As a nonfiction author, book promotion will feel second nature to you, especially if you’ve written your book to expand your industry profile, to create new revenue streams for your business or to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
A lot of the promotion ideas that I’ll be covering in this article are things you’ll either be familiar with or a variation of something that you’ve done before. Promoting your book is really not that much different from promoting your business.
Like in business, the key to your success revolves around persistence. It’s the classic “Focus on one thing and stick with it until you get the result you want.”
So, your challenge will be to stay on task and not get distracted by the other hundred things that you could be doing to market your book. The Internet is littered with advice, but not all advice works well for nonfiction books.
I suggest that you focus on the seven highly effective book-promotion ideas shown below because they’re time-tested and they’ve worked wonders for countless nonfiction authors before you, allowing them to not only sell their books in great numbers but also create loyal audiences in the long-term.
Idea #1: Personal Blog
If you haven’t yet, it’s now time to set up a blog on your website. Blogging is an effective technique for building audiences because it capitalizes on the way that we search for information whenever we have a need: the Internet.
As search behavior migrated on a large scale from offline to online over the last decade, blogging has become the primary means for providing answers to searchers.
Your blog posts need to be created in response to specific searches from a specific group of users.
Before you begin writing an article, you need to research what keywords your target audience is typing into search engines when they’re looking for help on matters that your book can answer.
Now, you may be wondering, “How do I find out what people are searching for?”
The short answer is: by using Google. First, you enter a search phrase that you think a member of your target audience would use – for example: “effective time management techniques.”
Then you check for key areas where Google will provide you with the answers that you’re looking for. The first area is Google’s “autofill” search field. As soon as you begin typing your query, Google will show you a list of variations that other people are using.
Write down those phrases which you think will become useful. Another area of interest is located at the bottom of the first page of search results, in a section called “Searches related to <your keyword>.”
Write down new phrases not found through autofill. Then scroll back to the top of the page and look for a section called “People Also Ask.” Write down any useful questions you find there.
Tip: Google initially shows you only four questions, but if you click on any of them, they’ll show you two more questions, so keep clicking and you can get dozens of valuable questions that other people are asking Google related to your search.
Finally, type “time management a” and look at the autofill variations to capture the ones that you think are valuable to you, then type “time management b,” “time management c” and so on going down the alphabet, and before you know it you’ll have a treasure trove of keywords to use in your blog.
Once you have a decent set of keywords, clean it up and whittle it down to subjects that you can write about in your blog. Then, write a post centered on each of those topics.
- Blog Post 1: Effective Time Management Techniques
- Blog Post 2: Time Management Techniques At Work
- Blog Post 3: Time Management Techniques For Nurses
- Blog Post 4: The 4 D’s of Time Management
All the above great blog post examples came verbatim by scratching the surface of a single Google search!
Build an Email List
Your next step is to leverage your blog to build the most important asset for your book and for your business: your email list.
Now, I’m not talking about a random list of emails that you can acquire from a vendor. I’m talking about a list of members of your target audience who know you, trust you and like you.
How do you generate this list? By adding an opt-in page to your blog that pops up about 15 seconds after a user lands on your blog page, offering free and valuable content in exchange for their email address.
Now, keep in mind that you’re not selling anything here, not even your book. You’re also not asking for anything either (outside of their email address). You are simply providing something valuable to your target audience with no strings attached.
The free content could be a small eBook with strategies and tactics that are useful to your audience, a white paper you’ve written, an infographic with relevant information, etc.
You’ll need to hire a tech person to create the necessary infrastructure to pop up the opt-in page with a time delay and capture all email addresses inside of an autoresponder.
Once you’re setup to start receiving emails, you’ll start an email nurturing campaign where you regularly provide valuable tips and advice as you continue to build your personal relationship with your audience.
How frequently do you send emails? It depends on your subject matter and on the nature of your audience. For a consumer audience, you want to email 3-4 times a week, or every other day. For a business audience you want to bring this frequency down to 1-2 emails per week.
What will the emails be about? Simple, just introduce your subscribers to the most recent blog post you published by giving them a quick rundown of the post while teasing but not revealing the “big lesson.” Then, provide a link to your post in case they want to find out more.
Over time, you’ll be able to use emails to present offers for professional services, sell your book at a special “subscriber discount” etc., but not before enough time has passed to build a relationship of trust.
Idea #2: Develop a Presence in Social Media Channels Frequented by Your Audience
The next book promotion tactic involves finding where your audience lives online. Depending on the demographic you’re targeting, you’ll find that different social media platforms will align with your message better than others.
