For many self-published writers, it can be a challenge to switch from the solitary task of writing, to the social task of book marketing. Reasons vary. However, what all self-publishing authors learn is that when the book is done, the marketing tasks are just beginning. (It is worth mentioning that for writers of genre fiction, the consensus marketing advice is: ‘write another book’.)
Now, unless you are writing solely for yourself, family and friends, you will need to do some kind of marketing. The first thing you should do is….
start your book marketing plan early
Don’t wait until the last minute to create a book marketing plan. Work back from your expected publishing date and create a timeline of tasks. Start at least six months before your book is completed. However, it is better if you can start one year prior to publication. (Get in touch if you want a free mini book marketing tasks check list).
Try to make your plan manageable to avoid burnout and disappointment. If you are just starting out, keep expectations low; know that many new authors start with zero sales expectations. They write for themselves and that’s okay.
Next, look at the tasks on your list and decide which are your strongest skills and which are your weakest. In this way you can take advantage of your assets and make a plan to fix your weakest areas. For example, perhaps you have a big social media or professional network ––prioritize that in your marketing plan. When it comes to your weakest areas, make a list of things that need to be improved. Begin with the easiest, for example, getting a better author photo. Next, look at how you can tackle the most difficult, such as overcoming fear of public speaking or getting a new website.
Most importantly, you need to choose a way to organize tasks and deadlines. Some prefer paper journals or wall charts, while others prefer online tools. (Workflowy is just one of many free useful online tools (see a review here).
Identify major motivational barriers
This might be the most difficult step. You need to dig deep and identify any motivational blocks that you might have when it comes to marketing your book.
- Do you avoid marketing because you have a block about self-promotion? Maybe you think it is vulgar …. Or that creativity should not be sold… Or maybe you have imposter syndrome and become frozen with self-doubt whenever self-promotion opportunities come your way?
- Do you simply just have an overall fear of marketing?
- Is fear of public speaking linked to issues around self-esteem?
- Do you have ‘post-publication blues’? Exhaustion from the effort it took to finish your book leaving you not enough energy left to promote it?
- Are you more excited about starting a new project instead of focusing on your finished book? (Called the ‘shiny new idea syndrome’ which is common in creative and entrepreneurial people.)
Author coaches often discover there are deeper issues that need to be addressed before effective marketing can happen (see video below). It might mean you need to confront issues that you’ve kept comfortably in the background until now. Marketing and promotion can be a new and uncomfortable hat to wear for many writers.
Despite all the challenges, many writers are able to market their books with gusto and grace ––and not make people run for the hills when they see them coming. The goal is to engage, not be obnoxious, and not spam people. However, in order to get this gusto, it helps to do your homework first. Below are some helpful book marketing resources.
Book Marketing Advice for self-published authors
- Common book promotion mistakes
- 12 marketing mistakes that authors make – Reedsy
- 50 best book promotion ideas – Reedsy
- Alliance of Independent Authors – Book promotion articles
- BookBub – Book promotion articles
- Creative Penn – Book promotion tips
- PW – Using email lists to market your book
- Greenleaf – Amazon SEO tips
- David Gaughran – Book selling 2020
- Judy Cullins – Book promotion 101
- BookBub – Examples of promotion
- Anne R. Allen – Use “Look Inside” feature
- Jane Friedman – Strategic use of free ebooks
- Author Guide – Writer’s Union of Canada
- Using BISAC categories (Book Industry Standards and Communications) to market your book
If you need guidance with your photo or overall visual theme, professionals who specialize in branding in can be very helpful. How you present yourself as an author plays a key role when it comes to marketing and being regarded as a professional. A poor quality author photo reflects badly on your book and will hinder your sales.
Author photo tips:
- The purpose of an author photo is to create an image of you as a professional writer that is in sync with your writing genre and style.
- Author photos are one way potential readers will decide whether a book is worth their time. An amateur photo screams amateur quality writing. If you can, it is worth it to invest in a professional author photo. (No, don’t use a wedding photo.) If you can’t afford this, then ask a supportive friend to help you choose a suitable photo.
- Don’t include distracting items or backgrounds.
- Wear solid colours and simple and classic styles. Avoid wearing patterns and trendy fashions.
- Avoid awkward poses and expressions.
- Don’t use cliché writing props (e.g. laptops, bookshelves, and typewriters).
- Match your style to your genre. For example, if you write crime fiction, don’t use pastels and romance-looking visuals. Keep in mind you are trying to represent yourself as a particular kind of author.
- Get inspiration from examples of bad author photos , good author photos and examine author photos of various quality.
Author Branding & Bios
Self-publishing experts offer many tips about author branding such as Smashwords founder Mark Coker.
For guidance on writing an author biographical note, here are some resources:
- Anne R. Allen- how to write a bio
- Tips for new authors
- Reedsy – writing a killer bio
- Author Bio – make it amazing
- Parts of an Author Bio
- Examples of Author Bios
For inspiration, check out this example of a high quality author website and photo.
Public Speaking Tips
- Presentation Skills (how to prepare)
- Toastmasters Clubs (public speaking clubs)
- How writers can overcome fear of public speaking
The back cover blurb
Email marketing for Authors
Unlike social media, an email list is a networking tool that you fully control. And while email lists are a great way to engage with readers, you also don’t want to break any spam rules. Do some research first. Check out these resources:
- Why authors need an email list
- How authors can build an email list
- SUMO-list builder and opt-in software (pros & cons)
- Best email marketing tools list
Book Promotion Sites
Professional Book Marketing Companies
- DigiMarketing (Canada)
- Smith Publicity (US)
- Books Forward (US)
- Black Chateau (US)
- Author Marketing Experts (US)
- Greenleaf Marketing (US)
- Cameron Publicity (UK)
- StandOutBooks (UK)
- Reedsy freelance book marketing specialists
- Ana Chabrand (Canada)
- Book sales pages – Book Funnel
Book Marketing author experiences
“I always found self-promotion really difficult, but I realized that if I didn’t toot my own horn that nobody would do it.” ––Melissa Leong, best-selling ebook author
“No one can sell a book more than the author. I was initially a reluctant communicator and loathed public speaking, but I had to learn to embark on such endeavours for the sake of reaching out to the markets. Now there is nothing I enjoy more than engaging with readers about literary matters.” Siphiwo Mahala
- Lesia Daria – One experience using a publicity company
- Beverly Ackerman – Publicity is a time investment
- Steal My Book! – Peter Montford – When piracy is publicity
Social Media for writers
- 40 hashtags for writers
- How authors use Instagram
- Goodreads author promotion
- Tips for writers who hate promotion
- Find book bloggers
- Some writers use online writing platforms to share their writing and build an audience. If you decide to do this, be sure to consider how much of your writing you want to share online. There are risks. Check out this author advice video by Alexa Donne.
Experienced author coach Matthew Ashdown describes how sometimes authors can get in their own way when it’s time to market their book.
“Selling has become what people resist the most, but whether you go through traditional publishing channels or self-publishing, you have to sell yourself. The trick is becoming the kind of person that people trust and want to buy from, versus the person that people cross the street to avoid.” – Matthew Ashdown
Lastly, but important to emphasize again: Make sure to avoid scams targeting writers.
Did you find any of the resources listed especially helpful? Or do you have an idea for a resource that should be listed? Feel free to send an email.
Note: Links and information are for research purposes and do not replace professional advice. Accuracy of third-party websites cannot be verified and links do not indicate endorsement.
Updated January 2021