13 Book Marketing Techniques That Engage Readers

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Learn more about cutting edge book marketing techniques at the Digital Book World Marketing + Publishing Services Conference & Expo

It ain’t easy to turn a book into a bestseller. Harder still is for a first-time author to reach the heights of the charts. But is bookselling success a nebulous, magical achievement “ultimately in the hands of the book gods”? That’s the way Morgan Entrekin, the president and publisher of Grove Atlantic, described it in the recent New York Times article “Long Odds For Authors Newly Published” by James B. Stewart. The first part of the quote in that article quotes Entrekin stating, “A publisher can only do so much.”

Only so much? Actually, a publisher—and the author—can do a lot. Those interviewed by James B. Stewart, however, only mentioned “some” of what  authors and publishers can do to promote their books. Here is a list of all of the marketing activities listed in article. It represents the traditional standard of book marketing:

It’s all about connecting with real people, your readers

It’s all about connecting with real people, your readers

•  “Use … traction with the chains, with Amazon”’
• “Fight for the promotion money to get the book into the front of stores”
• “Get advance quotes from prominent authors”
• “Introduce the author to booksellers”
• “Host a media lunch in Manhattan”
• Get “Amazon.com [to give] the book a glowing review, [and select] it as a best book of the month”
• Get “an exclusive review from prominent author”
• “Send out bound galleys”
• “Talk it up to retailers”
• Get “reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist”

What strikes me about his list is that it’s full of interactions between publishers and publishing professionals—industry people connecting with industry people. On this list, I wonder, where is the engagement with the audience? Where is the communication with the people who are actually going to buy the book?

Publishers should talk to other authors, booksellers, book-trade media. But there is much more to book marketing than that.

Your best connections are connections with your readers

The mass-market book selling models traditionally used before the dawn of the internet are only part of today’s book-selling story. Book publishers and authors must engage in internet-based book marketing strategies. (In addition, they need to have a strategic plan backing up their book marketing campaign.)

Not only are internet-based marketing techniques less expensive than many of the traditional book marketing methods, they do not rely on connections with influential people. In the internet-marketing world, it’s all about gaining connections with regular people. Real people. Your readers.

Bring in direct engagement with actual readers. Capture the attention and the imagination of your niche audience, and they will become customers.

Drum roll please… 13 book marketing techniques that engage real readers

To the above list of traditional book marketing activities, I offer additional book marketing strategies that are aimed directly at readers. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

1.     Author’s blog: Maintain a lively and interesting blog that gets your audience to come to your site.

2.     Book Blogs: Generate attention among bloggers, provide the bloggers with content by guest blogging, offer free books, engage in Blog Tours.

3.     Email: Communicate with your reader on topics interesting to them, not just sales messages.

4.     Facebook: Interact with your audience on Facebook, especially if your genre is romance, children’s fiction, or science fiction/fantasy.

5.     Goodreads: Get active in this community of readers. Goodreads offers contests that draw new readers to your books.

6.     Give-Aways: Raffle Copter lets you organize giveaways. Book bloggers do contests and give-aways too.

7.     Pinterest: Pull together great visuals that your audience finds intriguing and they may find your books intriguing, too. In July, 2013,  Pinterest had 70 million users.

8.     Promotional Events: Do price reduction promotions with email newsletters like  Frugal EReader, Book Deal Hunter, Story Finds, and more.

9.     Slideshare: If your book is nonfiction create some PowerPoints using your expertise. Professionals flock to SlideShare.

10. Snail-Mail Postcards: We get so little snail mail these days, when you send a post card, it gets noticed.

11. Twitter: Become an active Twitter member. You can provide valuable content for your audience—and keep a pulse on what they’re interested in, too.

12. Wattpad: Provide free chapters for readers to browse on Wattpad. If they like what they see, they’ll purchase the rest of your book.

13. You Tube: It’s the second biggest search engine after Google. If you’re not on You Tube, you’re missing out on a great way to engage with your readers.

With methodical  internet-based book marketing, all books can be better sellers than they would without those activities.

With methodical internet-based book marketing, all books can be better sellers than they would without those activities.

All books can be GOOD sellers, if not BEST sellers

The article, “Long Odds For Authors” by James B. Stewart is not a how-to on book marketing and I’m not trying to characterize it as one. Stewart’s article is an observation on the state of book marketing. And that state is in transition.

The inspiration behind Stewart’s article was the meteoric rise of J. K. Rowling’s new mystery (something I’ve written about as well). When the world believed Cuckoos’s Calling was authored by a brand new novelist, sales were anemic. Once we all found out J. K. Rowling was the author, it shot to Number One.

Stewart examines the truism that it is difficult for a debut author, really any author, to hit the bestseller list. I don’t argue with that. Not all books can be best sellers. But all books can be good sellers. At the very least, with strategic, methodical  internet-based book marketing, all books can be better sellers than they would be without such activities.

All books can find their niche audiences—if authors and publishers spend time planning and executing interactive book marketing strategies that truly engage with their audience.

Learn more about cutting edge book marketing techniques at the Digital Book World Marketing + Publishing Services Conference & Expo



Photos of people reading digital books  by Shutterstock.

15 thoughts on “13 Book Marketing Techniques That Engage Readers

  1. Peter McCarthy

    Thanks for the very timely and insightful piece, Beth. I couldn’t agree more. The “odds” are only as good or as bad as publishers choose to make them. Risk-reward, in a sense.

    I’d add to your list of tactics but they’d merely be analogous in intent and likely result — engagement with end readers in “small bet” style that allows for chasing what truly works.

    In the end, these small, (directionally data-backed) correct actions beat the heck out of big bet B2B “hopes.” At least in my book. $.02.

    Thanks again.

    1. Beth Bacon

      As we move from a mass-marketing book industry to a niche-marketing, web-based book economy, often what’s most effective are small, consistent acts of human connection.

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  5. MarkBeyer

    Activity on the soc-media sites is the key component, as you suggest through your list, Beth. When authors complain that soc-media sucks away time, I always suggest they do it when they are tired and cannot rightly focus on book-smart creativity. Soc-media is not brain surgery; it’s a cocktail party, and we artists need to mingle. I’m active in marketing my own two novels — but not as much as I should — while I write my third and hold down a job, etc. If the thought of getting one’s books out to the people who read is not enough incentive, my only question to a writer is, What else do you really have to do?

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