5 Model Book Marketing Campaigns

The big question for publishers always comes down to how to get a book in front of as many people as possible. While most publishers likely have their own tried-and-true methods for book marketing, incorporating new ideas into your own book marketing campaigns will likely yield more buzz and more sales.

1. Bring a band or your book’s subject to your event

Although author readings and signings are tried and true methods of book marketing campaigns and engaging new audiences, getting creative with book events can generate even more interest and energy. Opening or closing a book event with live music will create a lively atmosphere and will draw greater numbers of prospective readers. For example, the UK-based Bookshop Band, which writes songs inspired by books and performs at book events regularly, recently appeared at the 2019 American Book Association’s Winter Institute, where they opened for Margaret Atwood’s keynote speech.

Book readings and author signings followed by a Q&A are also a good way to draw greater numbers of potential readers—and even more so if the author is able to bring the subjects of their book with them. At a number of events for the book “Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien,” author Jeremy Smith hosted a Q&A alongside the book’s subject, Alien. Not only did the intrigue of seeing the mystery hacker in person draw more people to the events, but audience members were able to direct complex questions about hacking and security to Alien herself. Even when the book’s subject is not mysterious, receiving insight from people featured in a particular book can make a reading and Q&A all the more enticing.

2. Crowdsource

The rise of crowdsourced fundraising, fan fiction writing, and publishing has broadened the possibilities for running book marketing campaigns. Authors who are self-publishing can fundraise publishing costs through crowdfunding, and some can generate enough buzz to be able to secure book deals with traditional publishers. Jordan Stratford, author of “The Case of the Missing Moonstone: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency, Book One,” successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and went on to publish the book with Yearling in 2016. By generating interest in a book’s premise before it is written, authors and publishers can establish early buy-in from readers. For authors like Stratford who are writing series, this interest can be carried over to subsequent books.

Publishing companies like Swoon Reads, a young adult imprint of Macmillan, are taking crowdsourcing to the next level. In creating an online community where readers can communicate with authors and the publisher, Swoon Reads invites writers to submit their manuscripts directly. Readers are then involved in reading, rating, and critiquing manuscripts, and later provide input on cover designs and marketing ideas. Involving the target market in vetting manuscripts ensures that the material will resonate with readers and helps to generate excitement about forthcoming titles. In another version of crowdsourced publishing, UK-based Unbound presents book ideas to users who vote by contributing money towards a book’s publication. This model ensures that there are sufficient funds to publish the book, and creates a pool of readers who are already invested in the book.

Authors are also increasingly turning to book cover contests as a way to crowdsource book cover designs. This gives authors and publishers a unique range of designs to choose from that they might not find in mainstream designers. Artists and designers who have not yet made a name for themselves can also benefit from these kinds of contests. In addition to payment, winners of cover contests gain greater visibility. Submittable’s Gallery feature, which allows you to visually display videos, audio, and images for an audience to view and vote on, is a great fit for this type of contest.

And finally, when searching for unusual book promotion ideas, authors, book marketers, and publishers can ask potential readers for their marketing ideas and connections. Readers and social media savants can frequently provide unique ideas to help publishers connect with the right market—and some might have useful connections with high-profile media outlets. Ryan Holiday, author of “The Obstacle is the Way,” asked his readers for their ideas and was able to secure a number high-profile appearances—including a visit to the White House—through his readers’ feedback and connections.  

3. Create a quiz

Going viral on social media can provide a big boost to all book marketing campaigns, but it can be difficult to orchestrate. Content, audience, and timing are all important considerations, but above all, the duplication of content by individuals, rather than by publishers or bookstores, will engage social media users more quickly.

Quizzes can be one way to get book promotion material in front of users in a more subtle way that will also allow social media users to enjoy the process. Seeing friends on Twitter or Facebook posting results from a quiz often leads to a domino effect as people become curious about their own quiz results. Quizzes like “Answer These Eight Questions and We’ll Tell You Which Romantic Book You Should Read Next” and “We Know Which Book You Should Read Next Based on the Story You Write” point readers to a small number of titles. Pairing quiz results with a link to the book can be a great book promotion strategy. While Buzzfeed is a commonly used platform for creating quizzes, sites like WordPress or Tryinteract can also be used. The key is to keep the quiz short, target it at a specific audience, use a fun title, and keep it snarky and personal.

4. Launch a podcast

For tech-savvy authors or publishing companies that want to invest in audio recording and editing, podcasts are a great way to reach potential readers. Unlike a blog, podcasts offer a more versatile format for authors and publishers to distribute book-related content to listeners. Publisher podcasts have the advantage of starting with a broader audience and the ability to more easily feature a range of well-known authors.

HarperCollins Children Books just launched their new podcast, “Remember Reading?” in January. Each 30-minute episode features authors, journalists, and other guests who discuss their favorite books for young people, including new titles. The goal is to get young children and their parents interested in reading and in discovering new books. And while individual authors can highlight their books through these types of podcasts—but they can also host their own podcast! Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Happiness Project” (among numerous other titles), hosts the Happier Podcast. The podcast’s episodes cover many similar themes to the ones in Rubin’s books, and have helped her maintain and expand her platform.

5. Give a TED or TEDx Talk

Building an author platform can be challenging for even the most media-savvy writers. Giving a Ted Talk is one way to gain lots of visibility quickly. By the time they’ve completed a book, authors are usually subject experts on a number of things, and learning to give a public talk can be a great way to engage prospective readers by speaking in-depth about a particular idea, subject, or experience.

Courtney Martin, author of “The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream” gave a TED Talk called “The New American Dream” six months before her book’s publication. With over two million views of the video and a link to her forthcoming book featured underneath, the Talk proved to be successful in expanding Martin’s platform. Bigger name authors also have great success with using TED Talks to sustain their visibility and profile. For example, Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” garnered over 16 million views, and was given just prior to the publication of her memoir, “Committed: A Love Story.” 

Authors, agents, or publishers can submit an application to speak at a TED event by filling out their speaker nomination form.

Interested in launching your own book promotion campaign? Submittable’s software for publishers can help with crowdsourcing ideas or content, running contests, or setting up an application process for podcast guests, musicians, or anyone else you’d like to involve in your book campaign.

Emily Withnall

Emily Withnall is a freelance writer and editor. She also teaches poetry in public schools in the Missoula area as well as at the Missoula County Detention Center. Some of her work is available at emilywithnall.com.