The dos, the don’ts, and everything else about marketing your book
You will hear conflicting evidence regarding the promotion of books online through social media. There will be authors who swear by making social media posts three months before the release of an upcoming book.
There will be others who are convinced that teasers and book trailers are the only way to grab more eyeballs.
Some bestselling authors will advise you to send 1,000+ advance-reader copies of your book to people all over the world and ask them to post reviews on its release day.
What if I told you I followed none of the above steps and still managed to sell 10,000+ copies of my book in a year?
Here’s the full story: my book, What did Tashi do?, was released in February 2019.
I was still new to the marketing field and committed a mistake that no author should make. I never made a single post letting my audience know that they could expect a new book was coming up.
On release day, I dropped this bombshell. Except for a few close friends, none of my followers had the slightest clue that I was writing a book.
This was an impulsive decision, but regardless, the book ended up changing my life. I had readers from different parts of the country messaging me that Tashi’s story helped them move on after a tough break up. In contrast, others gushed over the educative prospect of the story and said that it deserves to be included in the school curriculum across India.
Despite the unplanned release, I managed to sell 10,000+ copies of my book in less than a year.
This article is going to dissect the four-step strategy I followed that will be helpful to newbie authors looking to promote their books for free on social media.
1. Have an online presence
“Offers must be seen for sales and conversions to occur. Conversely, people will convert more often on offers that are highly visible and noticeable.”
As an author, you must build an online presence. Having a personal brand is crucial irrespective of whether or not you plan to release your book soon. One way to do it is to make regular posts and put forward your unique voice so that the audience associates that kind of content with you. Your voice should be so crystal clear that a reader knows what to expect when they come across your words. This way, you can build a community of fans who appreciate your content and will not hesitate to read whatever you publish.
Here is how you can establish your unique voice on the internet.
Pick your platform
No matter how much time you spend online, it is unrealistic to expect that you will achieve equal success on all social media platforms. A more realistic goal is to pick out two platforms that suit your style the best and stick religiously to them. I chose to stick with Quora and Instagram to build my community.
An important point to remember here is to take care of the formatting on both these platforms. Even if you repurpose content, you should format it in a way that works with both your platforms of choice.
Pick your niche
The next step after picking your platform should be to start writing articles relevant to your book’s plot. You need to pick your niche and write about topics that are going to make an appearance in your book.
My book, What did Tashi do?, is a cybercrime thriller depicting the impact of leaked personal images on a woman’s life. During the writing process, I was subconsciously advocating women’s rights online and writing a lot about the need to be careful before posting any personal information online. So, when my book was released, my readers had come to know two things: Anangsha writes about women’s issues, and Anangsha writes about cybersecurity. Because they knew what to expect from my tone of writing, several readers purchased my book on the release day.
I would have suggested you post daily, but if you have other commitments, writing a new article every day is challenging. Instead, you can design a fixed schedule of posting so that the people who follow you know when to expect new content from you. Stick to your routine so religiously that if you miss a single day, you are flooded with messages from readers asking why you didn’t post that day.
Don’t underestimate the power of a community
I understand you want to spend all your time writing your book, getting it published, and making millions of dollars. Compared to that, posting content daily on social media might sound like a chore, especially if you are doing it for free.
But hear me out: when you frequently post on a platform, you aren’t merely churning out content. Instead, you are building a community.
Even if your book is not due for another few years, you are making an impact on the lives of hundreds of users. These are not bots, but real people who will remember you and come to understand what to expect from you. The longer you spend with your community, the more loyal they will feel towards you. Imagine the impact the word-of-mouth recommendation from a long-term fan can have on your book sales.
2. Book reviews
One of the most important factors that makes a prospective buyer purchase your book is the quality and number of reviews it has. Once your book is out in the world, the onus falls on the author to spread the word, especially if you have not hired a marketing agency. Here are a few avenues that worked wonders for me, and I am positive they will help you too:
Since one of the social media platforms I chose to be active on was Instagram, I clicked on the #Bookstagram hashtag. Bookstagram is short for “Books of Instagram” and anyone who reads books and reviews them is a “Bookstagrammer”.
From all the posts that showed up on this tag, I made a list of the active Bookstagrammers with a decent following. Then, I started engaging with their posts. This included liking and commenting on their reviews, and making friends with them through personal messages.
Over time, I made genuine connections with them, and when it was time to release my book, I asked them to write a review for me. Because I had been actively engaging with them for a while, many of them refused to take money for it even when I offered.
Exchange reviews with other authors
Through your social media, you can also network with other new authors. A hashtag to look out for is #IndieAuthors. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and Instagram, reading through threads about authors promoting their books. When I spotted something that sparked my attention, I would reply with a review-for-review exchange.
Most new authors welcome such an opportunity and will be gracious enough to accept your request, read your book, and leave genuine feedback. In return, you can also make some great friends and be introduced to some truly amazing books.
3. Book giveaways
You can host book giveaways on your social media profiles where you pick a few lucky winners to send copies of your books to. Giveaways are an excellent tool that generate interest in the audience and lead to more publicity for your page.
The winners can be picked on the basis of:
- Whether or not they have “liked” your post
- How many times they have shared your content and spread the word about the ongoing contest
- Are they following you, etc.
As an alternative, you can choose to make your book available for free on Amazon and then spread the word using social media. Selling free books attracts a lot of potential readers, and you can end up with an impressive number of reviews from people who might not have otherwise read your book.
4. Engaging with the community
Seek out pages on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter where creative people gather. Attend virtual book club meet-ups, poetry open mics, online literary festivals — be present at any place where you can meet prospective readers. You don’t need to sell your book to them, rather, focus on establishing yourself. Make it known in the community that you are a force to be reckoned with.
As authors, most of us tend to be shy and acutely introverted. I am no exception. I am still terrified of attending a phone call from an unknown number.
But, in all my 28 years of life, if there is one thing I have learned, it is this: the only thing that can stop you from achieving your dreams is the voice inside your head that keeps saying you are not good enough.
Here’s the good news: if the voice telling you that you cannot speak up is your own, the voice telling you that you can is also going to be your own.
The change towards developing the confidence to speak in front of an audience is not going to happen overnight. But with time and conscious effort, it is going to happen.
And the only person who can bring about that change is you.
As an author with no marketing agency or heavy PR budget backing you, this is something you’ve got to do. Attend literary festivals and speak your mind. Try to impress a few readers with your work. When you achieve that, word will travel fast. You might even be invited as a speaker or chief-guest to other virtual book club gatherings or literature festivals.
If this sounds daunting, you can also do live sessions on your own profile where you speak to the camera and take questions from your followers. Interacting with the people who follow you through video will make them connect to you on a more intimate level. You will no longer be the anonymous stranger behind the screen who posts quality content. Now, you will have a face and a voice, which will make it more likely for your readers to trust you and not hesitate to buy your book.
The bottom line
It is not a cakewalk to sell 10,000+ copies of your book. You have to step out of your comfort zone and invest a lot of effort into doing so. Here is a summary of the article to help you understand how you can replicate the strategy I followed to promote my book for free.
- Pick two social media platforms of your choice and publish posts related to your niche on a regular basis.
- Network on Instagram with fellow authors and book reviewers and ask them to write reviews for your book.
- Host book giveaways and make your book available for free on Amazon to direct more traffic to your page and get more reviews.
- Attend virtual literary festivals or host live sessions from your own profile. The key is to help your audience associate your words with your face and voice and get to know you on a deeper level.