This is a guest post by Rose Atkinson-Carter.
Publishing a book by yourself can be a deeply rewarding experience, but it also means more responsibilities 一 including marketing. Unlike working with a publisher, you won’t have access to a team of advertising experts to effectively distribute your book 一 you’ll have to promote it yourself.
To avoid being overwhelmed by the marketing aspect, there are a few principles that will help you on your way to publication. Let’s look at three marketing fundamentals that can give your book the best chance of success.
1. Invest in a professional cover design
As popular marketer Seth Godin would say, to stand out in a crowded market you need to be remarkable 一 like a purple cow. If you saw a purple cow on the street, you’d turn your head around and look closer.
In publishing, that means investing in a great book cover design. Your book cover is the first thing people see and judge about it, so your marketing efforts heavily rely on it.
A great cover makes people pick up the book or click on a link to learn more about it — and communicates important information about genre and theme. But it also makes them eager to recommend it to friends, “show it off” to people on public transport or post a picture on social media.
In publishing, to make your cover stand out, you don’t need to use a flashy or crazy design 一 you just need to make sure it’s original, professional, and aligned with your genre’s expectations. In this sense, you should ideally hire a professional to design it 一 someone experienced and skilled in the field.
2. Establish an online presence
Creating an online presence is one of the most powerful things writers can do today. By carving your own little Internet corner you can shape your personal brand, connect with your audience, and promote your work.
As Ricardo Fayet points out in How to Market your Book, the two most important digital assets for authors are a personal website and an email list. An author website lets readers find everything there is to know about you when searching your name on Google. It’s a platform to keep them up to date, link to your books, and suggest that they join your newsletter so you grow your email list.
Your email list is a direct channel of communication with your readers that you own exclusively and can use to nurture their interest in your work. You can grow your list by offering readers access to unpublished content, like extra chapters or short stories, in exchange for their contact email.
When it comes to social media, if you’re willing and able to grow an audience on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, then by all means do it 一 it can play an important part in promoting your book. However, know that it’s not necessary to have a large social following to sell your books online.
3. Carefully craft your Amazon book page
Self-publishing authors make a good chunk of sales by publishing on Amazon and leveraging its algorithm to their benefit. In fact, if your book page is optimized to convert visitors and generate sales, Amazon will automatically promote it, as it’s in their own interest.
To “convert” visitors to your book page (i.e. make them buy it) you’ll need a great book blurb. If you were publishing traditionally, you’d practise this skill when summarizing your work concisely and persuasively in a query letter. While you don’t need a query letter as a self-published author, you still need to write a compelling book description.
Since Amazon only shows the first few lines of description, start with a hook that makes the reader click on “Read more”. This could be a powerful sentence about the book’s content, or an endorsement from another author or literary magazine. Then continue by making your promise clear: what’s in it for the reader once they read your book? If you’re writing fiction, the promise could be a compelling world or character. For non-fiction, it’s usually the main lesson the reader will bring home. For the last section, use more endorsements from other authors in your niche to signal social proof.
Finally, throughout the text use keywords that accurately portray your book’s content to make it discoverable through search queries, and pick a good mix of niche and broad categories for it so that the right audience can find it.
Promoting your book on your own can feel overwhelming, but with the right marketing tools and strategy, you’ll be able to reach your audience and give your book the spotlight it deserves. I hope this article gives you an edge and will help you sell more copies.
Rose Atkinson-Carter is a writer with Reedsy, advising authors on all things publishing, from finding a literary agent to understanding ISBNs and copyrights. She has previously written for Shortcuts for Writers, Black Chateau, and more. She lives in London.