How New Authors Can Learn about Promoting Books
Updated: Jan 31
“Writing a book is hard. Marketing it can be even harder.” – Ricardo Fayet, author and co-founder of Reedsy.
Regardless of how books are published, what I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that every author has to promote books. Understanding options for publishing and promoting books almost always requires connecting with others—especially for first books.
Some of the most valuable knowledge comes from other authors. But how do you find them and connect with them and get them to tell you what they know? Here are 10 ways from my own experience.
1. Reach out to authors you know and ask for advice. On a 2011 trip back East, I reconnected with longtime friend Joanne Omang, the first female foreign correspondent for The Washington Post. She had published a 1992 novel set in Central America, where she was first assigned. It’s a GREAT book, but it went out of print and there are very few copies available online. What I learned from her was that the traditional publisher didn’t promote the book after the launch, the sales tanked, and the publisher gave up on it.
2. Attend writers’ conferences. At a 2013 writers’ conference in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I was impressed with a presentation by best-selling indie author Jinx Schwartz. Her publisher didn’t do much to market her first book and she turned to self-publishing and promoting by herself. We still stay in touch by email and on Facebook, and she has been a reliable source of insights about her success with price discounts for Kindle versions using paid promo sites like BookBub.
3. Become active in a local writers’ group. In early 2014, the head of the Ajijic Writers Group at Lake Chapala introduced me to Michael Hogan in Guadalajara, who writes in several genres. He has published books by academic presses and on his own, and he relies on social media and book presentations in Mexico, the USA, and Europe to promote his books. We bonded like brothers, collaborated on five books, and still talk or exchange emails every week about promoting books.
4. Help build an online community of authors. Schwartz and Hogan were among the first authors to join me in late 2014 to create the Facebook group Mexico Writers, which I help administer. It’s a private group that has grown to more than 200 international writers from Mexico, the USA, Canada, and Europe who write books set in Mexico or live(d) in Mexico while writing. Many members share information and insights in posts and comments about publishing options and promotion techniques.
5. Identify successful authors in your genre and try to connect. When Hogan and I were co-editing a 2015 anthology of essays and short stories about life in Mexico, he introduced me to the author C.M. Mayo who had published an acclaimed 2006 literary anthology on the same subject. She has published books by academic presses and has self-published books, and she relies on her blog and newsletter to help promote the books. She embraced our project, contributed a chapter from one of her books, suggested some of the other 21 authors, and took charge of the cover design.
6. Identify professionals and connect with them. For the Kindle version of Hogan’s 2016 book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, I sought help from author and digital publishing professional David Wogahn in Carlsbad, California. The eBook formatting was complex because of archival illustrations, footnotes, and an extensive bibliography. He and his team at AuthorImprints produced an award-winning eBook version, and I continue to rely on him for sound advice about publishing and promoting eBooks.
7. Build a tribe of followers and ask them to help promote the book. Digital business strategist and author Shaun Cassidy in San Diego helped me understand how to use LinkedIn and Facebook to attract hundreds of faithful followers for Hogan’s Lincoln book. Followers in California, Texas, Illinois, Washington DC, and New York have helped promote the book with educators, librarians, and community leaders. As a result, the book is in more than 400 schools in 39 states and libraries across the USA and some foreign countries. And the five-year-old MailChimp newsletter to the followers still has more than 700 active subscribers.
8. Seek advice from strangers who write books you like. After reading the inspirational memoir by Edie Littlefield Sundby, I connected with her to get marketing insights. Her traditional publisher arranged some impressive promotions for the 2017 book launch, and she created a Facebook author page that features short videos and has almost 30K followers. Before COVID, she had dozens of personal appearances nationwide with national and local news media coverage. We’ve become good friends, email each other frequently to discuss her promotion, and we get together whenever I’m in San Diego.
9. Join an online writers’ group. I’m NOT talking about the huge public groups on Facebook where thousands of people simply post cover images of books with links to Amazon. I’m talking about relatively-small groups where writers engage with each other to discuss writing and publishing and promoting books, like the Southern California Writers Association that accepted me as a member in 2017. Last year, I started to engage more frequently with some of the members about blogs and newsletters.
10. Follow blogs and newsletters. I follow dozens of blogs and newsletters by members of Mexico Writers so I can see what they’re doing to promote books. I also subscribe to more blogs and newsletters from authors and marketers I don’t know, like David Gaughran whose recent blog post shared a list of paid promo sites he has vetted.
Here’s a closing thought about connecting with other writers and sharing insights. It comes from an inspiring article in Publishers Weekly by Mazey Eddings, whose first book is launching in March. “Whether it’s a single person or an entire group, finding friends in the chaos of publishing carries with it endless opportunities to laugh, to cry, to cheer someone’s big wins or show solidarity in the group chat when someone experiences anxiety or disappointment.”
Sharing information and insights with a community of writers is the purpose of my weekly blog and monthly newsletter. Some of the information I share comes from book marketing pros, but many of the insights come from following successful authors weekly to see what they are doing.
Note: While you’re connecting with other authors and book marketing professionals, and building your tribe of followers, read a couple of books about publishing and promoting books. Here’s a link to a list of books I recommend, all of which are available in many independent bookstores and online.
And the folks at Reedsy have a free online marketing course taught by Fayet to help beginning indie authors. It doesn’t have the in-depth information from the books I recommend or all the insights I’ve learned from personal connections with Omang, Schwartz, Hogan, Wogahn, Cassidy, Sundby, and authors like Gaughran whom I follow regularly. But it’s a starting point.
As always, I’m interested in your feedback and comments. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And when you have time, I hope you’ll check out my monthly newsletter and consider subscribing.