Here’s a rundown of the main platforms and strategies for reaching out to your audience:
Pinterest is a great platform if your demographic is primarily women in the 25-65 years-old age range. It tends to work better if your nonfiction book and your professional services are B2C, but in some cases it could also work in the B2B space.
The way to reach out is to create boards which contain pins that are relevant to your target audience in relation to your book’s content, which then link back to relevant posts in your blog.
The idea is to use Pinterest as a traffic source for your blog so you can then capture email addresses to grow your email list. This will happen when your pins are discovered and when users repin them in their own boards.
LinkedIn is the ideal platform to promote B2B nonfiction books and services.
In this platform, you’ll reuse your blog posts in order to publish LinkedIn articles that either show a synopsis of your blog post with a link to the original post or duplicate your post entirely inside the platform.
If you use the latter approach, make sure that you include a line at the beginning of your article that reads “Article reposted from <Your Website Address>” which links back to your actual post, so that Google knows it’s duplicate content whenever they crawl your blog and your LinkedIn article.
As with Pinterest, the goal here is to send traffic to your blog so that you can convert it into email addresses and grow your list.
Like Pinterest, Facebook caters primarily to B2C audiences, but you should use both if they’re frequented by your audience.
In Facebook, you can either post from your personal account or you can create a fan page for your book and post from there. In either case your goal is to drive traffic back to your blog.
You can either use a short-form Facebook post that highlights valuable nuggets of wisdom from a blog post and then links to the entire article, or you can use a long-form Facebook post with a duplicate of the content.
If you use the entire post, make sure to add the line that says “Article re-posted from <Your Website Address>” which links back to your individual post.
Instagram caters to a younger audience and it could potentially be a valuable way to promote your book, however the only way to add a link to an Instagram post is to open a business account and use a paid ad, which can quickly skyrocket your costs.
For this reason, I don’t consider Instagram to be a cost-effective social media platform to direct organic traffic to your blog.
Twitter can be a valuable platform for either B2C or B2B audiences. Whenever you post an article to your blog you can tweet about its salient points, adding a link back to your original post.
In closing, the goal of this social media section is not to recommend using one platform over the other, but to use all social media platforms that are relevant to your target audience and skip the ones that aren’t.
Idea #3: Solicit Book Reviews
Your next book promotion tactic is to use the power of social proof to entice people to buy your book. This is a direct conversion method and does not add to your email list, but it can significantly increase your book sales.
There are two types of reviews that you need to pursue: online reviews and offline reviews.
This is the area where Amazon reigns supreme. Amazon reviews are the primary means in their algorithm to rank book titles on user searches.
Now, in order to leave a review on Amazon, a user has to be a customer.
As of the most recent changes to Amazon’s terms and conditions, in order to leave a review a user must have a valid credit or debit card on file and have spent at least $50 on merchandise of any kind over the past 12 months.
The good news is, there over 300 million customers with Amazon accounts, so this is a huge reason why you need to do the best you can to rank your book high on their online bookstore.
How to go about it? You need to solicit early reviews in exchange for advance review copies of your book. Amazon allows traditional publishers and self-publishers to follow this practice, but there’s a caveat.
You are not allowed to influence reviewers in any way. Now, they consider family, friends and business associates a biased audience even without your direct influence, so if their reviews are found they’ll be automatically deleted. How Amazon determines their relationship to you is at Amazon’s sole discretion.
However, “their” friends, acquaintances, and business associates are fair game. So, your goal is to give advance copies to people in a relationship of trust with someone you know as long as you can ensure that you remain at arm’s length with the reviewer.
You want to get as many Amazon reviews as possible in the first 30 days from the time your book goes online because their algorithm makes a lot of ranking decisions in this initial time period.
Next, you need to request advanced offline reviews to create social proof for your nonfiction book.
Your goal is to request written reviews both from people you know who are members of your target audience and also from peers and colleagues to add professional credibility to your book.
Since this is done outside of the Amazon ecosystem, there are no rules or restrictions. What you’re looking for is between 6 and 10 positive reviews to add to your book and to your website.
You’ll have to request permission to publish the review and to use the full names of the reviewers, since this adds to your book’s credibility.
Once you receive the reviews, add them in the first page of your book with the title “Advanced Praise for <title of your book>” and show the professional reviews first followed by the reviews from members of your target audience.
Idea #4: Do Keyword Research on Amazon
Amazon is a search engine for books and it operates in a similar way Google does. In other words, it allows you to target the keyword phrases that Amazon users type in order to search for book titles.
When you set up your book on Amazon using their self-publishing arm Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) they’ll ask you to enter up to seven keywords in your book setup page.
Similar to the keyword research you did for your blog, you’ll have to research what phrases your target audience usually types into Amazon when they’re looking for a book like yours.
