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How To Market Your Self-published Book – With A Little Help From Your Cat

How to Market Your Self-published Book – with a Little Help from your Cat

rayne hall

British indie author Rayne Hall

British indie author Rayne Hall, who writes fantasy and horror fiction and author guides, shares a lighthearted post about how her cat Sulu has become a valuable feline marketing assistant.

Whether or not you have a cat, and whether you or not you already spend way too much time looking at cat pictures and videos online, her post may spark some lateral thinking ideas of your own to help you sell more of your self-published books. Or you can just sit back and enjoy her cat photos!

Cat reading books

“If the cat likes it. that's good enough for me!”

I've found the perfect way to create a buzz for my books. My cat Sulu promotes them in the social media and attracts fans in droves.

Everybody, it seems, likes a cute cat, especially one that appears to read books. Where other authors' book-promoting posts remain largely ignored, mine get liked, re-tweeted and re-shared.

A Chance Encounter with my Marketing Expert

When I went to the shelter to adopt a cat last year, I had no idea that I was getting a star promoter who would overhaul my marketing efforts, refine my author brand, make my tweets go viral and boost my sales.

A nine-month-old youngster, Sulu settled in quickly, and turned out to be an exceptionally sweet-natured and smart cat. Soon I taught him tricks: how to place his right paw in my right hand when I say “Sulu shake hands”, how to hop on the table, turn around himself, high-five with me, lie down, and more.  He also enjoyed posing for photos.

Then he discovered books, savouring their texture and smell. That's when I had the idea of training him to ‘read' books, and he took to the idea eagerly. When I place an open book on the table and say “Sulu read” he lies down next to the book with his paw on the page,  while I take photos.  Sulu enjoys this so much, he wants to pose for photos at least once a day.

Cat reading book

The eager feline reader (and it's not even a book about a cat)

Sulu disdains ebooks. He's a traditionalist who prefers the smell of the printed page.  Although he enjoys non-fiction on any subject and is fond of dark and creepy tales, he's a picky reader: when I gave him a volume of poetry, he vomited on it.

Flocks of Twitter Followers for my Literate Cat

The attention Sulu gains for my books phenomenal. Thousands of fans eagerly follow my Twitter stream to see the latest photos of the literate cat. The follower engagement in the social media has skyrocketed as people tweet to tell me how adorable they find my cat. They retweet the photos, often with the comment “I've just bought this book. If the kitty likes it, it must be good.”

I get invitations to be interviewed “about your books and your cat.” Reviewers request ARC copies “and a photo of Sulu reading this book.”

I've seen conversations in the social media: “I'm reading such-and-such book by Rayne Hall – you know, the author with the black cat.”

Cat with skull and horror story book

“What black cat wouldn't like a good horror story?”

The Power of the Lucky Black Cat

Sulu is the best book promoter I could wish for. He generates exposure, goodwill, brand recognition, follower engagement, word of mouth, and everything else that makes marketing professionals salivate. Of course I pay him generously in cat treats and tuna.

Until we met, Sulu's life was one of constant rejection. As a kitten, he had been someone's unwanted surprise Christmas gift, was abandoned and ended up in a shelter. Black cats get abandoned most often and are least often adopted, so Sulu's chances of finding a new home were small. For many months, potential adopters ignored him. Until we met, nobody wanted this marvellous cat, simply because he was black.

Sulu is so happy to be loved at last! Every day when I write, he lies on the desk, snuggling between my arms, purring happily. He's a real writer's cat.

I believe that a higher power has blessed Sulu and me arranged everything to bring us together.

Cat with paw in book

“Don't want to lose my place here”

OVER TO YOU Do you have a special talisman – with a pulse or otherwise! – that has helped you sell your books? We'd love to know!

