Chip MacGregor

September 21, 2020

Marketing Your First Novel – Chats with Chip


We’re bringing back some of Chip’s blog posts for both your reading pleasure and to bring some insight for authors in a constantly evolving industry. Enjoy! Feel free to comment below.

Marketing Your First Novel

I received a fascinating email from a first-time novelist the other day. She said that her very first novel is releasing, it’s with a medium-sized house, and she said, “While I’m not exactly sure what the publisher may do to market my book, I’m wondering what advice you give to the authors you represent in order to help them market their first novel.” 

First, I wrote back to her and said she should simply ASK HER PUBLISHER what exactly they’re doing to help market her book. It may not be much (publishing works on the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the resources flow to 20% of the books), but she should certainly know what they are doing. So get a little clarity by asking. Are they taking out an ad in a trade magazine? Purchasing a group ad? Buying placement in front of Barnes & Noble? Sending out review copies? Offering terms to Amazon? Whatever it is (and it may not be much), it would be nice to know, so that the author doesn’t duplicate the publisher’s efforts.

Second, I suggested she simply make a list of the things SHE CAN DO to help market her book. Can she put together a blog tour? Do a launch party with friends at a local bookstore? Set up an event on Facebook? Arrange to get into her local newspaper and onto local radio stations? Every author can do SOMETHING… so what is it you can do?

We had a nice chat about this via email, then she asked me another question: “Would you be willing to show me the sort of letter you send to a first-time novelist you represent?” I thought that was a brilliant question, so I agreed to pull out an actual letter I’d sent to someone about marketing, and reveal it. I’ve changed some of the details to hide the author’s identity, but I hope you find this helpful…

Hi Judy,

I had promised to talk through with you a bunch of marketing thoughts for your book, so if you’ll allow me to just offer a laundry list of ideas… 

-Make sure you have a clear brand in your mind before you start the marketing process — who you are, what you write. Then make sure the brand is clear in everything you use to represent your book. So on your website, on social media pages, in your advertising, in any articles or interviews you do, it looks like Judy. 
-What’s your hook? Is it clear and are you repeating it? You’ve got to know your hook to market your book. 
-Figure out which social media avenues are a fit for you, develop a schedule, and visit them regularly.
-Find your people, build your group, develop your tribe — I keep thinking people will fall in love with your voice if they read your work!
-Join groups online, and find people to review your book. Reviews are one of the things that will help you sell books even when you’re not working. 
-GoogleAlerts and Mention are sites that will help get the word out on your new release. 
-Write blogs and articles for other writers and sites. Share them around. Swap them if that will help you reach people.
-Invite people to a Facebook party & book launch. 
-Make a big deal as you approach your launch – people need to know the book is coming out. 
-Ask people to review your book, including websites, groups, and magazines, and check out Amazon’s “top reviewers” list.
-If someone mentions you or your book, mention them back.
-Check what the publisher has listed for your book on Amazon and in B&N – what categories, keywords, genres, etc. Make sure you’re happy with them. 
-Familiarize yourself with your Amazon product page.
-Focus your website on the book. 
-Goodreads has discussion groups as well as review sites. You want people to hear about your book on the site.
-Push pre-orders with friends… but understand nobody else will really pre-order.
-Do a blog tour and network with people. 
-Create podcasts (check out BlogTalkRadio) that are short, funny, and interesting. You have the personality and language that will appeal to people, Judy, so use your strength. 
-Talk with local radio shows and local TV shows, and ask to come onto talk radio to tell your story. Then set up an interview with local newspapers — think “local girl makes good.”
-Always consider the “related to news” connection with any media — if your book has a connection to news stories, mention it to news sources.
-Search places where you can buy small ads. (This will take some research.)
-Use your author copies as giveaways, rather than to give to cousins and aunts. 
-Think about creating another giveaway — a short story or something that helps advertise your book. Ask people to come onto your website and give you their email and you will send them the story or resource for free. 
-Look for new ways to get people to your website, and then engage with the folks who show up. 
-Set up parties/signings at bookstores, but make sure you always have a committed group to attend — the success of a signing is having people there. 
-Create a media kit (someone in a digital file that has your hook, bio, cover, synopsis, etc).
-Look for places to buy small ads. You may not do this right away, but start thinking about it. 
-Develop a schedule of all the marketing you’re going to do, then put it into Excel ahead of time, so you have a calendar to follow.
-If there are parts of the marketing process you can give away, do so and have others take some of the load for you.

Does this help?


So there you go… an actual “let’s talk marketing ideas” letter that I sent to an author. Do you find that helpful? I’d love to hear your own marketing ideas in the comments section…

Share :

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.