If your friend just published a book, what can you do to help?
You can say “congratulations,” which is nice, but what your friend actually needs is for as many people as possible to hear about the book, consider the book, buy the book, read about the book, and talk about the book.
This is a time-limited activity. If the book was published on October 19, the most useful time for all this activity to happen is between October 19 and November 25 (approximately).
Here’s why. Imagine a potential reader in the target market who doesn’t know about the book. They hear about it because of something . . . let’s say an article they read. They say, “Hmm, interesting.” Then they do nothing. Then a friend mentions it, and they say, “Oh, yeah, I heard about that.” Then they hear it mentioned in a podcast. After several instances of this, the potential reader finally says, “I should get this,” and buys it online, or sees it in a bookstore and buys it. And reads it. And starts talking about it.
For the book to succeed, it needs to make multiple impressions on the potential reader, preferably over a short period of time. That period of time is just after the book is published, when it is new. That’s why, to help the author, anything you do is most helpful if it happens in the short period of weeks just after the book is published — especially in the first few days after the publication date.
A short list of ways you can help the author
Here are ways you can help, listed roughly in order of how helpful they are (and not coincidentally, from hard to easy):
- Get Oprah to read it and talk about it. OK, this one’s unlikely.
- Review or discuss the book in your regular media outlet. If you have a column in established media, such as a newspaper or trade magazine, or you make a regular appearance on TV, the most helpful thing you can do is to talk about the book or do an interview with the author. (Most people don’t have such an outlet, of course, but those that do command significant audiences.)
- Have the author give a speech. If you control or recommend speaking slots at events, invite the author to speak. During the book promotion period, many authors will speak free or at a reduced rate.
- Review or discuss the book on your blog, podcast, or video series. If you publish a regular content stream like a blog or podcast, write about the book or feature an author interview there. While reading the book helps, you can do an author interview without reading the whole book.
- Read the book in your book club. That reaches a bunch of people and engages them with the content.
- Buy the book. Books are cheap. Buy a copy on Amazon, bookshop.org, or at your local bookstore. Buying the book on Amazon will improve its rank, which will cause it to appear higher in searches.
- Write an Amazon review. More people read Amazon reviews before buying than any other reviews. If you write a review there, people considering buying the book are likely to read it. (Five stars or four stars are good — if you give fewer, you’re not doing the author any favors.) Although no one seems to be able to prove it, a plausible set of common wisdom is that books with 50 Amazon reviews are more likely to be recommended in searches. You can also leave reviews on Goodreads or BN.com. If you’ve written a review, there’s no rule against posting it in multiple places.
- Post about the book on social media. Post about the book on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Linked In — and tag the author. That’s easy to do. Link to the book page on Amazon or bookshop.org, or to a review of the book online. You can do this more than once — post about the book page, and then post about the article that mentions it.
- Share media about the book. Authors often create infographics, video clips, and other media about the book. If they share that information, you can spread it online.
- Like and comment on articles or posts about the book. Your interactions with the articles or posts makes them more visible.
- Turn the book face out at a bookstore. Hey, every little bit of visibility helps.
- Give friends a copy. That both raises sales and spreads the word.
- Mention the book to your friends. Actual word of mouth — with actual words coming out of actual mouths — matters as well.
This is not a complete list; you may be in a position to help the author in other ways. Whatever reaches the most people in the short time after the publication date is helpful. The same activities remain helpful in the year after the pub date, but are less likely to push as many buyers across the line to purchase because they’re not reinforcing many other mentions in a short period.
What authors should do
Book promotion is basically making all of the above activities as easy as possible. Publicity, social media promotion, Amazon review campaigns, book fan posses — they’re all about making these activities easy and stimulating as much buzz as possible around the book launch.
And one strategy works powers all the rest — write a good book that people want to talk about.
Promotion works best when the product is excellent.