Different Ways To Market Your Book With Joanna Penn

There are many options for book marketing, so how do you choose the right ones for you? I give my thoughts on the different polarities on the marketing scale to help you figure out what might work for your book, your stage on the author journey, and your lifestyle.

In the intro, Storybundle for writers; Seth Godin on Tim Ferriss; Amazon's investment in Anthropic; Claude 3 direct or Poe.com; Claude prompt library; join me and Joseph Michael for a prompt webinar, 4 April, register here; plus, Spear of Destiny.

Today's show is sponsored by my patrons! Join my community and get access to extra videos on writing craft, author business, AI and behind the scenes info, plus an extra Q&A show a month where I answer Patron questions. It's about the same as a black coffee a month! Join the community at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn

Joanna Penn writes non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thriller, dark fantasy, and memoir as J.F. Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

  • Traditional versus indie publishing
  • Short term versus long term
  • Income versus brand building
  • Paid versus free
  • The book versus you as the author
  • Stand-alone versus series
  • Exclusive versus wide publishing
  • Publish fast versus publish slowly
  • Write to market versus write first, market later
  • Online versus offline. Global versus local
  • Introvert versus extrovert
  • Digital versus physical
  • Data-focused versus intuitive marketing
  • Fiction versus non-fiction
  • Doing your own marketing versus hiring professionals

Let me know what you think — leave a comment here or message me on X @thecreativepenn

This chapter is from my Author Blueprint, available as a free ebook at TheCreativePenn.com/blueprint or in print and large print from CreativePennBooks.com and also Amazon

There are more marketing strategies in my book, How to Market a Book, which is a few years old now, but the strategies and mindset are still valid, so I’d say 90% of it is still applicable, even if the tools have changed. 

Different ways to market your book

I frequently get asked, ‘How do I market my book?’ 

There is no quick and easy answer, no magic bullet, only various options that you can use at different points along your author journey.

There is no ‘right’ way to market a book, and there are as many ways to reach readers as there are writers. We each use a different combination of what works for us, and most successful authors use varying types of marketing tactics, as well as changing things up over time. 

You must find what works best for you — for each book and at each stage of your author journey.

So instead of giving you a list of book marketing tactics, here are some of the opposite polarities on the marketing scale that — along with your definition of success — will help shape your book promotion choices.

Think of each as a continuum: You will move up and down on these scales with every book as your career evolves. You’ll use different elements for each launch, as well as for long-term sales.

Here are some things to consider.

Traditional versus indie publishing

Your marketing options vary based on how you publish and how much control you have over the book.

If you’re traditionally published, you might be assigned a marketing team to help you or at least offered some aspects of book promotion as part of your contract. These might include an email blast, paid ads, deals in a store or supermarket, or help with pitching media for interviews and live events. 

But unless you are a big name, it’s likely that the promotions team will only be available for the launch period. If you want to keep your book selling over the longer term, you will need to do at least some of your own marketing

You won’t have control of your pricing, your cover, or the metadata around categories and keywords, and it won’t be financially viable to do paid ads as you won’t be able to measure sales and return-on-investment (ROI). This is why most traditionally published authors focus on marketing through PR, literary festivals, live events, relationships with book bloggers and media, as well as trying to build an email list and social media following.

Indie authors are responsible for their own marketing from day one, but also have control of pricing, the book cover, and metadata, and they can measure ROI with daily sales reporting.

As a result, they have more freedom with book marketing, and the opportunity to do price promotions, bundling, sales description, category and keyword changes, as well as paid advertising with measurable results.

Short term versus long term

New authors with only one book will often focus on short-term sales because they can’t yet imagine a future with more books. 

Short-term sales are fantastic for that initial launch push, but they often cost money and are not sustainable. The spike often lasts only as long as you actively market the book or pay for ongoing traffic through advertising.

If you want a long-term career as an author, you also need to think about long-term marketing and focus on building a sustainable baseline income, money that comes in from your books consistently every month without you having to pay for it. 

You need more books on the market, more streams of income, more readers on your email list, and other ways to attract and retain them. That takes time to build but is worth the investment if you want a long-term career.

Of course, most authors combine both kinds.

When I do a Kickstarter launch (my next one is Spear of Destiny), I have a couple of weeks going all out with marketing actions every day — emails, social media, paid ads, podcast episodes, content marketing, tapping into my networks, and more — but once the campaign is done, I shift to the more evergreen, long-term marketing approach.

Income versus brand building

Some marketing activities are about making direct income, whereas others are about brand building. 

An article in the mainstream media or an interview on a radio show or a podcast with a large audience can be great for building awareness of your author brand, and as social proof for your website.

Having a book launch party at a swanky location might make the local paper and give you great photos for social media.

Starting your own podcast, YouTube channel, or social media account and being consistent with posting niche content is a great way to build up a network and get attention over the long term.

But these kinds of marketing are more about building awareness of your author brand. They (hopefully) result in book sales eventually, but it will take time. 

If you want to focus on immediate sales and income, use paid ads to direct traffic directly to a book sales page, measure ROI, test new variations, and iterate.

In terms of cash flow, if you want to receive money in your bank account more quickly, then selling direct can be worthwhile as you are paid within days, or even within hours, rather than months or years with traditional contracts.

Paid versus free

You will always pay for book marketing — but it’s your choice to pay with either your money or your time.

Paid advertising can include newsletter blasts like BookBub or Bargain Booksy, as well as pay-per-click ads on Amazon or Meta, or hiring a freelancer to help get you media appearances, amongst many other options.

Do not pay for book reviews or files with email lists or for anything that might compromise your integrity. There are lots of scams out there, so check Writer Beware if you have concerns, or ask in one of the established author groups online.

I use Amazon Ads for some non-fiction books, and Meta Ads to my Shopify store for my fiction, as well as newsletter blast services, alongside content marketing.

Content marketing involves providing something for free that attracts your target reader, usually in return for an email address. Some of those people might buy other books and services from you. 

I started my website in 2008 and my podcast in 2009 and — apart from hosting fees — they cost time, rather than money. 

For my non-fiction books for authors as Joanna Penn, content marketing includes my weekly show, The Creative Penn Podcast, as well as articles on my website, videos on YouTube, and my Author Blueprint. 

I also do interviews on other podcasts, and I have profiles on social media, although I am pulling away from active time investment in that area.

For my fiction and memoir as J.F. Penn, content marketing includes my perma-free first in series on all stores, Stone of Fire, and my free thriller on signup at: JFPenn.com/free

I also have the Books and Travel Podcast, which is more sporadic than The Creative Penn, but helps to bring people to my travel memoir, Pilgrimage. I’m also more active on social media with Instagram @jfpennauthor and Facebook @jfpennauthor, as well as Boards on Pinterest @jfpenn.

Other authors use social commerce engines like TikTok, creating multiple short videos to attract readers to their books. Investigate the options and find what works for your book/s and your lifestyle, as any marketing needs to be sustainable if you want to keep selling.

The book versus you as the author

Consider how you discover new books as a reader. 

Perhaps you’re at a bookstore or browsing online and a cover catches your eye, or you delve into the category or genre of books you prefer, or you search for a particular type of book with keywords. 

Maybe you see an ad on social media and click through to read more. You don’t care who the author is, you just know you want the book.

These are examples of book-specific marketing. You need a cover that will catch the eye of the kinds of readers you want to attract. You also need to put it in the right categories and use the right keywords, so they can find you. You can also explore paid advertising. 

Now consider other ways you might discover books. 

Perhaps you’re listening to a podcast or a radio station and you hear an interview with an author and they sound interesting. Or the host recommends a book and you trust them, so you go check it out.

Or you follow an interesting person on social media and they have a link to their book in their bio. Or you’re at an event, and the speaker has a book that sounds worthwhile. Or you’re on an author’s email list, and they have a new release.

These are examples of author-specific marketing, reach that is based around you as a person, and more about relationships, networks, and trust in your author brand. Again, you will use aspects of both.

Stand-alone versus series

Most non-fiction books are stand-alone, in that you can read the book and you don’t need to read anything else to complete the experience. 

However, you can write books aimed at the same audience, use the same overall branded cover design, and tie them together with a series title, like my Books for Authors, which helps to market them online.

In terms of fiction, it’s much easier to market a series than a stand-alone, as you can do price promotions on the first in series and hope to hook readers enough so they continue to read through.

I have a couple of stand-alone fiction books — Risen Gods, a YA dark fantasy set in New Zealand, co-written with J. Thorn, and Catacomb, a horror novella. They get great reviews, but they are hard to market.

My ARKANE action-adventure thrillers are easier to promote, as I have twelve books in the series, with more to come.

I have a free first-in-series ebook, Stone of Fire, on all platforms, with thousands of reviews which I can promote with all kinds of marketing. It brings people into the series every day. 

Exclusive versus wide publishing

If you are exclusive to Amazon with the KDP Select program, then you will have visibility for your ebooks in Kindle Unlimited (KU).

KU has readers who will borrow, binge read, and return ebooks and audiobooks within that ecosystem. You are paid for pages read, and you can access KU-specific marketing options like countdown deals and free days, as well as gain visibility in certain lists.

However, if you’re exclusive to Amazon, you miss out on the audience of readers who buy and borrow elsewhere, including in libraries, nor can you sell direct or take advantage of other marketing opportunities.

I choose to publish wide, which means I sell my books in all formats in as many stores and on as many platforms as I can.

I mainly focus on my own Shopify stores and Kickstarter since they bring in the greatest revenue, but I also use various retailers and other platforms as outlined in the self-publishing chapters.

I use platform-specific, limited-time marketing (e.g., the Kobo Promotions tab or Draft2Digital promotions) every month to reach readers across the world, as well as offering bundle deals and discount coupons on my own Shopify stores.

Publish fast versus publish slowly

Publishing fast, sometimes called ‘rapid release,’ is a form of marketing for those who focus on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, as the algorithm favours new content, which you can amplify with paid ads and promotions, as well as pre-orders to the next in series.

However, most authors choose to write and publish over a longer time frame, with a less frequent schedule, using launch promotions and longer-term marketing tactics. This is a more sustainable method and the way I publish.

Write to market versus write first, market later

‘Writing to market’ bakes the marketing into the book by writing something that will sell because there is already a hungry audience waiting to devour it. This suits authors who can write fast and adapt quickly to new niches, as well as authors who read and enjoy a specific genre and thus know it well.

Writing to market usually focuses on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, and can work for some authors until the subcategory becomes saturated. At that point, the market becomes harder to sell in, and some writers move on to other genres.

The other approach is to write what you want to write and figure out the marketing later. 

Most authors start out writing the book of their heart, the book their Muse wants them to write, the book that has been itching for years to be created.

They write that book with no thought of marketing and worry about reaching readers later. Many will happily continue in this vein, satisfying artistic needs before marketing considerations.

My books as J.F. Penn are all written for the Muse. Each project was born from my curiosity, and, as I am a discovery writer, I often didn’t even know what the book would be until I finished.

But sometimes I have written to market. For example, I wrote my books for authors specifically to help others on the author journey for my audience at The Creative Penn.

Neither option is ‘better’ than the other. What’s so fantastic about the creative world we live in now is that there’s room for writers of all types, so find the method that works for you and your books.

Online versus offline — global versus local

Offline marketing is anything you do in person — speaking at a local event or school assembly, attending a networking event, or talking at a literary festival, book club, or library. 

The benefits of this type of marketing include immediate sales and local brand building, as well as the possibility of becoming part of the community.

But offline, local marketing is not scalable. You can only reach people who are physically with you at that moment. 

You could spend the same time writing an article or short story that could touch thousands online in multiple countries, or do a podcast interview that reaches a global market, or schedule short videos or images on social media within your niche. 

I spend most of my marketing time and budget online, as it’s scalable and an effective use of my time. I focus on a global audience, but I also do some speaking events and writers’ festivals every year, so I meet people in person.

