The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work

By Rachel Thompson | Blog

Jan 09
The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work, BadRedhead Media, @badredheadmedia

Updated 1/9/2017

I’m constantly amazed by the sheer number of writers who are about to release their first book, or have already released their first book, and have zero marketing in place. Nothing, nada, oftentimes less than zero. They remind me of the college kid who walks into a final with a hangover and a broken pencil, hoping to pull the answers out of their you know where.

Unless you are a genius and your work is the best book ever in the history of the entire world (and if you think it is, you need a lesson in humility), you need to market your work. Trouble is, most writers have absolutely no idea where to start. Here’s just a quick smattering of the questions I receive in a given week:

  • Isn’t marketing just a ‘buzzword’ that doesn’t really apply to me?
  • Do I really need a blog? I’m too busy writing real books.
  • Social media is stupid. It doesn’t sell books. Why bother?
  • When should I start my marketing? I don’t even have a book yet!

I could write a book on these few topics alone, but I’ll address these issues here now and give you some tips where to start.

Let’s deconstruct.

Who Needs to Market Anyway?

You do. I do. Everyone needs to and in all likelihood, you already are and don’t even realize it. Do you talk about your book? That creates anticipation and expectation, aka marketing tactics. Share quotes or teasers? Also marketing tactics.

Gotcha.The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work, book promotion tips, book marketing, BadRedhead Media

Marketing has been around since people started selling things and it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. What IS marketing anyway? By definition, marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with customers that result in value for both the customer and the marketer (Source: KnowThis.com).

Where to start? Marketing seems like a huge world we’ve never visited before, an expansive desert full of land mines and tripwires, right? There’s no map, either. Where the heck does a newbie writer start?

Depends on who you ask. Nobody gives you a straight answer. It’s damn frustrating. It was for me, too, and I had over a decade and a half of Big Pharma sales and marketing experience behind me. So here’s what you do: research. (Writers, we’re good at that.)

Read books about book marketing. See what the authors you enjoy are doing. Read their blogs, social media, pay attention to their promotions and how they word things. Read my blog here (I share everything I’ve done — the good and the bad), come to my weekly #BookMarketingChat* (on Twitter, every Wednesday 6pm pst/9pm est) to learn from me (and people far smarter than me) who know a lot about book marketing and the publishing industry, and then start interacting and asking questions.

*If you can’t make it, we summarize every chat and post it on our public Facebook Page. All previous chats are posted in the Book Marketing Chat Notes Section for easy access. So your excuse that you aren’t on Twitter or you have class on Wednesday night is poof — blown. Go. 

You don’t need a marketing or business degree, but you do need to spend time learning. If you don’t have the time, hire me or someone else who has been there (and is still here), walking through the fire.

Blogging — Worth It?

I shared a post this week from Seth Godin, ‘Seth’s Advice for Authors’ which he wrote in 2006. I shared it because, while the tech and numbers have changed dramatically, the concepts are still sound. A few highlights:

  • “The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.
  • Blurbs are overrated, imho.
  • Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.”

He has a ton of great nuggets in this one article (go, go now and read it), but the point is this: without a book, you still have plenty of ways to connect with readers, book bloggers and reviewers. You don’t need a product because YOU are the product and this is what most writers don’t get or completely reject flat out. Sadly, it doesn’t matter what your existential objections are: in publishing, we brand the author, not the book.

Blogging helps to do this. Even if your book is YA Fantasy Sci-Fi Erotica, you can still blog about your cookie recipes or your divorce. Authenticity rocks, baby. Be you. People will connect with the you that you are, and when your book is available for purchase, they will purchase it to support the you they’ve come to know. Remember, you are creating value for your reader.

Plus, you know, the whole SEO visibility bringing traffic to your site with fresh content blah blah which I’ve discussed ad nauseam thing. So, there’s that.

(Yes. Blogging is important!)

