How to Promote Your Book in the 21st Century
Book promotion is the single most crucial challenge, aside from writing ability, that an author will ever face. Just because you’ve written a great book doesn’t mean it will ever be read. In this article, I will look at how advertisements and promotions have changed over the years for aspiring authors. My goal is to provide you with insight into how to effectively share your work with the world.
Times have changed, but the extent and velocity of change are not easy to recognize without context. Before we enter the 21st Century, let’s take a look back in time at a few indisputable facts: The first computer, ENIAC, was powered up in 1943. The World Wide Web didn’t become public domain until 1993. Amazon was started in 1994. Although Michael S. Hart digitized the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1971, commercial e-books weren’t available for mass consumers until the late 1990s. Facebook didn’t exist until 2004 and YouTube didn’t appear until 2005.
The point is that we are in the midst of a whole new era of publishing and promotions. Prior to these advents, authors were limited to whatever advertisements and promotions their traditional publishers would provide, word-of-mouth, and more conventional methods of getting the word out about their new books. They might rent a billboard for a month in a major city, attend a few interviews on radio shows, get a blurb in a magazine, or, if very lucky, feature in a newspaper article.
Those days are gone! Unless you were awarded a Pulitzer Prize for your novel, you’re unlikely to score a feature in the NY Times. Likewise, you can spend decades trying to solicit a traditional publishing house to back your work. Radio shows have been replaced by podcasts and magazines have been replaced by ezines. Billboards? While they’re still an option, most of us can’t afford them. A billboard in Times Square will cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 per day! For $500, you can get your name in lights for 15 seconds (FiveTier).
So, what’s a modern author to do, especially when you’re going the route of self-publishing? Below, I will list five affordable ways that you can get the word out about your new book.
One: Free or Low-Cost Advertisements
As most of us struggling authors are on a budget, I would recommend starting here. The Internet is a powerful tool; use it to your advantage. The only problem that you will face is that websites come and go almost as frequently as the wind. With a little research and effort, you should still be able to find a handful of good places to promote your book either for free or at a very reasonable cost. My recommendation is to start with the list on Kindlepreneur.
Assuming that you’re a self-published author, Amazon is one of the best platforms for marketing your books. If you signed up for the KDP Select Status, then you have three options: you can run promotions, ad campaigns, or both. The promotions are free while the ad campaigns require an investment.
Amazon offers two promotion options through the Kindle Select Status program. With the Kindle Countdown Deal, you can select a discounted price for your ebook for a specific period of time. The Free Book Promotion allows you to give away your book for free for a limited period. Both are useful because they generate more sales, interest, and reviews.
Although their ad campaigns offer three options, only two are relevant to authors – Sponsored Products and Lockscreen Ads. The first option promotes your book to customers who are shopping for similar items while the second targets e-readers or Fire Tablet users with advertisements based on their interests whenever they unlock the screen. With the Sponsored Products campaign, you select what you are willing to pay for clicks and establish a daily limit on expenditures. Your pay-per-click can be under a dollar and your daily limit can be as low as $10. Similarly, with the Lockscreen Ads, you offer a bid for cost-per-click (CPC) and set a budget.
Currently, Goodreads has over 125 million members. The Goodreads Giveaway program is an excellent way to get your book noticed and reviewed. Free of any charge, you can run a free giveaway for multiple copies of a print version of your new book. The giveaways run as a contest. If you offer five books, then only five people will win, but hundreds may enter the contest. Of course, you’ll need to cover the cost of the book and shipping, but the reward is significant. You’ve effectively generated a lot of interest in your work for a very low cost. Plus, most winners post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or both once they’ve finished reading.
Goodreads also offers paid promotions and advertisements, but I can’t speak to their value since I haven’t tried them myself. That said, they are a solid group with a lot of followers, so I’m sure it would be well worth the cost.
Facebook is another great place to advertise, but I say that with a caveat. With over 3 billion users, why wouldn’t it be? The downside is that with such a large audience, Facebook advertisements aren’t cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1 to $15 for just 1,000 “impressions.” Still, if you have the budget to support it, this is another great way to get the word out about your book.
The caveat: Even though I have spent thousands of dollars advertising on this platform, I have had my account banned multiple times for breaking their terms and conditions. While they do have advanced mechanisms in place to verify your identity and recover your account, this is very difficult if you’re using a pen name. Also, they never tell you exactly what you did that is against their policies, and their terms are so broad that it could literally be anything. The bottom line is that you could permanently lose access to your account, your friends, and everything that you have posted. My recommendation: tread with caution.
Interviews are free of charge! Check out my previous article on the subject. Query social media influencers, bloggers, podcasters, and book reviewers for an interview. If you’re prepared and honest, this is a great way to get the word out. Nine times out of ten, the reader or listener is either sitting at their computer or holding their phone in their hand just a single click away from being able to purchase your book!
Alright, gang, it’s getting late here. Go forth and prosper! Maxwell out!