When it comes to successful marketing strategies for books and authors – not everything has to cost a lot of time or money – in fact, some of the best things you can do for your book are quick and nearly free with the proper planning.
So the goal with this list is to help you work smarter, not harder, in the new year.
Doesn’t that sound promising?
Be sure to print out a few copies of our free monthly book marketing planner (linked in the Resources section) and have those on hand as you review this list, start filling out the first few months of 2023 now, while the ideas are fresh in your head!
#1 Be Prepared to Fail Fast
I get it, no one likes failure. And I know it seems super buzzkill to lead off a post about “smart strategies” by mentioning failure right up front.
But let’s face it, it’s something no one likes to talk about, yet it happens to all of us.
The key is, to fail fast. What I mean by this is that if you launch a book and do all the things you’re supposed to be doing, yet the book doesn’t seem to be resonating with readers – ask yourself why?
Was the cover not up to par?
Could the book description have been stronger?
Are you marketing to the right genre?
Failure is a big word, another way to phrase this is “misses” so we all have hits, and we all have misses. It’s the misses that really help us to repave a more accurate path to success.
By “failing fast” I don’t mean give up. What I mean is dig into what’s wrong and make the necessary changes to uncover successful marketing strategies sooner rather than later, because that prevents a small miss from turning into a full-on derailment.
#2 Education is a Must
I can’t state this enough, whether you are able to attend in-person writers conferences, or join some virtual sessions, put learning on your monthly to-do list.
If an event isn’t your thing, and you prefer reading, then find some books on book marketing and dig in. Sign up for a few newsletters, blogs, and follow a podcast or two.
Not every piece of information will apply to your unique situation, but staying in a bubble won’t serve you either, so just be smart about what takeaways you should implement, and you’ll be a much more savvy author in 2023.
#3 Figure Out Your Genre
It’s almost frightening how many authors I encounter who have no idea what their genre is.
And let’s be honest, it’s impossible to market a book if you aren’t clear who you are marketing to.
The other side of this conversation is that having a multi-genre book isn’t advisable either. Yes, there are books that appeal to different readers, but I can tell you from experience those marketing efforts are always scattered and less effective.
Figuring out successful marketing strategies for a book that sits in a variety of genres is hard, if not impossible, and, much like a lackluster book cover, you can throw a lot of marketing dollars at this and still not get any results.
#4 Be a Super Fan
Stephen King was quoted as saying that any successful author reads voraciously in their genre, and I’m amazed at how many authors I’ve spoken to over the years who don’t read in their genre and have no idea what the specific needs of their reader are.
If you aren’t clear on your genre and the specific needs and nuances of your reader or topic, you are almost assured failure.
And much like your book cover, no amount of marketing dollars can fix a book that wasn’t written with the needs of the reader in mind.
#5 Consider a Book Cover Revamp
There are a lot of reasons to update your cover, and knowing what those are is important.
When was the last time you looked at the bestseller list in your genre?
If your cover doesn’t look like it belongs on the shelf beside the other books on the bestseller list, then you have a problem.
When it comes to book covers, unique or wildly different is often a bad sign.
Good covers are an investment in your future, and nothing says, “I’m not a serious author” like a cover that’s lacking in all the elements your genre demands.
And here’s the reality: no matter how much money you throw at marketing, if your cover doesn’t live up to the expectations of the genre, your marketing is never going to pay off and you’ll continue to spin your wheels.
My biggest tip is to leave your ego at the door and embrace that there’s a look genre fans gravitate toward and give them that, whether you agree with it or not, otherwise you can be “right” and not sell any books. Your choice.
#6 Know Your Reader IDs
Successful marketing strategies rely on understanding what drives your reader to buy – so knowing their ID.
Let’s use Hallmark movies as an example. The creators of those movies know that, at the most basic level, their viewer likes HEA (happily ever after), so all their movies, regardless of sub-genre, have that component in some form or fashion, in addition to royal romances, fake “make my family happy” boyfriends, etc.
