How to market your book – and actually sell some

If you’re self-published, or your book is published with a small, independent publisher, you’ll need to market your book yourself. The realistic result of doing no marketing is that your book highly unlikely to sell.

I’ve both self-published and been published independently, and work in marketing, so have compiled these tips designed to help you sell more of your books with effective – and affordable – marketing you can do yourself.

These days, small publishers will want to see that you have an active profile online before they’ll consider publishing you. Smaller publishers do not have the budgets of the bigger boys, and therefore rely on the authors to promote their own works and make sales.

Many authors have unfortunately failed to sell their books, or have given up writing all together, because they hate self-promotion. It’s not my favourite thing in the world either, although I entirely understand the need for it. Promoting someone else is always easier than promoting yourself, so if you have a spare few grand, you could always hire a marketing company to work on your behalf. Let’s face it though, that’s unlikely, so for the rest of us, here goes:

  • Social media – “Eurgh!” I hear your cry. Love it or hate it, social media can mean the difference between fail or succeed when it comes to marketing your books. Rather than doing it all, I’d advise choosing two platforms you’re most comfortable and familiar with. It’s essential to update your followers regularly – absolutely at least once a week but daily if you can manage it – otherwise they might think you’ve disappeared off the face of the earth.

    Rather than sticking with boring posts all the time, mix it up with video (your smartphone will take a really high quality video) and photos. You don’t have to tell everyone what you had for breakfast; but it is about showcasing, not just your work, but your personality too. Be careful not to hard sell – it’s called ‘social’ media, after all. Talk about your books of course, but also talk about where you’ve been to get inspiration. Taken a walk on a crisp autumn morning? Show a few pics from your walk, for example. Going on a writing course – make a post about that. Think creatively and watch your audience grow.
  • Talk to your local media. Here I’m referring to you local newspaper, radio station, TV station if you have one, and local bloggers / websites.

    This might put the fear of God in you, but ask yourself – what have you got to lose? If you get nothing from it, at least you’ve tried.

    Journalists will likely ask for a press release. This is an article about you and your book – not longer than 1-2 sides text, along with a picture (vital!). Remember to put your contact details on the bottom of it in case they want further information or would like to interview you.

    In your press release include a ‘hook’ – what is it about your story that’s different and interesting? First, you’re a local author, which on a basic level should be of interest. But on a deeper level, is your book somehow relevant to the local area? Was it inspired by a local personality? Put your thinking cap on and I’m sure you’ll think of something.

    I could write a whole article on how to write a press release, as I’ve written thousands of them in my day job, but the most important things are to write in the third person and avoid any hyperbole. Your book might be the best thing since sliced bread, but clearly you would think that. Offer it out for review and let them make up your own minds.
  • Start a website or blog. If a potential reader is interested in your book, the first place they’ll usually go to find out more or to make a purchase, is your website. A website needn’t be expensive. If you don’t want to pay a professional, then you could try to find a student from the local college who’ll do it for a lower amount, or you could even do it yourself with one of the many template options available online.

    Instead of a website (or as well as) you could consider a blog – like this one! A website can get away with being more static, but if you opt for a blog you will have to keep it regularly updated (at least once a month) with new content. This can be more time consuming, but it should help you build an audience. Remember, every time you create a new blog article, you can link to it from your social media sites to help drive traffic.

That’s just a trio of marketing ideas to get you started. There are many more where they came from. Keep posted for future articles, such as:

  • How to write a press release about your book
  • Which social media site is best to promote my book?
  • Hosting a book launch event

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