Writing a book is an amazing achievement, one you should celebrate and enjoy.
Getting your book from a raw mess of words to a polished, publishable entity, complete with a kickass cover and proper formatting, is even more incredible.
The day my latest novel The Sunken went live, I did a happy dance.
(The cat, asleep in my lap at the time, did not share my enthusiasm.)
If you’re at this stage of your writing career, I salute you, and offer you a glass of wine from my own bottle.
How to Promote Your Books
I have been blogging about music since 2009, and have a small following.
Instead of starting from scratch with a new website for my fiction books, I decided to promote my writing through my blog.
In March 2014 I self-published my first novel At War With Satan to learn about the process, and check whether self-publishing would work for me.
It worked so well that I was hooked.
Next on my list was my latest novel, The Sunken, part one of a dark fantasy series set in a steampunk world where dinosaurs still survive.
That went quite well too.
Here are the 10 things I did to succeed.
#1. Write for your readers
When I started planning book-related content for my blog, I thought about what people who read my books might enjoy reading.
On chatting with other writers on forums, I was shocked to discover that many of them wrote about the writing process, grammar and syntax, their writing habits, and marketing tips.
Are readers really interested in that stuff?
As a reader, I’m not!
I don’t read an author’s blog to find out how they market their books. I read it because I want to know more about the author and the world of the books.
And yet, so many authors blog about the writing process. Maybe I was wrong.
As an experiment, for one of my book launch posts, I included a post about my writing process. It was the most poorly performing post of my entire launch series.
So what did work?
- I wrote a list of my favorite books in my genre.
- I shared some book excerpts.
- I created a playlist of songs that inspired the book.
- I created a book FAQ.
- I wrote some articles about the history behind some of the elements in my book.
#2. Make your blog as awesome as possible
The aim of your book launch is to garner a lot of traffic to your blog–people who might want to buy your book or, even better, sign up to your mailing list.
Before you begin your launch strategy, it’s vital to get your blog into the best shape you possibly can.
You don’t want visitors to land on your site and see an outdated design, jumbled fonts, broken links, pictures that won’t load, a glaring spelling error and a partridge in a pear tree…
Here are some things to check on your blog:
- Your main pages load properly and have no errors.
- You’ve added and updated book links, and included your book in the sidebar.
- There’s a huge, obvious button encouraging mailing list signups.
- The forms on your contact page and newsletter signup page work.
- Your About Me page is up-to-date.
- Your most recent posts are free of spelling and grammatical errors.
- The images on your most recent posts are clear and interesting.
- Got any popular posts on topics relating to your book? Why not republish them with new dates so they are some of the first posts a new reader sees?
#3. Plan your strategy
You need to create a detailed plan about how you’re going to promote your book.
Divide your strategy into two parts:
- What you’re going to do on your own blog.
- What you’re going to do on other websites and platforms to draw attention to your blog.
For your own blog, you need to plan book-related content for your entire launch period, usually between 2-4 weeks.
Some ideas for book-related content could include:
- Excerpts from your book.
- Clippings from advance reviews.
- Your inspiration for the book.
- Articles about historical details in your books (if applicable). For example, the history of the type of sword used by the hero, or 10 little-known facts about the city your book is set in.
- A playlist of songs that helped inspire the book.
- Interviews with your characters.
- Bonus material such as free downloadable short stories.
- 10 interesting facts about one of your characters.
- A discussion about one of the central themes of your book.
Once you’ve got your plan in place, it’s time to think about how you’re going to generate additional traffic. You could:
- Post cool images inspired by your book’s setting on Facebook or Pinterest.
- Run competitions on social media or other sites, like Goodreads or Librarything.
- Run a blog tour.
- Tweet quotes from the book (works well if your book is humorous).
- Write guest posts on popular blogs.
- Write articles for magazines on topics related to your book. For example, if a character in your book is a mother, write about something that character struggles with for a parenting magazine.
#4. Funnel readers into an Advance Reading Copy list
One of the things that help an indie author get ahead is gaining lots of reviews quickly.
If readers see a book with a high rating across 35 reviews, they will be more inclined to choose that book over one with 0 reviews.
Many promotional websites will only allow books with a certain minimum number of reviews to use their services. The sooner you gain these reviews, the sooner you can harness the power of these promotions.
Using Mailchimp, I set up an autoresponder on my primary mailing list. After 3 days, all new signups are invited to join a second list – the ARC list. Anyone on this list will receive a free Advance Reading Copy of my next book as soon as it’s ready, at least a month before it is due to come out. They can offer feedback and suggestions, and post early reviews on their preferred vendors. I’ve found this a great tool for gaining those early reviews.
