If you struggle with book marketing, don’t feel alone in your struggle. A lot of authors wish they could be selling more books.
If you have a beautiful author website, you regularly update your blog, and you’re fairly active on social media, you’re probably wondering: What gives?
I decided to contact some expert book marketers to glean their advice and this is what you’ll read below is their best advice.
Book Marketing Tips from Industry Experts
Joanna Penn was the first to reply when I asked her for her thoughts and this is what she said. Note: She was in a hurry and only had time for this succinct pearl of wisdom.
Next, I turned to author assistant Kate Tilton. This is what she said:
There is no one-method fits all when it comes to book marketing. There are, however, steps you can take to find the methods that will work best for you based on the audience you are trying to serve.
And like all good marketing, it starts with knowing your audience.
The most vital part of any marketing you will ever do, period, is having a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach. This will make everything you do in marketing easier and more effective.
To build your understanding of your ideal reader, start with these areas and narrow them down as you do your research: age, gender, location, education, profession, income, group affiliations, hobbies, lifestyles. For example, instead of picking “males of any age,” you can narrow demographic to “generation Y males” Instead of “any location,” you could choose “New England.”
[clickToTweet tweet=”Authors: Have a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach via @CaballoFrances” quote=”Authors: Have a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach”]
Use your audience research to create a reader profile that reads like one of your characters. Give your ideal reader a name, gender, an age, a whole life story. Don’t be afraid to go a step deeper or to make a mistake. The more involved you are in learning about your readers, the easier it will be to flesh out your reader profile and discover how you can reach your readers. And you can always adjust your profile as you learn more about your audience.
Recently, I met Chris Syme, a social media expert for authors. If you don’t know about Chris yet, listen to her Smarty Pants podcast. You’ll find some wonderful advice there. Below you’ll find her suggestions on book marketing.
The best marketing tip I have is based on an alarming trend I see from authors on social media. Everyday I run across authors on Facebook that are using their personal profile to develop loyal readers and their Facebook author page (business page) just for selling. I just want to run to the window and scream, “Please stop.” Three reasons why:
Building a loyal readership is what earns you the right to sell without feeling sales-y. You should be developing reader loyalty on your author page and leave your personal profile private for close friends and family. All the wonderful non-invasive commerce tools for selling books are available on your author page: people can peruse your bookshelf, sign up for an email list, and find out what’s going on with you as an author and a person. All that fun content belongs on your author page.
[clickToTweet tweet=”You should develop reader loyalty on your Facebook page @CaballoFrances” quote=”You should develop reader loyalty on your Facebook page “]
In today’s culture, people buy from people who give them value. That’s why I use the 80-20 principle of content: 80% of your content should be giving value (entertainment, inspiration, information, solving problems, giving recommendations, giving away stuff) and 20% should be selling. If you use any platform strictly for selling, you’ll have an epic fail. Be you on your author page. Fans love a peek behind the curtain.
Two Facebook pages that promote you as an author cause brand confusion. It’s a huge confusion to fans if you have two separate Facebook pages. However, this doesn’t apply to a page and a group because groups have a totally different dynamic than pages. Your fans want to know which page is the real page and will lose interest in the face of confusion.
New fans are the most motivated—give them opportunities. When people search you on Facebook because somebody recommended you or they saw a blog post somewhere about your book, it’s best to have them land on a page where they can immediately buy a book in your bookstore app or sign up for your email list as well as get to know you as an author right there without leaving. Setting up your author page with all the right tools to help people opt-in without using your content to constantly blast them is a smart move.
Next, I contacted Jenn Hanson-dePaula of Mixtus Media. She offered these two pieces of advice:
Know Exactly Who You’re Talking To
It isn’t your readers’ job to find you – you need to find them. And with more than 800,000 titles on Amazon Kindle alone, readers have plenty of options. When it comes to marketing and standing out online, you can’t be general with your targeting – you need to know exactly who you’re talking to and who will best connect with your book.
The more you know about your reader the more specific you can be with your marketing. You’ll know how to connect with them, where they will be online, and more. Always remember, if you’re marketing to everyone, you’re actually marketing to no one.
You Don’t Have to Do It All
The beauty of knowing exactly who you’re talking to will empower you to know exactly where your readers will be online. Pick one social media outlet as your main hub that you engage with every day and 1-2 additional that you touch base with a few times a week. When you spread yourself too thin and try to be everywhere online, you won’t be as effective. When you can focus on a few outlets and do them really well, you will see better results.
You may think of Joel as a blogging expert, which he is, but he also knows a great deal about book marketing, having been in the business for many years. Here’s his advice:
Without a doubt the most important marketing task that indie authors face is learning about their audience. There’s simply no substitute for in depth knowledge of the goals of your readers, and the obstacles they face. As an expert author, it’s up to you to address those obstacles and help your readers reach their goals.
This is an especially important question for expert authors. There’s a natural human tendency to write to your own level of competence, and that’s perfectly understandable. However, as an expert it’s likely that the majority of your readers will be newcomers to your field.
In order to communicate effectively, you need to remember that you’ve progressed far beyond the beginner stage. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a community around your writing. Many authors launch a blog, a great way to get in touch with your readers. The “market intelligence” you’ll gain from interacting with readers and answering their questions will be invaluable.
You’ll learn exactly where they are getting stuck, what’s keeping them up at night, and their own goals for the future. When you get into this “endless conversation” with your readers, you will know them so well, your books, products, and services will perfectly match their needs.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Create a community around your writing via @CaballoFrances” quote=”Create a community around your writing – Joel Friedlander”]
When I attended a writer’s conference hosted by Redwood Writers in Northern California, I attended a session by Howard VanEs, president of Let’s Write Books, Inc. I was so impressed with his practical approach to helping authors sell books that I invited him to contribute to this post.
A marketing research guru I had the pleasure of working with once said: “If you want to know if Eskimos will buy refrigerators, simply ask them!” What this means for authors is that if you want to be sure that your book will sell then you have to be sure that your target reader connects with your title, subtitle, and cover design. Why? Because these are three most important elements affecting the sale of your book. And you have worked long and hard writing your book and you want to make sure it succeeds, right?
Unfortunately, most of us suffer from what I call “proximitis”—that is, we are too close to our own work to see what potential readers really want or are responding to. Yes, even publishing experts can suffer from this sales-killing disease!
Wouldn’t it be great to know how people will respond to your title, subtitle, and cover even before you publish? This information could put your book so much closer to best-seller status and help you sell a lot more copies! And what if you could find out if there is a market for your book and how likely people are to buy it even before you write it? How valuable would that be?
Fortunately there is a cure for proximitis and it provides the critical answers to the questions above by simply asking or polling your target market.
Enter www.PickFu.com. (Yes, this is the real name.) Pick Fu is a website that provides a polling service known as “preference testing.” In simple terms, you will be able to test cover designs, titles, subtitles, and book ideas. They provide an audience with your chosen demographics so you are getting feedback from the exact target market you want to reach. And the feedback you get will not only provide preferences in terms of numbers, but they will show you what those who are responding are actually saying and thinking about your book. This information alone is worth it as it can trigger new ideas and help you tweak existing ones for maximum results.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Best book covers and themes on PickFu.com @CaballoFrances” quote=”Best book covers and themes on PickFu.com”]
The fee for using Pick Fu starts at only $20 for a single poll—a small price to pay for the info you get in return.
Another option, which is free, is www.SurveyMonkey.com. Here you can create surveys and ask questions. For this service you will need to invite people to take your survey, which can come from your e-mail list, database, or posting on social media such as Facebook or Twitter. This platform is easiest to use when images such as cover designs are not involved, but for testing titles, subtitles, or book ideas, Survey Monkey can work quite well.
Obviously, proximitis can infect books that have already been published as well as those that are yet to be published. So if you have a book that is not selling well, you will find it well worth your time to get preference feedback. You just might get the information you need to ignite sales. And if your book is yet to be published, there is no better time than now to really understand what your readers want and respond to.
Book Coach Lisa Tener
I met Lisa Tener at the San Francisco Writers Conference several years ago and since then I’ve been impressed with the success her author/clients attain under Lisa’s guidance. (If you plan to write a nonfiction book, Lisa is a fabulous book coach.) Here’s her best advice book marketing advice:
One of my favorite tips for book marketing is to create some crazy branding element in your book—and it can riff off a current fad. For example, In The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger, we called our exercises Anger-obics (way back when aerobics was still “a thing”). My friend calls that a “doggy head tilt”—something that sounds kinda cool but you have no idea what it means—and you’re curious.
Anger-obics landed my colleagues and me on PBS-TV, CNN Headline News, ESPN News, WebMD, The front feature of AOL News and in Glamour, Body and Soul Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health and tons more national publicity.
