Print books and eBooks are unique products we get to offer to readers, but many authors approach selling both with the same marketing methods. This makes sense; Indie and self-published authors have been advertising their eBooks for years while publishing print books used to come with greater barriers to entry.
With D2D Print and other print-on-demand services making print more accessible for authors, it is time to explore marketing solutions tailored to selling the physical product that is your book. Just by existing in the real world, your print book opens a whole new world of promotional opportunities.
With many writers on our very own staff publishing print books, we’ve pulled from our experience to come up with 10 ways authors can promote their print books to the world.
1. Print Books An Entryway to Influencer Marketing
by Lexi Greene
The publishing industry is experiencing an unprecedented rise of book influencers creating waves through the market. BookTok continues to be a naturally grown phenomenon that can raise up the next bestseller from relative obscurity. Even major publishers have not cracked how to get BookTok’s attention, but having a physical book plays a major role in getting your foot in the door.
Part of the appeal of BookTok is showing off your book hauls. Book unboxings and stacks of reading recommendations share one common point of entry, and that is getting your print book into people’s hands. There is no perfect recipe for going viral, but physical copies are an easy place to start.
2. Use Special Edition Print Books as a Limited Promotion
by Megan Spann
Everyone enjoys getting in on something special and unique. Musical artists release special editions of their records and comic books with alternate cover art are prized by devoted readers. Books are no different.
As physical media, it is possible to release a limited run printing of your book for your most dedicated readers to enjoy as a special prize. This could involve a new cover, added content, or whatever distinguishing material your readers would value as added value. The limited nature of the printing can even create a sense of urgency for a reader to claim their copy while they still can.
3. Using Print Books In-Person
by Nick Thacker
Print can be sold online, of course, but the beauty of having a fancy printed version is… having a fancy printed version!
Use your print book as a way to enhance in-person appearances. Give readers something to hold and touch; a physical item that can be a conversation starter.
And If you’re not doing in-person appearances yet? Start! It is surprisingly easy to ask a local library, bookstore, restaurant, or coffee shop to let you put a banner on a table and talk to patrons.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Advertise Your Print and eBook Separately
by Nick Thacker
When setting up ads and promotions, many authors focus on eBooks because much of our marketing happens in the digital space already. This can give you an edge if you are setting up ads for your print book specifically.
Print Books have the potential to hit an entirely different demographic of readers that demand physical pages to flip through and a spine to show off on their bookcases.
5. Prop Marketing with Print Books
by Nick Thacker
Your print book is a fantastic “prop” to use in social media shots, videos, and anywhere else you appear online. We love the convenience of eBooks, but they aren’t as visually impressive as a book in your hands.
This also lets you become part of the marketing alongside your book. Many of the most successful authors are willing to make themselves their brand. Build rapport with your audience (and save lots of Photoshop/video editing time) by holding up your beautiful book and showing it off!
6. Loving Those Little Lending Libraries
by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Almost every city or town now has one of those little lending libraries. These are usually small weather-proof boxes with a glass-faced door where people can leave a book and take a book. Completely free and community minded.
Why not purchase a few copies of your books and keep them handy for when you’re walking or driving through a neighborhood that has one. It’s even something to check out and do when traveling on vacation, visiting family, or traveling for work. In some communities there are even digital maps of WHERE little lending libraries are located.
7. A Book In Hand Is Worth 7 On The Screen
by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Did you know that, on average, a print book is handled by 7 different people? That’s different than an eBook on a Kindle or Kobo or Nook, for example, that might be “handled” by 1.3 people. (Most eBooks are 1:1, but there are some accounts that are shared by multiple family members).
If you have $100 to invest in marketing, and you spend that on digital ads (Amazon Advertising, Facebook Ads, BookBub Ads) your book is ONLY visible while you’re “feeding the machine.” But investing in getting your book into the hands of readers and influencers can make that same $100 stretch.
Go back and look at the post from Alexis about Influencers. Paying to ship physical books to a BookTuber, a Bookstagramer or a BookTok influencer may be a better long-term investment. Same thing with sending physical copies to reviewers. Even if the reviewer or influencer doesn’t act on it, there’s still a physical copy out there in the wild advertising you and your book. Who knows, they could pass it along to a friend who loves it. There are, of course, other physical investments, including Nick’s in-person events and prop marketing ideas. And not to mention the little lending libraries, Bookcrossing, and hotel rooms.
Bonus: Why Not Gideon’s Novel?
In 1908 Gideons began distributing free Bibles in hotel rooms. Why not try the same thing when you are traveling? Bring a copy of one of your books and leave it alongside the nightstand desk bible, or, with some hotels that have a lobby library for clients, see if you can leave one there.
Similarly, some bars and breweries have games and books for their patrons where you might be able to do the same thing.
8. If You Love Your Print Books Let Them Go (Wild)
by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
Bookcrossing is a site that has been around since the spring of 2001. It’s a celebration of books and a platform where books get new life. BookCrossing allowed you to register each physical book with a unique tracking number (BCIDs – BookCrossing Identity Numbers) so, as the book is passed from reader to reader, it can be tracked and thus connect its readers. There are currently 1,953,842 BookCrossers and 13,970,898 books traveling throughout 132 countries.
You can label, share, and then follow your book’s travels from reader to reader. And you can drop these books in various places: laundromats, waiting rooms, little lending libraries, bus stops, train stations, airports, hotels – anywhere that someone might be interested in seeing what’s to read. Or simply register and label your books for any of the various other ideas mentioned in this article.
9. You’re In the Souvenir Business
by Kevin Tumlinson
“One of the best tools for selling a book is another book.” You’ve likely heard that bit of wisdom more than once, since entering the self-publishing world. And it’s true, often the best tool for getting a reader interested in your book is the next book. That’s why writing in series has always been such an effective strategy for indie authors. The more books you have: 1. The easier it is for readers to discover you; 2. The easier it is to build and keep momentum with readers; 3. The easier it is to establish a “fan,” or a lifelong reader who shows their loyalty by (wait for it) buying more of your books.
But there’s another avenue for using your books to promote—call out your print books as a “souvenir.”
If readers discover your eBooks or audiobooks and decide they really like what you’ve produced, then they might be open to buying a print book as well. That’s because humans are hard-wired to want something tangible to hold on to, as a way to not only own something they cherish, but also to feel like they’re a part of something.
One way to encourage this is to put a call to action (CTA) in the back of your book that tells your readers where they can buy a physical copy, and then gives them a reason to buy. You could use something like “If you enjoyed this eBook, buy a copy in print to keep on your shelf!”
10. Give Them an Autograph
by Kevin Tumlinson
It might take a little creativity, but if you can offer to sign your reader’s print copy, that’s going to encourage them even more. You can offer to do this at live events (readings at the library, or maybe a meetup (meetup.org) while you’re on vacation or visiting a city, etc.), or you can have readers mail the book to you for you to sign and return.
You could also keep some copies on hand, signed and ready to go, and send them to readers who buy from you directly. These can be an even bigger draw, because you can offer to customize the autograph for them. Perfect for readers to give as gifts to their friends and loved ones, which just introduces even more readers to your work!
A cheaper version of this (in terms of shipping, at least) is to offer a signed bookplate. These are specially designed stickers that can be stuck inside the front cover of a book. For just a few bucks, you could hire a designer on Fiverr.com to create a bookplate design, then upload that to a site such as VistaPrint.com or Moo.com, and have stacks of these to sign for readers who request them. Send an email to your mailing list saying you’ll send a signed bookplate to any reader who shares a selfie with your book on social media, tagging you and/or using a special hashtag!
Of course, these are just ten ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities of print marketing. The possibilities of how you can use your print books to promote your writing are endless, so if you have special techniques you have for promoting your print books, let us know!