Marketing Your First Book: 9 Tips For Authors

This is a guest post from Graham Storrs, author of ‘Timesplash‘ (which I really enjoyed reading!).

timesplashcover233X175OK, you’ve landed a publishing deal. It’s not a Big Six publisher (the great majority of books are published by the rest) and they don’t have much of a marketing budget. Your publisher will not be taking out ads in the Times – or anywhere else with an established audience. They’ll send out your book to some reviewers, they’ll announce it on their website, they may send out some press releases. And that is probably it. It is quite possible that this small effort will result in absolutely no effective publicity at all. That is why, these days, most of the work of publicising your book is down to you. Yes, you. So what are you going to do?

  1. Get an audience before the release. When you announce your newly-published book to the world, it would be nice if someone was there to hear you. So how many people read your blog? How many friends do you have on Twitter or Facebook? Are you using LinkedIn groups, Goodreads, LibraryThing? Unless you are being followed (friended, or whatever) by hundreds, if not thousands of people, you probably need to put some time into building up your profile on these sites. When you make that announcement, you will feel as if you are standing on the stage in an empty theatre, unless you’ve managed to drag a few people in off the streets first.

2. Create a brand. In writing, the author is the brand. And that means you. You need to present yourself in your communications with potential readers in a way you are comfortable with and which is related to the boks you expect to be promoting. An important part of this is to know which genre you are working in. It’s invidious, I know, but received wisdom is that if you work in more than one genre, you probably need two different names and two different brands. When you are putting yourself out there and finding ways to talk about your book, don’t forget what your brand is – who you want people to see you as. Stay focused.

3. Know what you are going to say. Marketing is about message. Your brand is part of it but the rest is all content. What is your book about? Who will it appeal to? What groups should be interested in it, discussing it, recommending it, and what will catch their attention? Work it all out, find the wording you need to convey the message succinctly and clearly, then, in everything you say, stay on that message. It’s probably not all that hard. You probably write the kind of books you also love to read. Mostly, your target audience is people rather like yourself. Take a while to understand what it is that attracts you to new, unknown writers in your genre and you are half-way there.

4. Understand where your interests lie. You will be selling your book through a variety of channels (book shops, online, as ebooks and as print – possibly POD) and in a number of ‘geographies’ – defined in your publishing contract – to a number of audiences (‘market segments’ in the jargon.) Some channels and geographies will earn you more money than others. If your royalties on net, vs on retail price, it is of critical importance to you personally how big a cut various middlemen are taking. (Remember it can be quite hard to know which channel is best since while apparently high-paying channels like direct sales from your publisher’s own website may earn you a bigger royalty than online stores like Amazon, the latter is likely to out-sell the publisher’s own shop by many times and deliver a much bigger return for your effort. The same goes for audiences. Some are more likely to be interested than others, some more likely to buy, some more likely to spread the word. You are likely to be overwhelmed with work and you need to know where to put your marketing efforts.

5. Keep it rolling. With online sales and ebook editions, publicising a book is not the one-shot event it used to be. Market dynamics have changed since the days when bricks and mortar book shops were all that there was and you had three to six weeks during which your book would be on the shelf before it was returned to make way for the new batch of hopefuls. Now your book will stay in online catalogues for as long as your publishing agreement lasts – and longer if you act to keep it there. You probably have a few months now, after the launch, while your book is fairly new, when you can actively promote it and try to keep people’s attention on it. Even beyond that point, you can run occasional refresher campaigns to lift its profile again. This is all good news for the writer. The bad news is that the marketing need never end!

6. Engage. Talk to your readers and your potential readers. Talk about your book if they’re interested. Talk about the genre. Talk about writing and publishing. Talk about yourself. People are interested. It’s hard to grasp at first. You do interviews, you write blog pieces, you twitter about your life, your opinions, and your book, and you you think, “What the hell is so fascinating about me? Aren’t people going to think I’m a complete ego-maniac?” Well, maybe some will, but an awful lot won’t. They have read your book and liked it and they’re curious about who wrote it, or why you wrote it, or how you wrote it. Even if they haven’t read the book, there are plenty of people with common interests – in the genre, or in writing – who see you as someone who has contributed, or has special knowledge of the journey. You could ignore them all, sit quietly at your desk and write your next book, but it is a deeper, richer experience for everybody – you included – if you engage with them.

