by Ryan Steck
So you’re publishing a book, and you’re hoping to position it as the kind of book that influencers might find attractive enough to recommend it to their sizable following. Smart!
With the way marketing and publicity campaigns work these days, especially if you’re traditionally published and trying hard to earn out your advance, influencers are a great way to have your work introduced to new audiences. But short of knowing said influencers and asking them for a personal favor, actually reaching them—with no hook or personal connection—can be difficult.
But you can do a few things to help increase your chances.
Having worked for the last decade as The Real Book Spy, where we accumulate over 2 million unique impressions per year, and having been named an online influencer by Amazon in the past, I have plenty of insight behind the scenes. Here are five things influencers are looking for in a new book:
1.) Does it fit their audience?
Influencers will know their audience well enough that they already have a feel for what might play well with them and what won’t. Above all else, they’re looking for something that will appeal to their followers.
If someone has a massive following on Instagram, for example, and regularly pushes Nordic crime thrillers, don’t waste your time and resources sending them your hot new romance novel. You might say to yourself, “But they might love it, and if they do, they might tell their 100,000 followers about it, and that would be so huge for me!” Well, that would be huge, but it’s also not realistic. Most influencers aren’t looking to bring their audience something they know isn’t of interest to them, even if they like it themselves. They’re looking for something that fits what they do and what their audience wants—period.
2.) Is it new?
Okay, this one might be controversial. Yes, there are cases where influencers have stumbled upon an older book, then created a TikTok about it, and bam—it went viral. But in my experience, the vast majority of the time, influencers are looking for new products so they can be the first to introduce that product—in this case, a book—to their audience.
3.) Will it bring them additional followers?
In keeping with point number two, influencers are indeed looking for new products—again, in this case, books—so they can be the first to feature them to their audience. However, they’re also looking to grow, and that’s important to note. So, naturally, they’ll want something that can attract more views and people. How do you give them that opportunity? Well, figure out the answer to that question, and you’ll be well on your way.
4.) Is it timely and relevant?
Most influencers, in an effort to stay relevant themselves, need timely material to post about. So, if you have a novel that just so happens to feature a storyline involving, say, wildfires in Canada, that might be the kind of thing that could seal the deal for an influencer. Remember, when it comes to social media, a lot of influencers rely on hashtags to generate clicks, and if they can match a book to a trending topic, that means the potential for more impressions—which, for an influencer, is like currency.
5.) Does your cover pop?
Lastly, and I’m speaking from experience here, influencers are looking for a great cover to show off to their audience.
Let’s face it: we eat with our eyes first. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was first said way before Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok existed.
In today’s world, cover art is vastly important to the book’s overall success. If you want an influencer to hold up your book and tell people they need to go check it out, you had better make sure that you present a killer, gorgeous-looking cover that demands to be shown off.
In summary, it’s never easy to get the attention of an influencer, especially one who could really move the needle in terms of sales, and none of these tips will guarantee that you’ll get their attention. But they could help you increase your chances, and sometimes, that’s all you need—a single chance, and anything can happen. So, keep these things in mind the next time you want to pitch or send your book to an influencer: The more you understand what they’re looking for, the more likely you are to present your book to them in a way that might be attractive. Good luck!
Ryan Steck is an editor, an author, and the founder of The Real Book Spy, which has been endorsed by No. 1 New York Times bestselling authors Mark Greaney, C. J. Box, Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, and others. Named an “Online Influencer” by Amazon, Steck is a regular columnist at CrimeReads. His newest book, Lethal Range, released August 8, 2023, from Tyndale Fiction. He can be reached via email at [email protected]. Author photo by Emily Mitchell. Find him on: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon