When I signed my contract with the publisher of Typecast, I was thrilled. Having worked as a book publicist, I was under no illusion that having my book published meant that anyone would read it. Over the past twenty-five years, online bookselling and the advent of new publishing options have transformed the industry, leading to an explosion in the number of books being published each week.
So, what’s an author to do? Most fundamentally, she must recognize that she is her book’s best advocate. Many of us have a hard time tooting our own horns or asking for support—but unless you’re willing to do that for your book, it’s unlikely people will hear about it.
If you’re working with a traditional publisher, talk to your marketing and publicity team to find out what they’ll do for you. And, no matter who your publisher is, if your budget allows, you may want to consider hiring a publicist. That said, here are some highlights you should have top of mind:
• Your website – Every author needs a landing page where readers can learn more about her books. Reserve a URL in your name—not the title of your book—so the site can grow with you. Include a page on which you can add praise and media coverage as it comes in, and links to various booksellers to make purchasing easy.
• Social media – Don’t spread yourself too thin. A presence on Facebook and Instagram will help you share the word with different audiences. If you’re already a Facebook user, the advantage of a Facebook page is that you can easily invite all your friends. The benefit of Instagram is the ever-growing group of “bookstagrammers.” I became a bookstagrammer myself before I had a publishing deal—thanks to Covid quarantine, I had some time on my hands!—so, I already had relationships with many of my compatriots on the platform. Follow bookstagrammers who read books similar to yours and interact with them on their posts. It will make it easier for you to ask them to review your book. If you’re unsure what to post, check out other authors’ pages for ideas. Services like Canva are an affordable and easy way for anyone to make professional-looking graphics.
• Email – Create an email list of everyone you know who might be interested in your book. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amazing support I’ve received. A bi-weekly email leading up to and immediately following the publication date, segueing into a monthly email, is a great way to keep people posted about media coverage and what you’re up to—whether you’re visiting book clubs, signing at bookstores, or being interviewed on podcasts. Encourage people to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub. Ask them to text you photos of your book when it arrives—or if it travels with them on vacation! These pics make great social media posts.
• Events – Book events can be time-consuming, and sometimes only a handful of people attend. But, every event I’ve done has led to another one. When I visited my temple’s Sisterhood book club, one of the women in attendance was a library director. The next thing I knew, I had a library event booked. If your book is appropriate for book clubs, spread the word via email and social media that you can visit groups in person or via Zoom. Introduce yourself at local bookstores and let them know you’re available for an event or just to sign books. Invite folks in your network, and if you’re in community groups on Facebook, you can post announcements there, too.
• Media – The best way to reach the media is via a publicist. But if you don’t have one, you can do it yourself. If you’re a novelist, find the publications, sites, podcasts, and blogs that review books like yours, and a Google search will often yield an email address you can use to contact the relevant journalists. And don’t forget your hyper-local publications. If your work is nonfiction, consider writing articles for media outlets. Whatever your genre, remember that journalists are flooded with requests. To make yours stand out, you need to think hard about what makes your book different and of interest to the audience of the media outlet you’re reaching out to. Another important tip—once you get media coverage, it’s just the beginning. Amplify it by posting on your social media and including it in your email—and be sure to tag the outlets and the journalists.
It’s unlikely you’ll feel the same motivation to promote your book that you did to write it. But chances are, as you dip your toe in, you’ll find that the water is just fine. And you may want to spend more time swimming in the Sea of Book Promotion than you ever expected.