4 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Book Marketing Efforts

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When I see bad book marketing out in the wild, I wish I could do something productive to help that author (or sometimes publisher!) see how they’re wasting their time.

What is bad book marketing? It’s whenever I receive:

  • A tweet from a total stranger asking me to look at their book
  • An e-mail from a total stranger asking me to look at their book
  • A Facebook message from a total stranger asking me to look at their book

And so on—I think you get the idea.

Here are 4 ways to immediately improve your book marketing efforts. Perhaps you should save the link to this post, and offer it up via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail to anyone engaging in time-wasting activity as described above.

1. Use your website for hard selling. Do not lean on social media for hard selling. Social media typically works best for long-term awareness efforts, relationship building, audience development, and general networking. It is not terribly effective for repeatedly telling people, in your own voice, over and over again, “Buy my book.” All of the information about why people might like your book—along with the hard-hitting sales pitch—should be on your website. If you don’t have your own website where you control the content and presentation, it’s next to impossible to have a successful book marketing campaign.

2. Brainstorm a list of all the meaningful relationships you have—people who you can count on to read your e-mails. Divide the list into three groups: (a) people who would probably like to be alerted to your new work, e.g., old classmates or coworkers, (b) people who have significant reach or influence with your target readership, e.g., a blogger or established author, and (c) your existing and devoted fans who may be willing to spread the word about your new work to their friends and connections. For Group A, write a brief announcement and include a link to your website for all the book details. For Group B, write a brief, personalized note to each person about your book promotion efforts, and offer 1-3 concrete ways they could help you—e.g., tweet about the book on a specific day, excerpt the book on their blog/site, run a Q&A, etc. For Group C, write a brief, general note asking for support in any way they feel comfortable, and provide examples of what that support might look like. If there are any influencers in Group C, consider moving them to Group B and writing something more personalized. Note: So few authors do any of this. Taking the time to write personalized e-mails will dramatically increase support from your network. You shouldn’t try to market and promote your book on your own; it takes a village, as they say.

3. Brainstorm a list of all the gatekeepers to your readers with whom you do not have a relationship yet—specific individuals and specific websites/blogs. For example, if you write romance, then popular romance review blogs would act as a gatekeeper. Do those blogs accept guest posts? Can you contribute to their community in some way? If you want to grow your readership, you’ll have to work beyond your existing network. Find a way to help gatekeepers—rather than demanding something of them—and you’ll find the whole process more successful AND enjoyable.

4. Invest in professional design and presentation for all marketing and self-promotion materials. This includes your website, your author photos, your book cover (the No. 1 book marketing tool, whether print or digital), your business cards, your Twitter avatar, your Facebook cover photo, etc. If you appear professional, that’s half the battle. Amateur design hurts you tremendously in the long run—especially when it comes to gatekeepers and influencers. Sorry, but appearance matters, and a professional presentation shows that you take yourself and your work seriously.

What do you think are some other concrete ways to immediately improve book marketing efforts? Share in the comments.

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Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
Posted in Marketing & Promotion.


  1. Thank you Jane! 

    That is such sound advice. I hate it when get bombarded by people via social networking who don’t even try to disguise the fact that they have no interest in me but just see me as useful. On the other hand, I’ve learnt so much by engaging with other people. After all, we are all on the same side. Plus I’ve found some great books I’d never have spotted otherwise. The advice about the meaningful emails is something I hadn’t thought about. Off to brainstorm! 

  2. Bravo! Especially #2 and #3 – I especially recommend authors contribute to Amazon thoughtful reviews of books by other writers they admire – especially if in same genre.

    • I must have done that about fifty times. It’s nice if you get a quid pro quo of sorts. Doesn’t happen very often. But if someone does you a favor, and a review certainly is that, reciprocate in some way, even if you order the book for your local library.

  3. Even many publishers in NY don’t get that sometimes marketing and promotion isn’t about selling the book. Sometimes it’s about building brand recognition for the author.