Certain fans identify with different formulas, and that’s their ID.
If you’ve written non-fiction, do they want to invest better, or learn a new skill, or improve their eating habits? Those are IDs.
I coached an author once who wrote a book about selling your home. In the coaching session we decided that over the next two years, she would release additional versions of the “selling your home” series. Like, selling your first home, and selling your home for singles, and selling your home for seniors…
The reason for this is that each of these markets has different needs (IDs) and different reasons that drive them to buy. Catering to these sub-markets was not only a smart branding move, but it also drove her perceived expertise through the roof.
#7 Get Clear on Your Brand
Whether you like it or not, everything is your brand.
But let’s dig deeper into this because the term “brand” is confusing to authors.
Your brand identity is your look – so the colors on your website, fonts, logos (if you have one) – all of it. Brand identity is the “visual” piece of who you are.
Your brand offering is your promise to the reader. It’s the “feeling” and the perceptions your readers get from your book covers, your vibe on social media, etc.
Take some time to focus on the needs of your reader, their IDs and all the things I’ve addressed up to this point, and you may decide that 2023 is a good time to revamp everything you’re putting out there to create a more consistent look, message and feel.
Rebranding may seem like a lot of work, but it’s necessary – because if you put your consumer hat on and question your own buying habits, what it takes for you to trust a brand or business, why you choose to spend money on one brand over another, that’s what we’re talking about here, and you have the same standards to uphold as an author.
#8 Don’t Use Your Debut as a Guinea Pig
I hear this a lot, “Oh, I want to see how this book does without a lot of marketing,” as if that’s an option.
Spoiler alert: it’s not.
The problem with waiting is that books age, and once a book is past a certain age, it becomes harder to get reviews and get any kind of momentum for it, plus Amazon will have already classified your book as not appealing to buyers (ouch), and all these factors are very hard to recover from.
Authorship is a long game, and successful marketing strategies don’t develop overnight.
If you abandon book one as some far-fetched “market test” you will have ZERO platform for your next book.
You’re literally starting from scratch and waking up in your own version of Groundhog Day for the second release.
#9 Plan to Publish Consistently
This goes along with the above point but takes it a step further.
To gain the trust of readers you need to be an authority.
If you write fiction, they want to know you’re going to give them more books, and without waiting too long, because the reality is, they’ll move on and stock their TBR lists with other authors who are writing consistently.
If you write non-fiction, one book doesn’t really prove you’re a leader in your topic. If you have a successful business that’s related to your area of expertise you may be fine, but if you’re relatively low key online, the more books you publish the more trust you’ll gain as a thought leader.
And no matter what you write, not all books have to be full length. Novellas, workbooks, prequels, companion guides, all of these can 100 pages or less and still work in your favor to prove you’re worth investing time and money in.
#10 Plan Your Promotions in Advance
Planning creates consistency in your marketing, and no author starts selling books without successful marketing strategies that have been mapped out in advance.
Think of author marketing like a conversation, and once that conversation stops, so does your book’s visibility. It gets awkward, and readers move on to “chatting” with someone else.
I often tell authors to always be promoting, but that doesn’t mean it becomes a full blown second job.
By planning ahead to ensure you’re doing at least 3-4 worthwhile marketing efforts every month you’ll be amazed at how much more consistent your sales are, and how much less stressful marketing will be, by not trying to pull together ideas at the last minute.
#11 Stop Lane Jumping
The issue with ‘writing what you love’ is that this might mean writing science fiction one week and a kid’s book the next.
Sure, you can absolutely write across multiple genres, but know that if you do it’ll mean starting from scratch each time you publish in a new genre. Why? Because readers don’t always cross over. If you love reading true crime, you probably won’t pick up a sweet romance written by the same author.
Don’t try to sell a cat to a dog person.
And know I’m not trying to discourage you if you want to write across multiple genres, but it’s not a strategic way to grow your author brand, so be smart about timing.
If you’re just starting out or you haven’t fully hit your stride where you’re getting consistent sales in one genre, stay focused on carving a single lane path for now, and save branching out for when you’re a bit more established.
