By Jori Hanna
In the age of digital marketing, the world is your oyster as you launch your book. There are millions of readers out there, waiting for a book like yours to cross their screen. But how do you reach them?
There are a few options you can use as you create publicity and marketing campaigns to spread the word about your book.
Publicity and Marketing are often confused and interconnected.
The simplest definition, which leaves out much of the gray area, is this:
Publicity: outreach opportunities that lead to name recognition and gather interest.
Marketing: outreach opportunities that lead to sales.
Publicity is often the broadest step at the top of a marketing funnel; however, publicity efforts do not always lead to sales and income. Often, publicity creates the basis that will eventually, over time, generate organic sales.
As you look into ways to spread the word, a few publicity opportunities may present themselves:
- Blog Tour
- Professional Review Opportunities
- Influencer Outreach
- Street Team (AKA Hype Team)
- Personal Platform
These opportunities are often available to you without costing anything other than your time—however, there are also often resources available to you that will do this initial outreach for you. How you approach these depends on your budget, your resources, and your availability.
Whether you choose to hire a company or do it yourself, setting up a blog tour will require some coordination. The general steps are as follows:
- Research book bloggers in your genre.
- Reach out to the blog administrator and offer to send them a copy of your book in exchange for a feature on their blog or offer an exclusive interview about your upcoming book.
Doing this yourself often gains mixed results. You’ll find some people only work with specific blog companies. Some people don’t have enough site visitors to make it worth it. Other people respond enthusiastically, and some never respond at all.
Prepare for more noes than yeses. This is a normal part of the outreach process and says more about the quality of the blogs you’ve reached out to (the better blogs will be booked up) than it says about your book.
Professional Review Opportunities
Depending on the nature of your book and your publishing goals, landing professional reviews can make a world of difference in your career. If your goal is to be carried in major bookstores and libraries, professional book reviews will make that possible. If your goal is to be a prolific author-published author, you may not need these reviews
Professional reviews are most beneficial when they come from notable book review magazines. If the website in question hasn’t recently attended book conferences or isn’t often noted on the front covers of bestselling books in your genre, the review may not be worth your money. (Note: some book bloggers charge a review fee, as reading and reviewing books is their day job. This review is still valuable, but it’s not front-cover-worthy and belongs in the Blog Tour section, not the Professional Review section of your publicity campaign.)
Some of the larger review magazines have created spaces for independent authors to land reviews in their publications—of note are (this is not a comprehensive list) Kirkus Reviews, Forward Reviews, PW Reviews.
Much like reaching out to book bloggers for your blog tour, it can be incredibly helpful to reach out to Bookstagramers (Instagram), BookTubers (YouTube), and Booktokers (TikTok) and offer them an advance copy of your book in exchange for participation in a cover reveal or virtual tour.
By reaching out to them, you’re asking them to share your book cover (and your name) with their 1000+ followers. This adds to your virtual footprint so that interested readers have something to find when they’re trying to decide whether to take a risk on your book. This can also help create an online community around you and your work, which will feed into itself the more books you publish.
Reach out to these influencers in a similar way you reached out to the book bloggers.
Street Team or Hype Team
If you have some coordination power in you, it can be helpful to gather close to fifty of your actively online friends and ask them to help you market your book through the launch. This team will “hit the streets” for you—sometimes virtually, sometimes physically—to help spread the word.
By providing this team with an advance copy of the book and photos to post on social media, you give them the ability to simulate word of mouth marketing which can influence algorithms. Similar to Influencer Outreach, this will help create a digital footprint.
Depending on your budget, you can also send these team members some nice goodies and a signed, physical copy of your book as a thank you. Bookmarks, book business cards, stickers, and sticky notes are often winners and can be conversation starters for them with their friends.
A general list of tasks for your street team to assist with are items you’d hope most readers would do. Even partial participation will help in your publicity efforts. For example:
- Read the advanced copy
- Tell your friends and family (online and in person) about the book
- Help spread awareness of the book and your posts by sharing them to send people to your social media or your website
- Add the book as To Read on Goodreads and to your Shelf on BookBub or the StoryGraph
- Leave a review of the book on Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon, and anywhere else you can find to leave a review after you’ve read the book
- Take a selfie with the book (or choose a photo from the folder you create) and post it on your social media with “I’m so excited for this book!” as the caption, or something similar, and tag the author in the photo
- Whenever you talk about the book online, use a specific list of hashtags (the title, your name, #bookstagram, etc.) so other readers can find your posts and join the excitement
If you have fifty members in your street team, and all fifty of them leave a review on Goodreads, you’ll have five pages of reviews on your book for interested readers to scroll. It only takes ten reviews to reach a second page, which can give potential readers more confidence in you as an author.
Lastly, your personal platform will help instrumentally as you develop your brand, reach out to members of online communities, and create connections with readers. Your platform is vital in this process because it gives you a measurable way to collect the interest you’ve gathered on other people’s platforms.
Reaching someone in passing via someone’s blog won’t do much for your future marketing efforts but inviting them to join you on Instagram in the short bio you give that blogger to use in the post means you can reach them again and again and slowly, over time, convince them to take a chance on your book. Online marketing is all about relationship building. Prepare your online relationships for success by creating multiple contact points that all funnel back to the spaces you control—your website, your email list, and your own social media.
As you work toward your launch, it’s often best to put these aspects together at least three months before your launch date. This will create the best splash before your book is available to the general market and create the most buzz when you’re most likely to get the best sales numbers. However, depending on your publication schedule, some of these may not become available to you until your book has already launched. That’s okay. They will still help no matter what stage of your book’s first year you’re in. The closer to your release date the better, but these elements will still be helpful later.