Laying the Groundwork for Successful Book Promotion

By Kathy Meis

I see too many authors who throw themselves into book marketing without much planning. They launch into social media, pay for virtual blog tours and call upon press outlets and reviewers, only to become frustrated when these channels don’t deliver against their (often inflated) expectations. There is a better way. You can set yourself up for success. You just need to start with a solid foundation. Before you begin marketing your book, here are some important questions you should ask yourself:

1. What are your goals? I don’t mean marketing goals. I mean your goals as a writer. That’s where you need to start your planning. Consider the following diverse goals different writers might have:

  • I want to get paid speaking engagements as a result of having published a book.
  • I want to leave my day job and become a full-time writer.
  • I want to find an agent to represent me.
  • I want to become a bestselling indie author in the Romance genre.

Authors must design and follow different roadmaps to attain their unique goals. If you understand how writing fits into your larger life and professional objectives, you’ll make more intelligent marketing decisions.

2. What marketing messages and channels will help you achieve your goals? Once you have a handle on the bigger picture, it’s time to assess the channels available to you. For example, if your goal is to land paid speaking engagements, you’ll want to build authority in your area of expertise and gain exposure as a speaker. You will choose different outlets (LinkedIn, Speaker Bureaus, Professional Clubs) than someone trying to build a brand as a bestselling romance indie author (Twitter, Facebook). You’ll also have very different messaging across your marketing channels. Spend some time thinking about what messages will help you achieve your goals.

3. How much time and effort are you willing to commit to marketing? Answering this question honestly is key to your success. I know … you are a writer, not a marketer. But the reality is you can’t succeed in today’s crowded book marketplace if you’re not willing to learn the business-side of publishing, and this includes marketing. Are you willing to take the time to learn, test things out and commit to a regular marketing schedule? If not, you’ll need to hire professionals to handle this for you. If that’s not an option, it’s imperative that you carve out some time in your daily schedule to market your book.

4. How will you measure your marketing success? You can say that one of your goals is to have 10,000 Twitter followers in a year, but if you break that down, this means you will need to acquire about 28 new followers a day (seven days a week). If you’re only spending an hour a week on Twitter, does this expectation align with your commitment? Don’t set yourself up for failure. Approach your marketing goals realistically and professionally.

5. Have you done your research? In other words, are you prepared to maximize the potential of your marketing efforts? Do you know who your target readers are and where they discover new books? Have you researched the channels that you’re going to use? Do you know who the influencers are in your genre and how they like to be approached?

Don’t set yourself up for frustration. Lay the groundwork for successful book promotion by asking yourself the hard questions before you start. Then create a professional plan based on your answers. Set reasonable goals and measure your success along the way. Book promotion is a long-term commitment and starting with a strong foundation can make all the difference in your success.

Kathy Meis is founder and president of the social book discovery platform Bublish. She is a professional writer, editor and editorial manager with more than twenty years of experience in the media and publishing industries. Kathy was also a founding editor of Forbes MediaCritic and is a founding partner of PubSmart, a new author-centric publishing conference being held in Charleston, South Carolina. She also ghostwrites business books and is a frequent blogger on the subject of book promotion, author branding, social media and discoverability. In 2012, Kathy won the People’s Choice Award at the Startup Showcase at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Publishing Conference.