“Social Media Doesn’t Sell Books”

You are right. It doesn’t. Where did you get the idea that it would? However, social media helps you build relationships that will help you to sell books. Social media is social. It’s not one way BUY MY BOOK link blasts. If that’s all you are doing, stop it now. If that’s all you are seeing, then you are following too many authors, and not enough readers, book bloggers, and reviewers — the influencers you should be connecting with, right?

It’s not social media’s fault you are following the wrong people, and those people are using social media incorrectly. That’s on you.

You have some work to do.

You need to be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (not stupid, so get over yourself. It’s owned by Google, the largest search engine in the world. You do the math.), and at least one more visual channel: Pinterest or Instagram (or even Snapchat, though with the ephemeral nature of it, I’m not sold on it yet as a book marketing tool). Think about where your audience is: if you write YA, you need to be on Insta and/or Snapchat, where your book buying demographic hangs out.

Take a look at the latest Pew Research reports for the breakdown on demographics — ‘as of January 2014, 74% of online adults use social networking sites.’ 

Godin states that 58% of U.S. adults will never read another book after high school (wow, that’s depressing). That means you have 42% of the population that does read as your potential demographic…kinda. Now you have to break that down into the chunks that read your particular genre. Now you have to find them — and if 74% of them are online on social media sites…why on earth wouldn’t you be online with them? Because you’ve decided, in your wisdom based on…what, exactly? — that it’s stupid. If you are following the right people and using it correctly, to build relationships and interact with readers — it’s anything but stupid.

Here’s a quick breakdown (Source: Pew Research) of adults (18+) as of January, 2014 (numbers do not add up to 100):

  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 17% use Instagram
  • 21% use Pinterest
  • 22% use LinkedIn
  • 19% use Twitter

“When Should I Start Marketing My Book?”

The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work, Monday Blogs, RachelintheOC, BadRedheadMedia

Long before it’s out. As Godin says, three years before you release it. That doesn’t seem realistic to most, so I find that three to six months usually does the best. Most authors start marketing three months after it’s out, when they’re in that ‘freak out, oh my god, what have I just done,’ phase. Don’t be that author.

The trick to pre-marketing is understanding what you want people to know about you, your book, and your brand. (The suggestions below apply, whether or not your book is out.) The difference is that you have time to really build authentic relationships with readers, instead of freaking out in desperation for someone, anyone dear gawd please to notice you in the sea of thousands of other books out now.

What if you are in that mix right now? Is there any hope? Yes. Here is what you can do:

  • Book a blog tour. Book tours give you visibility but don’t usually sell a ton of books. They can help your SEO and can result in more reviews. Debatable as to whether they’re worth the money, so up to you to decide. Again, think visibility, not sales.
  • Target your social media. Are you following readers, book clubs, book bloggers, and reviewers? Are you retweeting and sharing their blog posts? If not, you should be. The best way to gain followers is by following others. I use ManageFlitter to target followers on Twitter using keywords.
  • Go to BookBloggerList.com. Over 1700+ book bloggers are listed on this free resource (recently shouted out by Publisher’s Weekly!) and all you need to do is find the ones who fit your genre and connect with them. Read this post by founder Barb Drozdowich for all the specifics.
  • Promo sites: BookBub, BuckBooks, KindleNationDaily, Author Marketing Club (free option) or other promotional sites: Book a promotional day with one of these sites — there a number of options to fit your budget. I also like FreeBooksy, BargainBooksy, DigitalBookToday, and BookGoodies. Again, this is not a paid endorsement and your mileage may vary. If you use them and have a bad experience, don’t come crying to me.
  • Consistent blog posts: This helps your SEO and search engine ranking. Keep blogging, ask authors you like to guest blog for you, ask to guest blog for others you have built relationships with, be generous with your shares of others, participate in #MondayBlogs, and don’t talk about yourself and your book all the time. Be consistent with your promotion, but not one-way, ME ME ME constantly.
  • Share great content: share articles, quotes, pictures, and other interesting content that is about your topic but that isn’t constantly about you and your book. Don’t be a broken record.
  • Advertising: some people have zero budget. I get that. But let’s say that instead of spending money at Starbucks, you take that $25 to $35/week and put it toward Google AdWords (not AdSense, totally different), Facebook ads (also great if targeted correctly) Twitter ads, or even Goodreads ads. Your ad will be seen by more people than a single tweet with a ‘Buy my book!’ link, and it’s a more ‘passive’ sale, if you will.
  • Giveaways: Rafflecopter, Amazon giveaways, and Goodreads giveaways are great ways to gain followers, visibility, and exposure at little cost to you.
  • Email subscriber list and newsletters! I cannot stress this enough — so important. Do not email people on blast — against all kinds of federal laws. Get free Mailchimp and read their tips on fancy, fun newsletters here. Check out Instafreebie, a new service where you provide a few chapters or a snippet of your nonfiction work, and in order for readers to download, they have to subscribe to your email list. Super concept, and I’m quite happy with the results so far!

