Goodreads Blog

Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part I

Posted by Cynthia on March 6, 2018
As a writer, all you want is for the writing to speak for itself. But readers, reviews, and book sales don’t magically appear the moment your book is published. Nobody reads a book they haven’t heard of, and most book promotion occurs months prior to the publication date.

We asked an author, an agent, a publicist, and a publisher to share some of their thoughts and tips about book promotion ahead of our panel at the AWP Conference. In the first of a two-part series, find out why it's important to act authentically on social media and building networks and communities ahead of your publication.

Johnny Temple, Publisher of Akashic Books


"These days, authors hear a lot about the importance of their presence on social media. While it's true that social media can be an effective engine for promotion, I would offer a fairly significant caveat that an author's promotion is most effective when the author is truly familiar with and comfortable in the arena of that promotion. If an author doesn't fully "get" social media, of if the author has to force her/himself to participate in social media, then this is a good sign that it might not be effective for promotion.

Potential book buyers are drawn to authenticity, so if an author isn't comfortable on social media, then authenticity will not come shining through. Remember that social media is just one of many "platforms" - too often it is treated as the platform. Some authors are much more effective talking about their work in face-to-face situations, or only with their peers. Peer-based and in-person promotion can be very effective too!

The key point of "promotion" - including advertising, book tours, etc. - is to get people talking about your book. An advertisement in the New York Times will be largely meaningless if it doesn't lead to people talking about the book, which usually happens as a result of people reading the book. The point of an ad isn't that people will immediately start buying the book in droves - the point is to hook in some people, who then love the book and start talking about it to their friends and community.

Ultimately, the recommendation of a friend or someone who is respected is way more effective in terms of selling books than something as passive as an advertisement. This isn't to say that books shouldn't be advertised, just that the goal of an ad, and pretty much all promotion, is to spark the larger goal: getting people talking about your book."

Johnny Temple is the publisher of Akashic Books and one of the main organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival. He also plays bass guitar in the band Girls Against Boys who have toured extensively across the globe. His writing has appeared in the Nation and Publishers Weekly, among other publications.

Lisa Grubka, agent at Fletcher & Company


"Think broadly about growing your platform even before approaching an agent. If you're not active on social media, pick a couple platforms and try them out. Not every platform is right for every author, so experiment a bit to find what's comfortable for you. While agents of course like to see a large following and high engagement, we understand this isn't possible for everyone. In some instances (certain genres of non-fiction, such as lifestyle), social media is a key tool in marketing the eventual book and is thus important to nurture, but in others (fiction) a website can also be important for showcasing one's writing. In general, it's nice to show us that you're involved in your online literary community in a way that makes sense for you.

Consider starting an e-newsletter. If you post regularly on your own website, or want to share writing you publish elsewhere, readers may be interested in signing up for updates. I've had authors successfully publish e-newsletters on a monthly basis; they'll include news about their own work but also interesting tidbits from elsewhere. A couple authors of mine that do this well are Kathleen Barber (author of Are You Sleeping) and Melody Warnick (author of This is Where You Belong). The newsletters keep their books top of mind for readers and potential book buyers, but they're also just interesting and fun to read.

Get to know your neighborhood bookstores and booksellers. If you're working on getting published, introduce yourself and attend store events. If you're promoting a book, talk to the store staff, and ask if you can sign stock (or very politely explain that you're a local author and ask them to consider stocking your book if they don't already). A novelist I represent recently introduced herself to the events manager in a neighborhood store, which led to a brainstorming session that culminated in an idea for an event (including my author) showcasing the work of several local novelists.

Lisa Grubka joined Fletcher & Company in 2012. She represents a broad variety of authors, including a National Book Award winner and several New York Times bestsellers. In fiction, she is seeking literary, upmarket, historical, literary suspense, YA, and more; and in non-fiction, narrative, science, food, and lifestyle. Lisa began her career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and then the William Morris Agency and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Continue reading the second part of our series, which includes advice from a publicist and an author, here.


Heading to the AWP writers conference in Tampa, Florida? Join the panel, Getting the Word Out to learn about book marketing and promotion on Saturday, March 10.

Panelists include Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books; Lisa Grubka, agent at Fletcher and Company; Jessica Greer, Publicity Director at Other Press; and Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me. The panel will be moderated by Cynthia Shannon, Marketing Specialist at Goodreads. See the event details here.