    When you are pitching media (social, online, or traditional like print, television, radio) remember to ask yourself how you can do one of three things:
    1. Point to an Opportunity (tell how people can achieve something they’ve always wanted to  – like write the novel, or how they can achieve life/work balance, or work from home…whatever.)
    2. Offer a Solution (Give them real answers to real problems like how to make more time in their schedule. How to write more everyday, etc.)
    3. Explode a Myth (like all authors are rich, publishing is easy, romance writers all write in their slippers and eat bonbons – whatever, pick one myth, hold it up and shoot it down in less than 30 seconds.)
    These are the pitches in a 30 second phone call that get you a call back from the producer or editor.

    Notice NONE of these is about your book. Not really. Your book, or the fact that you’ve written one comes as a little side note to the article, interview, etc.

    With social media, all them to find what you write because they enjoy the connection with you. Think of it as an onilne party at a friend’s house where you might know one or two people, but you don’t know anyone else. Introduce yourself, get conversations started, but you wouldn’t walk around shoving your book in people’s faces, would you?

    Focus first on the connection you can have with others to build your author brand and the sales will come.

  4. Jane, 
    This is very helpful, particularly #2. Breaking it down like this is very helpful to sort out how to get it out to whom and when. 

    • Yes! It’s possible to get even more granular with it, but I think most people can figure out for themselves the meaningful distinctions between people in their network and how they should be approached differently.

  5. Thanks Jane. Since I’m trying to do this right now for a book, it’s very helpful. I’m in the middle of doing variants of your A,B, and C, but you’ve spelled out the “whys” and “hows” of that more clearly for me. I’ve also set up a Goodreads giveaway, have used a number of the free press release distribution services, am running a fairly inexpensive ad for 3 months in Shelf Unbound (over 100,000 subscribers), and am attempting to directly contact newspapers and magazines that I’ve noted review my genre with a press release. 

    I’m trying to do all this stuff without being obnoxious (I hope I can still tell if I’m being obnoxious or not.)

  6. I would add it’s important to talk to people in person about your book. Don’t blast them with a sales pitch but weave your upcoming book into the conversation. And talk about the story with enthusiam. Strangers I’ve met on airplanes signed up for email updates on my website and have sent me notes to say they can’t wait to buy the book. Every place I shop: flea markets, antique shops, clothing stores, and local markets are aware I have a book coming out in September. And the manager of a nearby Albertson’s wants to contact my publisher to sell the book in his store. Every sale counts, so go for it.

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  8. I’m trying to do most of what you’re telling us, Jane.  For me, it’s easier on Facebook.  I have a website, but I just moved it from Microsoft Live Small Business (they closed) and am rebuilding it at GoDaddy where my domain is. 

    LinkedIn is the worst when it comes to bombarding you with authors asking you to do something for them. 

    I’m an animal lover, so I talk to a lot of animal groups on Facebook.  I retired from an airline, so I keep in contact with all my friends there on Facebook.  I belong to many Yahoo Groups, too.  It all takes a lot of time. 

    Thank you for all your good advice, Jane. 

    • It does indeed take a lot of time! … I’m glad you found a couple networks that are a good fit for you—Facebook & Yahoo Groups. Sometimes half the battle is knowing where your audience is and where your efforts will be meaningful.

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  10. Great post! 

    Consistency in appearance is always such a big necessity for good marketing.  For us, we use the same avatar on all the websites, and any site that allows personalized background matches the background of our main website. That goes for Scrbd, Twitter, Facebook, the blog… everywhere. IDK how much it helps right now, but once we get the ball rollin’ I suspect it will be invaluable.

  11. Hi Jane, I’m a newbie in the writing scene, not yet published. I’m 58, and learning all this has been a huge curve, more like straight up. I find so many of your suggestions so helpful. And the different breakdowns really help this analog thinker to learn to think digitally. Social media used to be over the back fence and down at the coffee shop. Big changes. Thank you for all your help.
    Oh, and I love the picture at the beginning of this post. Made me smile, made me feel happy right away. That helps.

  12. Pingback: 4 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Book Marketing Efforts | Jane Friedman | Inbound Marketing Review | Scoop.it

  13. Great post Jane. I hadn’t even thought about my email list, duh. Why not? I have tons of friends and family…what was I thinking? Thanks so much for reminding me.

  14. Hi Jane,
       Great advice–especially about unsolicited  e-mails. I used to be the talk show host for Mystery Writer’s of America’s “Murder Must Air.” I would talk to people about being a guest on the show and suddenly I’m bombarded by their newsletters, requests to buy their book, etc. That became a real fast way for me not to buy their books! What a meany I am, huh?
        Again, thanks for the great advice.

  15. Great advice Jane. Thank you!

    I love #3 with engaging your gatekeepers. Following blogs and tweeps while showing a genuine interest in their material goes a long way. I learn something new nearly every day from my RSS feed, and I try to show the writers my appreciation with comments or tweets. I’ve found in doing so that these gatekeepers actually introduce me to their readers  through reciprocal comments and guest blogging – powerful.

  16. Solid information. Great blog! PR and Marketing are both important to the writer’s success. Another good point is to put a daily time limit on it. Whatever you’re comfortable with and fits into your schedule. Writers need to write. And read. And we have families and homes. Managing our time is tough. The need to fit it all in can be daunting. Good marketing effort is critical in the process of selling our work … but the stress of it is often too much for one person to handle. Find a good partner to share the load. It helps. This post may not be quite in line with what Jane is saying here, but it’s the first thing that popped into my head after I read it. I just felt the need to share. :-)

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  18. The hard sell on social media makes me want to run in the opposite direction of their book. I think many others feel the same way. Thank you for the straight-forward advice on what TO DO. Definitely food for thought.

    • Oh sure just we obnoxious ebook writers need..advice from one of the gatekeepers to stop bugging her. Maybe you could step down off your lofty pedestal periodically.and take a peek. I find your advice insulting.

        • I know this was written five months ago but I just read your conversation with “eb” and find him or her a bit confused. There is most likely bitterness from rejection behind the comment but blasting people that could help further his or her success is not a smart move.

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  20. Jane,

    This post is exactly what I needed to read – like so many others who are out there “building our platforms” it’s hard to even know where to begin! I feel like I’ve been taking a crash course of social media, website presentation, hunting down other authors and gate-keepers (like you!) who seem to know what they’re doing, etc., and as soon as I take a deep breath and think I’ve accomplished something, I find the rules have shifted or changed altogether. When you said “email” I said, “YES!” My contacts know that I don’t send or receive anything that isn’t personally-penned via email (I despise forwards) and because of that reputation, I have a PLETHORA of folks who actually read just about everything I send them. I’d kinda shoved email to the back burner but now I’m thinking that it might be part of the platform that I ALREADY built!

    Very encouraging post – Thanks!

  21. I appreciated your advice.  Especially #4.  I am a author of a self help book and understand  coming across professional is key.  How do you find the right person/agency that can help you create and have that professional cover, picture, website, etc that gets it and  won’t lead you down the wrong path?  

    • I recommend looking for covers, websites, or photos that achieve what you want to achieve, then find out who the designer was.

      If that doesn’t work, then you can try asking or looking for referrals on author community boards, as well as membership sites such as PublishersMarketplace.com, where you can find many freelancers who serve industry insiders.

  22. #1 and #4 act as first impressions to me and I’m glad you wrote about them. It’s hard for me to gain interest in an author who’s using social media for hard sales to begin with. But if I do decide to check out their blog or website, it helps if it’s professional in appearance.  #2 is a new idea for me to try, and I’ve been working on #3 by building networks and making contacts even when I have nothing to ‘sell’. Perhaps later when I am seeking, it won’t be like making cold calls if we’ve at least had some prior virtual contact.

