How Can Authors Promote Their Books Online?

How can authors promote their books online? This question has loomed large ever since online self-publishing started to take off. Anyone can get their book out there – but without the backing and budget of a publishing house, how can they market it effectively?

The Writing East Midlands conference had an impressive panel line-up talking about this topic: Shreya Sen Handley, Dan Simpson and Alice Graham.

Despite the title of the discussion, there was a general consensus that, in fact, it’s not about ‘shouting loudly’! Instead, one of the secrets to self-promotion – or perhaps I should say book promotion – is ‘having conversations’:

  • Connect with online communities of things (and genres) you enjoy and contribute to those communities.
  • Listen – don’t just shout! React to what other people are doing and saying.
  • Share things about other people’s work at least as much as you do your own.

Authors often think that they haven’t got time to ‘do’ social media. The secret is to:

  • Use one or two platforms well, rather than trying to do everything.
  • Start small and find your unique voice.
  • Find the medium or channel that suits you. If you’re a visual person you might get on well with Instagram or Pinterest; if you’re writing a recipe book you might find blogging a better platform.

The most common mistake authors make is going in with a BUY MY BOOK message multiplied by a thousand – and nothing else. Although it’s tempting to separate personal and professional, the panel’s advice was to ‘be the most interesting version of yourself that you can be’. You might still want to keep some private social media accounts for interacting with friends and family, but don’t let your professional accounts be purely about your book and the hard sell to promote everything you do– show your personality, talk about your opinions and share things that interest you.

Writing East Midlands conference panel self-publishing promotion marketing

Promote Yourself on Social Media

Social media can also be a place to share creativity, so use it as a creative platform by, for example, posting haikus, short poems and flash fiction. The discipline of creating regular content will be good for you, and trying new types of content may even help you to see things from a new perspective! Over time you can build on this content – why not collect it into a book, take it out into the physical world, or display it in an unusual way to expand its impact and increase awareness of you and promote your work?

If you blog:

  • Try blogging for someone else – lots of platforms are searching for new, different contributors.
  • End your posts with a question.
  • Contact family and friends individually and ask them to comment.

If you don’t have a social media presence already, you need to set one up while you’re still writing your book. It does take time to build followers and a fanbase online, but writing and editing gives you lots of great material to entice people in – teasers, perhaps a prologue, even ‘out-takes’! – all of which helps you to keep writing and using your imagination. By the time your book is finished you will have a ready-made audience who have been on the journey along with you and are keenly anticipating your finished work.

I hope this has inspired you to get started or to evaluate the ways in which you promote your books online. Start small, don’t be daunted, persevere and your fans will find and follow you.

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