Next: Getting the Word Out: How to Approach Book Marketing to Actually Reach Readers - Part II

You might also like: The Benefits of Running a Kindle Ebook Giveaway

Goodreads Authors can subscribe to the Monthly Author Newsletter by editing their account settings. Not a Goodreads Author yet? Learn about the Goodreads Author Program here.

Comments Showing 1-36 of 36 (36 new)

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message 1: by M. (new)

M. Jones The same old stuff from agents and publishers: be on social media, or else. It's just laziness on their part - looking for books which have an established following and a ready-made fan-base. No matter how good your writing, if you have no time or inclination to be 'engaged', you're stuck. There is less chance than ever of an agent taking the risk with you. And while I love genre fiction - the creativity involved in crafting variations on a well-known theme is massively underappreciated because of the critics' obsession with novelty - the current approach just means less variation and fewer unexpected treasures to be found; after all, the easiest way to gain a fan-base is to write what people already like.


message 2: by Roger (last edited Mar 12, 2018 02:22PM) (new)

Roger Bradbury I agree. It is unfortunately true that book sales are as faddish as other aspects of mass culture. Works that sell, whatever, the literary quality or importance, are heavily promoted by the commercial press and corporate book sellers. It is commerce, not art. If a writer expects it to be otherwise, he or she will be greatly disappointed. The key is to build a following; the question is how? Relying on social media is a bad idea. Book giveaways are a joke. I am casting about for effective promotional tactics. My experience so far is that you must be prepared to do the heavy lifting, and you must have a very thick skin.:Peace Now!|30261927]


message 3: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park We're in the same frame of mind. Without a marketing budget we're relying on word-of-mouth and social media because that's all which is available to us. Also, we're self-published and find there is significant bias against self-published works, particularly by media reviewers. We did get one review from our local newspaper.

We would have appreciated more information about effective promotional tactics as well. Most authors have to do their own promotion as their publishers focus on 'name' authors and put their efforts there. There are promotional websites which charge varying fees for authors to add their books. Goodreads in NOT a book promotion site. Also, how should we engage with readers? We post on our Facebook page and website, asking that readers review our book on Amazon but so far none have. Any other ideas?

Best of success to you!


message 4: by Marie (new)

Marie Blogging can be an effective way to reach out to readers. WordPress blog posts can be automatically sent out to several sites including Facebook and Twitter. A blog about a topic attracts people interested in that topic, who in turn may want to buy a book on that topic.


message 5: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park Marie wrote: "Blogging can be an effective way to reach out to readers. WordPress blog posts can be automatically sent out to several sites including Facebook and Twitter. A blog about a topic attracts people in..."
Thanks, Marie. We have a website blog; being new and non-techies, can you share how to relay our posts to our Facebook page? Many thanks!


message 6: by Marie (new)

Marie I only know about WordPress. There's a Publicize feature that lets you authorize WordPress to publish the post on other sites. If your system doesn't have that, you could copy and paste onto Facebook and include a link back to the blog.

I blogged one of my older books one chapter at a time and have had some moderate interest at no cost.

I also like Amazon Marketing Services, because I only pay when someone actually clicks on the add. So far, it has cost me only pennies and yielded several sales.


message 7: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park Many thanks!
Best of success to you!


message 8: by Roger (new)

Roger Bradbury D.J. wrote: "We're in the same frame of mind. Without a marketing budget we're relying on word-of-mouth and social media because that's all which is available to us. Also, we're self-published and find there is..."

I am self-published too. So, far I have sold more books face to face than on Amazon, except for my interactive play series. I have tried open mics, but there is a very heavy bias where I live toward poetry. Several of the organizers have told me that fiction (what I do) is not welcome. I may try to organize a fiction and drama group next fall. I read poetry, sometimes, but I do not write it. I am a story teller. Writing the sort of poetry I hear at the open mics does not interest me. To say the very least.


message 9: by Tessa (new)

Tessa Borner My husband and I have co-written a book describing our experiences living in WW2 as children, he in Germany and I in England. "English Girl, German Boy" is self published and we have sold copies on Amazon and sold to individual people who have really enjoyed our book. With all the interest in WW2 today and two award winning movies made about WW2 we hope that more books would sell. Our book is truly unique and shows both side of the war. By the way, we had an offer from Hollywood to make our book into a movie but we turned it down because the script did not resemble our book in any way. Anybody out there interested in taking us on?!
Tessa Borner


message 10: by Melony (new)

Melony Rae I have launched the first novel in my series. Marketing yourself seems to cost a ton and I've heard book expos aren't great either because you pay a hefty cost while your book sits among 10,000 others waiting to be noticed. I hear a lot about blogs and websites but if you aren't a prolific author yet and not pushing out 1-2 books a year, why have a newsletter, blog, or website? For my one novel? I need better market routes...