  23. “What is bad book marketing? It’s whenever I receive:

    A tweet from a total stranger asking me to look at their book

    An e-mail from a total stranger asking me to look at their book

    A Facebook message from a total stranger asking me to look at their book”

    This is such an excellent (if obvious) point. I am shocked at how ‘rude’ people can be on social media sometimes – demanding, persistent and out-of-context. Sometimes it feels like they are just tossing tweets out ‘into the ether’ so-to-speak b/c someone told them that was a good idea.

    Today I was feeling generous and followed the link someone sent me (rudely) in the midst of a conversation I was having with a friend on Twitter. Amazingly, after all that effort to get me to their website … the author then had absolutely no links to their book! None … really. The images for their iBook went to … the iBooks app. This is insane – I even tried out of curiosity to ‘google’ the title of their iBook/Kindle/Nook picture book but couldn’t find it that way either.

    If people can’t find your book, even when they want to buy or consider it, that’s a problem to resolve before reaching out (whether in bad or good ways). Thanks for so much great content Jane … mostly venting today. :)


    • I agree –authors need to make it easy to get to their book. We all need to work on that. And I agree folks can be rude on facebook without even a “please” involved when asking you to check out their book. Nobody likes a hard sell.

      But in this industry, a soft sell isn’t so bad, is it? We’ve been told social media is the answer. I think we’re going to see more and more hard sells, unfortunately. There has to be a compromise here. We’re all feeling our way in this economy as writers.

      I think some people are so green when it comes to social media, they see other writers doing a hard sell and they think it’s the acceptable thing to do. Just reading this blog post has made me stop and think … what is acceptable? I have to agree that FB and Twitter is great for building relationships, but I can make friends on a park bench. WHY am I building those relationships? Every writer has a message. I’m hoping to get mine out by way of those relationships, with a great deal of respect and professionalism.

      Your point is well taken. Again, nobody likes a book pushed in their face. Authors need to be sensitive to that fact, and learn the art of the soft sell without driving your new friends crazy in the process. 

  24. Thanks Jane. Very helpful.  I completely agree with you that social media is for relationship building and not hard selling.

  25. Thank you Jane – this advice comes at a good time for me.  I was leaning in this direction.  All I needed was a push. – thanks

  26. Hi Jane,

    I live in the UK and I hear a lot of American people say selling books is all about building relationships. I take notice of this advice and act accordingly. However, if you were to have the same sort of discussion with an English person, I think the majority of people would say they’re not bothered about networking with the author, they’ll just buy the book if they like it. I try to network as often as I can and yet I sell the most books in my own country. I guess the Americans are friendlier than the English people. In England people just keep themselves to themselves and that attitude is reflected online.

  27. Terrific advice, Jane, especially your list in number 1. I will be sharing this post with a great many people!

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  29. Awesome post, Jane! I’ve unfollowed peeps on Twitter for this very reason. Too much “hard selling” becomes an eye-sore in my feed, and eventually I can’t take it anymore. Because I know how it feels on the receiving end, I try my hardest not to do the same. EVER. Another great point to consider is that once you make the right friends/connections on social media, like you said Jane, THEY will advertise for you. Most without even being asked, because they love the relationship you’ve built with them, and genuinely want to help you. Figure out who those people are, that have a decent following and generally love spreading the word about good books, and you’ll have free advertising for life! 

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    • Great advice, Jane and I’ve been trying to do all that you mentioned though I’m fairly new at the digital age of writing. One thing I’ve found helpful in my small community is keeping press active in local publications. It’s FREE and nearly everybody I meet tells me they’ve read about my newest book. I get press for signings, speaking events, workshops and then send in pics and follow-up afterwards.  Many ask where to buy the book and lots of kind folks give me a review when they finish. Call it small-town marketing, but it helps the sales numbers.

  33. Hi, Jane. This is my first response to a blog for SinC and I mistakenly replied to Bella rather than to you! I am learning!! I hope you’ll read what I wrote in reply to your blog right under BellaScott’s post. Sorry about that.

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  35. Wow, first of all this information was so helpful, plus I enjoyed reading all of the posts.  I love being able to learn new ways and helpful tips.  Hope you don’t mind me sharing this information :) Love #2, thanks Jane!

