How to Promote Your Book: 8 Sales-Boosting Steps for Authors
A lot of the questions we get every day at Reedsy have to do with marketing. They’re often along the lines of How can I promote my book? and How do I get reviews? or Can someone just do the marketing for me?
The problem is, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all answer to those questions. Each author and book will face different challenges with marketing. While there are a few basics that everyone should have well covered — do you know your target audience? Was your cover professionally designed? Do you know how to write a strong blurb? — everything after that is up to you.
There are countless things you can try out, like the 50+ marketing ideas you can find in this awesome post. But there are also some lesser-known ways to make your book promotion efforts more effective — whether that’s on Amazon, Facebook, for your mailing list, or elsewhere.
So that’s what this post is all about: 8 steps full of game-changing hacks to make your life easier. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Optimize your use of Amazon
Regardless of how many retailers you sell your book at, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got a handle on Amazon. There’s a whole art to understanding Amazon’s algorithms which you can learn about through our course, but here’s a few simple things to get you started.
Get into categories with keyword requirements
When you upload a book to KDP, you are asked to choose two categories for each format (ebook and paperback). But this doesn’t mean that your book will only show up in two categories!
You can get into a lot more categories through two simple hacks. The first has to do with keywords.
See, Amazon has certain categories that you can only reach by using the right keywords. They’re called “categories with keyword requirements”, and you can find all of them, along with the required keywords, right here.
For example, to get your romance novel into the romantic comedy category, you’d just have to use “comedy” or “humor” as one of your seven keywords. And, because your book is already in the Romance category, Amazon will join the dots. Easy, right?
Get your book into even more Amazon categories
The second hack to get into even more Amazon categories is simply to… reach out to KDP Support! It’s so simple that most authors don’t even think of it.
But first, you should obviously research which categories you’d like your book added to. For that, you have two options:
- Head to the best-seller lists for the Kindle store or Books store, and drill down into categories in the right sidebar; or
- Use a tool like Publisher Rocket ($97, but well worth it if you’re running Amazon ads) to bulk-analyze categories.
Then, just head to KDP Support and select “Updated Amazon Categories” in the sidebar. Send only one email per book, and include all the categories you want your book added in.
⚠️Important: This is not a numbers game, so don’t try to get your book in as many categories as possible! Only include the most relevant ones, or risk the consequences of also-bought pollution.
Send your readers to a (clean) book URL
So your book is out, and you want to share the good news with your mailing list (and maybe ask them for reviews). What Amazon URL do you use?
If you search for your book on Amazon, you’ll end up with a URL looking like:
Pretty ugly, right? Well, everything after the “?” in the URL is generally superfluous. In this case, it indicates that the book was found after a search for “fundraising field guide”.
Not only is that link unnecessarily long, but it also includes information that could be detrimental to you if you share it with your readers. (Find out why)
Instead, you should clean up this link before you send it. Just remove everything that’s after the “/ref=”:
To make it even shorter, you can even remove the title:
That’s the clean URL: the one you can (and should) share with your readers.
Turn your Amazon URLs into universal URLs
I’m guessing your readers aren’t all in the US, are they? So if you send everyone to the Amazon.com store, those who are outside the US will first have to switch stores before they can buy your book…
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just remove this step for them?
Well, you can: by sharing a universal Amazon URL. There are several tools you can use for that, but the one that I generally recommend (because it’s free) is Books2Read’s Universal Links: https://books2read.com/
Just paste a clean link to your book in there, and Books2Read will generate a link that will automatically send readers to their preferred store and country.
Step 2: Grow your list with reader magnets and giveaways
But before you can send links to your mailing list, you’ll need to have readers subscribed to it! If you’re not familiar with reader magnets, they’re basically a free something (usually a book) you give readers in exchange for their signing up to your mailing list. If you don’t have one already, you know what to work on next. If you do, you’ll enjoy the following hacks.
Include the reader magnet both in the front and back matter
If you have a reader magnet, then I’m pretty sure you’re linking to it at the end of every book you have, right?
Well, one little hack to boost your subscribers is to add it in the front matter as well. This way, when Amazon browsers use the “Look Inside” feature, they’ll see your reader magnet offer as well. Even if they end up not buying the book, they might subscribe to your newsletter for the free book!
Insert your reader magnet inside the body of your book
Another cool thing you can do with reader magnets is to build them into your book. Let’s face it, most readers skip the front and back matter of a book. So having it inside the body of the book guarantees readers will see it.
“But won’t that just unnecessarily distract the reader from the actual book?”
That’s a risk, yes. But if you play your cards right, you can work it in quite elegantly. For non-fiction, it’s pretty easy to include a mention and link to a “cheat sheet”, a “checklist”, or a free video course (exclusive to newsletter subscribers) at the end of a relevant chapter, for example.
With fiction, you’ve got to be more creative. For example, you could blend fiction and reality: post-apocalyptic author ML Banner created a real website for a fictional research institute in his book, a website where you can sign up for his particular reader magnet.
The beautiful thing about eBooks is the connectivity: you can embed hyperlinks. So I linked to this CMERI website where my character actually offered a reader magnet; a free ebook called “The Apocalypse Survival Guide”. And I actually got over 1,200 downloads of that book. Some people even seem to believe that the CMERI is real, as I got a couple of media inquiries!
Read the full interview here.
Place the Facebook pixel on your reader magnet page
If your reader magnet is a free book (or several free books), then I’m guessing you use BookFunnel to distribute it — if you don’t, check out their service, it’ll save you a lot of headaches.
Now, a little-known fact about BookFunnel is that they make it extremely easy to add the Facebook Pixel to your giveaway pages. (Don’t know what a Facebook Pixel is? Check out our post on classic book marketing mistakes)
Having the Pixel on your reader magnet page allows you to:
- Track the conversion of your page;
- Optimize the ads you run for signups rather than just traffic;
- Create custom and lookalike audiences on Facebook based on all the people who viewed your magnet.
As we’ve said many times before, any author advertising on Facebook and not leveraging the Facebook Pixel is just wasting money. Don’t be one of those authors.
Step 3: Choose between KDP Select or a "wide" approach
There are lots of advantages to selling exclusively through Amazon, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of KDP select before you make any decision about your books. However, retailers like Apple Books or Kobo each have their own unique promotion opportunities for authors smart enough to take advantage of them.
Exclusive pre-orders on Apple & Kobo
Apple and Kobo treat pre-orders differently from Amazon. On Amazon, every sale while your book is on pre-order gives you a boost in rankings at the time of the sale. On Apple and Kobo, pre-order sales are counted twice towards rankings: once at the time of the sale, and a second time on launch day.
This means that if you generate enough sales while on pre-order, your book will soar in the rankings on launch day on those stores. Because of this difference, some clever authors run their pre-orders exclusively on Kobo and Apple — also a smart way to incentivize your readership to go “wide”.
Mega ebook box sets on Apple & Kobo
Another thing that sets both Apple and Kobo apart is that they offer a 70% royalty rate on ebooks priced at $10 and above — as opposed to the reduced 35% royalty on Amazon for ebooks priced outside the $2.99 - $9.99 range.
This creates a great opportunity for “mega box sets”, i.e. box sets of six, or more books, which are generally priced above $9.99. Selling them on Amazon wouldn’t really be worth it, because of the lower royalty rate. Instead, you can sell them exclusively on Apple and/or Kobo.
The added benefit? Apple and Kobo’s merchandising teams both love exclusive deals, so it’ll be easier to get these box sets into their promos.
Step 4: Create an irresistible box set
While we’re on the topic of box sets, here are a few more ideas for leveraging these multi-book bundles to promote your existing catalogue.
First-in-series box sets
What’s that? It’s basically a box set with several series starters. This is only relevant to you if you already have 3-4 series out there, but it can be a good way to introduce new potential readers to your whole universe, all while offering them a solid discount through the box set.
You might not see a lot of sales for it, but think about it this way: every sale might lead the reader to make their way through all your series, and that’s going to be quite profitable for you. Plus, it costs nothing to put such a box set together…
Paperback box sets
Many authors have digital box sets available. But few have the “print” version of those box sets available as well.
“Why a print version, though? Nobody’s going to buy a 600-page door-stopper!”
Well, first, you’d be surprised… and more importantly, having the other format available helps with the price contrast on the product page:
When the potential reader sees the huge discount that the Kindle version offers, they’ll be more likely to buy it.
If you’re wondering how to format such a huge print book, you’ll be glad to know you can easily do that for free in the Reedsy Book Editor, or through a paid software like Vellum. Just make sure you select a small font size so that your book doesn’t exceed KDP’s maximum page count (around 800 pages).
⚠️Warning: If you do publish a paperback box set, make sure not to name it a “box set”, as Amazon will only allow actual boxed sets — i.e. individual books packaged in a cardboard box — to be named as such on the print books store. Call it an omnibus, or a compendium instead.
Step 5: Get reviews as early as possible
Whether it's a single book or a box set, the best books in the world won't sell with little or no reviews. Reviews signal quality to readers. It’s crucial to get reviews up on Amazon and other platforms right away.
Getting Amazon reviews before your ebook launches
How great would it be to already have reviews on your product page before your ebook even launches? Sadly, Amazon doesn’t let customers post reviews until the book is published — even if it’s on pre-order.
So how can you get around that? By publishing another format (the paperback) earlier.
For example, If you release the paperback one week before your ebook, then readers will be able to post reviews on the paperback. And since paperback and ebook are on the same Amazon product page… ta-da! You’ll be able to accumulate reviews on your ebook page even while it’s on pre-order.
Getting editorial reviews
Beyond just user reviews, editorial reviews give an extra level of clout to your work. You can add them to your book's Amazon page using Amazon Author Central, but you'll need to get them before you can quote them.
You can reach out to individual book bloggers if you wish, but this is time-consuming and tricky to determine which reviewers to contact. To cut down on your workload, we've launched Discovery. Discovery is a platform that allows you to submit your upcoming book to a pool of vetted reviewers in one go. Additionally, books on Discovery gain added visibility through community upvotes, newsletter spotlights, and a dedicated landing page.
Send your readers straight to the review page
Want some more Amazon URL magic? This hack is pretty awesome for getting reviews.
I’m guessing that at the end of your book, you have a message asking readers to leave an honest review on Amazon, right? (If you don’t, now is the time to add one)
Well, by using the following Amazon URL, you can actually send these readers straight to the “review” page for your book:
Just replace “ASIN” above by your book’s ASIN, which can be found in its Product Details.
Don’t believe me? Try this link:
Step 6: Cross-promote with other indie authors
One of the very best ways to build a sustainable writing career is to make friends in the community. You should be out there building relationships with other indie authors, especially in your genre. Conferences are a great way to do that, but if you can’t afford those yet, here are some cross-promotion hacks.
Run a paperback bundle giveaway
So how do you make friends with authors who don’t know you from a hole in the ground? It’s simple, you read their books first, and try to do something for them before you hit them up for anything.
An easy option is to put together a paperback giveaway for your readers, with print books from some of your favorite indie authors in your genre.
Not only will this giveaway grow your mailing list, it’s a great opportunity to reach out to other authors and start building your relationship.
You can use a service like KingSumo or RaffleCopter to host the giveaway and add a virality component to it.
Freebie group giveaway
Another form of giveaway — also useful for building connections and growing your mailing list — is the “online freebie group giveaway.”
Essentially, you team up with other authors to each offer a book for free for a limited time, as part of a group giveaway.
You can set up and host the giveaway pretty easily through BookFunnel, which will automatically take care of the opt-in and GDPR stuff. And you can even use their promo tab to recruit other authors into your promo.
