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Book Marketing: 101

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Promotion Can Have Its Ups and Downs


by Michael Heath /

Authors can expect three main segments to the book journey: writing, publishing, and marketing. I often tell fledging authors that marketing is the toughest part; those with more than one title already know this. More than half a million new books are published every year, so it is a crowded field. The question is how does a writer get a piece of the book market?

Know Your Audience

Ask yourself who would read your book. If your answer is everyone, then you need to reevaluate. Even the Bible does not appeal to everybody. Did you write science fiction?

An online search finds that those readers are mostly male and fifty-five years of age. Is it a romance novel you wrote? The feedback there is that people interested in reading such a book are overwhelmingly women averaging forty-five years old. Knowing for whom the book is written is the most important first step in finding buyers.

Audiences come is all different sizes. Many more people reading mysteries than those willing to spend money on a book about ice-climbing. However, if you wrote a book on a very specialized subject, do not fret. There is a much greater ratio of people in that “specialized” community who will buy the book, even at a premium, since there are likely relatively few available books on the subject.

After identifying your readers, the next step should be to see if the audience can be expanded. This may take a little more imagination, but you want to see if there are others beyond the core group. For example, let’s say you wrote a book on surfing in South Africa. Certainly, serious surfers with enough income to go on surfing excursions would be a target category. But those in the travel industry would also be interested in learning more about this sport and location as such knowledge could help their business.

How Much to Spend on Marketing?

It is easy to spend money on book marketing, but getting results is another story. Many approaches out there offer devices like email blasts, social media ads, paid book reviews and book giveaway programs. I don’t see the value in many of the strategies available. In my opinion, authors should begin with a simpler approach that costs mostly nothing, achieves some book sales, and provides a measurable response to help decide what the next steps should be.

Here are some starters:

  • Announce on social media a month before your book is coming out

  • Throw a launch party and invite friends and relatives

  • Ask a local bookstore to allow a book signing

  • Contact bloggers who write in your genre and see if they will review your book

  • Contact organizations involved in your subject (ex., a hiking society might be interested in your Appalachian Trail book)

What’s Next?

See what the response is. Friends and family may not be the best barometer of the book’s merit, as they may be over generous with praise, but you can still get a sense of how big of a hit you have. If your gut tells you that it will never be a great seller, then it would not be prudent to invest in costly publicity. In the event the reviews are wonderful, and you feel you have something very good, then buying advertising or hiring a marketer may be act two.

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