Starting your career as a self-published author is an exciting adventure! You’ve written a whole novel and have decided to take charge and strike out on your own. How empowering is that?! From the moment you made the leap, you probably felt like your dreams were right in front of your fingertips, waiting for you to grab them.
Once it sunk in a little more, you might have felt the opposite, a feeling akin to plunging down a hundred foot drop on a roller coaster at Six Flags. If you’ve reached the point where feelings of intimidation, overwhelm, and anxiety have reached you- you’re not alone! This is exactly how I felt when I realized that to self-publish, I’d have to do all my own marketing.
To help you (and me) get past these feelings, I wanted to share 14 book marketing tips to help you on your self-publishing journey.
1. Invest In Your Cover
Think back to when you bought your last book. What made you pick it up? What made you want to know what it was about? What about it said ‘pick me’? Chances are, it was the book’s cover drawing you in.
If this doesn’t demonstrate the importance of your book’s cover, then simply perusing Tiktok, where books are promoted entirely for their beautiful cover art, should convince you. Books have taken the world by storm simply for being gorgeous on the outside- and similarly, books have tanked because of their lack of desirable adornments.
Book Marketing Pro Tip: One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an author is not investing in your cover art.
Investing in a strong cover is smart and effective. Even on a tight budget, cover art should be high on the list. Cutting down the budget somewhere else can help keep your publishing costs lower. Finding a cover artist that will work within your desired budget can also help. If you’re looking to design your own cover, here is a list of the top 30 best book cover designers according to BookFox.
Pay attention to what colors, fonts, and images are popular within your genre so you can provide input to your cover artist. Be aware that these design trends change over time and book your cover artist close to when you plan to publish. For those who can’t afford a cover artist, investing in design software like Canva, Photoshop, and copy-free images on platforms like Unsplash and iStock can help elevate your cover.
2. Update Your Book Cover When Needed
Published and not seeing the results you want? Your cover art may need a refresher. Hard to read, looks homemade, or isn’t eye-catching enough– these are all reasons why your book may not be getting the attention it deserves.
Whatever the issue, keep in mind that humans are visual creatures. If it’s pleasing to the eye, it’ll be pleasing to buy. You should also remember that your book is competing with millions of others. Don’t go with pre-made book cover art, be as original as possible while ensuring that you have the genre elements your readers are looking for.
Once you find a cover designer you want to work with (Reedsy is a great place to search for one!), go through several rounds of mock-ups. Poll your family, friends, writing peers, and other readers.
Asking other people which cover version they prefer can give you insight into which one will sell best.
Again, pay attention to what’s trending in the cover art of your genre. This will help readers identify what kind of book yours is and whether it’ll fit what they want to read or not. Straying too far from genre norms can confuse a potential reader and lead to bad reviews.
3. Choose Your Book’s Pricing Wisely
Myth #1: Pricing your book higher than the average makes it look like a better book.
False: Pricing higher discourages buyers who don’t want to pay more for a similar product.
Myth #2: Pricing your book lower than average will attract more readers because it’s cheaper.
False: Pricing lower also discourages readers who will assume there’s something wrong with it.
The best price for your novel is the competitive average. To find out what those numbers look like, begin by researching your genre competitors and see what they are pricing their books at. You should see a pattern (typically Ebooks sell for between $.99 to $9.99 for example).
Remember, your price isn’t what sells your book- your blurb and cover do. With the exception of when you run sales, your pricing should reflect the value of your work according to what’s fair in the current market.
However, there are a few exceptions. If your book has more pages, is a hardcover, or has special features such as limited-edition artwork or maps, then your pricing should be higher than the standard. More pages mean more value. Hardcovers cost more to produce than paperbacks, thus the price for those is also inflated. Limited editions and their rarity mean you can charge more.
Still unsure of what to price your book at? Look up a book profit margin calculator like this one from Self-Publishing School.
4. Build A Strong Homebase
Think of your website as your “home”. It’s a place where readers can get to know you, but also purchase your books and stay updated on new releases and bookish information through your newsletter and email marketing.
Personally, I started out using Wix, but recently moved to WordPress. Wix was very user-friendly for someone without any website building background. Their all-in-one approach to website building, marketing, SEO, and blogging made it easy to set up and run my website for many years. Squarespace is also an excellent starting place for anyone new to websites, as they share many similar features with Wix.
Another option, if you’ve got extra funds to spare, is to hire a professional web designer to help you design and brand your author website. This provides several benefits, including an elevated reader experience, cohesive branding, and consistency throughout your social platforms. This was a milestone I recently achieved and one of the reasons why I switched to WordPress where more personalization and control exists.
