The Ultimate Guide on How to Market a Book Online
If you want to learn how to market a book online, you've come to the right place. Uncover powerful tactics for BookTok, email marketing, cross-promos, and much more.
Before you focus on selling your book, you want it to be as good as possible. For highly effective writing techniques, check out my free online writing course.
What is online book marketing?
Applying a variety of digital tools to reach your book's target readers online, getting them excited about your book, and encouraging them to order a copy.
Here are your primary digital tools - click a link to jump to its section in the guide:
Why get a writer website?
If you're a writer, I highly recommend you create a website for yourself. It'll make you look professional, plus act as a hub for important information.
To get started, you first need to do buy a domain name - they're not expensive (you can even get one for free)...
How to get a domain name for a writer website
Your domain name should be "your name," followed by ".com." For instance, you're currently on my writer website, which has a domain name of tedgaldi.com. I'd recommend you get your domain name ASAP before someone else out there with the same name as you buys it first.
You can get a free domain name from Bluehost.
The domain name is free if you also get a hosting package from them (which are very cheap, starting at just a couple bucks and change per month). Hosting refers to the servers and technical infrastructure that keep a website running. If you want a website, you must get a hosting package from somewhere.
How to design a writer website
Once you have your domain name, you need to design your site. After you get a free domain and affordable hosting package from Bluehost, you can easily install a system called Wordpress to design your site.
Though various website-builder services exist, Bluehost/Wordpress is a great combination of cost and flexibility.
Though you don't need to know computer coding to use Wordpress, you do need to be comfortable with online templates. And you will need to put aside some time to work on the site. If you don't like building things online, or don't have the time, that's okay.
Many qualified freelancers are out there who'll design your website for you quickly and at an affordable rate. After you get your domain and hosting package from Bluehost, check out a site called Fiverr, where you can browse freelancers and choose one who's right for you.
How much does a writer website cost?
Pricing for Bluehost
What to put on your writer website
If you're an author, you should make a page on your site for each of your books, with the following content:
Keep in mind, Amazon has separate versions of its website for the different countries it operates in. If someone clicks an Amazon link for a country they're not currently in, they'll run into issues ordering your book, for both Kindle and physical formats. So make sure you include local Amazon links for each country where you expect to sell copies.
If you haven't yet published a book, learn how to launch a book.
If you're a screenwriter, and a script of yours has already been made into a movie, you should create a dedicated page on your site for each movie, with the following:
Whether you're an author or screenwriter, you should also add the following:
You can of course add various other sections to your website, such as a blog or a collection of interview links.
Example of an author website
Example of a screenwriter website
Having a website is just the beginning
Just having an author website isn't going to sell your books. Before readers decide to hand you money for a book, they need a sense of confidence it's going to be worth the price.
Well-known writers like Stephen King don't have this problem. However, if you're a new author with just one book, you likely do have this problem. Here's where the second author marketing tool - an email list - comes into play.
Though email lists tend to be used by authors more than screenwriters, one can still be an asset for a screenwriter, particularly one who is also a director and has video content to share online.
What is an author email list?
Email addresses that readers voluntarily give an author, which the author can message at any time.
An author email list is a very effective tool. You should start building your email list as early as possible, even before your first book is released.
However, you're probably wondering, why would people give you their email addresses if they haven't read any of your books yet? Good question. There's a way around this...
Build an author email list by giving something away
The key to building an author email list is to give something away for free. This free item is often referred to as a reader magnet, mentioned earlier.
If you're a screenwriter who's also a director, you can give out video clips vs. something to read. For instance, have you made a short film? You can provide a link to stream it in exchange for an email address.
Possibly you already have a short film available online. Do you have any related bonus content you can offer the film's viewers in exchange for an email address? Example, an interview with you and/or the actors, or a deleted scene.
What is a reader magnet?
A digital item of value someone receives for free from an author in exchange for giving the author an email address. This digital item of value should be related to the book - or books - you're selling.
For example, let's say you're a science fiction author who's almost done with your first novel. As mentioned, you want to start building your email list as early as possible, even before the novel is released. You can write a science fiction short story and offer it for free in exchange for an email address.
The short story and novel are related because they're in the same genre. And since the short story is free, many people won't hesitate to check it out. If someone reads it and likes it, you're no longer a stranger in their mind. You're a quality science fiction writer. Now, when your science fiction novel eventually comes out, this reader may be interested in paying for it.
How to set up an author email list and reader magnet
Fortunately, just like website building, platforms exist that make setup and maintenance easy. For email, I use a system called MailerLite.
