Let’s face it: the Internet is where it’s at. Authors today must understand how to promote a book online. As we emphasized recently in our article on the 3:3:3 Book Launch Plan approach, every author deserves a nice book launch event in a lovely setting, surrounded by invited guests, friends and family. Given that these events garner little if any book sales, however, it’s imperative that authors strategize their online book marketing.
Here’s our checklist to help you promote a book online.
1. Strategize ahead of time
How can the first item on a checklist for a book marketing strategy be to “strategize?” Indeed, the temptation is to skip this vital step.
Many book marketing activities go hand-in-hand. They aren’t linear. Book marketing requires prior thinking and project management to set goals, figure out the best marketing activities, and decide what to do first. If you haven’t already, learn about our 3:3:3 Book Launch Plan, which can help you with setting your book marketing strategy. We also offer Author Coaching to guide you through preparing and executing your book marketing plan. Click here for more information on both services.
2. Create an author website
Should you launch your author website before your book is published? Absolutely. You can launch it even before you’ve finished writing your book. Invite your future readers along on your writing and self-publishing journey by journaling your author adventures on your blog.
In addition to a blog, include your bio. Feature your book cover on the home page once the cover design has been finalized, along with a synopsis of the book. Add endorsements, reviews, book launch events, and links to social media. Here’s a blog from earlier this year on what an author website should include.
Don’t forget to add a mailing list sign-up with a promise that subscribers will be the first to be notified of the book launch. At the very least, you’ll have a pool of followers that could become beta readers. Which brings me to the next item on the checklist…
3. Build your author platform well ahead of publication
An author platform is a pool of people who recognize your name and expertise, and with whom you communicate on a regular basis, making them more likely to purchase one of your books. Online-based, your author platform exists over several—er—platforms: online communities where people can connect with you. These may be your blog, Goodreads, your Amazon page, social media, webinars, online courses and the like. Offline communities such as your client base (if you are an entrepreneur or professional, for example) and audiences at speaking engagements and conferences are also part of your author platform. It’s a good idea to connect with them online as well so that you can maintain that connection and let them know when your book is available for sale. Have a sign-up sheet at your event and collect business cards. Follow them on social media.
For more on how to build an author platform from scratch, check out this blog post from the archives.
Once you have an author platform, how do you communicate with this audience during your book launch? To help you strategize, we offer the 3:3:3 Book Launch Plan, which includes detailed instructions on how to:
- Identify 3 audiences
- Strategize 3 rounds of contact with each audience
- Craft 3 messages for each round of contact, tailored to each audience.
By focusing on 3:3:3, authors are better able to concentrate on the audiences that will help them best promote the book. They can quickly strategize how and when to contact each audience, meaning that authors can stay organized and avoid losing track of who, how and when they sent out emails or social media messages. And, limiting themselves to three messages means authors can focus on creating three well-crafted and targeted messages rather than endless emails and posts that don’t generate results.
4. Become active on social media
Social media is part of building your author platform (see what I mean about this online stuff not being a linear process?). Online book promotion is more like creating an ecosystem for your book; social media, your website, and Amazon and other online retailers and platforms are a part of your ecosystem. Your author platform—your audience—lives in that ecosystem and hopefully, will consume your book.
Enough of the analogy. Social media can be a) overwhelming and b) feel disingenuous. Many authors tend to wonder where to start, how many times to post, and what to say?
The era of posting about what you ate for breakfast is long gone. People truly are interested in your story: who you are, what you stand for and the interesting things you do. Be authentic, be genuine, be yourself.
In addition, it’s okay to be active on only one or two platforms. Choose one that you think you might be interested in posting on and in learning from other people who “live” there. For example, if you are a visual person, you might prefer Instagram or Pinterest. If you like to write a story each time you post, focus on Facebook. Business book? Go to LinkedIn. Conversations with people from around the world? Twitter.
To help you find your voice on social media, start by following other authors or public figures. For example, Elizabeth Gilbert is an example of an author who likes to blog on Facebook. Take a look at her Facebook posts and you’ll see what I mean. She’s turned her Facebook page into a blog, and that’s a great idea.
5. Establish your keywords and maximize SEO
Now you’re on the Internet, let’s make sure you get found!
Setting up your titles on both Amazon and IngramSpark is essential to make your book available for ordering and print-on-demand. During the title set-up, you’ll be asked what categories you want your book included under and what keywords to use to make your book searchable. Give this step a lot of consideration. Putting your book in the wrong category can be detrimental to sales.
Here’s a guide for setting up metadata on IngramSpark, from the IngramSpark website.
You can also use your keywords to help people find your author website. Keywords can be included in your blog post titles and text, and in other strategic places on your website as noted in this blog post on SEO for authors.
6. Set up your Amazon book and author pages
If someone is thinking of buying your book, what is the one website page they are almost guaranteed to land on? Your Amazon page. Consider your Amazon book page your best chance to pitch to potential readers and tell them why they should absolutely buy your book. What would you say?
Fortunately, Amazon book pages give you an opportunity to say a lot. You can enter a more detailed book description than your back cover text. Include editorial reviews; unlike Amazon reader reviews, you’re in control of what goes there. If you have any endorsements, put them under editorial reviews. Add to them as you collect more reviews.
Take advantage of the Look Inside feature to give people a chance to preview your book. Nothing says, “I’m not confident about my work” than preventing someone from peeking inside your book.
Then, of course, there are reader reviews. Best to get as many reviews there as you can, as early on as you can. People tend to buy what other people recommend. But how? Ask your readers to leave reviews on your Amazon page. One low-tech idea is to include printed bookmarks in print copies that you give away, with an ask for readers to leave a review on Amazon. The last page of your eBook could be a link to your page with a reminder to leave a review. And, while gaming the system is not looked upon favorably, there’s nothing wrong with asking family and friends to leave reviews. Just ask your family to use a nickname; five positive reviews from people with the same last name as you might look a little suspect.
Finally, if you have set up your author page, accessed through Author Central on Amazon, your book page will link automatically to your author page. On your author page, you can include your bio, videos, and links to your blog feed. In addition, Amazon will link to all of your books on Amazon on your Author page.
7. Content, content, content
Think you’re done with writing? Think again! Developing content is all part of your ongoing book marketing effort post-launch and is focused on maintaining a connection with and expanding your author platform.
Content can include a weekly or bi-weekly blog, video clips, photos on social media, and podcasts. Depending on your genre and purpose, you can also offer downloadable content on your website. For example, if your book supports your business or professional advancement, you can create useful content for your customer base that can be publicized on social media and downloaded from your website. The key here is to collect the email addresses of potential customers in return for providing them with something of value. This email list then becomes part of the continuing growth of your author platform, helping you develop your business, prove you as a thought leader and get ready to promote your next book!
Remember that your strategy to promote a book online is not static. Revisit it on a regular basis. Check your progress against goals and set some new goals and strategies for getting there. Tweak it when you’re ready to write a new book. Doing some book marketing online every day helps to make it less of an onerous task and keeps you in front of your online audience, priming your author platform for your next launch.