Marketing and Promotion: What’s the Difference?
Book marketing and promotion are often confused, or spoken of together, but they are not the same thing.
- Marketing is letting the right readers know that you exist, as a writer, that your books exist, and what sort of books they are. Marketing is passive selling.
- Promotion is a particular sales push. Promotion is active selling.
Marketing centers on what the book publishing business calls “discoverability” or “findability”—ensuring that you and your books can be found by the right readers and that the promise you’re making to them is clear. It embraces your author platform, your covers, your descriptions, your review requests, your email lists, your reader funnels, and physical assets like bookmarks and postcards.
You might refresh your marketing look and feel, periodically, and you’re always tweaking here and there, but essentially the marketing keeps on rolling along, taking in each new reader and each new book. The process is similar for most authors and the aim is to standardize and automate your marketing processes as much as possible, delegating certain tasks to technology, tools and assistants.
Book promotion, by contrast, kicks in around a particular book and a particular point in time. It’s a push that has a start and an end date and there are countless kinds of promotions, including book launches, virtual or real-life book tours, advertising and other purchased promotions, and book-specific activities. Promotions are non-standard. They vary widely from author to author, book to book, genre to genre. Book promotions are limited only by your imagination, time, and money.
General Audiobook Marketing Principles
Audiobooks are still books. Which means book marketing is still book marketing. Yes, the format is different, but a book is a book. This means that the same general marketing advice applies as much to audiobooks as it does to other formats of books.
This means you need to have a mailing list in place, and you can read our three part guide to mailing lists here:
Consider how you could work with influencers to help increase awareness of your audiobook. For more ideas on influencer marketing see our article: Influencer Marketing for Authors. Or perhaps using content marketing to help market your audiobooks. See our Quick and Easy Guide to Fiction Content Marketing. And of course, this also means that launching an audiobook runs on similar mechanisms to launching a book in a different format. If you need more advice on launching a book, see our launch guide which also includes a handy timeline, see that here: The Ultimate Guide to Launching a Book for Indie Authors.
Specific Audiobook Marketing and Promotion Tactics
Of course, audiobooks are a different format. So that means, while the foundational audiobook marketing principles might be similar, there are additional things you can do to help market and promote them.
For example, you’ll need an audio-optimized cover. Audiobook covers are square unlike their ebook and paperback equivalents:
This also means you should consider including the square cover image in your audiobook marketing materials. Audiobook listeners are used to seeing square covers, therefore even without seeing any text on your marketing materials, it’s a visual indicator that you have an audiobook.
Simply, an audiogram is an audio wave animation. This means to create an audiogram you need:
- A static image—usually a promotional one of your audiobook or similar
- A short (think less than a couple of minutes) clip from your audiobook
- A moving waveform animation
You overlay these three things and it creates an audiogram.
Audiobooks and Mailing Lists
Like your other books, your autoresponder sequence and mailing list are the prime candidates for promoting your audiobooks. Do you have a dedicated email in your autoresponder sequence talking about your audiobooks? Do you email a reminder to your mailing list every so often talking about your backlist of audiobooks? And of course, you can treat your audiobook launch like any other book launch, so emailing a launch letter to your mailing list is essential.
If you’re able, try segmenting your mailing list. Segment those that click on your audiobook links so you know which readers are most engaged. You can then run targeted emails to those subscribers you know love audiobooks.
In exactly the same way as ebook ARCs are delivered, providers like Bookfunnel, make it super easy for you to send subscribers samples of your audiobooks via your emails.
Working with Audiobook Narrators
Your audiobook narrator is the perfect person to help you collaborate on marketing and promotion. Narrators also have fanbases for those readers happy to read anything they narrate simply because they love their voice.
The AskALLi team spoke to Jillian Yetter, an audiobook narrator about how she partners with indie authors.
From her home studio in Newark, Delaware, Jillian Yetter has narrated over 50 audiobooks. She is a former English Teacher with a love of literature and a talent for bringing stories to life. Her bright, youthful voice is well-suited for many genres. Her samples are available at www.jillianyetter.com/samples
The ultimate dream for an author is that you write a book and people come running to read it. You worked hard on your book baby, and it deserves to be out in the world and in the hands of your target audience. However, we know it to be true that this is often not as simple as it appears. Once the book is written, there is the dreaded world of marketing that an author must constantly tackle in order to gain visibility for their books. The same is true for audiobooks. The logic is there that if we make the audiobook, people will listen, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Audiobooks need to be marketed in a very similar sense to the way that one would market any other book: there should be an announcement, hashtags, teasers, advertisements, and a review team.
I have been working as an Audiobook Narrator for the past three and a half years. In that time, I have seen many successful and unsuccessful attempts at marketing an audiobook. Many authors I have worked with have been willing to invest the money and time to have the audiobook produced, but there was no follow-up of marketing so their audiobook baby remains unseen. One thing that I have learned is that visibility on social media is your friend. Your target audience needs to see your audiobook cover over and over again, hashtags need to be used targeting audiobook listeners, and your narrator should be tagged whenever possible.
Below are some possible marketing elements for increasing visibility of your audiobook:
As soon as you are able, announce on social media and in your newsletter that you are in the process of audiobook production. Build that anticipation. If you have access to the narrator’s name and social media (usually available through indie production but not always when traditionally published), tag them in the post. This will encourage the narrator to re-post and get their fans excited about your book as well.
When marketing on social media, you probably have a go-to group of hashtags that you use to reach your target audience. When targeting audiobook listeners, these hashtags might be a little different. You are now not just targeting #readers you are also looking to target #listeners. I recommend using many of your regular hashtags and then adding in some for your new target audience. Here are some that might work:
#audiobook #audiobooks #audiobooklife #listeningtolit #audiobookreader #audiobooklistener #newaudiobookrelease #audiobookish #audiobooksofinstagram #audiobooktok
If you are working on an indie audiobook production, you will be in direct communication with your narrator. One of my favorite things to do is to record video or audio teasers and share them with the author. This isn’t something that all narrators do, but it is worth asking if they will share a few clips with them as they record. You could even direct them to a specific scene that you would love as a teaser release. The teasers will serve to get more exposure for your book as well as get your audience acquainted with your narrator’s voice. This often results in comments such as “This is exactly how I expected X character to sound”. With any post you make, remember to tag your narrator so that they can also share it around.
Another way to provide teasers is through LIVE readings. Again, not all narrators will do this, but it is always worth an ask. I absolutely love reading books (whole books or individual chapters) LIVE on TikTok. Often the author will join in with me and get to watch the behind the scenes. This is an additional way that your audiobook can gain a wider fanbase and build anticipation for the upcoming release. If you are ever curious about this process (which, again, not all narrators will do), just get on TikTok and watch some LIVE narration videos; they are a good time!
Never underestimate the value of exposure on social media. Advertisements on Instagram, Facebook, etc. work. I am not suggesting that you sink an exorbitant amount of money into these campaigns, but again, repeated exposure of your book cover is what you are looking for.
Review numbers are just as important in audiobooks as they are for every other format of the book. The more reviews there are, the more the title will be displayed to potential listeners. If you are working on an indie audiobook production, chances are you will be provided with a large number of review copies of the book. Initially, I just expected that I could scream “free audiobook” on social media, and people would come running. That expectation is far from reality. There are three ways to best distribute these review codes: giveaways, review team, pay to post on review sites.
Doing a giveaway for audiobook codes makes them feel exclusive and more exciting, so more people will come running. I have always had more success with handing out codes through a giveaway than from just actually giving them away (insert confused shrug). In regards to a review team, this can be compiled in the same way that you build your ARC readers. You could potentially use the same readers as from your book ARC group, but audiobooks are typically a different audience of readers. I have rarely seen this done, but it is extremely beneficial. The last way to get reviews is to pay $10-$12 to post all of them on audiobook review sites. These websites are legitimate and people will snatch up the review copies of your audiobook; however, not everyone is guaranteed to leave a review. Some sites that I have used are audiobooksunleashed and freeaudiobookcodes.
I have been working in audiobooks for several years, and while I am no expert on the subject, I have seen many examples of audiobook marketing. I hope that some of these tools will be helpful in determining different ways to market your audiobook. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]
On Audiobook Bundles
Indie Author Crys Cain has had success with audiobook bundles.
“Over the years I’ve used various methods, including simply announcing to my mailing list and my co-author hiring genre-specific promotion companies to send out audible review codes.
I’ve also occasionally run a sale on a whispersynced ebook for 99c to encourage audio sales. We would make sure our marketing verbiage was geared toward that too. Sometimes genre authors would club together and enlist a group of us to run 99c on a selection of ebooks to promote all of our whispersynced audiobooks as a collaboration.
But interestingly, I ran my numbers a few months ago and found that hands down, audio bundles outsold individual titles like crazy. I generally hold off a year after the last in series to promote sales of the individual titles because once the bundle is out, the individual titles drop to almost nothing.
For wide audio, I make sure that my bundles are not distributed to libraries or places that play a flat fee per title. I only distribute the individual titles to those locations to maximize profit.
Also, for those authors who use D2D’s Books2Read links, make sure you update them to include your audiobook link. I’ve been doing mine, but because I have so many books now it’s been a slow, tedious process and I still have a ways to go. It is super handy though and worth the effort.
In terms of how I started creating audiobooks for my fiction, I began by paying low rates for new narrators. This meant I could afford to do audiobooks and got them onto the market faster. Now though, I pay higher rates to hire narrators who have fans who will be drawn to my books by the narrator.
