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Book Marketing Ideas: Should You Promote the Author or the Book More?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Learn to be comfortable with being a star when you're an author!

Learn to be comfortable with being a star when you're an author!

Ever see or hear a commercial for a new book that says "The new book by _____?" Is there a lot of discussion of what the book is about? Not usually. Often, there are just a few scant details about it, such as if the book is part of continuing series (think the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, etc.) or the type of book it is ("The new historical romance by ______."). And that's all that often needs to be said to send fans running to their local bookstore or e-reader to buy the book. In these instances, the author is the focus of the book marketing program. Unfortunately, not all authors are blessed with that celebrity status... yet!

However, for many nonfiction markets, the book and the information it provides may be a bigger draw than the author.

So what's better for book marketing? Promoting the author or the book? Both? Or does it depend on certain circumstances and factors?

Promoting the Author

As the opening example suggests, celebrity authors carry their fan bases along with them through their various writing adventures. But do authors need to wait until they become famous to use their "celebrity" as a selling tool? No! And does the author have to be a fiction writer to be a celebrity author? Again, no! Some business authors are truly celebrities with as dedicated a fan base as any author of fiction.

Though there are authors whose fame and following span the globe, authors should think more in terms of their niche fan (customer!) bases. Many book and ebook authors—especially self published authors—have loyal fans, whether they're fans of the author as a person, the genre or the author's particular brand of writing products. Bestselling authors are not made overnight! Building a fan base, however small at first, should be the goal of every author.

Promoting the Book

For nonfiction books (business, technology, health, etc.), people will often go to Amazon, Google Search, or their local bookstore to locate what they need or want. Unless the author already has a superstar reputation for the topic of interest (and many business and health writers do!), people will often search for books by topic, not author. So for nonfiction, emphasizing the book and the informational benefits it provides should take center stage in marketing. Though the author will need to be promoted as an expert on the topic, he or she may not always be the primary showcased feature.

On the flip side, this is not to say that fiction or literary books should completely focus on promoting the author and dismiss the importance of keywords and search! On the contrary, they need to be classed as carefully as any nonfiction work. For example, during the self publishing process on a platform such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, author publishers are asked to enter descriptions (genre, subject, etc.) and keywords for their books so that they come up correctly in database search results.

Why Both Book AND Author Promotion are Needed

While from the above discussion it may seem that, depending on the nature of the book, it's an either/or situation. In reality, though, book promotion will be a mixture of both.

For example, an indie ebook author/publisher of business books on sales techniques may gain such a reputation for her niche that she develops a fan base that'll lap up anything she writes on the topic. So while she'll still need to focus on the SEO and such to garner new fans who are not familiar with her, she'll also need to cultivate her fan base through such techniques as email marketing and social media.

On the fiction side, a sci-fi author could become a visible member of several relevant online communities. But he'll also want to make sure that his books' descriptions on Amazon and his website clearly note what sci-fi niche his books fall into. This can help his placement in search queries and "You May Also Like..." type results.

So these are the primary objectives of any book marketing program, regardless of whether the work is fiction or nonfiction: Get friended, famous, and found!

Here are some ideas for accomplishing both objectives:

  • Hang Where Fans Hang. It is not very likely that fans for literary or fiction writing would type in terms such as "sci-fi novels" in Google Search to locate promising new or niche authors. But they are more likely to hang out in places where fiction fans gather. Think of examples such as Star Trek live conventions, online forums, Facebook groups, book clubs, etc. For nonfiction, think of where an information seeker would likely go to get the latest on their topic of interest and be there! This might include blogs, news sites or social media communities. Become a visible and well respected member of relevant communities to begin building a fan base.
  • Snare Fans in The Sales Web. Connecting with fans in the proper venues is only the first step in an author's sales funnel. Authors and publishers need a way to capture these fans as email marketing subscribers, social media followers or some other opt-in permission-based way to keep in touch. Content marketing strategies can be attractive incentives to sign up.
  • SEO. Using relevant keywords in book descriptions and promotions will help SEO (search engine optimization) on both book sites (such as Amazon) and search (Google, Bing, etc.).
  • Be a Star Whoever and Wherever You Are! Authors can sometimes get discouraged when they see the success of superstar writers, feeling they'll never get to that point. True, they may never get elevated to that superstar status. But they can be "stars" for their particular niches or audiences. Smaller, specialty areas can have intensely brand loyal fans. You don't have to be a superstar, baby, to be in your fan's show!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on November 03, 2014:

Hi LADiNardi! Thanks for stopping by and glad you found the post helpful. Have a wonderful week!

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L.A. DiNardi from New Hampshire on November 03, 2014:

Great article! Very interesting and informative. Thank you for sharing.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 03, 2014:

Hi bethperry! Agreed, the real work (and expense!) of writing is promoting it. No getting around it, especially as we all have more competition for our works. Glad you found the post helpful. Have a great day!

Beth Perry from Tennesee on September 02, 2014:

Heidi, you give some very good advice here. I wish I had more money to promote both my books and myself. Unfortunately, the pursuit of promotional avenues can be the biggest hindrance to writing there is.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 11, 2014:

Hi Elizabeth/epbooks! You're so right about that! Plus, there will be times where one type of promotion is more useful than the other. I'm sure you've seen that in your publishing adventures. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 11, 2014:

Hi AliciaC! Indeed, building a fan base is so critical to author success. Thanks for reading and commenting! Have a wonderful weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 11, 2014:

Hi Eddy/Eiddwen! Thanks for stopping by and kind comments. Have a beautiful weekend!

Eiddwen from Wales on July 11, 2014:

Interesting and very useful. Thank you for sharing as I know I and many others will benefit from this great hub.


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 10, 2014:

Thanks for sharing some more useful tips for writers, Heidi. I appreciate suggestions about self promotion and building a fan base!

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on July 10, 2014:

Excellent advice, Heidi! Marketing a book (and its author) is a fine balance and sometimes difficult to achieve. This hub is helpful in rectifying that.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 10, 2014:

Billybuc, of the many writers and bloggers I know, you rank right up there with the best in terms of building a fan base. That is so critical to writing success! Glad to see your five-year plan is working for you and hope that the new book is doing well. Have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 10, 2014:

Hi CMHypno! Writers think writing is hard. But promoting oneself and one's writing can be even more difficult! Becoming comfortable with being a "celebrity" of sorts is a real challenge for many writers. Sadly, I've seen writers over-judge their work, too. Baby steps build the self-confidence to be a successful writer. Thanks for stopping by and glad the post helped to provide some encouragement! Have a beautiful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on July 10, 2014:

Hi alancaster149! Indeed, most high quality superstar authors do want to be judged on the work they do, not just their celebrity. However, their celebrity helps sell books. It's a delicate balance. But authors need to be aware of both sides of the promotion coin. Great to hear from you! Hope you're having a delightful summer!

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on July 10, 2014:

If an author's writing has been established as 'quality' then future works by that author will be associated with the same quality. That's a sort of rule of thumb that doesn't necessarily bear out.

However... It's still the book that should be judged on its own merits. Robert Ludlum, Patricia Cornwell, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bernard Cornwell are all associated with quality. I think they'd all say to judge their books, not the author.

We judge cars on their looks and performance, the drivers by their skill in understanding their cars and getting the best out of them. Which is more important?

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on July 10, 2014:

Thanks for all the great book marketing tips Heidi. It can be very daunting to go out there and promote yourself and your books, so any help and information is very much appreciated

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 09, 2014:

I couldn't agree more my friend. Long before I wrote my first novel, I was busy building my "fan base." I have followed a plan since day one, and it was a five year plan, and I am right on schedule. :) Thanks for the information, which is always valuable.

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