Visibility for your book

A line drawing of a man thinking about marketingI often use this blog as a way of getting things straight in my head. Today’s no different, and lately I’ve been researching book marketing.

Marketing is one of those necessary evils most writers consider even less appealing than mixing nuclear waste with fresh sewage and catapulting it at that annoying possum who tap-dances on your roof at 2am.

To get past the whole ‘I feel dirty just contemplating marketing’ issue, it helps find a reason to do it. By that I mean a reason that’s bigger than your desire not to do it.

Start off with that change of mindset, and then move onto a new definition of marketing. Marketing’s not about selling. It’s about visibility. You want to make your book into a funny cat video (metaphorically) that people will share all over the web.

So how do you do that?

Hoped-for results

Firstly, you need a desired outcome; a clear and hittable goal – something like convincing tap-dancing roof possums to visit your neighbour’s place so you can get a good night’s sleep.

So state your desired outcome for your book’s potential. Writ it down. Something small, like: “Number one international bestseller” or “Get it into the hands of a hundred-million people in the first hour after publication”.

If that’s a bit scary (and rightfully so), how about something infinitely more attainable like: “Sell at least a copy a week for an entire year”? A small but constant stream of books going out the door might feel better than a single burst followed by the sound of crickets, and probably means your marketing efforts are working.

A goal that sits somewhere in the middle might be: “Sell enough copies to justify my incurable writing habit”. You’ll need to define what you mean by justifying the habit, but as long as you do, you can for it.

Whatever you decide, it’s got to be an clear and definable outcome that you want. Make it something presently out of your reach but still possible with effort.

Now, put your outcome somewhere where you can see it every day – taped to the bottom of your monitor, for instance. You’ll need to remind yourself constantly.

Have a reason

Next, find a purpose that will get you out of your comfort zone and doing the things you don’t want to do. What’s the point of having a goal if you don’t have a reason to do it?

So what excites you? Is it the potential for critical acclaim, the possibility of becoming a celebrity, or simply seeing people get pleasure from reading your book?

Break it down some more – define what your goal means to you personally. It could be anything you care about, such as:

  • selling enough copies will get you (monetarily):
    • financial security and the knowledge you’ll never need to go out and get another job again
    • your very own house and owning it outright
    • the ability to send your kids to private schools so they can have the best education possible
  • the prestige of being invited to visit readers groups
  • the chance to stand on a stage and talk to thousands of people at a convention
  • a future movie deal where you can walk the red carpet like a star
  • make your spouse/kids/parents/friends proud of you
  • all of the above
  • any of a thousand other reasons that excite you?

Whatever it is, it has to be emotionally engaging; something that means a lot to you. You won’t go out of your way otherwise. You’ve got to want it enough to care.

Make it visible

With your desired outcome sorted and an emotional reason to achieve it, you now need to figure out exactly how you’re going to achieve your goals.

How will you get the book in front of people both before and after it’s published?

Don’t forget that marketing’s about visibility, not sales. You want to convince people to buy it, not actually sell it to them yourself. That’s a job for the retailer.

Barring a stroke of luck on the scale of winning the lotto three times in a row, no one’s going to find out about your book unless you get it in front of them. It’ll get swallowed by the black void of roof-dancing possums and funny cat videos posted on YouTube.

So how are you going to make your book visible? Start by researching book marketing ideas via that mystical thing called an internet search and see what others have done before you. There are some really innovative and clever ideas out there, and at least some of them have worked. A lot may be out there, so pick a few you’re comfortable with for now and leave the rest on your long list of possibilities.

When you’ve got a list of ideas, break your strategy into three parts – pre-publication, book launch, and post-publication.


Build a presence online to let people know you’re writing a book. Focus on one thing at a time, and when that’s sorted expand your reach. Start by:

  1. joining your local writers’ centre and finding people/groups to connect with (if possible)
  2. setting up a website/blog (if you haven’t already). Research how to get people to visit it and implement some of those ideas (producing content helps… just saying)
  3. create social media accounts and learn how to use them (if you haven’t already)
  4. join online writers groups.

Doing the above allows you to tap into a vast wealth of knowledge and experience out there, as well as becoming known to people that matter (readers and writers).

Use your social media connections ask for advice from the writers who’ve launched books before while subtly letting them know you exist and that you’re also about to launch a book.

Book launch

Unless you’re a superpower in the writing world, no publisher is likely to organise and pay for you to launch your book. If you’re self-publishing, that’s a given. So:

  • do multiple book launches if possible – conventions, writers festivals, bookstores; wherever readers gather (visibility, remember?)
  • tap into your network and find someone with credibility, pull and showmanship to launch it for you
  • you’ll need to do a speech, so practice it and deliver it like a pro
    • a little training here goes a long way.
  • write your own press release – you never know, some journalist out there may be looking to write an ‘underdog does good’ article, so give them an angle and a reason to choose you.

Post book launch

Think of this as long-haul marketing. Again, marketing’s not about selling, but about visibility, so be the next funny cat (or tap-dancing-and-nuclear-waste-dodging roof possum) video everyone’s tuning into.

Think of creative ways to get the book in front of people without being obnoxious about it; refer to your list and search the internet for new ideas if you can’t think of any yourself. There’s plenty out there.

  • Spend a few hours a week thinking up/researching and implementing ideas to make your book more visible.
  • To increase visibility and meet potential readers, get a table at:
    • the local markets
    • artists alleys at conventions
    • wherever else the opportunity arises (team up with other writers if you don’t want to go it alone).
  • Do book signings at bookshops.
  • Write the next book, and the next (and publish them too – more books = more visibility).

However you approach it, try and have fun. Treat marketing like an adventure and you’ll never be disappointed, even if some approaches totally fizz.

What’s your best marketing (visibility) tip? Please let me know in the comments, and share this post with other writers who might find it useful.


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