I also post in genre specific and audio specific Facebook groups to announce releases and sales. And if I weren’t so limited by my genre, I’d definitely solicit Chirp promos”
Audiobook Promotion Advice
For more information on creating and marketing audiobooks as an indie author, you can read our Ultimate Guide to Audiobooks for Authors here.
There are a number of free QR code generators that can be found by a quick Google. QR codes are particularly useful for in person events. You can print the QR code and link it to any URL you like. Whether that’s the sales page, a sales page on your own website, a link to an audio sample, a link to your mailing list where they’ll get free audio, the world is your oyster!
Pitching Podcasts, Booktube and Book Round-ups
Audio speaks to audio. Which means you should consider researching and finding podcasts, booktubers and online publications that focus on audio or audiovisual mediums. You’ll need to make sure the podcasters and shows you’re finding are a good match. For example, nonfiction podcasts for nonfiction authors or book based ones for fiction authors. But these podcasters and YouTubers will already have an engaged or subscribed audience who like consuming content in an audio format. Pitch yourself or your audiobook to be featured in an upcoming podcast episode, article or video.
Consider the type of book podcasts you target. For example, those that cover all types of books can reach a wider audience, but equally, those that specifically broadcast audiobook content or cover topics in a specific genre are also great. Below is an excerpt of useful links from our Ultimate Guide.
Here are some ideas for shows that specifically broadcast audio content:
These podcasts cover and review books and the publishing world as a whole:
Here are some popular sites to reach out to:
The literary YouTube space has been dubbed ‘Booktube.’ These Booktube channels have massive followings, and often interview authors and record book reviews:
You could do the research involved with finding and pitching relevant journalists, podcasters and YouTubers yourself. You could also pay a public relations (PR) agency with a track record in audiobook promotion. They’ll likely have connections that will help when it comes to getting your audiobook covered. Or, work with a paid platform like Edelweiss+ or NetGalley to distribute your book to journalists for review.
Interacting on Facebook Groups
You should be active on social media so as to give your listeners another way to interact with you directly.
When you’re still trying to build your audience, be active in Facebook groups for audiobook listeners to attract new fans. Here are some popular ones:
Use These Sites to Get Features or Reviewed For Free
There are sites that exist specifically to help audiobook authors find new listeners, to which you can apply to be featured or reviewed for free. Here are some of them:
Submitting for Awards
While the act of receiving an award doesn’t automatically get you in front of a ton of new customers, having an award badge on your site or social media channels can help assure listeners that your audiobook is worth a try if you’re a new author.
Consider submitting your work for one of the following popular audiobook awards:
There are of course many other marketing strategies to consider, including the launch and development of individual social media channels, influencer marketing , online advertising, email marketing and more, but these are unique to audiobook promotion and should be considered as a core part of your marketing strategy alongside other methods.
There are also discount sites where you can discount your audiobooks and send the deal out to thousands of eager listeners. Bookbub has one such site called Chirp books that you can use.
Further Resources for Audiobook Marketing
ALLi Members on Audiobook Marketing
Michael La Ronn
“I have been posting my audiobooks to YouTube recently as monetized videos. I find that it’s an easy introduction to my work for my YouTube subscribers. It’s also a good deterrent for piracy.”
“Marketing a digital audiobook isn’t easy because the format is newer than others and there aren’t as many options available. That said, there are a few suitable tools in the indie author utility belt.
The simplest is to link your audiobook to your other formats on retailer sales pages. When you promote the e-book, a subset of readers will automatically choose the audiobook. In fact, giving them the choice will improve the page’s overall conversion rate.
If you want more audio-specific marketing tips, however, then using a service like Audiobook Boom can work well, attracting initial reviews. Use such services in tandem with an audio-specific ARC team (which you can send your audiobook using BookFunnel) and you can generate considerable buzz during a book launch.
Driving traffic to Audible from that point onward can be a challenge but it’s possible to run Facebook ads to any audiobook retailer. Or you can run BookBub ads to Chirp if you distribute wide.”
“I’ve licensed my audio rights to a specialist company in English language and German language. I like a simple life/more time to write.”
“I explored going wide with Audio, but because I’m fully committed to KDP and my books aren’t visible outside the Amazon universe, it was almost impossible to get Wide audio traction, so I pulled out of Findaway and went exclusive with Audible.
Because I was bringing audio in to an already well established series of 5 books, I got a bonus from quick sales to existing readers who wanted the audio experience. That started to get me traction with the Audible algorithms.
After that, I have stuck to Facebook ads for marketing when looking for new listeners to the series. So, as you’d expect, my experience is only relevant to authors with established series – “Hayden’s Audio Rule of Thumb” states that audiobooks will be as successful as their text counterparts. If you’ve got a good series going and you are thinking of taking the plunge, you absolutely MUST.
And if you’re at the start of something you think could go well, maybe think about hanging fire for a little longer. It will save you a lot of effort.”