Book Promotion 101 – 7 Critical Marketing Principles for Authors

Guest post
by Donna Fasano

Promotion, especially for new Indie Authors, can look like a harrowing hike up Mount Kilimanjaro—fraught with slippery slopes, hair-raising heights, and dangerous cliffs. But it doesn’t have to be, not if you take it one step at a time. So let’s tighten our bootstraps and take a little hike.

Interact With Readers

These days, nearly every author I know has a blog. If you don’t have one, start one. Some authors focus on writerly content. I choose to go In All Directions (pun fully intended as this is the name of my blog). The way I see it, I am my brand. I’m selling ME. I want to attract readers by just being me—fun, positive, and upbeat—so I write blog posts from that slant. Yes, every now and then I write about the publishing business, but most of my posts are more personal. I’ll relate stories about locations I’ve visited or funny situations I’ve found myself in, I’ll offer quotes I find inspiring or some damned good recipes. I’m selling me, and that works for me. Blog about whatever interests you. For a few tips on blogging, read this. Above all else, aim to entertain and engage.

Now let’s talk about other social media. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Tumblr, and I use all of these accounts often. I find readers everywhere I go. I befriend and chat with everyone who looks the least bit interested in books—romance novels, in particular. However, these social media sites can become a time-sink, so limit your interaction to a certain number of hours per week.

Offer Giveaways

People like free stuff. And ebook giveaways are an inexpensive way to show readers that you appreciate them. Every book that’s given away has the potential to lead to the sale of one or more of your titles. I offer my readers free ebooks and signed paperback copies for every milestone I reach. When my Facebook page reached 100 “Likes,” I gave away some ebooks, and I just gave away a paperback copy of my newest release because that same Facebook page has now reached 1000 “Likes.” Each and every giveaway is greeted with enthusiasm by my readers, and I think the giveaways compel new readers to “like” and follow my posts. Will every recipient of a free book become a die-hard fan of your work? No. But product sampling and giveaways have always been, and will continue to be, a solid marketing strategy.

Compile a Mailing List

Contact with readers is crucial. Whenever I have a new release available, I send out a special mailing to all the readers who have ever sent me fan mail. I have added a feature on my blog that allows readers to subscribe via e-mail. I know some authors who use Mail Chimp and like the service very much. It might sound tedious, but you should get into the habit of saving every reader’s contact information you can. You’ll be pleased by how many readers appreciate hearing about your achievements, and many of them will respond by buying your book.

Concentrate on Small Marketing Pursuits

Think of small review blogs as you would independent bookstores that “hand sell” books. Each blog has followers, some might have a dozen, others might have a thousand or more, and you can bet that some of the followers are devoted to the blogs they frequent. Submit your books to appropriate blogs for review. Or contact book bloggers and offer to do author interviews, a book giveaway, or a cover reveal for a new release. How do you find appropriate blogs? Well, I read a great tip on Writers In The Storm blog. In his guest post entitled An Insider’s Look at Today’s Book Reviewers, book reviewer BigAl suggested:

There are tens of thousands of book blogs to choose from. One way to quickly find those most likely to be a good fit is to find a directory of blogs in your genre or other niche. Google “YA Book blog directory” and you’ll find this directory of over 1,300 blogs that specialize in reviewing Young Adult books. Doing the same search on “indie book blog list” you’ll find The IndieView (a site I happen to run) that has a database of several hundred book blogs that are open to reviewing “indie books” (those that are self-published or published by small presses) with details on genre preferences and links to the site. Any search with your genre, “book blog” and a word like directory, list, or database as search terms will uncover multiple lists.

When it comes to paid promos, there are many small but effective sites that offer to feature books. Some of them are (PLEASE check to make sure pricing hasn’t changed before submitting your books):

People Reads (free)

Pixel of Ink (free)

Nook Deals

Awesome Romance Novels (a site I run)

Fiverr

Digital Book Today

Addicted To eBooks

GalleyCat offers a list of Free Sites to Promote Your eBook.

Your goal is to sprinkle yourself all over the internet so that when anyone uses Google to search your name or one of your titles, there are many, many sites that pop up where you can be found.

Encourage Readers to Review

Reviews posted by readers impact Amazons algorithms and have an effect on your book’s sales ranking. In my opinion, the best reviews are those that are purely from-the-heart and reader-driven. However, I can’t count the number of times I have heard people tell me they’re incapable of writing a review or afraid to do so. Sometimes they need a little encouragement. Some authors shy away from asking for reviews from their readers, but I see such a request as an investment in my book. I always include a personal “from the author” letter at the end of my novels. I thank readers for taking the time to read my story, and I ask, if they enjoyed the book, that they to consider writing a short review. I explain that good reviews help other readers to find my books.

