Most authors should know that it's really up to them to promote their books, not the publisher. The publisher will do what they can do, of course, but the author is the one who can really get the word out there to the masses. So here is my Top 10 list of things authors can do to successfully promote their own books.
- Promote your book BEFORE it's even published. Think of this like movie trailers. Film companies are super intelligent; they give people a sneak peek to get them interested, then hook them with anticipation by announcing a release date. Authors can do the same. Give your readers a sneak peek--a free sample, a book trailer. Then as soon as you know the release date (and about 1-3 months in advance) start promoting this new release.
- Have your book PROFESSIONALLY edited. If you want longevity as a writer, you must treat this like a career. This means that even self-published, author-originated works must be edited professionally by someone who knows HOW to edit. NEVER be the only editor for your book. If you put out an inferior product you will lose fans and sales, and bookstores will not promote you. If you're going to do this, do it right! You're competing with every other book out there, and there are millions, so find a good editor.
- Once your book is published, promote the heck out of it! Too many authors leave marketing up to their publisher. This is your baby, no one else's. As soon as your book is released, you have a window of about 3 months to get it off the ground, and another 3 months to keep things rolling. Not even a publisher can market your book as well as you can, and if you don't know how, LEARN. If you don't know where to start, I'm a book marketing coach; I can teach you.
- Create a solid internet identity. What will we find if we Google your name right now? Will we find someone else with the same name who sells lawn ornaments? Are there 10 hits? 1000? 100,000? Are the first 3 pages of any search engine all about you or at least 90% you? If not, you've got work to do. Make sure you have a professional looking website and blog. Don't use a free host with ads for your site. Invest in a domain name (your name preferably) and pay for hosting.
- Blog at least 2-3 times a week. On numerous blogs. Blogging about anything sells books. Readers like to see the human side of their favorite authors, so blogging should not be a hardcore sales pitch every post. Find a controversial or thematic angle within your book and blog about that. My novel Whale Song dealt with assisted suicide. I not only researched the topic, but I blogged about it and was then contacted by a radio station because of my blog post and then was interviewed. Blog about the journey you took to get where you are in your writing career. Blog about editing, rejections, writer's block, courses, anything that might be helpful to other writers.
- Hold a virtual book tour. VBTs are an excellent and inexpensive way to get the word out about your book. Other bloggers are now promoting YOU. There is, however, an effective way to do this and an ineffective way. Successful blog tours have the following main elements: thoughtful planning, research, themed articles/posts, calls to action, proper scheduling, advertising and high sales. Your book should reach the bestsellers lists on Amazon, at the very least.
- Sell your book on a specific day by holding a contest. If you ask people to order from one major retailer, like Amazon for instance, on a specific day and offer them some kind of incentive, you will have the opportunity to make Amazon's bestsellers list. Pick a day, offer a prize they can't turn down (remember: never make your book your prize-at least, not the book you are trying to promote) and have a proof of purchase to ensure sales are submitted on one day. Once you make Amazon's list (and don't forget, books are broken into categories), you're a "bestselling author" with a "bestselling novel". That statement alone attracts more success.
- Find out where your readers are. The goal is not to have your book in every bookstore. First, very few books achieve that. Second, having them in a store is no good if no one is buying them. So find out where your readers are. If you write mysteries, find out where mystery readers meet in your town. Become a guest author at a book club. Look for online reading groups or sites like GoodReads and start schmoozing with readers.
- Cultivate personal relationships with bookstore staff. Most authors underestimate the power of signing books in a store. Too many authors focus entirely on sales, or lack of sales. Forget sales! Think about relationships instead--with store staff, customers and potential fans. That is what is important. When you build these relationships you will have store staff who will hand sell your book and go out of their way to promote you, invite you to special events and feature you on special front-end shelves that publishers have to pay for. Customers can turn into media contacts and interviews. Potential fans can turn into lifelong fans who will buy everything you write and recommend you to their family and friends.
- Contact media for every event or set of events. If holding a bunch of signings during October, call it your "fall tour" and promote it. Send out press releases to local TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Send out online releases to services like 24-7pressrelease and free online services. Just Google 'press distribution services'. Many authors consider interviews a form of success, and the more you create a need for your area of expertise (whether writing, getting published, or a particular theme from your book), the more media will want to interview you.
It takes a combined effort and partnership between author, publisher and retailers to make a book successful. A partnership. That's how you must think of it. So don't just throw your "baby" out in the world and expect someone else to baby sit it or expect it to fend for itself.
Take control and responsibility seriously. Being a writer is the emotional, creative side; being a successful author of a published book means you have to recognize the business side. It comes with the territory. Accept it. Embrace it. And be the most successful author you can be.
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author and book marketing coach