How do you market your new release if the traditional book tour isn’t an option?
This is a question I’ve asked myself four times in the last few months, as I’ve released four new books during a global pandemic. Each time, I’ve found new ways to reach my target audience of readers, letting them know about my new book and why they will want to read it. If you’re stuck for ideas, I’m here to help.
It is 100% possible to keep 2 metres of space AND still hold a successful book launch event. However, the final result might not look like you originally envisioned. Just ask Heather Siegel, author of The King and the Quirky (Regal House Publishing, April 2020). To capture the excitement of a live audience, she invited friends and family to a reading event in her own garden, spacing out the chairs to ensure everyone’s safety. To get a much broader reach, she broadcast the event live on her Facebook page, garnering over 1700 views. Despite having to change her plans, she ended up reaching a much larger audience than she would have otherwise.
Many bookstores have continued to host author readings and interviews on their social media pages, so even if you don’t have a well-established social following, you can still hold an online event.
Humans are social creatures. In the absence of physical interaction during the lockdown, people turned to online communities to find the connection they need. Readers are absolutely not an exception. To launch my cosy mystery series, I searched Facebook for cosy reader groups and was amazed at how many I found. These private groups of genre readers love nothing more than to chat about their favourite books and interact with their favourite authors. Beyond my genre, I also found dozens of online book clubs, lovers of British books and reviewers keen to read ARCs.
I joined the groups well in advance of my launch date and began interacting first as a member. This helped me build up goodwill with the group admins, leading to permission to post launch announcements and even to host online book release parties. All total, I joined fifteen groups and generated hundreds of sales as a result. The time investment required was minimal, and honestly, who doesn’t love interacting with people who love a genre as much as you do?
During the lockdown, book bloggers and bookstagrammers helped fill in the gap for reading recommendations. As publishers and authors began shuffling book release dates around, readers turned to book influencers to find out what was available and whether or not it was any good.
There are two different ways you can work with book bloggers and bookstagrammers. The first is to send them a copy of your book for review (with their permission). You will need to work to their availability, and they may require printed copies. If a blogger’s schedule is full, you can try the second option: interviews and guest blogs.
There are professional companies that can organise blog and Instagram tours on your behalf, or you can do it yourself. Fair warning, you likely need to start working on this much earlier than you think. Many of the bloggers I contacted were booked for 30-60 days out.
Last, but definitely not least, are newsletters. I split newsletters into two categories: your own newsletter and other authors’ newsletters.
I did not have a newsletter before I published my first book, and I honestly despaired at the thought of having to come up with something new to say on a regular basis. I ended up buying a copy of the book Newsletter Ninja, and I am so glad that I did.
Readers subscribe to author newsletters because they like the author. They are your fan club and they want to know about you. Once I got that through my head, I built out an automation sequence which all new subscribers get (four emails in total), and I also send out a fresh newsletter every other week. I include a short overview from my daily life, reading recommendations and information on any genre sales or promos. It takes me about thirty minutes in total to prepare. I’ve built up my subscriber list by offering previews of my first book and a free short story.
This leads into the second category: other authors. Those reading recommendations I mentioned above? Those are usually newsletter swaps I’ve agreed with other genre authors. I suggest their books to my readers, and in return, they promote mine. This helps us both and doesn’t cost either of us anything. Plus, it is free content I can use, which makes my life easier.
Although I definitely would not have chosen to launch new books during a pandemic or a lockdown, it hasn’t been all negative. I set aside any plans to aim for bestseller status on my release day, and instead focused on building up a long-term relationship with my readers. I’ve made new friends, connected with fellow authors and found an incredible community of readers waiting to read my words. When the world reopens and life returns to some semblance of normal, I will be well placed to grow.
Lynn Morrison is a marketing veteran with a career spanning more than twenty years in both in-house and agency roles. She is also the author of the non-fiction titles, How to Be Published and How to Market Your Book, both published by Fairlight Books on 1 August 2020.