How to Promote Your Book: What Works and What Doesn’t

Think Twice About Some Things You Read Online

Author working with a book publicist to promote books. With increasing frequency, people post articles online professing great authority about how to market a book. Many are cleverly written for search engines to attract the eyeballs of self-published authors. Nearly always, they promise amazing results virtually cost-free.

But if you’ve recently read one, we suggest you stop and think twice because there are many catches.

First and most importantly, most are based on a single author’s experience, albeit lucky or successful. Or, some writers cite case studies of several books, insisting their simple ideas will benefit everyone.

In reality, book promotion success requirements vary widely; what works for one author may be a flop for another.

Professional book marketers develop campaigns with many things in mind:

  • Genre-specific dos and don’ts
  • The target audience for the book
  • Optimal media mix: traditional vs. online
  • The author’s goals (book sales, marketing a business, etc.)
  • Pitches, news angles, buzz-worthy topics

The Uniqueness of Every Book and Author

Why should you trust our advice about how to market books? Because at Smith Publicity, we’ve been in business for more than 25 years and have successfully promoted thousands of books in every genre.

Unlike online writers boasting about what they did for a single book, we give you a broad perspective on what works and what doesn’t across many genres.

We know success boils down to the uniqueness of every book and author.

While it’s great for writers to share the story about what worked for them, it’s unlikely much of it applies to someone else’s book. Or if it does, it only applies generally.

We begin every project by asking questions, brainstorming, and learning the book. Then, a marketing and publicity campaign custom-tailored to a specific book’s strengths comes from that process.

What Should Every Author Know About Marketing a Book?

The best time to think about how to market your book is before you begin writing it. Have a target reader, or several groups of target readers, in mind. Write for them and serve a purpose.

Successful nonfiction books provide new or unique information that other writers haven’t already covered. The best fiction books tell great stories that people connect to and remember.

Respecting your target audience and serving their information or entertainment needs will help you write a book people want to buy and read.

Always write about a topic you love and understand, but be sure to separate your interests from your readers’ interests. They might differ, and when they do, write for your readers.

 “Traditional vs. Non-Traditional” Book Marketing

Smith Publicity book marketing expert explains the difference between traditional and non-traditional marketing. Many of the self-proclaimed “experts” on the internet want you to throw out the “old traditional methods” in favor of new and surprising ones.

Again, there is a catch. They’re only telling you about the few wild guesses that worked and ignoring the ones that didn’t.

At Smith Publicity, we’re all about new ideas and have pioneered many successful book marketing techniques. We love to push the envelope.

But our successful approach is based on modernizing traditional book PR and bringing it forward each year.

Throwing out decades of successful experience just to be a contrarian makes no sense.

Interested in Answers to 5 Book Marketing Questions?

  1. Can I market my book online only? Viewing the book industry as a whole, the most successful books are marketed with a mix of traditional media and online publicity. A few authors may succeed with an online-only approach, but it’s more the exception than the rule.
  2. Why does media coverage matter? There is an implied endorsement when the media covers a book. It gives readers confidence in a way that online self-promotion often doesn’t. Interviewers and journalists are respected, and being associated with them adds stature.
  3. Aren’t book publicists expensive? You can choose a campaign scope that suits your budget. There are several book marketing campaign options, and their cost varies. Some even allow you to handle certain aspects DIY while a publicist takes others.
  4. What are the guaranteed results? When you release your book, there is no guarantee it will succeed. It’s a creative endeavor aimed at target readers who must decide if they are interested. Marketing is designed to improve your chances of success.
  5. How are things changing this year? Traditional media continues to evolve, often downsizing, and some online options are expanding. However, valuable traditional media opportunities are still available, and most are worth pursuing.

Plan Ahead: Your Campaign Needs Organization

Every day our book publicists pitch the media, help coordinate events, prepare our authors for interviews, land speaking engagements, and much more – and they do it following a custom PR plan.

Of course, there are moments when unexpected opportunities arise, and things change; spontaneity and flexibility are great, but in general, sticking to the plan and being organized pay off.

Successful book publicity is generally incremental. One success builds on another, and over time the needed buzz takes off. At the same time, a lot is happening online (podcasts, blogs, social media).

Today’s most successful PR campaigns take a holistic and integrated approach encompassing traditional media like TV, radio, and newspapers, along with online promotional opportunities.

Is Having an Author’s Website a Must?

All authors today must have a website and launch it before publishing their first book. Many target readers and the media will search, and if they don’t find a site, it makes a poor impression.

The author’s websites include several must-haves:

  • A dedicated page for each book
  • “Where to Buy Books” links
  • An author’s biography
  • Downloadable headshot
  • A page with links to media coverage

Having a good-looking and user-friendly website is an asset to your book and marketing campaign in countless ways. Other than writing the book itself, launching a website is the biggest priority.

Don’t Wait too Long to Get Started

Publicists explain to authors how to promote books.Timing is everything and you need to plan your marketing campaign well before your book’s release date. Trying to catch up after the fact will cost you opportunities.

Books can be launched successfully at any time of the year, but the marketing program must follow the same timeline.

If you’re moving to the final phases of writing, or underway working with an editor and cover designer, start planning your marketing program — and talking to publicists if your budget allows.

When you do, you’ll be improving your book’s chances of accomplishing the goals you set.

Want to Find Out More About Book Marketing?

Smith Publicity is one of the best places to look online for answers to questions about how to market a book. Our website pages, blog posts, podcasts, videos, and webinars all cover these topics.

Here are 5 links to get you started: