When you’re writing a book, two questions first-time writers most often ask are: How do I land a book deal? and How do I market it so it is read?
We sat down with Robin Zachary, author of Styling Beyond Instagram: Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street, who shared her roundabout path to landing a book deal and how she plans to promote her book to increase sales immediately following its release and also in the years to come.
In this blog post, you will learn the best approaches to land a book deal, and how to market your book to increase book sales.
All You Need is a Connection
Publishing houses receive dozens, if not hundreds, of manuscript submissions a day. Their process of elimination is brutal and quick. And if you don’t make an immediate impression, your manuscript will be rejected. The rejection doesn’t mean your book is “bad,” it just might not be a good fit for a particular publisher, as Zachary found out.
At a conference for creatives, Zachary attended multiple workshops and seminars with published authors who shared their experience getting published. Most of them said, “The publisher found me.” Zachary wondered, “What about the rest of us?”
Later at the conference Zachary sat down with a publisher who expressed that her book idea wasn’t “publishable.” Tough words. So tough, Zachary decided she likely would self-publish the book and use it as a teaching tool.
But things quickly shifted when she had a chance meeting with an acquaintance at that same conference. Zachary shared her idea, and her friend said, “That sounds like a book the publisher of my book would be interested in!” A few weeks later, Zachary’s friend reached out for a book proposal she could pass on to the publisher.
Often the best way to land a book deal is through a connection like this. It’s a warm introduction. The person acts as a proxy for trust.
That being said, you also should be looking to ways to nurture relationships and support people you know. Give without the expectation of gaining. You just never know when you might receive a gift in return.
Attend a Conference
Many people attend conferences and writer’s workshops with the expectation that they will find an agent or land a book deal with a publisher. But often these workshops are intermediate steps to landing a deal. View these gatherings as opportunities to learn from other people’s experiences, learn more about the industry, make connections, and share your unique ideas.
You might not land a book deal, but you’ll create valuable relationships—that might pay off like they did for Zachary. You never know who might have a connection!
Market Your Book to Your Ideal Audience
While you’re writing your book, you need to begin to think about how to market your book to increase sales. In fact, even as you write your book you should be nurturing and building your audience, whether that’s through blogging, a social media platform, a weekly email, regular speaking engagements—or a combination of the above!
The key is to identify your ideal audience and the platform they can be found on.
During the two years leading up to her book’s publication, Zachary was active on Instagram—a space where creatives (her ideal audience) are plentiful. She shared inspiring and helpful content, extending her reach as her content was shared by others whom found it valuable. She also used her IG platform to market a workshop with the same title as her book. From those workshops, she collected email addresses to which she regularly sends communications.
When her book is released, Zachary plans on tapping the friends she’s made over the past two years of actively developing her platform, and asking them to promote the book on their feeds and in their Stories.
It’s tempting to think of marketing strategy once your book is in the hands of your editor. But, really, you need to be developing your platform as you are writing your book.
Make Google Your Friend
Another strategy for marketing your book is to think like Google. Because Zachary wrote a how-to book, she determined the phrases and words her audience would Google when looking for solutions. And then she used these keywords and phrases in her book title and description.
Google keywords are an effective way to generate interest in your book. If you’re writing a memoir, you want your title to be unique. You also want to consider adding a subtitle that is more explanatory. Think of what your audience will search when trying to find your book. The same can be said for business books. Isolate those keywords and phrases and use them in your titles and description.
Ask for Positive Reviews
What was the last book you read? Chances are it was referred to you. Or maybe you read a positive review. Reviews are important for your book sales. They build your credibility, bring visibility to your book, can help you land marketing opportunities, and can help your book rank higher on Amazon search ratings. It’s patently obvious but worth saying: readers take a greater interest in books that have reviews, especially good reviews. And the more positive reviews your book receives, the higher it will rank on Amazon. Early reviews help your book gain traction prior to release date.
There are a few ways to generate early reviews. You can put together a book launch team whose sole purpose is to create buzz about your book—and provide reviews that will entice people to read. Your book launch team members receive early access to your book, review it, and share it via their social media platforms.
Another way to generate reviews is to send out free copies, or galley copies, to possible readers. All you have to do is get in contact with your potential reviewer and explain that you will give them a free copy if they will review your book. Make sure you give them an explicit due date for the review, and an explicit platform to review on. Goodreads is a popular platform. But if you’re wanting a good Amazon ranking, encourage your readers to leave a review there.
If You Quoted Them, Get a Quote from Them
If you quote or reference people in your book, ask them to read, review, and share your book via their platforms. You might have to send them a free copy to encourage them, but the marketing is worth it. Your book will be shared to different platforms and have a greater audience reach than you could achieve on your own. And since you’re quoting/referencing this person, it’s likely that their audience will be similar to yours. They warm up an audience that otherwise would be cold.
Here’s a Glance at the Episode
[3:16] Robin shares her experience as a prop stylist and how her book fits into her career.
[10:37] Learn about the unique structure Robin selected for her book and how her book inspires others.
[18:38] Robin shares how she landed her book deal.
[27:18] Learn more about publication and the developmental editing stage.
[31:40] Listen to the various avenues Robin will pursue to promote her book.
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