This is a guest post by Lucia Tang.
Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy, wasn’t born the usual way—she came out of her parent’s head, like a book.
The thunder-god Zeus was tormented by a headache so intense, he begged someone to take an axe to his skull. The blade split it open, and a goddess came out: full-grown, grey-eyed, already wearing armour.
Unlike Athena, books don’t come out of your head ready to fend for themselves—they’re more like human babies that way. Any mum will tell you that after the birth is when the real parenting starts. The same goes for your book.
It’s not enough just to bring it into the world; you have to make sure your brainchild is ready to thrive in it. Luckily, you can do that by creating a stellar marketing plan.
1. Define your audience
To create a marketing plan, you’ll need to know who exactly you’re marketing to.
Maybe you wrote the book with someone particular in mind: a friend who inspired you with an off-hand comment, another author who delighted or infuriated you with their work—even your teenage self, who needed books like this one but couldn’t find them.
Regardless of what inspired you, it’s time to start thinking about your perfect audience.
Don’t cop out with a generic reader, or even a genre reader—some faceless consumer of sci-fi, romance, or historical fiction.
You’ll want to give your book marketing a personal touch so it feels human instead of corporate: not a focus-grouped hard sell, but a chat with a friend.
The best way to do that? Tailor all your campaigning for a specific (albeit imagined) person.
In order to do that, try this exercise: flesh out your ideal reader, just like you breathed life into the characters in your book. Who is this person? How do they spend their time?
Make sure you get into this perfect reader’s environment as well as their interiority: what their life looks like, and what they hope to get out of it.
In user experience design, this hypothetical customer is called a proto-persona. Crafting one helps designers think empathically, making sure they can always picture someone at the other end of their work. Because your proto-persona is a reader, you’ll want to pay particular attention to, well, what they like to read—and why.
2. Craft a coherent, human-centred brand identity
Say your book is a romance novel, and you’ve got a proto-persona in mind. Let’s call her Amanda: an early-30s, Labour-voting project manager in London. She grew up on workplace romances like Bridget Jones’s Diary and still has a soft spot for the genre, especially every time she swipes right on Tinder, hopeful she’s found the guy of her dreams. But she wants an update—a love story that’s still raunchy and relatable, but with more modern politics and a major tech upgrade for the dating app era.
You’ve got a sense of her mannerisms and preferences, from the news she reads on her commute (The Guardian, on her iPhone) to how she takes her tea (no milk, one sugar).
Now it’s time to think about how Amanda wants to be marketed to. When she’s scrolling down her Twitter feed, what compels her to stop? What kind of web content makes her linger on the page? Which email subject lines get her to click and which ones go straight to the trash—or annoy her so much she hits ‘unsubscribe’?
Picture yourself in your proto-persona’s place as you craft your book’s brand materials: author website, Amazon page, social media feeds, and so on. If you’re guided by your imagined reader, everything from your web colour palette to your author bio will feel coherent, approachable, and human.
3. Find your place in a community—or communities
So you’ve tailored your web presence to attract that perfect reader. But you can’t just sit around and passively wait for clicks.
Strong book marketing isn’t just a one-sided flow of information from the author to the public—it’s a dialogue. So get involved in online communities, and you’ll be well on your way to sparking engagement.
Follow relevant users on social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, from book lovers who resemble your proto-persona to fellow writers working in your genre. And don’t just follow—interact! The key is to build relationships that don’t just feel like marketing funnels.
With COVID-19 keeping small business shuttered, it may not be feasible to drop by the indie bookstores in your hometown to talk up your book.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t harness the power of a promotional tour—just take it online with a blog tour! Book and writing blogs are an indispensable venue for cultivating the sense of community you’ll need to make sure your marketing efforts land.
On a blog tour, you’ll ‘visit’ a succession of blogs, getting exposure in exchange for providing their readers with something of value, whether that’s exclusive tips on making it to publication or a giveaway for your book. Pull this off, and you’re liable to get even more eyeballs than you’d manage with a traditional book tour—all without leaving your desk.
Reach out to blogs that accept guest posts, making them relevant to your genre and writing practice, of course—no point in trying to write about sci-fi worldbuilding on a site that specializes in Christian memoirs.
When you get in touch, make sure you stress what you can bring to each blog, not just what you can get out of it.
Remember: book marketing is a two-way street. Focus on providing value, and you’ll be rewarded with a loyal fanbase and valuable allies for your next book launch.
Lucia Tang is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Reedsy also provides tools to help authors write and format their books, as well as free learning courses and webinars to help them learn more about writing and publishing. In Lucia’s spare time, she enjoys drinking cold brew and planning her historical fantasy novel.