Introvert versus extrovert

Thanks to the book Quiet by Susan Cain, many writers now happily claim their introversion. I’m an introvert, which means I get energy from being alone, and I struggle with large groups, lots of noise, and overstimulating environments. 

I’d rather think than speak, and I’d rather write than talk.

I don’t answer the phone unless it’s a scheduled call.

I’m INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, which is a rare type in the general population but far more common in the author community. 

Introverts struggle with in-person marketing, book store and live events, as well as sustained periods without alone time, like the classic book tour.

But being an introvert can be a superpower for online marketing. We can write and create content alone, attracting an audience online and connecting with readers through social media.

Extroverts get their energy from people, so live events in person and online are fun and energising and may be a better way for these authors to market and connect. 

Digital versus physical

We can publish our books in different formats — ebook and digital audio, and then various kinds of print like paperback, hardback, large print, or special editions.

With digital products, you have more options for price promotions — for example, a limited time free or discounted deal — because there is no ongoing cost of production. 

Stone of Fire is a perma-free ebook on all the ebook stores, Kobo Promotions allow discount deals, and I use Chirp Books for occasional discounted audiobook promotions.

I also have digital bundles of ebooks and audiobooks at my stores, CreativePennBooks.com and JFPennBooks.com, as well as offering discount coupons to my email subscribers and advance review team.

There are fewer options for price promotions with print products as there is a cost to produce every book, so you have to market in different ways and attract readers with things that digital products cannot do. Social media favors beautiful print books as they look more attractive in TikTok videos (just search BookTok), or in Instagram images or Facebook ads.

For my Kickstarter campaigns, I produce special hardback editions with color photos, silk finish cover, metallic foil, and ribbons, and I am investigating sprayed edges and other print-specific options in future. 

I have spiral-bound workbooks and print bundles for non-fiction on CreativePennBooks.com, and I offer bundle deals on both my stores for print. You can also offer signed editions, special merchandise, and more.

Data-focused versus intuitive marketing

There are two kinds of people: Those who enjoy spreadsheets and data analysis and those who don’t! 

I am one of the latter, but there are plenty of authors who love using data to drive their marketing, particularly in the paid advertising arena.

But don’t worry, there’s room for both kinds! 

Data-focused marketing involves digging down into the Amazon subcategories, looking for under-served niches and focusing on algorithms, as well as analysing spreadsheets and reports for a higher click-through rate or return-on-investment (ROI).

Intuitive marketing is more about doing what feels right for you and your book, and trusting that you will attract readers over time. Of course, you have to do some kind of marketing in a sustainable way for the longer term, but this approach is more individual. 

Back in 2008, when I started out trying to market my first book, I made it onto national TV and into the papers, but I didn’t enjoy the spotlight, and I needed something sustainable I could do from home. I also had no author friends, so I started my show, The Creative Penn Podcast, well before podcasting went mainstream. 

I enjoyed it, so I kept going, even though it took years to grow a listenership. Now my podcast is the engine of my non-fiction book business, but only because I leaned into my intuition and did something I enjoyed and could sustain for years. 

I do some paid advertising, but I use Amazon auto-ads, which optimise themselves, and I outsource my Meta advertising so I don’t have to manage the optimisation. 

However, there is some data I focus on — my income and bank balance. I am a businesswoman as well as an intuitive creative!

I highly recommend Dear Writer, Are You Intuitive? by Becca Syme and Susan Bischoff if you’re interested in discovering more. Becca and I also discussed intuitive writing and marketing in an interview on The Creative Penn here.

Fiction versus non-fiction

While many kinds of marketing — such as email marketing, paid ads, and social media — can work for all books, there are some kinds of marketing that are more effective for fiction versus non-fiction and vice versa.

For my fiction under J.F. Penn, I mostly focus on marketing the first books in my various series, using perma-free and price promotions on ebooks and audio, as well as box sets and series bundles, and Meta paid ads. 

I’m also expanding into print special editions and merchandise as part of my Kickstarter campaigns, and my store, JFPennBooks.com.

For non-fiction, I focus on marketing print and audio with higher-priced products, as non-fiction readers are less price sensitive than fiction readers, although I also have ebooks available. 

