Book Marketing on a Budget: Finding the Best Channels for Your Campaign

By   Hannah Bickerton 11 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

There is what seems like an endless amount of options when it comes to exploring suitable platforms and channels from which to promote. So let’s break it down for you:

Start a mailing list and newsletter

A newsletter is an excellent way to communicate directly with an audience, collect contact data (with permissions!) and access real insights on their demographics, which can be handy for targeting on other channels. If people are giving you their contact data, they will be expecting something of value in return, so a mailing list is an opportunity to delve a bit deeper into some of your themes or deliver exclusive content. Unlike social posts, an email will always end up in a mailbox so, in theory, your content should achieve a higher engagement rate. This can be a particularly powerful marketing tool, as you can make subscribers aware ahead of your launch, share chapter extracts, offer discounts or send invitations to events. A mailing list is a longer-term commitment, so it works best for ongoing content creators where a book forms part of a wider objective. And in that instance traffic can flow both ways, whereby you can also use your book to encourage people to sign up to your newsletter. If you are looking to start a newsletter, you should check out Substack, MailChimp, ConvertKit and Ghost.  

Create a website

Even if you’re not selling your books directly from your website, it can be important to have even a simple one-pager in order to legitimize your brand and be a safe place for readers to land if they search for you online. A certified URL, headshot, bio, images of your books and info on where they can purchase them are all great elements to include. As an extension of your author brand, make sure you consider how your storefront looks. For websites you should check out Squarespace.

Begin a blog

Blogging is another great way to produce content along similar themes to your book and cement your authority in a space. If your blog is popular and easily discoverable, it can be a great way to upsell your book and secure sales. Blogging tends to be longer-form content, so similarly to a mailing list, it favors those who have a longer-term commitment to content creation. It also works harmoniously with a mailing list and can be a great way to acquire subscribers. There are lots of different sites to choose from where you can create your blog, such as WordPress, Ghost and Medium, where you can post what you like, when you like. If starting your own blog sounds too time-consuming and you’re worried about posting regularly, there are always opportunities to pitch your ideas to other blogs and feature as a guest blogger.

Start a podcast

As with blogging, podcasting is a brilliant way to reach new readers, build your profile and upsell a book. However, podcasting is a much larger commitment and far more resource heavy. You will need specialist equipment and savvy technical skills to record and edit a podcast. Furthermore, it requires familiarity with a different form of content—audio—and scripting and narrating could take a while to master, so it works best for those who are used to speaking in public and have big personalities. That being said, podcasting is an increasingly popular way for people to consume content, so if you can carve your niche in a saturated market, it could be worth the effort.

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Master your social media accounts

One of your best bets for reaching potential readers is via social media. It’s a no-brainer and really vital as a modern-day author to easily interact with your audience and build a following. It will take time, perseverance and effort, yet after a while tends to become a second nature and requires less creative juice. Some channels may be better suited to you as an author than others—there is no need to conquer all. Here are several of the main social media platforms to have on your radar:

  • Twitter: This platform allows you to ‘tweet’ up to 280 characters, so it’s perfect for quotes, thoughts and opinions, interesting links and reactions to news or other trending topics. Tweets should be short, snappy and timely. But they are also short-lived, so be quick to respond and make use of the popular topics with hashtags. Our advice would be to not be overly promotional as that can be off-putting to this audience. This platform is very reactive and favors relevance, so it works best for writers with ready opinions, those with interests in news, politics, business, comedy and tech. You should also be warned that Twitter is a very polarized space, so making a clear decision ahead of time about whether or not you want to engage with this platform is very important.
  • Facebook: You can create a professional (author) page on Facebook that can be kept separate from your personal account. This is a good platform for longer posts, not quite as long as a blog post, but more informative content pieces exploring your book, your thoughts and writing experience. Facebook might be a good option if you have a slightly older audience demographic who enjoy properly engaging in the content that comes up in their feed. You can also join more specific groups on Facebook, which can be great for discussions and idea sharing on more niche subjects and to connect with like-minded people. Don’t use these areas to promote your book, however, without asking permission from the group admins first.  
  • Instagram: If you have a lot of visual content, Instagram is the one for you, paired with a punchy caption. Instagram is a very aspirational platform; followers will want to be inspired and captivated. If you have a lifestyle business, or work in fashion, art, travel, events, pets, or food and drink, Instagram will be your main channel as this is a great opportunity to show-off your stunning imagery. Make sure to use few but key hashtags (including the bookstagram hashtag) on this platform—if you use too many your post may be at risk of being marked as spam and won’t then show on other users’ feeds. Instagram have also recently taken a leaf out of TikTok’s book with their Reel videos, which are becoming increasingly favored by the algorithm—something to keep in mind when creating content for this platform.
  • Pinterest: This is another very visual platform, where images can be uploaded and ‘pinned’ to different boards or categories of your choosing. Pinterest is often used to create inspiration boards for many aspects of users’ lives, from interior design, to writing tips, to pancake recipes.
  • YouTube: This is a platform completely dedicated to video content, and it’s not just funny cat videos anymore. If you have the skills to script, film and edit videos, or the motivation to learn, then this could be a great option for you. It’s the perfect place to post a book trailer, conduct an interview, answer a Q&A or speak directly to readers in a way that truly shows who you are and what you want to say. Videos can also be uploaded to YouTube and shared on other social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Authors really shouldn’t overlook the power of quality video content and the BookTube community.  
  • TikTok: Social media platforms tend to come and go, but very rarely do they stay and have the impact that TikTok has. It’s primarily a video platform for short-form videos, but it allows for interaction between videos in a way that is absent on other platforms. You can post reactions to and even ‘duet’ with others’ videos, allowing for further interaction. TikTok is geared primarily towards a younger audience, but with more and more people in older demographics joining the platform it is becoming a global phenomenon. However, authors with younger target readers will most likely find the most success here. If you’re not sure where to start, explore the #booktok hashtag and look at other authors utilizing this platform, such as It Ends With Us author Colleen Hoover.

