Ten steps to marketing your self-published book

By   Hannah Bickerton 9 min read

So, you’ve written a book and you’re planning to self-publish. When it comes to self-publishing, marketing is half the battle; it’s going to be hard for people to find, buy and read your book unless they’re directed to it by you, the author. Even before your book is out in the world you need to be thinking about how to make sure it gets noticed. This will be especially important once the post-publication buzz has died down, and you realise that you need to find a way to sustain your sales and build your fan base.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. The following tips will help you think about the steps you can take to build your brand and boost your readership – from getting those vital pre-orders to maintaining sales long after publication. Use these tips to create and design a marketing schedule, and be sure to keep to it!

1. You can’t mention marketing without mentioning… social media. Social media is the easiest way to access a huge readership. Every reader of every genre is in your pocket at all times; all you have to do is find and target them with your content. Where once everyone’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles were private, they now act as undercover retail platforms. If someone on Facebook isn’t trying to sell you something, even if it’s just their lifestyle, you must have stumbled back onto Myspace.

Everyone has their favourite, of course, but when it comes to books, Twitter is where you’ll get the most attention.

#wordcount #amwriting #amediting #writer

The list goes on: through these hashtags an entire community of writers thrive, separated only by genre. If you need an impartial judge, a critic, or even someone to virtually pick you up off the floor after that scathing Amazon review, your twitter #writingfamily is there. Before your book is released, build a following by engaging in other people’s work and sharing relevant content.

Once your book is available to order or pre-order and you do post book ads, only ten per cent of your posts should be explicitly sales-oriented. Even then, try and avoid imperative language like ‘buy now’.

2. Defy the digital world. Not everything’s virtual, just yet. When your book has been printed, but before it’s available to buy, why not send out some review copies? We all still love receiving post. In fact, in this digitally-dominated age it’s almost novel (pun intended).

Who wouldn’t love to get into work or come home from a long day and find a new book on their desk? Do some research and find successful authors who write books like yours, big name brands who may be interested in reading your tips or avid book bloggers and send them a free copy of your book. They may love it, and even if they don’t, they’ll probably still thank you on Twitter and leave a review on your Amazon page. After all, any press is good press.  Don’t forget to include a handwritten note with your website address and Twitter handle – for that personal touch.

It’s also a good idea to venture out of your writing nook and find your writing family: book groups, writing clubs, creative writing lessons. Every objective person who will read your work and give you feedback is invaluable.

3. Every author has got to have a… Website. Even if you’re not selling your books directly from your website, it’s important to have one in order to legitimise your brand. If someone googles you, having that certified URL, a photo of you, your books and some information about your writing allows the reader to make a connection with not only your product but your brand.

Before you start paying for advertising, the content on your website has to be perfect; even if your paid ads get people to your website, they need a reason to stick around!

Remember to build your brand before you sell your book. Before publication, you can build a following by posting helpful content on your blog. A blog is a crucial part of any author’s writing life, and if you want your readers (who may also be writers) to explore your whole website and not click away after scanning your homepage, go that extra mile and provide some informative content – tips, tricks and difficulties you’ve had during your writing journey.

Once your book is available to buy, your website serves to convince the reader that your book is worth buying, and that you as an author are worth paying attention to. It is the place to have reviews, writing extracts and, very importantly, your…

4. Newsletter. This is especially significant for writers of series – those who need to keep their audience captivated and committed to buying the next book. Getting an audience to your website is one thing, getting them to buy something is another. A newsletter is a powerful marketing tool that will keep your audience engaged, sending them reminders of upcoming books, launches, or chapter extracts. Encourage people to sign up to your newsletter by offering them the first few chapters of your book for free. Once you’ve built your subscription base, you will have a priceless insight into the demographic of your readership (depending on what information you collected during the sign-up process). You can then use the data collected through the newsletter to create your paid ads and target the right audience. Data is so important in marketing.

Alongside your newsletter, you should take full advantage of…

5. Google analytics. There is very little point in having a website if you don’t have Google analytics, and the beauty of the platform is that it can be entirely free. Just by signing up you will have access to very important data. You can see how much traffic you’re getting, which pages are getting the best response from your audience and where your traffic is coming from. Use this data to adapt your content creation and advertising schemes accordingly. If your Facebook ad is generating more traffic to your website than your Amazon ad, think about investing more in the former and turning off the latter. Speaking of which, now on to the exciting bit. It’s time to think about…

6. Amazon marketing services. So, you have begun to build an online following, you’ve started a newsletter and your website provides details about you, your work and tips for other writers. You can now start to think about paid advertising schemes. Amazon accounts for more than fifty per cent 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 (think carefully about the latter and do some research into your genre’s keywords).

Remember, make sure to offer the first ten per cent of your book as a preview. The majority of buyers will have a scan over these pages before making their final decision.

If you’ve published your book as an eBook via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), think about how you can take advantage of…

7. 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, whilst a free book promotion does exactly that, offering your novel for free for a set time (which you decide upon).

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 analyse the demographic the deal attracts so you can target that group in the future.

Once you’ve mastered AMS, take some time to consider…

8. Facebook Ads. It’s important to not approach advertising on any other platform until you’ve mastered AMS. But, once you have, Facebook ads can offer a lot to authors looking to grow their brand. What Facebook offers that many other platforms don’t is the ability to target a very specific audience. You can tailor your adverts to appear to unique age ranges, geographic locations and even target people who have liked particular pages on Facebook. This means that if your work fits within a particular genre very easily (let’s say YA fantasy), you can find the most successful authors in your genre and target their fans. It’s also wise to have a look at the Facebook pages of other authors in your genre and see if, and how, they are negotiating Facebook ads: what blurb are they using? Are they using the cover image of their book?

Use this information to see what works with prospective readers and what doesn’t. Facebook ads can be very helpful for self-published authors, but only when you’ve built an audience and really got to know your demographic, so tread carefully or you could see your budget disappear.

9. Get people competing. If you’ve got sales coming in through paid advertising, you can probably afford to sacrifice a few copies for the sake of scale. A rule that doesn’t just apply to book marketing: people love free stuff. Creating and promoting an online competition on your social media platforms will increase your following and build your readership. A risky game – but often a successful one. Use relevant hashtags to target the right audience and offer them the chance to win a copy of your book in exchange for a follow, retweet and like. Once you’ve done this, just sit back and watch the your list of followers grow.

10. Don’t stop. Even after your book has been released and is selling well, it doesn’t end here. Marketing and content creation are a continual process. We can pretty much guarantee that as soon as you stop putting as much effort in, you’ll stop making as many sales. So, keep writing those blog posts, monitoring and editing your ads and ensuring all your social platforms are active. The most important thing is to remember that marketing is a continual process; even the most famous and successful authors still have to push their own sales (just check their Twitter pages!). If you keep caring, so will your readers.

Good luck!


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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.