In terms of content marketing, for fiction, I have a free thriller, a free first-in-series book, and plenty of books and stories so readers can find me, as well as limited social media.

For non-fiction, my content marketing is mainly my podcast and articles on the website, online interviews, professional speaking, as well as having a series of books.

Doing your own marketing versus hiring professionals

There are many people and services you can hire for book marketing, but you need to consider two questions: 

(1) Is it worth doing?

(2) Is it worth paying for? 

For example, is it worth paying someone to run your Amazon Ads for you when you can set auto-ads running without intervention? 

Is it worth starting a TikTok channel if you hate watching videos? 

Is it worth paying a PR professional to get you interviews in magazines when you are just starting out and you’re unsure of your brand?

Over the years, I’ve mainly done my own book marketing, learning new skills, trying things out, and pivoting along the way. But I have paid professionals at different times for different things. 

At the time of writing, I pay a freelancer to format my podcast transcripts, and I have also outsourced Meta ads to MatthewJHolmes for my store, JFPennBooks.com.

If you want to hire a professional, be specific about what you want, as well as your timeframe.

Examples of specific advertising strategies might be ‘Run Meta Ads for three months to the first book in my fantasy series’ or ‘Pitch media outlets for three months around my non-fiction self-help book on dealing with anxiety.’ You will also need a budget.

If you want help with book marketing, you can hire vetted professionals from the Reedsy Marketplace

I’ve touched on just some of the options for book marketing, but don’t worry — you don’t have to learn everything all at once. 

Think about what might be right for your book, for your personality and lifestyle, as well as for this particular period of time in your author career.

Book marketing is not optional — you cannot just publish a book and expect it to sell — but you have the choice of what form that marketing takes. 

Pick something and give it a try, and you can learn more and pivot over time. 

This chapter is from my Author Blueprint, available as a free ebook at TheCreativePenn.com/blueprint or in print and large print from CreativePennBooks.com and also Amazon

There are more marketing strategies in my book, How to Market a Book, which is a few years old now, but the strategies and mindset are still valid, so I’d say 90% of it is still applicable, even if the tools have changed. 

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (8)

  • Lots of excellent ideas! For me, I am leaning towards Countdown Deals, Free Days, Digital Bundles, Data-focused Deals and Amazon Auto Ads. But there's more than enough for every type of author. Thanks Joanna.

    • Hi Grant, lovely to hear from you :) It sounds like you're focusing on Amazon and ebooks — which is definitely one angle to take :)

  • I am surprised how much I enjoy selling my books with reels. I am on TikTok and Instagram and they are a ton of fun. I love the editing, the creating and all things that go into it. I've learned if you find something you enjoy keep doing it. The skies the limit on how good you can be. My question: Where do I go with reels besides social media platforms? They are limited. I feel I can do so much more and reach a bigger audience and hopefully sales if I continue. Thank you. Love your site. So informative.

    • I'm glad you're enjoying Reels, Bryan — and of course, you can repurpose onto other video sites - like YouTube Shorts, and X is also video now, too. Maybe look at using Zapier to repost automatically?

  • Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for the tip to go listen to Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss!

    Wow, to get your stamp of approval and then Seth Godin's on Claude Opus 3 to get summaries (or book descriptions/sales pages) for our books is compelling.

    I'm in The Netherlands and can't yet get Claude 3 Opus. You mention getting it through Poe. My question is if I have full capabilities of Claude 3 Opus through Poe?

    P.S. I love when you describe how your subscribers listen in: I'm usually with my dog in the woods so my mind is less cluttered and I can better focus.

    • Hi Bradley, I'm pretty sure you can get full access, but perhaps not as many responses — they offer a lot of models through the same log in, but I don't use it myself, so just go have a play :)

  • Hi Joanna, do you do any one-to-one sessions with new authors, focussing on their individual needs and on their actual book? If you don’t offer this, can you recommend anyone who does? I’m an indie author, very new, and not selling any books! I need help, and, though I’ve read many books and articles, I’m clearly doing something wrong. Or at any rate, not doing something right! I do hope you’ll get back to me. Thank you. Rory

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