#12 Stop Selling Your Book
One of the key differences between authors who are successful and those who aren’t is this: successful authors don’t sell a book – they sell what the book can do for the reader.
I see this in book descriptions all the time, authors are selling their book and making a book description that’s about them, when instead they should be making a book description that’s about the reader and pushing that emotional state.
What’s an emotional state?
We don’t buy books, we buy what books can do for us – whether that’s to help us escape, learn, grow, laugh, the list of needs goes on. That should be what you market.
Sell the feeling or the effect, not the book.
#13 Price Your Books Competitively
The biggest mistake I see authors make when it comes to pricing is producing a book without understanding how much they should plan on selling it for.
They want a certain special paper, or a certain cover material, and I get it, I love beautiful books too, but those books end up costing you a lot more.
And then they end up pricing their books for the quickest ROI, which makes the book far too expensive for the genre or category it’s in, especially if an author doesn’t already have a strong buyer base.
So do your research, check bestseller lists, and figure out what price points keep you in the middle of the road – and then make your production decisions based on what you’re going to realistically sell your books for.
Therefore I often suggest holding off on the hardcover edition of a book, let it establish itself with the eBook and paperback, and then release that beautiful hardcover when you know the book is something that will sell.
#14 Get to Know Goodreads
Whether you’re already on Goodreads, or haven’t dipped your toe into this site yet, it’s a good time to add this to your list of successful marketing strategies for 2023.
Not only is it the top social media site for authors – but it’s owned by Amazon and (as I predicted in 2022), so Goodreads reviews and ratings are starting to show up on Amazon book pages., Amazon is beta-testing this so if you were hesitant to get onto Goodreads, don’t be.
A solid presence there will really help you gain more visibility for your book.
We’ve done a few podcasts on Goodreads so be sure to look for those to help you get started or ramp up your visibility on the site.
#15 Less is More on Social Media
Does social media sell books? No. But impressions and engagement do.
So understanding who your reader is, and posting content that really matters to them, is much more critical than just throwing a bunch of content up to check it off your list. I’d rather see an author post clever content 2 or 3 times a week, versus every day with zero long-term strategy.
Not sure where to start when it comes to social media? Try taking our social media quiz and find out!
And running social media ads just for the sake of running ads isn’t how you build readers or sales either.
If you’re going to jump into Instagram or Facebook ads, be clear on your goal and make sure the ads line up with a limited time offer or some really enticing call-to-action. We see so many ads in a day, I rarely click on a Facebook ad anymore but when I do, it’s usually tethered to a limited offer that I just can’t pass up.
#16 Get Savvy with Amazon Ads
If you haven’t dug into Amazon ads yet now is when you want to do it, because I’ll be honest, they take some time to warm up and really start working for you.
In 2023 Amazon will be launching video ads (they are beta testing this) and all sorts of ad enhancements, so get comfortable with the platform now, before they start adding more to the list of options.
Ads are also a great way to boost your overall Amazon algorithm without having to spend a lot of money, and figuring out your budget is also something you’ll sort out once you get started and commit to learning the platform.
#17 Take Advantage of Amazon A+ Content
Great A+ content should absolutely be added to your list of author marketing strategies for 2023 because it’s a very visual way to highlight what makes your book special.
If you’re non-fiction, it’s a smart way to de-clutter your description without sacrificing all your unique selling points.
If you’re fiction, it’s a clever way to put a spotlight on elements of your story that add tension or intrigue!
Here’s an example from one of my books, just scroll down to the From the Publisher section to see what I’m talking about.
#18 Regularly Update Your Amazon Author Central
Are you using Amazon Author Central to its fullest extent?
Author Central has a ton of great features that help you promote your book and show up better in searches, by giving you additional opportunities to add content to your retail pages.
It’s also where your bio is housed, and authors neglect their bios far too often.
You want to be likable and relatable; you want them to trust and respect you, maybe your genre means it makes sense for your bio to be funny – but knowing who your reader is should absolutely dictate how your bio is written and what you focus on. Don’t make it a throwaway.