#authors - a new idea for book marketing: get a cat! How it works for @RayneHall Click To Tweet

Author: Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall is the British author & editor of fantasy and horror fiction and writer's craft books. She lives on the south coast of England with her cat Sulu. For more information, visit her website: www. raynehallauthor.wix.com/rayne-hall


This Post Has 48 Comments
  1. Cats are adorable creatures. They are one of the most popular pets around the world, and humans certainly love to have cats as their companions. Contrary to the popular assumption that they are distant and aloof, cats are actually generally friendly and endearing in real life. In fact, many cats love to snuggle with their humans. Because of these interesting and lovable characteristics of cats, they have also become one of the best characters in fiction stories about animals.

  2. You’d never see a cat as a marketing assistant. Have to be marketing directors, my cat rules the house and claims whole sofas when she wants to.

  3. Everyone loves cats and spend hours watching them on YouTube. However, dogs are sociable too and deliver another aspect including health benefits as they force you out of the house for walks etc.
    Anyway, great marketing tool, your cat is.

  4. Cats and pets in general can change a person’s life only for the better. But to promote your books? Who would’ve thought? I like the originality , I have never seen anything like it. I am happy for Sulu. He got a new great life and is famous now 😀 . Both animals and people envy him. Have you ever imagined that he would help you market your books? Were you surprised when you first found out he liked reading? What was your first impression?

  5. Indeed, the internet loves cats… who would’ve guessed 🙂
    Sulu is obviously born to be a star and it’s smart idea to visually stimulate your audience with his cuteness.
    I wish my retriever was that useful. He’s adorable, but everything that comes near his mouth either gets eaten or destroyed 😀 Though, i would definitely make him a business offer… he has potential.
    Thanks for the tip, Rayne 🙂

  6. Isn’t it great how a pet can change your life and your business too? I am so glad you gave Sulu a home. It is like Sulu is paying you back in his own little way for giving him a home. A real writers cat you say, I can’t agree more.
    ps… have you thought of giving Sulu his own twitter account?

  7. Sulu is incredibly adorable! He must be quite smart if you were able to train him. I did not know you could train cats to do tricks. I can’t blame him for not liking the poetry book, it is not really my forte either. I’m so glad Sulu found a loving person to spend his life with!

  8. Sulu is really cute! Seems like kitten photos can sell everything, right? But, I’m more of a dog person. Do you think a puppy could be a good promoter of my book as well?:)

  9. Can cats be trained? Yes. But they take more effort than dogs because they don’t need a pack.

    Having worked with rescue for a number of years, my wife and I have observed cats in social situations. They not only can be trained, they can train us. If you pay enough attention to your pet, you can build a solid friendship.

  10. Who knew a cat could bring such good luck. Do you believe that it is better to self publish or to go through an agency?

    Also, when it comes to marketing, do you feel like social media has helped you grow your brand more so than book signing or personal reading nights with a few readers who are interested in your book?

    1. Regarding your question whether self-publishing or going though an agency is better: It’s different for different authors and different books, so I don’t want to give a one-size-fits-all answer. However, for most writers self-publishing is a good (and probably the best) choice these days. Thirty years ago, I would have advised the opposite, but publishing has changed.
      Regarding social media: Social media (especially Twitter) has been much more effective for me than face2face events. With signings and readings, you need to get the people to attend the event… and that’s a big challenge. Even if you get the audience, none of them may want to buy. With social media, on the other hand, you can reach a big audience in a short time (though you still need to persuade them to read your tweets and posts), and it costs little or no money and takes relatively little time.

  11. This might be the most adorable thing I’ve seen all day, and I don’t even like cats. Clearly Sulu must be a marketing guru 🙂 It’s amazing that you have taken something so simple and made it your trademark. Most people love cuddly animals. Pair one with a good book, and you’ve got yourself a winner!

  12. Sulu is just adorable and you’ve trained him well. It looks like he’s really reading the book and maybe he really is!
    Marketing is such a big part of being an author these days and the tough part is that mostly writers just want to be left alone so they can write. Having a sidekick such as Sulu to help in the marketing on social media might be just the trick every shy writer needs!

