Working with many self-published authors, we’ve seen varying successful approaches to book marketing, depending on the author’s style and the genre of the book. Before you choose which marketing tools you’d like to focus on, you’ll need foundations in place. These are:
- Brand values and your story
- Audience and targeting
- Desired goals
- Timeline and consistency
Treat each of these as a building block to develop your marketing plan for your book. Then you can explore the marketing tactics and digital tools available to you. Although it’s last on the list, confidence is critical to developing the other four pillars of your plans.
Your story matters
As an author, your brand is very personal, as is the product – your book. Whether you’ve written a novel, a memoir, a self-help or a business book, it’s your creative output and your readers are going to want to know more about you. When developing your author brand, you can put boundaries in place to only share what you’re comfortable with. However, the more you enable readers to get to know you, the better able they are to choose whether your writing will appeal to them.
Decide which of your personal values are important to share and why: how did you choose these values, what pushed you to write this particular book, what causes do you support and what change do you want to see in the world? These questions are fundamental to developing your author brand story. To read more about this, get Donald Miller’s Building A Story Brand.
As author J A Higgins says, she has used some of her own experiences in her writing, “As a child I was always interested in ghost stories and when visiting stately homes and castles would ask if there had been sightings. Then my imagination would fill in any gaps or create occurrences. As an adult I have taken part in a number of paranormal investigations and although I like to keep an open mind, sometimes science alone cannot explain what is seen, heard or felt.”
This type of discussion creates great content for reaching new audiences. Having confidence to share more about your authentic self will attract readers who resonate with you as well as the book.
The more you enable readers to get to know you, the better able they are to choose whether your writing will appeal to them.
– Debra Penrice, SilverWood Books
Not all readers are the same
To identify your audience, think about the themes in your book and how they’ll impact your readers.
Too many authors say their book will appeal to a certain broad demographic or age group, without considering the unique reasons it’ll appeal to a much more targeted group of people. Identify potential audiences, then narrow them down. So, for example, we recently published a crime novel for Heather Peck, where the crime has strong links to the land and agriculture. Farmers who love crime fiction are a very specific target audience!
Again, confidence is key to targeting the right readers, because you need to sift through all the themes in your book and focus on those topics which are going to have the greatest impact.
In her experience, J A Higgins found that it has not been easy to market a mystery thriller which features domestic and sexual abuse and has a paranormal twist. “Gradually I am learning who my target audience is and where to find them. The world is a mysterious place and our minds can conjure both exciting dreams and terrifying nightmares, which some readers might prefer to avoid. However, mysteries and thrillers teach us that as long as we believe in ourselves, we can end one chapter of our lives and start a happier one.”
Set your objectives and goals
When you set out your marketing plans, think about what goals you want to achieve. Bestseller status is hard to come by, unless your book is placed in a niche category on Google. (Which, with the right support and research, is possible to do.) However, you might plan to enter awards for public recognition and develop your local reputation by running events.
When setting your objectives to support your goals, do remember you can measure your marketing results in so many ways. The simple ones are all available on free analytics tools: social media followers, email newsletter sign-up numbers and website traffic. Approaching your goals with confidence that you will achieve them gives you a far better chance of doing so.
Too many authors say their book will appeal to a certain broad demographic or age group, without considering the unique reasons it’ll appeal to a much more targeted group of people.
– Debra Penrice, SilverWood Books
As you develop the timeline for your marketing plans, you’ll need to think about a routine which you can sustain. It’s no good starting out by posting daily on social media if you can’t hope to keep that going. Better to begin with four posts a week and do them for a whole year before you make any tweaks to the amount of content you’re sharing. You can start by setting up your website in month one, your blogs in month two, your email newsletter in month three and then use the next three months to build up your social media presence and do more events.
Confidence to try new marketing methods
Even if you are fairly new to digital marketing, you need to tackle the tools with the confidence that the more you practice, the better you’ll become at engaging and attracting your audience. There are so many tools to choose from, I always recommend starting with one and testing what works instead of spreading yourself thinly across too many platforms. To market your book, you can try:
- Sharing blogs and video content to draw traffic in to your website
- Building your email list into a ready-made audience for your next book
- Creating social posts to start conversations and engage new audiences
- Getting book reviews – on sites like Amazon and Goodreads
- Raising your profile by attending and organising events
- Entering awards to benefit from third party endorsement of your book
- Seeking publicity and news coverage of your story
- Arranging speaker sessions on podcasts and interviews on local radio
- Advertising in magazines that your potential readers will subscribe to
- Participating in partnerships with organisations who reach your target audience
Guest articles, blogs and award entries are a great way to build relationships and you’ll benefit from appearing on third party websites.
As you develop the timeline for your marketing plans, you’ll need to think about a routine which you can sustain.
– Debra Penrice, SilverWood Books
Author J A Higgins entered the Page Turner Awards in 2021, successfully reaching the Book Award Shortlist of Winners and has this advice for others:
“Upon entering the award, I loved the idea that I would be competing not only against other independent authors but also those who have been traditionally published. Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome to some extent and because I chose to publish independently, I couldn’t help but question whether my book would have been good enough to be traditionally published. Winning has given me the validation I needed and greatly increased my confidence as an author.
I also love that the Page Turner prizes are designed to help the winner in their writing career rather than a sum of cash so I would urge other authors to consider exactly what they might win before entering a competition.
I won an audiobook contract and I can’t wait to hear my book. Audiobook production is not something that indie authors can usually afford so it is an amazing prize. I also love the idea that my book will be more accessible to book lovers.
Receiving a winner badge which I can print and stick on the cover of my books has given me the confidence to sell in person, something I have not done before. Knowing that a book is a competition winner gives buyers extra confidence that it will be of a high standard.”
Once you’ve decided which marketing tools will reach your audience, you can begin to test them and measure the results. This enables you to tweak your plans according to what’s working best for your book.