September 11, 2017

What bestselling authors can teach you about marketing self-published books

by Belinda Griffin

Do you struggle to know where to begin with book marketing?

Do you scour books and blogs in search of a step-by-step plan for marketing self-published books, only to find a never ending list of tricks to try and tactics to tackle?

Knowing where to begin and what to focus on to get your book noticed can be a challenge.

You’re not the first author to face this dilemma.

Numerous others have gone before and, lucky for you, are willing to share their wisdom.

The first step when it comes to marketing self-published books is to learn about book marketing - what is it? Why does it matter? What are the key strategies and tactics and, crucially, how do you implement them?

To make this task as simple as possible for you, I’ve listed the basic elements of a marketing plan and gathered together some of the most useful articles from the most experienced and respected self-published authors and professional book marketers around, so you can get straight to the good stuff and learn from the best. You’re welcome!

Why marketing self-published books matters

Marketing is not about convincing people to buy something they don’t want or need; that’s something a sleazy salesperson might do. Instead, marketing is about sharing your message with the people that need to hear it.

You, the author, is the best person to spread the word. And if you’re self-published and without a marketing budget, you’re going to be the only person who can do it.

Find out more about getting started with book marketing with my post How to market a self-published book in 5 easy steps.

If you think the stress of book marketing can be alleviated by getting snapped up by a traditional publisher, you may be disappointed. Read Jane Friedman’s post 3 Things Your Traditional Publisher Is Unlikely to Do to find out why.

For further guidance on book marketing and book launch goals, check out Book Marketing 101: What Works and What Doesn’t (Lessons from My Latest Launch) by Jeff Goins.

Your author website

Your author website is hugely important. It’s your little patch of internet that you have full control over. You can use it to drive potential readers to, as well as journalists and PR people.

Your website should of course include details of your books as well as information about you the author. It should also include sign up forms to encourage visitors to subscribe to your email list. Does your website do all that? Does it look clean and professional? Or are you struggling to know where to begin?

Never fear, these excellent guides will have your author website sorted in no time!

Creating Author Websites: The Definitive Guide by Mary Jaksch and How To Build The Ultimate Author Website (In 1 Hour) by Tim Grahl.

Author email list

I think every author who wants to write for a living should be growing an email list, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Mark Dawson shares his thoughts on email lists in this podcast episode: SPF-046: What IS a Mailing List and Why Should You Have One?

And if you’re wondering how to encourage people to subscribe to your list, read what Nick Stephenson has to say about reader magnets: Why “Just Write More Books” Is Terrible Advice: Introducing Reader Magnets.

Social media for authors

Some authors make the mistake of thinking that social media is where they can focus all of their book marketing efforts. This is a bad idea; your website and email list should be your primary focus. But once you’re on top of those, social media is certainly worth including in your book marketing strategy.

It can be tough to know how to use social media effectively and how to keep on top of it without it becoming a time suck. Luckily for you, Frances Caballo from Social Media Just for Writers has your back. Check out these posts for starters: Not Sure of the Lingo? 59 Social Media Words to Learn and Do Authors Need a Facebook Page?

Plus, Jenn dePaula at Mixtus Media reveals in this great post 8 Ways Busy Authors Can Get Social Media Done.

Selling books on Amazon

Knowing how to get the most out of your book listing on Amazon is crucial to a successful book marketing plan. Don’t know what you need to focus on? First take a look at Author Marketing Experts’ Penny Sansevieri’s infographic at Master Amazon: The Ultimate Quick Start Guide.

One of the most important things to get right on Amazon are your keywords. Find out why and how to choose them with Kindlepreneur Dave Chesson’s post How To Choose The Right Kindle Keywords.

Book reviews

Book reviews are the holy grail for any author and most of us spend a great deal of time obsessing about how to get more of them. Fortunately, Kimberley Grabas has some excellent ideas in her post How to Get Reviews For Your Book (Without Begging, Bribing or Resorting to Subterfuge).

Author blog

Authors may be writers, but it doesn’t always follow that they’re natural bloggers. Can you relate to that? Having a blog is a great way to get traffic to your author website and to grow your author platform, but is it really necessary?

Well, yes, I think it is. I can give you 10 rock-solid reasons why every indie author needs a blog right now!

But don’t just take it from me. Rachel Thompson at BadRedhead Media shares some great no-nonsense tips in her post Do You Need To Blog? What Authors Need to Know Now.

If finding the time to blog is your biggest hurdle, be sure to read Jenn dePaula’s post How Authors Can Blog - Even If They Have No Free Time.

Author podcast

Perhaps if you really don’t want to blog, an author podcast may be more your thing. Find out everything you need to know to get started with Joanna Penn’s incredibly informative post How To Podcast.


Lots of authors believe that if they could just get some national media coverage, their book would be sure to take off. I’m not convinced of this, and rather than chase media opportunities you could be better off focusing your efforts on your own platform building (website, email list, etc).

In her post Attract National Media And TV By Using Keywords In Your Non-Fiction Book Title, Joanna Penn explains that media attention she received in the past didn’t result in any spike in website traffic or book sales. However, there were other benefits, such as brand awareness and social proof. Read the post to get the full story.

So, now you know the truth about the potential benefits of generating media interest in your book, how do you go about getting some attention? Penny Sansevieri comes to the rescue again with her posts How to Get National Media Interested in Your Book and Media Pitching 101 for Indie Authors. Also useful is Jenn dePaula’s post How To Pitch Your Book To Media Outlets.

Paid advertising

Finally we come to paid advertising. It’s by no means essential for book marketing, many self published authors have had success without spending money on paid ads. But if you have some budget and want to give your book an extra push, it’s a good idea to learn how to use paid advertising the right way.

Mark Dawson is well known for his advertising expertise, so definitely listen to his podcast SPF-022: Using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Ads for Effective Lead Generation and Book Sales but if you also want to advertise on Amazon, take a look at Dave Chesson’s free course: Book Advertising – Free Ams Advertisement Course For Authors.

Feeling overwhelmed?

If this all seems like too much bother to take on yourself, don’t rush to hire someone to do it for you. Follow the wise and considered words of advice from Irish indie author Orna Ross, Founder-Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), in her post Self-Publishers: Until You Know How To Market Your Books, Don’t Pay For A Book Marketing Service.

Remember, you don’t have to do everything all at once, a good starting point would be Joel Friedlander’s mini marketing plan: World’s Shortest Book Marketing Plan, and you shouldn’t try to go it alone. If you want to reach out to others for support, read Joanna Penn’s post How To Build A Network Of Writer Friends.

Marketing self-published books requires a great deal of effort, “If you're one of the few who won't be put off by the work, then you already have an edge.” That is perhaps the most important take away from Danny Iny’s post 7 Book Marketing Lessons for the Self-Published Author on

I would love to know which of these links you find most useful, of if there are any aspects of book marketing you are struggling with that I’ve missed. Let me know in the comments!


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