5 essential book promotion tools for a first-time author

Why did you write your book?

Was it so you could say you did it — something to cross off your bucket list? For many that’s enough. After all, it is a huge accomplishment. Nothing wrong with that.

Or, did you write it so that others would read it? If that’s the case, you have to make sure they know about it.

Many of you know this and are smart enough to lay the groundwork long before the book is available. Some of you, though, are surprised to discover that writing the book isn’t enough. You thought that once it was published, people would find your book and love it.

You probably know by now that it doesn’t work that way.

You have to work hard to let your book’s target audience know about the book — often as hard as you did writing the book.

The right tools

Don’t worry, though. If you have the right tools in your book promotion toolbox, you’ll be able to build a solid foundation for your book’s success. And, just as a screwdriver, hammer, and saw serve different purposes, each one of these five book promotion tools contributes in a unique way.

These aren’t the only tools you’ll need in your toolbox, but they’re the ones that help you build a solid foundation for your book promotion success.

1. A plan

You might have heard that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Yogi Berra reminded us, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”

Take some time to learn about book marketing, then develop a plan that incorporates tasks that will help you get your book title in front of its target audience. Build your plan around:

  • The tactics that will reach your target audience.
  • Your skills.
  • The time you have available.
  • Your budget.

Get a book marketing plan template and sample plan in Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.

2. An optimized Amazon page

book promotion tools 2If you have a publisher, that company will control your Amazon page, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide input and request changes. If you’re self-published, there’s no middleman — you’re responsible for everything that’s there.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Enable the “Look inside” function.
  • Include a detailed book description that’s engaging and accurate and includes the keywords readers will type into Amazon’s search bar to find books like yours.
  • Select the right category by drilling down in the category list rather than selecting the umbrella category (see example image on the right).
  • Pursue reader reviews.

3. A website

I’m a little surprised at the number of authors who don’t have one. It’s essential in today’s online-driven marketplace. Ideally, you’ll have not only the bare minimum — information about you and your book(s) — but a blog, an email opt-in form that helps you start building your list by offering a free gift in exchange for that email address, and a book excerpt (fiction) or table of contents (nonfiction), too.

Your site doesn’t need a lot of glitz and glamour, but it does need to look and feel as good as your book. Find a few that you like and use them as role models. Hire a pro if you can — it will make a difference.

4. A press release that announces your book

You plan on sending out review copies, right? Every time you send a review copy, whether it’s an ebook or a printed copy, you want to include a press release that announces your book’s publication and describes what readers will find in the book.

It is the most essential author publicity tool because it has so many uses.

5. A whizbang, knock-em dead book announcement e-mail message

All you’ve talked about for the past year (or two, or four) is the book you’ve been writing. Now you want to tell everyone in your e-mail address book that it’s finally published and available.

Be careful about how you share the news, though. You don’t want to overwhelm or annoy them, and you certainly don’t want to guilt them into buying your book. Remember to emphasize what the book will do for them, not what it’s done for you.

There are other tools you might want in your toolkit, too, including an email list and a Facebook page. But if your time is limited (and whose isn’t?), you can be assured that these essentials will work hard on your book’s behalf.

What single tool or tactic has done the most for you to help people discover your book? 

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. You say it’s essential to have a press release to announce my book. I have a press release my publisher made for me, but I have no idea how to use it.

    To whom am I supposed to send it and what else am I supposed to do with it?

    1. Paul – I just saw your comment, and am taking the liberty of replying even though I’m not Sandra and this isn’t my blog!

      I used to contribute for a national newspaper in the UK, and most journalists / bloggers I know are inundated with press releases that are wither irrelevant or fail to make the “interest” clear. On the other hand, the press releases that “work” are those that are timely, focussed on the readers’ interests, or which provide extras such as author availability for interviews.

      A press release might not get lots of traction in the national media, but it might have more interest at local level – or with specialist publications. For that reason, you might want to adapt the wording to suit different audiences.

      Hope that helps!

  2. Great advice! One of the best things about being self-published is the freedom you get on pricing, promotions and launch strategy. So on your first ever book launch, it can make sense to offer your book free for a limited period of time to entice reviewers (who you’ve identified and contacted) to download and review your book. That can at least get the ball rolling!

  3. Great to the point essentials! Should be easy to implement. Thanks! From my little experience in writing and self-publishing, I tend to struggle with the element of time and promotion (points 3, 4, and 5), but I guess time has to take its time. In attempting to maximise, I stumbled upon a tool or a web platform where an author, or an enthusiast writer can publish small short stories or excerpts or chapters of their book. Narratics.com is the site. Worth having a look I think.
    Thanks again Sandra

    1. Thanks for the tip, Elie — it looks interesting!

      As for time, yes…time and timing can be challenging. When it comes to having enough time, sometimes all you can do is pick one thing to do, and do it well, because that’s all you have time for.

      I hope it all goes smoothly for you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *