Congrats on choosing the path of indie publishing! This is no easy feat. You have to write, self-publish, and promote. Wherever you are on this journey, developing your indie book marketing plan is a must. So here’s your guide for crafting a solid book promotion plan, made easy to digest. Plus, an example book marketing timeline at the end. ⬇️
3 main steps for your indie book marketing plan
Marketing can sound daunting, especially for newbies. No worries, let’s simplify the process by splitting this guide into three main steps:
- Develop your strategy: Draft your main blueprint with boss energy. Definine your target audience, goals, and budget.
- Choose your tactics: Learn about the various marketing tactics available and select the ones that best fit your strategy.
- Create your timeline: Put everything together in a marketing timeline that aligns with your book publishing timeline.
Step 1: Develop your strategy
A strategy is your over-arching, big-picture view. It sets the stage for choosing the marketing tactics you want to implement. Wherever your are in your self publishing timeline, take the steps to flesh out your strategy. Open a new document and answer these necessary questions:
Who’s your target audience?
A target audience is a group of people most likely to be your core customers. It’s important to define this. You don’t want to waste resources trying to grab everyone’s attention. Instead, you’d want to choose tactics that make sense for your main audience. Ask yourself: who is most likely interested in my book?
You can answer this question by thinking about your book itself. What needs does it fulfill for the reader? Got an idea of your reader? Collect your thoughts or even draw out your intended audience on paper. And most importantly, research similar books in your genre and take notes on the types of followers they attract.
Target audiences share similar traits, such as:
- Socioeconomic status
Define each point. Get more specific with:
- Favorite book genres
- Favorite authors
- Favorite hang-out spots (physically and virtually like social media platforms)
Example: The target audience for my YA fantasy romance fiction novel on vampire love are females aged 13 to 27 who are still in school and live in the U.S. They love to hang out on TikTok and Instagram. And they also enjoy the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.
With the example above, it’d make the most sense to focus on TikTok and Instagram for social media promotions. Also, the author’s tone of voice when communicating with readers would be youthful and personable (with the use of a lot of emojis!)
You can list as many target audiences as you need. However, I recommend no more than two if you’re just starting out (for now). There’s always room to tweak and optimize your strategy throughout your journey.
What’s your unique selling proposition?
You have an idea of who you want to reach. But will they notice your book in a sea of competition? A unique selling proposition is a characteristic that makes you or your book stand out.
Ask yourself: “What makes my book marketable? What about me is marketable as an author? Do I have unique credentials? Have I won any book awards in the past?” Jot everything. This comes in handy when creating your marketing items like the author bio or advertising copy.
What are your goals?
A goal is a statement of direction determined by your needs. With defined goals, you can look at each marketing tactic and ask, “does this help me achieve my goals?”
Example goals to jumpstart your thinking:
- To gain exposure and credibility as a first-time author, preferably online (since I’m shy).
- To land on Amazon’s category bestseller list within two months.
- To generate more clients in my local area by positioning myself as an expert in my field.
- To develop a fan base and increase sales in my fiction series.
And you can refine your goals later on:
- To do more interviews and in-person events because I realize they generate more sales (even if I’m shy).
- To collect more reviews because they influence my target audience the most.
- To boost sales by advertising on Facebook because the last two experiments were successful.
What’s your budget?
It’s crucial to set your budget and select tactics that fit your budget. Marketing spending can go anywhere from $50 a month to the sky being the limit. Of course, this depends on factors like your financial circumstances and how much you’re willing to risk and reinvest.
If you’re under a tight budget, don’t fret. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to market a self published book. We’ll get to them below under tactics, so let’s keep going.
What to measure?
You gotta track your performance. Doing so helps you make smart marketing decisions. Self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP or PublishDrive have dashboards to view sales details like when you made a sale and in what country. Utilize them.
Set up a spreadsheet with columns for tactic, the date you used the tactic, book sales, and sales ranking during that period. Routinely track your activities. You'll start to notice patterns. If a certain tactic doesn’t bring in any results, cut it out. On the other hand, if a podcast interview led to significant sales, do more of that.
Step 2: Choose your tactics
With your handy self publishing marketing plan, it’s time for the nitty-gritty. Tactics are the tangibles. And there are quite a lot of them. Don’t use them all, because realistically, you won’t have the budget or time. This step involves getting familiar with the various marketing tactics out there, then choosing the ones that best fit your strategy.
There are a handful of best practices to consider, marked with a star ✩ below.
List of tactics for your indie book marketing plan
|Develop author brand ✩|
Author branding is an extension of your strategy that helps blueprint how you conduct yourself across marketing mediums like social, email, and beyond. As yourself questions like “what aspects of my persona do I want to share? What tone of voice do I want to use when engaging with my readers? What kind of design elements represent my vibe?”
See more: build an author brand
|Optimize metadata ✩|
Metadata holds information about your book, used across stores. It includes author, title, subtitle, description, series information, language, categories, keywords, reviews, and price. It influences your discoverability and engagement with readers, directly influencing your sales.
See more: book metadata
|Optimize book description ✩|
Your book description is one of the first elements people come across when browsing for books. You want to pull people in by adding the strongest, emotional hooks in the very first few sentences.
See more: book description hacks
|Ensure best book cover design ✩|
Your cover design is also one of the first elements people see. If you can, hire a professional designer. Your cover should fit industry standards, look professional, and be enticing.