I now encourage participants in my Bring Your Book to Life® Program to find some clever branding for their system or exercise. Monica Strobel, author of The Compliment Quotient came up with “Complimentology” for her system for learning to give authentic compliments. It helped her get TV interviews throughout the country. I suggested she could even catch a celebrity giving a great compliment and awarding them an honorary degree in complimentology.
I love that this strategy is fun, as well as effective.
My other favorite strategy is blogging—and I have a few specific tips that help make blogging particularly effective—and sometimes viral.
If you’re not already blogging, you can start blogging on your own site to get the feel for it. Write engaging posts and invite questions and comments. Fairly quickly, though, I suggest blogging for a national website or news site—Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Forbes, etc. Again, invite comments and also share with friends and colleagues, asking for their help to spread the word.
Spend time coming up with catchy titles. A great title can help your post go viral.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Spend time coming up with catchy titles @CaballoFrances” quote=”Spend time coming up with catchy titles “]
Now, here’s the part where it all comes together—subscribe to news aggregators like the Huffington Post and enter the topics (keywords) you are most interested in writing about. You should get emails in the morning that include posts on such topics. Click on those and add your comments, as well as a link to a recent post of yours that adds value and texture to the subject.
I don’t suggest always commenting with a link to your post, but perhaps one third of the time, or so, and only when relevant. When the post you comment on goes viral, the post you linked to in your comment may well go viral as well—if it’s a well-written post.
This happened for my client Victoria Dunckley, MD, author of Reset Your Child’s Brain. I sent her a post related to her area of expertise (the effects of electronic media on children’s brains) that seemed to have viral potential, after I saw it in my Huffington Post morning newsfeed via email.
When she commented and linked to her post on Psychology Today, her post got an uptick of 20,000 hits due to the viral Facebook activity of the original article, which received more than 1 millions views and over 300,000 likes on Facebook.
That one comment resulted in three media interviews—Scholastic News, a PBS Magazine publication and The Carlat Report, a child psychiatry newsletter, plus a high profile speaking opportunity at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. And that kind of consistent press, online activity and speaking opportunities helps sell books, as well as positions an author for even more opportunities.
As a #1 Amazon Bestselling Author and Creator of the Author-to-Income Training, I naturally invited Dr. Tamara Monosoff to contribute to this post as well. Here are her thoughts:
Most authors don’t take advantage of the most valuable piece of real estate in their book. On the page AFTER the title page and BEFORE the Table of Contents resides the #1 opportunity for suthors to connect with their readers in a personal and immediate manner. This page in your book should be an “Invitation from the Author” with links to valuable free gifts that will genuinely help the reader and is in alignment with your content.
For nonfiction authors this is the ideal place to offer a checklist, blueprint, tips, etc. with links that are connected to opt-in forms to capture the readers name and email even before they purchase your book. The beauty of Amazon’s “look inside” feature, is that your “Invitation from the Author” page will have live links that will direct your readers to helpful information that they will appreciate.
This is one of the fastest ways for readers to get to know and trust you. For fiction authors, the invitation can invite readers to join your Facebook Fan Page or other ways to connect with you. Take advantage of this prime opportunity.
As you know, people are watching more videos today than ever before in history. If authors want to be heard, they must embrace technology in order to reach their audience. At the very least, Authors should have one quick (under two minutes) video introducing their book, explaining in simple terms how the reader will benefit from reading it, and a clear call-to-action at the end.
[clickToTweet tweet=”If you want to be heard, embrace technology @CaballoFrances” quote=”If you want to be heard, embrace technology “]
One of the first things I teach my clients is how to use QR Codes in their printed books. QR Codes linked to the author’s video(s) enable authors to communicate directly with readers about their book, and let’s face it, with 4,500 printed books published each day on Amazon, readers want to “know” the authors whose books they choose to read.
Most people do not leave home without their smart phones so QR Codes enable them to scan and watch your videos on the spot. This is one of the most powerful ways authors can connect with their readers in today’s digital world.
Did you enjoy these marketing tips? I hope so. Please continue the discussion by leaving one of your best book marketing tips in the comments below.
About the Author: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks. She’s written several books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads, Avoid Social Media Time Suck, and Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free here. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences.
My newest book, Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day, is available for sale.
In eleven chapters, I help you:
- understand the new formula for saving time
- learn how to become a more effective and efficient marketer
- maintain quick cheat sheets to vocabulary and hashtags
- learn about the apps that will best help writers save time while using social media.