Promoting a book
If you're planning to self-publish a book that you want to be a success, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time promoting it both off and online.
- 1 Social Media
- 2 The Press
- 3 eBook Promotion Services
- 4 Forums
- 5 Events
- 6 References
Goodreads is a social network that centres around books. Typically books and authors have their own pages, which serve as a platform for reviews and recommendations. Goodreads' discussion forums such as the UK Amazon Kindle Forum are a valuable part of the site.
Facebook is the third largest website in the world, making it the most popular social network. It works by connecting people and exchanging content. A strong Faceboook presence is vital for authors who wish to sell their books online.
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform, meaning that it's a social network that allows the exchange of bite-sized pieces of content. It's a very valuable tool for authors as it allows you to quickly impart information to people who are interested in your work.
Google+ (known as 'Google Plus') is a social network that was launched in 2011. Although it was expected to rival Facebook, it hasn't achieved the following that was expected. Although you can use Google+ to network with readers, the benefits are likely to be small compared with other social networks.
Pinterest is a visually-led information sharing website, which works on the principle of a cork board with photos pinned to it. Unlike Instagram and Flickr, its focus is not on sharing personal photos, but on sharing ideas and concepts. Each pin contains an image and a minimal amount of text. Pinterest is popular for sharing arts, crafts and fashion ideas. It can be used to market books but it takes a long time to build followers.
Press releases can be very effective. You need to keep two things in mind: how it's written (see Writing a press release for your book) and who it reaches. You may be tempted to pay for a professional press release. However, these can be costly, especially on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis. Although many of these services do reach journalists across the country, unless your book happens to tie in with a major news event or an agenda receiving coverage, the most likely respondents to your release will be your local press. A small, targeted campaign focusing on magazines, newspapers and radio stations in your area is just as effective, perhaps more so, and free to execute.
Press Review Copies
Sending speculative paperback review copies to journalists is very risky, so unless you have superfluous budget or many spare copies of your books, you might wish to consider an alternative approach. Speculative eBook review requests are very likely to be overlooked. One of the most effective, but arguably hardest, ways to get your book reviewed in the media, is to arrange a review with a specific journalist. If you can get somebody to agree to review your book, then any costs of providing the book are negligible. You may even get a journalist to agree to accept an eBook. The best way to do this is to familiarise yourself with the publication or show you would like to feature your book, and find out who writes book reviews and articles about books, then email them directly. However, don't spend too long trying to attract mainstream media, as many authors have found other marketing strategies, such as social networking and events, to be much more effective.
Provided you haven't written something controversial, your local newspaper and radio station are the most likely press organisations to cover your book. It is best to contact them directly. Find out how each organisation likes to be contacted, either by looking them up online or checking the publication itself. Most newspapers are more than happy to receive press releases by email because it means they don't have to type them up. It's not uncommon for local newspapers to publish a strong press release, or section of a press release, with very little editing.
If your book ties into a niche interest than market to that group, no matter how small. When a community is small, you can create a real buzz, from which your popularity may spread. Almost every special interest group has at least one magazine. Find out what publications share your book's target audience, and ask if they'll review your book. Alternatively, you could offer to write an article for them.
eBook Promotion Services
Over the last five years, a number of book promotion services have been founded that specialise in promoting eBooks to eBook readers. These services vary in price from sites that are free to submit to, through to sites that charge hundreds of pounds for a feature.
Typically, authors submit books using a site's web interface. Moderators select which books to feature. Most promotion services require books to be available at a reduced price during their feature.
Perhaps the most well-known promotion service is BookBub, who are described as having 'millions' of followers. BookBub's prices are relatively expensive compared with smaller services.
See also our detailed list of eBook promotion services.
Popular eBook Promotion Services
Controversy surrounding paid promotions
Pay-per-feature sites have come under criticism for taking what some consider an unreasonably high proportion of authors' royalties. When promoted books dominate the charts, it makes it harder for authors with smaller budgets to get into the charts on merit. Books in bestseller charts benefit from increased exposure, making high chart positions highly sought after.
