What is book marketing?
Book marketing, in its simplest form, is essentially the same as any marketing—getting your product into the hands (or ears, in the case of audiobooks) of consumers. However, as Merriam-Webster notes, marketing can also be “an aggregate…of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer.” The word aggregate is the tip-off; book marketing is going to be a lot more involved than just printing and putting up for sale. Luckily, time can be saved by overlapping some of the steps to book marketing we’ve outlined below.
Tips for marketing your book – the writing stage
Hire a professional editor. Once your book is written and you’ve done a self-edit, maybe shared it with some beta readers to get their feedback on the content, it needs to be professionally edited. Editing may seem like an afterthought, something your cousin’s neighbor’s dog-sitter is happy to do for you because he got an A on an essay in school once. Writer beware! Just ask any author who has had to take their manuscript down from Kindle or Kobo because of all the bad reviews—not on the story line, but on the grammar and punctuation—how important it is to hire a professional editor.
Hiring a professional editor is not for the faint of wallet. However, it is an essential part of the aggregate marketing strategy for your book. There’s no sense trying to sell something people are not going to be happy with. Worse, it could ruin your reputation as an author. If you don’t have all the funds for editing on hand, you can ask your professional editor to edit a few chapters per pay period, to help spread the cost out more evenly over your budget. The worst they can say is no, and then, do you really want to work with that type of editor?
Once your manuscript is professionally edited, it’s on to the next step: formatting.
Format your book. “If you want to give a professional impression when you attempt to market your manuscript, it has to be formatted properly and presented in the best way possible,” says JoEllen Nordstrom, founder of FirstEditing.com, in her blog post “Marketing Your Manuscript.” Formatting a manuscript correctly depends on where it’s going next: uploading directly to a self-publishing platform, or sending it to a publishing house or marketing agency in search of representation.
The Chicago Manual of Style recommends a neutral formatting for submitting your manuscript to US-based publishing houses/marketers. Start with using letter-sized paper, which is 8.5” x 11”. Then choose one-inch margins all the way around. Chapter titles, headings, and subheadings throughout the manuscript get consistent treatment regarding font size, capitalization, and whether the text is set in italics or roman (see CMOS for details). Font should be something with “feet,” such as Garamond or Times New Roman. Line spacing is double-spaced. Paragraphs will be indented a half-inch, with no space between paragraphs. Text is left-adjusted, rather than center justified, meaning the right edge will appear “ragged.”
For international publication, check with the publishing house/marketer; they may prefer A4 paper and .33-inch paragraph indentations. The rest is essentially the same.
Formatting for an ePublisher upload can be different. Font with feet is still easier to read than, say, Calibri, and it should still be size 12. Line spacing can be closer, maybe 1.5 or 1.15, and most authors prefer their books to be center justified rather than left-adjusted. Nowadays, some authors are forgoing the paragraph indentation and instead using a space between paragraphs (but not a blank line; use the Paragraph spacing option in MS Word for consistent spacing).
Once your text is formatted, give it a once-over to make sure you haven’t left anything underlined (an indication to a publisher that something should be set in italics), bolded (except headings and subheadings, if desired), or all caps. Rather than gaining a publisher or reader’s attention, those formatting faux pas are likely to annoy them instead.
Developing a marketing strategy
Before or during the editing and formatting stages, take the time to develop a marketing strategy. Without a strategy, you’ll be working tirelessly with no structure and probably very few results, wasting time and money.
As JoEllen Nordstrom, founder of FirstEditing.com writes in her blog “Book Marketing Before Publication,” there are essentially five steps you can take to market your book before it’s even published.
- Website development: Have a landing page for your readers to learn about you, your book, any contests/giveaways, etc. Include here your author bio, synopsis of the book, any news events related to the book, schedule for the book launch, invitation to in-person or Zoom book launch parties, and of course all your social media links. And remember to add the link to purchase the book!
- Social media presence: Add your social media links everywhere, and also the link to purchase your book once it’s published. Cross-reference all your social media links; add your Twitter link to your LinkedIn profile, add your YouTube channel link to your Instagram page, etc.
- Alert your personal network: Let your friends, family, colleagues, and followers know in advance that the book is coming out, and simply ask them to help you promote it. You can make it fun, with in-person (once it’s safe to do so post-pandemic) or online Zoom parties (where people come into the call and say nice things about you and share happy memories about how you know each other).
- Prepare to get book reviews: Magazines, trade publications, podcasters, radio, and media reviewers have different deadlines for when they need an advance copy of your book in order to read it and review it. You’ll want to time that so their review comes out near your publication date.
- Create an editorial calendar: Put your matchmaking hat on; match your book’s theme/protagonist with real-world events, such as a book about moms being promoted for Mother’s Day, a romance novel coming out for Valentine’s Day, or if your protagonist is a pirate, put your book for sale on September 19, International Talk Like a Pirate Day! You get the idea.
The Elite Authors blog “How to develop a marketing strategy for your nonfiction book” contains a plethora of information that can be boiled down to a few major points.
- Identify your audience so you can target the right readers. Targeted marketing might be self-evident in this day and age, but it bears repeating. Don’t waste time, money, or energy marketing to people who will definitely not buy your book.
- Write a succinct book description to compel your target audience to purchase your book. Think about the back-cover blurb. If you watch people go into a book store (in the Before Times), they usually pick up a book, look at the cover, then immediately turn it over and read the back. That’s where you want to draw them in and make a sale. If the cover art says pick me up, the book description says buy me.
- Market online to reach the whole world; market in person to reach a local audience. When it’s safe to do local book store launches again, work with the proprietor and learn from their experience what will make a successful in-person book launch. Don’t be afraid to go outside your own comfort zone (some writers prefer pen and paper to people). Rely on their expertise.
Writing a marketing plan for nonfiction
In an interview with KindlePreneur Dave Chesson, JoEllen Nordstrom discusses the three main phases of marketing your eBook. Watch the video to learn more.
- Phase 1: Before writing your book, research your market, competition, effective writing tools, and finally, plan, outline, and write your book.
- In Phase 2: Putting your book together helps you select a title, subtitle, book cover, description, editor, keywords, categories, author page details, bio description, and how to sell on Amazon, Kobo, and beyond.
- The final Phase 3: Launching your book explains how to track books sales, email followers, use book promo sites, create ads, get reviews, create a press release, and network with other authors.
The ReedsyBlog goes even further, with five steps to marketing your nonfiction book and even has a checklist you can download.
- Step 1: Develop the core message of your nonfiction book
- Step 2. Nail your book description
- Step 3: Build Your Platform
- Step 4: Advertise and promote your book
- Step 5: Take care of your subscribers (and monetize them)
While writing, editing, and formatting your book is essential, without marketing, you’re not likely to get your book into the hands (or ears) of many readers/listeners. You can start to develop a marketing strategy before your book is even written, while your book is with the editor/formatter, or even while taking breaks from writing/revision. Get a head start by drafting your author bio, synopsis, and query letter. Create a website and social media presence for the book. Know your target audience and where you’re most likely to reach them. Get a list together of your biggest fans (personal and professional) and enlist them in helping you market your book. Make that launch date something people want to be part of. Remember to make it fun!