A Guide to Promoting Yourself as an Author Online

A point that I keep returning to on this blog is that to be successful as an author, you have to market and promote yourself.

Furthermore, it’s important to market early in the process, even before you publish your book. You want to come into launch day with momentum, and the way to do that is to build up an audience of readers eager to read your book.

You may be wondering: How do I promote myself online as an author? Where can I promote that I’m an author?

In this guide, I’ll get you started with tips and advice on how to do self-promotion, along with the types of websites and online platforms you can go to for promotion so that both you and your newly found readers walk away happy.

Advice for Forming Your Promotion Plan

Either take out a blank piece of paper or open up a new word processor document. You’ll want to brainstorm the ways you want to promote yourself and your work and pin down the platforms you want to use.

First point of order: where do you find books you want to read? In all likelihood, the book you’re writing is in the same niche that you read in, so by thinking about how you fill your bookshelf, you can retain the perspective of the reader so you can meet your audience from the other end of the bookselling process.

Beyond that, compare your manuscript to similar books (comp titles), then look up where their authors are promoting. Google will often pop up the major platforms that an author uses, and their website will often link the entire repertoire.

Even as you research other promotional models, reflect on the platforms you’d prefer to use. Every author has a different approach to promotion, so your strategy will likely be different than your competitors.

Once you’ve listed the platforms you’re thinking of joining, then comes another important part: choose only 1-3 platforms to promote.

You may feel some pressure to promote yourself everywhere. After all, they say that more is better. However, I urge you to resist this pressure. One of the worse things you can do as an author is to try to do everything, stretch yourself thin, and then burn out.

Instead, start with your foundational platforms. Take the time to master a website’s software and best practices and evaluate how sustainable your efforts will be on that platform. If you find a platform to be fruitless, phase it out. If you find success, maintain and build through that avenue and gradually expand your promotional network.

Platforms for Author Self-Promotion

Now, on to the online platforms. The following section will list both specific platforms and their more general categories. Websites rise and fall in popularity by the year (remember MySpace?) and some may even cease to exist (rest in peace, Google+). On the bright side, categories last a little longer, and the fundamentals of promotion transfer to any platform.

Let’s start with the social media platforms, the ones you’ve most likely heard about: Twitter and Facebook. While both of them are facing major competition these days, there’s a lot of established advice out there for how authors can promote on these two giants.

Twitter tends to be more fast-paced and concise, while Facebook tends to be more concentrated in groups with slightly longer posts. Facebook has also traditionally had a reputation of having an older audience than Twitter, although even Twitter these days is no longer as hip as its heyday. Overall, these two platforms have proved their staying power, so picking one or both comes down to which style you prefer and where’s your book’s audience.

For other social media platforms that are centered around text, LinkedIn is the prime candidate for business authors and professionals writing non-fiction. Reddit is also growing as being even more community-based than Facebook. Tumblr has waned in popularity but remains an option for writers with younger audiences.

With the above in mind, don’t write off the platforms that rely on images and videos. Meta/Facebook-owned Instagram has a “Bookstagram” community full of authors leveraging visuals for promotion. Snapchat is more insular but may be worth considering for YA authors.

And of course, there’s the newest big new thing in social media: TikTok. Traditional publishers have been taken aback by how effective “BookTok” has been at elevating backlist titles to young yet enthusiastic audiences. No one can predict if BookTok will continue to bear fruit for authors, but with video clips as short as 15 seconds, you would have the opportunity to push your book out in a fast-paced environment.

We’re not done yet: there are even more platforms beyond what’s usually considered social media. Amazon-owned Goodreads is designed for authors, in that you can claim your author profile, engage with readers with content such as author Q&A, and even run giveaways.

You can also start a blog and either set one up on your website (see below) or use a blogging platform such as Medium. Newsletters are also gold, with options out there such as Mailchimp and Substack.

And finally, I recommend that all authors at least build a website. Starting out, you don’t have to go with a paid option (although I still urge you to eventually pay money), but websites make for a reliable central hub that you can funnel readers to from external platforms. While social media websites may shut down, you always can keep your website.

