Sell More Books with Less Marketing

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In a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.

Seth Godin, entrepreneur and marketing innovator

Seth Godin probably didn’t have book marketing in mind when he penned that line, but it is, as my daughter would say a truth fact. Authors are faced with too many choices when it comes to book marketing. There is always someone or something around the corner that promises to sell more books.

Many self-published authors find marketing debilitating. For the most part, it is not a creative task, so that is the first strike. Putting on the marketing hat can feel more like drudgery, and you’d just rather write, right?

[clickToTweet tweet=”For some authors, book marketing is pure drudgery via @CaballoFrances” quote=”For some authors, book marketing is pure drudgery “]

I really believe that most authors, no matter how many books they have published, can reach maximum success with a very basic marketing plan to sell more books and build raving fans. That plan needs to be customized to their own skills, time, budget, resources, and size of backlist. And, most important, it is based on timeless best practices of how to sell.

Please note: The plan to spend less time marketing does not nullify the author who wants to embrace marketing as a creative task and have fun with the challenge. This plan is for those authors who don’t want to approach marketing as a guessing game or an á la carte menu and would rather figure out how to sell more books with a minimal amount of marketing. It can be done.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Most authors can reach maximum success via @CaballoFrances” quote=”Most authors can reach maximum success”]

Sell More Books with Less Marketing-2Step One: Identify Your Essential Goals

The first step in selling more books with less marketing is to identify the less marketing part. So I’m going to give you three essential goals that can guide your marketing plan. We’ll follow these with three essential components or tools you’ll need to carry out those goals. If done well, you won’t need anything else.

Three Goals to Rule It All

Why do authors need book marketing goals anyway? If you write a good book, won’t it just sell itself? Not really. In the last 30 days, there were more than 95,000 new books released on Kindle eBooks. How do you expect your book to stand out in a sea of new titles? Everything you do in book marketing should be guided by one of these three goals: discovery, sales, and building loyalty.

  • Discovery: How will new readers find your books? Search online bookstores? Read review blogs? Recommendation from a friend on Facebook? Discovery is like getting introduced to new people at a party. Whether or not they remember you depends on the connection of that first meeting. Discovery strategies aimed at your target audience should get you on their radar.
  • Sales: Get readers to click on the buy button. Once readers have made a decision to buy one of your books, what is going to get them to click? A link to a perma-free book that puts them on your email list? A BookBub ad? A featured book in the shopping section of your Facebook page? A website cover photo of your latest book on sale with a buy button embedded? The strategies involved in this goal have to do with presenting buying opportunities where readers are likely to buy. Make buying easy.
  • Building loyalty: Build raving fans who will continue to buy your books and share them with others. Generosity builds loyalty. Give your fans more value than you ask for in return and they will be glad to buy your books.

The Only Three Tools You Need to Succeed

Each of the three tools is a required element in your marketing plan. That doesn’t mean you can never have more than three, just that you should never have less.

  1. You Need a Professional Website

When people want information, they go online. Whether it’s a laptop or a phone, they go to Google. The internet has allowed us to find out literally anything we want to know with a few keystrokes. Without a website, your business is a second-class citizen.

 The key elements your professional website needs:

  • A domain name that is your author name. If you can’t get your own name for a domain, try adding “writes” or “books” to the domain.
  • Email Capture. Use your website to gather email addresses with sign-up forms.
  • Responsive Design. This is a term that means your website view will be optimized for whatever device the visitor is on, such as a phone, tablet, or laptop. Nonresponsive websites are often disconcerting on mobile phones.
  • Ample Hosting Space. Many free websites will not allow you to host or embed video or large files because of storage constraints. That may not be a deal breaker for you but just be aware that free sites have limited storage. Make sure you know the limits up front.
  • Design Options. When you choose a “theme” or built-in design for your website, make sure it has all the options you need and is easy to navigate for your readers.
  1. You Need an Email Marketing System

Of the three necessary marketing tools for authors, none has evolved more in the last five years than email marketing. It has grown from a tool just for chatty newsletters to a sophisticated platform capable of growing audiences, selling boatloads of books, and deepening reader loyalty quickly. Let’s consider some of the data:

  • Automated email messages, such as those sent in a follow-up sequence, average 70 percent higher open rates and 152 percent higher click-through rates than “business as usual” marketing messages (Epsilon Email Institute).
  • You are six times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet (Campaign Monitor).
  • Email subscribers are three times more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources (Quick Sprout).