Splurge Big

Once in a while, put some serious, solid advertising dollars behind your book. I have found great success in my paid promotions at Ereader News Today and BookBub as well as other promo sites. Of course, this suggestion depends greatly on your marketing budget. If you’re not able to invest this deeply, you can save this suggestion for later on in your career. But if you can afford it, these sites are well worth the cost.

Ereader News Today has a fantastic pricing system where the author is charged 25% of the total number earned on the book sales made directly from their site. As far as I know, no other site calculates their pricing this way. I wish more sites would because it means every ad is a money-maker for the author.

Let me warn you, BookBub is expensive. Period. However, I have never lost money on a BookBub ad. What you have to remember is, every time you sell a book, that book is going to show up in one more “also bought” bar on Amazon; 300 or 500 or 700 books sold, means you have 300 or 500 or 700 potential new ways for readers to find your title.

A word of warning: new book promotion sites are cropping up all over the internet. Do what you can to check out the sites before investing your hard-earned money. Ask other authors if they’ve used the site. Word-of-mouth testimonials from people you trust are probably the best deterrent against squandering your marketing budget. Oh, and I should mention Alexa; it’s a great tool that supplies analytics for any website.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, don’t be afraid to try something new and innovative. All advertising dollars you spend are tax deductible, and investing in your “product” is a good thing.

Think Long-Term

Remember that you are in this for the long haul. Also remember that YOU are in control. The marketing techniques that work for one author might not work for another, so you have to be willing to try different paths up the marketing mountain. A creative and innovative approach to your marketing tactics will pay off as you plant your flag at the peak with more followers, fans, and book sales.

Now that I’ve mapped out my trail, what critical marketing tips can you offer new Indies?


Donna Fasano wrote for Harlequin Books for 20 years. Her HQ books won her three HOLT Medallions, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Finalist Award, and an RWA RITA Finalist Award. In 2010, she began to self-publish her romance novels. Her indie books have won her a Books & Pals Reviewers Choice Award and an eFestival of Words Book Fair Finalist Award. Her books have sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide, have been published in nearly two dozen languages, and have made both the Kindle and Nook Top 100 Paid Lists numerous times. Learn more about Donna from her website and her Amazon author page.

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31 thoughts on “Book Promotion 101 – 7 Critical Marketing Principles for Authors”

  1. Great advice Donna, thank you. I’ve bookmarked eReader News and Bookbub for future reference, but I particularly liked your idea that by being ourselves [on our blogs] we can market ourselves as a brand. It’s also a great way to make new friends. 🙂

  2. Superb advice, Donna. I especially like your advice to visit smaller blogs. I’ve found some of those make the biggest sales if the demographic is right.

  3. Excellent pointers, here–especially for writers to check out new services before jumping in. There are so many sharks swimming around us, we need to be vigilant. Great post!

  4. Thanks for a list of really good marketing ideas. I have found that book bloggers are a great way to find more reviews for my books since frequently, if they like your book and review it on their site, they will also post their reviews in multiple places including Amazon, B & N, Smashwords, etc..

  5. Fantastic tips, Donna! Will definitely bookmark this post. I’d add putting links to the next book in the series (and any other books you’ve written) in the back of your ebook so that readers can jump right on over to Amazon or B&N and purchase it. I include a thumbnail of the book cover, as well. If you use a bitly link you can track clicks, too.

  6. Thank you for sharing this info Donna! It’s very timely for me. I am waiting for a new cover for my memoir and trying to figure out marketing strategy. Yes, I have noticed there are almost as many ‘author promo’ sites are there are authors–quite daunting!

    Congratulations on your success, and Best Wishes that it continue!

  7. Great post, Donna! Wonderful advice! I put a signup for a newsletter on my website and have been pleasantly surprised by the response! Developing readers and connecting with them is a thrill! Thanks so much for sharing – I tweeted as well!

  8. I’ve printed it! Tweeted it! Facebook it! LInkedin it! What a great bit of keen insight and knowledge to share with those of us who are new to the industry! Thank you, Donna Fasano.

  9. I really enjoyed this post. Succinct.
    I have just released my first novel The Elf Lord’s Revenge…and am completely overwhelmed by the plethora of promotion out there! Finding your audience (a novel set in 1843 California and whose hero is an elf who falls in love with a human while trying to discover the murderer of his family….) Is the real challenge!
    And I am in it for the long run.
    The one truth I have really taken away from the flood of info out there: WRITE. Write more books–more product more visibility!! (but in the meantime: promote, promote, promote)
    Indie publishing isn’t for the faint-hearted…
    Thanks again for a great post

    Sue

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