There are thousands of more websites I’ve yet to mention, but that’s the beauty of the Internet. There are platforms for every niche, and new websites come into being and popularity by the month.

This is only the start of your promotional journey. I hope that I’ve given you plenty of pointers on how to launch your writing campaign.

Over to you: Where do you promote yourself online? What pieces of advice do you have on author self-promotion?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

How to Write a Strong Online Book Description as a Self-Published Author

If you want to sell your book online, you must have a strong book description.

When you make self-publishing a business, you’re in charge of all the components for hooking in buyers: marketing, publicity, keywords, metadata . . . and even a stellar book cover.

Even then, you need your book’s product page to describe what your book is about and persuade people to buy. Often called online descriptive copy in marketing parlance, your book’s online copy is like the description on a physical book’s back cover.

However, online copy does a lot more lifting, as, unlike an in-person bookstore, the buyer can’t pick up a tangible object. On the internet, what you have are many pixels and a whole bunch of words.

It’s a daunting task to write copy that sells your book, especially if you aren’t used to putting your work out there. Still, I have some advice on how to craft your book’s store pages so that you can do good business and give justice to your book.

It’s All about Reciprocity

If you feel skeevy about selling your book, I have some words of reassurance. As long as you focus on reciprocity, you will maintain your integrity as an author and a seller.

As a self-published author, you want people to buy and read your book. As a reader, your buyers want to find a book they’ll enjoy. Therefore, it’s in both of your interests to make the sell on a book your reader wants.

To this end, look at your book and think: what do you love most about your writing? What do you think and hope readers will enjoy when reading? Finally, what are some comps (short for comparable titles) that you can mention in your description that will guide your readers quickly to understand your book concerning the market?

In all cases, don’t misread the reader. Be honest about your book’s content. For example, you might be able to make some sales if you describe your edgy romantic thriller as a cozy happily-ever-after read, but that misrepresentation will bite you back. Misread readers are more likely to return your book (and with an eBook, returns can be done with a few clicks) and leave the dreaded one-star review.

Now let’s get to writing a description!

Guidelines for Writing a Store Description

There are many components for assembling a book’s product description: here are some of the important ones.

Pitch your book with a short, sharp summary. I recommend you study your comps’ descriptions to get the hang of how to summarize your book in a way that interests buyers.

The core of your description will be the elevator pitch, a 150–200-word rundown of what your book’s about and why they should read it. If you have experience querying your book to agents and editors, you may know how it goes.

The standard is to start with your main characters, the internal and external conflicts they’re grappling with, and the state of the story’s setting before the action begins. Then, give that inciting incident. Next, tell readers what kick-starts the story. After that, give readers an impression of how the middle act goes.

Importantly, hint at how the story resolves but don’t give away the ending. Instead, present your book’s main themes and suggest what lengths the book’s characters must go to find a resolution.

Finally, capstone your pitch with a 25–50-word closer that wraps up the core of your book. Again, make the genre and main themes clear, then include a little call to action for the buyer to purchase and read your book.

With your pitch set, you can frame it and incorporate it within the other components.

Incorporate blurbs and praise into your description. Ideally, you’d have sent advance copies to reviewers and authors so that they can hype up your book. Then if you get a shining article from a review blog, excerpt that praise.

Even better is if you secure praise from an author of one of your book’s comps, preferably someone trendy in your niche. If the author’s name alone will hook in readers, I suggest including that blurb at the very top of your description.

However, if you have neither, you can still solicit blurbs from readers you gave advance copies to. A testimonial can reassure buyers that other people have already read the book and enjoyed it, even if it’s from a random reader.

Introduce yourself with a short author’s bio. I have an article in the works that goes more in-depth on how to write an author’s bio.

For now, my advice is to give the reader a basic idea of who you are and how your experience informs the book. Remember that your biographical information serves the descriptive copy, so tailor it to sell your book.

Put to good use your retailer’s formatting. Most major retailers can elevate your description beyond plain text.

Judiciously apply bold, italics, and subheadings to your description whenever possible. Subheadings can help guide readers, and emphasizing the keywords is an effective way of showcasing the words that may hook future fans.