[clickToTweet tweet=”Of the 3 necessary marketing tools for authors, none has evolved more than email marketing” quote=”Of the 3 necessary marketing tools for authors, none has evolved more than email marketing”]

Today’s successful email marketing has to include automation. That means you need an email program that can set up an autoresponder (or welcome) sequence that automatically goes out at scheduled intervals to turn new subscribers into engaged fans in a short period.

  1. You Only Need One Primary Social Media Channel

Today, learning how to sell more books with social media involves pulling back, not widening out. The secret is designating one primary channel to engage with your readers and develop the rest as outposts where you redirect potential readers to your primary channel to engage.

This method of primary and outpost channels allows you to spend less time on social media while getting better engagement. Many authors are so stressed out by the pressure to be everywhere that they are failing to build relationships anywhere. Making friends takes time.

What is a Primary Channel?

Your primary channel is the social media network or site where you personally engage with your readers. This is where you answer their questions, have conversations, post interesting and valuable content for them to interact with, run giveaways, gather email addresses, and earn the right to sell your books.

The rest of the social media channels are outposts—places where you have a presence that is updated when you are launching a book or running a short-term campaign, but not where you post to engage with fans. Outposts are channels where you redirect readers to the primary channel where they can connect with you personally and buy your books.

Some authors find this disconcerting after years of being told to be marketing everywhere. They fear they will be missing people. But the truth is that although you might be able to find fans everywhere, you don’t need to engage with them everywhere.

Five Measures

When it comes to designating a primary social media channel, look for a place where you can build loyal fans and sell more books. When deciding on your primary social media channel, you want to find the best mix of five measures:

  1. Find the best fit for your reader/audience demographics. You have to do some audience research and find out which channels target your readers. Look at age and gender for starters.
  2. Look for the channel with the best overall global numbers. The answer to this is currently Facebook. A whopping 79 percent of people on the internet age 18 and older use Facebook, according to Pew Internet Research.
  3. Look for the channel with the best commerce tools or opportunities to buy a product without having to leave the platform. Again, the answer to this one currently is Facebook. No other platform offers the variety of applications for converting leads, including buying your book, signing up for your email list, and other opt-in actions, without ever leaving the page.
  4. Look for the channel that is a good match for your genre. The difference between this measure and number one is that every channel that matches your demographic might not be a good match for your genre. For instance, if you’re a fiction writer, LinkedIn may fit your reader demographic by age and gender, but in reality it’s a worthless channel for fiction authors.
  5. Look for the channel with the best ability to help new readers find you (discovery) and then convert them to a sale. According to research by AOL Platforms/Converto, it is YouTube first, Facebook second. The other channels conversion percentages that are very low in comparison.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Find the best fit for your reader/audience demographics @CaballoFrances” quote=”Find the best fit for your reader/audience demographics”]

My final advice before you dig in: Don’t give in to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Think about your return-on-time-investment on every channel you’re thinking of using. A number of sales you will get against the amount of time it takes to develop engagement is a key factor. Remember, less time marketing means more time to write.

Author of this post: Chris Syme is a 20-year veteran of the communications industry and is the principal of the award-winning CKSyme Media Group. She is a frequent speaker on the national stage and the author of three books on book marketing. Her new book, The Newbie’s Guide To Sell More Books With Less Marketing is on preorder until June 10 for $0.99. The book also includes an online class. You can follow her on Twitter @cksyme and get more tips on her  blog for authors here. Chris also co-hosts the popular Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast.

Frances CaballoAuthor of this blogFrances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference. In addition, she’s a contributing writer at, and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks. She’s written several social media books including the 2nd edition of Social Media Just for Writers and The Author’s Guide to Goodreads. 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 writers’ conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.

Practical tips for marketing your books on the social web

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