20 Marketing Questions Self-Published Authors Must Answer

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

shutterstock_192738707If you’re a self-published novelist, your line of books is your small business. Like any small business, you need a marketing strategy.

There are lots of marketing activities that you can engage in to promote your book, but before you start doing any of them, take the time to think like a marketer by asking yourself these 20 questions.

Your Audience

1. Who is in your target market? What is their age, gender, geographical location? What kinds of other products do they like (products that have nothing to do with your book). They may be just like you, but don’t assume that’s the case. They may have values and preferences that are very different from yours. The more you understand the whole life of your readers, the more effectively you can communicate with them.

2. Do you have a database of fans? If not, do you have a plan to gather email addresses at your next event, via your web site, or other venue?

3. What kinds of activities do your readers like—in addition to reading your books? (For example, do they like rodeos or flower shows or yoga retreats?) Do you participate in those kinds of activities and reach out to these types of people?

Your Competition

4. Who is your competition? Name the authors and their books. What aspects of their books are similar to yours? How are your books different? How much more (or less) popular are they and why? What marketing activities do they do to promote their titles? Where do they sell their titles—are your titles in those same venues?

5. What do your competitors’ book covers look like? Do your covers have the same look and feel so that customers can immediately recognize the genre? Are your covers of the same—or higher—design quality?

Your Identity

6. Do you have an author page on Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook? What does this page say about you? (Do the pages make you seem funny or serious; open or aloof?) Does the persona portrayed on the pages fit with your book’s style?

7. Is your photo the same everywhere? Was it taken by a professional photographer? Does it match, in style and mood, the photos of other authors in your genre?

8. Is your bio complete, appropriate to your genre, and consistent everywhere on the internet? Does the bio make people believe you’re uniquely suited to writing the kinds of books you write?

Your Marketing Activities

9. How much time—realistically—can you devote to marketing your novel? In my experience, I’ve noticed that burnout is the number one reason novelists give up on marketing their book. They promise themselves they’ll spend 20 hours a week marketing their book when realistically all they can devote is 15 minutes every other day. Then they get frustrated that they didn’t achieve their goal—which was impossible—then they quit marketing. 15 minutes of marketing three times a week may be enough to keep a buzz about your book going—if you stick to your schedule and keep it up consistently week after week, month after month, year after year.

10. Do you have a plan to reach out to your fan base on a regular basis via social media,Goodreads, or an email newsletter?

11. Do your social media message topics match the themes of your books?

12. Have you scrutinized the comments that people have made about your books so that you understand the things people like about your books? Do people like your humor, your action scenes, or the way you depict setting? Be aware of the elements that your fans respond to, and make sure those elements make their way into your social media messages.

13. Do you have a web site? Does your web site include quotes from people who have reviewed your books? Does the site include sample chapters? Does it include articles that concern the topics in your books? Your site easy to find in a Google search?

14. Do you know the leading book bloggers in your genre? Do they know you? Have you sent review copies of your books to those bloggers and received favorable reviews on their web sites?

Your Line of Books

15. Have you written more than one book? If not, start writing book #2, then #3 and #4. Successful novelists always have more than one book.

16. Do all of your books fall under the same genre? If you have to spread your marketing activities around to different audiences, you’re giving yourself a lot more marketing work to do. Efficiency dictates that you stick to the same genre. (This is a business, remember. If you run a lingerie shop, is it smart start selling fishing tackle?)


17. Do you belong to a group of writers who share marketing ideas with you?

18. Do you regularly attend writers’ conferences that focus on the latest trends and techniques in your genre?

19. How many other authors do you consider colleagues and friends? Do you give them your support and encouragement? Do they support and encourage you? Having a supportive cadre of peers can help boost your morale when it’s down and keep you informed about new trends.

 20. Do your family members and those people closest to you know how much your writing means to you? Do they support you emotionally and give you the time you need to dedicate to your craft and your marketing?

Once you answer these questions honestly and fully, you can begin to make a marketing plan for your novel. Treat your novel’s marketing as seriously as you would a small business—because even if you’ve got a full time job that pays the bills, being a self-published novelist is like having a second career.


Image via Shutterstock.

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