How to Market A Book (Steal Our Thriller Book Marketing Plan)

Written by Nick Thacker

NICK THACKER is a full-time thriller author and publisher who helps authors get to the next level in their author career.

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How to Market A Book

I speak at a lot of conferences and seminars, and hands-down the #1 question I’m asked is, “How do I market my book?” …or some iteration of that phrase: “How should approach marketing a thriller?” or “What do I do to market and promote my novel?”

And it makes sense, really. We, as authors, are really good at, you know, writing. But we’re not necessarily so great at the stuff that has to come after: marketing, promotion, sales, advertising, and on. In a nutshell, it’s really challenging to view our book as a product, but that’s exactly what we have to get over.

And to answer the question about how to market a book, my answer in every case is: “well… it depends.”

How to market a thriller novel

There are plenty of reasons for my answer:

  1. Every book is different
  2. Every genre requires a different approach
  3. Every author’s budget is different
  4. Every individual is different and has different tastes and preferences
  5. And so on…

So it’s not really an easy question to answer with any specificity. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to market a book. Conundrum has over a decade of experience publishing novels, specifically thrillers, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Over the years and 100+ thrillers launched, we’ve come up with a process that works well for most thriller novels.

(And while your book might not be a thriller, but that doesn’t mean this stuff won’t work. Give it a read-through and see if there isn’t something you can glean from it!)

Two main book marketing launch strategies

First, let’s talk about the book launch. Whenever we get into marketing a book, thriller or otherwise, we need to understand that we’re talking about all of the stuff we do to promote and/or advertise that book after it’s released. 

And that all starts with a launch.

Most authors will choose one of two strategies for launching their book:

  1. A big, bold week-long launch.
  2. A slower, steadier, “long-term” launch.

Book launches, two ways

As with anything, each approach brings with it some pros and cons. A big launch can send your book skyrocketing up the charts at Amazon, meaning more eyeballs on your novel and lots of organic reach. A slower launch, over the course of weeks or even months, can allow your book to “stick” at a higher rank for a longer period of time.

Both strategies can work. What’s important to note, however, that both strategies can fail, too. By spending a fortune on a massive launch, you may generate sales, but the revenue may not be enough to cover your costs (not to mention that you must spend the money today, but you won’t get paid by Amazon for at least 60 days from now)! And smaller launches can fail, as well — by ignoring the book and not doing much to promote it over time, your book will sink into obscurity, forever lost in the slush pile of failed manuscripts.

Which book marketing launch strategy should you choose?

The strategy you choose for your own book launch depends a lot on your marketing budget. The easiest way to attract eyeballs is to pay for those eyeballs. Stacking promotions, advertising on AMS or Facebook, and paying for placement on genre-specific newsletters can be a fantastic way to earn some attention, but that attention comes at a cost: most authors won’t have a pile of money to light on fire, hoping that a few of those expensive sets of eyeballs turn into ROI.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to opt for a slow, long-term launch. If you’ve got a big mailing list, have some clout with other authors in your genre, or are popular enough on social media to build up some buzz around your launch, a bold out-of-the-gate strategy can actually be free.

Consider what you’re willing to spend, how quickly you want to spend it, and how easily you can leverage your other assets before you embark on either path.

Conundrum Publishing’s plan to market your book

While every book is different, since we only publish thrillers, our marketing plan is typically very similar for each book. The overall strategy remains unchanged, while the tactics might differ between launches. We use a slow-burn marketing launch, hoping to drive traffic to a first-in-series book over the course of the releases for all of the books in that series.

In addition, we break our launch down into three phases: Pre-Launch, Launch, and Post-Launch. 

Here’s an overview and some details of each phase:

Book Marketing Phase 1: Pre-Launch

During the pre-launch phase, while we’re putting the finishing touches on our authors’ books, we’re also considering marketing language and devices. This is the perfect time to iron out the “big picture” items that will be useful in different iterations of the marketing plan down the road. And even though we believe in an “iterative” approach to launching a book, it’s very helpful to know these things up front:

  1. What will the title be?
  2. What will the cover look like?
  3. What is the book description we’ll use for sales pages?
  4. Are there any blurbs from other authors we can showcase?
  5. What other authors do we know who might help promote?

These are some of the questions we need to have answers to during the Pre-Launch phase. If you are typing The End and getting ready to put on your marketing hat, you’re already behind! Marketing starts during the writng process, sometimes even before it.

Also during the Pre-Launch, we will start putting together promotional graphics and materials we and the author can share to build buzz and anticipation. These graphics are a great way to get potential readers interested, but also to start getting the Conundrum name and brand associated with authors readers already enjoy.

thriller publishing, how to market your thriller novel, thriller book marketing

(And authors love them!)

The other major task to help market a book during the Pre-Launch phase is seeking out some authors in the book’s subgenre who might be up for sharing about the book during launch week. We might ask for a few of them to share sooner (on or near the release date), but we’ll also try to make sure some of them share later.

The benefit in spreading out these shares is that it also spreads out the attention to — and thus sales — of the book. As Amazon (our main storefront for ebooks) continues to tweak their algorithm to reward slow, steady sales over time rather than a quick burst of sales, it makes sense to match that strategy.

There may be some other tactics during the Pre-Launch phase, like mentioning on social channels about the upcoming release, recording some video interviews with the author, preparing behind-the-book content, and such, but unless we are setting up a pre-order for the book (we usually don’t), we don’t want to keep mentioning a book to readers that they can’t purchase anywhere.

Book Marketing Phase 2: Launch

The big week is here! It may sound counterintuitive, but at this point we’re not looking to generate a ton of sales. (Sure, sales are great and make the world go ’round, but we’d much rather plant the seeds of sales down the road.)

To that end, we’ll congratulate the author and send them a nice little gift, get the book situated on all the storefronts (often just Amazon/Kindle Unlimited and our own store), then… wait.

For what?

Well, Amazon likes to do things in a strange way. Sometimes they forget to transfer existing reviews and ratings to the new release if it’s a book we’re re-publishing. Other times they don’t put the book’s sales rank up for days (potentially meaning sales don’t count toward the rank), or they’ll, you know, publish with the wrong cover altogether.

So we wait. We want to make sure that when we do open the floodgates of eyeballs and send them to those sales pages, everything is good to go.

During this time, from the moment the book goes live on Amazon to when everything has settled and we start sending readers to buy it, people will find it. That’s the benefit of selling books on a platform like Amazon, which has literal millions of buyers. Someone will find that book, and that data — the organic route through the Amazon Kindle store that particular user took to find their next favorite thriller, as well as the other thrillers they’ve purchased before this one — is gold.

It tells Amazon what sort of person likes finding books just like this one, and it tells us (by way of auto ads during the next phase) who those people are and what they’re searching for to find this book.

So we want these slow, carefully trickling sales. We wait for Amazon to get its junk together, we make sure we’re ready to go with newsletter swaps, and load up the social networks with those fancy promo graphics we made during the Pre-Launch phase.

As mentioned, we might ask an author or two to share the release with their lists, but often we’ll wait until after the launch proper before sending out most of these emails.

Book Marketing Phase 1: Post-Launch

Most of the magic of a slow, long-term launch plan happens after the book is already live. The book, so far, is usually generating a few sales here and there from buyers who have happened upon them through their circuitous route through the Kindle (or other) store, and that data is so crucial for both the store and our future ad campaigns that we don’t want to mess with it by promoting too heavily, too soon.

But once that first and second week after launch is complete, the floodgates can open! We’ll call in all those favors with other authors, and we’ll also send to our own Conundrum list of thriller readers, which currently stands at around 90,000 subscribers.

We’ll space out these sends a bit so we’re not hitting everyone all at once, in line with our strategy of working with Amazon’s algorithm that prefers “slow and steady,” not against it.

The other crucial component of our Post-Launch strategy is the release of the other books in the series. We rarely publish a standalone novel, and even if we do we try to treat it as if it’s part of a series anyway, releasing each standalone book from that author every 4-6 weeks. Same story if it’s a series — book 1 drops, followed by books 2, 3, 4, etc. — each 4-6 weeks apart.

This semi-rapid release strategy kicks the magical internet juices into overdrive, which all helps to market your book. They’re addicted to new, fresh content, and by dropping books this regularly, it helps boost each book in the series.

Our marketing efforts typically focus most on the first book in the series, so even if we’re dropping book 3, our advertising dollars will be added to book 1. This is intuitive, and the strategy many authors use.

On that note, by the time book 2 drops (4-6 weeks after book 1’s release), we usually look to set up an “auto” ad on Amazon. This is an ad that allows Amazon to display it to customers, rather than setting some parameters manually. We’ll set the ad up to run on a $5, $10, or $15 per day spend, and we carefully watch this ad and tweak the negative search terms between books 2 and 3.

Once book 3 is launched, the “also-bots” (“customers also bought…”) data has been fully realized, and our little automatic ad often has a few sales of its own. We’ve been honing the negative search term results and feeding it back into the automatic ad, but we’ve also gleaned some interesting targets from it.

We’ll use those targets to set up a few standard ads — “Sponsored Product” ads, both for Keywords and for Categories, and we’ll split out the Sponsored Product — Keyword ads into two smaller buckets: ads that show exclusively ASIN targets, and ads that are more “generic,” showing general search terms and keyword phrases, as well as author names and related bits and bobs that we think are relevant to this particular book.

Each of these ads will turn on at around $5-50 per day, depending on how aggresive we think we’ll need to be, how much budget we’re working with, and our goals.

Finally, we use the releases of other formats: paperback, hardcover, audio (both AI and human-narrated), and translations as additional promotional opportunities. Rather than try to collect all of these individual products together and release them at the same time, we use each of them as another way to mention the author, their book, and the new formats. All or these help to do one thing: market your book!

Throughout all of this, we run targeted Facebook ads to our catalog, and we do new ads for new books and authors to our catalog. Our authors participate as well, providing written and video content about their book, their writing process, and anything else readers might find interesting, and — you guessed it — all of this is ripe for promotional materials!

The bottom line to marketing your books

At Conundrum, we believe that authors win first, and while we want to win (who doesn’t like money?), we know that there won’t be any money if our authors’ books never sell. We’re not interested in releasing thrillers, we’re interested in selling thrillers. In order to do that well, we need to be able to market a book well.

Our bottom line is that authors win first, and we can help give their thrillers as much a chance of success as anyone else — including themselves, working alone.

Take this marketing plan, use it, and develop your own around it to market your own book! We aren’t asking for anything in return — independent publishing is about sharing and participating with one another, and there are no “magic bullets” or secrets to marketing a book. It’s all here, and it’s as simple as the above approach.

Good luck, and happy publishing!

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