There's, of course, no easy way to answer this.
Certain books take a lot more marketing than others. For instance, I have a Christian YA book and a general market YA book, and the former will require a lot more marketing to get it in front of a wider readership since it's more of a niche market.
With that said, I wish I had an easy answer to this question. But I can provide insight into my own marketing process and just how many no's you might get before you receive a yes.
If this helps put things into perspective, my first book Blaze sold about 1,000 copies in a year. Not bad for a Christian YA book (trust me, it's almost impossible to find a more niche market). I did everything below and more to promote the book.
One of the first things you do when you market a book is reach out to fellow authors for an endorsement. No hard and fast rule exists for how many you need, but most authors try to aim for 10.
Ten, you might think, no problem.
But many authors juggle really busy schedules. Or they may have 10+ endorsement requests in their queue.
For my general market YA book, I reached out to 30 people and only 12 got back and did an endorsement. About 40 percent.
Keep in mind, my co-author and I reached out months in advance and gave a lengthy amount of time for the author to review the book. I have personally received endorsement requests where the author gave me only two weeks to review the book. Although I could make that time frame, most can't.
Books need reviews.
Reviews help a book to get visibility, and you need to reach out to reviewers with an ARC of your book at least 2-3 months in advance.
For our book, we reached out to about 100 reviewers in the past few weeks. During that time we had about 30-40 say they'd be willing to review it. So about 30 percent.
Many publishers suggest a book get 50+ reviews on Amazon to help with its visibility.
Most publishers suggest you have about 50-100 people on your launch team. But this doesn't mean that all 50-100 of those people will participate.
For instance, my launch team for my book releasing in July has 100+ people, but I want to say about 20 of those people participate.
People have tried to alter how they run launch teams ranging from email campaign challenges to Facebook groups to offering prizes for people who participate the most. No fast and easy way appears to work. Unless you launch with a large publisher who can afford to be picky about launch team members, it involves a lot of trial and error.
Giveaways and Opt-Ins
Many authors will offer signed copies of their books and other giveaway items to generate more subscribers for their newsletter or get more engagement on social media.
The end goal, of course, is to sell more books, but often you'll run a giveaway to boost numbers.
I had 100+ entries in my last giveaway, but because I opened it internationally, the shipping costs were a little on the high side. Through the process, you learn what does and doesn't work when it comes to these.
Pre-Orders and Cover Reveals
Usually you want to do both at the same time. If you do a cover reveal first and then release the pre-order links later, you'll lose some of your audience. People can sometimes forget you have a book coming out.
Usually you want some sort of team (whether your launch team or a separate cover reveal team) to do a cover reveal/pre-order campaign. That way, you have the best chance to reach as many people as possible.
Sounds easy. The kicker?
Usually people will say they want to support you, but they may not want to share a cover on their Instagram or Facebook feed. It could possibly disrupt their aesthetic. Even if you create amazing mockups, like I had through a program known as AuthorLab, they may still not go for it.
Even if you directly message someone on Instagram (a tactic I do not recommend because of its invasive nature) they may offer to share a cover in their story, but not on their main page.
Armed with a unique book hashtag and a small ragtag team, you post. Most often, to get people to join the team, you need some sort of prize. Maybe you enter all of them into a giveaway. Maybe you give them all a bookmark. But you need to have incentive.
If it helps put this into perspective, I had about 30ish people want to be on the cover reveal team for my last book, and I want to say about 13 delivered. Even when you send reminder emails, people forget.
Website/Social Media Updates
Every bio you use, every social media header, everything should have a link to your book.
People get lazy, and if you don't directly send them to that Amazon page, they will not put in the effort to find it.
This means that you need to constantly update your website and social media channels. People should be able to find your book instantly, no matter via which medium they found you (Instagram, Website, Twitter, etc.).
