Marketing Your Books

Rob Parnell
4 min readFeb 23, 2024

So you’ve written a book. Now what?

Of course I’m talking about a self-published book because a traditional publisher (like one of the Big Four) would likely already have a plan which you probably wouldn’t be part of. Let’s say you’re printing up your own copies and you don’t really know what to do next.

Before we start, I should tell you that for over twenty years I’ve run my own publishing company and therefore have lots of experience in this arena. I’ve helped many authors promote their books and guided many writers through the myriad of possibilities. One thing I can tell you is that there are hundreds of ways to promote a book and eager self-published authors end up trying most of them.

Ignore the net for a moment and understand that marketing in the real world is a complex business operation that requires brainstorming, strategizing, organizing, and lots of labor intensive work with long hours pursuing many avenues, none of which are guaranteed to make sales or in reality, even raise an eyebrow.

People always think you should have a launch party. Do that if you want. You might sell anywhere from 3 to 300 books. But then it will be over. Better to see your launch as part of a strategy that may take a few months to a year to play out.

You need to be thorough. Way before you set a date for your launch, your first job is to identify what you want to achieve, what is practical, and mostly, what you define as success.

Selling books is not always the only thing that matters. Getting an agent or a traditional publishing deal for instance may be better, more practical goals.

Don’t rush out and print as may books as you can. The last thing you want is thousands of books filling up garage space that you have no idea what to do with. Work out the cost of printing what you actually need, what you have guaranteed orders for, so that you can recoup your investment. This is the first rule of author-preneurship:

Don’t spend more than you can afford.

While you’re brainstorming your ideas, think of angles. What makes your book project interesting, relevant to the modern media and likely to be of interest to journalists and program makers in TV and radio? The angle can be tenuous, even silly, barely rational, but something, anything that connects you to the news cycle will help you get coverage.

When people think of interviews, they visualize the top celebrities they see on TV, forgetting that internet and radio stations are always looking for interesting people and topics to cover at odd times like the middle of the night, or as part of a podcast series.

Collect together five of your best anecdotes, especially the ones that pertain to your book. You don’t want to have to think of things on the spot. Agree with the interviewer what you want to talk about before you go “on air”.

There’s no getting around it, you will have to call local radio stations and email podcasters to introduce yourself and ask if they’d be interested in your book. Usually they will want something in return like access to your mailing list or a cross promotion that favors them or their listeners.

The net is the hardest place to create a stir but using TikTok and Facebook to raise your profile and focus your energy can be good for you in the short term. If only to show you how little you can achieve with social media — and of course, how expensive creating social media advertising can be.

Same rule applies: Don’t spend what you can’t make back.

Networking is hugely important when it comes to book marketing. Not just for meeting new people, finding business partners, but also for gaining instant feedback on what’s working, and what’s not.

In the old days press releases were a handy way of alerting the media. These days not so much. Plus, finding a website that will allegedly send your releases around the globe is expensive and not always effective.

Decent PR companies start at around five thousand a month. And for that you’ll get very little. You have to engage a PR company for a couple of years to really see some benefit. Again the rule is, don’t do it unless there’s an immediate influx of cash or some other reward. Just because you have money to throw at promotion, doesn’t mean you should.

You might consider a tour. Trying to get all of your promotional activities to happen at the same time can help in all sorts of ways. Combine visits to libraries, bookshops, and local radio slots to foster momentum.

Remember, despite the best will in the world, advertising rarely actually sells products. Paid ads are primarily for creating brand awareness and alerting customers who were going to buy anyway.

If all else fails you can drive yourself to local markets, car boot sales and book fairs. Get a desk made up with posters, banners, and other promotional material — and copies of your book — and trawl your state for places to visit.

Even if you never sell a book, you’ll probably have a lot of fun.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

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Rob Parnell

Bestselling Author and Owner of Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy