Book Marketing 101: Where to Start

As a newly published author, marketing your book can feel overwhelming. The possibilities are endless and you have so much to learn including how to build a website and drive traffic to it, setting up book signings, getting your books in stores, going on blog tours, getting book reviews, social networking, interviews, and the list goes on and on. No one can do everything that is possible to market a book, especially an author with a limited budget. Here are a few simple tips for creating a realistic and manageable marketing plan for your book. 

For starters, make sure from the beginning you do the essential things:

  • Have a website.
  • Make sure your book is in stores, including online. 

Then, in talking to people and carrying out your marketing plans, always remember:

  • Be approachable, friendly, and professional to everyone.
  • Say yes to every opportunity or invitation you receive if it is possible and reasonable. If you can’t say, “Yes” politely say “No.”
  • Do not spend money without a fair idea that the results will be worthwhile.
  • Have fun and believe in your book. Enthusiasm sells books. 

Now brainstorm for marketing ideas compatible with your book’s audience and your personality. Make a list of everything possible from passing out business cards to hiring a plane to skywrite your book’s title. Don’t let any idea slip away no matter how cheesy or outlandish it might seem. Write ideas down until you have fifty or more. If you get stuck, plenty of marketing books exist to help you come up with ideas. 

Prioritize your ideas from easiest to most difficult. In defining “easy” and “difficult,” consider: 

  • How comfortable do I feel doing this activity? For example, if you own a plane, skywriting may not seem as difficult as speaking in front of an audience. I give you permission to do what feels comfortable to you. You can’t do everything so get your feet wet doing what you will enjoy doing, then you can stretch your boundaries slowly.
  • How much time is required for this activity and do I have that kind of time? For example, if you work 9-5, you may not be able to do activities that require your presence during the business day so put those toward the bottom of the list and focus on activities you can do in the evening, on weekends, and at your convenience.
  • How expensive will this activity be and does it fit into my marketing budget? If something will cost you $500 and you only have $1,000 for your marketing budget, you might not want to spend half your budget on one activity—similar to not putting all your eggs in one basket. At the same time, if the results seem to be worthwhile, spending money to get those results is always permissible and encouraged.
  • How will I know if this activity is successful? Consider using SMART goals to decide whether an activity is worthwhile. Will this way of marketing your book have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive) results? 

Once you have created a priority list of marketing ideas, time-management becomes important. You may only want to start with the first five or ten on your list and figure out how you will accomplish them. We all have limited time. If you have a day job, a family, other activities and obligations, make yourself a time-schedule for marketing. For example, you know Monday evenings you will be tired from working and the kids have soccer, so maybe you decide not to do any marketing on that day, but then you promise yourself that Tuesday and Thursday you will mail out at least five postcards to bookstores, libraries or other places that will help you sell books. On Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings you will focus on marketing your book on social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. On Sunday afternoon, you will do another activity that works for you. Of course, life will intervene and try to get you away from your schedule, but having a schedule will make you more inclined to stick to it. 

Reassess your progress monthly. If you only reassess every six months or once a year, you’ll forget to reassess. If something is paying off for you, keep doing it, and consider doing more of it. If something isn’t paying off, then quit doing it, or do less of it. 

Consider how things that are working can be done more efficiently. Maybe you started off making your own brochures on your ink-jet printer, but it’s time-consuming to print and fold them by hand and fight with the printer smearing or running out of ink. You know the brochures are helping you to sell books, so keep using them, but budget your money so you can afford to have someone else print them for you. That way they will still work for you, and the money you spend will be made up for because you have more time to work on driving traffic to your website or writing a speech for an event. In short, use your time wisely. 

As you sell more books, you’ll find out what works and doesn’t work for you. Just keep at it. Don’t get discouraged. Try new things. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and thinking you’ll get different results, but at the same time, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.


Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.






Posted on November 13, 2009, in How To, Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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