What are some effective ways to promote a book?


I am curious if anyone has any experience promoting a book. I have read a bunch of posts about various promotion methods but I have not seen a whole lot of posts on what is the most effective. By effective, I mean getting the word out and selling books.

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asked Nov 21 '09 at 00:03
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

6 Answers


I've given away 40,000 copies of my book. I hope Dharmesh posts here because they just launched a book that's going really well.

Some ideas:

  1. Speaking works. Of course it's a lot of work. At least do it locally.
  2. AdWords are unlikely to be cost-effective.
  3. Send copies to bloggers who might review it.
  4. If the book is expensive enough, make an affiliate program so bloggers and Twitterers can make money promoting your book for you.
  5. Get a really famous person to do a Forward. Then at least they will promote it which might lead to hundreds of copies.
  6. Have an associated blog, and make it clear to everyone purchasing the book that more is on the blog. This keeps people interested and makes it easier to share. It also sets you up for selling book #2 to the same people. This technique is perfected by people like Freakonomics Blog and Seth Godin.
  7. Give away the eBook, sell the real book. Seth Godin says 70% of the people who got the eBook purchased the book, and others have done similar. I don't know if that number is correct, but the technique is probably sound.
answered Nov 21 '09 at 04:23
16,231 points
  • Thanks for the ideas. I was planning on speaking as well as doing some guest blog posts. One idea I found was giving away excerpts of the book (i.e. a chapter) either via a eBook or a blog post. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


Here are some of the things I've learned in marketing my recent book (http://InboundMarketingBook.com )

  1. Don't spend time on local bookstore signings (other than for emotional value). It doesn't scale. Too much time and not many sales.
  2. Take parts of the book and offer them up for free as either eBooks, blog articles, etc. For example, we have a bunch of amusing marketing cartoons in our book. I took some of those cartoons and put them out on our blog (with a link back to the book)
  3. Pick a particular period of time (like a day/week) and focus your promotional efforts. This way, you have a chance of getting onto some lists (like the Amazon lists). This creates a virtuous cycle. Getting on these lists causes more sales, which causes getting on more lists. To pull this off, you can't have a small set of sales trickle in every day, you need to "compress" some of these sales and have a lot of sales in a short period of time. In short, don't "evenly distribute" your promotional efforts and sales.
  4. Give away a few copies to folks on Twitter. Ask them to tweet a link to the book in order to be eligible to receive the free book.
  5. Track your book on my new free tool (http://book.grader.com ). Also check out the "referring list". This tells you which books on Amazon are "pointing" to your book. The more people buy from that list, the better your sales. Get to know those authors if you can.
  6. Reach out to bloggers in your industry. Write guest posts, do interviews. Once you get an article, help them promote their blog (because the more traffic to that article, the more sales you will get)

That's all I've got for now. I've got a longer blog article I'm working on that talks about marketing books. Stay tuned.

answered Nov 21 '09 at 05:12
Dharmesh Shah
2,865 points
  • Great advice. I have been struggling with the book signing thing since everyone asks me about that and I can see why it does not scale. BTW, I did pick up Inbound Marketing and found it insightful. Some of the techniques seem applicable to authors as well. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


On top of the suggestions by prior posters (which are all great), I'll offer up a case study for people to chew on...

One of the best social media marketing plans (for a book) that I've seen in a while was done for Dan Pink's last book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. The book is a pretty concise career guide in manga form. Here's a list of what I observed. I put links where I could find them so that you could get a sense for how things came off...

  1. Facebook Group - Obvious, but you'd be shocked at how many people don't make this happen. FB Group
  2. Book Web Site - What was most interesting was the author's decision to publish a page of the book every week on the web site. I subscribed to the RSS feed and read about half the book (slowly). The funny thing was that I did end up buying the book (even though I didn't think I would when I started reading it). Sorry, the web site no longer has the same content as before, so you'll have to trust me on the above. Web Site
  3. Author Blog - Dan regularly blogs, and you can review the Johnny Bunko-related posts at this link. At the time of the book release, these posts where published under a specific Johnny Bunko blog. I'm sure you could go and read every post and find even more interesting ideas for promoting a book.
  4. Promotional "Trailer" Video - Yes, yes, this certainly isn't a "free" or probably "cheap" option, but again, I believe that compelling content doesn't have to cost a ton to produce. It just takes setting your standards pretty darn high and making sure enough people you respect think the end product is great. The Johnny Bunko "trailer" is definitely great. Video
  5. Free Group Discussion Guides - For both Business and for Students. Again, just very well-done content to foster discussion among the author's and the book's fans. Note that it's not a huge amount of content... just well presented.
  6. Cultivate Raving Fans - Along similar lines, the author found some pretty amazing success getting a few (but passionate) "raving fans" to promote the book for him. Doing things like providing these fans with free copies of books to hold local discussion groups and scheduling small networking sessions (for raving fans) in cities he was visiting. Here's blog post describing how things worked out for a single fan... Raving Fan Blog Post
  7. Bunko Breakfasts - The "raving fan" plan worked so well, that Dan had dozens of breakfast-time discussion groups going around the country (without him present at all!). He simply provided the free books and some other book-related SWAG. These small groups (4-10 people usually) would then send in a picture of their group and their discussion conclusions/notes which Dan would share on the web site. You can google for "bunko breakfast" and see a good bit of the history/artifacts of this event. I've heard of similar marketing efforts where the author scheduled time to call into book club meetings that were discussing the book. You can imagine how much more compelling it would be to read a book knowing that you're going to be able to ask the author questions. (Ah, just found a video of Dan attending a bunko "breakfast" in Seattle, just to get a flavor of what it was like. Please note that this video was posted by a fan, and not Dan.).
  8. The Great Johnny Bunko Challenge (aka. Allow the Community to Contribute to the Book's Next Chapter) - So, Johnny Bunko had this community (arguably still small, but it doesn't need to be big), and one of the last things that I saw happen was Dan's solicitation to his readers/subscribers to submit recommendations for "rule #7" (the book presents six rules to follow in your career). Here's the video announcement. Yes, this dove-tails nicely into the small groups of fans that were meeting to discuss this book... they now had even more to discuss and had an assignment to complete for to the author. Here's the announcement of the winner.
Design vs. Content - Since Johnny Bunko is a career guide in manga form, it obviously lends itself to a richer, visual media. That being said, I would strongly recommend in finding a consistent and compelling style to accompany your marketing efforts (even if it's just a web site or a discussion guide). As Ryan Carson promoted at BOS2009 (I'll post the link when the video is up), "Invest in Design." It really does make a difference (as you can hopefully see in the examples above).