After you create an account on an email marketing platform like MailerLite, you should have access to templates for landing pages. These are pages people can visit to submit their email address in exchange for your reader magnet.
You should be able to customize this landing page with text, images, etc, promoting your free offer. Check out the landing page I built on MailerLite for my reader magnet (a book called Lion on Fire):
You want an email marketing platform with automation features. As soon as someone submits their email address on your landing page, your platform should automatically send that person an email (which you would pre-write) with a link to download your reader magnet.
If your reader magnet is a digital document (ex, a PDF), you can simply create a link to it on Google Drive, which won't cost you anything, and put the link in this pre-written email.
You can also use a system called BookFunnel to deliver reader magnets. It's particularly useful if your reader magnet is a longer-form file you'd expect people to read on a Kindle, iPad, or other e-reader (vs. simply reading on a computer or phone).
BookFunnel isn't a replacement of an email marketing platform like MailerLite - it's a service you can use side by side.
How much does an author email marketing platform cost?
Email marketing systems tend to be free to start with, then grow in price as your email list grows in size. Below is the initial pricing for MailerLite - once you sign up over 1,000 subscribers, the prices go up. However, even over 1,000 subscribers, this platform is still very affordable.
What emails should an author send to readers?
As mentioned, you want an email marketing platform with automation capabilities, like MailerLite.
You can pre-write emails and trigger them to go to readers based on certain conditions. The simplest condition is time. For example, one day after a reader signs up, they'd get email X. Three days after that, they'd get email Y. A week after that, they'd get email Z.
You can layer in various additional triggers. For instance, a reader may only receive email Z if they clicked your link inside email Y.
Regardless of the particular triggers you decide on, you should set up a sequence of emails that accomplishes the following:
Yes, you can use your email service to message your readers about many other things. But, you should start with a basic sequence like this.
If you're a screenwriter/director, instead of building anticipation about a book, you can build anticipation about your next film.
Want help with your email marketing?
In the last section of this guide, I recommended a great service for finding web-development freelancers. On the same platform, you can find professionals who'll help you with any facet of email marketing.
How to get people to your reader magnet landing page
As you can see, once you have a reader's email address, you have a lot of opportunity for creating a connection with that reader and selling your books.
However, you can only collect email addresses if people are visiting your landing page. So, how do you get them to do that?
Once you already have a decent-sized email list, growing it is fairly straightforward. Let's start there...
With an author cross-promo - sometimes referred to as a "newsletter swap" - you contact another author in your genre and suggest sending a link to that author's reader magnet to your email list, in exchange for that author doing the same for you.
You would write a broadcast email to your list saying something like, "I want to introduce you to Sally Smith. Like me, she writes fast-paced adventure fiction. She's giving away a short story. To download your copy, go to this link..."
This is a win-win-win. Since you and Sally Smith write in the same genre, both your audiences would likely be interested in what's being offered by the other. All your readers get something new for free. And you and Sally grow your email lists.
So, how do you find other authors to approach for cross-promos? Amazon's "Also Bought" section is a great route. If you visit your author profile page on Amazon, you'll see a list of authors with readers who cross over with yours. For example:
Amazon tends to include authors on your list who have audiences about the same size as yours. By extension, these writers' email lists would be around the same size as yours (yes, there could be exceptions). You would simply email the writers on your list and ask if they're up for a cross-promo. The vast majority have email addresses listed on their websites.
Once you do a successful cross-promo with an author, referrals tend to happen. The other author may introduce you via email to a writer they've done a successful cross-promo with, while you'd do the same for them. The more cross-promos you do, the more referrals you'd be exposed to.
As you can see, once you have a decent-sized email list, growing it isn't complicated. However, before you get there, you need to sign up your first subscriber...
How to grow your email list from zero
If you're a new, unknown author, how do you get people to even know your reader magnet landing page exists? Getting yourself known for free is a benefit of the third group of author marketing tools, social media accounts...
Social media for writers
Social media accounts are free. You should create as many of them as you can. Some good social media platforms for writers:
These platforms let you create profiles, where you can add your photo, bio, and a link. For your link, authors tend to use the URL for their website homepage. You can then include a button on your homepage that directs people to your reader magnet landing page. That's the setup I have on the homepage of this site...
In your bio, you should mention you're giving away something for free. Ex, "click my link for a free science fiction short story."
However, simply including a link to your website in a social media profile isn't going to drive traffic to your site. You have to create posts on these platforms to generate awareness. If you're creating posts that resonate, people will start following you and a percentage of them will wind up visiting your site to grab your reader magnet.