message 11: by Mich (new)

Mich Jones Amazon is very keen to persuade people to publish using KDP but have no interest in helping with marketing. I am desperately trying to get reviews for my books but the few I have received have then disappeared. You can spend a fortune paying for reviews which will be taken off again by Amazon. "Experts" publish pages of words which basically say to use social media but unless you are a whizz kid in this area and spend many hours a day on this, it has no effect. One article I read recommended offering ipads and free holidays to people as an incentive to write a review! I am beginning to despair!


message 12: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park I would suggest using several author support websites to enlist reviewers. We saw a solicitation on one and the editor/author did a fine job. Paying for reviews not only wastes money but seems unethical, at least to us. Offering goodies for reviews is much the same. You're correct: Amazon wants sales, and don't concern themselves with marketing at all. Curious why the reviews posted on Amazon disappeared?

We're new to social media so are struggling to reach readers, but having a bit of success.


message 13: by Marie (new)

Marie Amazon has a policy against compensating people to review your book. Shoppers want genuine opinions. So do I.


message 14: by Pjo (new)

Pjo Riley I'm following these comments and ideas with interest. I'll share that a few of us self-published authors pitched a book event at a local indie bookstore known to be author-friendly, and that led to sales plus an invitation to join other authors at the bookstores' booth during a Women's expo. As women authors, that was a super opportunity. We sold books and gave away two or three small gifts while gathering email addresses for our contacts lists.


message 15: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park There is a book store near here which sells used books but also caters to local authors. We intend to approach them about hosting a 'meet the author' event if possible.


message 16: by John (last edited Mar 16, 2018 05:34AM) (new)

John Day The sad fact is, marketing is all, whatever the product.
The majority of readers tend to buy books written by the same range of authors they have read and enjoyed in the past. No mystery there!
What would change that behaviour?
Price is a good place to start.
Amazon and other book sellers take such a big chunk out of the sale price of a book (e or paper) that frankly, writing to make money is a pursuit of fools. I don't write for money, I write for the enjoyment of it, and having a large readership, but I am still a fool.
Imagine a web site devoted to books. The reader knows what genre they like and can select just those sections of interest.
They will find the eBooks at the same price the author gets in commission at the moment, from Amazon. £0.25 - £0.40 At these prices, there is not much of a risk, buying something written by an unheard of author.
The reader can click the book of interest and be taken to the authors page (his own web site or one created on this imaginary site).
Certain restrictions would be needed, the reverse of Amazon, Goodreads and others.
Best selling authors would be excluded.
Readers would have to pay to get them at a high price, from Amazon et al.
The authors would need to actively promote the site, pointing to their book. No different than they do now, except it would be the imaginary site, not an Amazon link.
Authors would have to actively provide interesting content. (this would be the advert that gets their name out there with readers visiting the site.)
Blogs about them and their interests... Reviews from reviewers who would be part of the site, not in the pocket of the author. Poor reviews would mean the books are taken down. (No point having the clutter that exists on Amazon's site, where new books get lost after day 1)
I hate paypal, but that sort of service would ensure the author gets paid and removes the burden from the site to author. It is a respectable and trustworthy brand.
Downloading eBooks is straightforward and it is possible to do this from the imaginary site. DRM can still be achieved, because every device has a unique ID and the content is encoded to that. However, DRM is easily bypassed, so that is not so important when the cost of the product is so low.

What do you think about that as a solution to help authors and readers. Perhaps restoring the balance in the marketplace.

I could produce such a site, if there was enough support.


message 17: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park It has possibilities. One thing we're learning is that no matter how much we promote ourselves, we're up against the "machine" of the big book outlets such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Can you flesh out your ideas about how to exclude "best selling authors"...not anything against them but the criteria should be straightforward.


message 18: by John (new)

John Day D.J. wrote: "It has possibilities. One thing we're learning is that no matter how much we promote ourselves, we're up against the "machine" of the big book outlets such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Can you..."

