Marketing Tips

Five Hours to Success: Sell More Books


You will spends months, maybe years writing, editing, and rewriting your book. When all of that is done, you can release your work into the world with just a few clicks on  For some authors the work stops there, but successful authors know that’s when the real work begins. How will you make your book visible in a marketplace full of books? How will you get your book onto the bestseller lists? Where will you find the time and the money to market your book to your audience?

For most authors, marketing a new book will likely be more challenging than writing it.  To help you focus your efforts, we asked 4000 of our bestselling authors how many hours a week they spend marketing their books.


The majority of best selling authors (61%) dedicated five hours or less to book marketing each week. 16% — about one out of every six — said they spent 5-10 hours a week on marketing tasks. Only 25% of these authors said they spend more than ten hours a week marketing their book to their audience.

How much time can you invest?

Let’s face it, authors would rather be writing than marketing. It’s what you are good at, but without a marketing plan, your book will simply gather digital dust on some online bookshelf.

By breaking marketing tasks into small steps, you can make them more manageable, regardless of your time constraints. If you only have five hours a week, work in blocks of one to two hours. Keep plugging away until every item on the list below has been researched and completed:

  1. Define your audience
    • If you aren’t familiar with your audience and their shopping habits, research them to gain that understanding
    • Write a one-paragraph description of your target audience – what they like, where they shop, etc.
    • Find those people and get your book in front of them
  2. Write your book’s elevator pitch
  3. Create a website
    • Write a detailed author biography page and include a head shot
    • Set up an email opt-in to create a mailing list (see below)
    • Add a page for editors and bloggers to request review copies of your book
    • Add new articles, transcripts of recent interviews, and reprints of book reviews
    • Add a blog to your site. Update it at least weekly. Twice a week is even better
    • Add a page with contact information for interviews, events and public speaking opportunities
    • Add a page for your coaching or consulting services (if that makes sense for your business and market)
  4. Get a Facebook business page for your book
    • Update your page at least weekly
    • Add a way to sign up for your email list (see below)
    • Like and follow other Facebook pages in your niche and comment on their pages to expand your audience
    • Use Shopify to sell your books directly from your Facebook page.
  5. Set up an email list with a free email service provider such as
    • Send an email update at least every two weeks
    • Use content from your blog or update your readers on your marketing efforts or how your next book is coming along
    • Include Lulu coupon codes for reader discounts in your email messaging to encourage shopping
  6. Identify 20 influential people to whom you can send your book
    • Create a promotion package
    • Mail the promotion package to those 20 people
  7. Secure 3-5 speaking gigs
    • Bring copies of your book to speaking events for audience members to purchase
    • Be on the lookout for other authors targeting the same audience. You can build a relationship with them and cross-promote each other’s books to build audiences and drive sales
  8. Research 1-2 conferences or book fairs to attend or to sponsor for a booth
  9. Find 3-5 niche websites where you could advertise or write a guest blog post
  10. Make your printed book look as good as possible. Does it need a new cover? Better typesetting?
  11. List your book on eBay
  12. List your book on Goodreads
  13. List your book in “Shameless Promotions” in the Lulu forums
  14. On an ongoing basis, spend one hour on each major bookselling site polishing up your book’s description and appearance
  15. Reach out to potential reviewers on the big bookselling sites. Aim for at least 20-30 reviews for your book
  16. Don’t give up. As one author said about marketing, “It’s hard work! But it’s also essential for the author to relentlessly promote a new book for at least 18 months after publication.”


phew giphyPhew! … Sounds like a lot or work, right? Well, put in just five hours a week and you’ll be further along than you’d think. And – here’s the best part – you’ll also be closer to making enough sales to brag about on your Facebook page.


Action item

Schedule one hour every weekday to promote your book.

Key takeaway

Once you have everything set up, marketing shouldn’t require as much of your time. The majority of successful independent authors spend 5 hours or less per week on marketing.

Driving Online Traffic and Book Sales

In previous articles we have discussed the two the key components of marketing your book (knowing your audience and knowing your book). Now we can talk about how to drive sales through the use of marketing tactics, which is a fancy way of saying that people need to be able to find you and your book on the internet.

We asked 4000 of our bestselling authors about their most effective methods of reaching their audience and encouraging book purchases.


These authors credited their website with the lion’s share of their sales. When you combine the website-related responses with “email list” and “search engines,” you see that almost half of an author’s traffic and sells can be credited to their website(s).

To further highlight this finding, think about your own behavior. What’s the first thing you do online when you want to learn, do, or purchase something? You search for it. Then you browse the websites listed on the search results page. If you’ve ever searched for a company, person or event online and been unable to find any information, you probably gave up or got distracted by other things. From your own experience it is easy to see that the harder you are to find, the less likely you are to sell your books. Hence the importance of having a website to market your books.

In addition to websites, authors also mentioned social media as a tool for generating sales. Of all the available social media marketing techniques, having a Facebook page was overwhelmingly the most often cited way to sell books. We saw similar results earlier in our discussion of distribution strategies.

Action items

  1. Create a website for your book using a simple tool like
  2. Make it easy for people to sign up for your mailing list with a free service like
  3. Create a Facebook page dedicated to your books:
  4. Write regular blog posts for your website and when possible on other sites as a guest poster.
  5. Find events where you can speak or share your knowledge with an audience interested in your topic.
  6. Improve the visibility of your website, either through advertising or search engine optimization.
  7. Send free promotional copies of your book to influential people, such as bloggers in your niche or book reviewers.

Key takeaway

Bestselling independent authors employ a mix of tactics to promote themselves and their work.

Make More Money: Include Lulu Discounts in Your Email Marketing

Summer Reading

What’s missing from this picture? Your book, of course.

Sizzling Summer Savings!
The Hottest Deals of the Season!
Best Book Ever Written, Get It Now and Save!

The words you choose to promote your books and new releases are all yours, but you should also be taking advantage of’s weekly sales and special offers. To help you with your marketing, our site discounts are now being offered for up to one week making it easier than ever to share them with your readers.

Why should you be using email promotion? For starters, email marketing works. Social media may seem like the savvier approach, but email is roughly six times more effective at bringing in new buyers than Facebook and Twitter. Email also gives you a great platform for sharing special offers and introducing new books, without your carefully crafted message getting lost in the endless scroll of tweets, status updates, and ever-changing social media display algorithms.


Here’s a sample email template you can adapt for your use:

Email Subject Line:
Save XX% on the Summer’s Hottest Book: <insert book title>

Email Body:
Be the first of your friends to read the book everyone will soon be talking about. <Placeholder for title and one line / elevator pitch book description>

Order today from and save <discount> with coupon code <insert Code here> thru <expiration date>.

To place your order, simply click this link: <Placeholder for link to book>, then click Add to Cart and apply the code at checkout.

This discount is for a limited time, so don’t wait.

Order today and save!

<Link to book>
<Author name>

**Don’t forget, coupon codes are case-sensitive.


See? Simple. You highlight the current savings, briefly describe the book, and provide easy instructions. It’s low-pressure, informative and brief. You can even provide a link right to your book’s product page and save your readers from searching. If you have multiple titles, include a link to your Author Spotlight page to encourage shoppers to browse your catalog. Everyone wins when your readers shop in the Lulu bookstore. They save money and you earn higher revenues.

Though we are currently in the middle of the summer reading season, this strategy works year-round. At, we’re always looking for ways to help you promote and sell your books. Whenever we have a sale — seasonal or otherwise — send out an email blast letting everyone know. After all, it’s always the season for reading!

Current discounts, coupon codes, and expiration dates are always listed on the Lulu home page:

Additional References:

Make More Money by Selling on Lulu

Publish More, Sell More

The Art of the Short Description

Developing Your Distribution Strategy


Does Publishing More Books Result in More Sales?

There is another secret to selling lots of books: writing lots of books. We asked our best-selling authors how many books they had written. Here’s what they said:


Nine out of ten best-selling authors have published more than one book. More than half have published ten or more books.

Writing lots of books in one niche has many benefits. For starters, you don’t have to relearn your audience. If you write non-fiction, you’ll also be able to re-use a lot of the research you did for previous books, incorporating new findings and comments into work. Lastly, having multiple books displays a level of subject matter expertise.

Action Item:

If you only have one book, map out how you can expand your catalog to meet your audience’s needs.

Key Takeaway

51% of best-selling authors have written 10 or more books.

Additional Resources:

What Authors Say Is Most Important for Sales

How to Pitch Your Book in 30 Seconds or Less

How to Get Your Book In Front of Your Audience

Survey Says…. What Matters Most

We asked 4000 of our top selling authors about their marketing plans and what they think mattered most to their success. Here’s what they had to say:



Key Takeaways

Positioning your book and understanding your audience are key to success. Offering an attractive printed book as well as an eBook version online to generate word of mouth interest and validation via customer reviews should be your goal.

What Should You Do?

  • Prepare your book in eBook and print formats
  • Get a professionally designed cover for each format of your book
  • Focus on building reader reviews and incorporate them into your book cover, book description and website.

Additional Resources

eBook or “Real” Book: Which Should You Publish First?

Lulu Tip

If you ever need professional publishing services in a hurry, browse a list of our offerings here:

Going Up: Crafting an Elevator Pitch for Your Book


Many bestselling authors pick their topic or approach to a topic specifically because they know it will be of interest to their audience. The pairing of those two strategies – targeting an audience and delivering a unique message – is what sells books. As one author in our survey said, “We wrote the book for a specific market giving them information we knew they needed.”