#19 Regularly Update Your Amazon Retail Page
Your retail page includes your description, everything you’ve added to Author Central, your A+ Content, your keywords, even your categories.
None of these are stagnant strategies, and they should be reviewed and updated at least once a quarter.
Add a retail page review to your monthly book marketing planner, and look at your book page(s) with fresh eyes, put on your reader/consumer hat, and be critical!
If you’re doing everything right you should be able to add new reviews to the Editorial Reviews section, or update your description to better communicate elements of your book that 5-star reviews keep saying are important to them.
#20 Commit to a Better Newsletter
Newsletters are the simplest and least expensive way to keep return buyers, and they’re one of the most underutilized elements on my annual list of successful marketing strategies.
And like everything else, you must stay consistent.
Ideally, I’d encourage you to send one per month, but if you’re really freaked out about that, do a quarterly newsletter to start.
But no matter what, use the planner to track ideas for what will be in it. Last minute newsletters are usually boring, or scattered, but if you plan, you’re more likely to deliver something that is worth people’s time.
We did a podcast on this as well, because we know newsletters are a trigger point for a lot of authors, and I swear it will help you a lot.
#21 Create More Bonus Content
Bonus content and additional materials related to your book allow fans to immerse themselves in your brand further, and, even better, it keeps them engaged longer!
This is especially true if you are in between book releases.
This also helps to keep readers on the website longer, and it keeps readers engaged and coming back for more.
It’s also a great traffic driver to call attention to these elements on social media or in your pitch to book bloggers, letting them know you have a book club guide for example.
Consider character interviews, deleted scenes, free downloads, quizzes, recipes, checklists…the list goes on and there are lots of options for both fiction and non-fiction. Look to your cutting room floor for ideas as well.
And risking sounding like a broken record, we did a podcast on this as well!
#22 Build Relationships with Readers
In 2017 Digital Book World did a study and found that 95% of books are sold word of mouth, which means that recommendations are your biggest potential sales driver.
So while finding new readers is a big part of your marketing, keeping current readers and fans interested and feeling the love is almost more important – because it’s easier to maintain a customer than gain a new one.
A good website, a blog, social media, a newsletter, bonus content, giveaways, BOGOs, all the things you can do to stay top of mind and show readers what you have to offer in addition to your books is what this is all about.
And again, it may sound like a lot of work, but not if you plan ahead and keep notes about when you need to be following through on these efforts.
One planning session can get you set up for 3-4 months at a time, which is a brilliant and less stressful way to consistently build readership and sales.
#23 Build Relationships in the Industry
This makes it on my lists consistently because it’s really that important.
Network with authors in your genre. Follow them on social, like their posts, comment on their blog, share their content, sign up for their newsletters.
After you’ve spent some time networking, offer up the idea of collaboration. This could mean something as simple as a newsletter mention swap, or social media share for an upcoming release or limited time discount.
Networking with industry thought leaders is also important.
If you’re a fiction writer, this means taking the same steps as above but with book reviewers and genre influencers. If you’re a non-fiction writer, this means following and engaging with other thought leaders in your industry or for your topic.
Because once you’re an active, engaged follower, you improve your chances of pitching someone to review or feature your book, or to give you a chance at a guest post on their site.
Let’s Wrap it All Up
If you haven’t figured out the theme yet, the most successful marketing strategies aren’t ones that you fall into, or just execute to check off your list.
They’re the book marketing strategies that are mapped out in advance, and connect with and compliment the other work that you’re doing.
So I implore you to give my way a chance this year!
Print out your monthly book marketing planner sheets for the quarter and fill it out. Aim to get at least 3-5 strategies done every month, knowing some should repeat, like your social media content plan. Every other month should be a special promotion, BOGO, or limited time discount.
Honestly it’s like a puzzle, fill in pieces that you’re sure about, then you’ll start to notice the rest of it looks much less daunting.
Resources and Free Downloads
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