You’ve spent months, if not years, writing your book. Now you need to spend time learning how to market it. There’s no magic bullet, so stop looking for one and get to work. Remember, you likely won’t write only one book. It gets easier each time. So start.

You can do it.

The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge is NOW available on Amazon! Want to jump-start your book sales and learn how to market your book in a month? Go buy this book right now.

30-Day BadRedhead Media Book Marketing Challenge, BadRedheadMedia.com, BadRedhead Media, @BadRedheadMedia, Book Marketing

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com

Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a post again! I will never share your email and that’s a promise. Follow me on Twitter @RachelintheOC or @BadRedheadMedia for social media, branding, or marketing help. Increase your blog traffic by participating in #MondayBlogs (a Twitter meme I created to share posts on Mondays — no book promo)

All content © 2017 by BadRedhead Media aka Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.


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About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published by Shadow Teams NYC and represented by Lisa Hagan Books. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs,  #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Leave a Comment:

(27) comments

Cristy Kessler January 5, 2015

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for this post. It is just what I needed at this time and space I’m in. I have a question about headshots. Is best to stick with one photo across all social media, book covers, speaking engagements? And, I need to get people to sign up for email list, not just follow my blog, but actually submit their email address. What is the best way to do this on my blog?

Happy New Year,
Cristy

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2015

    Hi Cristy and thanks for reading and commenting. To answer your questions: yes, consistency is important so I do recommend sharing the same headshot if possible. Make it professional and hi-resolution as well.

    That said, it shouldn’t look dated, either. If it’s from 10 years ago, pick something more recent. I often get tired of the same shot, so I’ll trade out a shot on Twitter, but then I’ll update it as well on FB, Pinterest, and Instagram etc. Sometimes it’s best just to stick with one and leave it until you release another book. Whichever you prefer. As long as it’s consistent.

    As for email signups, I have a plug-in that goes across the top of my site that makes it easy for people to sign up right when they get to my site and or blog. I also encourage sign-ups at the end of each post and on the sidebar. I even have a sign-up option on Facebook (on a tab). FB is rolling out a new ‘sign-up’ button (see if you have it yet) on Pages also. If you have it, people can click on it and you can direct them to your newsletter. Molly Greene http://MollyGreene.com has many great suggestions on this on her site as well. Take a look!

    hope that helps!

    Reply
Kate Woods January 5, 2015

Tough Love for Whiny Writers, is such a great title. I can’t wait till it’s available. I’ve been posting on #MondayBlogs for a few weeks now and I am reading your marketing posts. I’m one of those people who spent years writing a book but barely thought about how to market it until it was printed. I do research everyday and try to add something new to my arsenal of marketing tools daily and your tips have been extremely helpful. Thank you for creating #MondayBlogs and for sharing your marketing knowledge. I look forward to your future posts.

Kate Woods

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2015

    Hi Kate! Thanks for reading, your kind comments, and participating in #MondayBlogs. It’s become such a great traffic generator for so many, particularly if you can connect with other bloggers (i.e., RT them, visit their blogs and comment, follow them, etc).

    Thanks on the title for the new book LOL. It kind of started as a joke from a Huffington Post article I wrote, but I think it resonates with so many of us (including me). Marketing and promotion can be exhausting and confusing, and it’s hard WORK. Those who keep looking for the easy button won’t find it. That’s the message. 🙂 thanks again for responding!

