Chip MacGregor

March 28, 2016

What are the lessons you’ve learned about marketing your books?


Okay, so I just completed a ten-part series on marketing your book. I’d had a lot of folks ask about the process, so I simply went back to a recently published “Intro to Marketing” textbook, and walked through the basic information in ten steps. (You can find them by wandering back through the last two weeks of blog posts.)

Now here’s my question for you… What lessons have you learned about marketing your book? What has worked? What has not worked? What advice would you give to other authors? What parts of the process did you enjoy? Which parts did you despise? And as you approach your next book, what do you plan to do?

I hear all sorts of questions from authors about book marketing. Some love trailers, others hate them. Some love doing blog tours, others find them a waste of time. Some spend hours on social media pushing their book, others find all that effort amounts to nothing. Some love talking on the radio, others feel uncomfortable and believe they’d be better off writing something. So… give me your thoughts. I’d love to hear what lessons you can share with others about marketing your book.

And I’ll start: The single most important lesson I’ve learned when marketing my own books is to create a checklist and work through it. When I fail to do that, I skip some things or duplicate others. I also tend to push off the tasks I don’t enjoy. So make a checklist, have each task clearly written down, and assign it to a person and a date. Then work your checklist. The most helpful thing I know.

And if I can share a second thought, it would be don’t expect everything to work. It took me awhile to figure out that marketing is like baseball — if 30% of the things I do are successful, I’m going to have a hit. But that means a lot of the stuff I do won’t seem to have much effect on sales or name recognition. That’s just the business, and it’s too much wasted energy to get worked up over it. Just accept the odds and keep pushing forward.

I was talking with a new author this morning — someone who has landed a big deal with a major New York house, and is excited to be working with them. My advice to her was simple: Take charge of the marketing of your book. Study how to successfully market a book to your readership. Create a to-do list. Work the plan. Don’t expect everything to work. Appreciate everything the publisher does for you, but DON’T expect them to do everything, because they won’t. They’ve got a bunch of titles releasing, so they’ll do what they can, and some of it will be things you can’t do yourself (like send out review copies, try to line up some major media, maybe talk about buying some front-table placement at Barnes & Noble), but take charge of your own marketing, and invest in doing a bunch of the work yourself. Nobody else has as much at stake. Nobody else knows the book as well as you do. Nobody else cares as much as you do about this book. So say thanks for the good stuff they help with, but take it on and do it yourself.

That was my advice. What about you? What lessons would you share with others?

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  • Mel Lawrenz says:

    Develop a tribe by giving helpful bits of writing over a long period of time (years). Develop and protect email subscribers. Read Seth Godin “Tribes.”

  • Kiki Hamilton says:

    Hi Chip – I’ve enjoyed this marketing series also – thanks! I’m a YA writer and I’ve come to believe you really need publisher support in that segment to get the big exposure. But with that said, as an author I need to be proactive. I offer to pay my way to conferences if the publisher will do a book signing for me. I identify my primary market segments: librarians, bloggers, readers – and market a little bit different to each. YA librarians are a connected group and will book talk the books they like to other librarians. But they have no money – so they REALLY appreciate giveaways. But when they like a book, they’ll buy multiple copies. And though I have a list of 300+ bloggers – I’m not convinced blog tours do much good. I think there are a handful of bloggers who really can move a book so I pick and choose there. Having a presence on all the social media is important but I think the biggest thing perhaps is consistency. Keep writing, keep marketing on multiple fronts, keep the faith!

  • SheilaG says:

    Just a quick lesson: Blog giveaways don’t work. Really. People see the giveaway, they enter the giveaway, but they don’t buy the book in case they win the giveaway. By the time the giveaway is over they’ve forgotten about it and you’ve missed out on a potential sale.

    So don’t do giveaways! Get reviews instead, or guest posts, or something where you talk about the book and share little bits of the book so people want more.

    • Laura Jackson says:

      I would tend to agree except for the rafflecopter giveaways because they have to like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, which then keeps you in their sphere after the giveaway is over. My numbers have gone up and stayed up with each rafflecopter giveaway.
      Also, as a blogger before I even wrote my first book, I get a lot more traffic on my blog for a giveaway as opposed to just an interview/excerpt/review.
      But, I do agree with your point overall…..most enter and forget.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      That’s an interesting bit of wisdom, Sheila. Thanks very much.

  • Loved the posts. Trying to stick to what you plan is always the hardest part though. I just started a series and I can tell you what hasn’t worked for me more than what has. I researched and planned for four months prior to launch. I built up a twitter following of over 4,000, started a blog, and started driving traffic to my web site prior to launch. I posted the first few chapters online and was getting good reviews. I had some good buzz going and was excited for the launch. When I did launch, nothing really happened. All the retweets and replys didn’t generate any click throughs. I would get replys saying that they looked forward to the book. I wanted to scream at them because the tweet said it was available and they obviously were just going through the motions and not really reading it. It seems that everyone is trying to build a following but no one is actually reading what they retweet and reply to. It’s been very frustrating.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      That IS frustrating, David. You’ll want to stay away from just marketing to other writers — that’s a common problem among novelists. You may want to work on getting some of the real readers to post positive comments on Amazon, by the way, just to let people know you’ve got a good book.

    • Thanks for taking the time to download and read it and your comments about my marketing. I need to rethink who I’m marketing to. Thanks again.

  • suzy vitello says:

    Whether in person, on social media or in interviews I’ve found that adopting the mindset similar to hosting a fabulous party tends to generate positive results. For me this means giving party favors (in the form of book-related gifts), introducing readers to other good books, being present with your audience – and responsive.

  • Dana Mentink says:

    Well…my agent once gave me some good advice. “Be generous,” he said! I believe I have maintained and grown a readership doing just that. I supply complimentary copies to folks who write to me, offer giveaway copies to auctions and benefits and on Goodreads. I look at my relationship with my readers as friendships rather than sales opportunities. I am very blessed that some of my readers have journeyed along with me through fifteen plus books so far!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Your agent sounds like a smart guy, Dana. I agree that giving away copies is one way to generate readership. Thanks for coming on to comment.

  • PeterLeavell says:

    This series has been fantastic! Thanks Chip. Over the last year, I’ve learned that no matter what I do, it needs to have a positive spin. Anything negative is usually rejected, unless it connects with a righteous anger.

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