Penny C. Sansevieri
If you’ve ever thought that the publishing industry is tough to figure out, you’re not alone. In fact, I once had an author tell me that getting into publishing is sort of like building a house without any plans. There’s a lot of information out there, but it can be overwhelming or even confusing, and certainly ever-changing. It may seem simplest to jump right in with both feet, just to start somewhere. This often comes with a price. The good news is that although the challenges are real, they’re relatively easy to overcome. So in order to make the most of your efforts in book marketing, here are some things you must start doing differently this year!
1. Do Proper Market Research
First things first – it’s time to decide if there’s a market for your book. And, you need to be honest with yourself. If you’re writing a romance novel, then the answer is probably yes, but if you are writing something vastly different – let’s say a self-help book for guys, you may want to reconsider. Why? Because 93% of self-help is written for women.
And, you should go with your skillset. You may have dreamed of writing the next great American novel, but if you have a knack for writing sexy erotica – go with it! Next, be honest with yourself about who will really buy your book so you can start figuring out the best places and avenues to reach them. Don’t be afraid to narrow your audience to a core group. It’s tempting to want to reach everyone, but it’s not realistic.
2. Build Your Tribe
We hear this a lot: build your mailing list, grow your fans on social media! But what does that really mean? This big statement and action can seem a bit daunting, so let me break this down for you. What this really comes down to is you need to own your fans, by this I mean get to know them and engage with them. We’re getting to the point where any consumer has thousands upon thousands of choices on Amazon and while it’s great to optimize that page, that alone won’t make the sale. So do whatever you have to build your mailing list. I’ve talked before about having a letter in the back of your book, and finding ways to get fans from your book, into your inbox. Another way is to start an exclusive group on Facebook where you offer exclusive content, prizes, etc. Building your fan-tribe will be enormously important as you continue to market your book.
3. Consider Joint Promotions
More and more I’m seeing authors collaborate on promotional efforts. First it was via bundled book sets, now I’m seeing this in other campaigns. We’re actually in the process of developing a number of collaborative campaigns – so several authors of the same genre are bundled in one, powerful campaign. This is a way of helping consumers “find their next favorite author” but there’s also power in numbers. So several authors together, marketing collectively and then to their core audience is a great way to gain more steam than going it alone.
4. Use A Professional Cover Designer and Copy Editor
Two of the biggest book killers for books are bad covers and bad book descriptions. The solution to this is easy – hire a professional! There are lots of great referrals out there, so a little research will go a long way.
If you’re looking at your book cover and aren’t sure if it’s good, take a look at some of the top books in your genre. The similarities will give you insight as to what appeals to your market. Cover design is very psychological, and it’s far more important than honoring a friend’s artwork. Don’t make me give the lecture on using Word to do your design, or having someone hand-draw your cover art.
When you’re ready to tackle your book description, keep in mind that just because you can write an amazing story does not mean you can write good sales copy. It’s really apples and oranges, so don’t take it personally. You also have to realize we’re often too close to our work to write compelling copy, so enlisting the help of a professional comes with the added bonus of an unbiased view of your work and what you have to offer potential readers.
As you prepare to start looking for someone to help you write copy, it’s important to find someone who has specifically worked with books and book copy. Yes, you might know someone in marketing that’s a great copy writer, but someone who works in publishing knows the importance of using key words in your genre and should also be on top of what’s working for bestselling books, what readers respond to. Again, be sure to ask about fees, how many edits you get, etc.
Be prepared to provide your copy person with some key information: Who is your buyer? What makes your story or approach to topic unique? What do you want people to take away from the book? Don’t expect the person writing your book description to read your book cover to cover – they will depend on you for the Cliff’s Notes.
5. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity
Occasionally I work with authors who turn down an interview opportunity, guest blog post or podcast interview. The reason? They aren’t sure that the site is big enough to make them famous. This always baffles me. Do you know how Chicken Soup for the Soul got to be such a huge, household name? By doing every single interview, regardless of size or hour (sometimes a radio interview at 3am). You are not too good for anything. Period. As a rule, the most successful authors take advantage of every opportunity for exposure that they come across. That means every guest blog post, every review request, every interview. Mail the book. Write the article. Do the interview. And, big media won’t take chances on things that won’t improve their ratings or viewer/listener/readership. So first, take advantage of the smaller opportunities, because they’ll build on one another to create a buzz, and that is what will help garner big attention.