Newsletter swaps with other authors
The two previous hacks help you achieve two very different, but equally important goals:
- Build meaningful connections with other authors in your genre;
- Grow your mailing list.
And these are the two main requirements for one of the most powerful promotional tools any author can use: newsletter swaps.
The idea is simple: you promote one author’s book in your newsletter, and they promote one of your books in return. This is generally done around special events (like new releases or discount promos) and can be amplified through other channels: social media pages, groups, etc.
You should only approach authors with a similar size mailing list as yours — and only once you’ve built a relationship with them.
Create a multi-author anthology
Once you’ve built a solid network of like-minded authors in your genre, you can go even further and release a book together. For example, a themed collection of short stories.
It’s a nice and non-intrusive way for each author to introduce their readership to the other authors in the collection.
Create a multi-author Facebook group
We haven’t included “create a Facebook group for your readers” as a hack here, because, well, it’s not really a hack. First, it’s something already quite common. And secondly, running a Facebook group is a lot of work and can easily distract you from, you know, writing.
But what if you teamed up with other authors to run a multi-author Facebook group? You could take turns to moderate and populate the group with relevant content, as well as cross-promote.
There are a few of those out there, if you want to see how they work:
Step 7: Boost your price promotions
We’ve touched on price promotions on a bunch of other posts. The basic idea is: you discount the price of your book(s) for a few days, and promote that discount.
Use a calendar to schedule your BookBub Featured Deal submissions
The best way to promote such a discount deal is to advertise it on dedicated price promotion sites and newsletters. And the most important one, by far, is BookBub.
Now, the issue with BookBub is that it’s almost impossible nowadays for an indie author to get a Bookbub Featured Deal (somewhat of a “holy grail” in the indie publishing community). Even if you meet all their “minimum requirements,” you still need a lot of reviews, and plenty of luck.
So how can use boost your chances? By submitting as often as allowed by BookBub. And since figuring that out is not always straightforward, we’ve created a handy “BookBub submissions calendar” at Reedsy which you can get for free here. It will help you submit your titles as many times as is possible in a calendar year.
Stack price promotions on promo sites
Now, even if you don’t manage to get a Featured Deal on BookBub, you can (sort of) replicate the effects of it by booking several promos on other smaller — yet reputable — sites. That’s what we call “promo stacking”, and you can use our tiered list of recommended book promotion sites to figure out the most relevant ones for your book.
The idea here is to secure a few promos for each day of your price drop — a big-ish one, and a few smaller ones.
So, a stacked price promo might look like:
- Day 1: BargainBooksy + ENT + Book Barbarian
- Day 2: Robin Reads + Book Rebel + My Book Cave
- Day 3: The Fussy Librarian + Early Bird Books + Book Sends
Of course, booking such sites/newsletters shouldn’t prevent you from running ads of your own. Which is what we’ll explore next.
Step 8: Advertise on Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram
Amazon ads are becoming increasingly important for both indie authors and traditional publishers. As Amazon grants more and more space to ads in search results and product pages, more authors will jump in and take advantage of this opportunity. These Amazon hacks are a bit advanced and will help you stay ahead of the competition — but if you know nothing about Amazon ads, start by taking this free course.
On the other hand, Facebook is not a “book advertising platform” — i.e. a platform dedicated exclusively to books. However, it can be used just as effective — if not more — to promote your book. If you’ve never run Facebook ads… you guessed it! We have a free course for that too.
Download your automatic targeting reports to get keyword ideas
One of the main challenges with Amazon ads is to find relevant keywords to target in your Sponsored Product campaigns — and that’s what all the book promotion hacks in this section will focus on.
The first one is to take a cue from… Amazon itself! For all your books, make sure to set up a Sponsored Product campaign with automated targeting. This will let Amazon automatically decide and optimize which keywords and products to target.