    1. Hi Aditya,
      Sometimes I could swear that Sulu can really read. The way he lies down, paw on the page, and studies the content attentively… it makes me wonder sometimes. But he can’t tell which is the top of the book and which is the bottom, so he often ‘reads’ the wrong way round, which reassures me that he’s a normal cat and can’t really read.
      Shy writers (well, all writers) can use pets in their marketing, especially cute pets for visual content. Or they can come up with their own idea for something that will make people smile and draw attention without being annoying. I think my main achievement in this context was to see the potential of my clever cat for book promotion, and to put it into practice.

  13. I can’t , never could understand why people do not like black cats. I really hope it’s not the stupid superstitions. Because black cat is something close to perfection to me.
    They are so graceful, and elegant and with this amazing presence.
    No wander Sulu is the part of your success…look at him.
    Don’t be surprised if one day Sulu purrs useful advice about your books. And life in general 🙂

    1. Hi Lilit,
      I’m afraid it’s a superstition. In some parts of the world – including parts of the USA – people believe that black cats bring bad luck, so they don’t want one in their home. In those regions, the chances of a black shelter cat getting adopted are small, and most black cats get euthanised. It’s heart-breaking.
      It’s strange, because in other parts of the world a black cat is supposed to bring luck. Sulu certainly has brought me luck.
      Here in the UK, superstition doesn’t seem to play a role, but many people find black cats unattractive. There’s also an assumption that black cats don’t look good in photos. (Ha! Sulu disproves that.)
      If Sulu purrs advice, it’s advice to shelter cats: “Adopt a writer. They’re the best. They understand us kitties, and they’re not easily swayed by common superstition.” 🙂

    2. My wife Carol and I have worked with rescue for sixteen years and successfully adopted only one of the many black cats we took in. (Okay, two, but he didn’t want to be adopted and made sure he came home.) The rest spent their lives with us.

      Black cats can be the sweetest, most lovely cats you can take in. And, contrary to popular belief, they bring good luck.

  14. Sulu is the perfect mix of dignity and squishableness. It’s amazing how he seems to be perusing the books — no wonder his pics go viral! I used to have a cat I could cuddle like a teddy bear. He’s passed on now so I can’t get him to assist in my marketing campaigns. Next time I get a pet I’ll keep an eye open for their training potential.

    1. Hi Aimee,
      I like the world ‘squishableness’ – have you coined it? It’s perfect.
      If you’re looking for a cat with training potential, ask at your local cat shelter if they can recommend a young, intelligent cat. The younger a cat is, the easier it will be to train it. And intelligence is a requirement for book promoters. 🙂

  15. Sulu is just the cutest!! And I think this is a great idea. I am self-publishing a poetry book (still in the process of being written) and my dog probably could be helpful when promoting the book. Granted I can get her to sit long enough to get a photo. She too was rescued from a shelter.

    1. Hi Christine,
      I’m glad you’ve adopted a pet from a shelter. To get her to sit still long enough for a photo, try bribing her with dog treats. If she knows that she’ll get a continuous stream of her favourite treats for as long as she sits still in front of a book, she’ll catch on fast. -)

  16. I never did try to Trai my cat. He ran right over the top of me (with a name like King Coal, what would I expect?). He was a rescue too, a spontaneous visit to the pound landed me with a bundle of black fur who HATE the car trip home. But even when he was off visiting neighbor cats, when I came home from college, he’d come running down the driveway. Old age caught up with him a couple of years ago, so I have two new helpers. The Jack Russell oozes in between my back and my chair and the lab mix has learned that keyboard trays ROLL. Half time is spent fighting the tray. Ah well, pets make life happier. Maybe I can get her interested in posing with books instead of eating them 😉

  17. I reviewed Rayne Hall’s book about Sulu, her black cat marketing assistant. I realised that the book is not simply about a specific relationship between one human and one cat, but it also offers insights into feline behaviour in general, and I gave the book a five-star rating.
    My own cat is too old and has me too well trained to follow Sulu’s path, but give me my next kitten, and watch out Sulu!
    However, Rayne Hall’s book is also about hard, professional marketing techniques, and since I read it I have been having ideas about goldfish. They must be easier to photograph.

