Catching readers’ attention can be challenging in such a crowded book marketplace. You may know the tried-and-true book marketing strategies for generating sales, such as discounting backlist titles, sending email newsletters, and running display advertising campaigns. But sometimes an outside-the-box approach can make an author stand out and generate buzz for a book.
To help you brainstorm some outside-the-box book marketing ideas, we wanted to share a few inventive promotions we’ve recently seen. And if you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out this epic flipbook with 140 book marketing ideas!
1. Make part of the book’s cover wearable
Some authors and publishers have created fashionable swag from the cover’s design elements or the novel’s plot. Book bloggers, influencers, and readers are often excited to show off these items on social media, creating a unique opportunity for word-of-mouth buzz.
The cover design for Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson — featuring art by Rachelle Baker and designed by Erin Fitzsimmons — positions its title in an earring worn by the protagonist.
Tiffany and her publisher, Katherine Tegen (an imprint of HarperCollins), created a bamboo version of these earrings as a giveaway item in their preorder campaign. She posted pictures of herself wearing the earrings on social media, effectively generating hype and preorders — Grown launched as a New York Times bestseller!
Some book bloggers and bookstagrammers received these earrings early, and many of them shared pictures of themselves wearing these earrings or using them as bookstagram props. Tiffany compiled some of these images on Instagram, reminding readers that these earrings were part of her preorder campaign and expressing gratitude for bloggers’ early coverage.
2. Self-publish a prequel to a traditionally published book or series to run price promotions
Since authors don’t have control over pricing for their traditionally published titles and therefore can’t discount them whenever they like, some authors self-publish prequels or connected standalones so they can discount those and use them to promote their traditionally published books.
Brenda Novak used this strategy as part of her marketing campaign promoting Face Off, book 3 in her traditionally published Evelyn Talbot thriller series, and this book was an instant USA Today bestseller! Before Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press published book 1 in the series, Brenda self-published Hanover House, a 200-page prequel, and priced it at $3.99. Within the prequel, she encouraged readers to buy the subsequent books via a letter in the front matter and an excerpt of book 1 in the back matter. After the excerpt, she included links to the retailer product page to make it as easy as possible for readers to buy.
Since Brenda had control over pricing for this self-published prequel, she could discount it whenever she liked. For example, about a month before the launch of book 3 in the series, she discounted the prequel to $0.99. She figured that would be the right timing for new readers to buy this prequel, make their way through books 1 and 2, and be eager for book 3 upon launch.
In order to drive as many unit sales as possible, Brenda ran a BookBub Featured Deal to the Psychological Thrillers category. Featured Deals can generate a high volume of exposure and often result in subsequent sales of an author’s other titles — 70% of authors report an increase in sales of their other books (including full-priced books!) after running the promotion. The Featured Deal for Hanover House generated over 6K clicks and 1.5K sales.
To widen her reach even more, Brenda also ran BookBub Ads campaigns during the week of the discount, testing out different ad designs.
Note: Brenda cleared this idea with her publisher before writing Hanover House. If you’re under contract with a traditional publisher, communicate your plans to publish connected content early to ensure you have their approval!
3. Hide a short story in signed copies of your books
One particularly unique idea we’ve seen is for authors to hide Easter eggs in signed copies of their books — for example, a hidden short story spread across 1K autographed copies.
When author Will Maclean launched his debut novel, The Apparition Phase, he partnered with independent bookstore Goldsboro Books in the UK to sign and distribute 1K copies of an exclusive first edition. In addition to autographing each copy, Will numbered each and wrote in one word. When compiled in order, all 1K words will form a short story.
The bookstore included a note from the author in each copy explaining that a scavenger hunt of sorts was afoot.
Book blogger Lovedreadingthis has been compiling the words in order as readers report them using the hashtag #apparitionphase1000, and these tweets have generated even more exposure for this book. The publicity stunt was also covered by major publications such as Mashable and The Times, and continues to gain steam as Goldsboro Books ships more copies to readers.
4. Create exclusive content for readers through a “Members Only” page on the author’s website
We’ve seen many authors provide content to readers in exchange for a newsletter signup — for example, a short story or even the first book in a series, for free. But another idea is to create an exclusive page or section of your website, only accessible by subscribing.
Indie author Barbara Freethy created such a section for her website. Readers simply need to enter the email address to unlock bonus content, giving them instant gratification and enabling Barbara to reach them with her future newsletters.
On the “Members Only” page, Barbara offers:
- A free downloadable book from her backlist
- Longer sneak peeks at her next book
- Exclusive videos
- Puzzles, quizzes, and games
- Other content that can only be found on this page
According to Barbara, “Creating a ‘Members Only’ page on my website has given me a way to not only grow my newsletter list, but also to reward my subscribers. It’s a win-win for both cold and warm audiences.” She also refreshes the material on the page as often as possible to keep readers coming back.
She drives traffic to this page by linking to it in her website’s top navigation.
She also includes calls-to-action to sign up for access to this “Members Only” page throughout her website.
5. Give away exclusive, rare items
Many authors run giveaways using their books, advance reader copies, or swag as the prize. But we’ve seen some authors put unique twists on these items to create even more compelling giveaways.
Phil Stamper commissioned EdgedInStarlight to create a special edition of his debut novel, The Gravity of Us, with gorgeous sprayed edges. He ran this giveaway on both Instagram and Twitter, and included a signed bookplate that was literally sent into space. This certainly classifies as an outside-the-
boxworld book marketing idea.
When June Hur learned physical ARCs wouldn’t be available for her novel The Forest of Stolen Girls — many publishers have cut back on ARC print runs during the pandemic — she decided to use her marked-up first pass pages as a giveaway prize!
This made for a unique and enticing giveaway on Twitter.
6. Turn announcements into a game for readers
Authors often make announcements on social media, whether for a new book deal, a title or cover reveal, a new publication date, and so on. But instead of simply announcing the news, we’ve seen some authors turn these updates into a game for readers, fostering engagement and making fans feel like part of the book’s path to publication.
Before announcing the title of her upcoming YA fantasy Once Upon a Broken Heart, Stephanie Garber created a guessing game for readers on Instagram. She posted an image to her feed that readers could share to their stories in order to fill in the blanks and guess the word.
Stephanie posted clues to her Instagram stories, and shared some of her favorite guesses from readers.
She then revealed a new word each day, and readers continued playing along, prolonging the hype from a single announcement to last nearly a week!
What is the most outside-the-box book promotion you’ve seen recently? Let us know in the comments below!
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Click to tweet: I love these outside-the-box book marketing ideas! 😍 Which is your favorite? #WritingCommunity https://bit.ly/340fsE7
Click to tweet: LOVE the creative book marketing ideas in this post:
👚 Make part of a book’s cover wearable
💰 Self-publish a prequel to discount it
🤫 Create a “members only” page on your website
🎲 Turn announcements into a game
More here! https://bit.ly/340fsE7