A gentle reminder to everyone on your ARC list the day before your launch will often result in several new reviews being posted – a clever way to shine a spotlight on your new release.
#5. Create an FAQ for your book
One thing I’ve found really useful is to create an FAQ post for my books.
Many people ask me similar questions during my book launch, so I put all the questions together into an FAQ. This helps readers to find my book more easily, and better understand the publishing process.
Questions you could answer include:
- Why pre-order the book?
- When will I receive my pre-order book?
- Is the book available in paperback?
- Will the book be available on <insert vendor here>?
- Why is this book under a pen name?
- When will the second book in the series be released?
- I love this book! What can I do to help spread the word?
Once published, the FAQ is a great resource to use in your marketing.
For instance, I can send it to someone from a local steampunk association who wants to promote my book on their Facebook page, or to my mum who wants to tell her colleagues about it.
I also sent the links to my friends and colleagues.
#6. Share book excerpts
Readers love excerpts.
They are little windows into their reading future.
I usually post at least one excerpt a week on my own site, as well as offering them to other book blogs to post.
Choose your excerpts wisely. Don’t give away major plot points or surprises, and remember that your readers haven’t had a chance to develop a connection to your characters, so you can’t ask them to care deeply about them in an excerpt.
I usually choose 3 excerpts from the first act of the novel. One from the opening chapters sets up the story and the main character. The second introduces the antagonist, and the third showcases awesome action or shows off something cool about the world of the novel.
#7. Create a book-related list
One thing that worked really well was creating a list of my favorite books in my genre (steampunk). At the end of my list, I added my own book, because (and I may be biased here) it’s definitely one of my favorites!
I then submitted this list to some steampunk blogs and genre book blog roundups. It’s become quite a popular post on my blog, as people are often searching for new books to read in a specific genre.
Your list could be something like:
- My 10 favorite books in <insert genre here>
- 10 of my favorite romance heroines
- 20 of the coolest future technologies in science fiction novels
- 10 of my favorite murder mystery cases
#8. Organize a virtual book tour
Gone are the days when authors packed boxes of books into the trunk of a car and set off to sign their way across the country, fuelled only by whisky, bad truck-stop food and a desire to reach as many readers as possible.
Today, a book tour can be done on a fraction of the budget.
A virtual book tour is a great way to increase exposure for your book during its launch, as well as gain more traffic to your blog and, ultimately, your book page.
You can set up a blog tour yourself, or use one of the many companies that offer such services.
I ran my last one through Enchanted Blog Tours and can’t say enough good things about them. The blog tour helped to generate some buzz during my launch month and also gave me some early reviews from established book blogs.
#9. Reach out to niche bloggers
Contacting niche bloggers is something you can do in addition to your blog tour, as niche blogs might not necessarily publish book reviews or book-related content.
Niche bloggers are sites that cater to a specific aspect of your audience. For example, if you’ve written a romance set in a specific city, you might find lifestyle bloggers from that city who would love to write about your book. If travel features heavily in your book, contact travel bloggers. If it’s domestic abuse or disability, contact bloggers who deal with those topics.
Introduce yourself and your book and ask if they’d be interested in a copy for review. Mention that you’d be happy to be considered for an interview or to submit an article. You will soon find yourself active in these niche communities, where word of your book will quickly spread.
#10. Make your book prominent all across your blog
People coming to your website aren’t just reading your most recent post. Many come from search engines to look at old posts, or might be linked to an old article from a friend.
If you want to get your book in front of their eyes, you will need to do some tweaking to ensure you are directing all your traffic to your book.
Here’s what I’ve done on my blog:
- Added my book cover as a big clickable button in my blog sidebar. It is my most prominent sidebar image.
- Added my book covers to the footer at the bottom of my page. That way, anyone reading a long article will see my books at the end.
- Added links to my books and mailing list at the bottom of all my most popular posts. This ensures I’m capturing traffic coming to my site through search.
- Created individual pages for each of my books with links to my book-related content (excerpts, FAQs, etc).
- Ensured my book pages are featured prominently in my navigation bar.
A book launch is a huge deal.
It’s taken you hours of work to finish that book, and many more hours of editing and honing your prose to get it ready for publication.
Don’t let it launch to internet crickets.
Use these 10 creative blog-based ways to give your book the best chance of success.