These social platforms are quite nuanced - you can't create the same type of posts for all of them and expect them to take off. And learning the ins and outs of all seven of these platforms may seem a bit challenging. You can start with just one, get the hang of it, then try a second, then a third, etc.
In no way do you need to amass a huge following on all seven platforms to have an effective social media presence as a writer. Even if you have a good following on just one, you can drive a lot of traffic to your website and get a lot of people to sign up for your email list.
Pick the path that's best for you. Here's an overview of each platform...
Facebook for writers
On Facebook, you want to create a page for yourself as a writer, which is different than the personal profile you likely already have.
Unlike other social platforms, such as TikTok, which can show your posts to many people who don't already know you, your Facebook posts generally only get shown to people who already follow you (paid posts are an exception to this, which we'll cover later on in this guide).
So, Facebook tends to be a tool writers use to engage with their existing readers vs. finding new ones. Engaging with existing readers is really important. They're going to want to know about your upcoming releases and any price promotions you might be running. Facebook is a great place to update them.
Add videos, photos, and text to posts. A beneficial feature of Facebook is that it allows you to include a link in any of your posts - you're not just permitted a single URL for your bio. So, if you create a post about Book A, you can include a direct link to Book A's page on your website, the same with Book B, etc.
If you're a screenwriter, Facebook is a great place to feature clips from your movies and interviews with directors and actors.
With Facebook, and all the other social platforms, posting frequently is helpful. If you could post both frequently and consistently, you'll get even better reach. Once you get used to posting, you can gradually increase your frequency.
Twitter for writers
Like Facebook, Twitter is a good avenue for updating and engaging with your existing audience. Though Twitter is known for short-text posts, you can also add photos and videos. Like Facebook, each post can have a link.
If one of your posts happens to receive a fair amount of retweets, it could wind up in front of a large number of people who don't yet know who you are.
If you're a screenwriter and you post a trailer to Twitter, it could potentially be shown to a lot of people. Twitter is also a good place to comment on movies that you didn't write. Discussing popular movies that others are talking about can help get your name out.
TikTok for writers
TikTok has grown dramatically in the book world. One of the platform's most popular hashtags, BookTok (#booktok), is tied to many billions of views. TikTok is for videos, particularly vertical videos that are short - many tend to be between 5 and 30 seconds.
As mentioned, the platform is great for pushing an author's videos to people who don't yet know the author. On most other social platforms, the view count of a post significantly depends on how many followers the posting account has. Thus, accounts that are already popular tend to get a lot of views, while new accounts with small followings may hardly get any.
The TikTok algorithm, however, operates under different rules. The algorithm can push a video to a lot of people as long as it believes many people will like it, even if the posting account has few followers, even none.
So, how does the algorithm decide if many people will like a video? Though the particulars aren't known to the public, two key factors have been observed:
So, what specifically should a writer post on TikTok?
If you're an author, make attention-grabbing videos about your books and/or your reader magnet. You can accomplish that in various ways. Here are a few:
If you're a screenwriter, you can post videos in the same three categories mentioned above, simply about a film vs. a book. You also can post short clips from trailers or discuss popular movies you didn't write.
YouTube for writers
As you probably know, YouTube is a platform for sharing videos. What you may not know is that a certain type of video format - known as a YouTube Short - has been gaining popularity. A YouTube Short essentially behaves like a TikTok video - it's a brief (under 60 second), vertical video that's pushed out to an audience based on topic reach and watch time.
A video you make for TikTok can be added to YouTube Shorts, and vice versa.
Instagram for writers
Though Instagram is primarily known as a photo-sharing app, its video presence has been on the rise. Instagram has its own version of a short, vertical video, known as a Reel. View counts for Reels are based on the same two elements we've discussed: topic reach and watch time.
Any video you make for TikTok, YouTube Shorts, or Instagram Reels can be added to the other platforms. So, if you like creating videos, the short, vertical format is helpful since the potential exposure of any video can be easily tripled.
Pinterest for writers
Though Pinterest does have video capabilities, it is primarily a site for posting photos. Each photo can be linked to a URL.
Many users search for topics of interest on the platform with keywords. A recommended tactic is to put yourself in the shoes of your target reader or film watcher and think of phrases they may be searching for on Pinterest that are related to your reader magnet, books, or movies.
You would then create relevant image posts on Pinterest around these topics, and include URLs to your reader magnet, books, or movies.
This strategy tends to be a bit easier for non-fiction, whose books might directly relate to topics someone is searching for on a search engine.
