Book promotion, also called book advertising or book marketing, is the act of spreading the word about your book to entice people to buy and read it. It can take many forms—there is no single way to successfully promote your book. Your marketing plan should be specially tailored to your book, based on the genre, content, culture, intended audience, and more, that are all unique to your book.
You may think that this limits your potential customer pool, but it doesn’t. With each category your book falls into, you can make several groups for targeted ads. For people who enjoy reading romance? Discuss the romance in your book. For people who enjoy hardcore fantasy? Build up the magic and fight scenes and intense world-saving quest. For horror and thrill? Play into that wit your ads.
There is NEVER a one-size-fits-all in marketing, so your ads should reflect that.
Don’t just make one ad and share it as far and wide as you can. It’s easy, but not very effective. Many major companies out there change their ads based on who they want to entice, and even create specific ads that draw in those who wouldn’t normally consume their products.
For example, if you wanted to sell beer in Canada, the advertisement would involve men, perhaps in plaid, out on the ice. They drink their beer cold. This kind of ad wouldn’t work in Brazil, where the thought of drinking beer in the snow is almost otherworldly. Instead, you’d make an ad for beer with people lounging on the beach; they’d grab a beer to cool themselves off.
Obviously, you’re not going to be selling beer, but the same concept applies. Which group are you advertising to, and how can you make your book appealing to them? If your book features a main character of colour, you’d advertise to people of that same race and culture, mostly, but you can also advertise the same feature to people of other races who want to expand their knowledge, experience, and understanding. Other advertisements probably wouldn’t even mention a main character of colour as a main feature, and instead play into other aspects of the book, such as relationships, magic (or no magic), action, suspense, some element of the plot—the possibilities are nearly endless.
How to Break it Down
If you’re looking at your book and have no clue where to start in breaking it down into potential marketing groups, you’ll probably want to go to a professional. However, they’re expensive, and a lot of “Book Promoters” out there are just scammers who want your money. I’ve had my fair share of private messages from these people, and I’ve known a few authors who’ve hired so-called professionals only to receive no decent help whatsoever. In my opinion, hiring a professional book promoter/marketer means that they discuss your book with you and come up with a comprehensive launch and marketing plan that will actually get you sales.
If you want to try your hand at it on your own, though, here’s where you can start.
First, consider your target audience. What kind of person pops into your head when you think of someone reading it? Is it teenaged boys? Educated adults? Preteen girls? Children? Middle-aged women? That is your main focus group.
From there, split your book into its main components. What is your genre? Are there any subgenres? What is the main course of the plot? Who is your main character? Age, race, personality, etc. Use this to either refine your existing groups or make new ones. If your book is a hardcore science fiction space opera, you’d want to target members of similar fandoms such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and the like. If it’s a teen supernatural romance, you’d want to target fans of Twilight or other books in that area. If it features an LGBTQ community member as a main or important side character, you’d want to share it within those community groups, maybe even publish before or during the month of June, when Pride is at its yearly high point (you’ll definitely want to push more promotion during this month).
Knowing your audience is VITAL to success.
If you still can’t think about these things for your own book, you can always practice with a book that already exists out there and is popular. Take any book off your shelf and try to remember when you bought it. How did you come across it? What made you buy it? When was it published and where was it advertised? You’re obviously someone who bought the book (maybe you’ve even read it already), but who else would enjoy this book? What would they like about it?
Case Study: Harry Potter
These books were first published starting in 1997 (ending in 2007), and the movies came out shortly after. The main target audience for the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is children, 9-11 years old, because they are either the same age as Harry, the main character, or getting there, at which point they can imagine getting their own Hogwarts letter upon reaching that age.
This series is also widely enjoyed by adults. Most things—especially movies and TV shows—enjoyed by children should also be somewhat enjoyable to adults because parents will have to endure hours upon hours of content. So what makes Harry Potter appealing to adults?
It begins with the complexity. Despite only being written for children, there are layers to the themes and messages within the books that can be applied to everyday life. There are deep quotes and thoughtful points made, even if it flies over children’s heads before they understand. The books are also somewhat satirical to British culture and politics, which makes them amusing for readers in the UK. On top of that, there is a grandeur of the magical world; adults can escape the stress of their lives and dive into an epic story that isn’t quite high fantasy but still contains high stakes and battles of good vs evil.
How to Make Successful Advertisements
Even though adults enjoy Harry Potter, you wouldn’t market the story directly to them. It doesn’t match the theme, and they often wouldn’t go for it, opting to read books for adults instead.
The way to market a kids book to adults is to target parents and highlight why they should buy it for their kids. Most children’s books are targeted this way. Unlike with toys or movies, which can be shown as super fun and have kids begging their parents to buy it, you can’t really make an exciting commercial for a book (book trailers are more common for older audiences). For kids, if the cover looks fun when they see it in the store, it can catch their interest, but beyond that, there isn’t much you can do to market to kids, who don’t look for new books the way adults do. To sell kids’ books, you need to entice their parents to by it, to convince them that your book will be entertaining for their kid, but also add value to their kid’s life.
Books for older generations are a bit trickier, as you can’t just market toward parents—you have to market toward the people who will buy it for their own enjoyment.
School-age kids and teenagers are likely to buy a book if they find it at their school—in the library or popular among their friends. Getting your book into schools is a big way to promote, whether it’s just a copy in their library or you actually go to the school in person and make a presentation.
As for adults, they’re the most common to search for new books online or in a bookstore. The number of people who’ve reached adulthood and still read is dwindling, but there are still many around the world, and you know that they read because they enjoy it. They also don’t have a lot of free time, generally, so marketing your book to them should most clearly demonstrate the features of your book that they might enjoy. This limited amount of time means they’re more selective with what they choose to read.
Creating Your Own Ads
These are easy enough to create using Photoshop, but I highly recommend hiring a digital artist to create them if you’re not confident in your own skills. Nothing’s worse than an unprofessional-looking advertisement, because the quality of the ad speaks directly to the quality of the product in people’s minds. If you aren’t willing to invest in your ads, it makes people wonder if you’re really serious about your book, or if you’re just trying to make a quick buck. Someone who is passionate about their work beyond the dollar-amount shows through in the effort they put in.
What I’ve discussed in this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marketing your book, so don’t stop here. If you’re intent on doing this on your own, further research is highly recommended. Make sure you’re confident in your knowledge, learn more if you’re uncertain of anything, and remember that there are writing groups out there where you can ask for help (and offer it in return). The exchange of information is the most effective way of helping fellow authors—as well as build rapport among people who might be interested in buying your book.