Over the past 10 years, I’ve written more than 40 books and learned countless lessons along the way. I’m both traditionally and self-published, which is one of many factors that can affect marketing possibilities. Readers also react differently between genres — or even between books or series by the same author. Testing is critical, and things can change.
My top nine list below contains the tactics that consistently deliver the best results for me when marketing a new book release. If you feel overwhelmed, remember: All marketing is optional, so please only do what you have time, money, and energy for, and experiment to see what works the best for you.
1. Solidify your marketing messaging
Why should a reader buy this book? Your answer to this question will impact the effectiveness of all of your marketing efforts. Along with an effective book description (also known as back cover copy), I recommend being able to describe your book in two additional ways.
First, create a short list of four to five tropes or key characteristics you can display as easily scannable bullet points. I like to share this list on social media and in my launch week newsletter blast. It helps readers see at a glance why this book is for them.
Second, create a one-liner indicating tropes, character types, and potential conflict. This is perfect for sharing on places like Twitter or Amazon sponsored product ads, where character count is limited. If I have time, I’ll even create two to three different one-line teasers and test which is the most effective.
You can also use this one-liner at the top of your book description on retailer sites. It should be short enough to appear in full before the “Read More” link, and is your chance to quickly convince a casual online browser that they do indeed want to learn more!
I keep a page in my Notes app for each book with these short-and-sweet descriptions handy for easy copy-and-paste later. If your book is part of a series, create similar snippets at the series level as well. A punchy one-liner and a short list of hooky tropes is great for all sorts of marketing materials, from ads to bookmarks to metadata and more.
2. Submit the book for a BookBub Featured New Release
I submit every book for a BookBub Featured New Release almost as soon as the book is available for preorder. What I love best about this opportunity is that BookBub shares the book with their enormous subscriber base for that category, without the need for a discounted price.
In fact, for me, this feature works best with a full-price book — and my 2020 releases thus far have been $3.99. My goal is both exposure and revenue, and my Featured New Releases have yielded a great ROI for both. (Your mileage may vary.) For me, the promotion tends to “earn out” within one to two days, meaning it takes less than 48 hours to recuperate the cost of the ad.
Even better, this burst in sales helps to teach the various algorithms what kind of reader is interested in your book. The increase in velocity leads to a longer “tail” because retailer visibility begets retailer visibility, as your rank stays higher for longer.
Readers can also add your book to their wishlist, either on BookBub or retailer sites, which often ensures they will hear about you and your book again in the future.
3. Update your branding with the newest cover
One of the first things I do once I have a new book cover is update my social media profile headers. For example, on Twitter, I show my newest release, my next release, and the first book in the new series I’m launching next year. I also update my name to feature my upcoming release, and include series hashtags in my bio.
On my Facebook page, I show even more upcoming and recent books, as well as a callout for my newsletter. When you upload an image, the description is blank by default, so be sure to add one. Mine invariably contains a call-to-action to join my newsletter, and may also contain one-liners for the featured books with a “learn more” link.
4. Distribute review copies
If you’re traditionally published, you should work with your marketing team on how best to get Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) into the hands of reviewers. If you’re independently published, it’s up to you to provide ARCs, if you so choose. I very much prefer to start buzz well before launch week. Having a quantity of reviews on launch day positively impacts sales momentum. It is “social proof” that people are reading and enjoying your book.
There are several companies and products you can use for managing ARCs.
Many traditional publishers use NetGalley, which is a respected and robust — but very expensive — review platform used by industry professionals (librarians, booksellers, media professionals) in addition to bloggers and casual reviewers. I belong to an author co-op, wherein we split the cost and share the space.
Here is a screenshot of the results for my most recent release. 34% of viewers requested to read, and 19% of readers left reviews. Many of the 157 reviewers cross-posted their reviews to multiple retailer sites.
If NetGalley is outside your budget, you can use a cheaper or free service, like Booksprout, or DIY with a simple Google form. You’ll essentially create a small mailing list of reviewers interested in your books.
Once your form is ready, put a call out on social media or in your newsletter.
For distribution, you can either directly email an epub or mobi file to those who requested an ARC, or provide a download link either on your website or using a service like BookFunnel. I adore BookFunnel for its file-handling and cross-promotional capabilities. It also lets you limit downloads of your ARC only to the preapproved email addresses on your reviewer list, which you can upload from your mailing list or the Google form.
For me, the sweet spot for getting reviews is to send out ARCs two to four weeks prior to launch day. Many traditional publishing houses send out review copies months earlier. It’s important to test and see what generates the best results, keeping in mind the reality of your publishing timeline. If you are indie, ARCs may not be feasible more than a few weeks in advance.
5. Create shareable images for social media
If you’re on social media, it only makes sense to share news about your book! I like to create ready-to-use graphics for Instagram (1:1), Facebook/Twitter posts (16:9), and Instagram/Facebook Stories (9:16). Make it as easy as possible for readers to share these images, too! It’s a great way to build awareness and buzz. I use Dropbox or a Facebook photo album to share these images with superfans who will be happy to spread the word.
Countdown graphics help build excitement closer to launch!
If you don’t have the budget to pay a professional designer, none of these things have to break the bank. For the samples above, I used a combination of cover art and stock art. Ask your cover designer to send you a copy of the art without the text, and an image of the text alone. Then you can mix and match to your heart’s desire!
