The book publishing world can be intimidating for authors, especially when it comes to writing their first book. There are numerous departments involved, including editorial, art, sales, publicity and marketing. For the most part, you might have a general idea of how each of these departments are involved in the publishing process, but two areas that tend to blur lines and that people have a lot of questions about are publicity and marketing.
I’ve worked in book publishing for five years, in both the publicity and marketing departments. For the past three years, I’ve overseen book marketing campaigns for a range of titles on topics ranging from health to business to lifestyle and even celebrity memoirs. And when I made the switch from publicity to marketing, I also had to learn about how they differed in the overall scheme of a book campaign.
So whether you’re already a published author, currently self-publishing a book, or thinking about writing one, here are 5 key marketing initiatives that are an integral part of a book’s launch that you should keep on your radar or implement into your own plan:
1. Focus on Pre-Orders.
One of the top priorities of book marketing is to create buzz for a book before it’s officially on sale to encourage pre-orders. When it comes to pre-orders, it’s extremely important to get as many sales as possible leading up to the book’s release date because every order counts toward Week 1 sales, which gives you your best shot for bestseller status. So if you start your book campaign, ideally, six to nine months before on-sale, every book that’s pre-ordered during that time counts when publications like The New York Times and independent bookstores count sales to determine bestsellers, a coveted honor in the publishing and media world.
2. Indie Store Support.
Independent bookstores, also known as Indies, are an amazing asset to communities, and most authors don’t realize how much they can factor into a book’s bestseller status. For example, most authors are keen to direct people to Amazon to buy copies, but sales that are too heavily skewed toward Amazon can actually hurt your bestseller chances. When it comes to sales, the key is to diversify them across retailers. Securing a bestseller spot, especially on The New York Times list, isn’t solely based on how many books are sold. How many copies, and where they are bought, are just a few of the undisclosed factors that are taken into consideration. It’s also beneficial to not direct sales solely to Amazon since it recently changed its book retailer buying options. By directing purchases to third party vendors, both publishers and authors are on the verge to lose revenue and royalties, respectively.
3. Social Media Posts.
Social media is a huge component of a book’s marketing campaign. Posting reviews, praise quotes, videos, retailer links, shareable images and excerpts are all essential assets to feature online to create buzz and interest for a book. Plus sharing behind-the-scenes photos about the publishing process – from writing the manuscript – to receiving a finished copy in the mail – are a great way to let your followers feel like they’re getting exclusive access on your publishing journey. Plus impromptu updates through Facebook Live and Instagram Stories to your followers can be fun and super engaging, and it doesn’t have to be complicated: you can do a quick 2-minute reading from your book, show followers your finished book on a store bookshelf or display table (exciting!), announce a sweepstakes or giveaway, or just offer a heartfelt thank you for their support.
4. Update Your Website.
Using your website to promote your book is a good marketing tool. You can direct people there to pre-order a copy, and there they can also learn more about you and your brand, read your blog, connect with your social media, and more. If you’re working with a publisher, their marketing team can help create a dedicated URL for your book on your site as well. With your site, if you don’t yet have a newsletter, it’s definitely worth setting one up and collecting email addresses to keep subscribers updated about your book. Through your site, you can also offer incentive rewards to encourage pre-orders, like offering an exclusive excerpt, extra content that’s not included in the book, or even a promotional item like a t-shirt or mug to the first 100 people to order a book.
5. Secure Cross-Promotions.
Another important aspect of marketing is working with brands, companies, bloggers and other authors to expand the reach of your potential audience. Your publisher’s marketing team has many partnership contacts of their own, and can set up cross-promotions for your campaign, but if you’re self-publishing, you can also do outreach to those who you think would make for a good promotional partner. Some ideas on how you can work together include teaming up with an industry influencer for a Facebook Live, offering to guest blog on someone’s site, and partnering with a brand or platform on a sweepstakes.