Community organization events (any event that allows vendors)
Writing groups (guest speaker)
Art collaborative events (art walks, art fairs/festivals)
Craft fairs (schools, senior center, maker markets)
Community festivals (seasonal, renaissance, kids)
School or library talks (information presentation, career day)
Informational presentations (conferences, comic cons, literature events)
Setting up a book signing
Book signings are not limited to book stores, but if you do want to hold a signing at a bookstore, focus on local and independent stores. Chain bookstores often don’t work with indie authors because of buyback restrictions and they may not take consignments either.
Local stores are more flexible and offer better royalty splits on books sold during a signing or on consignment books. A 60/40 split is common with many indie bookstores when books are excepted on consignment.
If you wat to branch out from bookstores, pitch libraries, restaurants/cafes, or a business related to the book’s theme. When working with a for-profit organization or an event center, you will likely need to rent the space or give a percentage of sales to the venue or owner.
Be sure to book your signing 1-2 months in advance. Venues or organizations who hold regular events need plenty of time to fit you into the schedule. It’s also important to give yourself enough time to make sure you will have books available.
You don’t have to wait for someone to ask you to speak to their group or organization. Prepare a presentation and pitch yourself to groups.
Author talks or informational presentations are great options when you don’t have a new release or something to celebrate but still want to stay active in the community. Pitch yourself to bookstores, libraries, charity events, schools, Comic Cons, writing conferences, or festivals.
Have a topic ready to pitch. Write out a 100-word synopsis of the content and have a sample ready for consideration. Don’t just talk about your book. Focus on the issues your book deals with or pick a writing or book related topic you feel comfortable speaking on.
Charge a speaking fee or ask to sell books in lieu of payment.
People do not buy goods and services. The buy relations, stories, and magic.
While marketing can be intimidating and time consuming, the more you focus on building relationships with readers, the more success and satisfaction you’ll experience.
A solid long-term marketing plan is a big factor in determining success.
Daily Marketing Tasks
Social media posts should be going out daily, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it daily. Schedule a full week in advance to free up time by using services like Buffer, Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or Sprout Social. Which will work best will depend on which social media platforms you plant o use, how far in advance you want to schedule, and your budget.
Once you have your posts going out, make sure to engage! Respond to comments and messages, like and thank shares, and follow/friend as you see fit. Join conversations about books and publishing as well.
If you’re going to blog, always be on the look out for content ideas and plan your schedule. Even if you aren’t going to blog weekly, you should always be gathering topics and ideas.
Starting pinning on Pinterest and engaging with followers by liking/pinning their pins. Posting around 5 pins per day has been shown to help grow traffic on Pinterest.
Keep a running list of links, stories, pictures, etc. that you can share as content on social media. Also curate a list of posts that get good engagement and reshare them every so often.
Answer all messages and emails you receive, even if it’s just a quick thank you.
Review analytics of posts and ads daily so you know what’s working and what’s not.
Research new information and opportunities. Never stop learning because the marketing world never stops changing!
Weekly Marketing Tasks
If you are going to blog, blogging is a good way to keep fresh content rolling in and keeping your website relevant in search results.
Small focused promotions also work well on a weekly basis. These may include small giveaways ($5 gift card, ebook, bookmark, etc.), contests with small prizes, newsletters, questions posed to readers on social media, etc.
To break up your promotion submissions, send a few each week. Rotate through your books if you have more than one. Keep in mind any upcoming promotions you have as you submit and plan accordingly.
Review ad performance over the past week and make changes or turn off ads that aren’t performing well.
Cross promote with another author through newsletter or social media post swaps.
Send out relevant email blasts if you have news that wasn’t included in your last newsletter and can’t wait until the next schedule newsletter. Don’t overuse this!
Pick a day to sit down and schedule daily posts for the next week.
Monthly Marketing Tasks
Plan a medium-sized focused promotion, such as a giveaway with a slightly bigger prize ($10-$20 gift card, paperback book, etc.), offer a book for sale or make a special offer with purchase, or hold a contest.
Send out your regular monthly newsletter (if that is the schedule you choose), and include all relevant updates from the previous month and news about what is coming up in the next month.
Seek out reviews from fans, bloggers, services, etc. Set a realistic goal for how amny reviews you want to get each month through direct interaction.