If you want to get the word out, you have to visit a number of blogs, podcasts, radio stations, and sometimes TV stations. You also send press releases to newspapers and other publications (but steel yourself to get turned down by these or hear crickets ... they get a lot of PR from authors). Technically, there's no correct number of blogs/podcasts to stop by. But I recommend the following:
Rule One: Try to have somewhere between 10-20 days mapped out for a tour for your book, a little before and a little after the book releases. You can have more, but aim for somewhere in that range.
Rule Two: Have backups, and keep track of dates in a spreadsheet. I cannot tell you how many times bloggers backed out at the last minute. Send them reminder emails to make sure they get the post up for when you both originally agreed.
Rule Three: Give yourself plenty of time to do the work ahead of time. If you guest-blog ten places, that means you have to write ten 500-1000-word articles. Not to mention, some bloggers will make you edit the voice to sound more like their blog's aesthetic.
Rule Four: Steel yourself for rejection. Bloggers get overwhelmed by requests from authors. They may have people scheduled out months in advance.
Rule Five: When they do post, make sure to share and tag them on social media. Not all bloggers/podcast hosts will share the post.
Bylines and Newsletter Shout-Outs
Blogs and podcasts can only get you so far. It helps to also have articles in publications, especially publications that fall under the niche of your book.
Now, let me show you where numbers can often be deceiving.
I write five articles a week for Crosswalk (a publication with millions of viewers and subscribers). I also wrote modern-day Daniel (so Crosswalk fits the niche). Many of my articles get thousands and up to ten thousands of views per week.
Let's do a conservative estimate and say that I get about 10,000 views per week. From those viewers I may get:
- 1-2 book sales a week
- 3-5 new subscribers to my newsletter each week
Now keep in mind at the end of every article, I have a byline with my books hyperlinked.
In addition, writers will often ask those with larger newsletters for shout-outs. Sometimes authors will offer this for free out of the goodness of their hearts. Other times, they will charge you $100+ for an email blast to curated lists. So really ask them for the numbers: open rate and click rate.
If they have meager numbers, use your finances elsewhere, like Amazon ads.
Long before your launch day, you need to inform people of the date of your book release. Because they will forget.
My own sister in the past week asked me when my book launches. It launches in a week.
About three months out from your launch, in every post, remind people of the date when your book will release. And starting two weeks out (or ten days away) have a countdown post every single day before your launch.
That way people can remember, "OK, five days until Den launches," "Four days until Den launches," etc.
People often need to see a post seven times before they remember it. So post frequently.
Not every book requires a baby-shower-scale Launch Party, but you should do something to celebrate your book launching. This may look like doing a book signing at a local bookstore (be warned, they may ask for an ARC copy to review beforehand so plot out lots of time).
Or maybe you book a party room at a local place and offer to sign books and hold a giveaway for those who attend.
No matter what you choose, have a backup plan. And have a virtual party as well as a physical one. I knew many authors who had a physical book launch planned, and then COVID hit.
The fun doesn't stop once your book baby enters the world. You still have a great deal of marketing to do.
You have to:
- Ask launch team members and readers to post reviews (and do so with a great deal of zeal and fervor). This means anytime someone mentions they read your book, commenting on their post (or replying to their message) and asking them to put a review up. You would not believe how many reviews Amazon takes down.
- Enter your book into contests. Award-winning books get more publicity. Get prepared for rejection. Many, many authors enter these contests to end up on the shortlists.
- Do group promotions with other authors, sell your books at conferences and expos and local craft fairs, and continue to do author talks, book signings, and interviews to get more publicity for your new release.
- Get a move on that sequel or next book (if you have not already). Most publishers want to release the second installment within 6-12 months of the first release.
- Doing a huge social media push when your publisher offers a discount, including BookBub ads (near impossible to get, and cost hundreds of dollars), and listings on sites such as Fussy Librarian and My Book Cave (also costs money).
- And so much more!
In short, you can't simply post once or twice on Facebook an expect enormous sales.
For more ideas on how to market your book, check out my course at Serious Writer here.