What lies behind the incredible success of some of the most highly recognized independent authors? You know, the people like J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking who we read about in blogs.
The answer is marketing.
That is, communicating the right message about their books to the right audience, through the right media, and over the right period of time.
Sure, these authors have a lot of other things going for them, but you can’t discount all the time and effort they put into spreading the word about their books, growing their brands, and converting readers into loyal fans.
First and foremost, being a successful writer and author takes courage. If you are too scared to put your book out there into the marketplace and actually advertise or promote it, then there is absolutely no point in writing one.
But for those of you that are looking to experience the same success as those authors above, it’s time to get to the basics of book marketing.
Generally speaking, there are two ways to approach independent self-publishing:
- You write the book, perhaps spending years doing so. You hire an editor and polish the manuscript as best you can. When it’s done, you produce the book and then ask the question, “How do I sell this book?” (This option doesn’t always show to be successful)
- You have the idea for the book. You find ways to test the idea to see if there is a market for it. You use the feedback you receive to shape the book to readers desires, and then produce the book which they have essentially requested. (This option is most recommended)
Most self-published authors, because they are motivated by passion, take option #1. You can market either kind of book, but your results may vary.
With option #1, you’re counting on determination (and a little luck) to make your book interesting, marketable, and profitable to people.
If you’re publishing and selling a book you already know your readers want, you’ve taken option #2. Whichever path you’ve chosen, book marketing is paramount to helping you reach the goals you have set for your book.
Let’s take a closer look at the basics.
Book Marketing as We See it Today
Book marketing is a big topic these days, so to make it more approachable, let’s break it down into areas we can look at individually.
When reviewing these areas altogether, you should have a complete look at what’s involved in successfully marketing your book and allowing it to reach its full potential.
Having said that, the absolute first and most important element of all book marketing is… the book itself.
Why Do Books Sell?
There is absolutely no way of denying a good quality physical book. Quality products pay back marketing efforts 10 fold because once other people learn about and interact with a product, they are much more likely to buy it and recommend it to others.
In other words, potential readers really do judge a book by it’s cover. You could have the most incredible and useful content in your book, but it doesn’t really matter (at least not yet) if your potential reader can’t get past the cover.
There are lots of different kinds of books, and we can point to a few clear reasons why some books sell better than others:
- It has unique information that’s in demand, but can’t be found anywhere else
- It solves a problem that many people have. or that are going through
- The story is compelling and/or entertaining
- The author is a celebrity
- The book is already selling and people start telling others about the book
This last bullet point is the ultimate goal of our marketing efforts. You cannot force people to buy your book, no matter how much you spend on advertising, or how many times you appear on television shows or on the radio.
A friend who tells you that you just “have to read it” is far more influential and convincing.
Keep in mind that you also need to make completely sure that there absolutely no errors or defects in your book before launching it , because a book that’s poorly edited, hard to read or awkward to handle is going to have significant obstacles finding a wide readership.
For this reason, make sure your book conforms to generally accepted editing and design standards so you don’t handicap your own marketing efforts.
Okay, let’s say you’ve done your research and put together a book you know people will want. It’s been edited and designed flawlessly , and you’re ready to go. What’s next?
Marketing vs. Selling
First, it is important to understand the difference between marketing and selling — two aspects which are often confused by new independent authors.
Selling is a transactional activity. In other words, one person exchanges money to acquire a product from another. That’s not what marketing is about, and knowing that, and understanding that, will make you a much more successful author, as well as marketer.
Moreover, as you understand this you’ll realize that you don’t actually have to sell your book at all. Your duty as an author is to market the book.
Marketing is a communicational activity. In other words, it is the process of taking the ideas you’ve put into your book, and communicating those ideas, as well as your own passion for the subject, to as many people who might be interested in hearing and reading about those ideas.
Now, with that said, how do you communicate about your book? This is the basis of your marketing efforts, so it makes sense to pay attention to the parameters of your marketing. For instance:
- Identify who your target market (or ideal reader) is. Who will respond to the subject you communicate in your book?
- Speak to those people in the language/terminology they’re used to using on this subject.
- Elaborate on how your approach to this subject might benefit them. Communicate how they will be informed, entertained, or educated by your perspective and/or expertise of the subject.
- Finally, demonstrate the results by showing how these ideas have changed your own approach to the subject, or how they have affected others (testimonials and case studies).
Why You Need a Marketing Plan
To some authors, this part sounds like going in for dental surgery. And to others it’s the reason they wrote their book in the first place.
Even if you’re not particularly looking forward to working on your book’s marketing plan, spend some time thinking about these important points. You’ll be glad you did.
First, understand niche-marketing. Most self-published books that sell well are in niche-markets. That is, they may be of interest to only a small segment of the book-buying public. But within that specific niche they are authoritative, influential, or groundbreaking in some way.
Remember this phrase: “If you try to please everyone you will end up pleasing no one.” Focus your attention onto your niche-market, and then let the market itself spread your message to other markets.
Understanding the specific niche in which you are trying to market your book to is critical for creating your marketing plan.
