• Maria Ross
  • Five Marketing Tips to Drive Excitement and Buzz
Five Marketing Tips to Drive Excitement and Buzz
Written by
Maria Ross
April 2012
Written by
Maria Ross
April 2012

Larger books than this post have been written about effective book marketing strategies. But since I'm a brand and marketing consultant by profession, many believe I have some sort of mystic edge when it comes to promotion.

I don't. I just apply some common sense principles about "who is my audience?" and "who will care about this book?" and go from there.

The book world we all know is its own unique animal. Sort of like an ostrich, which seems to defy the laws of nature. Large publishers who spend thousands on a book can produce a bomb, while someone crafting a book at their kitchen table can become an eBook star overnight.

I've published two books: one was a business book with a small indie press. The other, Rebooting My Brain, launches in print on May 1. I self-published this second one for a variety of reasons after I learned some lessons with my first book. The biggest lesson is that it doesn't matter who publishes your book: you need to take responsibility for marketing it.

Why? One, many publishers won't pay for marketing, or in my opinion marketing that gets results. We have this image that they assign a publicist to you who is at your beck and call. Even friends who've had 6 figure book deals have to get creative and either do - or suggest - their own marketing.

Two, and I'm wearing my marketing hat here, many publishers don't have a clue. Their so-called "marketing support" consists of putting up a web page or sending out some Tweets. Their cover designs might suck. They forget the cardinal rule that if you build it, it doesn't mean they'll come. You have to DRIVE people to a site or the bookstore. They won't just magically show up. Don't believe me? Think about all the books you've never heard of...

I'm learning more all the time and don't even know it all, despite two books. But here are some tactics that worked for me:

1. Create a professional website and materials: I was able to get a professional and awesome looking website created for not a lot of money. You'll be making some investments in your book, and if your publisher doesn't provide an informational web page (or worse, theirs looks hideous) take it upon yourself to get it created WITH A PROFESSIONAL. Doesn't need to be fancy. It can be a Wordpress site like mine that is easy to maintain on your own and have 5 main tabs at least: About the Book, About the Author, Media, Reviews and Contact. And make sure purchase options are available on the home page and the About the Book Page, if not every page.


2. Create a media kit: The idea of this scares people. But all a Media Kit is, is a Zip file that includes a one- or two-pager about the book (abstract, author bio, where to find it, publish date, ISBN, reviews and contact info), the general book press release (even if you don't put it out over the wire, you should still have one) downloadable author photo, downloadable book cover image and any other photos or shots that add to the story. The goal is to give a reporter everything they need to craft and run a good story. Pretend you are a host or reporter and think about what they might ask you for. I also include: a page of book excerpts, suggested interview questions and possible news story angles they can use.


3. Target blogs: Now that you've done #1 and #2, you need to let people know they exist! We'd all love to be on Good Morning America, but the chances are slim. So start where you have odds of getting picked up. With my first book, I had great success with reaching out to small blog communities of faithful fans. Create a target list of 50 blogs that cover topics related to your book (your book should have 3 main themes or topics you can talk to). For example, for this latest book, my themes are: brain injury/medical information, inspiration for overcoming crisis and spirituality'love. I have a target list of blogs (and we're talking meaningful blogs, not ones that have 3 readers) under each topic. Then, I can pitch them in email to either interview me, review the book, or I can offer to write a guest post on the topic for their readers. Keep your pitches short and sweet, as people are busy. Bloggers love when you offer valuable content to their readers and that's one less post they need to write on their own!


4. Promote to your networks: This seems obvious, but make a list of every group, organization or affiliation you have and send them the press release or post a news item in the monthly newsletter about your book. Alumni clubs, professional organizations, social clubs, Meet Up groups, Facebook friends. You'd be surprised how often people skip this, as if they think it's easier to market to strangers! As a branding consultant and business owner, I belong to several women's business groups. I have posted in their newsletters, offered to write a blog post, or put a post up on their social media pages. You know more people than you think. And if they know you personally, they are a better audience for your book.


5. Create launch excitement: Try to offer a special promotion around your launch date. Can you give people freebies for purchasing? Can you plan a local launch party complete with cocktails, a reading and a book signing at a cool venue in your town? Can you put on a webcast Author Q&A for anyone who purchases the book? Get creative. I've seen great ideas out there and often emulate writers who are doing this right. For example, I organized a reading at a local book store that was super successful. And I'm offering a special promotion for my May 1 launch date: For anyone that buys the book from now through May 8, I'm offering free goodies if they email me the purchase receipt. You can check it out at www.rebootingmybrain.com/buzz-events and feel free to steal the idea!!


No matter if you're going the big publisher route or bootstrapping self publishing, you need to take responsibility for your book marketing. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR BOOK AS MUCH AS YOU. If your publisher says they are "doing marketing for you" find out what they are doing, ask to meet with the PR or marketing team and brainstorm ideas, ensure you keep a task list and divide and conquer with their team. And if you're on your own, well, you're on your own. So prepare yourself with professional looking materials and then creatively get the word out.

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  • Sarena Straus

    Very helpful and to the point! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Laura Brennan

    Re: blog tours: I stumbled across a great post on blog tours this morning: http://www.novelpublicity.com/2012/02/how-to-run-your-own-blog-tour-and-a-question-as-to-whether-its-really-worth-it/

    Plus, she said she follows all the blogs - about 1200 of the 4000 people she follows.  So looking at her Following list might be a way to start seeing which blogs are out there.  She's @PavartiKTyler  

  • Shari A. Brady

    Thanks for the awesome Marketing to-do list, Maria.  I am self-pubbing my first YA novel and am following a traditional model in terms of quality editing, proofing, writing, book cover, etc.  I can write and revise tirelessly, but when it comes to marketing it is very difficult for me to "toot my own horn".  I think this is true with lots of us writerly types.  So thank you for the direction and simplicity.  It is just what I needed to start my day!

  • Maria Ross

    @kitty, when can I come to all the book events/yummy tastings you'll be doing at local speciaty food stores?! PS, I JUST passed a local speacialty market this weekend here in Seattle that was promoting an author's food-related book signing at their store.


    @tina: "Oh, marketing. You and I are still making friends."  LOL! That made my day!  I am posting on Twitter and will @sign you!!!

  • Tina L. Hook

    Oh, marketing. You and I are still making friends.

    I love all the ideas here, and Maria, I'm going to follow back on your link to learn more.


  • Maria Ross

    Thanks everyone for the great response and the even better ideas. Yes, doesn't matter if your book is eBook only: you can offer a digital swag bag or goodie if they purchase by having them send you the receipt.

    Will post another "5 Tips" post this week. Stay tuned!

  • Regina Y. Swint

    @Maggie...My experience with marketing is pretty limited, too.  I just finished my tax return for 2011, and discovered that I only made $387 in royalties.  Sheesh!  I've got to do better. And that's why I'm really glad for the insight that  you ladies share here.  I'm taking notes, even when I don't comment in the threads.

    Having said that, I think that reaching out to your alumni association could work.  With the help and support of a lot of my college classmates, some of whom actually are on staff at our alma mater, I was able to get copies of my book (even though it's indie-published with a POD publisher) into our university bookstore; and I've been invited to the campus bookstore at one of our sister universities.  My book is not what I'd call erotic, but it does have a few saucy scenes in it (which is a little embarrassing when old friends and family read it), but it seems to be doing okay.

    People are just amazing.  They will surprise you with what they will do for you.That includes a few folks from my hometown churches.  Supporting and plugging my book, even with the unwholesome bits.

    And as far as sales in our campus store, one of my friends reported back to me that the manager said that sales were "slow, but steady."  Well, to me, that's great.  It's just nice to be read.  And once my 2nd Edition is done, maybe I'll even get copies of that one into the stores, too.

  • Terry Del Percio

    Maggie: I actually think your idea is a good one!  Certainly will create "buzz"!

  • Laura Brennan

    @Maggie: LOL!  What a fabulous idea for a campaign - and I'm sure your alma mater is breathless in anticipation.  :)

    Joe Konrath is the king of self-publishing - at least from the point of view of sharing the nitty-gritty with other writers.  He's very opinionated and incredibly open about the process - and he is freakin' tireless about getting out and touring, signing, & promoting the living daylights out of his books. 

  • maggie brooke

    More good advice, thank you. I am an empty vessel in the marketing world. My new book is an erotic romance - perhaps I could give out free condoms? I will definitely link with my alumni association from the Catholic boarding school I attended!

  • Laura Brennan

    @Joanne - You could create spinoffs from your books that you could offer as giveaways.  I don't know what your books are - and I don't know if this would work! - but something like giving away a recipe if it's a mystery novel based on cooks, for example.  Or a short story based on a beloved secondary character.  Has anyone tried anything like that?  I haven't, yet, but I'm building it into the marketing plan for the children's book I'm writing.

  • Terry Del Percio

    Great post. Lots to think about and get organized for when the book is ready! Thank you

  • Joanne Barney

    Good advice, especially about contacting folks we wouldn't necessarily remember:  alum groups, PTA, etc.  I wonder how much of this works with ebooks?  Nothing to give away free, hand out, sign, wave at people.  Or, now that I have two ebooks out (and selling slowly), perhaps you'd advise reformatting them into POD's and get going with the kind of marketing you are suggesting? 

  • Kitty Morse

    Thank you for the great advice. I am publishing Mint Tea and Minarets: A Memoir of Morocco with Recipes, as an ebook, and am about to embark upon a marketing "campaign." Having published 9 cookbooks with mainstream publishers, I am well aware that YOU are the one to market what YOU know best! I am happy to share information.

    Kitty Morse


  • Jacinta Mpalyenkana

    Thank you for your advice. Good stuff

  • Rebecca Elswick

    Thank you for the advice! In today's publishing world the best person to count on to market  your book is you. I wish I'd read this article a year ago!

    I'm tweeting.

  • Laura Brennan

    Super-useful post, thanks so much!  Just tweeted.

  • Carol Sweet

    I'm teetering



    I've recently completed the--9th?--final draft of my novel and face the decision whether to seek an agent, submit to one of the publishers that accept unagented submissions, or self-publish. That decision alone is daunting enough. Thinking about marketing sends me nearly into despair. Your article is so concise, logical and well presented it almost makes me believe I can do this. Thank you for your insights and advice. Well done.




  • Regina Y. Swint

    Awww pooh!  My twitter uploads keep failing!  Maybe it's just a temporary glitch.  I'll try again, soon.  I just followed you, though.

  • Regina Y. Swint

    It's definitely Tweet-worthy.  I'm about to tweet on both of my profiles, now!  I'll look for you there, so I can follow.  :)

  • Maria Ross

    Thanks for sharing Regina! PS, my Twitter handle is @redslice if anyone wants to Tweet this :-)

  • Regina Y. Swint

    I just shared on my Facebook page, too!  Thanks, Maria!  :)

  • Maria Ross

    Thank you Marta! I may publish more of these bite-sized nuggets. I've learned so much that when people ask, "So what do I need to do to market my book?" it seems daunting - do they have 3 months?! But writing digestible blog posts like this is a bit easier!

  • Marta Chausée

    What a generous nature you have, Maria.  Smart, too.  I shared on my FB page.  May it bring you some readers!

    Marta Chausée