In the marketing world, this is called positioning – understanding your audience and explaining why your book is uniquely suited to their interests. You might also think of it as “finding your niche.” Once you’ve found your niche, you’ll have a clear, easily articulated understanding of what your book is about, who it’s for, and how it fits into the existing body of published books within your domain.

elevator PitchHere’s an exercise for you. Entrepreneurs are often challenged to come up with an elevator pitch for their business. An elevator pitch is a short, interesting way to explain what value your product offers to the world in the time you’d have in an elevator with someone. It must be concise and informative and inspire the person you’re speaking with to take action to learn more.

To show how powerful a good elevator pitch can be, let’s play a game. Below are four elevator pitches for best-selling books, presented as though they were new books on the market.

Western meets suspense meets a Tarantino-esque hit man. A cowboy stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad, takes the money, only to find that he’s being hunted by a relentless killer.


Hearts will race for the tween girl who would risk her soul for the everlasting love of the vampire version of James Dean.

~ ~ ~

If you love puzzles, religious symbolism and a great crime mystery, you’ll hang on every action-packed moment as our hero decodes his way across Europe to uncover an ancient secret, zealously guarded by a clandestine society that will stop at nothing to protect it.

~ ~ ~

What if dinosaurs could be cloned? For the child in all of us that still marvels at T. Rex in the natural history museum, this novel set in the modern age tells the story of an adventure theme park whose proprietors have brought dinosaurs back from extinction.

See how just a few sentences can create interest in a book for the reader? That is the power of positioning. That is the power of knowing your book, your audience and how to bring them together.

Think you know the books pitched above?  Click here for the answers.

What Should You Do?

Develop and practice a concise pitch for your book that entices readers to learn more. Always have a few business cards on hand with your contact and website information. Practice your pitch on members of your target audience. Edit the pitch based on their reactions.

Crafting your elevator pitch

The formula for an elevator pitch is simple:

1. Explain in your pitch who will like your book.

2. Share one simple hook that will draw the reader in.

3. Provide a proof point that your book is good. In our case, it was sharing that all of these pitches are blockbuster films. You can use things like reviews from readers or the press, or your own expertise and credibility in the topical area.

Key Takeaway

Remember, you are the best salesperson for your book. Be prepared.

Additional Resources

Know Your Audience

Find Your Audience

Develop a Distribution Strategy

Market Your Book: Developing a Distribution Strategy


In the book business, determining where your target audience shops and how to get your books into those places is called developing a distribution strategy.

While every author wants to walk into their local bookstore and see their books prominently displayed on the selves, there is much more to consider when developing your distribution strategy. Some authors leverage their professional connections to make sales – i.e. book as business card. Others teach classes and sell their books to students and/or attendees. Still others sell their books through their churches or they partner with websites.

There are innumerable ways to distribute your book and it takes some trial and error to find the right distribution channels. Since every book is different, we wanted to see if there was a pattern as to where authors sold their books.

We asked 4000 of Lulu’s best selling authors where they sold their books. Here’s what they had to say:


Marketing Series 3 Where to sell your books

Distribution channels for authors, both traditionally published and self-published, are changing. With the closing of large brick-and-mortar booksellers, all publishers are reevaluating their distribution strategy. In August 2013, Bowker released a study citing a 5% increase in online book sales in the U.S., up to 44% of total book sales compared to 39% in 2011.

What does this mean for you? As an author, you must focus on your audience and develop the best distribution strategy for them. If you are communicating with your audience through your existing channels or through online networks and communities,’s marketplace can be a strong component of your distribution strategy. If you need to target a broader audience that seeks content all over the Internet and online stores, you may want to expand to additional retail distribution channels.

Getting Your Book Noticed

E-book Formatting Fairies did a survey of readers in August 2013 that revealed fantastic insights into how readers perceive books and authors. We’ve compiled a few highlights of their findings below:

  • 95% of respondents were more likely to buy a self-published book from an author who is known to them.
  • When asked where readers get information about new books, Facebook came in first place.


  • When readers were asked where they get information about their favorite authors, Facebook and author websites were virtually tied.  These findings reinforce the need for author’s to create and maintain author platforms that incorporate both social media and author websites.


What Should You Do?

Ask your readers or people in your target market how they discover new books and where they shop for them. The answers to those two questions are the key elements in developing your distribution strategy.

Key Takeaway

Create an online presence from which potential readers can learn more about you and your book.

Additional Resources

Know Your Audience

Find Your Audience

Build Your Online Marketing Presence

Guest Blogging: Building Your Online Reputation