When you’re pitching media, don’t consider it one and done. Do the follow up. When something comes up in the news or popular culture that you can tie into your book, re-pitch them using the new angle. Even smaller regional media is inundated with offers, so this is not an area to skimp on time.
Be sure you’re offering something unique. What makes your book special? Why is it different than the other 10 books they already own in your genre or topic? Whoa, that’s sobering, right? If you want to secure an interview, give them topic/discussion ideas. The less work you make them do to say ‘yes’ the better your chances.
6. Consistently Run eBook Promotions
People love sales year round. While it’s normal to question discount promotions after spending your time and hard-earned money to get the book to market, you can’t beat the exposure you’ll get from running a limited time discounted promotion. It’s a proven strategy that works time and again to get your book in front of people who might not otherwise consider it. And remember a discount doesn’t have to mean free. You can discount your book to $.99 or $1.99 and still get a ton of people to download it, especially if you ask your current fan base and author friends to help spread the word
In terms of the “how,” there are lots of eBook promotion sites out there. Some are paid, some are free, all have rules. Take the time to develop a list of go-to sites you can use that fit your needs and flexibility with pricing requirements, and create a calendar for yourself that ensures you’re doing these at least a few times a year.
7. Start Writing Your Next Book
So you just published a book? Great! It’s time to get started on your next book. First, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Although it’s not impossible to retire off your first book, it also isn’t likely. Plus, this goes back to building your tribe. If readers know you’re a sure thing, and they see that you’re working on the next book, they’ll probably become long-term fans.
And, since you’re also going to be spending time marketing your new book, be sure to schedule in writing time. Write every day or at least every week, no excuses. If this is important to you, and you’re serious about your success as an author, you will make it a priority like your health, or your best friend, or time with your kids. It’s that important.
Also, your next release doesn’t have to be a full-length book – novellas or shorter books (50-75) pages are doing really well as eBooks. So definitely consider adding shorter books as in-between titles to keep building your shelf.
Bonus Tip: Engage in Your Own Success
I have a special skill: I can walk into a room of300+ authors and pick out the ones who are going to be successful. How can I tell? I see the authors who carry business cards or bookmarks with them to every event. They want to learn, they engage other authors, and ask questions to find out what’s working and what isn’t. And, they spend any spare time to do something to further their success, even if it’s really small. They also know that they can’t buy their way into a bestseller. Spending tons of money on a publicity firm will have very lackluster results if you have zero interest in playing a leading role in your own success. You can pay people to do the heavy lifting, but no one will have the passion for your book that you do, so plan to do your part even when you hire someone. And play to your strengths – if you’re social, share your book with people everywhere you go. If you’re good online, pitch bloggers for reviews and guest posts. Get creative, and find something you can do every day, no matter how small.
The ultimate take away here, is that indie authors have a huge role in their own success. And while you can jump into the deep end of the ocean and start swimming, it’s my goal to empower you to spend minimal time just treading water. If you’ve made some mistakes with your first book (or books), then you can learn from them moving forward. Being an author comes with a lot of time and effort without a lot of guarantees. But, we never know where that one breakthrough opportunity will present itself, and it will never happen by sitting around and waiting for success to find you. You were inspired to create something, don’t let that fire die out! Let’s make 2017 into your year.
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com. To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to: mailto:email@example.com
Top photo credit: JaneB13 - Pixabay
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Penny, great guide for starting out 2017! I think building your tribe of community support as well as a fan base is so important too. I know I wouldn't be where I am without a sustained network of folks across the industry. You also bring up a key point too - that we as authors must continue to keep learning, as our industry is a fluid one.
Thanks, Donna! Glad you liked the piece. Sounds like you're doing all the right things! Good luck to you!
Great information! Thank you!
Great tips, Penny - I especially use #3.
But I have to respectfully disagree with you on #6. When it began, it was wonderful, but I think the time for that is mostly past. When everyone's doing it, it's not effective.
Plus, we're educating the readers that our books aren't worth the normal price. And savvy readers have figured out that 'free' is often worth the price you paid for it. IMHO.
