Recently, I read a book by a friend who attended one of my sessions called, “DIY Book Promo: How to Get Your Book into Readers’ Hands Without Spending Money.” I was looking for new examples deserving all-out promotion and this novel ticked all the boxes.
The prose? Brilliant. Compelling characters and airtight plot? Check and check. Cover art to pop out of any shelf or online listing? You’ll learn just how effective in a moment. My friend was ready to tap into the huge and hungry market for romance novels, and Valentine’s Day was just around the corner.
Those at her book launch said all the things an author would want to hear, including several admitting how much they wanted to fuck that book cover. Perhaps more revealing was an animated discussion about which Hollywood A-listers should play the main characters. Looking around the room, I knew immediately this book was fire. The only thing needed was a sustained push by its author. I hoped to hear more about her strategy and success when we met for coffee three weeks later.
“So, how did your book do for Valentine’s Day?”
She shrugged. “It did okay.”
When I pressed, she revealed only a dozen copies sold. “And that’s fine,” she waved. “My words will sell themselves. Eventually.”
I kept it upbeat. “Spring break’s coming up. People want a book for the beach, right? Rum drink, cabana, romance novel.” I pointed. “There’s your next campaign.”
“I know you’re trying to help, Dan, but I’m not a publicist. Can’t an author just be an author?”
I winced. It’s hard to watch another literary achievement wilt because the author couldn’t bother to pick it up and move it into the sunshine. I didn’t say this to my friend, and perhaps I should’ve, but I’ll say it to you: The only books that sell themselves are penned by celebrities. If you’re not famous, you will need a chief marketer. And nobody knows a book better than its author. Before we proceed, however, I need to check in with you.
What’s the goal for your book? Is it something you want to share only with family and friends? Okay, thanks for reading to this point. There’s no reason to stay because my advice won’t help. If you’re looking for thousands of readers or would love to see your book adapted into another medium, I can help — unless you’re rich and can pay someone to promote your book. If this is you, please know my marketing budget has always been zero dollars, so I’ll need you to make room for those who are willing to do the work. Are we all set now? Here’s my preliminary list of what you’ll need:
- A book you really believe in. It must be your best work, or equal to your best. If you aren’t 100% confident in what you wrote, no one else will be.
- Blogger reviews. Here I mean reviews beyond the ones your friends leave on Goodreads. Pitch bloggers who specialize in your genre. They’ve read everyone who came before you (or nearly everyone) so their reviews have credibility. They will be tougher, though, so adjust your hopes to four stars instead of five. Four from a blogger is very good. If you get this score, you’ll have further evidence that your book is worth promoting.
- More engagement on social media. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook — each appeals to different demographics, and they offer different ways to find readers. Their algorithms present a united front, however, in suppressing anything that resembles promotion. Still, keep this in mind: Those same algorithms are tuned to recognize relevance. They aim to increase the platform’s popularity, so boosting your relevance will automatically increase your reach. Find a way to make that happen, even if it’s in a Facebook group or a community gathered around a hashtag. Start small and build from there.
- More events. Bookstore and library appearances are well-known for delivering little return on investment. Most of us have experienced the disappointment of selling few, if any, copies at a book signing. But the event itself isn’t the goal. It’s the hook for what you’re really going after, and I’ll go more in depth on this topic when I present “DIY Book Promo” at the next Imaginarium Convention. That’s July 19–21 at the Holiday Inn Louisville East.
I hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, I’m always available for in-person or Zoom sessions. Message me for details.
In the meantime, all the best with your writing and efforts to promote it.