If you’ve ever worked in sales, you KNOW what salesy sounds like. You might’ve been rewarded for selling stuff that you may not care about or may not even afford.
The book publishing industry is no different from any other industry. At the end of the day, book publishers need to reach a certain profit point so they can keep publishing books. Indie authors especially understand that they must regularly talk about their books if they want people to buy them.
If you’re uncomfortable with book marketing, you’re not the only one. After all—many of us went to school to learn how to write good books and not crunch numbers or create keyword lists. Luckily, you don’t need to go back to school to know how to run the show. I learned most of what I know from my current job at a marketing company, and by testing out different strategies on social media.
Here are a few tips to get you started so you can enhance your book marketing skills and sound less desperate:
1. Talk About Your Books Once a Week
I’ve said it multiple times but it bears repeating: not enough people see your posts. On your end, it may feel like all you ever do is talk about your book. However, with the algorithm and millions of writers out there, the chances of 100% of your current followers seeing every post are pretty slim.
If you’re trying to find the sweet spot between over-doing it and remaining unnoticed, set a goal to post a picture and engaging comment about your book once a week. It’s consistent (which most algorithms like) and eventually, more readers will find out about your book.
If it helps, try batch working. Take a bunch of different photos of your book in advance so you don’t have to scramble every week to produce the content. If you’re not much of a bookstagrammer, there are many resources out there that provide templates; you just photoshop your book cover in and it looks like your book got the studio treatment. Just don’t share the same one or three shots all the time; I’ve found that this tactic doesn’t get the engagement I’m looking for.
2. Regularly Share Book Reviews
This is something I’m working on, but you and I can understand the value of sharing reviews. After all, it’s much easier to let someone else talk about your book than doing all that work all the time.
Let’s take it one step further: assuming you already have a few book reviews, try to highlight the reviews that show how your book fits well into the genre. Instead of something like “I couldn’t put the book down!” consider leading with “The final twist to the mystery was very satisfying.” The second review helps the casual scroller to stop and see some keywords that might pique their interest: final twist and mystery.
There are many ways to share reviews. You can make a formal graphic to beautify your feed or you could share a screenshot in your stories. If you’re particularly shy about your books, start sharing in your stories since they go away in 24 hours. Besides, Instagram and Facebook stories are popular right now and these platforms want you to use them, so you might as well ride the wave while it’s still in your favor.
3. Focus Only on Your Target Audience
It’s impossible to write a book that makes everyone happy. That’s not your job. Your job is to treat your target audience like the gods, goddesses, and non-binary deity that they are. When it comes to book marketing, you only need to convince a small population to read your book.
What does this look like? Well for starters, don’t justify buying your book to people who don’t like your genre—or don’t even like reading. This may be people you know IRL who you respect. Spend more time talking to people who are interested rather than changing the ones who aren’t. As someone who’s done 18 months of missionary work, the sooner you learn this, the better.
If it helps, draft up a portrait or portfolio of your reader. For most of us, we want to talk to people who regularly enjoy reading and buying books. That’s a given. But once you narrow them down based on your genre, things can get more specific. Here’s an example list of my target audience:
- they like fantasy/fiction (that’s my favorite genre, too!)
- they like a good ship/relationship
- they like something that deviates from some Hero’s Journey cliches.
- they like beautiful covers and will take pictures of my book
- they’re looking for racial diversity (but not forced)
- they like elemental magic
- they like lots of different female characters (my book is like, 90% female)
So now I know the kind of person I’m talking to, I don’t have to talk to anyone else who doesn’t fit this niche. Like, they don’t look for diversity, some kissing, or magic? They’re not my people, y’all. And if I use my energy to talk to people I know will want to read my book, I won’t worry about sounding desperate or insecure.
4. Use Storytelling Skills to Show How Your Book Fills a Need
Do you believe that someone can be positively affected by your books? Honestly and truly? Since most of you reading this are likely fiction writers, you might wonder if there’s any value in your work. They’re just stories, we may say.
Well, a story can just be a story. Not every children’s book has to teach numbers and colors, and not every novel has to provide commentary on the human condition.
Instead of comparing your work to the most influential book you can think of, simply write a list of ways your books can fill a need. The list might look similar to the list you made to define your target audience. If possible, be as genre-specific with your list.
For example, is your book a super-steamy escape from reality? Do you use your real-world expertise to get your readers more excited about STEM, history, or politics? Do your readers feel more seen as the protagonist or as a real person? Are you taking steps away from exhausted tropes and going for a wild genre-fusion? In a world full of billions of books, the people need to know why they should pick up yours.
Once you know this list, you’ve got a firmer marketing foundation. When you sit down to write your captions or tweets, you don’t have to rely on book sales to grab anyone’s attention. You can use items from your list to signal to your people what you’ve cooked up. Or, you can tell stories about how you came up with the story, how you made certain plot decisions, what keeps you going, or what you hope to leave as your legacy. The right people—your people—will gobble that up.
Don’t Let Desperation Win
Depending on how long you’ve been book marketing, you could feel overwhelmed, disappointed, or alone. The point of this, and many other posts, is to help you feel less alone. If you need a friend or you have some questions about book marketing or editing, you can contact us via email or chat with me on Instagram.
Until then, how do you market your books? How do you make it feel natural and fun? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.
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