If your book isn’t selling what you hoped, you can use these questions as a checklist to determine whether you’ve done everything possible to help it reach the right readers.
Of course, you don't have to do everything on this list, but choosing elements from each section will help your book stand out from the crowded market.
If you want to fill it in, you can download it by clicking the links below.
This is an excerpt from How to Market a Book Third Edition by Joanna Penn, available in ebook, print and audiobook.
• Do you have the right attitude and mindset toward marketing? Have you reframed it as a positive, creative process that can be incorporated into your author life?
• Are you taking responsibility for your book sales success? Or are you waiting for others to do the work for you?
• Are you willing to learn new things and give marketing ideas a try?
• Do you understand that marketing is more than just a book launch?
• Have you set aside a budget in terms of time and/or money for your book marketing?
• Have you decided on the WHY behind your book marketing? What drives you? What will keep you going through difficult times?
• Have you decided on your definition of success for this book and for the next five years of your author career?
• Have you worked out how to schedule time for writing and marketing activities within your busy life?
• Have you looked into using a Virtual Assistant to help you with marketing if you’re struggling on your own?
• What kind of marketing is fun and sustainable for you? What is the best use of your time and resources?
• What have you learned from your book marketing activities in the last 30 days? How can you use your lessons learned to improve your marketing for the next 30 days?
• Have you decided how you will cope when it all becomes too much and you get overwhelmed?
Your book fundamentals
• Are you happy that you have produced the best book you can for the readers you want to reach?
• Have you identified your comparison authors?
• Have you clearly identified your target market? Do you know where they hang out online or offline and where you could reach them?
• Is your book cover design professional and suitable for the categories you are publishing in? Does it resonate with your genre and give the reader clear expectations for the book?
• Have you read through and noted down the elements of the sales descriptions from bestselling books in your category?
• Have you written and optimized your book sales description based on copywriting principles?
• Have you spent time looking at the categories where your comparison authors sit on the online bookstores? Do you have a list of categories that would suit your book? (Check out the genre reports at K-lytics if you need help)
• Do you have a list of keywords that you can use in your book’s metadata? Have you considered using some of the useful tools to help you choose the best keywords? (I use and recommend Publisher Rocket)
• Have you decided on whether you will publish exclusively on Amazon through KDP Select or whether you will go wide? Do you understand the pros and cons of exclusivity? If you have chosen one or the other and you are revisiting older books, have you analyzed your sales by platform and made a decision about changing your publishing process?
• Have you chosen a pricing strategy that suits your situation? Have you checked the prices in your category for similar books? Does your price fit?
• Have you used free or price pulsing along with paid promotion to get your book moving?
• Do you have tiered pricing so readers can try you out for free or cheap and then funnel into your other books?
• Have you considered using boxsets or bundling, whether as a single author or as part of a collaboration?
• Are you writing a series of books or at least aiming for the same type of reader so you can link the books in a boxset? Have you used the Series field when publishing to link the books together on a series page?
• Is your book available as an ebook and a print book? Is it available in all countries on the same day so readers can buy it if they hear about it?
• Have you set up your Amazon Author page and linked your book?
• Do you have a notice at the back of your book thanking readers and asking them to leave a review?
• Have you tried using free promotions to get reviews on your book?
• Have you tried using a Goodreads or other giveaways to get reviews on your book?
• Have you identified appropriate book bloggers and review sites and submitted your book to be reviewed? (Reedsy has a list of book bloggers by genre)
• Have you sent out Advanced Reader Copies and asked your email list or Street Team to leave reviews?
• Have you identified free or paid promotional services that will email their list or promote on social media? (Remember, BookBub is only one option. There are many more!)
• Have you tried using Amazon Ads? (Kindlepreneur has a free course)
• Have you tried using Facebook Ads?
• Have you tried using paid advertising on other social media sites or blogs that might be useful for your genre?
• Have you scheduled multiple ads around a particular launch period in order to use the ad stacking method?
• Have you organized your production and release schedule to make the most of the algorithms in the initial 30/60/90 days?
• Are you writing more than one book? Are you committed to building a long-term author platform and marketing your books over time?
• Do you have an author platform already? Do you have any way to reach potential readers right now? What can you use from your existing networks?
• What is your promise to the reader? What experience are you offering them? Does your book cover and author brand resonate with that promise?
• Have you decided on your author name? Why might you consider using multiple author names for different books?
• What words, images and colors do you want to be associated with your author brand?
• Revisit your comparison authors. What words, images and colors are associated with their brand and what can you learn from them? How can you model success?
• Are you using a professional author photo that resonates with your brand?
• Do you understand the principle of co-opetition and social karma? How can you work with other authors in your niche for mutual benefit?
• Have you set up a professional author website that you own with at least an About page, a Book page and a Contact form?
• Do your book pages contain links to all the places your book is sold?
• Have you set up an email list signup and added it to your website?
• Are you offering something of value in exchange for a reader's email on the sign-up page?