  36. Thanks for the useful advice. When I marketed my first book, I did a lot of “bad marketing.” I was so panicked to reach out to people that I did it all wrong! For future projects, I’ll be careful not to bombard strangers. After all, none of that unsolicited bombardment works on me!

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  45. Thank you for the advice. May I have your thoughts on the web site type? For example, must the web site be your name, eg. http://www.MaryJones.com OR can you use an existing website of the business you created and have been involved in for 30 years? In my case, it’s a corporate team building adventure firm and I write about travel, edit company newsletter and am now working on a novel. Must the website be focused on the author?

    • It’s best if the website is your name, pen name, or variation thereof. Sometimes it’s necessary to add the word “author” (MaryJonesAuthor.com).

      I don’t advise using a business name unless it’s a business that’s closely affiliated with the kind of books you’re producing—e.g., a fitness business run by an author who’s writing on health & fitness.

      The further apart the audiences for your business and your books, the more I advise having separate sites. However, if people Google your name and easily find your business website that offers all the information they might want about your novels, that’s not a bad scenario.

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  47. Excellent advice. I particularly like Nos 2 and 3. I’m not the world’s greatest networker, but I now feel I have permission to use my contacts and as long as I don’t bombard them with requests, I’m sure they’re likely to be amenable to the idea of helping me put the word out. I’ll give it a go! Thanks, Jane. :-)

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  49. These are good, insightful and not the usual ones thrown out. that website is SO important, and coming to someone like me to do graphics is especially important as so many authors want to do it all themselves and end up looking unprofessional and thus, not competitive in a market with over 3,000,000 books published yearly! I’m tweeting and posting this! thanks
    Lisa Hainline

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  51. I’m guilty! I’m a new author looking for ways to promote my books and also new to twitter and other social resources. However, I did engage with a few kind souls who sent me a link to you, perhaps to, “get educated”. It really is tough to promote by yourself. My nature is to be respectful of others yet I still have to cross over and let others know I am out there. I think you have some great ideas listed here and I’ll be more mindful now that I have read over some of your suggestions. Yet… We still need to somehow promote our websites in order to promote our books so we enter back into the same loop. Aargh! Thanks for having this site available. I’ll be using it as a reference and I’ll be a more responsible tweeter guy/blogger and newbie artist.

  52. Great advice. I don’t send out e-mails to people I don’t know, but I have to admit I haven’t sent personal, individual e-mails either. Thank you.

  53. Great article Jane. Design can make or break any marketing effort… (bit bias here, as I’m a graphic designer myself!) but I also wanted to comment on your first point: spot on! And it applies to any industry and great reminder for us to keep it SOCIAL… engaging with others, is not about selling but sharing and caring.

  54. Great ideas. Troubles is – for me at least – writing anything good takes a lot of time. The first draft, many many rewrites, edits, and there’s more to writing than sitting at a keyboard and writing. The thinking, the deliberation, the temporary madness, the loss of resolve, the senseless, atavistic world around us, getting it up for yet another run at the crap I’ve written. I receive many nicely craft, personal emails from friends and acquaintances who ask me to read, see, listen to, eat, touch, opine, review all sorts of stuff. That’s the trouble with the Net. It’s good for a few things but there is a lot of overkill.

    But I guess something needs to be done. My last publisher did such a wonderful job up to an including the launch. However, like many traditional publishers, after the book was launched they promptly forget about it and begin work on the next batch of books. The book sold despite them, not because of them. They couldn’t even figure out how to do an proper ebook and sold on the ebook rights to another publisher, who did a great job and made money.
    You can assume I didn’t sign with the same publisher for my upcoming novel. Too bad. Great editor, great cover design, really well produced book and a packed and successful launch but utterly hopeless with marketing, not a clue.

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  56. As always, super great advice! Making lists is a great idea and gearing marketing efforts to different groups based on what they want and the relationship you already have with them is genius. Thanks so much for the post!

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