One of the frustrating things about emulating successful authors is that not a lot of them tell you how they got there. I mean, at some point, your favorite author started at zero readers and zero sales. But how did they hack this whole online marketing thing and make it look super effortless?
The truth is every author with a pretty or professional feed took their time getting there. Not everyone was highly popular or successful after they launched their first book. And not everyone had a polished online presence when they were done with their book. Everyone has a different journey and I’ve yet to find an author that did everything perfectly, never wasted money/time, and fully lives off their publishing profits.
I’m currently in the middle of my publishing journey; I’ve published one book and I have two coming out in a few months. Isn’t that nuts? You can also read about my weird publishing date fiasco where I accidentally published my novel early and scrambled all day to tell everyone about it. So my day one of being a published author was NOT at all expertly planned out.
You and I will have different publishing experiences but there are a few tips for my fellow authors on how to market your book regardless of how many readers or followers you have. Read the following tips and start setting some publishing and marketing goals.
1. Assemble a Street Team
You may already have an informal street team, so this should be pretty easy. A street team is a group of reliable and good people who are willing and committed to help you with some free marketing. A street team is essentially a group of your readers who are willing to put your posts or ads on blast. Usually, they get a free copy of the book so they can write a review and share what they like about the book.
With a street team, you’ll feel less alone. You already have a core group of people who want to see you succeed; just ask for help. You can also ask for feedback on your marketing content. Whenever you talk about your book, does it match the book’s overall mood or plot—or are you selling yourself short?
Generally, you need to plan out your street team months before your book goes live, so don’t worry if you skipped this tip. You can start researching what a street team generally does, create a plan, ask people to join your team, then get it started up. When you publish a second book, you won’t have to scramble like this again.
2. Follow Your Readers
You need to make the first move when it comes to finding readers and fans. If you’re struggling to find people besides your family members that will read your book, start perusing social media for accounts to follow. Specifically, follow people who label themselves as readers or
Even if they don’t follow you back, you can learn a lot about how to market to these folks. What do they repost or share? Which books are they excited about? What will it take to price your book correctly or pitch the plot so people at least add it to their TBR list?
This is overall an easy and free way to market to your target audience and appease them.
3. Put Your Book on Blast
Just because you are fully aware that your book is published, doesn’t mean everyone else got the memo. Even if you create a post, social media platforms have algorithms in place that unfortunately means not all of your followers will even see the post. That’s why I schedule weekly reminders that my book exists; people just forget or people don’t know. This isn’t an excuse to be annoying about your book but a reminder that you can give your audience regular reminders of what your book is about and why they would love it.
As much as it may feel awkward or uncomfortable, start talking about your books all the time in all the relevant places. I argue that a book goes unread because people don’t know about it; not necessarily because of the quality. You could very well have an incredible book in your hands but if you don’t market it enough, how will they know to read it?
Along with talking about your book, make it stupid-easy to access your book. Your Amazon or B&N links should be easy to find on your blog (in multiple places), email list, your social media, or even your email signature. If you’re unsure about how much is “too much,” have a friend go through your social media or blog and ask them if it’s easy to find the link or how long it took to access your book. You can use the feedback to adjust your approach.
4. Make Fellow Author Friends
While it is true that we can’t read or buy every book (which continually upsets me as a reader), it is far more enjoyable and effective to sell and market books if you make friends with other authors. After all, who else but your fellow authors understand the time, money, and energy it takes to meet your publishing goals?
Here are a few examples of what other authors have done for me:
- Someone telling me (for free) that I should raise my freelance editing rates. They even gave me their calculator for determining the total project costs.
- Someone kindly (and privately) telling me about a fixable typo in my book blurb.
- Multiple friends putting my book on blast without asking.
- Sending me genuine words of encouragement.
- Offering to be an ARC or beta reader.
- Answer my KDP questions honestly and for free.
- Regularly creating free content on social media or their blogs that “share their secrets” or offer encouragement.
- Buying my book because they like me.
- Working with me to host giveaways.
- Referring readers or writers to view my work, hire me, or buy my book.
- Inviting me to their FB groups and treating me like a friend and not a consumer.
So how can you make author friends? Like all friendships, it starts with doing the things you wish others would do for you. Like, comment, and share their posts. Read their books if they genuinely interest you. Leave meaningful reviews. Be excited for them when they have a win. Encourage them when they express stress, doubt, or burnout.
Karma/the Golden Rule is alive and well in the publishing industry. Let it be your most effective publishing tool. You generally attract these kinds of authors if you make the first move and do this first. It takes SO much time and effort, so I understand if you’re not a fan of this advice. For me, I owe much of my modest success to my efforts to be a good and genuine person.
the Long Game
When I published my debut novel, I thought I knew everything possible about how to market it. In fact, I’ve been studying publishing trends since 2008. But experience wins over study on this one. You can read every blog post like this one and still feel like there were so many ways to better market your book.
Luckily, you have time on your side. With more time and more determination, you can find enough readers who enjoy your writing and your work. I often hear about authors getting popular only after they’ve put out multiple books or series; most of them take years if not decades to create an organic, thriving community.
Essentially, you can consider your publishing experience a flop if you stop writing and stop selling.
Book publishing is a long game and thus deserves a matching strategy. It makes writing the book the easiest part! If you want to make more than a couple bucks each month on Amazon, I strongly consider that you determine how you’ll keep that going. Will you participate in local events to sell your book in-person? Which pricing tactics will you try? Will you hire book cover designers, editors, and branding coaches to help you provide your best work? What exactly is your publishing dream, and what will it take to get there?
The good and bad thing about self-publishing is that the industry changes and thus, there are a million ways to sell your book. It’s a matter of figuring out what works for you and your book. You as the author-now-entrepreneur have the opportunity to test and experiment. Chances are, you will be rewarded for putting in the effort.
For now, I hope these tips give you the grit and courage to market your book. If you need me or Travis to help along your publishing journey, you can check out our services page. Until then, do you have any other tips or advice for newbie authors? Share them in the comments or on social media!