Content can vary depending on which platform you prioritize, but it’s important to publish a diverse range. Here are some creative book-specific content ideas for pre- and post-publication of your book:

  • Countdown to publication.
  • Pictures of your writing process—where you write, what inspires you, what you’re reading, events you’re attending, etc.
  • Insights into your daily life—let people see you’re human and allow them to relate to you, but be careful how much and to what extent you share.
  • Quotes that inspire you, motivational writing quotes and quotes from your own book.
  • Interactions with other writers—share your opinion and involve yourself in discussions on the latest writing, publishing, genre and other relevant topics.
  • Sneak peeks of your book cover, internal images and content extracts.
  • Pre-publication giveaways—copies of your book and other goodies.
  • Reviews and pre- and post-publication press coverage.
  • Invitations to subscribe to your regular newsletter.
  • Launch, book signings and online event photos, live-tweeting and filming of the events, and video endorsements from attendees.
  • Eye-catching, high-quality images of your book.
  • Images of readers with your book.
  • Reposts of images and videos featuring your book, posted by other accounts.
  • A video or series of videos introducing your book.
  • Instagram live Q&A.
  • Engage with and send review copies to relevant authors, book bloggers and influencers for reviews.
  • Hold competitions for your followers and thank them for their support.
Join Goodreads

One of the best ways to begin creating an online presence as an author and start collecting reviews from real readers is to join the Goodreads Author Program. Goodreads is the world’s largest community of readers and, while your book will often automatically appear on the website once it is online, joining the Goodreads Author Program gives you control of the information surrounding your book. Get a verified profile badge, engage with readers and build a following. All you have to do to claim your profile is submit an application form to Goodreads, which will be reviewed within two days.

Sign-up to Google analytics

If you have a website, you should also have Google Analytics. This entirely free insight tool from Google allows you to access essential data relating to the performance of your website or blog and the impact of your social media and other referral sites. Google analytics enables you to see how much traffic you’re getting, which pages are receiving the best response from your audience and where your traffic is coming from. Use this data to analyze and adapt your content creation and advertising schemes accordingly and understand what is performing and what isn’t.

Start paid ads with Amazon marketing services

Amazon accounts for more than fifty percent of all book sales, so your biggest market is on one website with an easy-to-target audience; this is what makes Amazon marketing services (AMS) the ideal starting point for paid advertising. Once you’ve registered for a business account, Amazon offers various different services and operates on a pay per click (PPC) basis, meaning that no matter your budget, you can get some exposure. All you need to create your advert is the cover of your book and a blurb. Be sure to think carefully about your book blurb and do the necessary research into your genre’s keywords. Offer the first ten percent of your book as a preview, so buyers are able to scan over these pages before making a final decision to buy.

Make use of KDP price promotion

If you’ve published your book as an eBook via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), consider how you can take advantage of KDP price promotion. On your eBook dashboard, you will find the option to ‘promote and advertise’ your book. You will be taken to a page that offers you the chance to either launch an advertising campaign, a Kindle countdown deal or a free book promotion. A Kindle countdown deal offers your book at a discount price for a limited time, while a free book promotion does exactly that, offering your novel for free for a set time that you decide. Many authors have found success in advertising their book for £0.99/$0.99 for a limited time and linking this deal to Facebook ads. If you decide to advertise your book for free, be sure to measure the success against the cost, and remember to analyze the demographic the deal attracts so you can target that group in the future.

Keep it up!

Even after your book has been published and is selling well, your journey to success doesn’t end here. Marketing and content are a continual process that require dedication and time. It is almost guaranteed that as soon as you stop putting in as much effort into creating content and posting regularly, this will be reflected in your number of sales. So, make sure you keep writing those blog posts, monitoring and editing your website data, and ensure all your social media platforms are active. Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Marketing is a continual process; even the most famous and successful authors still have to push their own sales. If you keep caring, so will your readers.

So there it is. Your comprehensive manual to aid you in devising a bespoke promotional plan for your book. And honestly, we’ve just scratched the surface as to what’s possible. Keep being inspired by what other people are doing and think about how it can apply to you. Pick your top five marketing channels and research how to master them. Learn on the job. Marketing can be so creative and fun, so enjoy it! 

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Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.