5 Marketing Tips for Traditionally Published Authors
There’s a common misconception that because traditional publishers have contacts and marketing budgets to throw behind their releases, traditionally published authors don’t have to do any marketing. In reality, there are many promotional efforts that trad published authors have to perform to market their books properly. Here are some ways you can make sure your book reaches the most readers:
Work with your publishers on marketing
Publishers are there to support you in your marketing efforts. They’ll often assign you a PR representative who will liaise with media outlets, influencers, and booksellers on your behalf, but much of the leg work will be on you. You’ll get support for promotion, but it’s a joint venture. Your publisher is invested in your success, but they will also expect the same investment from you.
Especially if you’re a first-time author, you’re unlikely to be given a budget to help with marketing. You’ll be able to use the publisher’s contacts, and they’ll certainly generate leads for you, but a lot of the costs involved in travel, and time commitments, will fall to you.
Ultimately, publishers will offer their authors opportunities, and it is the individual author’s responsibility to make the best of those opportunities. This is why it’s essential to work with your publishers as a team to ensure you’re both making the best of the opportunities that present themselves.
If your publisher posts about your book on social media, make sure you’re sharing it as well. Use your publisher’s reputation to help boost your own. If they ask you to create content to share in an industry publication, make sure you give it your all. It’s the exact kind of thing that will generate buzz with the people in the most influential position to reach readers on your behalf. And if your publisher uses their network to organise events and signings in places that might require travel, be willing to use some of your advance to get yourself there if travel isn’t covered. The increase in sales generated by these trips should hopefully be enough to cover any expenses.
Ultimately, the success of your book is a two-way street, and your publisher is more likely to work for you if you’re willing to work with them.
Set up book tours
Publishers often set up book tours for their writers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive and organise some for yourself.
Once the initial hype of release sales has waned, publishers are more likely to move on to the next big release, so if you want to keep readers interested, it’s up to you to start.
Book tours are an effective way to promote your book. They can be expensive, but they’re worth it. It’s a great way to connect with your readers, sell books, collect pre-orders of new releases, and increase the visibility of your work. When you do book signings, the places you visit will advertise on your behalf, creating a great network of contacts who can spread your reach further than you could have on your own.
Most publishers will create assets as part of an initial marketing plan that you can leverage and use to share with bookstores and libraries that you plan to visit, meaning you’ll have a consistent author/book brand to share. And if you take the time to connect with event organisers at your preferred locations, you’ll find you can build long-standing relationships, and they’ll be happy to have you back time and time again.
If cost is a factor, there are other tips you can try to bring costs down. You can organise and participate in virtual book tours, give presentations for webinars, or even join with other authors to pool your resources for travel and accommodation. The main thing is that you’re proactive in promoting your work and are committed to being visible to your audience.
Build a relationship with your readers
There is one thing a publisher can’t do for you, and that is building a relationship with your readers. Readers want to connect with you, not the publisher, so bonding with your readers is where you’ll have to spend the most time.
Connecting with your audience doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) hard work. It just takes time and commitment.
Your readers will be your most significant source of publicity. If they love your work and feel like they know you, they’ll be your biggest cheerleaders. They’ll spread their love far and wide and sing your praises at every opportunity. And all you have to do to harness this powerful network of fans is to talk to them.
On social media, take the time to respond to readers. Share fan art they produce, and engage with memes they create around your words. When they reach out to you, take some time to respond, and let them get to know you as a person, not just an author. Share aspects of your life, and don’t push your book too hard. Over-marketing your work is a turn-off to a lot of readers, so all you really need to do is talk to them. Your readers are essential to your success, so they need to know they’re important to you.
Giveaways are one of the most effective ways to boost engagement with your work in a fun and organic way. Free books, customised swag, or anything signed is a great way to engage with your readers and spread awareness of your work.
The more fun and shareable you make those giveaways, the more reach your work will get, and the less it will feel like hard work. Great things to try are shareable meme caption contests, trivia contests that challenge your readers, daily hashtag Q&As, or even naming characters in future books after competition winners.
Another good way to increase your visibility is to partner with other authors (your publisher might even be willing to help with this) to do a bulk giveaway. That way, you can cross-promote and reach a wider audience than you would have doing it alone.
Make sure reviewers and booksellers get ARCs
Pre-release hype is the most essential part of any marketing campaign for a traditionally published author. To get this, you need to make sure that readers have copies of your book in their hands before publication, so you’ve got a backlog of reviews ready to go and an army of booksellers ready to promote your work.
Your publisher should always have ARCs (Advance Reading Copies or Advance Review Copies — also known as proofs or galleys) of your work available to send out. In fact, they’ll probably do the bulk of that themselves. They will usually send copies out to bookshops and media outlets with whom they have built relationships or send PR reps to visit in person, armed with copies to get into the hands of the right readers. Most publishers will also have a presence on NetGalley for digital requests and distribution of ARCs, so try to talk to them and work together to get your book on the platform.
But, as the author, you should also have access to your own pool of ARCs and can do your own promotion to ensure copies get into the hands of the most passionate readers. You can sign ARCs and run giveaways with them or send digital galleys/proofs out to readers who you know are devoted fans. If you know of any media outlets or publications that would review your book but might not be on your publisher’s radar, make sure you send copies there as well. Physical proofs are expensive to produce, so you’ll only have a limited number given to you by your publisher, so use them wisely. Digital galleys, on the other hand, are more readily distributable (but make sure you send them out wisely, as they’re easily pirated).
With such a vast, online digital world now available to writers, the days of publishers being responsible for every element of book marketing is over. It’s become a collaborative process, where both the publisher and the author need to be invested in a book’s marketing success.
Your publisher has resources and connections that can help you along the way, they will even organise campaigns and book signings on your behalf, but ultimately it’s up to you how much work you want to put into building a relationship with readers. The more effort you put into making your work visible to as large an audience as possible, the more you will get out of it.