You wrote your book! Congratulations! After sludging through actually finishing a novel, the editing process, cover design, formatting, and publishing, you’re probably feeling pretty accomplished. And you should! Completing a book is a massive undertaking, and not a lot of people make it to the end.
Unfortunately, your author journey doesn’t end when you hit “publish.” Now you have to market it.
A good book marketing plan should have several phases, but the simplicity or complexity of it is up to you. Are you working alone? Do you have a huge street team? Thousands of dollars, or zeroes of dollars? No matter what you’re working with, you can build a marketing plan that’s manageable within your means.
Define your target audience
The first step in creating a book marketing plan is to define your target audience. Who are your readers? What are their interests, demographics, and reading habits? Understanding your audience is key to developing effective marketing strategies that will resonate with them.
You might even create an Ideal Reader, if you haven’t already done that during the writing process. Get really specific and create a fictional character to act as an avatar for who you ideally want to read your book.
Once you know who you’re targeting, you can determine the best ways to reach and appeal to those people.
Goals and planning
A little (or a lot) prep work can save you massive headaches down the road. Before your book release, you should ideally have a marketing plan ready to go. It’s also helpful to prepare your materials and graphics ahead of time.
What are your overall goals? Do a little research to set healthy, challenging goals for your sale.
Schedule. What will you post? How often? Will you do in-person events? Set your calendar up with social posts, events, and tasks for each week. Go into detail! Make materials and set appointments ahead of time.
The overarching goals I used for my book releases were presales, total sales, and reviews on specific platforms. While these aren’t things necessarily in our control, it was good to have an ideal number to strive toward. If I was only ten or twenty away from a goal, I’d add a couple more promotional elements that week to hit it. Without a specific number goal, I wouldn’t have felt the need to push myself.
Consider the format of your book. It’s best to offer as many formats as possible, but the marketing strategies are slightly different for selling ebooks, physical copies, and audiobooks, so be sure you’re accounting for all of your publishing formats in the marketing plan.
Create a budget
Marketing a book can be expensive, so it’s important to create a budget and stick to it. Consider the costs of each marketing tactic and prioritize those that will have the biggest impact on achieving your goals. If you have a budget of zero dollars, don’t sweat it too much—with a little work and a lot of support from your community and/or readers, you can create an impactful marketing plan with virtually no budget.
Develop a timeline
Develop a timeline for your marketing activities, taking into account the release date of your book and any events or holidays that might impact your marketing efforts. Be sure to build in time for creating marketing materials and reaching out to media contacts. The more you can do ahead of time, the less stressful your marketing process will be.
When you’re planning the marketing campaign, here are a few things to brainstorm content:
- Title reveal
- Cover reveal
- Excerpt release
- Teaser images and quotes
- Early reviews
- Games and events (these are easily hosted online, through venues like Twitch or YouTube, or Instagram/TikTok Live)
- Pre-order giveaways
- Release party
Choose your marketing tactics
There are tons of marketing tactics out there, and I’m sure you can think up some totally new ones. These are a few of the common book marketing methods you’ll see.
Launch team: A group of people who support you and/or your previous books can be assembled and directed for various marketing activities.
Presale period: Hosting a presale period, preferably with presale incentives, can give your book a boost before it even drops.
Social media: Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are great for building a following and promoting your book.
Book reviews: Encourage readers to leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites. Reach out to reviewers to offer them ARCs in return for a review on their podcast, blog, or YouTube channel.
Author website: Create a website that showcases your book and provides information about you as an author.
Book signings: Arrange book signings at local bookstores, libraries, and other venues.
Press releases: Write and distribute press releases to local and online media outlets.
Paid advertising: Consider paid advertising on social media or other platforms.
Having more people involved is very helpful. If you have a platform, you should be able to put a launch team (sometimes referred to as a “street team”) together fairly easily. A launch/street team is a group of volunteers who want to support you and/or your new book.
If you aren’t in the position to have a team of readers ready to help, you might just have your mom, a spouse, and/or a writing partner, and that’s totally fine, too. Whatever your team, here are a few things you might consider to manage them:
- Choose your members
If you are in the position to be a little choosier with your group members, you might post an open call to your platform to ask for signups. Lots of readers love to join street teams for their favorite authors because they’re typically enthusiastic about the book, excited to hang out with the author, and ready to be helpful!
That means, the bigger your platform, the easier it is to build your street team.
If you have more signups than you need, you have the opportunity to vet them. You might ask some questions on the application like:
- Have you been on a street team before? (Which author and book?)
- How much free time do you have for this each week?
- Link your social media accounts (street team members with a larger reach are often more valuable)
- Why do you want to be on the street team?
- What genres do you typically read? (make sure they actually like your book)
- Gather the team
You’ll want a place to speak with your whole street team at once to give instructions, swap ideas, and keep everyone up-to-date with the current goals. This might be a Facebook group, a Discord channel, a Twitter groupchat. Anywhere works, but somewhere like Discord is often better, because you can split it into channels and it is easier to find reference material. (Like having a “promo imagery” thread where you dump posts for your team to download, an “ideas” thread for people to brainstorm, etc.)
The very first task is usually to read the book itself. If a team member doesn’t actually like the book, make it clear that they can dip from the team without judgment. After all, having someone who isn’t excited to promote your book won’t work out for either of you.