Here’s where I source or create my images:
- Period Images: for historical shots. They frequently send discount codes to newsletter subscribers.
- Depositphotos: for contemporary photos. They offer annual deals on AppSumo to buy download codes for super cheap.
- Unsplash: for no-cost, royalty-free images taken by professional photographers.
- Canva or Book Brush: for easily designing your images.
- Covervault: for free, downloadable Photoshop templates to create 3D representations of your books, as well as some really cute bookstagram-style layouts.
6. Discount a previous book in the series
If the book you’re releasing is part of an ongoing series, this method can be very powerful. I’m a huge fan of making the first-in-series book free or $0.99 and promoting the deal to a wide audience with a BookBub Featured Deal. I do my best to time my Featured Deal submission to coincide with the launch of the new book. This plan works best if you’re targeting readers who are new to the series, and will need to start with book one.
Alternatively, if your first-in-series has been free for a long time, or if it has already recently been promoted, another great tactic is to discount the book immediately preceding the new release.
I tend to make my money back on BookBub Featured Deals within hours — they’re that powerful. And the “tail” of higher sales from readers tends to last for weeks. See if you can spot when I did the above Featured Deal (the graph shows royalties, split by retailer):
Thanks in great part to BookBub Featured Deals, I’ve given away more than 450K copies of The Viscount’s Tempting Minx, the permafree first book in my Dukes of War series. The second book has sold about 50K copies, meaning approximately one in nine readers (11%) who download the first book go on to purchase the second book.
Calculating read-through is critical for determining your return on investment. To use round numbers, if your BookBub Featured Deal for a free first-in-series costs $500 and your second book sells for $3 (making your take-home royalty $2), then you’d need 5K free downloads to make your money back, assuming a 5% read-through. Many categories average 10-40K downloads!
Everyone’s read-through rates are different, so it’s important to calculate yours in order to make an informed decision. If your prices are higher or if your series contains more than one paid book, you’ll see a positive ROI and start earning a significant profit even faster.
7. Optimize your back matter
Traditionally published authors: This tip is more accessible to self-published writers, but it never hurts to ask your publisher to customize your ebooks to improve read-through and reader experience. After all, they want to sell books, too!
After the first page, the most important page in your book is the last one. This is when your reader is most excited about your book. They’re fully immersed in the story world you created, and often wish it didn’t have to end. You can grant that wish! My two favorite calls-to-action are a link to the next book in the series and a link to download bonus content.
I created a second epilogue for my permafree book, The Viscount’s Tempting Minx, and uploaded it to BookFunnel. I then include a link to download the bonus content (and optionally join my mailing list!) at the end of the book. This epilogue has been downloaded 11,751 times directly resulting from this back matter. The vast majority of those who downloaded are now members of my newsletter.
8. Update your website
What’s new? What’s coming soon? Let your readers — and Google — know! My current home page highlights my newest release (with that tropey one-liner!) as well as what’s next.
In addition to keeping the homepage updated, I create a page for each series, a page for each book, and two different pages containing all of the books: one with clickable covers, and another that’s a text-based printable list. Remember, not everyone (or every bot) can see your covers, particularly in thumbnail, so it’s important to also have the title in actual text somewhere as well.
Another fun idea is to offer a bonus content page — either a global “extras” page or a dedicated bonus page per series. Bonus content could include FAQs, character charts, shareable images, author’s notes, research tidbits, location photos, playlists, and so on.
9. Tell newsletter subscribers about your new book
For me, a launch day email focuses primarily on the new release. I discuss a variety of topics in my regular monthly emails, but that is not what a release email is for. I don’t want the most important message to be lost, or to distract the reader from clicking the book link.
Without scrolling, I want fans to be able to see: the cover, the title, the series information and number (if applicable), the catchy trope list (from tip #1), and easy purchase links to the store of their choice.
Below that, I’ll include the complete back cover description and occasionally a short excerpt from the book. If it’s part of a series, I’ll also link to a series page and any box sets of prior books, in case they missed something and want to get caught up. I will also often link to those shareable images from tip #5. Make it fun!
I then divide my newsletter subscribers into chunks, and send it over three days. This helps to feed the algorithms steadier sales, rather than a one-time spike. I split the audience by “stars,” a Mailchimp designation for recipient engagement levels, but you could use anything.
In case it isn’t obvious, I love this topic and give entire workshops on newsletter optimization and ways to market books and build your audience. Not all marketing has to be time-consuming or expensive. It’s wise to only spend your energy on the things that make the most sense for you and your books.
If that means skipping marketing altogether and only focusing on writing the next book, then do that, and don’t beat yourself up with FOMO over all the things people claim we “should” or “must” do to be successful. And if you do give one or more of these tips a try, I hope they’re hugely successful — or spark new and better ideas!
Hit me with your tips: If you had to pick just one thing as the single most important step, which would you choose?
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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Click to tweet: Authors, have you tried all of these book marketing tips? Which worked best for you? #WritingCommunity https://bit.ly/3dnISPU
Click to tweet: Love these tips for marketing a new book!
✅ Solidify messaging
✅ Run a BookBub Featured New Release
✅ Distribute review copies
✅ Create shareable images
✅ Optimize back matter
More tips here: https://bit.ly/3dnISPU