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Marketing Your Book as a First-Time Author

You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your book— writing, revising, and writing some more. Then perhaps you hired an editor, designed a cover, and readied your book for publication. And finally, after months (or even years) of work, you hold in your hands (or on your e-reader) your completed book. That’s it, right?

Not so fast.

You’ve done the research, so you know the audience for your book exists. But with the rise of self-publishing and the increased ease and accessibility that goes along with it, trusting your audience to find you is no longer enough—you have to go and find them. You have to wave the flag and blow the trumpet and shout from the rooftops for your book. Fortunately, we have the tools that will help you shout loudly enough into the right ears in order to build an audience for your work. 

Once you make the decision and put in the work to write a book, or even before the book is completed, you’ll want to start building your author platform. Put simply, your author platform is every communication method you have at your disposal with which to connect with your audience (for a deep dive into the author platform, check out Chuck Sambuchino’s book Create Your Writer Platform). If you’ve set aside money to use to purchase advertisements for your book those can be a really effective tool, but most indie-published first-time authors will have a slim budget for this type of marketing. However, if you build your author platform effectively, you might not need to spend a cent. Here are some of the ways to parlay yourself and your contacts into an efficient and free marketing strategy.

Speak Directly to Your Readers

The internet offers today’s authors an incredible opportunity to communicate directly with their readers, and there are many different ways to do so. One way is through social media, with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter in particular can be a really effective tool for building your community of readers. You can use Twitter to make announcements about your work, ask readers questions, retweet readers who mention your book, and more. But the most important thing to remember when building your Twitter feed as an author is balance—you don’t want to become a spammer or someone who is only urging people to buy their work. As a general rule, about 80% of your tweets should be content focused on others, such as links to articles or stories you find interesting, fun facts or quotes, tidbits about your day, or engaging with followers, while the remaining 20% are self-promotion. Most importantly, you want all of your tweets to be interesting and on-topic in terms of what your readers want to see when they’re scrolling through Twitter. This piece from The Writing Cooperative has information on some of the free services that you can use to build out your feed automatically so that you aren’t spending every minute thinking about your next tweet.

Meanwhile, Instagram (by nature) is a great place to show more visual content. Share photos of yourself or others with your book or use it for cover reveals or announcements that can be made with a photo. Instagram is also a great place for you to share snippets of your personal life with readers—the more connected to you they feel as a person, the more motivated they will be to follow your work and purchase your book. Facebook has countless groups that can be used for book and author promotion (here is a pretty extensive list). And once you’ve built a community of readers, a Facebook group just for them is a great way to foster personal connections, as well as a place to offer giveaways and exclusive content that will keep them engaged.

In addition to social media, you can speak directly to your readers through your website, blog and/or newsletter. The newsletter is another place where you can offer exclusive content that will encourage readers to join your community, plus tell them about deals on your book, share books and other things that you love or just send a cute meme that will brighten their day. Blog posts don’t need to be as frequent as the content on your social media feeds—perhaps you write on your blog once a week and send out an email newsletter once a month. Jane Friedman, author of The Business of Being a Writer, does an incredibly thorough deep dive into blogging for authors. The gist: There are many different ways you can approach blogging, but the most successful ones are very focused and appeal to a specific audience, just like your book. 

Be a Guest Contributor

If you feel like you are struggling to attract readers and followers to your personal platforms at first, one way to find those people is through the platforms of others in your field of expertise. Find publications, blogs, websites, podcasts, and channels that are related to your book, and reach out! Offer to pen a guest column, serve as an expert in a story or appear on a podcast episode or in a YouTube video. One of the wonderful things about online content is that you can link directly from one article or quotation straight back to your website or your platform of choice, so a reader can instantly subscribe to your newsletter or follow you on Twitter while you and your work are still fresh in their mind. And then if you do appear on other platforms, you can turn around and share those in your own feeds, building your credibility and recognition among readers in your target audience.

Utilize Your Network

If you’ve been immersed in a field or a genre long enough to write a book about it, you’ve likely developed a network of like-minded people in that field or genre. So when it comes time to market your book, don’t hesitate to give them a ring. Offer to do a giveaway on their platform or write a guest post on their blog. You can also offer to send advanced copies to people in your network in exchange for an endorsement quote on the book jacket (this piece from the Alliance of Independent Authors is an insightful look at the pros and cons of endorsement quotes on self-published books). It may feel weird at first to ask members of your network for support like this, but once you build your platform and your audience you’ll be able to return the favor.

Galvanize “Citizen Marketers”

In today’s publishing landscape, these are the folks that many potential readers trust the most—the reviewers and book bloggers who have no stake in the industry and are going to tell you exactly what they thought of the book. Many readers will visit a read and review community like Goodreads or skim the Amazon reviews before they decide whether or not to purchase a book. They also might seek out their favorite book blogger to see if he or she has covered the release and even hold off purchasing until they hear what their citizen authority has to say. Take the time to find the bloggers and reviewers who specialize in your genre or field and offer to send them advanced copies of your book in exchange for an honest review (you can do this digitally if you are publishing your book solely as an e-book). Just like your friends in your network or the platforms you seek out as a guest contributor, these reviewers have existing communities with members that may be eager to join yours.


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The Emergence of Self-Publishing