Provide your team with a Starter Kit/Press Kit of the book info, cover, blurb, promotional imagery, and other materials. You might also include the full marketing plan so they know what’s coming up.
- Make a plan with clear instructions
While you can ask your street team for input and ideas, you will usually do most of the planning yourself. Consult that marketing plan you made and see what can be broken down into smaller tasks to delegate to your wonderful team of volunteers.
It’s a good idea to make lots of promo material ahead of time, formatted for each social media platform, so that you can share a folder with your whole team and they can simply share on their own accounts.
- Thank them profusely/use rewards
Ideally, you can offer some sort of reward for each task your members do. For example, you might have a weekly “challenge” for your team (e.g., post a review, call a library, make a social post), and everyone who participates is put into a drawing for a prize. The prize could be a shoutout on your own platform (if large enough for this to be an incentive), a gift card, a book or notebook, etc.
Do whatever makes sense for your budget. If you have no gift budget and can’t think of any other way, at the very least write a nice thank you card for your team members. Another common option is for writers to act on each other’s street teams in a swapskies situation.
Examples of tasks you might give your launch team:
- Requesting their libraries/local book stores stock your book
- Creating imagery or mood boards
- Leaving reviews on places like Goodreads and Amazon
- Making YouTube videos, blog posts, and other such things about your book (reviews, challenges, fun videos, anything relating to the book—the more fun the content is, the better it will act as a marketing tool)
- Recommending you for podcast and other forms of interview or guest spot to utilize other people’s platforms (that type of thing is much easier to snatch with a personal connection, so asking other people if they have leads is a great way to expand your search and maximize efficiency)
The street team can be a very effective bit of marketing, so be sure you utilize and thank your team properly!
A presale is a huge tool for authors because it gives you lots of time to hype up your book, get sales rolling before the book is even available, and qualify you for a few different writing awards. It’s a great idea to offer incentives for people to preorder, like the first few chapters of your book, deleted scenes, a preview for your next project, a physical gift—whatever you think would entice your audience.
All you have to do is set up a signup form where readers can upload proof of the preorder. I use Google Forms.
It’s usually a good idea to let every preorder enter to win one or a few BIG prizes, but still every entry receives a consolation prize. For example, in my presale period for Starlight, I offered three short stories that I cut from the final collection to everyone who preordered, then I did several bigger gifts with books, manuscript critiques, and other prizes that I regularly awarded to random entries. By announcing the winners and gifts once a week on my YouTube channel, I was able to stoke excitement for my book for months, gaining dozens of new preorders with every upload.
One of the most powerful items in the modern author’s toolbox is social media. It’s free, it’s accessible, and the growth potential is infinite.
Here are a few of the major ones you’ll probably consider using:
Each social media platform has unique user demographics, so once you know your ideal reader, you can find where the most of them congregate. It’s usually more effective to choose 1 – 3 platforms to focus on, so you can concentrate on making quality content on those, rather than stretching yourself too thin.
Using social media can help authors in several ways—
1. Build an audience
Social media allows authors to build a following of loyal readers, because it’s a way for readers to speak directly to their favorite writers. By posting regular updates, you can keep your audience excited about new content, as well as giving them things to share with their friends to recommend your books.
2. Increase visibility
There are tools, like hashtags, that you can utilize through social media to spread awareness for you and your work. Newsletters are fabulous, but people have to sign up before you can talk to them through a newsletter. Social media provides the opportunity to reach a wider audience.
3. Connect with readers
Authors who stay active on social media can more easily create and maintain relationships with their readers. Social media can make you feel realer and more accessible, which can build loyalty and excitement. Share behind-the-scenes looks at your work, and maybe a couple of personal things from your own life, if you’re comfortable doing so.
Remember to keep yourself safe and protect your private information online.
4. Cost-effective marketing
Since social media is generally free to use, they’re usually a great cost-effective component of a marketing strategy, even if you’re not buying ads.
Before you even have a book to sell, you should be building at least one or two accounts for your author presence.
Promos and ads
While some advertising spots cost money, there are a few free options, such as reaching out to bloggers and reviewers to offer them ARCs of your book before its launch. You can find websites that review books in your genre and apply or pay for a review of your book.
Another good option is newsletter swaps with other writers, where you trade a section in your respective newsletters to advertise each other’s books.
Going onto podcasts, YouTube channels, and blogs for interviews is also a great way to get word out about your new books.
And of course, you can run paid advertisements on the social media platforms of your choice. This can be pretty useful (depending on your genre), but isn’t necessary.
In-person and virtual readings
Lots of writers opt to sell their books in-person by attending school and library events, like book readings and signings. Book readings are a great way to sell children’s books, both by appealing to the children and to the faculty and parents present.
Measure your results
As you implement your marketing plan, be sure to track your results. Monitor book sales, website traffic, social media engagement, and other metrics to measure the effectiveness of your marketing tactics. Determine your metrics before the marketing plan launches. Compare your results to your beginning goals, and don’t be afraid to tweak your methods as you go.
Keep careful notes of what works and what doesn’t so you can apply what you’ve learned to your next book launch. It’s a good practice to write down everything you do for your book process—you’ll forget what you did quicker than you might realize. Don’t reinvent the wheel with every book launch, just write down how you made the wheel in the first place.
Creating a book marketing plan can be a daunting task, but by following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your target audience, achieving your goals, and building a successful author platform. Check out this post on marketing mistakes you’ll want to avoid.