What You Need to Know About Long-Term Marketing and Promotion

I ask every aspiring author the same question: “How do you want to publish?” Normally, what I will hear is, “I want to publish traditionally because I don’t want to do the marketing.”

I get this. When you’re going into authorship for the very first time, you won’t know what the book will be. If you don’t already own your own business, you won’t know the marketing world either. The truth is that you can do your own marketing, whether your publisher is hybrid or traditional.

The one biggest misconceptions I hear all the time is related to marketing and traditional publishing. So many think that if they go with a traditional publisher that this publisher is going to handle all the marketing and promotion for the book.

If you haven’t watched my previous YouTube videos or read past blogs talking about the differences between traditional, hybrid or self-publishing, you might want to catch up on those. For now, I want to talk about how marketing and promotion works when you’re talking about any type of publishing.

What Does Marketing Do For Your Book?

The first thing we want to do in the book industry is to separate marketing from promotion. When we talk about marketing, we’re talking about making sure that your book is available in places people will buy it.

If you are self-publishing, for example, you would want to make sure that your book is on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You might be interested in getting it on iTunes or some or other online retailers. While this is a super basic understanding, this is marketing because you are getting it in front of a market.

We can also make sure that local bookstores carry your book. This is something that’s harder to do as a self-published author, but if you are publishing hybrid or traditional, your publisher should be doing that for you. Your publisher’s job is putting your book in places it will be sold, acting based on what your book is and who it’s going to appeal to. For example, getting it into library journals, library catalogs, bookstore catalogs, and so on so that the book is available.

When we talk about marketing, we might also include press promotion through social media. This includes directing traffic via specific links and prompting readers to review it. This is all marketing. It’s doing the same thing over and over again to get it in front of people.

Why Is Promotion Important?

Promotion is different. Usually, the press will do the marketing piece and you will need to do the promotion piece, ideally with the support of the press. Promotion is getting you, personally, into conversations with your readers. Examples of this would be public speaking, local radio show interviews, conferences, even churches or your local rotary club. This is promotion.

Press cannot do promotion for you. Your publisher cannot do the promotional aspect for you. They can help make connections, guide decisions and help develop strategies. Page & Podium does this all the time. That said, there is no world in which you are going to be able to turn over all marketing and promotion to the press. It just won’t happen.

I want to illustrate why this really matters by bringing up a couple of books I bought because of the author’s promotion. The first of these books is by Sarah Smarsh and her book entitled Heartland. Sarah is from Wichita or outside of Wichita. I went to college in Wichita and really connected with that. How did I know where she was from? Because of her promotion.

One thing Sarah did while leading up to her book launch was that she was placing a lot of guest posts in journalism outlets. She had some stuff in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle but also content in other major national magazines and newspapers. Sarah built up to this with guest essays, guest articles and sharing pieces of her story everywhere. She didn’t come out of the gate as a journalist able to call up the New York Times and get placed there.

The point I’m making here is that I met Sarah Smarsh, not through her book, but through her promotional strategies. She was building a national level reputation through the promotional things she was doing (she also went with a traditional publisher). I was reading those because I’m her target. I’m from the Midwest and grew up working class, a lifestyle that was mirrored in her book.

Using these promotional strategies, Sarah got her book out in front of me. That’s the difference between marketing and promotion. While the press could get the book in front of me, I might not have bought it. But Sarah Smarsh herself put her book in front of me and pushed me to learn more and make the purchase. I have never met her, but I have such a connection with her that I’m always going to buy her stuff. That is a result of promotion, not marketing.

The second book I want to share is called Worth Every Penny and by Erin Verbeck and Sarah Petty. I want to share it because she shares her life as a photographer as well as tips and tricks for running a boutique business. Their indie publisher didn’t put this book in front of me. I learned about Sarah Petty because she has a podcast. Her podcast is for photographers, but it’s a women-centric, values-based podcast, and the way she talked about business really connected with me. She made sure clients got everything they needed, things they didn’t know they needed, made sure branding is really tight and clear and so on. I resonated with her. When her book announcement dropped on the podcast, I had to buy it. I found her podcast valuable, so I expected her book to have the same value.

I hope this clears up the difference between marketing and publicity. Your publisher can get you trade reviews, partners with influencers, and there are things that press can do to make sure your book is out there. But you, the author, will have so much more success if you think about what kinds of promotional activities you might like to do.

There’s No One Right Way to Promote Your Book

When it comes to self-promotion, it’s easy to get so overwhelmed with all the choices within that marketing realm. We generally don’t have a clear sense of how to think about these concepts.

What you need to know about marketing and promotion, whether it’s done by the press or you, there is never going to be one right answer for what’s the best way to promote a book.

I’ve got three things that I want you to think about as you’re moving forward in your promotion strategy. The first thing is to know that all marketing is trial and error. Unfortunately, no one can tell you how to market or promote and it always work forever and always. While I’m exaggerating a bit, the point is that there’s not a right answer.

The second thing is to set up a time period that you’re going to try your marketing strategy out. This strategy is designed based on your book, the people you’re trying to reach, and so on. But you still just have to try it, record your progress, to know if your marketing strategy is truly reaching the people you intended to reach. Give it an honest try, but if it’s not really working, just regroup and keep evaluating it.