For instance, when doing this you’ll know where the readers interested in your book’s subject matter tend to congregate (online or off), as well as what other kinds of books they buy, or what motivates them to want to learn more about your particular topic.
These elements will form the basis of your book marketing plan, and give you a step-by-step set of activities that you’ll complete to reach the greatest number of people with your message.
Remember that your message is not, “Hey, I just published a new book, buy it.” Your message is the same reason you wrote the book.
In other words, more like saying, “Hey, did you know that there are five rules that every successful writer follows? If you’re interested in that kind of stuff, you may enjoy my book.”
Also, a big part of your marketing plan is likely to involve social media, and there are great reasons for that. Social media is the easiest, fastest, cheapest place to create a sense of intrigue for your book.
It’s true, social media is constantly changing as far as its features (as well as the messaging it allows to go out), yet it is consistently a way for people to communicate and network; and that will only increase overtime.
Setting Book Marketing Goals
As with most things in life, if you have no idea where you’re going, you’ll be unlikely to know when — or whether — you’ve arrived. That’s why setting goals are so important.
A key part of book marketing is establishing realistic, attainable, and exciting goals. What are your goals? They might be as diverse as:
- Sales targets for a specific number of books sold
- Readership, where sales are less important than spreading your message
- Establishing authority in your field
- Creating a revenue stream, such as blogging
- Persuading others to take action on a social or environmental issue
With each of these goals, you can measure the effects of your marketing efforts to track your progress.
Next, you’ll need to understand how well you are meeting your book marketing goals and objectives.
In each of the types of goals I’ve listed above, there’s a way to track your results. For instance:
- For sales, use the reports you get from retailers or distributors and keep a spreadsheet of results.
- For readership, you can send readers to a website or blog for additional information or interaction and use the analytics provided by the site to measure traffic.
- For authority, look at whether other people start to quote you and mention your ideas, how often your blog or Twitter posts are forwarded by others, and whether you start to get inquiries from people who want to partner with you to use your new authority for mutual advantage.
- For revenue goals, keep track of the profit from your book. You may have acquired expenses in getting your book to market, and by tracking this, you’ll know exactly when your book is bringing in significant return on your investment. Plus, you can also track the revenue and income you are making from your blog’s monetizing efforts.
- For persuasive goals, you can track membership numbers or levels of engagement with your ideas as expressed by blog comments, Twitter re-tweets, and the number of subscribers who sign up to join your mailing list and receive more information from you.
Other Book Marketing Options
As you progress with your book marketing activities, you can start to explore even more ways to make your book marketing efforts more effective. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- PR as a Marketing Tool: Strategically using press releases and other media communications can supercharge your other marketing efforts and can be surprisingly affordable, or even free.
- Target Market Demographics: Understanding the dynamics of the audience you’re trying to reach can help create offers or marketing campaigns aimed at one segment or another of the total target market of your book.
- Tie-ins as Marketing Leverage: Many nonfiction books have potential tie-ins to companies or products. Think in terms of affiliate or sponsorship relationships.
How to Create Your Long-Term Book Marketing Plan
Being a successful independent self-published author means creating a long-term game plan. Many marketing efforts take months or years to come to fruition, and as you mature as an independent self-published author, you’ll start to think of other books you could write and produce or publish to further engage your current readership.
Here are some of the strategies you can put in place that could provide a huge pay off down the road:
- Build a Top Leaders List: It’s never too soon to start building a list of media, editors, influencers, networkers, other writers and authors, or any other top leaders you might think of in your field. Remember: Your net-worth is highly dependent upon your network.
- Create and Nurture Relationships: It’s one thing to make a list of top leaders and influencers you would like to connect with, it’s a whole other thing when you decide to make the time to actually interact with other experts in your field, or engage in a blogging outreach, or actually nurture a relationship with book reviewers.
- Build Your Brand: Your brand is how other people view and relate to you. Building your expertise, authority, and influence in your specific niche is a classic long-term strategy.
- Gather and Continue to Entertain or Inform Your Audience: As you continue to publish and market your books your audience will continue to grow over time, providing a larger and larger platform for all of your future books.
As you do these things, and as the launch of your book approaches, you’ll be miles ahead in starting to advertise or market for it.
Moreover, communicating with your readers, and actually listening to the responses you get (remember: you hear with your ears, but you listen with you heart), improving your products, and networking within your area of expertise will soon be part of your ultimate book marketing system or machine. And you’ll reap the success that comes with intelligent book marketing communications and efforts.
In closing, I want to ask you all a question. Would you all be interested in me writing a book specifically about book marketing — such as, “The Ultimate Book Marketing Plan for Self-Published Authors.”
If so, let me know in the comments below.
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Remember J.K Rolling’s original “Harry Potter” pitch was rejected at least 12 times before she set out to self-publish…
William Ballard is one of the most sought-after business and leadership coaches in the world. As founder and CEO of William Ballard Enterprise, his core business development and leadership programs are designed to be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their business, their lives, and the world. To learn more about how to get back to your first love as a writer again, subscribe to William’s free business insider newsletter.