Book marketing: Where should you start?

You’ve written a book. Now what?

Authors often think that writing the book is the hard part . . . until they discover they have to market it, too.

This comes as a shock to many — especially those with traditional publishing contracts who expect the publisher to take care of it.

It doesn’t work that way.

Regardless of the publishing model used, all but the very top-tier authors have to invest significant time and energy into book marketing. Once new authors realize this, they inevitably ask, “Where do I begin?

Start your book marketing with these 5 steps

You begin by understanding that your goal is to figure out what works for your book and what doesn’t. Do more of what does work and less of what doesn’t.

In addition, know that book marketing requires the same slow, steady, and consistent effort that went into writing your book. You might not see instant results, but if you’ve written a good book and you’re supporting it with the right tactics, you’ll see progress and results.

Here are the first steps to take to make sure you reach the right readers with your book’s messages, whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

1. Identify your ideal reader.

Who will love your book? (Pro tip: It’s not everybody.)

You can’t skip this step. Most of what you do to promote your book will be a waste of time if you aren’t promoting to the people who enjoy books like yours.

If you wrote the book for yourself, then your ideal reader might be people like you.

Learn as much as you can about that target audience.

You want to know your ideal reader’s:

  • Demographics — age, gender, marital status, geography/location, income range, etc.
  • Psychographics — lifestyle, life stage, hobbies/interests, etc.

Use this information to learn where you’ll find them online and in the real world.

For more on this, read “The formula for more sales” on this blog.

2. Learn as much as you can about book marketing.

Most authors skip this step. (Bad move.)

Instead of studying how to promote a book and what tactics will reach their book’s ideal reader — their target audience — they copy what they see others doing.

As a result, unless the author you’re mimicking (a) writes books that your target audience reads and (b) is successful, that approach won’t get you very far. You want to do what works for your book, not anyone else’s.

The process for that is:

  • Know who will love your book
  • Know where to find those people
  • Know which book marketing strategies and tactics will help you reach the right readers where they are

To give you a head start, my just-updated and revised “Book Marketing 101 for Fiction” and “Book Marketing 101 for Nonfiction” e-courses teach you all of that — and more. Each course relies on my hands-on experience as well as my work teaching hundreds of authors how to save money by learning what to focus on for their book — and what they can leave behind.

Whether you learn it from one of my courses or somewhere else, your goal is to be clear on what will work for your book and your audience — not what works for anyone else.

3. Pick one tactic and master it.

After learning as much as you can about how to market your book, pick the one tactic you think is the best fit for you and your book based on:

  • Your ideal reader/target audience
  • What you do best
  • Your personality
  • The amount of time you have available

For example, I might tell you as your book marketing coach that public speaking will help you sell more copies of your memoir. But, if the thought of public speaking frightens you more than snakes frighten me (and that’s a lot!), then that tactic won’t work for you.

But, if I suggest that you use guest blogging to promote that memoir and you enjoy writing, that might be where you start.

There’s no point in putting your effort into learning how to do anything you already know isn’t a good fit for your time, interests, or skills.If you don’t like doing it, you’re not going to make the time for it, right?

4. Track your results

Once you’ve mastered the tactic and begun implementing it, monitor your book sales.

book marketing 4

Is it working? Are you selling books?

If it’s helping you sell books, do more of it.

If it isn’t, there are two likely reasons:

  • You aren’t executing it properly.
  • It’s not the right tactic.

For example, I see many authors complain that Facebook ads don’t work.

I also see their ads.

Trust me, it’s not the tactic.  It’s the execution.

If you’ve nailed the execution and it still isn’t working, try another tactic.

5. Take your time.

book marketing 5Many authors mistaken believe that they need to achieve category best-seller status on Amazon within the first week of publication.

If that doesn’t happen, they feel like failures.

The only way you can fail with your marketing is if you sit around expecting your book to sell itself.

It won’t.

You need to make things happen. And that takes time. Plan for that.

It also requires that you make book marketing a priority. Schedule time to do it every week, then stick with that schedule.

Stuff happens

Finally, don’t worry about making mistakes. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. What matters most is that you try. Because if you don’t, the people you wrote your book for won’t learn about it. They won’t read it. They won’t love it.

Give them the chance to discover your book.

Do one thing right now that will contribute to your book marketing. You won’t regret it.

What do you need to learn how to do to market your book effectively? Tell us in a comment. 

Tip of the Month

I like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

In the May 30, 2018 post, you learned “How to write an op-ed column or essay.” Now I’ve got a resource that will help you place that op-ed.

This list at the Op-Ed Project website (a wonderful resource for authors who understand the value of this communications tool) provides submission guidelinebook marketing 3s and an email contact for more than 100 print and online publications that accept opinion essays.

While you’re on that site, be sure to explore all that the Op-Ed Project can offer you. A well-written op-ed can have an impact on the people you want to influence.

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Sandy,

    I wish I knew which language I need to speak to convince new authors that they MUST market their books. English has not worked as well as I’d like. Traditionally-published authors expect their publishers to take care of this, and self-published authors think they just need to find that ONE thing that will bring them an avalanche of sales. Case in point: One author recently confessed his disappointment that he didn’t sell a single book after plunking down $4800 for a booth at a popular book festival. Had he signed up for my coaching, there’s no way I would have advised him to invest money this way, especially as a standalone effort with no other plans or activities to promote his appearance. *Sigh*

    I love it when a prospective client gets it and says those magic words, “Where do I begin?” That’s when we plan a customized book marketing roadmap, and off we go!

    Thanks for your continued efforts to drive home the critical importance of marketing.

    1. That’s why I love working with authors as their book marketing coach, Flora — it gives me an opportunity to get and keep them on solid footing. We work together to focus on the right tasks and goals. (Authors, get more information on working with me one-on-one at https://buildbookbuzz.com/speaking-coaching/.)



  2. As a would-be self-published author, marketing will be my greatest challenge. For one thing, I’m actually having almost as much trouble finding a decent self-publishing firm as I am finding an artist to do the cover and back art I’d like for the print edition. Second, I don’t consider myself a people person. I used to say the more I get to know people the more I love my dog. My dog passed away more than a year and a half ago, and I’m still not a people person! But I do understand that, as a self-published author, all of that marketing will pretty much fall on me. I’m not so naïve or arrogant as to believe the money will just start flowing in like pollen during a seasonal change, once I get the book published, and my beach house in just a phone call away. But, for introverts like me, the thought of sitting at a table with stacks of my books in front of a Barnes & Noble is still somewhat daunting.

    1. Hey Alejandro, as you learn more, you’ll see that sitting at that B&N table is probably your least effective tactic, so don’t worry about that one! There’s a lot you can do as an introvert — you might find this article I wrote on that topic helpful: https://buildbookbuzz.com/the-shy-authors-guide-to-book-promotion/. You’ll probably discover a few things you can do w/out having to talk to a soul! Finally, I’m really sorry about your dog. : (


  3. This is fantastic! Thank you so much! I just clicked on the resource link in the ‘tip of the month’ and a whole new world of beautiful souls just opened up 🦋 Wishing you a wonderful day.

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