The third thing I want to say is that you’ve got to make sure that you’re testing your strategy thoroughly enough before you switch it up. Mike Michalowicz, who you might be familiar with, has a lot of books. One thing he says that resonates with me is that you need to have at least 100 people see that marketing or promotion strategy before you can evaluate whether it worked or not. For example, send out 100 flyers and let it play out before you decide that strategy doesn’t work.

In Mike’s case, he will do reviews of other authors’ books who are in a similar niche to his. He does video reviews. When other people watch his video review, he has his book, Get Different, right behind him so that people see it. Since the books he reviews are similar to his own, he’s getting his own book title out to his target reader. He found he sold more copies of his book doing this. He kept experimenting with placements of his book and altered his strategy as he went to sell more and more copies with his reviews of other authors’ books.

I bring up this story because had Mike never tried this, he would have never been able to dial in his strategy. He also acknowledges in his book, Get Different, that this strategy is not going to work forever. At some point, other people are going to co-opt it, his audience might just get used to his book in the background, maybe video reviews will go down in popularity, all kinds of things can happen. What he’s doing is trying a strategy, seeing how it goes by watching the statistics and sales, and then giving it ample time to make sure he’s testing his strategy and not just bailing.

Evaluate the Resources You Have to Dedicate to Your Book

This brings me to my last point on practical advice on how to shape promotion strategy. Keep in mind, if you are self-publishing, you’ve got to do the marketing piece too. For those working with traditional publishers, the first thing you’ve got to do is sit with yourself and honestly evaluate the resources you have to dedicate to moving your book.

There are two categories: time and money. Time is money. Money is time. But think about how much time and money you are willing to put into promotion to help keep yourself honest about what to expect. You might have a little time and a lot of money, or a little bit of money but a lot of time. I’ll break it down into two groups.

Let’s say you have way more time than money. Generally, you’ll want to schedule some time and reserve that time from now through the life of your book. If you have more time than money, you might want to think about promotion. For example, going live on social media once a week and giving advice that relates to your book. You might have overlapping content, but plan for content that can span the entire life of the book.

If you have a lot of time, another idea that has worked for many authors is starting a podcast. If you’re okay with being on camera, YouTube can be great for circulation. You can do these for extremely cheap or free. For example, The Topeka Public Library here in town has a podcast recording studio that you can book for free. Again, think about the entire life of the book. If you decide to do a podcast that you can only manage once a month, that’s 12 episodes you’ll have to record.

If you’re a people person and want to see the people you’re talking to, you might try to make commitments to speak at a book club or church group once a month, depending on the topic. That said, scheduling once a month talks can feel a little intimidating or embarrassing for some. Just remember that getting in front of these groups, one-by-one, will not only build relationships that will help your book sell, but it will help snowball your comfortability in speaking in front of groups.

Now, let’s say you are short on time but you have money you’re willing to invest. I don’t really know of any promotional strategies that don’t take time, but there are certainly routes you can take that can ease some of the burden of time if you’re willing to invest in them. The main way you can do this is to hire a publicist.

Many times, people will think that if they get a traditional book deal, that the publisher will a hire a publicist for you. While that might be the case for some, it’s not guaranteed. Presses will do that as well. Page & Podium is in the process of this right now. But, you should expect that you, as the author, are going to be the person that is bringing that publicist on and covering that cost. Most publicists are going to expect a minimum of a three-month commitment and on average can cost between $15,000-$25,000.

While hiring a publicist is a rather large investment, it can have a major ROI, particularly if you benefit from your book in more ways than sales. If you’re a business owner or public speaker that will get paid to speak, this will help get you tons of street cred, especially if you’re a first-time author and not super visible. Publicists will also pitch you for media appearances and interviews to help get you out there. Just make sure you have that money to set aside.

A slight step down from a publicist is to hire a person that will do one specialized type of work. This can be much more affordable depending on who you work with, but it can help you gain credibility so you can start to see some exponential growth. If you are somebody who doesn’t like speaking in front of a camera or a microphone, I highly recommend you do some mindset and skill work to help you become more comfortable in those areas. You can hire a speaking coach, for example.

Another thing you can do is hire a social media manager. You want someone who is an actual strategist, not just someone to make Canva graphics and post them to Facebook. You need a growth-oriented social media strategist. You’re going to need somebody who knows how to build your audience up so that you’re not just talking to the same people over and over. That would be another way you can get faster momentum if you have that money to spend.

Regardless of what your balance is, whether you invest more time or more money, keep in mind that this will take time. Most small businesses take three to five years before they turn a profit. I share this because book authorship is also like starting a business. We both want you to be profitable right away, but it is going to take some build-up on the front end to make sure that you have all of your promotion and marketing in place.

All of the tactics we’ve discussed will allow you to do additional income generating activities. Things like paid speaking gigs, higher rates for your consultancy jobs (if that’s something you do), coaching clients, whatever it is that your small business does. The thing that you got to remember is it is always going to be trial and error. There is no one right or one correct way to market any single book because every book is unique. The only way is to get in there, get your hands dirty, put the time and/or the money into building up your strategies so your book gets into the hands of people who need it.

I know it’s challenging to come up with the self-confidence it takes to be visible, but I know you can do it and I know you’ll be great! Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help support you. I would love to hear from you, hear about the book you’re working on, or the book you have been dreaming of.

Happy writing!

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Amanda Edgar

Amanda Edgar

Dr. Amanda Nell Edgar is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and book coach and the founder of Page & Podium Press. Co-author of the forthcoming Summer of 2020: George Floyd and the Resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Amanda has authored two nationally award-winning books and ghostwritten many more.

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