Writing the great American novel? Penning the next transformative self-help book? If you’re in the midst of developing one of the more than one million books that are published every year, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to market your book. In today’s publishing environment, it’s up to you to build and sustain momentum for your work.
"Traditional publishers pretty much do nil when it comes to marketing a book, unless you're Stephen King or happen upon a hit about sparkly vampires," says Erika Napoletano, author of The Power of Unpopular. "We have to turn to resources like social media to get the job done."
But beyond the basics—building a website, creating a basic Facebook page and a Twitter account—how can you use social media tools to generate sales for your books with a limited budget?
Here are five creative approaches to consider.
1. Start blogging. As an author, you likely have no shortage of content—think about using this to maintain a lively blog.
"In terms of low-cost tools and personal branding, the first thing every author needs is a central presence for their brand, such as a blog or a website," says Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner, a WordPress resource site. "Your blog is the heart of your brand that pumps the blood out to your social content."
Your blog can be a place where you excerpt and repurpose your book content, feature new how-to articles and videos, share updates on upcoming titles or tours and generally continue to publish content out into the world before, during and after your book launches. You can also use your blog to collect e-mail addresses and build an e-mail subscriber base.
Blog content is also one of the best ways to get your book found by the search engines. You can optimize your content on your own, or you can use a service like Scribe to optimize content for you.
2. Connect with fans in a meaningful way. “My publisher was fantastic with traditional print media and public radio, but building up my networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest has been my effort alone,” says Karen Seiger, author of Markets of New York City: A Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food and Flea Markets. “Not only did these networks help me sell a lot of books, but they continue to be an asset for me and my next projects.”
Smart use of your content assets can help you build a robust fan base. Consider leaking chapter intros or offering downloadable teasers, such as the first chapter or the intro to the book. Napoletano recommends linking back to your blog or your book's website, where you can collect e-mail addresses in return for these free downloads, using tools such as Unbounce or Premise—this will allow you to build an e-mail list specifically for your book-related announcements.
If you’re a non-fiction writer with insights to share, your Facebook and Twitter presence can also be a powerful vehicle for expert advice. Consider excerpting from your book and even creating a series of posts or tweets ahead of time which you can schedule to go out on a regular basis.
But sharing content is only the first step—the bigger opportunity lies in engaging fans in a two-way dialogue. One simple way to do this is by monitoring who’s talking about your books on Twitter—by setting up a search on your book title in TweetDeck or HootSuite—and connecting with them directly, says Ben Nesvig, author of First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us.
People who have Twitter connected to their Kindle account will also sometimes tweet that they are reading your book or just finished reading it. Nesvig suggests following up with these people and asking what they thought of the book. "If they loved the book, this can be a way to nudge them into leaving a review," adds Nesvig.
You can also watch the Kindle website for what people highlight in your book and what people share on Facebook and Twitter, then use these quotes when pitching people to review your book.
3. Bring your work to life on Facebook or Twitter. Your social media channels can easily become an extension of your book content. If you’re a fiction writer, consider bringing your fictional world to life on Facebook or Twitter.
“One thing I've seen work is to set up a Twitter account for your fictional characters and tweet through their eyes,” says JP Jones, author of Market Yourself: A Beginner's Guide to Social Media. "Be consistent in the voice of your characters, and to really spice it up, have your characters interact with you (the author) on Twitter. Conversation between the author and their character can be very enlightening into the mind of the writer."
For example, mystery author Laurie R. King tweets in the voice of Mary Russell, heroine of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and its sequels.
4. Enlist others to help spread the word. Creating a community of advocates to help promote your books can also be an effective strategy for spreading the word.
Mike Michalowicz, creator of the popular business blog Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, created buzz for the release of his new book The Pumpkin Plan by engaging more than 100 of his fans to be "Buzz Warriors," using a Facebook group to rally and organize support.
Shai Atanelov of New Edge Design, one of the Buzz Warriors, says "All the members received an early, free copy of the book so we could review it before the launch, and we all agreed to do our best to create buzz for the new book via Twitter posts, pictures and even scavenger hunts." In return, participants "get attention from Mike, a renowned business mentor, and we also formulate ties with other like-minded entrepreneurs," says Atanelov.
Author Heather Hummel has also successfully adopted this approach, developing "powerful friendships and alliances with other authors, which contributed greatly to my success." Hummel recently utilized these alliances when she ran a three-day free promotion for two of her books.
"In the end, it was the social-media friendships I'd built who helped tweet and post about my books to their audience that propelled both my books to Amazon's Top 100 bestseller list."
5. Create a video book trailer. Video can also be a powerful promotional vehicle when it comes to books—consider developing a video trailer for your book.
"The purpose of a book trailer is to tease the content of your book and ultimately convince someone to read it," Nesvig says. "Video gives you the chance to reach a wider audience and also gives people something that's easy to share."
In addition to posting and tagging your book trailer on YouTube and other social media sites, Nesvig recommends finding communities that your book speaks to on sites like LinkedIn and posting it there.
Don’t have a big budget for video? Nesvig suggests tapping into your network of friends or posting an ad to Craigslist for someone to film and edit your trailer—chances are there’s a budding filmmaker who can help you for next to nothing.
"A book trailer made by an agency can easily cost an author over $1,000," Nesvig says. "I made my book trailer for $5—I already had a camera, and I then connected with a friend who had worked on a few local commercials. He found a local coffee shop that offered to let us film for free. The only expense was the drink I bought."
What are some other ways you’re using social media to market your books?
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