You may have decided to self-publish because of fewer barriers to entry, quicker turnaround time, higher royalty rates, or creative freedom. Whatever your goal and intent with self-publishing, we all have the same goal when we write a book: for people to read it.
To get your book in front of new eyes and grow your readership, putting thought and effort into marketing is imperative.
Let’s talk about:
- The difference between marketing a self-published book vs a traditionally published book
- Platforms to use for marketing a self-published book
- How to market your self-published book
What’s the difference between marketing self-published vs traditional?
If you’re not already a famous writer (which I’ll assume you aren’t yet, since you’re hanging with us at Self-Publishing School), the majority of marketing will be on your shoulders, even if you publish traditionally.
There are a few differences between the two publishing options, like a traditional publisher will handle the marketing aspects related to book design, such as cover and formatting. You might also get minimal guidance, but publishers don’t really have a reason to distribute their marketing budget to debut or unknown authors.
Traditional marketing will get you into retail positions with much less effort than self-publishing, so the seller will do marketing in-store with the way they position and emphasize your book’s presence.
Besides those little crumbs of marketing help, marketing your book will be mostly up to you, whether you choose self-publishing or traditional.
There are many free tools available to you for marketing, the most important of which being your author platform. Let’s look at a few different options and discuss ideas for marketing on them. I’ll use examples from my own platform.
Platforms to market a self-published book
Social media is one of the most accessible marketing tools for writers. Depending on your target demographic, different social media will be more effective. For example, if your target is readers over 40, you need to be on Facebook. If you write YA, you might be on something more modern, like TikTok. Let’s go over a few different social platforms and what type of content they’re good for.
YouTube is where I have my biggest following and the most engagement, so it’s my biggest platform tool. I make writer-centric videos like live critiques, instructional pieces, and author progress vlogs–but even content not directly related to writing or my books brings views, which can translate into readers.
Just by creating content, I’m drawing in potential readers, but here are examples of specific things I do with YouTube to promote my books.
- Book trailers. Book trailers don’t do much for drawing in new readers and viewers, but it’s a good way to let your current viewers know that you have a book out and to give them an idea of what to expect.
- Plug your book at the beginning/end of videos. If you’re making compelling content, you’ll draw viewers, so that’s basically free ad space for you to mention anything you’d like people to pay attention to.
- Promoting giveaways and promotions in your videos. This is just something else to mention at the beginning/end of your videos. If you’re hosting a giveaway, definitely announce it on all of your platforms!
- Craft content that works as a hook for new viewers and as a selling point for your book. For example, I make instructional videos on short stories and flash fiction, then use my own from my published collections as examples. I also made a video about writing your own trauma (good clickbait) to talk about each of my stories in Little Birds by mentioning which ones contained real life elements. I have tons of others, and they don’t even seem like videos made to promote a book, because they are content people want to watch by itself.
- Offering ARCs to booktubers. Even if you don’t have your own YouTube channel, it’s great to form relationships or get in contact with booktubers so you can offer them an advanced copy of your book for them to mention or review in their own video.
Twitch and other streaming platforms are a great way to promote your books with live events! Readings, Q&As/AMAs, and other online events let you interact and engage with your audience, which leads to more sales. I held my Starlight release party on Twitch, where we played games, had a Q&A session, and did excerpt readings. That stream made a BIG difference in my release day sales.
For another example, I promoted Starlight with a campfire night on Halloween where my friends and I read stories from my collection as well as others. People who are interested in scary stories were interested in the event, and that funneled them toward my book!
Think about what events you can stream to draw in potential readers.
Like I said, Facebook is great for a mature readership. That considered, Facebook users tend to respond well to engaging posts where they can share their opinion, and accessible content, like videos and pictures directly uploaded to your Facebook page.
Even if you don’t have your own Instagram, you can reach out to Bookstagrammers the same way you can reach out to Booktubers to get them to post about your publications.
My posts on Instagram are selfies and cute pictures of my pets mixed in with promotional imagery, writing prompts, and other content that might grab new followers when paired with appropriate hashtags.
Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and readers. Utilize hashtags to connect with people interested in your genre, or just writers in general. Some good tags to start with are #AmWriting #WritingCommunity #AmWriting[YourGenreHere]
TikTok and Snapchat
For a younger audience, use younger platforms. Snapchat allows you to produce content quicker to be consumed for only 24 hours–that might make it easier for some people or more daunting for others. That said, Snapchat is falling out of use due to other platforms utilizing its 24-hour “story” feature.
TikTok, on the other hand, is constantly growing. My friend and fellow self-published author, Rilie Kaye, makes TikToks about her books, writing, and life–she has a good-sized following and turns over decent sales from that content.
Mailing lists are a super strong tool for selling anything. Use your newsletters to let your audience know when you have a new release, a sale, or to ask for reviews. You can also include newsletter-exclusive content to make your readers feel special enough to check out your book! For example, I included a PDF of the first three stories from Starlight, including the illustrations, in my last newsletter.
Every platform operates in its own way, so figure out which ones are best for your target demographic and study up!
More tips for marketing a self-published book
Now that we have an idea of what platforms we want to use to promote our books, let’s get into ten specific elements that are good to consider and incorporate into your marketing plans.
To craft an effective marketing plan, you should set goals to know what you’re aiming for. A sales goal is the most obvious choice, but you can break those down into timelines. For example, I had a sales goal for my pre-sale launch, the pre-sale as a whole, release day, first week, first month, first three months, and first year. I also set Amazon review goals–first week, three months, and six months.
Setting specific goals, especially with time segments, makes it easier to track progress and hit milestones.
So first thing’s first: set achievable, realistic goals, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You can’t line up the shot until you know what you’re aiming for.
Promotional materials like excerpts and graphics
Unless you want to fork money to a graphic designer, creating promotional images and social media posts is also your responsibility. A super easy and affordable option is Canva. Canva has the templates, tools, and support to help even a completely inexperienced designer make some killer promotional imagery.
Release Day Event
Even if you can’t host one in person, a release day event can boost your sales a ton! My pre-sale launch and my release day stream were both a major sales boost, especially the hype leading up to them. TIP: When you’ve got an event coming up, mention it at least a month in advance, then remind your audience with increasing frequency as it approaches. Get people stoked! Streams where I promote an event for a week have 5x the turnout of streams where I only promote the day before.
Reviews are HUGE for continued sales and getting your book in front of new readers. Encourage your readers to leave reviews on Amazon, goodreads, or their blogs. Having ARC reviews up before release will help (mob mentality), but you should also routinely remind your audience and readership that reviews are helpful! Utilize your social media and newsletter to give ‘em a lil boop on the snoot every now and then to guide them toward writing reviews.
Don’t stop marketing after your book is out
After the pre-sale period, your marketing job’s not done. Little Birds dropped in 2018, and it’s still selling, because I’m still promoting it. When the audiobook released, we had trivia night and other events to promote it, I gave out free versions for review, and I pushed the sample on my website. When my second collection was available for preorder, I dropped the price on Little Birds and advertised it to draw in new readers to get hype for the second book’s release. The longer you market and the more ideas you generate to keep the hype up, the longer your book’s life will be, and the more money you’ll make!
Marketing a book doesn’t have to be a daunting, overwhelming task. If you plan ahead, strategize, and prepare your posts, content, and events ahead of time, all you have to do is implement and problem-solve along the way!
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