Pop quiz. When should start marketing your book?
- The day you finish writing it.
- The day it’s actually published.
- Right now — even if you haven’t written a word yet.
You might be surprised to learn the answer is definitely C. Having an audience already established and excited to buy your book is the key to a great book launch. In fact, getting this wrong can really set you back when it comes time to publish your book.
But you’re probably thinking “How can I market a book that doesn’t even exist yet?”
It’s a great question that sounds like it belongs in a MasterClass. And I’m going to give you 3 strategies for getting started.
1. Start Building Your Online Presence.
One of the best ways to promote your book is to promote yourself. What people think of you as an author (and as a person) will play a huge role in what they think about your writing.
Now, there are several ways you can start to build your author brand. And the number one step to any of them is to start writing. Again, that doesn’t mean you need to have all the parts of your book written already. You can use other avenues including:
Your own blog
If you don’t have a blog… you should really consider starting one. This is one of the key starting points for a modern author. Establishing yourself online and building a following can give you a big boost when you finally decide to self-publish. And if you’re interested in traditional publishing, you’ll almost always need an audience to land a book deal with a meaningful advance.
One question I hear a lot is “But what should I blog about?”
If you’re writing fiction, you can publish short stories, information about the topics you write about, and details from your own life to help your readers learn to like and trust you.
If you’re writing non-fiction, you can start sharing insights around or adjacent to the topics you plan to write books about. A business author writing a book about side hustle success might write a blog post called “5 Habits that Will Make You More Productive at Work.” A food blogger with an upcoming cookbook might share a lasagna recipe that will be featured in the published version.
The goal is to show your expertise and bring value. Podcasting and course creation can also lend credibility to you, but blogging is way less work.
Someone else’s blog
Where can you find readers for your blog? One great place is other people’s blogs. Pitch ideas and guest post! This is a great way to get your name and bio out there. Not to mention, you may be able to make a few bucks doing so.
Medium is kind of a hybrid option. It’s an external site that already has millions of readers. AND anyone can publish there. Some authors have built their entire platform by publishing or re-publishing their articles on Medium and inviting readers to join their email lists.
2. Write Articles that Will Attract Your Target Readers.
Have you ever gone to Google and searched for a new book to read? If you’re a science fiction fan, you may have typed “best sci fi book series” for example. Well, guess what? You aren’t the only person doing that. According to the keyword research tool Ahrefs, over 2,000 people Google “best sci fi book series” every month!
Now imagine this. What would happen if you wrote an article about the top sci fi books and got it to rank highly in Google? You could have hundreds of people per month visiting your blog looking for sci fi books to buy. Then, when the day comes to publish your own book, you could add it to the list and say “And if you’re looking for a brand new sci fi book, check out mine!” That’s some serious free marketing.
This totally works for nonfiction too. For example, Over 3,500 people per month are Googling “best Instant Pot cookbook.” So if you’re a food writer working on an Instant Pot cookbook, getting a post like this on your blog now could prepare you for success later.
And this strategy can even be used for super niche topics. If you’re a children’s book author writing a book about feelings, you could publish a post listing some great “kids books about feelings,” which 150 people search Google for every month. That might not sound like a lot, but that’s nearly 1,800 people per year who are looking for exactly your kind of book.
The first step to all of this is SEO keyword research. What it boils down to is this… figure out what people are searching for, create good viable content for those keywords, and optimize your ability to be found on the subject.
Using programs such as Ahrefs or SEMRush (which has a free plan) can definitely make this strategy much, much easier.
3. Build a Social Connection
One mistake many new authors make is assuming their job is to create fans. It sounds logical, but at this stage in your journey, it isn’t enough to find people who simply like your writing. If you want to grow your platform and reach your writing goals, you need to take things a step further and strive to create advocates. By that I mean people who will tell their friends about your writing, share your books on Facebook, and do what they can to help you succeed.
How do you build relationships that like online? Social media is a great place to start. Don’t just share your blog posts or and hope people read them. Respond to comments and personally thank the people who hit the share button.
Established authors like J.K. Rowling probably have better ways to spend their time. But for you, turning readers into loyal advocates who will share your work is often the simplest way to turn one reader into three or four.
So get to know your fans — their likes and interests and dislikes and gripes. You can then learn what to post in order to gain maximum connectivity, which will likely lead to more support for your book when you do decide to publish.
Your social connections could also give you a great pool of Beta readers and reviews! So maintain your networks and reap the rewards for doing so.
So what’s next?
The book writing and marketing world can be a highly competitive and somewhat cutthroat environment. Even going to the best writer’s conferences can feel like diving into a pool full of sharks. But by following the above tips before and throughout your writing process, you can prepare your book for a bigger, better launch that rises above the noise.
And the best part is that all of the effort you put in doesn’t just go away. It remains for your next book after! By successfully building your author brand, attracting ideal readers, and maintaining your social networks, you can solidify yourself as a real force in the writing community.