveaways are another fun and generous way to build your email list. If you've been around on The Write Practice for any length of time, you know that we love giveaways.
If you're just getting started with a giveaway, here's what you might offer, from easiest to most elaborate:
- A $15 Amazon gift card
- A copy of your eBook
- 10 copies of your paperback book
- A signed hardcover copy of your book
- A Kindle with all of your books loaded onto it
I'm sure you can think of more ideas, but the point is to be generous and have fun.
As far the mechanism for running a giveaway, you have a few different options:
Kingsumo Giveaways is a great tool that we use here at The Write Practice. It makes running a viral giveaway really easy.
Rafflecopter is quite easy as well, and although it's not as powerful as Kingsumo Giveaways, they do have a free option, which is nice.
The Comments Section. Giveaways don't need to be fancy. You can also just do a post on your blog, on Instagram, or on Facebook. Ask your readers to subscribe to your email list, share the giveaway, and then comment or message you with their email address when they did it to be eligible for the giveaway.
5. Publish Great Content (Preferably Content That's Similar to Your Book)
Sure, there are tricks you can use to get more readers, but the reality is that unless you’re writing great content—great novels, short stories, articles, and blog posts—no one is going to want to read your writing, no matter how many creative ways you market it.
The best way to accomplish your writing goals is to write better stories and articles, and then, of course, to share those with the world.
In other words, if you're writing, you need to be publishing.
6. Build Relationships With Other Writers
I used to think I could become a writer alone, that I could build a career without the support, encouragement, and help of other writers. In fact, I thought that's how you were supposed to do it.
But as I studied the lives of great writers, people like Earnest Hemingway, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, and J.R.R. Tolkien, I found that none of them did it alone. In fact, all of them had a team, a cartel, a group of other writers who could support them, encourage them, and help them build their career.
Now I believe that every writer needs relationships with other writers.
This isn't just important for marketing, but having relationships with other writers does help you market your books better. Why? Because when you publish a book, your friends will share your book with their audiences of dedicated readers. That tremendously expands your reach.
And when your friends learn a new marketing tactic that's working for them, they'll share it with you, and then you can get better at marketing your own books.
Obviously, you want to make sure you're giving more than you're receiving, that you're being generous with your writer friends (see the section on generosity above), but doing outreach, networking, making relationships, or whatever you want to call it, is an essential part of becoming a writer and marketing your books.
7. Guest Post, I.E. Publish Great Content on Other Publications
It's not enough to publish great content on your personal website. You also have to publish great content on other people's websites. In other words, you need to guest post.
Or, to look at this another way, you need to publish your short stories with literary magazines, or publish your articles in magazines, or publish your blog posts on your new writer friend from step #6's blog.
As you share your best content with other people's audiences, you'll grow your own.
8. Get Beta Readers
A beta reader is someone who reads your book first, before it's published. But not only are beta readers great if you want to get feedback on your book, they're also important for marketing your book.
Here's why: After your beta readers do the hard work of reading your book, thinking through it, and giving feedback, they become invested in the book's success. They're part of the process, and when your book comes out, they're much more likely to leave a review (which we'll talk about next) and tell their friends about it.
Since word of mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing when it comes to books, having a lot of beta readers can make a huge difference to your book's success.
Check out our post about how to get beta readers.
9. Ask for Book Reviews
When people look at a book page on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, what do they look at first? The cover probably. But before they read the book's description they'll probably glance at one, all-important number: how many book reviews you have.
Book reviews work for three reasons:
- Book reviews provide social proof. You're more likely to read a book with 100 reviews than a book with 3 reviews, even if those 3 reviews are all 5 stars.
- Book reviews help people figure out whether they're right for your book. Before I read a book's description, I check out the reviews, because what other readers say about a book is a better sign that I'll like it than what the publisher says.
- Book reviews work on Amazon's algorithm. While this isn't confirmed by Amazon, I've found there's a clear correlation between the number of reviews a book has and how well a book performs in Amazon's search results.
How then do you get book reviews? You ask for them. Ask your beta readers, ask your writer friends. Ask the people on your email list. When someone emails you to tell you they loved your book, after you thank them for reading, reply with the link to the book's page on Amazon and ask them to leave a review.
If you've been generous, and if you've focused on building your email list, creating relationships with other writers, and getting beta readers, this is your chance to ask for help.
10. Launch Your Book
All of the steps above lay the groundwork for this one thing, the moment you publish your book and finally share it with the world.
My friend Tim Grahl is the book launch expert, and he says in his article on how to launch a bestselling book that there are basically three steps to this:
- Sell to your fans. I.E. your email list, step #2.
- Invite your fans to share.
- Engage influencers. I.E. your relationships with other authors, step #6.
You can read the full book launch guide on Tim's website. It's excellent.
This is where all the work you've done in the earlier nine steps comes together. So if you don't have an email list and if you don't have relationships with other authors, make sure to get started with that now.
You've Worked Hard on Your Book. Now It's Time to Share It With The World.
Publishing and marketing your book can be one of the most gratifying parts of your writing career.
Or it can be one of the most disappointing.
What makes the difference is the work that you do before you publish your book. You've spent hundreds, even thousands of hours writing your book. Don't leave the publishing and marketing to chance.
Ask for help.
And lay the foundation to your book's success. Good luck!
How about you? Which of these steps have you done already? Which one do you need to do next? Let me know in the comments section.
For today's practice, use step number five and publish something. If you have a short story or blog post on hand, you can publish that, but even better if you write something new to publish.
And once you publish, here's your chance for a little self-promotion: share the title and link to your short story or article in the comments section.
Finally, if you do share, read a few short stories or articles by other writers, leave a comment, and start to build relationships with other writers!