Book Marketing for Self-Published Authors

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Book-marketing for self-published authors

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. However, when your book is done, your marketing tasks are just beginning. Now, unless you are writing solely for yourself or for family and friends, you’ll need to do some kind of marketing. (Note: for writers of genre fiction, the consensus marketing advice is: ‘write another book’.)

1. start your book marketing plan early

Start your book marketing plan at least six months before your publication date, create a timeline of tasks, keep it manageable, and keep your expectations realistic. Many new authors start with zero sales expectations. They write just for themselves and that’s okay. Choose a way to organize your marketing tasks and deadlines. Some prefer paper journals or wall charts, while others prefer online tools (e.g. Workflowy).

Make sure to stay on track with your pre-launch book marketing tasks. This includes building your network prior to publication as well as getting reviews and endorsements. Also consider the best way to reach your target audience.

Next, prioritize. Evaluate which are your strong skills and which are your weakest. Brainstorm ways to take advantage of your strong skills and improve your weak skills. For example, perhaps you have a big social or professional network ––prioritize that in your marketing plan. When it comes to improving your weakest areas, begin with the easiest. For example, it could be something simple but important like getting a professional author photo. Then look at how you can address the most difficult (e.g. fear of public speaking).

2. Identify motivational barriers

Many authors have psychological obstacles when it comes to book marketing and promotion. Here are some of the most common:

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. Your goal is to engage, not be obnoxious, and not spam people. Check the list below for inspiration and ideas from other writers.

3. Book Marketing Tips for self-published authors
4. The benefits of Author Branding

Author branding will help you connect to new readers, especially if you are writing in a specific genre. By creating a unified look for all your media and promotional materials, you show your style as an author and your professionalism. Author branding includes photos, website design, and marketing materials. For inspiration, check out this example of a quality author website and photo. In addition, here are some resources to help guide your author branding:

And if you need guidance with your photo or visual theme, branding professionals can be very helpful. Check Author Services on Fiverr (International) and the Alliance of Independent Authors Services Directory.

5. Your book blurb

Blurbs––a short description of your book for your back cover and sales page–– are an important part of your marketing strategy. Get it right, and it will help on your book sales. Get it wrong and it can hurt sales. For example, think of your own reaction as you browse books. Does the blurb give you an idea of the type of book and a reason for reading it? Does it have something that hooks your attention? Check out these book blurb resources:

6. Your Author photo

A poor quality author photo can give the impression of poor quality writing and may hinder your sales. Try to invest in a professional author photo. If you can’t afford this, ask another writer or trusted friend to help you choose the best photo from what you have available. (However, do not use a wedding photo or other special occasion photo.) Follow these author photo tips:

  • Author photos styles should align with your writing genre/style. For example, if you write crime fiction, don’t use pastels and soft romantic visuals.
  • Avoid distracting objects and backgrounds.
  • Usually, it’s preferable to wear solid colours in classic styles rather than loud patterns or trendy styles.
  • Avoid awkward poses and expressions (e.g. staring up or down).
  • Also avoid cliché writing props (e.g. laptops, bookshelves, and typewriters).
  • Finally, look at examples of bad author photos , good author photos and other examples of various styles and quality.
7. Your Author Bio

Your biographical note is also an important part of author branding and can be difficult to get right. You might end up writing way too much about yourself, or not enough. Here are some helpful resources:

Public Speaking Tips

Public speaking is an important way to increase your reach as an author. For many introverted writers, this can be a huge challenge. However, it’s worth the effort to manage or overcome this fear. There are ways to do this. For example, Toastmasters Clubs offer a non-threatening environment for you to practice speaking skills. Additionally, there are also many online resources as well as books and podcasts such as How to Own the Room.

Email marketing for Authors

Unlike social media, an email list is a book marketing tool that you control. While email lists are a great way to engage with readers, you also don’t want to break any laws. Before you start your campaign, check Canadian Anti-Spam Laws and U.S. Email anti-spam rules.

Professional Book Marketing & Publicity

A few authors, in specific stages in their career, will hire a professional book publicity company. If you have a polished writing project, this may be the right option. Although it is a big investment, it can be a key strategy for certain authors. 

Book Marketing author Inspiration

“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

“We continued in that vein – me writing, they pitching. … And my publicist reported regularly on progress, chatted through ideas, gave good guidance and editing and feedback.” — Self-published author Lesia Daria (UK)

Social Media for book marketing

In addition, some new writers are using online writing platforms to share their writing and build an audience. However, there are risks. Before taking the plunge, first check this author advice video by Alexa Donne.

Author coach Matthew Ashdown describes how authors can get in their own way when it’s time for book marketing in this video.

“[Become] the kind of person that people trust and want to buy from, versus the person that people cross the street to avoid.”   – Matthew Ashdown

Note: Links and information are for research purposes and therefore do not replace professional advice. In addition, accuracy of third-party websites cannot be verified and links do not indicate endorsement.

Updated October 2023 by 3PennyPublishing – Victoria, BC, Canada; researching and sharing self-publishing resources with writers since 2010.