Focus on one book or series each month. Plan your social media posts, review offers, free books, Pinterest board activity, character interviews, etc. around the book or series you are featuring that month.
Incorporate any holidays or events into your posts and promotions. If you want to include listing sites or ads, plan these well in advance if it’s around a holiday.
Plan the next months ads and create the graphics you will need so you aren’t wasting time later trying to create or purchase them at the last minute. Review monthly analytics and make adjustments as needed.
Yearly Marketing Tasks
Schedule 2-4 big marketing pushes for the year. These may be centered around a new release, holiday, event, birthday, etc. If you can plan a few outside of times when everyone else is engaging in marketing pushes (holidays), you’re likely to get more interest.
Be as creative as possible with events, posts, and prizes. Try new tactics and evaluate whether or not they worked.
Plan your release schedule for future books and, if possible, spread them out evenly throughout the year. Be realistic, though!
Set goals for the next year for growth and plan for how to reach those goals.
Launching a new book typically takes extra marketing and a specific plan in order to make it a success. In this post we’ll discuss what extra tactics you can take to launch in each of the three phases of planning a book launch: pre-release, release-day, and post-launch marketing.
Pre-Release Marketing Planning
Start as early as possible with your pre-release marketing! Plan out what promotional materials (physical or digital) you plan to use and have them prepared as early as you can so you can start sharing them.
Gather reviews for release day by recruiting book bloggers, beta readers, or review services. Remember that you should NEVER pay for reviews. Keep track of everyone who agrees to provide an honest review and follow up with them on release day. Ask them to send you a link to their review so you can share it. Thank reviewers who follow through and keep a list of those who don’t so you can decide who to send review copies to for your next releases.
Another pre-release marketing option is to make a book trailer. This can be posted on YouTube for long-term availability and shared on social media in marketing posts. Video consistently get more interaction on social media than pictures and text.
Setting up your book as a pre-order is another marketing option. This requires you to have your book files and cover ready further in advance, but it gives you a link to use in your marketing as well. It allows readers to buy your book when they are interested instead of hoping they will remember to purchase it after it releases.
Blog tours are not as popular as they once were, but they can still be useful for boosting visibility. They are not typically helpful for revenue producing, so evaluate where your budget can be best spent before paying for a blog tour.
If you plan to host any in-person events, set these up several months in advance and make sure your book files will be ready early enough to be able to order copies of your book in time for the events.
Release-Day Marketing Plan
Release day (week/month) sales within the first 30 days are important for rankings retailer sites. This is a prime time to focus on ads, promos, and social media marketing. Watch ads closely to see which are working best and turn off or adjust those that aren’t in order to keep your marketing as effective and efficient as possible.
Send out an email newsletter blast to your subscribers on release day, and then a few days to a week later as a reminder or only to those who didn’t open the first email. It’s a good idea to also ask readers to post an honest review when they finish reading as a way to help you reach more readers who might like your book. It often helps to mention that a review doesn’t need to be more a few sentences so readers don’t feel intimidated.
Host a release party (virtual or in-person) to celebrate the release. Digital options include Facebook parties, livestreaming a reading or Q&A session, Twitter chats, live YouTube video, or utilizing TikTok or Instagram. In-person options include a book signing, author reading, or party with friends and readers.
You can also schedule (or have a PR company set up) blog features, radio or podcast interviews, or media appearances. Traditional media is less effective for launch marketing than avenues such as podcast interviews and live social media appearances.
You can also off incentives for readers to buy your book, such as giving them a free gift like a bonus short story or signed bookplate or digital authorgraph. Be sure you check Terms of Service on retailers regarding incentives, especially in relations to asking for reviews. Amazon is very strict about this.
It’s also important to update all of your social media and website with links and graphics, including cover art if that hasn’t been updated already. Update your social media bios with a link to your book. You may only do this temporarily if your regular link is to your author website or something specific you are promoting.
Post-Release/Launch Marketing Plan
The goal of post-launch marketing is to continue the momentum you’ve built in the previous two phases. This takes consistent marketing for several months that is focused on your new release, but not as robust as during the launch period.
In the months after a release, make use of free social media group posts and paid ads as your time and budget allow. Schedule newsletter spots with companies that permit new releases. Once a month, remind your newsletter that you new release is now available to catch anyone who hasn’t opened your newsletter recently but might be interested in your new book.