    1. Book marketing with goldfish? Sounds intriguing. I’m sure you’ll get some great photos, if you can keep the book from getting wet. 😀
      I think age has a lot to do with it. Sulu was a youngster when I got him, and young cats are more easy to train than seniors. Experts tell me that older cats can be trained too, but it takes a hundred times longer, and not many humans have that amount of patience or time.

  18. You’ve trained Sulu well. I had a beautiful black cat for 18 years who was the sweetest thing, but I don’t think she’d pose for book promotion. Especially on a table. She’d knock the book off instead. She loved to knock things off counters, tables, bed, etc.

    Good luck with your new release 🙂

    1. I’m lucky – Sulu doesn’t knock books or anything off tables or counters. However, he knocks things off windowsills. To his way of thinking, windowsills belong to Sulu, and anything I put there (potted plants, flower vases, lamps, knickknacks) is clutter and must be removed with a swipe of the paw. 😀
      There’s one exception, however. Whenever I give Sulu a book by horror author Ramsey Campbell, Sulu tosses it off the table. I have no idea why he does this, because normally he likes horror. Maybe Sulu suspects that Ramsey Campbell writes poetry or hates cats. 😀

  19. SO enjoyed the post, Rayne! And count yourself LUCKY that Sulu loves books. My little Brussels Griffon dog thinks that a good book is a chewed book. Oddly, its the ONLY thing she will chew up. I can have anything else down within reach and she ignores it. But let a book be unattended and its doomed to a chewy death!

    Happy Holidays to you and Sulu!

    hugs, Kari Thomas
    PRE-ORDER FOR A 20% DISCOUNT, Her Demon, His Angel http://www.lsbooks.com/pre-order-coming-soon-romance-books-c322.php

    1. Hi Kari, Sulu is an amazingly well behaved cat. He doesn’t scratch, doesn’t bite, doesn’t spray, doesn’t sulk, doesn’t scheme, doesn’t chew books. I’ve had him for a year and a half now, and I still marvel every day that I’ve been blessed with this wonderful companion.
      Happy holidays to you and yours!

    1. Christian fantasy? We can try, though I can’t guarantee results. Sulu doesn’t seem religious, though I have the impression he follows the faith of the ancient Egyptians who worshipped black cats as gods. 🙂
      With seven rescue cats, there’s a good chance that at least one of them could be trained as a photo model. Do you per chance have cat that’s young and smart, likes cat treats and often wants your undivided attention?

    1. Yes, Sulu is adorable. He says so himself. 🙂
      Horror poetry? Hmm, I wonder. There don’t seem to be many horror poetry books published, and after his reaction to the feminist anthology, I didn’t let him near poetry again. 🙂

  20. Before eBooks and POD, when we ran books of at print shops 50 copies at a time, I toured the performance art circuits with a leather hand crafted mask from South American hand held by a stick that I used to tell the story about two gods competing for the attention of a goddess. This was about two decade before the word “signature” piece came into the vocabulary. I also carried a rain stick, (as well as tech devices) but people remembered me for the mask and that’s what sold the little books.

    1. It wasn’t my poetry book, but an anthology of feminist poetry. I thought the poems were really good, but Sulu obviously thought otherwise. The embarrassing thing was, the book had been lent to me by the editor.
      Can you imagine my embarrassment, having to confess that I had given the book to my cat who didn’t like the poems and vomited on the book?
      The editor told me to keep the book.
      With horror fiction, Sulu is picky too. He seems to prefer the classics – Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Amelia Edwards. When I give him a Ramsey Campbell book, he tosses it off the table, and Stephen King makes him yawn.

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