To show you an example of what a professional website could look like, I’ve provided a screenshot of my own:
To see more examples, check these out:
5. Make The Most Of Your Social Media
One thing I love about today’s publishing climate is the trend towards getting to know the author. With a simple click you can discover all about who wrote your favorite story and connect with them in ways that weren’t possible before social media existed. It’s why many authors (including myself) have created social media accounts to help market our work and connect to readers worldwide. Curious about what your own platform could look like? Visit mine below!
Expect your bookworm fans to go down a loophole when it comes to social media. Once they read your first book and become a fan, they’ll want to follow you on Tiktok and Instagram, scope out your website for tour updates, follow your Facebook Page for behind-the-scenes details, and finally go and TBR the rest of your books on Goodreads. Social media allows your readers to share your interests, contact you, celebrate your achievements, and provide a great source of referral traffic.
While it’s true that you don’t have to have social media be part of your book marketing strategy, if you’re able and willing, it’s a great opportunity to help boost your author reputation and spread the word about your books.
6. Participate In Writing Forums and Communities
Using forum-based social media sites such as Reddit and Tumblr are a great way to network. Putting yourself out there and learning from your fellow writers is fun, but more than that it’ll give you the opportunity to put your name and your book in spaces where lots of people are sure to see them.
Here is a great example of a subreddit to join:
You can also search for community in other places such as writing courses, writing groups, local writing gatherings, conferences, and writing retreats. These places of networking and support can help you strengthen your writing as well as your book sales.
One online community I love and am active in is the #writergram community on Instagram. I’ve found many friends, networking connections, my critique partner, books, and even clients from my involvement here!
7. Ask Booktok To Help Promote Your Book
Another reason I love today’s social media-obsessed culture is that it’s changed the gatekeepers. Prior to social media, the only way to spread the word about your book was through traditional channels- many of which weren’t available to self-published authors.
But these days the rules have changed and anyone with access to a phone can help promote your novel! Whether you have a following online yourself, or you know someone who does, chances are you have a network of smaller influencers who can help you kick-start your marketing (think writers in your writing group/community, your book club gals, that friend obsessed with Booktok).
Smaller influencers can open the path for larger influencers to pitch your novel. Whether they catch it because it’s already trending or they decided to give you a shot because you sent them a convincing DM, never underestimate the power of Influencers with large audiences.
These are the people who will convince other people that they have to buy your book. The power of Book Influencers is their ability to persuade a large audience to purchase what they promote. These people don’t have to give you a book review (though that would be amazing!) but advocating for your book can be a powerful thing whether it’s simply sharing your novel’s cover, putting it on their TBR, or mentioning that they’re curious about it.
While there are influencer programs out there, do your homework before hiring. There’s a lot of would-be scammers so thoroughly check out whoever you’re considering hiring prior to doing so. Once you hire someone, you can negotiate about the posting frequency, use of hashtags, and creative visuals. A great place to start finding these Influencers is on social media sites like Tiktok and Instagram where the Booktok and Bookstagram communities exist respectively.
8. Join Facebook Writer And Reader Groups
Let’s talk about the goldmine that is Facebook writer and reading groups. Recently, I’ve branched out and joined a few of these myself and am constantly amazed by the wealth of knowledge, contacts, and helpful attitudes of those involved.
There’s two aspects of these groups I’d like to touch on here.
In writer’s groups, you can interact with other authors, develop contacts, ask for feedback and reviews, form beta reader relationships, exchange advice, promote your books, find editors, agents, cover artists, and more! It’s a great place to use polls and surveys to help gain insight into your book covers, get answers to writing-related questions, and make new friends who will help perfect your book.
Reader groups are even more valuable. In these groups, you’ll find readers who will turn into fans, gain perspective from just readers (not those who also write), learn about what readers in your genre want to read, what they don’t want to read, what books they’re most excited about and other marketing research that will ultimately help you sell your novel.
Here are some to join:
- “Authority Self Publishing” Facebook Group
- “The International Indie Author” Facebook Group
- “Author Support Network” Facebook Group
- “For Writers, By Authors” Facebook Group
- “The Indie Writers’ Cooperative” Facebook Group
- Fiction Writing
9. Notify Local Media Outlets
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your local media outlets! While this can be one of the more daunting aspects of book marketing if you’re self-published, don’t automatically count it out.
With a traditional publisher, media coverage is already guaranteed because of the reputation and relationships built by the publisher themselves. When you’re an indie author and new to the book selling game, you can’t expect the media to pay attention to you.
However, the good news is that the more books you write and the more your credibility as a writer is built, the more attention you’ll eventually receive. This is especially true if you make the NY Times Best Sellers List.
In the meantime, don’t get discouraged! Start small when building your media coverage strategy. Get in touch with your local newspaper, magazines, niche blogs, news channel, podcast, libraries, bookstores, etc. Ask to be included in book presentations, book fairs, sign up for conferences, cultural events- anything to help raise awareness. Like all aspects of marketing, this will take time to build, but focusing efforts in this direction will eventually pay off.
10. Don’t Forget About Book Reviewers
Reviews are the lifeblood of a writer. While writing a book that will be both enjoyed and get reviews may not be mutually exclusive, building your initial review team can help jump-start your reputation and your book sales.
Recruiting for your advanced copy reader team (ARC team) is a strategy that can help you gain early readers prior to your book launch whose purpose is to review your novel so that you have good reviews from the start. Pick people who is well-versed in your genre, who also have the time to write a review. A great place to find these people is in your writing community, book clubs, and writing groups.
Reviews are important everywhere, but Amazon especially. With Amazon, you need about fifty good reviews for the algorithm there to start suggesting your book to readers.
Need more reviews? The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages is a great resource. They provide connections that link indie authors to potential reviewers. Write a pitch email specifying why you need their review and how much it means to you. Once you have your reviews, boost your social media feed by using them as testimonials.
11. Create A 3D Video Mockup (Aka A Book Trailer)
As a reader, one of my favorite things to see are video trailers for books. They’re dynamic and fun, while giving me a good idea of what a novel is about. It’s eye-catching while scrolling blindly through social media feeds, and sometimes even unexpected.
Making a 3D video mockup of your novel can instantly elevate your marketing. You can choose to make your own video in a video editor or you can use a service like Placeit to create a template that makes uploading easy. Typically it’s a short video clip that features your book’s cover and maybe a few indicators of what your book is about. Details and themed elements help attract eyes within crowded online environments like Facebook Groups or on Instagram. They also look great on author websites and shown as GIFs within emails.
12. Share A 3D Book Mockup
If you haven’t already invested a little time to create a 3D mockup of your book, you should! Nothing shows off your fabulous cover design more then to have an image of it on an actual book. If you don’t have an actual cover yet, using a cover placeholder is perfectly acceptable and is still a great way to make your book seem “real”.
Book Mockups generate excitement for a book launch or when you’re just starting to promote a new series. Before you ever have a physical hard copy, this helps to sell your book to your readers. You can also share them on your website, in newsletters, emails, and other promotional materials.
Just check out this awesome example by Amanda Creek!
13. Become Part Of The Goodreads Author Program
Goodreads is the #1 website for readers and recommendations. Make sure you’re using this resource to the best of your ability by joining their author program, which helps authors reach their ideal audience.
Through the program, you can host your own blog, build a following, share your favorite books, and connect with readers all in the same place. You can also pay for advertisements that target readers by genre, location, gender, and age. Ads cost $0.50 per click. With so many resources at your disposal, it makes sense to make the most of it.
14. Maximize Your Sales On Amazon
Amazon can be a tough platform to crack if you’re not signed up for Kindle Unlimited (KU). One of the major perks of being part of the KU program is that Amazon does extra promotions and marketing for authors who enroll in their exclusive platform. If you’ve published wide and aren’t part of KU, the majority of your sales will most likely still come from Amazon.
For authors who have books on Amazon, reviews are what help promote your novel onto Amazon’s recommended listings. While these spots are primarily reserved for KU authors, having high rankings can also put you on the Best-sellers list. While it’s a dream of many authors to gain this acclaim, it’s also important to remember that it doesn’t last. To help you understand how you can make that dream possible, check out this guide: Amazon Sales Rank: Taming the Algorithm.
Ensuring that you keep your books title, keywords, blurb, and tags up to date and relevant to the content within your novel will help you reach your sales goals. Remember to also keep your author page updated- fresh bio pictures, about me, and having all your books linked there will help readers who like your work want to keep buying your future novels.
Book Marketing Tips Wrap-Up
With these 14 book marketing tips you can begin to build your marketing strategy as an author. While marketing your story can be challenging, being persistent and trying new ideas will help you succeed in the long term. Keep in mind that it generally takes about 5 published books in order to start generating consistent income and don’t let the journey discourage you. You’ve got this!