How to promote a book: Tips from top authors – Part 2

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In the second part of our series of promotional tips from successful authors, here are 7 more ways to make yourself and your book stand out. If you missed the first 8 tips, you can find them here.

We’ve created a blueprint on exactly what you need to do in our Build Your Author Platform course. Here’s more advice from these top authors.

1. Play to your strengths

Public speaking – or social media – might be out of your comfort zone. That’s okay, but there are ways you can make them work for you.

Sue McPherson, author of Brontide, says she will make speaking appearances at writers’ festivals, but she makes sure to have a presentation organised rather than trying to memorise a speech.

“It’s not joy for me beforehand. But once I’m out there and I’m doing it, yeah, I loosen up and it’s better,” she says. “I just can’t recall information. And I know there’s others out there who are like me. So I read. I do the best I can and read and show some works, some short films and things like that, and hopefully, and put it all together that way.”

2. Make it easy for people to share, and buy, your work

This is a particularly important tip for writers with independently published books. You’ve got to sort out your own marketing campaign, and you need to make it easy for your readers and fellow writers to talk about why your book is great. That means sending out copies of your book to other writers in advance, making sure your ebook listings are complete with cover images, and keeping your website up to date with where the book can be bought.

Pamela Cook had published four books – Black Wattle Lake, Essie’s Way, Close to Home and The Crossroads – through a publishing house when she came up with the idea for her fifth book, Cross My Heart, which she ended up self-publishing. She says she learnt a lot about book promotion from that experience, particularly about how to ensure your book gets in front of your audience.

“I’ve printed off little cards and bookmarks and things,” she says. “Every time I’ve sent a book out, I’ve put that in there and with the links for reviews. And it’s been lovely. I’ve been getting some really great reviews. Not just from friends, either! From book reviewers, from bloggers, and from people who have read the book.

“It’s a matter of letting readers know where it is available and trying to make sure they’ve got all the information to be able to purchase it.”

3. Be smart about word of mouth

Sending out books to people who might talk about them is great – if you make sure it’s the right people. Think about who in your field has a good social media presence and who passes on tips and recommendations.

Musician and author Penny Flanagan did just this when promoting her third book Surviving Hal.

“I’ve tried to just send it to people who might talk about it,” she says.“Because I know that word of mouth is a huge thing with books, and especially I think it’s a good book for women. And women are readers, they talk about books, they pass them on.”

4. Do your research

There’s a reason why marketing is such a huge industry – there’s a lot of strategic thinking that goes into book promotion, and you can learn from your competition.

Marketing specialist and writer Kristyn M. Levis, whose young adult books The Girl Between Two Worlds, The Girl Between Light and Dark and The Search for Adarna were published in the Philippines, says she looked at what other publishers were doing and also made sure to educate herself about the nuances of book marketing.

“My marketing skills are more business, not really books. But looking at what the authors and what the publishers are doing, I can then connect that to my marketing skills and just figure it out myself.

“And also, going into classes for digital marketing for books and for authors. That’s really taught me a lot. So it saved me fumbling around trying to figure this out.”

5. Go to conventions

This is particularly helpful for new authors. Conventions are a great way to meet other writers, interested readers, and potentially make connections with agents or publishers which could end up in your book being published.

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier – who has written multiple fantasy series including novels Daughter of the Forest and The Harp of Kings – says she enjoys attending conventions and other science fiction and fantasy events, both to network and to connect with fans.

“I think they’re a good place for a new author to be, just to talk to other writers and find out what’s going on,” she says. “Educate themselves about what readers are currently loving and enjoying. And sitting on a few of the discussion panels because there are some people with a lot of expertise there.

“Dabble your toes in the water and go to your local convention and just see what it’s like. It’s always a good experience.”

6. Make your books attractive to your whole audience

We say ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but naturally people do. Celebrated and prolific author Di Morrissey, who is a member of the Australian Book Industry Awards Hall of Fame, says she was careful to make sure the covers of her books would appeal to many different people. Di has written 27 novels, including Heart of the Dreaming, Tears of the Moon and her most recent The Last Paradise.

“That was a bit of a little standing my ground in the beginning, my instinct,” she says. “I didn’t want pretty ladies on horseback. I wanted the place, so I’ve always had the place. It’s a very generic cover. So from a marketing point of view, because I also worked in advertising, so that men would pick them up.

“They appeal to men because men, particularly men in the bush, are very sentimental. They’re very soft. They’re very tuned in to the environment and stuff. So they touch men. Women love them because they can relate to them of all ages. Grandmothers hand them on to their daughters and now the granddaughters.”

Your audience might be more niche, and that’s fine too. Just make sure that your book promotion – whether it’s the front cover, the wording of the press release, or the way you talk about it on social media – is designed so it doesn’t exclude potential readers.

7. Don’t do too much

Internationally bestselling author Fiona McIntosh says this is particularly important for first-time authors – by all means, let people know you’ve published a book, but make your promotion a bit more subtle.

Fiona has written nearly 30 novels, including The Diamond Hunter, The Pearl Thief and The Tea Gardens.

“The most boring thing in the world is – ‘look at my book! Here’s my book! My book’s just arrived! This is a box of my books!’, she says. “My book, my book, my book. That gets really tedious. And new writers do that a lot. Here I am with my book, here I am with my friend holding my book. This is my new book with a rose.

“My experience is there’s a fast way to make everyone be quite tired of you if you don’t know how to pull it back and say, right, I’ve done some promotion, I’ve done some very good promotions. I’m making myself available to people. But I’m not going to keep… It’s like a thump in the face all the time. And I’m going to not do that.”

To find out more about how you can promote your book without “thumping people in the face”, we’ve created a blueprint in the course Build Your Author Platform.

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