Some storefronts even give sellers the tools to craft extremely fancy product pages. If they allow images, put that to use, whether you need to hire a graphic designer or use Canva to prettify that one blurb from a bestselling author who loved your book.

Conclusion

There’s so much more you can play with and consider with online description copy, and that’s one of the joys of cheerleading your book. So I hope with what I’ve taught you today, you’ll find the joy in description copy and match your book with some soon-to-be-delighted readers.

Over to you: What’s your description like for your book? What questions or advice do you have for describing your book?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Why You Must Market Your Book

If you want to make a career out of book publishing, you must make peace with the fact that you will be marketing your books.

I know, not everyone’s excited by the prospect of promoting one’s work, especially us writerly types. However, read on if you’re hoping to make money from your books.

Let’s start with self-publishing. Imagine that you’ve finished your debut novel, uploaded the file to an online bookstore, and launched your book’s product page. You then leave your book there and let the website do its job in selling your book. Yay! One ticket to authorship success.

Not quite! If this is all you do, the likeliest outcome is that you will get a couple of sales—if even that—then your book slips into obscurity.

Here’s the thing about self-publishing your novel: if you don’t work to find readers for your book, no one will buy it.

On the major self-publishing platforms—like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple—there are millions of other self-publishing books competing for attention. Few titles make high on the popular sale rankings, and even fewer get featured. These listings overwhelm readers, so you’re unlikely to get many customers from browsing.

Furthermore, self-publishing books have an unfortunate reputation of being low quality, so many readers are less likely to give a self-published book a chance. Assuming you put in the work and money to get your book high-quality editing and design, these concerns should be unfounded, but you still need to get past the stigma to get the sale.

And I must make sure to emphasize this point. Even if you do everything right marketingwise, if your book is unedited, has broken formatting, and has a poor book cover and store listing, you might as well be promoting a cat’s used litterbox. Marketing only works with a good product.

So, how does an author get that book out to readers? Marketing and promotion require ongoing effort: create professional-level store listings, promote through social media, reach out to book reviewers and other promotional outlets, solicit book reviews, build your audience and mailing list, run ad campaigns, and embark on interviews and articles.

And most importantly, keep on writing and publishing books. For a career author, the backlist is gold. The more books you put out, the more ways you need to find new readers and the more sales you get from fans. With a catalog, marketing becomes multiplicative.

Meanwhile, you may be considering publishing your book traditionally. This way, you submit it to a publisher and receive help from your publishing house’s marketing department.

Yes, “trad pub” authors do benefit from receiving a marketing team alongside editorial and production staff. But here’s another hard truth: if you traditionally published your book, you still have to market.

Few authors receive a full-on marketing campaign from their publishers. Full-page advertisements and Barnes & Noble displays are usually reserved for bestselling authors, celebrities, and the rare debut author who wins the industry equivalent of the lottery with a six-figure-plus advance. More likely than not, you’re not in any of those categories.

For the rest, publishers often practice discretion in allocating their limited marketing funds. Often, they give little to no marketing budget to first-time novelists. That leaves the greenhorn author to handle most of the promotional work to earn back the advance and justify the next book.

So, why have a traditional publisher if they don’t market your books? That’s one reason why some aspiring career novelists opt for self-publishing.

But here’s another fact to keep in mind: the most successful authors are putting out bestsellers because they’re working with their publishers to promote.

Let’s loop back to those celebrities with a book deal. One dirty secret is that publishers frequently lose money on celebrity authors because those celebrities aren’t promoting their books. Millions of Instagram followers and a preestablished entertainment career don’t guarantee that a celebrity will make back the advance and marketing budget. On the other hand, the authors who do turn a profit for themselves and their publishers do their share of the marketing and work with their publishers’ departments so that everyone in the endeavor benefits.

Fortunately, all the techniques I describe for self-publishing markets also apply to traditional authors. You just happen to obtain a marketing team in a different way.

If any of this article bums you out, let me leave you with some reassurance: if you put the work into marketing and publicity, you will become better over time, and you will see more results from your promotion.

