How to Market a Self-Published Book

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Amazon Updates & Marketing Tips, Book Marketing Basics

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Congratulations, your title is finally up on Amazon and you’re wondering how to market a self-published book!

Whether it’s your first book, or your fifteenth, it’s still a rush to see your book finally listed and ready for sale. And while this seems exciting, those of you reading this who have multiple books out there know that the heavy lifting has only just begun.

But the truth is, this is where many authors stop their work. The minute the book goes live on Amazon they sit back and wait for the royalty check to roll in.

But guess what? In almost every case, this never happens.

In fact, “waiting” is possibly one of the worst things you can do with a book. At the same time, you don’t have to quit your day job and spend all your time marketing your book.

Yes, figuring out how to market a self-published book takes effort, but it doesn’t have to become a singular obsession.

Authors ask me all the time, “what’s the best way to market a self-published book?” and I tell them: start with a good foundation. Because if your foundational pieces aren’t in place, I promise you that nothing else you do in terms of marketing will work.

So, let’s have a look at what these pieces look like!

Get a Professional Website

These days, websites are a must for any author – unless you’ve just published a book and didn’t plan to sell any copies, a good website is a solid brand-builder and platform builder for any author. And you don’t have to invest a ton of money in a website, either.

Depending on what your long-term goals are, you may want to start with a freebie site via Squarespace or something like that. If your book is part of a business model for you, then investing in a bigger, more robust website may make more sense.

The point being, get a place that you can call home. And that’s not your Facebook profile or page, it’s got to be something you own.

Invest in a Great Book Cover

I really can’t emphasize this enough – and when I say book cover, I mean something that is easily readable in a small thumbnail version (the kind you’ll see on Amazon), one that makes sense with the genre (have you looked at competing book covers in your genre yet?) and one that (most important) absolutely appeals to your reader.

Ironically this is where a lot of authors cut corners. There’s a bunch of DIY software out there to design your own book cover and certainly, you can give that a shot if you want – but saving money on a professional book cover generally never works out well for authors.

In fact in almost every case their book cover is the reason they aren’t selling books. Even if the story is terrific or the information is helpful and leading edge, people absolutely judge a book by its cover so be sure yours stacks up against all of the other thousand book covers on Amazon.

And if you want to see some elements of a great book cover, just take a look at the Amazon bestseller lists in your genre. There’s a reason why these books are ranking so high on the Amazon charts. A good book cover sells, a great book cover sells better, and a smart author knows that’s a big step in how to market a self-published book the right way.

Invest in Proper Editing

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one except to say that everything is your resume. You’d never send a resume to a potential employer that was full of typos, would you?

So why are you risking offending your readers by publishing a book that hasn’t been edited by a professional?

Write a Great Book Description

I used to refer to this as “back cover copy” but let’s face it, with so few books on actual bookstore shelves, the term back cover copy has really been replaced by the Amazon book description which should be (aside from the book) one of the best things you’ve ever written.

Your book description is a very key element in how to market a self-published book because it’s one of your best sales tools. It should be a tightly woven overview or synopsis of your book, with a headline that sparks interest and compels a reader to keep reading.

Make sure your book description has spacing (readers like short paragraphs) and bullet points if your book is non-fiction. And if you have a really great blurb/review, then you can lead off your book description with that.

I can’t emphasize enough how important a great book description is to your Amazon sales. If an author comes to me and says their Facebook or Amazon ads aren’t working, I can almost bet (without even looking at their ad dashboards) that the problem is either with the book cover, or the Amazon book description. Make yours count.

Get to Know Other Authors in Your Genre

Learning how to market a self-published book means understanding the competition. Success leaves clues and one of the best ways to uncover these clues is to get to know other/similar authors.

Network with them, share their stuff (and maybe they’ll share yours) – subscribe to their newsletters, buy their books, follow them on social. Immerse yourself in your genre.

There are several reasons for doing this, the first and most important is that you want to support other authors in your industry, and it’s always good to get to know other writers – be a fan. But also, by following other authors in your genre, you’ll spark ideas just by being immersed in the industry, and it’ll help to keep the marketing engine going.

Learn from the pros. Never copy them, but let their success and creative ideas help to spark some of your own. And, as I said, be a fan of your genre first and foremost.

Build Your Fan Base

It’s tougher than ever to get professional reviews. Bloggers are awesome but so busy, there are thousands of books being published each day so it’s getting hard to get noticed, which is why I always tell authors – sooner rather than later – start building your fan base.

Focus on building readers, getting new readers to sign up for your newsletter, and creating a community of loyal fans and readers. This takes time and effort, but it’s something that will return to you 10-fold in terms of promotion.

So how do you get started working reviews into your plan for how to market a self-published book? Well, begin by putting a letter in the back of your book inviting readers to contact you directly.

Ask them for their input on your book – what did they like a lot, what could you have done better? Harnessing reader feedback to help you build better books will honestly build your writing career faster than anything else you can do.

And you don’t have to have a lot of readers to make a robust fan base. Sure having 5,000 readers on a mailing list sounds great, but I know authors who have only 50 readers on their mailing list but launch their books with 100+ reviews.

How do they do it? They engage with their readers and invite them to invite friends to read and review their book.

Suddenly 5 really invested readers becomes 50, and 50 invested readers becomes 100 and more. See what I mean?

Every reader has a multiplier effect and if you spend some time investing in your readers – writing them, thanking them, communicating with them, the rewards you’ll reap from this engagement will benefit you not just for this book, but throughout your career.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what you can do to market a self-published book, but this is a solid start. These are the key foundational pieces that will help you for the long term, beyond book one and two – and into book ten or twenty.

In future posts I’ll break down more of these pieces, and step away from foundational elements and dig into specifics of each of these, so stay tuned!

Resources and Free Downloads

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How to Market a Self-Published Book While you’re Living the Quarantined Life

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