The process is simple enough. A list of names would be compiled and they would not be accepted for inclusion. This list would be extended as the site authors can notify the site that someone is unsuitable. Don't forget, if you are not famous, you are being excluded from the best marketing breaks by the book sellers. The same is true about poor writers. They would not be included either. Readers deserve to have only the best books from unknowns offered them.
If you have added your book/s to Amazon, you will have noticed how quickly they get pushed down the list. Most of those new books will be non-sellers, ratings in the millions. The imaginary site will offer only the best, based on trusted reviews by established and trusted reviewers.
If readers were offered the opportunity to review, they would just tick appropriate boxes and not be able to influence the rating. A good or bad review would be evaluated against a host of book components, like character strength, plot strength, quality of writing, grammar, punctuation. The star rating would be worked out from that. A malicious review would be at odds with the general census and would be held over, so it would not affect the rating.
I hope that helps answer your question.


message 19: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park Sounds promising!


message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan Stewart John wrote: "D.J. wrote: "It has possibilities. One thing we're learning is that no matter how much we promote ourselves, we're up against the "machine" of the big book outlets such as Amazon and Barnes and Nob..."

Marie wrote: "I only know about WordPress. There's a Publicize feature that lets you authorize WordPress to publish the post on other sites. If your system doesn't have that, you could copy and paste onto Facebo..."

D.J. wrote: "Marie wrote: "Blogging can be an effective way to reach out to readers. WordPress blog posts can be automatically sent out to several sites including Facebook and Twitter. A blog about a topic attr..."

D.J. There are plugins you can add to your WordPress website that will allow you to post to Facebook, Twitter, etc. with just a click. Plugins are listed in the left column of your dashboard (underneath Pages). When you click on Add Plugin or New Plugin, can't remember, you'll find a search box, just put Social Media in the search. Be sure to pick one that is compatible with your version of WordPress. That way you won't end up with a plugin that hasn't been maintained.


message 21: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara Offering a reader an incentive to write a review, other than a free book, is against Amazon's rules. So that would be why some books have had reviews disappear.
Find out what the rules are and stick with them or you could be booted off the platform.
And don't complain. Who else was publishing your book?


message 22: by Clare (last edited Mar 18, 2018 07:06AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara "most book promotion occurs months prior to the publication date."

Sorry, this is drivel. Many authors write a book a month or a quarter and publish after a quick week of editing.
And nobody actually wants to read a book that has been pushed in their face but is not available to buy, so the promotion window starts not more than a week ahead of publication in most stores, newspapers and professional sites.
The book may be pushed early to industry insiders like librarians, marketing managers and pro reviewers, but that is not a way to reach the reader.
Trad publishers are too lazy to promote authors and add layers of time, work, wages and opinion to each book published. This is how books get held up for years in the process.
Independent authors in my view are best to write a series, because series sell, and not to promote anything until they have a few books out. A reader who likes your first book is your best market for your second book.


message 23: by Leon (new)

Leon Kock In my experience, most of the Facebook etc groups out there are overflowing with authors pushing their own works. Every site I go to, the name of every person posting is followed by a book by, guess who! The author of the post, that is who. I am so tired of this, and therefore want to scream every time I get a post telling me I have to be on social media. Untill, one day. . .
I found a Facebook group called Author’s Circle. What made this group special? They have a simple method of getting their books out there. Any author can join the group, and post their books, BUT - they first have to share two other posts publicly.
The idea is to only post an advert for one of your books, including links of course, every 24 hours. But, for every advert you post, you first have to share two posts from other authors publicly on your timeline.
In that way, authors are helping authors to advertise. Since using this Facebook group, I have seen my sales grow, and I hope I have helped other authors to grow their sales too.
Go have a look, it is the Facebook group called Author’s Circle.
(And no, I am a member only, not a moderator or owner or in any other way associated with the group.)


message 24: by John (new)

John Day Leon wrote: "In my experience, most of the Facebook etc groups out there are overflowing with authors pushing their own works. Every site I go to, the name of every person posting is followed by a book by, gues..."
That is great news Leon. Also your comments about the media being flooded with book posts is very true.
I am certain no one actually reads the posts, even those from bloggers. Have you noticed that there are no likes or responses to them. The number of blogs that have no questions or comments causes me to doubt their value, as well.
I have left Facebook, (December) because they are an absolute shower. The best groups don't allow self promo, except for the chosen few. They also objected when I pointed it out.
I have gravitated to twitter and will see how that turns out.
Thanks for your enlightenment.


message 25: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park We're also weary of the Facebook "Like for Like" requests. We enjoy groups which offer forums for feedback about author services, advertising, etc. Have not looked at Authors Circle but will.