[From Joanna: I met Graham on Twitter and we engaged there, hence this post and why I bought his book. I would not have heard of him otherwise so it really is an important step – engage one reader at a time!]

7. Keep your pipeline filled. This is more jargon from the sales world. Like it or not, you are selling a product. It’s a business. Your readers are consumers of that product. If they like it, they will want more. The only way they will get more is if you write it. So don’t stop work on that next book, no matter how much extra work the last one has created. A book takes a long time to write, revise, edit and polish. Then you have to sell it to a publisher (oh yes, there are no free rides, each new book can be just as hard to sell as the last one.) Then edit it and then market it. It’s a long pipeline. You keep putting words in at one end and there will be more books to sell at the other. If you stop, there will be a gap.

8. Prepare to work your socks off. You may think you were busy when you wrote the book – what with the day job and family commitments – but once you shave signed that contract, you will shift into overdrive. Now, as well as the day job, the family, and writing the next book, you also have to work with your publisher on edits, and you have to work on your marketing campaign. Your social networking will escalate, your blogging and website content writing will increase, you’ll be trawling the blogsphere working with your communities of interest, and you’ll be pestering reviewers the world over to just please take a look at your book. That’s why I say it’s writing an iceberg – seven tenths of the work comes after the book is finished.

9. Don’t forget to have some fun, or you’ll go nuts. Sometimes, you should even take a holiday!


Before I go, I’d just like to say a big thank you to Joanna for her kindness and generosity in hosting this stop on my blog tour. If you are not a regular visitor to this blog, I suggest you stay a while and look around. I have found plenty of helpful tiips here in the time I have been a regular and I’m sure you will too.

And buy my book. Please. And if you buy it from Amazon, write a review, tag it, and rate it. These things matter a lot on Amazon. Then follow me on Twitter (@graywave) and chat to me about it.

The TimeSplash Blog Tour

Graham Storrs is the author of TimeSplash, a fast-paced time travel thriller. This post is part of the TimeSplash blog tour running from 16th February to the 5th May. To find out more about the book, characters, Graham, publication and inside information about writing the story, go to the TimeSplash website and check out the blog tour schedule page at TimeSplash – The Blog Tour 2010″

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  1. says

    Thanks for all the great information. I’m in the midst of writing a manuscript, sitting on half of my advance from a small book publisher, and feeling a little out of my depth as a first time author. You confirmed many of my suspicions regarding promoting the book. Thankfully the book is an extension of a blog, which in itself has been a real lesson in developing my voice, audience, etc. I’ve got this page bookmarked so I can come back as the process moves forward.

  2. Graham Storrs says

    Hi Craig, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, feeling out of your depth is perfectly normal. After countless years of simply writing books, landing a publishing contract was like that moment when the roller-coaster carriage reaches the top of its first peak. There is a haitus, a peaceful moment when you reflect on the quiet years of toil and enjoyment that brought you to that point. Then, slowly, slowly, the carriage tips onto the downward slope. You have, perhaps, a second to reflect on just how far below you the ground now seems to be. And then you’re off – on a wild, scary ride that is suddenly out of control, with no end in sight.

    That’s when it’s good to have people like Joanna in the seat next to you :)

    Best of luck with the book – and the other 7/10ths of the work ahead.

  3. Ian@ Book Marketing says

    Congrats on the book Graham!

    I like the iceberg analogy. For me lately it`s been really about becoming a time ninja, finding out where my audience is, and being of service to them.

    May your book be a major success.


  4. Graham Storrs says

    Thanks, Ian. The ‘time ninja’ metaphor is cool too – all those precision movements and efficient blows! Unfortunately, it also conjours up for me the idea of spending a lifetine training for it in a quiet monastery somewhere – a luxury most of us don’t have. :-)

  5. says

    Thank you for all the great tips. There are so many balls for authors to keep in the air! I like your idea about keeping the pipeline full – writing the novel takes so much effort and determination, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there should be another coming right behind it.

