How (Not) to Market Your Novel
How Not to Market Your Novel: A 12-step process
by Alyssa Schwarz
Congratulations, you’ve written a book! You spent months, maybe even years, pouring your heart into your characters that they feel as real to you as your next-door neighbor. Your heart nearly skips a beat as you type those final two words every author dreams about writing, The End.
Phew, the book is complete (cue happy dance), and you can finally relax.
But now what?
Maybe you’ve already taken the next steps and given your book baby to beta readers or
even an editor. They’ve given their feedback. You’ve rewritten your story and rewritten it some
more until you feel it’s finally the best it can possibly be.
Now you’re finally done! (time for a celebratory coffee and that new notebook you’ve
had your eyes on)… But the you realize you still have to somehow jump that publishing hurdle
and get your book in front of potential readers so they can fall in love with it as much as you
Whether you go the traditional publishing route or indie publishing, each will require you
to do your own marketing on some level. No, marketing is not a bad word, but it can feel like an
intimidating one. That’s why I’ve made a simplified list of what NOT to do when marketing your
1. Do NOT, under any circumstances, talk about your book.
You’ve written a book, but you’re terrified to hear what people think of it in the off
chance they don’t like it. Or maybe this whole being-an-author-thing feels intimidating, and you
find yourself comparing your book to the NY Times best seller list and immediately tell yourself
it’s not good enough.
80% of Americans say they want to write a book, but only 3% ever finish. You wrote a
book. That’s something to celebrate right there! And your family and friends will want to
celebrate with you, so don’t be afraid to talk about it.
2. Don’t make a website
“Is that really necessary?” you might ask. “Only multi-published authors like Francine
Rivers or Karen Kingsbury need a website.” Or maybe you plan to build one as soon as your
book is published, but not yet.
Anyone can make a website, and companies like Wix and WordPress make it easy and
relatively inexpensive to create one on your own. Once you have a website, you can start
building a brand, promote a new book release or your backlog, engage with readers, and start
building an online presence. So, whether your pre-published or have twenty books out, having an
author website is a win-win.
3. Leave building a newsletter until after you launch your book
You’ve heard people, other authors, and agents say you should have one, but why does it
matter so much? Isn’t word of mouth and social media enough? Maybe you’ve found yourself
asking, “What would I even put in it?” or “I’ll wait until after I’ve published my first book to
Unlike Instagram or Facebook that are owned by another company, your newsletter is
completely yours. It might have a smaller number of subscribers than your social media
accounts, but those people will be far more committed to the success of your books.
4. Don’t worry about your target reader
You want everyone to read your book, so why would you focus on marketing to only one
If you can figure out the types of people who will read your books, you can know: which
social media platform they spend their time on, what book interests they have, what will make
them want to try a new book or a new author, and lots more. A lot of authors struggle with this
idea of designing their ideal reader avatars, so why not take it one step further and write/market
your book to a specific person.
It can be a beta reader who has loved your work from the beginning, or a new super fan
you connected with over Instagram. Find a real-life person who loves your book… and then put
your marketing energy into places you know that person would be interested in. Your goal is to
connect with other readers who will also love your book for the same reasons, so marketing to
that one fan will ultimately reach others that are just like them.
5. Don’t blog… or do
Wasn’t blogging something people did fifteen years ago? Is it really such a big deal
Yes… and yes. While blogs have been around for a while, they are still going strong. As
of this year, nearly a third of all websites contain a blog.
So what does that mean?
A well written and consistent blog can start bringing in readers before you even publish
your first book. You can talk about your research, interview other authors, host blog tours, talk
about life and your writing process… The sky’s the limit.
On the flip side, though, a bad blog can give readers the wrong impression from the start
and convince them not to read your books.
So what’s the takeaway?
If you decide to write a blog, great! Find a theme that works for you and represents your
personality and writing style and stick with it. Your books, as well as your social media,
newsletter, website, and blog are all part of your brand and you want them to work seamlessly
6. Don’t optimize your book cover and description
You’ve all heard the phrase, Don’t judge a book by its cover.
While the sentiment might be true, a book cover is often the first thing a reader sees that
will determine if they chose to pick up your book or the one next to it. In 2022, over 4 million
books were published. So how do you make your book stand out from the masses?
Design an attractive cover that fits with your genre, and write a killer description. You
can either make your own cover with programs like Canva or BookBrush, or you can buy a pre-
made one or hire a designer for a custom cover. Like your book’s description, the cover should
reflect your story as well as your brand.
And as for descriptions… give it a good hook, include a story question or universal
theme, introduce the main characters, a brief summary of the story, and a hint at what the main
conflict will be.
7. Don’t use social media to build a platform
Maybe you’re not a fan of social media, so you wonder if there’s a way to connect with
readers without having to create a new account. While this is absolutely possible (see newsletter
section above), you might be missing out on connecting with some amazing readers, reviewers,
and other authors.
While your newsletter following is necessary, social media outlets like Instagram,
Facebook, TikTok, and Pinterest are great resources for building your platform. Start with just
one or two that you know you can do well, be consistent, keep to your brand, and have fun!
8. Only use social media to promote your books
As mentioned in the newsletter section, Facebook could crash tomorrow, and you could
lose all your followers in a blink. Diversify your platform and marketing, and you’ll reach an
even wider audience.
9. Launch your book and forget about it after the first week
Book launch week can be magical and exhausting all at the same time. Many authors
only focus on that single week like it’s a spring, when in reality, your book’s marketing should be
How many books have you picked up and read years after they were published? Did you
love them any less because you’d waited to read them? Neither will your readers. But if you stop
all marketing efforts the week or month after your book is published, it might get buried under
all the other millions of books before they ever get the chance to read it.
10. Launch your book without creating a marketing plan
You’ve never launched a book, so how could you be expected to know what a marketing
plan should look like? Let a lone a good marketing plan.
Thanks to Google, there are tons of resources online to help with this. It can be as
minimal or detailed as you like, but the practice of sitting down and writing out a plan will help
your launch feel so much less stressful than if you did it all off the cuff.
11. Don’t utilize ads, promos, and paid advertising
This one might sound scary, but you can tailor your advertising up or down as much as
you like. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to have a few lesser-yielding ads in your search for the big
one that draws in readers by the hundreds. This is a great way to keep your book launch
momentum going long after that first week.
Run a discounted sale before Christmas, use keywords to promote your beach-themed
book at the start of the summer, pay to be featured in a large book-themed newsletter, join multi-
author giveaways, take a class on Amazon ads and try out a few different designs…
Think of advertising as a creative extension of your writing and be open to
12. Keep to your writing space and never engage with other authors / readers
All authors know how isolating writing can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
Part of the joy of writing is getting to share it with others. The highs and the lows. To
celebrate when a friend’s book hits the best-seller list and to comfort when life seems to
overwhelm. A community can answer questions, be a sounding board for story ideas, provide
feedback and edits, give encouragement…Community is also a place where you can offer the
same things to other writers.
Maybe your book will touch someone’s life in a way you never imagined. Wouldn’t it be
amazing if that sparked a conversation that then turned into friendship?
That’s what books are all about, connecting us to others via story. And fortunately for us,
those relationships are not limited to the page.
in other relevant news...
Fields of Glass released this week! I'm so excited to share this story with you all! It has been my favorite book to write to date, and has lots of humor, intrigue, and heart to keep readers turning the pages.
A little more about the book...
Micah Prescott will do anything to save his family's sheep ranch, even if it kills him. With a city-based firm pressuring him to sell and the bank threatening to call in his loan, he has less than a month to figure out a solution to keep the property his father strove so hard to protect. But when a storm rolls in, washing out the only bridge to town and bringing with it an unwanted visitor, he finds his options quickly dwindling.
Sales associate Francis Grace Riley will do anything to prove that she belongs. Convinced she can secure a deal where others had only failed, she takes to the mountains in search of one stubborn rancher, only to realize there is much more riding on the outcome of this trip than her job.
From the moment Micah rescues Grace on the side of the road, sparks fly—that is until he learns who she really is. Stuck together until the bridge is repaired, the two of them must learn to work as a team if they have any hopes of achieving their goals. But when things start to go wrong on the ranch, and sheep begin to disappear, they're left questioning who they can trust ...
... and what they're willing to sacrifice for those they care for.