By R J Theodore
An author promoting their upcoming release might feel like Sisyphus, because the effort to keep people aware of your book is neverending. When you let up on promotion, you and your boulder wind up back at the bottom of the slope. When you do benefit from a flash of attention, you have a split second to turn that into a sale.
Just this morning, a publisher promoted an upcoming title. Their pitch hooked me. Their cover art hit the right genre notes.
But there was no link.
I behaved most unlike the average internet user: I opened a new browser tab to look for the book. The search results were all sports equipment.
I searched again, adding the word “book.” I got five pages of the wrong books, all in the wrong genres.
I returned to Twitter, copied the author’s name, and searched again. Finally, I found the book.
But this was Book Two in a series. I had to view, purchase, and read a different book, whose cover was a different style, more literary than genre. The investment of time it would take me to get to Book Two was disappointing. I scanned the metadata to see which cover was a better indicator of the series category. I mentioned this in a co-working Zoom I happened to be in, and a friend told me Book One was a novella. The investment of time wasn’t that bad, then. I hesitated over the price but finally purchased Book One.
Each step I had to perform of my own volition was an exit point—an opportunity to walk away. How many exit points can you expect a stranger to ignore? Each exit point will see more people drop off before completing a purchase.
I didn’t go to Twitter to buy a book. Most people don’t go to Twitter, or any social media platform, looking for books to buy.
It was a near miracle I was engaged by a tweet from a publisher.
It was a near miracle I was at my desk instead of on my phone.
It was a near miracle I looked for the book when there was no link.
It was a near miracle I kept trying when my search returned sports equipment.
It was a near miracle I scanned four pages of results when my “book” search didn’t return the exact title.
It was a full miracle I went back to Twitter, found the author’s name, and clarified my search.
It was a miracle I clicked to Book One when I realized it was a sequel.
It was a miracle I considered Book One despite its cover. Another miracle my friend knew Book One was a novella.
That’s nine miracles. How many miracles can you count on?
You Don’t Need Miracles, Just a Plan
Don’t hope your viewer will know where to go. Give them a link.
Don’t hope they’ll decide to click it. Tell them to.
Link to a buy page with the active instruction to “Buy Now” or “Read Now.” Link to a pre-order with “Pre-Order Now.” Link to your newsletter form with “Subscribe to hear when Title is available.”
Link to a page they can engage with. Tell them what to do with a Call to Action (CTA).
- When announcing your book, link to your newsletter signup.
- When revealing your cover, link to a pre-order page.
- When celebrating your release, link to your buy page.
- When your book earns a starred review, link to a NetGalley download page.
- When your book becomes a NY Times Bestseller, link to your Books2Read Universal Book Link (UBL).
- On Small Business Saturday, link to your book on Bookshop.org.
Get potential readers where you want them in as few actions as possible. Transform their interest into a sale, a download, or a subscription. And do it with one click.
The path for getting a stranger to “buy” or “pre-order” requires conscious planning and a moment of analysis. Try to link your audience to the desired action in one click. Provide that Call to Action, so they know what you want them to do.
Here’s an easy format:
[Book title]. [Release date]. [Pitch]. [Call to Action]. [Link]. (And upload your own image; a center-cropped book cover grabbed from your product page is unappealing.)
A newsletter offers more space, but the goal is the same. Here, the first miracle is getting through spam filters to the inbox. Don’t rely on more! Format your email so the reader knows how to buy your book at a glance. Keep the message focused, so the Call to Action isn’t buried in an update about your home repairs or the latest antics of your literary pets.
Promotion is still a Sisyphean task, but you don’t have to make the effort harder than it has to be—for you or your potential reader.
R J Theodore (she/they) is an author, graphic designer, and all-around collector of creative endeavors and hobbies. She enjoys writing about magic-infused technologies, first contact events, and bioluminescing landscapes.
Her love of science fiction and fantasy storytelling developed through grabbing for anything-and-everything “unicorn” as a child, but she was subverted by tales of distant solar systems when her brother introduced her to Star Trek: The Next Generation at age seven. A few years later, Sailor Moon taught her stories could have both.
Her short fiction has appeared in MetaStellar and Fireside Magazines, as well as the Glitter + Ashes and Unfettered Hexes anthologies from Neon Hemlock Press.
She lives in New England, haunted by her childhood cat. Find more information at rjtheodore.com.