Share positive reviews, blog posts, and pertinent links you cultivated during the previous two phases. Continue to seek out reviewers and build your reviews up on retailer sites. Utilize your street team members to share and post about your new release, what they liked about it, or to recommend it to likeminded readers.
The key of post-release marketing is to keep the book fresh in readers’ minds by incorporating it into what you’re already doing with your others books. If this is your first book, blend in updates on your next project while still promoting your book to keep readers excited for more!
Social media advertising is not the only option available to authors to market their books. Here are a few other avenues to consider.
Listing sites offer spots in their newsletter for authors to advertise new releases, special pricing, or free books. Newsletter ads provide short term results and benefits, with a period of additional sales at a higher price or sell-through on other books in a series. This period after the initial promotion is where most of the revenue is made. These types of ads range from inexpensive to very expensive depending on the size of the service’s list. Big lists like BookBub can be very effective and produce a longer period of additional sales.
Banner Ads are advertisements put in a prominent stop (usually the top of the page or sidebar) on a website. It’s important to check a site’s monthly or daily traffic before purchasing an ad. It’s almost important to make sure the price is promportional to the amount of traffic. These types of ads are moderately expensive, but also generally effective. The results are largely short term.
Reviews effect buyer confidence, so it is important to seek out reviews for your books. Amazon Terms of Service prohibit paying for reviews or exchanging products in return for reviews, with the exception of providing a free book in exchange for an honest review.
Paying to have your book included in a review service listing is a viable way to increase your reviews and does not violate Amazon’s TOS. These services can be rather expensive, depending on the service. Service with large reader bases will cost more than smaller services. These types of services can be very effective at increasing reviews and provide long term results.
Maintaining a consistent schedule of promotions helps authors remain in the forefront of readers’ mind.
Before you start scheduling promotions, make sure you make quality promotional graphics ready!
Preparing Promotional Materials
Give readers something to remember you and you book both in-person and online. This starts with high quality graphics and professional design. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. Using graphic editing software like Canva or Book Brush allows anyone to create eye-catching graphics for print or online use for a reasonable monthly fee. There are also design services that are very affordable (many are authors running side businesses).
Physical materials you may need for in-person events and sending or selling to readers may include: paper bookmarks, business cards, post cards, book plates to sign and mail, banners and posters, and flyers.
Virtual materials for social media promotion and digital advertising may include: teasers, quotes, digital autographs, posts to save/share, videos, book trailers, social media banners, 3D cover art, or logos.
Unique promotional materials can make you stand out. Consider options such as book-themed jewelry, ribbon bookmarks, book plates, mugs, t-shirts, pens, etc.
Personal materials you want to have prepared include: live reading selections, Q&As, chat sessions, etc.
Setting up Cross Promotions
Cross promotions are all about help other authors while expanding your readership. Here area few ideas to consider getting involved with:
Newsletter Swaps: You agree to feature another author’s book in your email newsletter and they share yours in their newsletter. The author with the smaller newsletter gets the most benefit, but both authors are exposed to new readers. This works best with the features books are in similar genres.
Combined marketing pushes: These are especially common and effective around themes or holidays. All authors promote a group of books, usually with a single landing page. This can work for free or paid books.
Guest post/Interview trades: Share guest posts, promos, or interviews on each others blogs/websites. This increases your general exposure and opens you up to new readers as well.
Multi-author events: Join other authors in celebrating a theme, holiday, or just to have fun. Consider hosting Facebook parties, Twitter chats, a group sale, an author panel Q&A.
Box Sets: In a box set, each author contributes a book and all the books are sold as one unit in an ebook format. All authors MUST agree to promote and share any advertising costs. Be sure to vet the other authors involved before signing a contract.
Free Marketing Avenues
Next week I’ll discuss paid marketing options, but don’t forget about the many free avenues available for marketing a book. Free marketing opportunities are often time consuming, but can be very effective. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Facebook: Join some of the many marketing groups and share links to your books. Post to your author page on a regular basis. Make sure to keep promotional posts to 25%. Run a giveaway on your author page for an ebook or signed paperback. Host a Facebook party to celebrate a new release, book anniversary, your birthday, etc.
