Guerrilla Marketing for a First-time Author

A first-time author needs to roll up their sleeves and get creative in order to sell copies of their book. Let’s start with guerrilla marketing as an approach.

What is guerrilla marketing?

Simply put, guerrilla marketing is a low-cost way to promote, which relies on creativity and ingenuity rather than large amounts of cash.

When you’re a first-time author, you probably don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at marketing and promotion. Am I right? However, you must get the word out about your book, if you want to sell copies. That’s where guerrilla marketing comes in.

Many people seem to have the misconception that if you write a good book, it will sell on its own. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. These days, authors must sell their books. Even if you have a traditional publisher, they will expect you to have a killer marketing plan. And if you self-publish, your book will die on the vine if you just put it up on Amazon and hope for the best.

As a first-time author, you will need to find some simple, free ways to promote your book. Sure, you can always throw money at the problem, but let’s start with guerrilla marketing. Keep in mind these tips aren’t a complete marketing system by any means; rather, they are suggestions to get you started so that you can reach readers and make yourself known. The rest is up to you!

Know your reader

Before you begin to promote your book, you must know your reader. Who are the people you want to pick up and read your book? Take the time to consider your market.

Define this demographic as precisely as you can. Then brainstorm ideas about how to reach them. There really is no cookie-cutter plan when it comes to guerrilla marketing your book. Remember, you’re substituting brilliant creativity for cash.

For instance, if you’re promoting a sci-fi book, why not create bookmarks featuring your book and hand them out at the next sci-fi convention? You could also create a T-shirt with your book’s title on it, along with a catchy tag line.

The World Wide Web Is Yours

Many of us spend a good portion of the day online. This is where we shop, find information and just hang out. Reaching people online is a vital part of any promotional strategy. But be warned: Nobody likes to be harangued into buying books. It’s annoying. Instead, become engaged with the folks who share your interests. Become a vibrant, vital part of the community you join. As you establish yourself as an expert in your field, others will take notice and naturally become interested in what you have to offer.

I recommend using these tools to promote your book:

  1. Author Website – Every first-time author needs their own website. This is your “virtual home” where your readers (and future readers) will come to find out all about you and your books. I highly recommend avoiding the free websites and splurging for your own domain name. It looks more professional.
  2. Blog – Your author website needs a blog. Write content that is relevant to your audience, sharing your expertise, viewpoints and experiences. Plan to post once or twice a week. In addition, exchange guest blogs with another author. It will help you both.
  3. Facebook – Set up a personal page and a separate author page for your book. You can share content between the two, but you should not flood your personal page with a lot of book announcements. Also, consider starting or joining Facebook groups that relate to your book topic or genre.
  4. YouTube – Book trailers are a key part of any marketing plan these days. They should be short and sweet and, of course, very catchy. Check out mine for Chess Is Child’s Play. If you get lucky, it might just go semi-viral. If you have a non-fiction book, consider also creating a how-to video series related to your book’s content. Be creative in sharing your expertise. And don’t forget to include links to where viewers can purchase your book.
  5. Other social media platforms – Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are three other key websites you might explore. Each has their own style and purpose. Engage with the ones you like best. It will be more fun for you, and you’ll probably be more authentic on the platforms you enjoy.

Get reviews

Feedback from readers is one of the cornerstones of any marketing plan for first-time authors or even experienced writers. Amazon and Goodreads are two important platforms to collect reviews.

Always offer a no-strings-attached free book to any reviewer. Keep in mind that not everyone will follow through, so budget accordingly. But never be stingy with the number of books that you’re willing to send. Also, be sure to give people time to properly review your book. Don’t rush them. Having said that, you can politely request that they let you know when they can schedule time to read and review your book. That gives you some leeway to tactfully nudge the process along.

Marketing for Chess Is Child's Play

In addition, consider requesting reviews from popular bloggers. Those can be harder to get, but they are invaluable. Find people who would appeal to your target readership. For instance, to promote Chess Is Child’s Play (a book which instructs parents how to teach their young children chess), I approached parent bloggers as well as chess enthusiasts, as these were two of my key target readers. Sometimes readers would send me photos featuring my book (see photo above from the West Pasco Chess Club).

In-Person Promotional Activities

While many of us are learning to master online avenues for reaching our audience, the tried and true promotional activities are still effective. Honestly, nothing beats the thrill of live interaction. Here, again, your emphasis should be on establishing relationships and helping others; don’t just peddle your books. And whatever you do, don’t just go to friends and family and beg that they buy a copy of your book. That’s always an uncomfortable approach.

Instead consider these ideas:

  1. Hold readings and book signings – Your local bookstore is likely to set up a table for you one Saturday, even if you’re a first-time author. In addition, libraries are often game. However, think outside the bookstore and consider setting up a table where your readers might be hanging out. Get creative!
  2. Teach classes – There are many venues that would appreciate hearing you share your expertise. Again, go where your readers are and offer your advice for free. If they like what you have to say, they will probably pick up your book.
  3. Partner with other writers – It’s a well-known business axiom that businesses do better when they are positioned together. That’s why you often see a Coffee Bean near a Starbucks or a Papa John’s near a Pizza Hut. As an author, you can apply the same principle and join forces with other authors to market your books together. Besides, you might find the process more enjoyable.
  4. Attend events – Go to any event where you might find people who are interested in the topic of your book: conventions, craft fairs, business networking meetings, vendor fairs, etc. Connect with others, share with them, maybe even bring along some copies of your book and hand them out. You never know what these connections might lead to.

Of course, these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg for a first-time author. Keep your eyes and ears open for any and all opportunities to share your expertise and your story with others. Be genuine and focus on helping people and book sales will naturally follow.  I’d love to hear your guerrilla marketing ideas in the comment section below!

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Laura Sherman (121 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.