Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Top ten book marketing tips

Working an audience at Blackwell's, Oxford


Something that's regular asked over on the Litopia website is why authors are expected to work at marketing their books (surely that's what publishers get such a large chunk of the income for?) and what authors should realistically be expected to do.

The simple answer to the first part is because your book is more important to you than it is to them. I'm not saying that the publisher doesn't love it, but they've got to share that love across however many books they are publishing this season. You just have the one.

It's not that the publisher won't do stuff. They will put a lot of effort into trying to get the book reviewed and mentioned in the media (including sending out typically 100-200 review copies). They will look for opportunities for you to appear at festivals and similar gatherings. They may, if it's a big book, set up a website. But don't expect too much. Specifically they are very unlikely (unless you are a celebrity) to do any poster/TV advertising, so don't be disappointed.

However there's a lot more that you as an author can do. Here's my tips to help get your book noticed:
  1. Be prepared to give time for anything your publisher sets up (interviews, broadcasts, public appearances). If you are reluctant to do your bit, they will soon lose interest.
  2. Make it part of your everyday communications. Put the details (including links to buy it) in your email signature, for example.
  3. Look for opportunities to be visible locally, things the publisher might not do - local radio/newspaper, contact your local bookshop about a signing etc.
  4. Use blogging, Twitter, Facebook etc. to spread the word. But don't get tedious about. All too often people stop following you if all you do is sell. Try to give added value.
  5. Set up a Facebook page for your book and optionally a website for your book.
  6. Consider doing your own book launch if the publishers aren't doing one (and most books don't get one). I've never done this, but quite a lot of authors do, and if you organize it right you can get some visibility.
  7. Get yourself set up as a Goodreads author and set up author pages on Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk
  8. Email everyone you know. This has to be done subtly. Do a personal email, but include stuff about your book. It takes time, but is much better received than a generic mail to a mailing list.
  9. Look for specialist websites (like my www.popularscience.co.uk for popular science books) that might tell a targeted audience about your book.
  10. Do an online search for relevent businesses that might have an interest. For example, when I did a book about infinity, I emailed companies with 'Infinity' in their name to see if any wanted to buy copies as a corporate giveaway. One ordered 100 copies.
Does this sound like too much effort? It probably is compared with the return you will see for any particular activity. But the fact is there are a couple of million books out there in print in English. If you don't do everything you can to get noticed, in a way that will get you noticed rather than irritate people, then you can resign yourself to staying in the long tail of books that don't sell many copies. It's up to you.

Added P.S. - Excellent 11th suggestion from Neil Ansell:
One thing you don't mention is a book trailer. I filmed mine myself but it was edited and posted by the publishers. It's had 4000 hits and counting, which doesn't exactly make me Justin Bieber, but is encouraging nonetheless.
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