How do you go about it? By searching on Amazon and using their own “autofill” feature. Type what you think would be a relevant search from a member of your target audience and then look at the variations that Amazon offers.
Those are searches Amazon users have done in the past, so use this information to populate your initial list. Then go back to Google and perform the same search using the same techniques I showed you in the personal blog section above.
Searches for products on Amazon and Google are similar, so you can leverage Google’s results to give you ideas for Amazon searches as well.
Finally, choose the top seven keyword phrases that you think are the most relevant for your target audience and enter them in your book setup page in KDP.
Idea #5: Do Free Public Speaking with Back of the Room Book Sales
A powerful book-promotion tactic for nonfiction authors like you is to actively pursue public speaking opportunities to spread the word about your book and your professional services.
There’s a large number of organizations, associations, non-profits and other groups that run regular meetings for their members or for the public, inviting authors and speakers to give talks about a wide range of subjects.
Some of these meetings may line up with your target audience as well as the subject matter of your book. Here are some places to explore:
Trade or Professional Associations
Many trade and professional associations run regular meetings for their members and they’re always looking for topics of interest to their members.
At the local level, they often don’t have a budget for paid speaking but sometimes they’ll have a budget for buying your book in bulk to give out to their members in attendance.
Also, you may be allowed to collect people’s email addresses to receive a regular newsletter or other information of interest to them, which you’ll get to add to your email list.
Social Business Organizations
Organizations such as Rotary International, Kiwanis and Lions hold regular meetings for their members and they invite public speakers. This is a great place to connect with a B2B audience.
Most of the time, they’ll allow you to sell your book after the event and also to get email addresses from those interested in connecting with you.
There are a large number of non-profit organizations that hold regular meetings where they invite speakers to talk about a subject of interest to their members. They often allow authors to sell their books and to collect emails from the members in attendance.
Bookstores like to invite authors to speak because it brings foot traffic into their stores. If you do a good job with your talk, many of the attendees will also purchase your book on the spot since you’re there to autograph them.
To book these events, you simply have to connect with the store’s event manager to see where they could fit you in their upcoming schedule. If the store is in your local area, it pays to come in person and make a direct connection.
Depending on the size of the store, you may be required to leave behind a one-pager showing media appearances and other events that you’ve done in the recent past or are planning for the near future, plus a copy of your book.
Libraries, Community Centers, Schools
Finally, libraries, community centers and schools often invite speakers and authors to come in and give a talk about a subject that’s relevant to their audiences.
All you have to do is get in touch with their event coordinators to find out what their preferences for topics are, always leaving a copy of your book behind.
You can always do a Google search first to check out their calendars of upcoming events in order to get an idea of the topics that they tend to get speakers for.
Idea #6: Develop Relationships with Influencers
Another effective tactic to promote your book and to increase traffic to your blog is to use your new status as a published author and expert to develop relationships with bloggers and podcasters that cater to your target audience.
Most of those sites generate advertising revenue from traffic and are constantly looking for topics of interest to their audiences to keep them engaged, so if you have something useful for their audiences, they’ll listen to you.
But first you need to develop a relationship with the influencer by signing up to their email list, leaving useful comments and eventually by reaching out if you have something helpful to offer.
Many nonfiction authors are able to leverage relationships with influencers into book sales simply by getting them to recommend their book to their large captive audiences. But this is a process that is organic and cannot be forced.
Having said that, keep in mind that online relationships of trust are first built by giving without asking for anything in return, letting the law of reciprocity do its job over time.
Idea #7: Attract the Attention of the Media
Finally, developing relationships with the mainstream media is always a good investment of your time. Now, you’re not going to land national or regional interviews at first. That takes time.
You always want to start at the local level, because they’re constantly looking for experts to interview in order to create content for their local shows. As you make inroads at this level, it becomes much easier to go up the media ladder over time.
Print, radio and TV producers move around in small circles and if you do a great job in your interviews, they’ll pass your name around for when someone’s in a bind and needs to book a replacement right away – for that reason you always want to be top of mind.
Now, you’ll have to invest in an online media kit that looks professional. You’ll need high resolution images of your book cover, a high-resolution professional headshot, and a well-crafted bio to start.
You also want to include a list of other media appearances both online and offline, with mainstream as well as alternative media, and a list of past and future speaking events.
Great! Now you have a full smorgasbord of book promotion ideas to pursue that will not only generate book sales, but also allow you to develop a body of work in your blog posts that will become a permanent magnet for your email list.
It’s very common for nonfiction authors to keep adding members to their email lists from blog posts that they published years ago, since the keyword phrases that they based their posts on are still being actively searched by users.
Best of luck in your book promotion efforts!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is the author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.