Thanks for the information!


message 26: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park Leon-we searched FB for Author's Circle...the page hasn't been active since 2012. Is there a different title or link?


message 27: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara I do not use facebook but used to find dedicated groups on Linked In very useful, such as Crime Fiction. Some groups allowed ads and some did not, but the object of being there was professional conversation, so we were there to learn and share tips, not to advertise. Then the group functionality was depreciated and LI was sold to Microsoft who depreciated groups still further. Now they are hardly used.
If anyone pushes ads at me every week let alone every 24 hours, they are smartly going to find a blank space where my contact used to be.


message 28: by John (new)

John Day The perennial problem of how to get your new book noticed.
It is all very well to dismiss the struggling author's attempts to advertise, because you don't like to see them, I don't either, but you don't offer a constructive solution.
The so called best sellers are only there, because someone has thrown a lot of money to advertise. You probably don't object to the publicity you see from their publicists.
How do you suggest the unknown author advertises his/her product?
How are you going to see what gems they have to offer, if you blank them?


message 29: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara John, the best advice for new authors is to write more. As I have said, write a series. When someone likes the first book they will buy more, and any free books you give away through Kindle will advertise the whole series. Not much point in giving away a free book if there aren't any more to be purchased.
Every time I make a book free I see an increase in page reads and purchases, but these days, more so page reads, because if your Kindle is as full as mine, you are happier to stream books until you are sure you'll want to buy.
Hope this helps.
Personally, I also give away bookmarks.


message 30: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara By the way, I run full strength ad blockers, so I don't see ads anyway. This is not depriving anyone of trade, because I have never, not once, clicked on an ad or bought a car because someone was driving it over mountains in an ad.


message 31: by D.J. (new)

D.J. Park Clare-have you had results posting information about your work being on Google Books? Readers can preview the work (20%) free. I posted this to my FB and webpage just recently, so don't have any results to pass along.


message 32: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara Hi, I am not using Google Books to read or distribute. When you can pass on any lessons learned, that would be helpful.


message 33: by Steve (new)

Steve Hayward HI John- whole heartedly agree with you and would support your idea of a website. I have written a series of 4 books at my pace and are ready to publish. However, not being a mad fan of facebook and the like, the promotion is going to be a struggle
Steve
John wrote: "The sad fact is, marketing is all, whatever the product.
The majority of readers tend to buy books written by the same range of authors they have read and enjoyed in the past. No mystery there!
Wha..."


D.J. wrote: "There is a book store near here which sells used books but also caters to local authors. We intend to approach them about hosting a 'meet the author' event if possible."


message 34: by Jule (new)

Jule D. Steve wrote: "HI John- whole heartedly agree with you and would support your idea of a website. I have written a series of 4 books at my pace and are ready to publish. However, not being a mad fan of facebook an..."

Clare wrote: ""most book promotion occurs months prior to the publication date."

Sorry, this is drivel. Many authors write a book a month or a quarter and publish after a quick week of editing.
And nobody actu..."


I went to Face book and looked for Author's Circle. The only group I found by that name had only three 6 year old posts. Does the group you meant go by a different name? Thanks.


message 35: by John (new)

John Day Having re-evaluated my objective for writing thrillers and my inability to market books, I came to this conclusion.
1/ I love writing great stories and those who don't know me from a hole in the ground like and highly rate them as well. I don't count friends or bloggers, I cannot be certain of their motives. Why should I stop doing what I love?
2/ For all the messing about and anxiety using Amazon as an outlet for my books, frankly, they are not worth the effort of withdrawing the books from them or adding new ones.
3/ Because Amazon refuses to offer my books for free, the readers who want to read them, but won't risk £0.99 don't buy. Those that do, pay the price, but I get just a few pence. It makes one wonder who did all the work in this deal?
4/ It is unlikely that adding to my personal wealth, which is substantial, will make any difference to my life. I have travelled and embarked on many adventures across the world. Some were memorable holidays, others were highly dangerous, but I survived. Based on the lives of top selling authors that I know personally, their commitment to tours, public speaking and constant media attention would ruin my life.

The solution is to give my books away free. Smashwords and their market outlets puts my books in the hands of hundreds of readers a week. I only started with them a fortnight ago and the take up is heart warming. I feel my effort in writing true thrillers, not the formulaic, single dimension stories other readers are content with is justified.

I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can forget the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google + and all the time wasting marketing that goes with it. I am happy and free of it.


message 36: by John (new)

John Day As a follow up of my post 35, all my 7 books are still amongst the top movers. Secret Cargo, for instance is still in the top 20.
I still don't market, I just concentrate on writing. My new Saint series, book 1 will be published end of next month. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saint-strike... The Saint strikes back by John Day


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