5 Questions to ask a Book Promoter

I recently wrote a review of the TV series Friends and posted this on my Instagram page and my (newly revamped and self-built) website.

In the space of two hours, I received four requests to help me promote my book or reviews I’d written on social media.

I don’t even have a book; why not is a long story but, in a nutshell, it’s finished but I keep tinkering with it and I’m never happy with the final edit.

These requests led me to think about what questions you should ask if approached by a book promoter, particularly one you don’t know or in Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for example.

According to an article in Forbes, 825.7 million print books were sold by U.S. publishers in 2021, a slight increase of 8.9% from 2020, but electronic books and audiobooks are increasing in popularity. With so many books in circulation in one year, promoting a book as a first time author can be daunting and feel like an impossible task.

One way authors are finding new readers is through book promoters. A book promoter is somebody who agrees to read and review your book on their blog or other social media platform in return for payment. There are specialised agencies that promote books by using their connections with the media, reviewers, and booksellers, but there are also many individuals doing this work.

Some examples of book promotion include book launches, media outreach, social media blasts, book tours, book signing and author interviews.

If you are with a publisher, this may be done as part of your contract, or offset against future earnings, and for self-publishers, you will probably have to pay the promoter yourself. Or even a hybrid version where you do a little of both.

There are many people in the writing community who offer book promotion services, but it’s important to do your research and ask questions before you hand over any money or sign a contract.

The Five Questions

1. What is the cost?
This may sound crude, but you need to know what you’re getting into before saying yes. Promoters should be able to give you a ballpark number of how much it will cost. There may be a package of posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., reviews, and more.

[I charge nothing (yet) for a review and post on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Instagram and my website. I’ll mostly read anything although – generally not sci-fi, horror, supernatural categories. Find me on Twitter and Instagram. Now that I’ve shamelessly plugged myself on with the post.]

2. What are some examples of books / posts you’ve promoted before?
Asking for examples of other books the person has promoted will give you a good idea of their experience level and the books they typically promote. It will also help you gauge whether their style is a good fit for your book, plus other metrics.

You should apply a reasonable pinch of salt here. There is so much competition for new books to be seen that you may take the ‘anything is better than nothing’ approach, especially if the cost is affordable to test the results.

3) What is the reach?
Ask for specifics. It’s not enough for the person to say they have “a lot” of followers or friends. A quick look at their social media profile will give you an idea of their real reach and activity. It’s also important to consider the quality of their followers.

It is essential to also consider your goals. A smaller, more engaged following may be worth more to you than a larger, less engaged one. Think about what you are trying to achieve with the promotion and who your target audience is. If the person promoting your book is not reaching your target audience, then it will not be as effective.

If you have written a book about German broths for example, then a promoter handling medieval history fiction will not be much use to you.

4) What are the outlets?
Some book promoters gauge success by the number of reviews they can get on Amazon or Goodreads. Others focus more on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Some use a mix of both. It’s important to know where your book will be promoted because that will help you gauge the effectiveness of the promotion.

5) What are the terms?
Before you sign anything, make sure you understand the terms of the agreement. Read it carefully and ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Clarify any confusion about payment, timing, or other details. Very important is anything money related. If the promoter is selling posts + swipes, reviews on Amazon, TikTok etc, make sure you understand how many they will do, when they will post, and what the content of the posts will be.

Allowing someone to promote your book on social media can be a great way to reach a new audience, and it’s tempting to accept all offers of help. Promoting your book on social media takes time and effort, but it can be well worth it if done correctly.

But before you hand over your hard-earned cash, do your due diligence upfront to avoid wasting time and money.

I hope this post is useful and remember to evaluate every request yourself.