I agree, Laura. Having to juggle pricing across all platforms becomes a major time suck and unless you get into the 'big' newsletter sites, it's not as effective as it used to be. I keep my first book in a series priced at 99 cents as a loss leader.
Kobo has been a godsend with promotion deals for authors who publish through KWL where THEY discount the book via a coupon code and you don't have to mess with changing it elsewhere. Plus they have a much larger reach than I do.
I'm also part of an author coop - six of us band together at Booklover's Bench and help each other with promotions.
Laura hi - so I would respectfully disagree and here's why: eBook rotation is always a great idea AND what if you ran this on a book that's $2.99 and did not discount it? I have been trying this and it's done quite well. it's not always about discounts, but keeping it top of mind - it's that repetitive nature of seeing a book over and over again!
Excellent post. I especially love #4. As a professional copywriter for a book publisher I know you are spot on. Cover designers and copywriters know what they are doing. Trust them. They want to sell your book as much as you do!
Great article, Penny. Beyond a quality book, being successful is really about getting out there, taking advantage of opportunities, and having a willingness to grow and learn. I do agree with Laura on #6 though. Sales and promotions are fine occasionally, but not all the time or it does encourage devaluation. If Readers get used to my books being on sale often, why buy them at regular price? Besides, I know the value of my work, and I believe in it. So Instead I choose a price point that is affordable for all. 🙂 that's just me, of course! What is right for me and the type of books I write may not work for others.
So I hear what you are saying, but I just replied on this to Laura Drake - what if you ran ads on NOT discounted books, but books that had lowish price point, like $2.99 - we've been doing this with some really good success!
Great tips, Penny. Thanks.
This is a great post! Everything is so true, especially this part: "You are not too good for anything. Period." That is sobering but it's blatant honesty.
Thanks for the tips and reminders. For those of us not yet published but getting close, we need to remember these golden nuggets of advice if we're going to keep going.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Thank you - I am so glad you liked this AND the brutal honesty 🙂
Everyone is poo-pooing #6, but I think she is right...WITH A GREAT BIG CAVEAT: This is really only super effective if you do it with ONE book only. This works best with a series starter. You make it free or discount it and run book-bub ads (free works the best) in an effort to pull readers into the series. THAT works freaking wonders!
If you don't have series, you can run discount promotions on ONE book in an effort to introduce readers to you as an author. That isn't quite as effective, and really I wouldn't do that more than twice in a year. Perhaps a special occasion (like your birthday or some such fun thing you can tie in).
Something that is super effective is offering one book, either a series starter or a standalone, 100% free for your newsletter subscribers. That adds to your tribe and can hook new fans.
June, I love that! Free to newsletter subscribers. Brilliant.
Yep, that's why I make the tiny bucks! LOL!
June, I completely love this idea!!
Penny, thank you for a very cool post -- well thought out and full of good information. I especially liked that you mentioned novellas, since I have just completed the second of a projected set of three. They're in editing now (yes, I hired a pro after a fan emailed "Love the book! But did you know about these typos?") and will be available soon.
Thanks, Penny. Very helpful post and tips. Pinned & shared. 🙂
Thank you so much!! So glad you enjoyed the post
Building the tribe is what I would consider the most difficult. In this age of technology, there aren't many faces, and as replaced with icons. It makes it more difficult to engage the reader. Sure, we have access to more people [icons], but if I can entice them that first time, they vanish into cyberspace, which is more vast by far than just walking out of a room.
Glynis hi there - you are SO right, it is hard --- but one thing I've found it one on one communication with readers is SO important and SO key. It's not the same as meeting someone for coffee.... but it's a good step!
I agree with Glynis. Building my tribe is my sticking point. But I know it must be done and I'm grateful for the tips, Penny.
These are great tips. I might add "get creative." A book marketing strategy that worked brilliantly for a boatload of authors a year ago might now be an over-used strategy. Be willing to try new ideas in addition to what's worked for others, so you're not reliant on one strategy (which goes along with your point, Penny, of not turning down blog opportunities). One way to come up with creative ideas is to go back to who your readers are (or even specific niche readers as a portion of your readership) and where they hang out online and offline. How can you engage them in new ways?
great advice, lots to think aboit
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