Book Marketing Strategy: Putting the Campaign Together

A Conversation with Adrienne Sparks

Young woman at laptop with bookshelves behind her
A book's most important marketing asset: the author. Getty Images

Book marketing helps get books in front of readers. In my interview with Adrienne Sparks of Sparks Marketing, she shares some of the strategic thinking that goes into book marketing campaigns. ​

Promoting the Book

Book marketing - it's a big topic, but what's the most important insight you can give authors regarding book promotion?

First, I'd say that the author is the #1 asset to their book's campaign.

This is true whether the book is new on the market, backlist or a reissue. Authors should have patience and remember that genuinely engaging with their audience is an essential part of any successful marketing strategy.

Publishers have lots of books to focus on.

[For those who are published by traditional publishers] after the initial six- to eight-week frontlist promotional period ends, authors generally must use their own resources and energy to promote their books.

Once a book becomes "backlist," the publisher and retailers might promote it strategically at holidays or during the summer beach reading season, depending on the book's subject. And the release of an author's new book provides another opportunity to cross-promote their backlist titles. But not every book gets that attention, either.

Creating consumer awareness of both frontlist and backlist titles offline and online is crucial to developing an author's brand, growing an audience and selling books.

Therefore, the author should do everything they can to make their book easier for consumers to discover, whether it be in a bookstore, within the community, in social media or on the virtual bookshelf.

Using the Web

So much of book marketing happens online these days. How can an author most effectively leverage the web, social media, etc., in their book marketing?

It's a double-edged sword. The greatest marketing tool available to an author is the Web. But the accessibility of the Internet to one and all can make it hard to be heard above all the noise.

An author should remember that their website is the home base of their strong online platform. It is their press kit, their business card, their archive and the platform on which they build their brand and engage with their readers. From there, building a web presence where all of an author's social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads and even LinkedIn are connected is important.

For example, authors can (and should):

  • Keep introducing fresh content and remain engaged with readers using all their online platforms.
  • Blog about their work or things connected to their writing.
  • Offer to write guest posts for other people's blogs.
  • Have a website that lets readers sign up for news and updates.

Can you give an example of how you've leveraged the web for an author's book marketing campaign?
A good example is my promotional campaign working with Keith Thomson, the New York Times bestselling author of Once a Spy. Keith wanted me to help him promote the digital edition of his first book, Pirates of Pensacola.

A little background: Keith wrote this modern-day pirate novel before becoming well-known as a thriller writer, and before the explosion in online marketing opportunities. The hardcover edition of Pirates of Pensacola was published in 2005 and garnered excellent reviews and blurbs from well-known authors. Essentially, we used marketing strategies to promote this backlist title as a new release, to bring it to the attention of his many later fans as well as potential new readers.

I worked in tandem with him to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the technological changes in the marketplace since the book's original publication:

  • We released a free preview of the book on Scribd and developed new text and video content to share with bloggers and with Keith's fans using social media and his author website.
  • I held a contest to choose a new cover image, with the goal of connecting the e-book with new readers and create new media coverage opportunities.
  • We enhanced Keith's profile and presence on Goodreads, linked it to his website platform and offered giveaways.
  • Keith wrote guest posts for blogs and I managed promotions in which bloggers offered digital copies of the book to their readers.
  • I created a Facebook advertising campaign and offered books to fans of maritime and pirate culture and Florida history.

The result of these marketing initiatives was improved discoverability of the e-book for new readers, and the campaign elements also increased its visibility among fans of Keith's thrillers.

Offline Marketing

What "offline" book marketing should authors do?
Authors should also increase their profile in the communities where they live:

  • They can ask to be interviewed by their local paper, their local radio station or local papers and radio stations in locations where the book takes place.
  • If the book is in print and available at their local bookstore they can offer to do a reading or to sign stock copies.
  • They can make sure local libraries have their book in their collections and if not, donate a copy.
  • They can explore other locales to do readings or book signings such as coffee shops, churches, colleges or other organizations.
  • They can offer to participate in reading groups or writing workshops.
  • They should become active in reading and writing communities and alumni groups, interact with other authors, and speak at reading conferences and book fairs.

Read more of Adrienne Sparks' frontlist book marketing strategies and how to promote an older book. And read more articles on book marketing and publicity.

Adrienne Sparks is a marketing consultant who has crafted marketing campaigns for first-time authors as well as New York Times best sellers by authors such as Pat Conroy, Jonathan Lethem and Dan Brown. Contact her through her website, sparksmarketing.net.