If you go into the campaign to analyze the results, Amazon won’t show which keywords they targeted and how they performed — they’ll only show overall campaign results. However, you can actually get this level of detailed information in the “Reports” section. Just run a “Search term” report for “Sponsored Products”:
Then, take the keywords that worked well in the auto-targeting campaign, and plug them in your manual ones!
Using Yasiv to find all the connected also-boughts
While the auto-targeting hack is great for finding a few super-relevant and effective keywords, it won’t help you populate your manual keyword campaigns with hundreds of keywords to test (something which all experts out there recommend).
To get a mega-list of keywords, here’s another hack: go to yasiv.com and plug in your ASIN (or book title). Yasiv will then display all the books connected to yours through the Also Boughts. In the sidebar, it’ll also list all of their titles and author names.
That’s a perfect opportunity for a huge copy-and-paste into a keyword spreadsheet. Granted, you’ll have to delete a few lines, but you’ll still have saved hours of work.
Note: if you want to save even more time, you can purchase a tool like Publisher Rocket that will greatly automate your Amazon Ad keyword research. That’s what we personally use at Reedsy.
Sign up to BookBub newsletters to get targeting ideas
A last cool hack to get Amazon keyword ideas: sign up to BookBub newsletters in your genre, and target the books featured in these newsletters (as long as they’re a close enough match to your book).
Books promoted through a BookBub Featured Deal receive a ton of exposure (think thousands of sales). So they become a prime candidate to piggy-back on through Amazon ads!
And if you run BookBub self-serve ads as well, you can also replicate this technique on there. BookBub Featured Deals tend to immediately boost an author’s number of followers on BookBub, turning them into a great prospect for targeting.
Using Facebook Audience Insights to find new interests to target on Facebook
Selecting the right targets on Facebook is not as straightforward as on Amazon or BookBub, where almost every author under the sun will be available as a target. On Facebook, only the biggest names will show up as “interests” when you set up your targeting.
The general advice is: use a mix of big comp authors, and narrow it down by “Kindle” audiences:
But obviously, everyone does that, nowadays. So how do you find new “interests” to target? Through Facebook’s Audience Insights. There, just plug an interest into the sidebar, and look at the “Page Likes” tab. This will show you which other pages your audience has the strongest affinity with.
For example, here are the main page likes of the “Harry Potter” interest:
Obviously, not all those will be relevant, but playing with this tool will undoubtedly help you uncover some new “interests” to target.
Using dynamic ads and viewing their performance with “breakdown”
This is one of my favorite hacks on Facebook right now, as it allows you to test a bunch of different images, videos, and copy, all at once, within the same ad.
Facebook rolled out “dynamic ads” in 2018, and the idea is simple. Instead of you designing one ad by choosing an image, writing a headline, news feed copy, etc, you feed Facebook with up to:
- 10 different images and/or videos;
- 5 different headlines;
- 5 different texts;
- 5 different news feed descriptions;
- 5 different call to action buttons.
Then, Facebook will automatically rotate between all of these, monitor the results, and automatically serve the combinations that work best.
But that’s not the cool part. The cool part is: you can actually view how each combination performed! To do so, just open the “Breakdown” menu in the dashboard and sort the results by “Dynamic Creative Asset”.
Creating a book trailer using Pond5 and Lumen5
If you run Facebook ads, you’ll have probably heard that videos tend to outperform images. More importantly, videos allow you to create custom audiences based on the people who view them!
“Sure, but I can’t afford to produce a video trailer just to run ads!”
Actually, yes you can. With the tools available today, it’s pretty easy to create a trailer. For example, Pond5 allows you to purchase amazing stock video at a very reasonable price. And a tool like Lumen5 can help you turn your blurb into a trailer. Combine the two and you can end up with a professional-looking video that will boost your ad’s performance.
That’s it for these book promotion hacks!
We’ll keep updating this post as we come across more cool ideas! In the meantime, make sure you've laid the groundwork by implementing all the fundamentals of book marketing.