Hope someone finds this helpful. I thought it was pretty amazing to watch over the course of a year. Just a job very well done.

Full Disclosure : I do not know Dan Pink, but I do know the social media consultant (Jeremy Epstein) that put together the social media campaign for the book. The entire post above, however, was compiled by me (thus all errors are mine). The good part is, if you find any of this compelling, you can just go to his web site/blog and read... He blogs like a madman and there's tons to absorb... hmmm, maybe I should convince Jeremy to join this site... (think, think, think).

answered Nov 23 '09 at 11:36
Chris Hagner
881 points
  • Chris- Thanks for the advice. You have a lot of great things to pursue. My book is about Technical Management (Frustration Free Technical Management to be precise) and a discussion guide sounds like something that would help readers with their technical management issues. Need to ponder this a bit more. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


This may seem obvious, but I'm going to post it anyway.

If you're still writing a book, start telling people about it right away and, if they're interested, get their contact information and tell them you'll let them know when the book is published.

I just spent the last four years (part time) writing my book Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love. During this time I built up a long list of folks with whom I fell into conversation in the darnedest places - on planes, while waiting for my car to be fixed, while staffing completely unrelated trainings, while running conferences, etc.

The book was published last month and I've been working down the list, sending a personalized email to each person. The personalization just reminds the recipient how we met and then I add one of several short pitches for the book.

To my surprise, almost everyone has responded enthusiastically and told me they're going to buy the book.

In a while I plan to email these people again and ask them for feedback and recommendations (and permission to quote if favorable), and encourage them to review the book on Amazon or their blog if they have one.

I'm also not going to spend any time on bricks and mortar bookstores, but I'm considering marketing to libraries, since my book might be considered a good reference tool by librarians, even though it has a more radical agenda...

answered Nov 30 '09 at 06:59
Adrian Segar
21 points
  • Adrian- Thanks for the advice. I agree that Bricks and Mortar is a waste of time. I like the personal email idea. It's a bit time consuming but sounds like a good way to build a loyal fan base. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


Three small points to add to the really outstanding answers above (I truly wish I had this advice when earlier this year.)

  1. Traditional tech publishers are now basically intellectual VC with better manners, but far, far less cash. Unless it is explicitly in you're contract, they will do zero marketing individually for your book. Instead, they are backing something like 100 books hoping 5 break out.
  2. Build your audience first, then write the book.
  3. Listen to Chris Anderson's [free on iTunes: http://downloads.wired.com/podcasts/xml/free.xml ] book, Free - the future of a Radical Price. I think it really does a good job of modeling at least the new realities for authors of the online world.
answered Nov 25 '09 at 14:06
Bob Walsh
2,620 points
  • Bob- Thanks for the advice. The zero marketing thing is a given. Even big name houses struggle with supporting their authors. I will take a look at the podcast. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago


Everyones answers were great. Lots of useful tidbits. I figured I would share my plan to date and update it as I progress. The book became available last week, so I don't have much data yet.

Accomplished to Date

  1. Book Pages on My Blog: I decided to just add a couple of pages to my blog as opposed to a full up site. Not sure how well that will work but we shall see. I also added a complete contents page and an errata page.
  2. Amazon Author Page: I just set this up and am waiting for them to complete it. I have been really impressed with Amazon as opposed to Barnes & Nobel. Getting anything updated on B&N requires you to send them a specially formatted email. Seems like a waste of time but I will give it a shot.
  3. Book Grader: The one bad thing about Amazon is that they don't track trends. Thankfully, bookgrader.com does. I am not sure yet how to make the data actionable but at least I have a starting point.
  4. Free Book Excerpts: My publisher does this anyway but I decided to add some pdf's of certain sections on the book page.
  5. Facebook Fan Page: This was a no brainer. It has not proven too useful yet but it's early.
  6. Facebook Updates: Updates to my personal page have generated a lot of interest. I also point friends to the books fan page.
  7. Twitter Account: I just started the twitter account, so my follower base is small but I am following (and being followed) by my blog twitter account, which has way more followers. This one should be an interesting one to follow.

  1. Book Signing: Dharmesh has an excellent point about scale but my ego is getting in the way. I plan on having 2 local signings and that's about it.
  2. Excerpted Guest Posts: Several bloggers I know have already said they would let me excerpt some of the book as a guest post. I still need to reach out to more but I have high hopes for this.
  3. LinkedIn Group: There are already several LinkedIn groups on management but the success of several of the ones I belong to seem to indicate that it's worth pursuing.
  4. Give Away Review Copies: This seems like a great way to get the buzz out. I have a list and plan on contacting and sending them out as soon as I get my author copies.
  5. Interviews: I have at least one planned and several others in the works. I have heard that these are not as effective as other media (like book reviews and blog posts) but hey, it's worth a shot.
answered Dec 21 '09 at 09:28
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points

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