    Reply
jalterauthor January 5, 2015

Great advice as usual, Rachel. We writers hope our readers will appear as if by magic, yet they never do. Book marketing is so often neglected when one prepares to publish that novel within.

Your entry is both entertaining and educational. Thanks!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2015

    It’s not magic, is it? It certainly would be nice, but it’s not realistic. I’m not sure why people think that will happen. Even journeyman authors have been at it for years and years. Overnight successes have been writing for a long time — we just rarely hear about that back story because it’s not as interesting.

    It’s hard and it’s work and it’s part of the job of being an author. Period. thank you for your comments!

    Reply
William D. Prystauk January 5, 2015

Great article, Rachel! I couldn’t agree more about building your platform on social media long before one’s book comes out. I began in May 2013 with 90 followers on Twitter, and I now have 15,000+. My crime thriller “Bloodletting” has just been released from Booktrope, and I’m truly grateful that followers on Twitter are helping to promote the novel.

As you stated, however, there is much more to do, and that marketing work has become my “part-time job.”

Be well and continued success!

Reply
    Rachel Thompson January 5, 2015

    Hi William and thank you for your kind comments. It’s wonderful how connecting with readers make such a difference. Katherine Sears shared an article on the Booktrope site about finding and connecting with our ‘raving fans’ and it’s so true — people really want to see their favorite writers succeed and word of mouth is still such a huge part of book marketing (whether it’s online or in real life). That’s really the benefit of social media and blogging and all the rest of it — building relationships.

    I wish you continued success!

    Reply

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[…] The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work Unless you are a genius and your work is the best book ever in the his­tory of the entire world (and if you think it is, you need a les­son in humil­ity), you need to mar­ket your work. Trouble is, most writ­ers have absolutely no idea where to start. Here’s just a quick smat­ter­ing of the ques­tions I receive in a given week: […]

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[…] The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That Work Unless you are a genius and your work is the best book ever in the his­tory of the entire world (and if you think it is, you need a les­son in humil­ity), you need to mar­ket your work. Trouble is, most writ­ers have absolutely no idea where to start. Here’s just a quick smat­ter­ing of the ques­tions I receive in a given week: […]

Reply
Lloyd Lofthouse December 7, 2015

Great advice. I have to read this more than once.

Reply
Shayna Ryan-Box December 27, 2015

Awesome article! I am 3/4 of the way done with my first novel and have been trying to learn everything I can about building an online presence, connecting on social media, and how to market myself, so thank you for this! I will definitely be combing through your website to read everything you have!

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laurabon January 31, 2016

This is an amazing article on book promotion. Great work.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson February 1, 2016

    thank you, Laura 🙂 I appreciate you reading and commenting so much!

    Reply

[…] The 4 Most Effective Book Marketing Strategies That … – Unsure how to market your book, or when to start marketing your book? @BadRedheadMedia’s Rachel Thompson breaks it down for you! […]

Reply

Awesome article! Thanks for sharing. Sure wish I would have had the foresight to have read this first but…I’m on it now! Thank you again.

Reply
    Rachel Thompson February 9, 2016

    Hi Steve — well, it’s never too late to move in the right direction. Thank you for the kind words and good luck!

    Reply

[…] Do you know what your keywords and branding […]

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[…] Do you know what your keywords and branding […]

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[…] Do you know what your keywords and branding are?  […]

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FrancinaSimone April 23, 2016

This is so Awesome. You are awesome. Thanks for writing this!

Reply
Karlene Cameron December 9, 2016

Great article, Rachel!

And equally great suggestions! I have been a marketer for nearly 20 years and can’t stress enough how important it is for author’s to market their books. Don’t assume your publisher will pick up this task — so many of them are looking to their author’s to provide the bulk of the leg work!

That being said, the single most important thing an author can do is to start a blog — and then consistently add new content. Second to that, they need to connect with other sites to gain valuable back links.

Thanks for summarizing this into a well-written, actionable post!

Karlene

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