Twitter: Use the Pinned Tweet feature to highlight a buy link or promotion. Tweet daily with interesting content and occasional promotions. Follow readers and authors and start book-related conversations.
eBook Submission Sites: There are a wide variety of submission sites, many genre specific. While many do charge a fee, there are some that are free to submit to. It can be time consuming to submit individually, but can gain you new readers and sales.
Cross-promote: Team up with other authors to share each others posts, tweets, pins, or links. Some author groups do this regularly, such as ChickLitChatHQ on Fridays.
Free ebook offer: Offer readers a free ebook, novella, excerpt, etc. on a permanent or temporary basis. Many authors use a free product as a reader magnet to increase newsletter subscriptions.
Video and Audio: Make use of YouTube for Vlogging, book trailers, author readings, or a weekly check-in or chat. Start a radio show or podcast to talk about books, writing, or whatever you’re interested in.
The more creative your marketing efforts are, the more memorable they will be. Try to match marketing to the theme or a unique feature of your book(s).
A great example of this was the launch of “The Girl on the Train.” On release day, the publisher deployed dozens or more employees onto subway trains with copies of the book. They rode around on trains for several hours reading copies of the book and engaging in conversations about it.
Other examples include “The Liar Society” authors and promoters wearing pink wigs to match the hair of the main character, a photography-themed book author ran a camera giveaway and Pinterest contest, an author/musician offered a free digital music album with purchase of his book.
Before we delve into how to use social media effectively as an author, here are a few reminders about the purpose of social media to guide your planning.
The purpose of using social media is NOT JUST TO SELL BOOKS. The purpose is to interact and cultivate fans and a community of readers.
To do this, it’s important to share useful information, use humor to make people laugh, inspire people, share the LOVE for other authors so it’s not about you all the time, share the status or progress of projects to keep readers informed, build reader interest in your project with teasers, quotes, and sneak peeks, reward loyal fans with first looks, giveaways and prizes, share your writing-related (or personal) news and events, and show your personality and share your interests with your readers.
What to Post of Social Media
Follow the 25% rule: Promotional, Informational, Personality, and Giving Back. Only 1 out of every 4 posts should be promotional.
Facebook: Posts that work well on Facebook include behind the scenes photos, quotes, fill-in-the-blank questions, true or false questions, open ended questions, blog posts about writing craft or in-progress projects, newsletters, announcements, teasers, sneak peeks of works-in-progress or new releases, live videos, excerpts, humorous memes, book/publishing-related articles, and personal interactions.
Twitter: The types of tweets the work well on Twitter include blog posts, interesting industry-related articles, quotes from famous authors, industry news of interest to other authors and readers, newsletters, announcements, Vine/YouTube videos, event updates, questions you would like readers to answer, Twitter chats, and impromptu thoughts to share with readers.
Pinterest: Pins that work well on Pinterest include product/book photos, writing guides, links to your ebooks, videos such as book trailers or author talks, infographics, quotes or tips from you or famous authors, blog posts, curated content geared toward writing or publishing, “life hacks,” instructional articles or videos, and arts and crafts.
Instagram: Because Instagram is very customer-centric it’s important to add value to images by providing specific price details when applicable. You can also share customer created pics, pics of YOU in day to day life, pictures of your non-writing interests, contests announcements, and product-centric pics. Focus on IN THE MOMENT pictures to share.
YouTube: This is a great platform to share book trailers, author readings or talks, updates or projects, and live Q&As with readers.
When to Post on Social Media
Here are some general suggestions based on research. Your personal schedule should be modified to accommodate individual account analytics and your personal time and energy available.
Facebook: 1-2 times/day, 3 times/week. Check your “Insights” to see when your fans are online most often to select posting times. It’s also important to review what types of posts fans are interacting with most as well.
Twitter: 3-30 times per day, spread throughout the day. You’ll typically see more engagement on weekends. Follow industry leaders and interact often.
Instagram: 1-2 times/day, 3 times/week. Check your insights for best posting times and pay attention to what types of post garner the most engagement.
Pinterest: 3-10 times/day. You’ll typically see more engagement on weekend mornings.
Blog: 2 times/week. Focus on producing HIGH quality content. Early mornings are typically the best times to post, especially early in the week.
YouTube: 1 time/week works well for most channels. Create a specific schedule and stick to it. Frequency varies depend on topic/brand. Research other authors and publishers working in your genres and see what they are doing.
