600,000 to a million new titles will be published this year, and far fewer than 1% of them will ever find their way onto bookstore shelves. 800,000 books are currently available for Amazon’s Kindle. The upshot? In this crowded marketplace, readers won’t find your book unless you help them. How can you work toward that goal?
Even as you’re writing, you can get started on building your audience. Begin early if you can, six to eight months before your book’s publication date, to lay your foundation and build some momentum. Here are some of the steps you can take in advance:
- First, create a marketing plan.
Based upon your book’s audience, select a mix of activities to market your book: you’ll definitely want online strategies (see below), but also consider live events like author signings, conferences, and book fairs, explore the use of publicity, especially to target the media, and then perhaps targeted advertising, if you have a budget for it. For ideas, check out our article Self-Publishing a Book: 7 Things You’ll Need for a Marketing Plan.
- If you plan to hire a publicist, choose one early.
Before you decide to handle publicity yourself, you may want to consider some advice from the Greenleaf Book Group COO Tanya Hall who said, “You’ll usually see better results if…you hire a dedicated book publicist with solid media contacts, experience, extensive databases, and time for follow-up communications.” There are publicists who specialize in book promotion and the publishing industry, and they’re your best bet.
- Build your author platform.
The key to online marketing is your “presence” and encouraging others to “share” about you. You’ll want to have a blog, a Good Reads author page, and an active presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+. If you are doing everything yourself, decide where members of your target audience are most likely to be on social media and devote the limited time you have to those social networks. If you don’t already have an online presence, you can hire some temporary technical help to establish your online presence quickly. The goal is to build interest and awareness of your upcoming book so there will already be a buzz when the book becomes available for sale.
- Use advance reader copies (ARCs)
Even an unknown first-time author has a shot when “influencers” read their book. Make your list and send out free copies, at least five months in advance of publication. Circulating ARCs to celebrities, prominent authors in your genre, academics and experts who are a great match for your book is the best way to get endorsements. Use their feedback for your publicity campaign and book jacket copy. Send ARCs to potential reviewers in the media and online. Posting a digital ARC on NetGalley.com will cost approximately $400, but it can help you get quality reviews. For more on ARCs see our post Use ARCs to Create a Buzz Before You Launch Your Book.
- Target online influencers.
Identify blogs, Facebook pages, online communities like Google+ hangouts and hone in on like-minded people who love your topic. Don’t expect them to come to your website; instead, go out and meet them where they are. Solicit exchanges of guest blogs, reviews, or interviews. Set up a blog tour around the date of your book’s publication to build a pre-publication buzz.
- Ask for online reviews as soon as your book is available.
Amazon won’t allow reviews until the book is available on the site. Ask everyone, especially the ARC recipients who said they would review your book, to do so as soon as reviews are accepted. Send out emails in the days before publication, so your book gets those first rave reviews and five star ratings up for all to see, and then you’re off to a good start in the Amazon search rankings.