It’s not easy to promote your book online. It can be overwhelming, too! But no matter what kind of online book promotion you’re hoping to do, whether it’s Facebook ads or Instagram or Pinterest, the first step is to identify your goals and create a plan to achieve those goals. The best part is, you can get started right now, without any outside help, just by following the six steps below.
Blogging is the fastest, easiest and best way to learn about how to promote your book online. While still starting a new blog yourself on hosting sites like Tumblr, you can and should read as many other blogs by authors as you can, and see how they’re doing it. If you think of all blogging as writing, rather than just posting blog posts, you free yourself to write about a wide variety of topics, which will help you learn more about yourself and the process you’re using to tell your book’s story as the author.
Identify a number of specific blog concepts with which you’d like to engage, and then commit to posting to these at least two times per week. Think of these blogs as your day jobs, and of yourself as a full-time blogger. Make sure to keep your blog up-to-date, particularly if you are anxious about your next book. Even if you still mostly write books, reading blogs is a great alternative to watching TV for longer chunks of time.
- Social media
Even if you choose to ignore the kinds of online word of mouth promotions you can get by joining groups and groups of writers and doling out free copies of your book, social media is a necessary tool. It is very hard to find success in online word of mouth promotions without a solid social media presence. You want to immediately start socializing with friends and family and acquaintances when your book first comes out, so that you already have a base of people who will speak about you online as soon as you go live. But don’t focus all your efforts there. Moving forward, you’ll want to try to expand your reach with new followers whenever possible. Try tweeting regularly about interesting facts in your universe, or posting excerpts and samples for your readers on Wattpad. Sometimes, these promoted posts can get a huge amount of engagement because of their topical and timely nature, allowing you to build an audience beyond those who know you personally.
By the same token, do not fall into the temptation of building a social media presence by endorsing products you did not find useful. Many people make this mistake once they realize how many followers they can gain by saying nice things about products — they offer to do so, and then never use that product again. Even worse? That product might be inflating their reviews on Amazon. So if there’s a product that you’d like to promote related to your book, you need to decide if it’s actually something you’re going to use yourself, or if you’re just trying to pick up a few more followers.
- Top ten lists
You may not remember it, but there was a brief period where lists made a big comeback. What was once a sidebar in magazines was suddenly the most exciting thing you could potentially want to read. Buzzfeed and other sites began producing listicles, or top ten lists about everything under the sun. The popularity of these lists drew a lot of attention, but more importantly, it sparked the interest of advertisers and savvy tech folks. Those lists represented hits on a large share of a particular site’s traffic, and so the reader’s attention was valuable. Today, after a flurry of refinements, lists still remain a great way to get in front of many eyeballs at once, particularly on sites that have a strong target demographic that matches yours, like Wired For Youth. Lists can also play into the popularity of certain mobile apps, too. The list can be your book, in the middle of a list of a broader topic.
Start writing a listicle about your book to promote it, even in the early stages, so you can see the kind of action it generates. This will give you a gauge on how people might respond to a book purchase. To do that, research your target demographic first, just like you did when you wanted to know how to market a book. Once you think you’re targeting a listicle that those people would potentially like to stay updated on, try using it to promote your book. Take note of how many people click through to where you can buy the book. That’s the number you’ll want at the threshold, and you can open that promotion along with several other promotions at the same time. They may have similar demographics, simply because it’s hard to be as specific online. For example, your book might have readers who also like Kendall Jenner — all the followers and subscribers to her social media accounts could also find your book interesting. You just have to test to see if that’s the case, and if something similar comes up a lot, you’ve found your target market. This way, you can make the extremely scientific decisions that could mean good business for you.
- Offer special content
Social media can be your friend — but you need to be clear in your mission before you can be good at it. For example, if your goal is to use the content you post as an artful form of advertising, hanging pretty pictures on a bare blog is not going to cut it. If your goal is to build a relationship with your readers, neither will constant self-promotion. The key, above all else, is being intentional about how you use social media. It all starts with your plan. Decide what you want to accomplish and set a goal. Remember, it’s all about getting new readers, and possibly keeping them, so your first priority is to persistently and reliably deliver interesting content on your niche.
If your plan is organized, it becomes easy for you to see right away what you should be posting. For example, if you’re blogging, you can go ahead and tweet the direct link, so that readers can be reminded to check out your content. If you’re posting short stories on Commaful, engage with your following and make sure to update consistently. You could also post the link to your personal Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest account, so you can post new updates with ease. If you apply the universal stress reduction principle of making things easier and simpler, your social media posting will not be as challenging and intimidating, and it will be easier for you to be consistent in meeting your goals.
Forums are, even today, a great place to find an audience for your book. And forums have made their way into the modern world in the shape of blogging and Tumblr and Goodreads’ forums. Unlike some specific sites, forums are community-oriented, which means the threads are often much longer and the tone of the conversation much more freewheeling. These are all great things. The majority of forum users visit sites like Reddit or Quora to learn about new things, so if you can create a great content piece for the site, it quickly picks up traffic and attention.
Reddit provides you with an especially prompt incentive to continue to create content. Their “karma” system pushes members to both create and vote on content that has already been produced in order to rank and grow, so that they can ascend to the higher ranks of the community, where they’ll have bigger direct influence and reach over time. On Reddit, you don’t just have to one-time-write a successful post and then leave. You will have to go back over and over consistently in order to keep your account active. Also, be prepared for some back-and-forth conversation with your fans — and be honest and transparent about the writing process when they ask you about it! Redditors can be very inquisitive and sometimes a bit challenging in the advice they offer. But if you can develop a relationship with them over time, you have a vast and responsive audience at your fingertips.
- Host an AMA on Reddit
The term “Ask Me Anything” has become social media clickbait shorthand. But behind the meme is the opportunity for an author to open up his or her book to the questions of an entire online community. No matter how successful your career has been, hosting an AMA will open you up to a whole new audience, while conferring authenticity and integrity. If you read through the questions on any one AMA, you can see how simple the questions are that fans ask and expect genuine, thoughtful responses. Just be sure not to treat a Reddit AMA like a press conference — give honest answers to the questions you’re asked. AMA threads often end up in the first few pages of Reddit, meaning you’ll still reach your intended audience after the buzz from the AMA dies down.
AMAs are also a great way to discover connections with other authors or with other people in your field. Potential connections are why you do social media in the first place, and there’s no reason not to capitalize on those connections when you have the opportunity — so don’t forget to follow up with other authors or people you’ve met on your AMA afterward, through Twitter, email, or Tumblr. You can cross-promote your new connections both through this medium, and practically — if you find another author in your genre you think might be a good fit for an event, suggest it to him, and see if they’ll dig up some kind of promo code for you.
Ultimately, it comes down to thinking critically about what your book is about, where the audience you want to attract with your book promotion will hang out, and what you want to do with whatever traffic or attention your book promotion brings in. Fortunately, there is no one right answer. What kind of promotion works for you depends on the type of book you’ve written, the method of promotion you’re doing, and even the phase that your book is in — pre publishing, publish and post, or seasoned. Give it a go and see what works for you!
Author Bio: Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience.