So, you decided to launch a book. First, CONGRATS! Whether you just teamed up with a publisher or your book launch is days away, promoting your book is incredibly important to build awareness for both you and your book and drive sales when it hits the shelves!

I recently had one of my most important conversations on Instagram Live with my dear friend Jennifer Canzoneri, Senior Marketing Director at BenBella Books! Jennifer has worked on hundreds – yes, hundreds – of book campaigns throughout her 16 years working at BenBella Books, and she had a lot of incredible insight to share!

If you’re an aspiring or current author, keep reading for Jennifer’s expert tips for promoting your book!

A: You’ve said that all authors are their own best marketing weapon. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
J: Don’t underestimate your own knowledge – this is your book and this is your message! Plus, I’ve seen readers get behind books, but I’ve also seen them want to know the authors behind that book. There’s nothing that can replace the author-reader connection.

A: A lot of authors think that hiring a PR firm will automatically get them on the bestseller list or that the firm alone will do all the work to get them there, but I find that campaigns are most successful when authors meet their PR team halfway. Can you speak to that?
J: I agree, you need collaboration! It has to be comprehensive, too. You have to partner with your publicist or whoever is helping you get your message out, and be involved in those conversations and immerse yourself in the process. Don’t take a backseat!

A: How do you organize your contacts and when should you be reaching out to them to market and promote your book?
J: Even before you finish your book you should create a spreadsheet and write down everyone you know and people that would want to help. If your mind is going a mile a minute (and it will!), an assistant might be a great investment. When you’re ready to reach out, think about a clear and specific “ask”. And remember that reaching out to a friend is different from reaching out to someone at your local library. Share every part of your book process with your personal audience, but for your external audience, I suggest starting outreach 3-4 months before you publish. Then, follow up and follow up often!

A: How do you put that “ask” together? What’s a good starting place?
J: First, spend time getting to know the person you’re asking through their website, their podcast, etc. Also, think about what this relationship is. If it’s your friend, ask them to review it on Amazon! I actually recommend putting an “ask list” together to refer to and help you see which “ask” makes the most sense for each individual you reach out to. Is it a review? Is it a podcast guest? Is it posting it on social media? Is it recommending it to your book club? Is it talking to your local library about author programming and events?

A: What are some other “asks” that you would recommend authors consider?
J: Instagram and Facebook Live are great ones! Generally think about your relationships, the platforms they have, and if your book fits in with any of those platforms. Amplifying your message often gets overlooked, too. Draft some posts and share some sample graphics to your contacts to use to promote your conversation if they’re willing.

A: As a forthcoming author, I have to ask, how do you get over the fear of spamming all of your contacts?!
J: When I see that an author hasn’t promoted their book on Instagram because they don’t want to feel annoying or salesy, I tell them your audience will only be as excited about your book as you are. Also, be consistent and share it often because sometimes your contacts miss it the first time!

A: You’ve mentioned finding that sweet spot for book promotion. What do you mean by that?
J: As early as you have a cover image or something tangible to share, share it with your personal audience! Even if it’s you at your desk or with your advance reader copy, they’ll get more and more excited for you and your publishing day. But don’t forget, for your external audience, you want to wait until 3-4 months before your publish date.

A: Do you have tips for making new connections and not coming off as salesy?
J: You just have to come at it from a human connection as you would with any other authentic relationship. Show interest in them. If they have a new book, support them!

A: What are the three things authors need?
J: #1 is a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can even be a robust LinkedIn page, just something to point people to. #2 is a contact list, which we’ve talked about. #3 is a quick synopsis of your book. You should also edit it for each audience. What you’re sending to a business magazine is different from a podcast about book writing, so it’s a smart idea to tweak them or have different versions on-hand and ready to go.

A: Does Amazon count as an author website?
J: Amazon does allow author pages where you can provide a lot of information. It’s a great placeholder to have while you see what kind of questions come in and if it’s worth investing in something else or not. But websites these days can be really straightforward and easy with your cover image, your author photo (another thing every author needs!), and anything visual that helps get the media excited to work with you.

A: This has been amazing! Any parting thoughts?
J: Don’t underestimate how much you know about marketing without realizing it. You know the relationships you already have and the ones you’d like to pursue. Also, competition is really healthy and helpful for motivation. See what other authors are doing, write down what you like, and use that as inspiration for your own campaign.

CLICK HERE to watch the full IG LIVE with me and Jennifer!