Participating in online forums is a key part of promoting your book. The key is participation. Don't plaster forums with adverts for your books but get involved. Find out what makes members tick and make some friends.
Events are a great way to raise awareness when promoting a book.
A book launch is a good way to drum up interest in your book. The first thing you need to do is choose a suitable location.
If you want to serve food and drink, you may wish to hire a function room in a cafe or bar. Alternatively, you could hire a community hall and serve a buffet. You could use a catering company to provide food or, for a small event, you might like to make your own nibbles. Rosen Trevithick suggests inviting guests to bring cupcakes.
If you've been lucky enough to get your book stocked in a bookshop, the manager may be kind enough to agree to a book signing event. Bookshops' willingness to allow you to host a signing may be dependent on their margin and whether or not you allow returns (see Choosing_a_print_on_demand_service#Getting stocked in physical bookshops getting stocked in physical bookshops). You may find a shop more willing to host your event if you offer an attractive plan for dealing with excess copies.
Book signings don't have to take place in shops. You could arrange to sign books at another scheduled event or arrange an event in a cafe, with permission of the manager.
You don't have to be a children's author to arrange a few school visits, as long as you have skills that can inspire children and young adults. You might be able to give a lesson on creating characters or harnessing inspiration. The best way to arrange a school visit is via somebody you know. If you don't know anybody who works at a school, find out who the school's literacy adviser is, either using their website or by contacting reception, and write directly to the literacy adviser, outlining:
- the skills you have to offer
- your availability
- what you require in return (e.g. a flat fee / the opportunity to sign books)
Online Book Launches
Book launches aren't just for 'real life'. Most self-published authors can hope to sell more eBooks than hard copies; your marketing strategy should reflect that. An online book launch can take many forms, but usually involves some sort of interactive component. For this reason, Facebook is a very suitable place for an online book launch. It allows you to easily invite people you're connected to, and provides a platform for you to share a variety of different forms of content. Facebook is ideal for soliciting interaction, due to its inbuilt comment and reaction system.
Giving away free items is a great way to get your book out there. The beauty of free eBook promotions is that the promotion doesn't have to cost you anything.
Here are some examples on ways to distribute free eBooks.
|Via your own website||Greatest flexibility||Harder to generate traffic; requires web dev skills|
|Amazon KDP Select||Relatively easy to generate traffic||Requires eBook to be exclusive to Amazon; free promotions limited to five days in ever 90|
|Amazon price matching||Allows your book to be listed as free for a prolonged period of time||Whether Amazon price-matches you is 'hit and miss'; requires you to setup selling your book elsewhere|
|Smashwords||Delivers a moderate amount of traffic; many file formats available||Discoverability low after initial boost; their strict style guide can be fiddly to appease|
|Kobo||Popular ePub format.||Relatively low organic traffic.|
|Nook||Popular ePub format.||You can't set a price of £0 in Nook's own press, so you need to use a third party like Smashwords; Nook no longer sells to the UK market|
|iTunes||Popular ePub format.||You can use Smashwords to make a book free on iTunes. Free books are particularly popular with iTunes readers.|
|Wattpad||For reading on screen.||You can upload books to Wattpad by pasting them in from a word processor. They may either be completed or in progress. You can choose how many chapters or sections to make available to readers in one go.|
Paperback giveaways require a higher financial investment. However, there are ways to maximise exposure while keeping the costs to a minimum. An excellent way to do this is to offer free copies as a prize.
Here are some example competition formats:
|Via your own website||Greatest flexibility||Harder to generate traffic; requires web dev skills|
|Goodreads Giveways||Excellent exposure, free to set up||For the best results, you need to enabling global postage, which comes at a price.|
|Social Media Giveways||Good exposure, free to set up||For best exposure, you may need to pay to promote your competition|
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