The first step to marketing your book is to identify your target audience – think about your book and its genre. Is it fiction aimed at teens, or something more learned aimed at local historians? Think about how that reader might access news – do they read the local paper or use social media platforms? If your target audience is women in their fifties, then you probably won’t find a lot of them on TikTok, but Facebook would give you exposure.

You could also reach out to groups in your local area that are popular with women in this age bracket, such as a local book club or local voluntary organisation.

With your target market in mind, create a list of ways you can get the word out about your book. Can you contact a local writers’ group and talk to them about the publication process? Better still can you speak at a public event at your local library or do a series of school visits? Advertise your talk through fliers or posters, and contact the local press with a press release (more on that below).

Look for opportunities: does your parish have a newsletter? Do you work in a profession that has its own internal magazine? Think outside the box.

Ensure you have a good high resolution author photo ready for PR – not a snap of you on holiday, no matter how much you love it! If it’s a business book, look business-like. If it’s women’s fiction, look happy and relaxed in an attractive environment. If it’s crime, look like a crime writer. If it’s a fishing book, that photo taken of you with your rod and waders could be ideal. Use it on your AI (Advance Information) sheet, consider putting it on the book jacket and make sure it goes out with all press releases, together with the high-res image of the book cover (the front jacket, not the full wrap).

Work on your author biography, writing one of 100 words and one of 50 words. Tell us who you are, and if your book is non-fiction, what your qualifications are for writing the book. We don’t need to know where you went to school; make it interesting and relevant. If you are writing for children it can be fun and quirky. Write your bio in the third person.

It’s vital that whatever marketing you do brings people to you – Google yourself and see what comes up. Consider buying the web domain in your author name (rather than the book title – this may not be your only book!) Your website or blog is your shop window on the web. If you don’t want to set up a website, creating an author’s page on Facebook, Instagram or a channel of your choice is advised. An active and well-managed social media page will help you raise your profile and build a network of ‘followers’. When you have your book published, your online followers are likely to become your first readers!

Social media

Social media is an ideal way to market your book – it’s free and readers are only one click away from an online purchase. Decide on the social media platform that you feel most comfortable with and look to build your following by following other like-minded people and people who might be interested in your book – thriller readers or fly-fishing experts, whoever you are aiming it at. BUT don’t mention it yet! Social media isn’t a marketplace where you shout out your wares; it’s a community where you need to focus on telling not selling. Building relationships will lead to support and sales.

The key to getting engagement on social media is quality content. Keep it varied, share and interact, use images and video. Perhaps create a series of updates on the book’s progress, on your journey. People like ‘behind the scenes’ insights, so let them know about the writing and editing process, show them potential covers, maybe even ask them to comment/ vote for their favourite. You could run a competition to encourage comments/votes where the winner gets a character named after them or a mention in the acknowledgements. Think about shareable content. Aim to inform or entertain.

Getting radio or press interviews

You might be lucky and the media will be interested in your personal story about writing your book; think about what makes you different and interesting when you approach them. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of books published every day so that fact alone isn’t enough to make you stand out. Be conscious of current news and how it may relate to your book. If you can’t get an interview specifically about your book, then your aim is to get an interview that’s not all about the book but where you can mention it!

Look for opportunities. If you’ve written a book that focuses on the countryside, and a story pops up in the news about hedge-cutting during nesting season, how can you add to it? Are you an expert on the environment? Could they talk about hedge-cutting and relate it back to your book? The interviewer might introduce you as an expert and contributor to [insert book title] and then proceed with the news story. A listener may be interested in your point of view for example, on your views and thoughts on a certain matter, and decide to buy your book for this reason.

Creating an advance information sheet

Ideally, the marketing process starts several months before finished books are available. As you don’t have a proof copy at this stage, an AI or Advance Information sheet is a vital tool to communicate all the information about your book. (Find a sample AI sheet below.) An AI sheet is never more than one page, although the information can run onto the back of the page.

The AI essentially will include your pitch for the book – a single sales paragraph that summarises what the book is about, plus the back cover blurb, your bio and contact details.

The AI encapsulates all the information booksellers and the press may need about your book, including the cover image, title, subtitle, blurb, who you are, price, format, size, contact details and sales points. Sales points should include details on your target audience, potential media coverage and your ‘hook’ – what sets your book apart from others.

To target the review/books pages of the print media, send review copies of your book to relevant journalists and follow up in a timely manner. Include the Advance Information sheet with each copy. Bear in mind that they receive hundreds of books from all the major publishers so getting reviews can be difficult. Start locally with your regional press and build up to national press.