How to Promote a Book: What They Don’t Tell You

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Two years ago, my YA novel Hag was released and I was not prepared at all even though I had studied publishing for several years.  Sure I had a business plan but that fell apart when several unforeseen circumstances came my way.  So I ended up doing what I always do, I flew by the seat of my pants and got a crash course in book promotion, one that I will never forget.  Today, I reveal exactly what I learned…

There’s a Difference in Clicking Publish and Having an Official Launch Date

Who knew?  I thought that when I clicked published that all I had to do was get a few ads and shares on social media then poof… instant bestseller.  ( I can hear you all snickering.)  Here’s the deal, having a launch date is more for your readers than you.  Your launch tells them where your book is available, the price and how they can buy it.

However with a publish date, an author should be actively preparing for the launch date by doing things like:

  • Editing (I wrote about that here)
  • Beta testing (If you want to know more, check this post out here)
  • Scheduling ads to coincide with any book tours, guest posts etc. (Of course I wrote about that too, over here.)
  • Crafting social media posts with images, links, as well as the names of the retailers where your book is available.
  • ­Securing reviews. (If you’re interested in that, read this post here.)
  • Growing email list. 

Go Big or Go Home

Long ago, I read this article on about how important big followings are in social media.  At first, I was miffed because it went against everything I was taught.  I was a firm believer in targeted following but then I looked at celebrities and athletes who spend thousands of dollars promoting their social media accounts.  And I had to admit it was helpful to their platforms.  Now I don’t recommend spending big bucks but I do believe we need to get more aggressive when it comes to building our numbers up.

Where Authors Get Stuck

As time goes on many authors reach a plateau where they’ve gone as far as they can with their book.  They’ve paid for ads, blogged, tweeted and the results are good for a while, but eventually the energy dies off.  That’s because you can only reach the same people so many times before you get ignored.  However, if you had a few friends who were willing to help you, your reach could double or even triple.  The trick is to find an author that is both willing to help and has an active network of their own which leads me to my next point…

Forget About Selling Anything if You Don’t Have Any Relationships

Years ago, a nasty incident on LinkedIn went viral when a young woman looking for a job contacted a recruiter out of the blue.  The recruiter was indignant and went on to bash the young woman about her poor etiquette among other things.  However, this attitude isn’t confined to recruiters.  There are many bloggers, reviewers and even literary agents who feel the same way about being contacted by strangers asking for favors who offer nothing in return.  If you’re going to ask someone to do work for you, such as review your book, or retweet a post then, give them a reason to.  Influencers are more likely to respond positively to someone who is helpful or just plain nice to them. I talk about this more in depth here.

By the way, would you like to know the success rate of a cold call or email?  It’s between 1 and 6%.  This is why many authors are having issues finding support when they need it most.  You have to present yourself as a professional, not a beggar.  This is a business where everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.  Would you help someone who you’re not so sure about?  Most of us, if we’re honest, would say no.

Now back to you, what did you wish you would have known before you published?  Let me know in the comments.


  1. Very helpful information. I’ll send this along to a friend who’s publishing soon. Thanks very much for sharing your experience! 🙂

  2. Rachel,

    I appreciate your sharing this school-of-hard-knocks education.

    My test reader feedback for my forthcoming first book might tempt me to think that I have a potential non-fiction bestseller on my hands, but without intelligent social media marketing, it will likely be just another self-published book floating in a sea of millions.

    I’m fortunate to have made friends with successful bloggers and other social media-influential people. My humble 413 followers, as much as I enjoy the relationships built with them, would likely not constitute a critical mass for a book’s success, were it not for the fact that a couple of them are into the tens of thousands of followers.

    Best of luck with the writing and sales.

    • Thank you and good luck with your new book. I’d work on testing the waters with those influencers you’ve befriended. Casually let them know that you have a book coming out and you need all the help you can get. Don’t forget to gently remind them that you helped them out in the past. According to most networking experts that usually gets a better response than, “Help me pretty please!!!”

      • Thank you, Rachel. As my story serves a noble purpose, these bloggers have generously volunteered their platforms to help with my book launch without my asking. The essence of this is on my “About Me” page.

        I fear I have a bit of an issue with the feminist family “justice” system where I live. Some people are soon to learn that it is not okay that children be court-ordered to be subjected to expert-confirmed child abuse.

        Especially not when they are my children.

  3. I wish I had known ANYTHING about marketing. I still don’t know diddly squat. I’m bad at it and I know I am, but I keep trying.

    • I hate the marketing aspect of publishing too but if you want to make money in this business you have to promote, promote, promote. The thing is, publishing is a long term game so if you stick with it, you will succeed.

      • I keep trying and I’ll follow you, okay? You know a lot more about it than I do.

  4. Reblogged this on TimberDarkWriter and commented:
    Now that The Blood is getting so close to publication I need to improve on my plans for actual launching the book. Rachel Rueben’s post reminds me to add several things to my list. Expanding the networks I already have on Facebook and LinkedIn are just the beginning. For those of you at a similar point in your publishing efforts here’s a place to begin.

  5. Hi, I just launched my own books – three novels and the re-release of a nonfiction book I wrote. I figured out a lot of stuff to market books online and would love to help others do the same! My website is: Let me know if I can help anyone!

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