Times are a-shaking, and a lot of readers have turned to books for comfort, laughter, shivers, and advice. This is, of course, great news for writers who are working on their books and hoping to reach as many readers as possible.
But there are more ways to give your work a little marketing push. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Publish a novella or essay.
If diving into a new book project sends tremors of terror up your spine, consider publishing something shorter: a novella or story (if you’re a fiction writer) or essay or article (if nonfiction’s your wheelhouse). You can even return to something you’ve already written that’s sitting in a drawer or on your hard drive. You’ll still want to ensure it maintains your professional standards (for both content and packaging), but you can offer it at a lower price point. This may not only generate some extra sales for you but also keep your readers engaged until you’re ready to return to a full-length project.
2. Give your older titles some love.
If your older titles have been sitting unloved and unsold for several years, considering taking another look at them. Do they need to be re-edited? How about a fresh, more modern cover? Consider bundling some of your related titles together and offering the compilation at an attractive price point. Or perhaps consider a giveaway for readers on social media.
3. Start writing for other publications.
In addition to earning you some extra coin, writing for weekly or monthly publications or blogs as a contributor can give your books a boost. As well as keeping you in the public eye (which is always good for book sales), it’s also a great chance to include a small author bio (with your book information) that could introduce your work to a whole new audience.
4. Engage with readers on different platforms.
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook … these are the basics for a lot of authors, but they can be a potential time suck. What some authors are doing is combining their writing/love of books with other platforms. Consider putting some of your works-in-progress up on writing sites like Wattpad for a new level of reader engagement and a chance to not only charm new readers but get some feedback on your work from readers who love your genre. Read a lot of books? Head over to Goodreads.
5. A little crowdfunding is good for fans and your pocket.
Think about funding your next book project through sites like Kickstarter or even Patreon. Checking out other authors using these sites can show you a different way to engage with readers and maybe even find some new fans. (And if you have a few extra dollars, consider supporting other writers' projects too.)
6. Team up with another author.
If you have a writing chum who is in the same boat, consider teaming up to create a new book or shorter work together, or bundling your backlist books together for a special price. This can help each of you find new audiences and share readers. If you don’t want to collaborate, you might also consider excerpt-swapping—including a chapter, novella, or short story in each other’s books—which might be a great opportunity to open up your writing to a similar reader base.
7. Use trending topics and current events.
There’s a lot going on in the world at any one time, so depending on what your book is about, you might have opportunities to position your book at the right place at the right time. Going into an election and you’ve written a political thriller? Look for parallels. Hot new movie coming out in your genre? Maybe that’s the time for a slyly positioned, “If you liked this movie, you’ll love my book.” Remember that effective marketing isn’t just where you put your efforts, but when.
8. Hold a contest.
Readers love contests, and you might find they are more than willing to enter a contest if it means they might get a crack at naming a character, supplying a plot twist, or even having some input on your book’s development. But just remember that when strangers have power, they might not always wield it in a way you will find works for you, your book, or your marketing. But then again … look how much media coverage “Boaty McBoatface” got.
9. Make a book trailer or animate your book cover.
Book trailers are a great way to promote your book on social media and on your website. Done well, they can be visually appealing and hype up your book. But they can be expensive. If you have a budget, ask around and get recommendations from other authors who were happy with the results. The designer who created your book cover may be able to animate it to create more dynamic advertising, or at least have a friend in their professional network who knows how.
10. Advertise on a billboard.
Believe it or not, some authors do this. The trick is to find a billboard that isn’t horrifically expensive but also gets a decent amount of traffic. We encourage you to hire a professional to create the ad layout; this id definitely not something you want to take on yourself. Between the design, resolution, and formatting, you’re really going to want a professional’s touch for maximum effect.
11. Organize a virtual book tour.
Traditional book tours can be a great way to not only meet new readers and promote your book but also get a chance to meet and work with bookstore staff. Remember, they are the ones selling your book! The covid-19 pandemic has made the world more open to virtual events now, and there are many bookstores and libraries looking for content to offer their community to keep them engaged while they're sticking close to home. You can start by reaching out to the libraries and bookstores in your region to see if they're schduling online author events.
12. Give your books away.
It sounds counterproductive, but a lot of authors (especially those who have written more than one book) selectively give away their books. Places you might consider giving a free copy to include libraries, schools (if appropriate), seniors' homes, community centers, homeless shelters, prisons, and more. Remember that if a reader likes one book, they’ll be more inclined to start reading others!
13. Sell your nonfiction as a promotional product.
Author Honorée Corder wrote You Must Write a Book and, instead of focusing on individual readers, focused on making bulk sales to business and career professionals who might be interested in using her book as a promotional product. She even changed her cover for a select limited run (albeit a very large one which would more than cover the costs) for a customer, which included the customer’s business contact info.
14. Create some fun merch.
Creating and giving away merchandise—and especially shipping it—can be expensive. That said, if you have room in your budget, consider creating some fun and desirable merchandise to either sell or give away to your readers. Remember, however, that the key to doing this successfully comes with knowing your audience. Not sure what your readers would like? Come up with some ideas and take an online poll. Winner gets some free swag.
And if all else fails, see what other authors are doing.
We’re not condoning imitation as much as we’re suggesting you look at what more successful authors in your genre are doing. What is making them so successful? More books? More advertising? More activity on social media? Pay attention to what authors are doing, then ask yourself why it’s working for them and how you can take a similar approach but tailor it for your writing.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.