It’s like with book writing. When you’re deep into a manuscript, it’s hard to know if efforts will pay off. It’s the same with marketing, especially when it feels like you’re shouting into the void.

But both writing and marketing take time. If you plan out marketing campaigns, maintain discipline, and expand your backlist, your efforts will snowball, and you will see the results of your hard work.

I have faith in you!

Over to you: How do you feel about book marketing? What tips do you have for getting over the difficult parts of promoting your books?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

The Importance of Securing Amazon Review

When I’m looking for a new book on Amazon, I often wish I had the psychic ability to look at a novel and know right away whether I’d enjoy it. But sadly, I don’t have psychic powers. But I do have Amazon’s Customer Review section. And this is why I’m here to teach you the importance of securing Amazon reviews.

Why in the world do you need Amazon customer reviews? Wouldn’t your book be able to sell itself from the title, the cover design, the blurb, the store category and keywords, and the preview of the first few pages? All of those are important, but they’re not enough.

Amazon itself encourages shoppers to leave customer reviews. The power of reviews pans out in practice, as successful self-publishing authors observe that sales increase with positive reviews.

Generally, readers are reluctant to buy the book of an unknown author. It’s understandable, as a reader spends both money and time when buying and reading a book. But conversely, readers love to buy books from their favorite authors—so what can you do when you’re starting out?

That’s where customer reviews can bridge the gap. If they see that the book has stellar reviews, customers are much more likely to take a chance on buying it.

Now, reviews are a pain point for many self-publishing authors. Reviews are key for attracting sales, yet they’re one of the factors authors have the least control over. You can write a great story and craft a solid product description, but you can’t write reviews of your own book.

(Seriously, don’t pretend to be a reader and review your own book. Amazon will catch you and kick you off their storefront.)

Don’t know where to begin with reviews? You have several methods for soliciting reviews, and you should employ multiple approaches simultaneously.

  • Ask your friends and family not only to read the book (which they should!) but also to post a review on Amazon. Yes, friends and family are allowed to leave reviews.
  • Run an office contest for your coworkers. The first colleague to leave a great review gets lunch on you.
  • Post on social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, asking your followers to leave a review. Emphasize to your readers that reviewing is a great way to support their favorite authors and that you appreciate each review. You could even read positive reviews and share them on your feed, engaging your most supportive fans in a fun way!
  • Research book reviewers and review blogs in your book’s genre and category, then send complimentary copies. Recurring and professional reviewers have an audience who read their writing, making them a great publicity asset. Just be careful to contact reviewers and bloggers who read the type of book you’re publishing. For example, if you send your steamy romance novel to a Christian memoir reviewer, she will not be happy!
  • Keep publishing more titles. With more books, you’ll get more opportunities to obtain reviews from regular readers. There are few other people you want on your team than a power customer who recommends all your books!

Don’t be stingy in giving away free copies to potential reviewers. If a reviewer is willing to buy your book, awesome! If they’re not, it doesn’t hurt to be generous to reel in a reader who would’ve otherwise passed up your book.

Remember that under Amazon guidelines, you can’t force a reader to leave a review in exchange for a free copy, so don’t take it personally if some prospective reviewers don’t follow through.

This is an excellent point to emphasize one perk of digital publishing. When you have eBooks, you don’t have to spend money to produce galleys or advance reviewer copies. Instead, you can send a reviewer an eBook with a single email. In addition, Amazon provides options for you to gift a reader an eBook to make it easier on both ends.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to have physical copies on hand to give away, as Amazon lists the reviews from all a book’s formats under one section. Believe it or not, there are still readers out there who want a physical copy. I certainly wouldn’t turn a print book down!

It can be frightening to ask readers to review your book on Amazon. The ask can be intimidating by itself, and the prospect of a negative review can be outright terrifying. But even with those risks, an author is her best publicist and a self-publishing author more so.

With practice, you will get better at asking for reviews. As your titles grow, so do your audience and the reviews. Over time, more readers will review your books without you asking, and even the dreaded one-star reviews will soon be buried underneath an avalanche of five-star praise.

If you’re in self-publishing for a long and exciting career, you need to secure Amazon reviews right now. Fortunately, you can start today.

Maybe someday, I’ll find your book, be impressed enough by its reviews to click that buy button, and leave a review of my own. I look forward to the opportunity to do so.

Now, I’ll turn it over to you. As a reader, what leads you to review a book? As a writer, what tips and tricks do you have to secure Amazon reviews?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Beware the Internet Egg Basket: On Diversifying Your Social Media Presence

Recent events have reminded me of an adage: don’t put all your eggs in ONE basket.

This warning primarily applies to the social media and other online platforms we use in self-publishing. Here’s the thing: some websites decline in popularity, and some even disappear altogether.

MySpace used to be considered a worthy competitor to Facebook. These days, MySpace is lucky to be mentioned as Facebook forges deeper into the “metaverse.”

Old services such as Google+ and Vine used to bustle with many users. Sadly for their users and creators, these sites no longer exist.

Even the longest-running social media services may not endure as recommendable options. Who knows what direction Elon Musk may go with Twitter!

My point is: if you market your books only on one website, figuratively putting your eggs into the basket of that one platform, you risk your career dropping with the platform.

I know I harp all the time about how you must put yourself out there online if you want to advance your publishing career, so it’s doubly important that you don’t invest your efforts in only one platform.

Here are some considerations as you future-proof your marketing and publicity:

Diversify your platform

When businesspeople talk about “egg baskets,” it’s usually to exalt diversification. In most cases, it’s in the context of financial investment, but you can also invest in multiple platforms.

Return to your marketing plan—or if you don’t have one, write up several ideas for one. Consider the websites you use the most in promoting your book and the platforms where you want to expand. Write a few reasons you have questions you want to answer during your research and experience.

Then, aim to promote on at least two to three platforms during any particular week. I recommend focusing mainly on one (more on that below), but keep your accounts open on a couple of other platforms just in case your leading player becomes unviable.

Funnel readers toward platforms that you own

Here’s a scary thought: you don’t own your social media account. Sure, you have the password to your account, and you run your profile. But if the platform goes away, you’ll be left with nothing.

Having your account suspended or even banned is a common risk! It could be a mistake, but you could find yourself disconnected from most of your readers at a moment’s notice.

To mitigate this, build up platforms you have more “ownership” over. For instance, I recommend websites. First, buy a web hosting plan—and importantly, buy your own URL. Then once you build your website, back it up frequently to multiple locations.

While it requires money, paid hosting and domain services give you more ownership than most social media platforms, where you could be considered a virtual renter.

You’re much less likely to be kicked off their servers when paying for hosting. But if it happens, then you have a backup plan. You can switch hosts, move your domain, reupload your website, and be back in business, all at the same address.

In a similar vein, look into running a mailing list. Email has endured over the decades. You can also be equally flexible with mailing list providers, with the option of exporting your list of emails to another service when necessary.

In any case, use your social media platforms to “funnel” your readers toward these self-owned platforms. Not only will your readers stay more in the loop about your publishing, but they’ll also be further invested in your career.

But don’t overcorrect with TOO many baskets

Don’t stretch yourself thin by using too many platforms.

Whenever we see news of another platform declining or dying, it’s tempting to join up with all its competitors. With the announcement of Elon Musk buying Twitter, many users tweeted to their followers that they were moving to Discord, Tumblr, their new mailing list, TikTok . . .

But the ephemerality of platforms doesn’t preclude the dangers of burning yourself out.

If you find your favorite service a sinking ship, don’t decide your next destination out of panic. Instead, do the research, pick one or two other alternatives, and maintain your self-owned platforms like your website and mailing list. And keep in mind you can prioritize your accounts differently yet adjust your usage based on how each platform rises and falls.

In the end, it comes down less to the state of any particular basket (or platform) but rather the skills you build and transfer throughout your publishing career that will serve you the best.

Maybe we can create another expression: don’t put your eggs in TOO many baskets.

I’ll let you workshop that one . . .

Over To You: How do you diversify your internet presence? What precautions have you taken just in case one of your main platforms collapses?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.