Writing a book is a long journey. But now that you’re done or nearing it, a whole other journey begins: book promotion.
Unless you’re a well-established writer or one of the lucky few, your publishing house (if you have one) will do little to promote your book. The bulk of the work falls to you, the writer. Like it or not, it’s probably your efforts that will determine how many copies end up in readers’ hands.
That’s actually good news. It means your success is up to you, rather than depending on some mystical external force. It means your success is only waiting for you to make it happen. Let’s see how we can help it along.
Book Promotion Starts with Excellence
Before you shout out to the world about your new book, take a moment to ensure that it’s top quality.
Go over the book’s structure and make sure it makes sense. Do the sections flow well together? Is one event or idea leading to the next?
Is your first chapter in particular strong, tight, and engaging? Do the very first sentences hijack the reader for the rest of the ride?
Let your friends and colleagues read your manuscript. Squeeze some honest feedback out of them, and take heed to the areas they point out as problematic. Remember, compliments are nice, but criticism is more helpful.
Work with your publishing house’s editor, or hire an editor of your own, to help you polish your language and capture embarrassing mistakes.
People do judge books by their covers. Make absolutely certain your book gets a professional-looking cover.
Building Your Author Platform
It’s never too early to start making your presence known on the web. That includes maintaining your professional author website, being visible and active on social media, and gathering people who are interested in your work.
Seth Godin advises you to start building your network of enthusiasts three years before the book is available. Others suggest you lay the groundwork three to six months before your launch.
That groundwork includes:
A media kit. Have some professionally printed business cards, get a head shot by a professional photographer, and create a “one sheet” for your book (a single document that includes a description of your book, a short biography, and perhaps lists topics you can address as a speaker).
An author website. It’s never too early for a good website that declares your goals, keeps readers updated with your progress, and builds an interest list. Creating a good writer’s website can be overwhelming, but Readership Pro aims to untangle the process for you. With Readership Pro, creating your own website is a snap. (Sign up to know when we go live, and get our free report on ten things your writer website must do.)
A blog (included with Readership Pro). Write about the topics you address in your book. Write about your writing experience and progress. Get readers primed to pre-order the book or buy it as soon as it’s available.
Social network profiles. Establish your presence on social media. Be selective, though. Figure out which social media sites your readership prefers, and establish your visibility and credibility ahead of launch. Determine which forum you enjoy the most, and give it some time to work for you. Find an online forum that fits the content of your book, and become known there. No, not necessarily by promoting your book; you want to offer advice and reach out to others. You can put a link to your blog or your website in your signature line.
These four steps are an essential beginning. Don’t let them overwhelm you—take your time doing them well in advance of releasing your book. Once you master them, they become second nature.
Creating Buzz around Your Book
There are lots of things you’ll want to do — online and offline — help your book promotion. Here are some suggestions:
Strive for media coverage. Contact local journalists and explain that you're a local author. Find out which hard-copy journals, magazines and online sites review books in your genre. Then request reviews by sending a promotional copy of your book to appropriate reviewers, both online and offline. Tuck your press release or one-sheet inside the book. Most magazines work three months ahead, so you’ll want to send your book well before your launch date. Also, ask your beta readers and other contacts to post reviews on Amazon. In fact, whenever anyone says he or she enjoyed your book, encourage him or her to place a review.
Arrange a virtual blog tour of blogs appropriate to the topic of your book. Each blogger will have his or her own way of “hosting” the author. It might be an author interview or Q&A, a guest or promotional post written by the author, a podcast, a video interview, or a live chat session. It’s also a good idea to give away free copies or downloads of your book.
Ask authors in your field to endorse your book (you can create sample endorsements so they can build on something already written, rather than starting from scratch).
Contact local bookstores or chains like Costco and ask about doing a book signing event. Don’t forget to consider specialty shops and groups that might have a particular affinity for your book. If you do get a gig, make sure you get the word out so lots of people will show up. You’ll want to talk about your book, answer questions, and read a short excerpt. You can also ask bookshops to carry your books on consignment.
Enter your book in awards contests, such as eLit Book Awards, Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, the International Book Awards, and the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Award, to name a few. And make sure any awards you receive get posted on your website.
Book promotion starts with building your online and offline presence, and continues with interacting with people to spread the word of your book. Don’t be single-minded about pushing your book. Provide people with added value, join discussions without mention of your own work, lure people to learn more about you, and only then make sure they discover your book and buy it. It’s a long process, but once you master it, it can be fun. And most importantly, it will help you on your way to becoming a serious writer.