See more: how to design a book cover
|Create author website||In self-publishing, selling books happens online. That means you have to engage people online. A dedicated online hub like an author website helps people learn more about you. A professional site also helps with your credibility.|
|Create blog page||If a website doesn’t fit your budget, set up a free page on blog platforms like Medium or Tumblr. Blogging can help boost your author brand.|
|Set up email strategy ✩|
Email is a direct way to engage and nurture your readers. Create an email plan. Maybe you want to send out monthly newsletters about your writing progress or sales campaigns.
“Trending marketing tactics may come and go, but your mailing list will always remain one of your most powerful marketing tools.”
See more: how to set up a mailing list for authors
|Set up social media strategy ✩|
Social media is where everyone is at. And the potential to get discovered in these digital spaces is huge. Set up at least one dedicated account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok.
|Set up author page(s) ✩|
You’re most likely going to sell on Amazon, the mecca of online books. Be sure to create your author page on Amazon to give readers a space to learn more about you. Consider setting up an author page on Facebook and Goodreads too.
See more: author page
|Collect book reviews ✩|
I say: this is an author’s #1 priority. Here’s the rule of e-commerce: people won’t buy when there are zero reviews.
See more: book reviews
|Get pre-publication endorsements|
An endorsement is a short blurb or testimonial from someone who influences your target audience. You can place it on your book’s front or back cover, author pages, social media bios, and more.
See more: book endorsements
|Distribute a press release|
A press release is a professional announcement about your book launch. Use it for interviews with media outlets, speaking engagements, and website traffic. Send one out at any point in your book publication timeline.
See more: press releases for books
|Run a pre-order period ✩|
Always start with a pre-order period! Stores like Amazon count sales on the first day of release. That means you can use your pre-order period to collect sales and bump up your sales count come launch day. This increases the chances of landing on bestseller lists, exposure you don’t want to miss.
See more: pre-orders for books
|Throw launch party|
This one is a fantastic marketing strategy for book launch. Organize a launch party to celebrate your book as well as engage with your people. Invite people via your email list, social media, and more.
See more: plan book launch party
|Network & attend book events|
Research and build a list of virtual and in-person book events. Networking helps you meet new readers and industry people. Network online too by joining forums like Reddit’s group for writers.
|Use reader magnet|
A reader magnet is anything you give away in exchange for your reader’s contact information (this is where your email list comes in handy!) Example: offer a free chapter of your book for an email address back. Now you can add a new contact to your mailing list to upsell your book down the funnel.
See more: creative reader magnet ideas
Research and reach out to podcasts, YouTubers, bloggers, radio stations, and beyond. Use a press release to send out important information about you and your book.
|Apply for book awards|
Research and build a list of book awards to apply to. This is a great way to gain credibility. With any book awards you do achieve, place them across marketing mediums like your website or Amazon author page.
|Run free/discounted price campaigns ✩|
After launching your book, plan a special sales period where you list your book for free or a discounted price. PublishDrive analyzed over 800 sales campaigns. The main result: indies made 10x more sales. These work.
|Buy promotional spots|
If you do run a sales campaign, advertise the heck out of it. Buy a spot on promotional sites specifically curated for readers looking for free or discounted books. Freebooksy has over 368,000 users looking for free book deals. Bargain Booksy has over 277,000 users looking for titles priced $3.99 and lower.
|Run Amazon ads|
Amazon captures the majority of the digital book market. It takes a bit of research to get familiar with advertising on Amazon. The cool thing is you can start with a budget as low as $5 a day.
See more: Amazon ads for authors
|Run Facebook ads|
Facebook is another giant space to advertise in. I mean, it’s the #1 social platform in the world. Run Facebook ads to promote your book launch, pre-order period, sales campaign, and more.
See more: Facebook ads for authors
|Run BookBub ads|
BookBub is a favorite for many indie authors. It’s a “flexible marketing tool, offering authors and book marketers the opportunity to tailor their campaigns to reach custom audiences of readers for any title at any time.”
See more: how to advertise a book
|Land free promotional spots|
If you don’t have the budget or feel ready for paid advertising, there are a ton of free options to get into. Research around and build your list. See this list of places to promote for free.
|Distribute everywhere ✩|
Last but not least, distribute your book in every format (ebook, print, audio), store, and country possible. This is about maximizing your reach, therefore, your revenue streams. Indies distributing everywhere doubled their sales last year via PublishDrive.
Step 3: Create your timeline
After choosing your tactics based on your target audience, budget, and overall goals, the last step involves putting everything together in a cohesive timeline that aligns with your book launch timeline.
Here’s an example of how your book marketing timeline should look. It’s split up into three main phases:
- Planning: Craft your book launch plan, get familiar with the tactics you want to implement, and set up everything you need to promote your book. Your work should align with your timeline for writing a book.
- Pre-order: Create buzz during your pre-order period until the official launch of your book. Use this period to finalize your metadata and other marketing materials.
- Post-release: After launching your book, marketing should be an ongoing effort. Fill your calendar with weekly to monthly activities.
Book marketing timeline example
When you’ve decided on your book timeline, schedule tasks and deadlines into your daily calendar. Follow through on your assignments. Don’t forget to incorporate time to track and measure your results. You got this, dear authorpreneur!
Now that you have your author marketing plan for self published books, what’s next? ⬇️
Boost your sales with PublishDrive
PublishDrive provides not just publishing and distribution support, but marketing tools you don’t want to miss:
Plus, maximize sales by distributing in as many stores and countries as possible. Sell in thousands of bookstores, with a click of a button.