Promoting a book is no walk in the park. It’s no picnic. It’s no…3rd example of an outdoor-based relaxing activity.
It’s hard work, is what I’m saying.
If you’re with a big publisher, they’ll take care of that side of things for you. They’ll have a publicist for that. Maybe a marketing department. There’ll be posters and interviews and bookshops waiting for you to visit and amazing quotes from other big time authors who received complimentary copies of the book 6 months ago. The publisher will pretty much place it directly on to the bestsellers list for you while you sip strawberry daiquiris with Richard Osman on a Mediterranean beach. (Disclaimer: I have never been with a big publisher so these are just guesses).
But if, like me, you’re with a smaller publisher, you probably won’t have these luxuries. So you’ll need to get creative. And you’ll probably also need a brass neck.
It’s all very well constantly posting about your book and asking your friends to order it, but people, understandably, are going to tire of that. Say you have…1000 followers on Twitter. Unless they’re constantly retweeting everything you post, you’re only going to keep reaching those same 1000 people. Some of them will order the book and some won’t. At a certain point, you’ll need to accept that everyone who is going to buy the book already has and you’ll need to employ a new trick or two to reach a wider audience.
So you need to come up with something people want to share. Something that isn’t just an Amazon link to your book. Some clever way of promoting the book which people haven’t seen before.
For my first book, I set up an account on the dating app Tinder, where I solely used it for promoting my novel, instead of trying to get…acquainted with anyone. I then wrote a blog post about how I got on, featuring screenshots of some of the chats I’d had. This was a relatively original idea back in 2017, gave people a laugh, and was pretty shameless, so a decent amount of people shared it around. Because it wasn’t just a link or a front cover, it was something they could read and enjoy. Truthfully, I don’t know if it guaranteed that many more book sales, but it definitely got me and the book to a wider audience.
This time around, for Daisy on the Outer Line, I used the USP of the book: the Glasgow subway. If you’ve ever been or lived in Glasgow for any amount of time, you’ve probably been on the subway, and, if you’re like me, have a bit of a soft spot for its simplicity and rusty charm.
I ran a World Cup of Glasgow Subway stops. This allowed people to have their say (which people love to do) about something which hadn’t been widely discussed before. We’ve all debated the worst chocolate in a tub of Celebrations, if Die Hard is a Christmas film, whether the milk goes in the tea first or last; this was a fresh argument for folk to have.
So much so that it generated enough shares and retweets and comments that it somehow attracted the attention of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She put out a rallying cry for her followers to vote her Govan. While Govan lost out to eventual winner Kelvinbridge, it certainly raised the profile of the world cup, and therefore, got me, as a writer, a bit more attention.
My suggestion, for those looking to promote their book, would be to find something unique to the book (a character, a place, a celebrity, an underground subway system) and use that to create something fun which people can get involved with. Do your own World Cup on Twitter even! I’m sure the First Minister is dying to get voting again.
Ross Sayers is a writer of contemporary Scottish fiction for young adults. His debut novel, ‘Mary’s the Name’, released in 2017, was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award.
His second novel, ‘Sonny and Me’, was released in 2019, and his third, ‘Daisy on the Outer Line’, is due out November 2020.
You can tweet him @Sayers33 or see more of his writing at rosssayers.co.uk.