    Good luck with your book release and blog tour!

  6. Graham Storrs says

    Thanks, Kirsten. (By the way, I looked at your blog and found the link you posted to Chuck Sambuchino’s site – which looks really useful, thank you.)

  7. L. M. Davis says

    Good advice. I am at the beginning of this process for my first YA novel, and I am so overwhelmed with everything that is involved. But I am doing my best to soak in all of the advice. Thanks for the great blog.

  8. Graham Storrs says

    Thank you L.M.

    I tried to look at your site but the link attached to your name above doesn’t go anywhere. One of the many overwhelming things about managing one’s Web presence is making sure all your links are in order. My publisher changed the website address for buying my book a few days ago and I had to edit that link in 23 different places (and check a lot more.) The Web is a surprisingly crude and manually-maintained technology!

  9. says

    LOVE this post – so true. I’d also like to add to the final paragraph that if you don’t implement exercise and movement, you won’t be writing for long. The new online publishing/promotion model means we are GLUED to our computers. Be careful. Move writers, move! /

  10. says

    Yes I know all about the Iceberg. I too have a new publishing contract for my Crime genre novel “London’s Falling”, ( see new website which shall come out in the UK in the Northern Spring 2011.
    Issues contained in the text are discussed on several of my blogs linked to this author’s website and I am open to all suggestions as to how to maximise exposure.
    I heard alarming news in the Australian last week that authors shall get even less from the new electronic formats like Amazson Kindle. To get around that I have been trying to put news of the novel out there but it shall certainly be a formidable task to get the world or even a small corner of it to take notice. Part of the fun shall be that important journey.

  11. says

    That is why for any author or those opting for self-publishing, it is wise to start involving yourself to social media and create a network. Your hard work tweeting, posting blogpost and updating your profiles will pay off once you see that many readers are able to find your books.

  12. says

    Very informative–good info here as I am new to writing and self publishing my first book. The time factor in keeping up with the social networking is daunting. But I must say, I’m so excited!

  13. says

    Just to say what a lot of common sense and good advice on your site. I’m currently marketing my second book SOLO and stumbled upon the site. Would have been good to get that information in 2007 when I published my first book AN OCEAN AWAY.
    I’ve really enjoyed self publishing and my books are well put together and of a high quality, I would recommend it to anyone thinking of this as even though its very hard work it keeps you in control. More importantly whether your book sells or not is completely down to you and its a great feeling when the hard work pays off and the orders come in!
    I’ve set up a site to showcase my adventures and welcome feedback.
    Three cheers for self publishing! Best Dave

  14. says

    thank you for all the tips. I am publishing my autobiography “Can I touch the Sky” encouraged by my granddaughter Rebekah.It has adventure history of places in India romance suspense and tragedy.Most of my story is set in India where I was born and ends in Perth Western Australia . I do hope it will be a success as a couplde of launches have already been promised In India and in west australia.So please wish me luck.If you like I can post a copy out to you.Best regards Yvonne Rocque.

  15. says

    Thanks for all the helpful information. My first book, “Grace Trumps Guilt, was released in February of this year. The Amazon link is
    I have had a steady stream of radio interviews as well as recently winning an Honorable Mention in the Paris Book Festival. I still struggle with whether I am doing all that I can do to get my book noticed. I was told by another author that a book has basically six months to sink or swim. This has left me concerned that my magic period of exposure has passed.
    Warm Regard,

    • says

      Donna, that six months thing may well have been true a few years ago. Nowadays it doesn’t have to be. My novel, Timesplash, has been out for three years now and it has just been re-launched with a new publisher. It didn’t make good sales until it had been self-published for over six months, then it took off like a rocket and had a great year. The beauty of self-publishing is that you can re-launch, or re-package any time you feel the need, and you can keep tweaking and trying new things until something, finally works.


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