The first thing authors should do before doing any type of marketing is to put together a marketing plan for their book. This marketing plan will help you decide whether you’ll blog and have a presence on social media, and it’ll help you organize your outreach strategy for reviews.
Your plan can be in the form of a word document, excel spreadsheet, or something that you write down in your notebook. A written marketing plan helps you organize your time and also helps you think clearly about how to market your book. Once executed, you can measure results against it and refine the plan if necessary.
Here are some things you should include in the plan and keep on hand at all times in order to give to a blogger or anyone else who requests more details about the book:
- Your Defined Goals
- Book Basics (title, description, categories, keywords)
- Details (trim size, pages/wordcount, formats)
- ISBN & Pricing
- Publication Date
- Retailers (where your book is published)
- Promotion Strategies
*Note: A lot of the below is applicable to both traditional and self-published books. However, you have more flexibility as a self-published author to execute some of the strategies below.
Define Your Goals
You need to ask yourself, “What are my goals as an author?” Do you want to publish a family history? Get listed on blogs? Get press? Get more readers? Your marketing strategy will depend on your goals.
Your Book Basics
Getting the basics down for your book is critical. You need to think about the following:
You should have a title that is descriptive of your book and lets the reader know what the book is about.
Short Book Description
Your short description should be 150-250 words that is separate from your blurb or back cover. This description should go on your Amazon or other sales pages and can be used to submit your book details to advertising sites like BookBub. You should be able to explain to a stranger in an elevator in a few sentences what your book is about.
Next you want to think about which categories your book falls into. Mystery, Romance, or Thriller are all great categories, but being more specific in a given category, like Spies or Politics, works better. The less competition a category has, the more likely your book will reach #1 in that specific category.
Decide 5-7 keywords for your book. You want these as character strings and not just single words. You want to think about the search phrases a potential reader would use to get your book in search results.
This is your book size. Will you be using 5.25 x 8.25 or 6×9 or another size? Both are good standard sizes for novels.
Will you be publishing both print and digital books? You will need a print-ready pdf, EPUB, and MOBI if you want to cover all formats.
You don’t need an ISBN to publish on Amazon, BN or other major retailers, but you do need it for libraries and bookstore distribution and best-seller lists. An ISBN is a good idea if you want to be listed as the publisher of your own work.
You want to think about both your print book price and your e-book pricing. Your e-book will typically cost less than your print book. One way to figure out your print book price is to search for similar titles to yours on Amazon and base your price on that. Color books and illustrated books tend to cost more. Also, Amazon gives you the option to make your e-book free or available to folks for a discounted price who have already purchased a print version.
For your e-book you want to make sure your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to maximize the 70 percent royalties.
Decide your publication date and ask yourself the following questions:
- When do you want to publish your book?
- Will you be doing pre-orders? This way you can collect sales before your book is officially out.
- Are there any holidays that coincide with your book? Checkiday.com has a great list of holidays to browse to coincide with your book launch #NationalSandwichDay #MothersDay
Decide where you want to publish your book. Do you want to upload your book directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks and other retailers? Or do you want go through a third-party distribution site like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. If you already have a huge following on a blog, you can even sell directly to readers.
You will need a bio that is about 150-250 words with a headshot to go along with it. If you’re publishing non-fiction, make sure to include any credentials that make you an expert on your topic. Are you going to blog or have a website? Or will you use a Facebook author page to send updates to your readers? Will you have a presence on social media?
List down promotion strategies you want to execute or try out and put dates against all of them.
- Will you be running a free promotion? This works great if you have a new book coming out in a series.
- Will you run a discount for a limited number of days? This really helps in bumping sales if you do this correctly.
- Will you do blog outreach? Which type of blogs will you reach out to?
- Will you reach out to podcasts?
- Will you do local press outreach?
- Will you reach out to Goodreads groups?
- Will you do giveaways?
Events, digital or physical, are great ways to spread the word about your book. Hosting a cocktail party at your home where you invite your colleagues and friends is a great way to create some launch buzz. A Twitter or Facebook launch party is a great way to host a no-cost event. You can do giveaways and prizes and encourage readers to sign up for your mailing list. You can also reach out to your local library or local bookstore for readings and to donate books.
Your Review Strategy:
Reaching out to colleagues, family, and friends and giving them a complimentary copy of your book is a great way to let people know about your book and collect those initial reviews. If you have a mailing list or following on social media you can let your readers or followers know you are launching a book. Be careful about this, though, Amazon is really cracking down on reviews from family and friends, so it’s important the reviews are honest.
There are lots of ways to get reviews. You can Google books similar to yours and see who has blogged about them and pitch to those reviewers. Be sure to check a blogger’s review policies before pitching. Some might only take pitches from specific places and some only read e-books, or just print books.
Reach out to Amazon top reviewers:
Getting a review from an Amazon top reviewer is a BIG deal. Don’t make the mistake of asking a book reviewer who doesn’t review your genre to review your book. Typically, if you reach out to 100 reviewers you will probably get around 10-30 reviews. If you reach out to 300 you might get 30-50 reviews.
If you have the budget you might want to consider professional review services like the ones below to review your book.
- Publisher Weekly
- Blue Ink Reviews
- Library Journal
Put together a budget for promotional materials. You can get creative with this and have someone on Fiverr design cards and fliers for you. Do you want to give out bookmarks with a QR code on the back that helps readers download a free sample of your book? Do you want to put together gift baskets as giveaways for signing up to your mailing list?
Having a marketing plan helps you put everything down on paper and give you dates and a budget to work with. You can evaluate the success of your marketing plan fairly quickly and go back and make adjustments if you see something working really well.
Miral Sattar is the CEO of Learn Self-Publishing Fast and Bibliocrunch, an award-winning marketplace that connects authors with vetted book publishing professionals like editors, designers, and marketers. She has worked in the media industry for 11 years, most recently at TIME where she launched several digital initiatives including an iPad and mobile site, mobile apps, a video and podcast channel, blogs, and SEO. Her writing has been featured in TIME, CNN, NY Daily News, among other media publications. She has a MS in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a BS from Columbia University. Follow Miral on Twitter at @miralsattar. The Bibliocrunch four-book publishing box set is free for a limited time.