Scheduling your posts can be a huge time saver and help you stay on a consistent posting schedule. Most social media platforms allow scheduling through their own app or a third-party app. Some third party apps allow scheduling for multiple platforms/accounts.
Hootsuite:Works with most social media platforms. You can try it our with a free account, which will have limited options. The unlimited paid account unlocks all options, but is one of the more expensive services.
Buffer: With their free account, you can use up to 3 accounts and schedule a limited number of posts. Their paid plans allows for more accounts and unlimited scheduling.
TweetDeck: This is only for Twitter, as Twitter doesn’t allow scheduling from it’s app. This app allows you to easily manage multiple Twitter accounts and lets you set up different groups and trends to follow on the dashboard.
Tailwind: There is only a paid account option, but it allows for scheduling posts on Pinterest and Instagram. It will also suggests best posting time and gives # suggestions for each post.
Facebook Business Suite: This dashboard connects your Facebook and Instagram-linked account for scheduling, messaging, and analytics. You can only connect one Instagram account to a Facebook page.
Use Analytics to Update Your Marketing Plan
Most social media platforms offer at least basics analytics. These give you information on likes, comments, shares, visitors, referring sites, time online, top fans, popularity of content, fan location, and more.
Review your analytics regularly and update your posting times and content type accordingly to what fans/followers are liking and interacting with most. Track the effectiveness of changes or new tactics and continue to adjust over time.
Determine the purpose of your website and develop it from there.
Choose a domain name name is easy to type and memorable. A .com ending is more professional and credible than .host name.com.
It’s also a good idea to choose a domain name that is close to your author name/pen name. This makes it easier to remember and is usually easy to type. If you have a name that is difficult to spell, consider an alternative such as first or last name only paired with “author” or “books.”
If you plan to write a blog, incorporate it into your website so everything is in one place and easy for readers to find.
Tie-in all social your media accounts with follow buttons and auto-sharing of blog posts.
Choosing a Website Host
Look for a host that matches your technological skill. Host like WordPress.org allow for HTML coding, while many other use drag-and-drop systems. If you are not knowledgeable about coding or do not need many customized features, a simpler system will likely work better.
Look for a host with a variety of templates, customizations, and plugins. Templates can give you website a professional look with little effort. Customizing your site gives it a more unique look and functionality. Important plugins to consider are integrations with a mailing list, shopping function, contact forms, and social media integration.
Consider what other benefits are provided by the host. Options to look for include SEO optimization, customer service, mobile friendly designs, and add-ons. Some popular providers are Wix, WordPress.com, Weebly, and SquareSpace.
Essentials of the Home Page
Make the home page your “landing page” where readers can access all the basic information about you and your books.
The home page is the MOST important page on your website. The average visitor only spends 1-2 minutes on a website, so it’s important to maximize that time.
Home Page MUST HAVES include: Links to your book(s), Social Media follow buttons, a “Reader Welcome Letter” or introduction, easy to see/use navigation tabs, and a clear indication of who the owner is.
Remember that a website is not for YOU, but for your readers. Be sure to provide them with the information they are looking for, and that it is easy to access.
Important Pages to Include
Bio/about: Include a longer, “official” bio, social media links, other platforms readers can find you on, and a newsletter signup form
Books/Products: List your books IN ORDER (this is #1 reason readers comes to author website). If you have a large backlist, you may want to break your books into series pages to keep from overwhelming the reader.
Blog (optional): Make sure your blog is followable, allows comments, and autoshares to social media.
Contact: Use a form, not your email/phone, in order to protect your privacy and simplify the process. Readers are more willing to contact an author through a form than directly emailing them.
Newsletter Signup: Set up a form through your email list provider and either provide the link to that form, or integrate the form directly into your website. Make the form simple and easy to fill out. Only ask for basic information, such as name and email address.
Appearances/Events (optional): Use this page to announce events you will be attending. You can also give information on how an organization request an appearance or author talk. List any fees you charge, or what areas you are able to make appearances.
Choose a template or design that is clean, simple, and easy to use design.
Make sure the layout is easy to navigate and that the menu is visible, often at the top of the page or in the side bar.
Be sure your website is optimized for mobile use. This is usually something done automatically by the host software, but be sure to review it and make sure it looks the way you want it to.
Use eye-catching images. ONLY use image you own the rights to or are copyright free (www.pixabay.com).
Provide useful content and update your blog and/or website frequently.