If like me, you’re a self-published author, one of the best ways to reach an audience is to use your blog to promote your book.
For that reason, I’ve written this blog post to help you if you have books or ebooks that you want to sell online.
Marketing can be a tricky game but the importance of a blog cannot be underestimated. You can’t rely solely on social media platforms either and for a very good reason. Let me quickly tell you a short story.
Back in 2011, I created a Facebook profile (not a page) for a fictional character called Derek the Weathersheep. It sounds a bit of an odd character, but essentially, it was a sheep (there are plenty of them here in Wales) that provided daily weather forecasts.
As time went on, and as I developed this online character, I began getting a LOT of friend requests. I’d sometimes open up my Facebook in the morning and find over 100 friend requests.
This was great because around that time, I’d picked up a paperback book called ‘Publish your own ebook’ at a hospital newsagent. I spent the afternoon in the waiting room, reading the book. Around the same time, Fifty Shades of Grey (now there’s a blog that did well!) was all the rage and I decided to write a spoof version of Fifty Shades. I was going to set it on a farm, it was going to include Derek the Weathersheep, and it was going to be erotica – but involving sheep.
Now that all sounds very odd, and when I look back objectively, it does come across as a bit bonkers.
Anyway. To the point I’m trying to make.
I wrote the book and formatted it for Kindle. By this point, I was up to my limit of 5,000 Facebook friends, and all 5,000 friends were keen to buy the book that I’d been plugging for weeks.
Launch day arrived and I opened my Facebook, only to find that I’d been banned.
Apparently, my name isn’t Derek the Weathersheep, and Facebook, who were trying to cut down on fake Facebook accounts, decided I wasn’t real.
They asked to see my passport to prove my name was Derek the Weathersheep. Which, naturally, I couldn’t.
So there I was, sat on launch day, without an audience to connect with.
If only I’d gotten them off Facebook and onto my mailing list.
So let’s get to it – here are my tips for using your blog to promote your books.
Disclosure: Please be aware that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission should you end up purchasing one of their services or products. I only recommend services and products that I have used and/or continue to use myself. If you do use one of my affiliate links, the company reimburses me for recommending them. This helps keep the content of my blog free to read.
Why is a blog important to promote your book?
A blog can be used as a central hub, allowing you to show off your writing skills, build an audience AND sell your books, all in one place. Most importantly, it’s under YOUR control and not at the mercy of social media platforms that can often pull the rug from under your feet.
View your blog as an employee that represents you in public and does a good job selling your awesome books on your behalf. Arm it with good SEO so that it can go out into the virtual world and be given a fighting chance of meeting people who want to read your books.
Get people OFF social media and ON to your mailing list
A blog also gives you the opportunity to show off your writing prowess and tempt people into your wonderful worlds by giving them free tasters. I’ve often posted short stories to my blogs, giving my readers a sample of the work that I can do.
Using your blog to build your audience
It’s all well and good building your audience on the likes of Facebook and Twitter but I’ve already highlighted one fundamental flaw of relying on social media.
I have a friend who had a Facebook page with over 100,000 followers. I’m not sure exactly what happened (I think he posted some nudity) but overnight, his page was banned and he instantly lost all access to his audience. It happens.
Perhaps one of your blog’s most important functions will be collecting email addresses to build your mailing list, which will serve as the backbone of your marketing processes. I’ve currently got over 8,000 ‘Grumpy subscribers’ and I know that when I email them, either about a new product, or with a new blog post, that I’ll invariably get sales off the back of it.
Your social media platforms are all well and good but get people off them and onto your mailing list as quickly as you can! There are many tools that you can use on your site to collect email addresses. I use Mailchimp.
How to sell your book on your website
If like me, you’ve created books via Amazon, you’ll want to sell them via the Amazon site. This takes away the hassle of buying a load of your own books and then mailing them out.
If you want to keep things simple, add the cover of your book/s to your website and remember to include a link to the book on Amazon.
You can also create 3D mockups of your books at placeit.net, which is a subscription-based site but does give you a huge amount of promotional tools at your disposal.
Getting reviews on your site is also a great way to validate your work. If you know of anyone who has bought and liked your book, it’s always worth asking them to leave a review on your site.
If this isn’t possible, I’ve always used reviews that have been left on Amazon on my site.
Promote book excerpts/blog posts to social media
Although I’m always keen to get people off social media and onto my site, it’s always worth promoting your books to the various platforms.
But be careful not to post too often or come across as too needy ie. ‘Please buy my book!’ People buy books for themselves, not to help out authors.
What to do if you don’t have a website
A simple website will cost you no more than a quick visit to a coffee shop.
Choose a domain that’s available and follow the online instructions to pay for your new domain and hosting.
You’ll arrive at your dashboard, which will look something like this.
Over on the top right, you’ll see the big blue WordPress option, and click on that. You’ll then be given a choice of adding a new installation, or migrating an existing one. For the purposes of this blog post, we are going to pick New Installation.
You’ll then come to a screen that looks like this.
Here, you can add an extension to your domain name (for instance, this website is brand.patricmorgan.com but I’ve also got author.patricmorgan.com for my creative work. My home domain is simply patricmorgan.com.
You’ll then be presented with your WordPress dashboard. If you click on Appearance>Themes, you can add any theme you like but if you’re looking to promote your books, I’d use the free Book Club theme. You can see it in action at my author.patricmorgan.com site.
Here are a few plugins I’d recommend adding via the Plugins option in your dashboard:
- Performance Cache – this comes with One.com’s themes as standard and improves the speed of your site
- Wordfence Security – essential to keep your blog safe. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve lost a site to hackers. I use the free version but you can upgrade to a premium version
- Yoast SEO – this is a great plugin that helps walk you through everything you need to do to maximise your SEO
- Mailchimp – I currently use Mailchimp to send out mass emails without getting blocked by my internet provider. You can add free plugins that connect to your Mailchimp account so that you can collect subscriber’s email addresses. This is useful when you have a new book you want to promote
One thing you are best doing before you go creating any pages or posts is setting your permalinks. These are the titles that appear in your URL address bar. Go to Settings>Permalinks and select your preferred choice. I use the Post Name selection as this helps with the SEO and also looks better but you may want to choose something else.
Your blog doesn’t need to be fancy and may only consist of a few pages. The basic features you’re going to need are:
- An About Me page. People want to know more about you. Tell them.
- Some blog posts. You don’t need to write reams of blogs but you can always publish some excerpts from your book so visitors can get an idea of what your writing is all about.
- An email capture form. Make it prominent and if you can, give away a free ebook to tempt people to sign up.
- Good SEO. Remember that people can still come across you by chance organically and neglecting your SEO means that you could miss out on chance passers-by.
- Some images. Book covers are a great way to whet people’s appetite and yes, people still do judge books by their covers.
This is what my Author’s website looks like, using the Book Club theme from One.com
It’s worth spending an afternoon getting your website sorted – once it’s done, you’ll feel a lot better and if you do get stuck, you can always log into your One.com dashboard and click on their free Chat help feature. They’ve always been able to sort me out if I’ve ever got stuck.
Always put your books first
People do want to know about you, but you are not as important as your products.
I’ve seen blogs where writers devote pages to themselves. In my experience, most readers want to know about your characters and your stories so don’t be too self-indulgent.
People will be interested in you if they are interested in your books. You’re not selling yourself – you’re selling your books.
Use good English (or whatever language you’re writing in)
If you expect people to part with their money, and for you to come across as a professional author, there’s nothing more off-putting than bad spelling and grammar.
I remember emailing one local magazine, aiming to get my first paid commission. I was feeling over-confident as I’d just landed myself my first-ever [non-paid] commission in another magazine.
In an effort to try and make myself stand out, I set out my email pitch in a local dialect, spelling words phonetically and writing as if I was talking.
The editor wrote back a few days later. His words were:
- Come back when you can write properly
- Brush up on your it’s and its. There is a difference
I humbly went away and worked on my grammar before even thinking about approaching anyone else.
Use your blog for a virtual book launch
I hold my hands up here and say that I’ve never done a lavish book launch. For me, it’s too self-indulgent, I wouldn’t want the attention and my anxiety that the book would become a flop would stop me from arranging a launch.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do a book launch. Now that we’re all a bit more accustomed to virtual meetings, there’s always the option to use your site as the venue for a virtual launch.
You’ve got a much better fighting chance with your book/s if you have a blog.
The fact that you have a central hub is vital as your marketing can otherwise be quite scattershot. As mentioned previously, by far the most useful reason for using a blog to promote your book is actually to collect email addresses. You can then email your audience directly when you needed, without having to worry about social media algorithms.
Having a website/blog doesn’t cost much to set up and will provide you with a go-to vehicle to showcase your books to the world.