Book Marketing Tips for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors

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Jean Shinoda bolen (3)On October 12th, the people behind the San Francisco Writers Conference (literary agents Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada) hosted the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference. There were an array of writers, agents, and publishing experts who shared their expertise and advice that day. In case you missed it, I’ve written a summary of the salient points. Although this conference was devoted to nonfiction writers, the information shared that day also applies to fiction.

Words of Inspiration

The day began with a keynote presentation by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., psychiatrist, Jungian analyst, and an internationally known author and speaker. I arrived late to the conference but was present when she shared these thoughts:

  • You can’t put all your energy into power and expect to get in touch with yourself.
  • When you take time to do the writing, it is its own reward. After you’ve done that, it’s up to you to take that child into the world. Be proud of that child. So many people apologize for their work.
  • If you love the work you do, then it’s enough.

Book Marketing Tips

Joel FriedlanderJoel Friedlander was one of the panelists and he shared insights on two topics, starting with self-publishing. He outlined the three pillars of marketing ourselves as authors.

  1. Have real content: In other words, anticipate your audience’s questions. Over time, this will build trust and authority in your readers. We live in a competitive environment – but if you add value – share your passion – you will make your content memorable.
  2. Social: We need to gather a readership, a community, which in turn will allow us to grow in new directions. Create engagement with your readers.
  3. Learn how to use keywords, the same words that your readers would type into a Google search bar to find someone like you. Seventy-three percent of people who search on Google never read beyond Page 1. Help people find you by using keywords and learning about search engine optimization.

 On the topic of discoverability, Joel shared these tips.

  1. Use keywords in your books’ titles and subtitles. This was new for me: the subtitle is the real “sweet spot” for SEO.
  2. Google Authorship: Let Google know that you’re an author and where your content is. This will also enhance your SEO.
  3. Amazon’s categories are equal to a bookstore’s shelves. Know which category your readers will search in order to find your books.
  4. Metadata: data is the stuff you wrote, the book ..metadata: is the information we attach to that (title, categories, author names  = metadata) optimizE the metadata on your book is important to discoverability of your book.
  5. Keywords, keywords and more keywords. He showed the example that had he chosen Publishing a Book vs. Publish Your Book, his sales would have been higher. Study keywords because they mean everything to the Indie author.
  6. Learn as much as you can about SEO.
  7. Get as many links to your blog and sales pages as you can. Social media is a great way to have authority sites link back to your website.
  8. In addition, create a network and include links to the websites of authors in your tribe.
  9. Develop your reach and grow your email list. Publishers are interested in these numbers.

Market Your Book with an Author Blog

Nina AmirNina Amir shared her seven reasons why every author should have a blog. She said that an author blog:

  1. Is an essential promotional tool. Basically, it is your toolkit.
  2. On your author website will give you everything you need to have a home in cyberspace. And it will offer a way to write about your book and connect with your readers.
  3. Will help you to create your author brand—how you want to be perceived.
  4. Helps authors promote their books.
  5. Helps you to build your mailing list. Be sure to create a subscription form for your readers. Your subscriber list will become a part of your marketing platform.
  6. Makes it easier to interact on social networks.
  7. A blog makes it possible to have a virtual book tour.

 So You Want to Get an Agent?

Andy Ross, former owner of Cody Books in Berkeley and now a literary agents, shared these tips on finding an agent.

  1. Find agents who are open to your idea. Go to
  2. Compose a query letter. Be transparent, don’t “babble” and don’t use the term “paradigm shift.” Above all else, be authentic.
  3. Once you find an agent, take his/her advice on writing your book proposal.
  4. Don’t say, “there’s no other book like this.” Instead, show that you have a new and important idea and that you have a marketing platform.

 He reminded the crowd that it’s very difficult to be traditionally published. Publishers aren’t taking the risks that they used to.

Michael LarsenWork Your Platform Every Day

Literary agent Michael Larsen offered sage words of advice.

  • Writing needs to be a labor of love. And you need to create books that readers will love.
  • Make sure your writing and publishing goals are in harmony.
  • The holy trinity is read, write and share. Take the time to become an expert in your field.
  • Read authors whom you admire.
  • Publishers buy most nonfiction from a proposal.
  • Editors and agents: you must motivate them to read another word.
  • Crowdsource your success.
  • Get all the help you need.
  • Develop a marketing platform.
  • You must be as visible as possible in as many ways.
  • Test market your book in as many ways as possible.
  • The key to promotion is sharing your passion for your book.
  • Promote your book three years before it comes out.
  • Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
  • Publishing is now dominated by five conglomerates.
  • Content is king.
  • Writing and publishing is a hybrid business.
  • Repurpose your work in as many fields and languages as possible.
  • Nurture your creativity.
  • Persevere. You need a five-year plan and you need to work it every day.
  • You need to make a long-term commitment to your writing and publishing goals.
  • Publishing is a numbers game. Publishers are looking for tens of thousands of connections. It all about visibility.
  • Be clear about where you want to go and you will get there!


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socialmediaforwritersAbout the Author: Frances Caballo is a social media strategist, trainer, and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+. 

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  1. Frances, this is a terrific write up and really communicates some great insights from the conference. Thanks for the mention, too.

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