Marketing plays a huge role in any book’s success, but this is especially true for self-published books. Before you publish a book (or before you even start writing it!), it’s important to think about who you’ll be selling your book to—and how. Digital marketing is constantly changing, and it can be tough for authors to keep up with the top trends. We've rounded up the top digital marketing strategies to help both new and savvy indie authors understand how to market self-published books.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let's get one thing straight. The most important part of your digital marketing strategy is your plan. It's important to start off with clear author goals and a defined target audience. Based on your budget and/or resources, you'll then decide which elements you'll include in your marketing plan and create a timeline to stay organized. In this post, we'll discuss top digital marketing strategies to include in your book marketing plan.
How to Market Self-Published Books
- Author Website
- Social Media
- Email Marketing
- Beta Readers
Your author website is the first piece of your book marketing plan to consider. When a reader comes across your book, one of the first things that they're going to do is look for your book online (even if they're holding your book in their hands). When they search online for you or your book, what will they find? Hopefully—a professional looking author website!
At IngramSpark, we stress the importance of publishing like a professional using professional editing, interior design, and cover design. If you've taken the steps to create a high-quality self-published book, your website should reflect that. If a reader goes to your website and it appears to be haphazardly thrown together, they could make the same assumptions about your book.
We understand that budgets are often limited, but that's why it's important to educate yourself so that you understand your options and make the most out of your marketing dollars.
Before publishing a book, a lot of authors have success building an audience through blogging. Creating a blog gives you a chance to connect with and identify your target audience. You may notice that quite a few popular blogs feature guest bloggers—this is a great way to capture the attention of a similar audience and build your fan base even more.
For nonfiction authors, a blog is especially relevant. You want to present yourself as a thought leader on your book topic, and a blog is the perfect place to start. For fiction authors, a blog is a great way to test out short story ideas, and even tease portions of your book to your audience.
It's important to note that a blog takes time! Set goals when you begin to blog to hold yourself accountable. The amount of time you'll be able to dedicate to blogging is different for every author, so make sure you set a goal that's in line with your schedule and allows you to produce consistent, high quality content. Remember, quality is greater than quantity!
With all the time it takes to write and self-publish a book, sometimes social media can slip through the cracks. Social media may seem like a time-consuming hassle for some authors—but this is the greatest opportunity you have to authentically connect with your audience, and remain engaged in the conversation!
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, YouTube... we know it can seem a little overwhelming at times. It's important to remember that you don't have to master ALL of the social media channels available. Pick a couple, and do those really well. If you aren't sure what social media to use, step back and ask yourself how you prefer to connect with your readers and which social media your target audience is likely using.
There are a host of social media scheduling tools, like HootSuite, that allow you to schedule posts for the future. This will help save you time on the days when you don't have a chance to post or tweet as much as you'd like. Just make sure you're still popping in to your accounts to engage and be a part of the conversation!
Building an email list can seem daunting at first, but all it requires is a little bit of incentive. What reason are you giving people to sign up to receive emails from you? Incentives could be recipes (if you're writing a cookbook), travel guides (if you're writing a travel book), giveaways, etc. Aren't sure what to offer? How about the first one or two chapters of your book? People love to be in-the-know, and offering up a sneak peek of your book is a great way to build excitement—and your email list.
Once your email list starts to grow, you'll have a marketing channel specifically dedicated to your most loyal fans. Remember that they've essentially given you permission to market to them, so take this with great responsibility! Don't email too often (everyone loves an opportunity to hit unsubscribe), and remember to always provide value when you send them an email.
Building your email list will serve you will, especially if you decide to write more than one book. You've now got a list of warm leads for book number two!
When you self-publish a book through IngramSpark, you can make your book available for pre-sale through online retailers. Many self-published authors don't start marketing until after the book has been published, and lose sight of the opportunities available to promote the book during pre-sale!
You may be wondering, "How do I get someone to pre-order my book?" Similar to building your email list, you give them an incentive! Successful authors offer freebies and exclusive content that are only available to those who pre-order. Generating demand for the book before the actual pub date helps you to build momentum and occasionally gain a "bestseller" badge in certain categories on Amazon.
Now that we've discussed how to grow your audience through your website, blogging, social media, and email marketing, let's discuss how that all connects. Now that you have engaged audiences in multiple places, it's time to send out a message asking for beta readers. You can send an email, post in a Facebook group, or share wherever your readers are most active.
What are beta readers exactly? Beta readers are readers who offer to read the book in advance of publication, in exchange for a book review. Yes, this means you give away the book for free—but think about what you'll be gaining from the reviews you'll be receiving. Think about your own shopping habits—when you shop online, do you usually take a look at the reviews first? Having a solid number of reviews about your book is essential to your book sales.
At the end of the day, not all of your beta readers are going to leave a review, and that's okay. In the long-term, beta readers are still an important part of your review strategy, and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. If you're concerned with giving away too many books, simply cap the number of beta readers at a certain number. This will also imply that there is high demand for the group, and could further incentivize your fans to join!
Marketing books requires patience, persistence, and creativity! While it's important to research your book marketing options, you should also take a step back and ask yourself how you can put your own spin on each of the common marketing tactics. What can you do differently to make sure that your message comes across in a unique way? By keeping your goals and purpose in mind, you're sure to set yourself up for success.