• Do you have a notice at the back of your book directing readers to this free offer?
• Have you set up an auto-responder series, even a simple one, for your email list?
• Have you decided what you will send in your regular broadcast emails?
• Are you keeping your list warm by contacting them regularly with useful, entertaining or inspirational content?
• Have you started building a Street Team or review team of super-fan readers?
• Have you decided how you will use content marketing? How will you use text, video, audio or images in your content marketing schedule?
• Will you maintain a regular blog around your specific niche? How will that tie into your book marketing? What benefits will it provide for your target market? Are you committed for the long term?
• Do you understand the principles of copywriting for headlines and how you can optimize your blog for search engines and traffic?
• Will you pitch for guest blogging on other sites? Have you identified specific target blogs that resonate with your audience? Have you read the submission guidelines and do you understand what type of content their audience prefer?
• Have you looked at how images are being used in your niche? Have you played with Canva or PicMonkey to create your own images? Have you identified how you will use images as part of your marketing?
• Have you set up social media profiles on the major sites? Have you picked one or two primary social media platforms and linked everything to your author website?
• Do you know what you will share regularly on social media in order to provide value for your target readers? Do you understand how social media can sell books?
• Have you spent some time learning how to use the specific social media site/s you want to use? Do you understand the often unspoken rules of social media etiquette?
• Are you being consistent with your social media sharing?
• Are you scheduling your social media to reach readers in different time zones?
• Have you thought about how to optimize your time on social media to avoid time suck? Have you looked at the scheduling tools available?
• Have you considered starting a podcast? If yes, how will that fit into your wider book marketing or business strategy? Do you understand the time it involves and have you budgeted for that?
• Have you listened to podcasts in your niche in order to understand the best way to use podcasting in your book marketing?
• Have you identified and pitched appropriate podcasters in your genre for interviews around your book? Do you know how to be a great podcast guest?
• Have you considered how you could use video in your marketing? Have you watched YouTube and checked view counts to see what type of videos resonate with your audience? Have you tried using live video or video ads to see if that works for your book?
• If you have audiobooks, have you used promo codes to give away copies to audiobook reviewers? Have you promoted your audiobook on podcasts? Have you embedded a SoundCloud clip into your book page? Have you created a separate audio page on your author website? Have you tried paid advertising to audiobook listeners in particular? (More in my book, Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting, and Voice Technologies)
• For marketing print books, have you given away Advance Reader Copies? Have you made sure your book is available at live events or festivals? Have you considered direct mail or advertising to booksellers or libraries? Have you fostered relationships with booksellers or distributors, schools, librarians, book clubs and other places where print books are directly sold?
• Have you considered how merchandizing could fit into your book marketing? Have you checked out print-on-demand merchandizing options at Society 6 and other sites?
• Is there a newsworthy story hook around your book or around you as the author? Have you crafted a press release or story pitch and sent it to targeted journalists?
• Do you understand the pros and cons of seeking out traditional media? If you want to hire a publicist, do you understand how to make that worthwhile?
Launching and relaunching your book
• Have you decided on your book marketing strategy? Do you know what you will do and what you won't do for this launch or for your author marketing in general?
• Have you focused on one particular book marketing goal so you don’t get overwhelmed?
• Do you have a clear idea of what you will action per author name and over what time period?
• If you have already been marketing for a period of time, have you revisited each book and looked at what you could do to relaunch it or improve sales?
• What are your book launch or relaunch dates?
• Have you set aside time in your schedule to focus on your book launch just in case more opportunities come along?
• What is your definition of success for this launch?
• Have you built relationships with influencers or authors in your niche? List them out along with any ideas for working with them on this launch.
• Have you pitched bloggers or podcasters for interviews or guest posts?
• Have you built your email list and told them about the upcoming launch? Have you built a Street Team or do you have early reviewers ready to read?
• If you're using pre-orders, have you set them up on the respective stores?
• Are you ready with your book cover, categories and keywords, as well as your book sales description?
• Have you sent out Advanced Review Copies?
• Have you set up the book page on your website along with links to all respective stores? Have you set up the book page on Goodreads?
• Have you commissioned any images that you will need for marketing?
• Have you pitched a newsworthy idea to journalists or sent out a targeted press release? Are you working with your publicist (if you have one) to ensure maximum reach?
• Have you scheduled price promotions? If you have one major price promotion, have you stacked other ads around that to maximize sales?
• Have you scheduled social media or are you ready to share on launch?
• Have you prepared your book launch party, whether it is physical or digital?
• Have you checked that your book is setup correctly when it’s live on the stores? Have you bought it to check the formatting?
• Have you sent out emails and told fans on social media that your book is available?
• Have you taken screen prints of the launch and ranking for social proof later?
• Have you assessed what worked during launch and what you can learn and put into place for next time?
Need more help?
There's much more detail in How to Market a Book, available in ebook, print and audiobook formats.