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

Updated on February 18, 2015
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Heidi Thorne is a self publishing expert, author of 21 (and counting!) business books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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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.

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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 Createspace, publishers are asked to enter descriptions (genre, subject, etc.) and keywords for their books so that they come up correctly in database search results.

Learn to be comfortable with being a star!
Learn to be comfortable with being a star! | Source

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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 really there are two primary objectives of any book marketing program, regardless of whether the work is fiction or nonfiction: Get famous and get 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. Click here to learn more about content marketing.
  • 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.). Click here to learn more about choosing keywords for SEO.
  • 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! Click here to learn more about brand loyalty in marketing.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

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

    • LADiNardi profile image

      L.A. DiNardi 2 years ago from New Hampshire

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

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

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

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

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

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

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

      Eddy.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      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 profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      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

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      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.