10 tips for authors to up their book marketing skills

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rachel-thompson-225x300-225x300Rachel Thompson is a bestselling author, and a social media and author marketing/branding consultant (BadRedheadMedia). Here she shares her top 10 tips for author self-marketing.

Many authors are intimidated by the thought of marketing their books. As I mention in a post on my blog recently, the concept of an author platform makes most writers run away or start talking to the dust bunnies in the corner.

The basic premise of book marketing is this: write great books that people want to read, then effectively market them. If you’re self-published, use professional editors, designers, and formatters so your book looks amazing. I self-published my first three books and invested in those services through scrimping and saving. Now you can crowdfund. It’s doable.

If you’re traditionally published, you will still be doing the majority of your own marketing. I have an agent now and am published by a boutique literary agency out of NYC. While they do a small bit of marketing, I do 90%. My BadRedhead Media clients are a mix of NYTimes bestsellers and successful indie authors, and they too are doing all their own marketing.

You must market your books so people can find them. Here are my top ten tips:

1) Know your demographic

Who is your ideal reader? Most authors have no clue (I know I didn’t at first either). The best place to start: Pew Research Center. Tip: Everyone is not your demographic.

2) Where is your ideal reader spending time online?

That’s where you need to be. Most authors spend their time on Facebook, whining about how their books aren’t selling. Facebook is the largest social media channel in the world – but is it where your readers are? If your books are YA, you need to be on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, which skews younger.

3) Be social on social media

Too many authors blast and spam, with little to no interaction, which is not only ineffective, it also violates almost every social media channel’s rules. Listen, retweet and share, interact and reply. It’s not all about you. And for all that’s holy, cancel that automated welcome on Twitter. Newbie mistake.

4) Blog at least once weekly

This is effective for your SEO. Not sure what to blog about? Focus on your branding and keywords. What are you most excited about? Remember, we brand the author not the book. Write about what you are authentically passionate about or an expert in (Hint: it doesn’t have to be writing!).

5) Add your social media icons to your website and blog

This is seems so obvious, but so many authors don’t do it. If you make people search for ways to find you, they’re out.

6) Add your books to your site/blog

One author complained recently that nobody was purchasing her books. I looked at her site and you couldn’t find a single purchase link anywhere! Lesson: add your books and link to Amazon (and other purchase sites).

7) Be authentic

Not sure what to tweet/post/blog about? It’s really easy: what interests you? Share that, even if it’s not at all about your book. So what? Unclear about your branding? Read more here: Branding 101.

8) Use tools to manage it all

I love tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, CoSchedule, ManageFlitter, and content aggregators (there are many) that shorten and organize my online time. Most offer free options and are zombie-easy to use.

9) Have a plan, work the plan

I find most authors will flit from here to there, trying a bit of this and a bit of that, with no strategy or clear goals in place. Create a marketing plan, have goals, and measure those goals. Reset as needed.

10) Above all else, write a damn great book

None of the above will matter if your book is awful. Learn your craft. Spend the time and effort to work with a professional editor, formatter, and graphic designer. Use betareaders. Send out ARCs. Make sure your book is as close to perfect before release to have the best possible chance at success!

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  1. I completely forgot about Pew! I’ll see how to integrate it. I’m one of those who is finding traction on FB and IG. I do ads and love the feedback from them because I can see a bit more demo info and tweak my broadcast accordingly. IG has been fabulous and am looking forward to growing with it. I’m looking into figuring out how I can be on Snapchat. 2017 may just be the year of that new adventure. Yes it will!

    1. Hi Palessa!

      If you check out the weekly #BookMarketingChat I do on Twitter (just search up the hashtag or go to @BkMarketingChat for each week’s pinned summary), we did a wonderful chat with Snapchat expert @StringStory (Suzanne Nguyen). She had TONS of awesome tips on how authors can use SC for branding and book marketing.

      Good luck and thanks for sharing your tips.


  2. “be social on social media”.

    Yes interact, but play nice. Not everyone is going to enjoy your book, and some will say so online. Your reaction to this will be critical – dont get a reputation as being the one who had a melt down cos someone pointed out the formatting issues in the first release of the first book. (This has happened, was a small storm in a teacup – until Neil Gaiman tweeted about it. It then became international, with millions of people knowing about it and going “jeeze, nut job, definitely not reading her stuff now”)

    if people post 1* reviews where it’s clear they havent read the book – work with sites like amazon to have the review taken down. Dont post a reply calling them all the names under the sun – it takes too much time and effort, and will only make you look had.

    If they write 3* or 4* reviews and say things like “I didnt think this bit worked” or “I thought this character was weak” – take it on the chin. If you believe you’re right, then you’re right, and don’t gloat. If you suspect you’re wrong, it’s a lesson to learn for your next book. so smile and know you’ve learnt something.

    1. Yes, absolutely! We are businesses, we are professionals. Once our books are out in the world, we’re no longer invited to the party.

      When I led an imprint for a publisher, I was shocked that one of my authors actually emailed a reviewer and chewed her out for a 4-star review. A FOUR STAR REVIEW. *head to desk* The publisher then had to establish a ‘no email policy’ — how sad that some authors don’t realize how to be professionals without rules and SOPs.

      Great advice. Thank you for weighing in.

  3. “Add your books to your site”

    I heard through the grapevine that an author I’d read before was short of money and had put a call out for help. I was in the middle of writing a post about “we must support our authors!” and was gathering links – at which point I stopped. The website she gave on her own Goodreads (and twitter) profile hadn’t been updated since 2008, and listed none of the books she’d written subsequently (she publishes 1 or 2 books a year, so it’s significant). None of the books that were listed even linked through to amazon, never mind the people who publish her books (who have a sales facility). There was nothing about what she wrote about, the genre(s) she covered or anything useful.

    I thought “bugger that – if she’s not going to do the minimum work required to get her stuff sold – why should I?”

    1. Right? Perfect example of DO THE WORK. There’s doing the bare minimum, and there’s ‘do nothing at all.’ Meh. We’re all adults here. We have to work for our supper.

      Good job supporting authors — the trick is to set boundaries — who is worth that support?

      Thank you for sharing that experience, Nordie!

  4. Perfect timing – have just been pondering how best to promote my new e-book in an interesting way without boring or irritating people…

    1. HI Cath!

      So many ways and ideas — some will work for you, some not. There are a lot of books and blogs and it can be confusing. Start with the basic free research, create a good marketing plan, and know what your goals are. Everything you need is findable and this site has lots of great tips, too!

      My weekly #BookMarketingChat is free on Twitter also — Wed, 6pm pst. Just type in the hashtag. Hope that helps!


  5. I’ve heard it said both ways that my site/blog should be focused into a core topic (even if it’s not writing related). I’d like to do something more akin to Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds site, like a combination of social commentary and other things, but am I’m worried that won’t fly as a new voice. Do I narrow my focus? Or bite the bullet and just blog?

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