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. Reasons vary. However, what all self-publishing authors learn is that when the book is done, 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

Six months to one year prior to your book’s publication is when you should start your book marketing plan. Work back from your expected publishing date and create a timeline of tasks.

Make your plan manageable and keep your expectations realistic. Many new authors start with zero sales expectations. They write for themselves and that’s okay.

Next, look at your list of tasks. Decide which are your strongest skills and which are your weakest. Take advantage of your strong points and decide if or how you can fix your weak points. For example, perhaps you have a big social 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, maybe you need a professional author photo. Then look at how you can address the most difficult (e.g. fear of public speaking).

Finally, choose a way to organize tasks and deadlines. Some prefer paper journals or wall charts, while others prefer online tools (e.g. Workflowy).

Identify major motivational barriers

“I do have a very high resistance to sending out emails to a list. … It would probably take weeks of therapy to uncover the true reason for this, but my best guess is that it’s some combination of feeling I’m intruding on people, or fear I’m not being authentic, or just plain not wanting to get depressed when all I hear in response are crickets.” — Commenter from Promo-Phobia article

These are common motivational obstacles when it comes to marketing your book:

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.

Book Marketing Advice for self-published authors

The main advice you will find regarding marketing your first book regards timing: don’t delay pre-launch tasks. Most important is to build your network prior to publication. Other pre-launch tasks include reviews, blurbs, and endorsements. Also consider who is your target audience and what is the best way to reach them.

back cover blurbs

Blurbs are yet another important part of your marketing strategy. What is a blurb? It is a short description about your book that goes on the back cover or sales page. 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 for a book. Does the blurb give you an idea of the type of book it is and why you should read it? Is there something that hooks your attention? Is there a cliffhanger?

Author photos

How you present yourself as an author plays a key marketing role. A poor quality author photo will hinder your sales. This is because it also gives the impression of poor quality writing. (Even if this is not the case,) Try to invest in a professional author photo. However, do not use a wedding photo or other special occasion photo. Perhaps you can’t afford this. A solution might be to ask another writer to help you choose the best photo that you have available.

If you need guidance with your photo or visual theme, branding professionals can be very helpful.

Author photos tips
  • Author photos should create an image of you as a professional writer that’s aligned with your writing genre/style.
  • Photo style should match genre. For example, if you write crime fiction, don’t use pastels and soft romantic visuals.
  • Avoid distracting objects and backgrounds.
  • Wear solid colour clothing with simple and classic styles. In addition, do not wear loud patterns or trendy styles.
  • Awkward poses and expressions are also a no-no (for example, staring up or down).
  • Also avoid cliché writing props (e.g. laptops, bookshelves, and typewriters).
  • Finally, learn and study examples of bad author photos , good author photos and author photos of various quality.
Author Branding & Bios

Smashwords founder Mark Coker has good author branding tips. For more inspiration, check out this example of a quality author website and photo. Your biographical note is also an important part of branding. Here are some helpful resources:

Public Speaking Tips

Public speaking can be a big fear for many introverted writers. However, there are ways to overcome this fear. For instance, Toastmasters Clubs offer a non-threatening environment for you to practice speaking skills. Additionally, there are also many online resources as well as 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. And while email lists are a great way to engage with readers, you also don’t want to break any laws. First, before you start your campaign, make sure to learn anti-spam rules.

Book Promotion Sites
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. It is a big investment, however, 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, there’s a new way some writers use 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 January 2022