For example, if you wrote a non-fiction book about historical cities around the world, you could create photo posts of interesting places in those cities, with each post linking to the page on your author website dedicated to the book. When someone searches, for instance, for "Athens," your posts could come up.
Goodreads for writers
Unlike the other social networks discussed, Goodreads is specifically designed for books. In particular, users on Goodreads post reviews of books and join groups centered around genres they like.
Though you can post photos, videos, text, and links on Goodreads, the platform is best for connecting with potential reviewers of your book. Like anything online, a product with a lot of reviews - especially good reviews - is sold more often.
However, if you're a new author who doesn't have an existing fanbase waiting to read and review your next release, getting reviews may seem tricky.
Here is where you can once again tap into the power of a free offer. A "read and review" - sometimes simply called a "read/review" - involves you giving a reader a free copy of your book in exchange for that reader writing a review of your book once they finish it.
A good time to do this outreach is after your book is complete, yet prior to its official release. This version of your book is commonly referred to as an ARC, or "advanced review copy." You can collect early reviews, which could be posted on Goodreads, in addition to Amazon and other sites, by the time your book is released.
So, how do you find these potential reviewers? As mentioned, Goodreads has many genre-specific groups. You can search for ones relevant to your books. Plenty of groups have sections in their discussion forums where authors can propose read and reviews to members.
Another site - NetGalley - is also a good method for connecting with early reviewers. However, authors do have to pay a fee for access to this service.
You can give away other writers' books too
Giving away a reader magnet you made can definitely get you some attention on social media. Another good tactic is to give away books by well-known authors in your genre. This may get you even more attention, however, you will need to pay for the prize books.
You can use various platforms to create your own sweepstakes. People can enter for a chance to win by submitting an email address. After the sweepstakes ends, you'd be responsible for giving the randomly selected winner the prize books. Here's an example of a sweepstakes I put together:
FYI, I created this event with a recommended system called KingSumo.
Its technology handles the operational aspects of the giveaway, like email capture and randomized winner selection.
Sweepstakes like this are great to promote on social media. You can include hashtags in your posts for the authors whose books you're giving away to attract their fans.
Certain entrants who provide their email address may only be interested in winning the prize books vs. becoming subscribers of your email list. That's fine - make sure you give these people a simple way to unsubscribe.
However, since you'll be selecting prize books in the same genres as the one you write in, many people who register for the sweepstakes will be happy to download your reader magnet and remain on your email list.
Want help with writer social media marketing?
As mentioned already, Fiverr is a highly recommended method for finding freelancers who can help you with any type of marketing. Easily find someone who'll create and/or manage social-media posts for you.
First, solidify the foundation of your online author presence
We've come to the final part of this guide, paid ads. As the name implies, these tools involve you spending money. But you don't want to start spending money on ads until you have a solid foundation for your online author presence. Without a strong foundation, the money you spend on ads won't properly translate into book sales.
To recap, here is what you need to establish a strong foundation:
Once you've gotten here, you should start evaluating paid ads. Like social platforms, you have many options, each with its own nuances. Below, find some marketing objectives you may want to accomplish, along with tips for getting there with ads...
Grow your author email list with paid ads
Two recommended avenues for growing your email list with paid promotions are group giveaways and Facebook ads. Let's look at each...
Group giveaways for authors
We already covered sweepstakes that you can personally host, however, these aren't the only kind. Certain companies are dedicated to organizing and promoting group giveaways involving multiple authors, sometimes dozens.
For a fee, anywhere from about $25-$50, you can be included in the giveaway. Here's how these online events work:
Two recommended companies: BookSweeps and AuthorsXP.
Facebook ads for author reader magnets
As we went over, Facebook lets you post content for free. However, it also offers paid posts. The more you pay, the more people see your post.
One use of Facebook ads is promoting reader magnets. First, you want to register on Facebook Ads Manager. Once you do, and you're ready to create an ad, the following should go into it:
Creating your ad is only half of the process. Targeting the ad is the other half. Essentially, you need to tell Facebook who should see the ad. Facebook provides interest-based targeting - you can search for terms related to your genre, plus the names of well-known authors who write in your genre.
Facebook will show the ad to people on its platform (this includes Instagram) who've expressed interest in the genre and/or a particular author. You can target the ad to multiple terms and writers. As long as the criteria is relevant to your reader magnet, you should try to address as large an audience as possible.
The larger your addressable audience, the more opportunities the Facebook algorithm has to identify commonalities between people who click on your ad. As time passes, Facebook will learn to show the ad to people who are likely to click on it.
Sell discounted books with paid ads