When we think about writing a book, images of long hours spent in coffee shops, late nights scribbling in a notebook, or sitting by a window and daydreaming about our characters might come to mind. But I’m here to say that what you should be thinking about is how to market that book you’re working on.
Why would I rip you from writerly reverie to talk about marketing, you might ask? Because the thing most people don’t know about getting a book published is that your work doesn’t end when you sell the book.
In fact, the journey to having your book in a reader’s hands is just beginning. My debut romance, For Butter or Worse, came out this July, but I knew that a big part of my job would be to help sell it.
Part of that is because my background is in marketing and social. I used to market movies for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and I worked as Editorial Director for BuzzFeed for many years before that. In my experience, just because you make a movie doesn’t mean people will watch it. And simply writing an article doesn’t mean anyone will read it. The same way that selling a book doesn’t guarantee readers will flock to your work.
As writers, we all want people to read what we’ve worked so hard on, but they have to hear about your book before they’ll take the step of buying it. And that’s where marketing comes into play, because buying a book is a commitment—books are expensive, and require time. Convincing people, through marketing, that your book is worth their money and hours, is what will ultimately get them to pick it up.
On top of actually writing the book, it’s also in your best interest to learn how to help spread the word about it. Here are a few helpful things I’ve learned during this process, as someone with a marketing background trying to make my debut novel as big of a success as I can.
1. Befriend authors in your genre
If you’re an introverted, indoor cat (like me), then the prospect of making new friends can be daunting. The idea of approaching people you admire can be stressful. But making friends with authors debuting the same year as you, or authors whose work you deeply admire, can be one of the easiest and cheapest marketing tools at your disposal.
Not only that, but writing a book is often lonely work, and being able to ping someone for advice, venting, or feedback on a chapter will be invaluable as your career grows.
So, how do you go about doing this?
A few ways I’ve made new writer friends includes following them on social media, going to author websites and reaching out via their contact form, and asking my editor to connect me with other authors she’s worked with in my genre.
To put this in perspective, the worst thing that has happened to me was that one author I emailed just never responded to me—which is actually not such a big deal!
The best things have been getting to become true friends with authors in my genre, authors offering to blurb my book, and seeing authors I deeply respect post about my book.
Before For Butter or Worse was published, I made a plan to send many of my new author friends finished copies of my book, because they might just post about it on their social accounts, which would be a great word-of-mouth recommendation!
2. Research outside marketing help
Yes, a publisher will always hook you up with their internal marketing team. Best case scenario, they will be amazing! No outside help needed!
But you want to go into this experience with as much information as you can.
There are freelance marketers whose whole jobs are to help create social and marketing assets for your book. If you are feeling like your publisher’s team is stretched thin, then you’ll have outside resources you can hire to help you market your book.
(This is also when your fellow author friends can come in handy, as you can send them the team’s plans for your book to see if it feels substantial or in need of some help!)
3. Reach out to bookstores
A great tip a new writer friend gave me was to reach out to bookstores with either a digital flyer of my book or send them a postcard with information.
Maybe this seems obvious, but the more copies of your book that bookstores buy, the better! And if a bookseller receives a personal note from an author, they may be more inclined to feature your book, or recommend it.
I went through and made a list of bookstores that either specialize in romance, or have curated romance sections, along with stores I’ve visited and loved. I compiled a list of fifty bookstores total and got responses from a few who want to order books and have me come in to sign copies.
Not only will doing this step get you some great new bookstore contacts, but then you get to go in and sign copies (if you want!) and feel like the fancy author you are!
4. Download the Canva app
I kind of hate this one, but it must be said because so much of publishing a book is about things that aren’t writing. And any author who isn’t currently a bestseller will know this truth—you will be making your own digital marketing graphics.
What I mean is that, yes, your publisher will likely send you some graphics to use on social media (a handful). But to promote your book you’ll need more than a handful of graphics to help sustain buzz, build excitement, and spread the word about your new release (not to mention sending those digital fliers to bookstores).
So do what all the debut authors do: Download Canva and get ready to earn your PhD in graphic design. If graphic design is really not your thing, then this is where those freelance marketers come in handy!
5. Get Great at One Social Platform
Social and marketing tend to be thought of as two separate things, but know where all those fancy graphics with blurbs of your book will live? On Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or BookTok, that’s where.
Mastering one of those platforms is a job all on its own, so take the pressure off and focus on the one you can consistently update and pay attention to. If you get great at one platform, then you can build an audience ready and excited to read your content and order your books.
Tell us in the comments: Which of these tips are you going to follow?
Erin La Rosa is the author of the upcoming romance novel, For Butter or Worse. She’s previously written for BuzzFeed and Funny or Die. She worked as a social media manager for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video before quitting her day job to focus on writing books.
You can find her on her website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.