People talk about book marketing like there are a million different things to do. Or like it’s some unsolvable mystery. Nobody “gets” why some books take off and others fail.
The reason it seems confusing is that most people are marketing books that aren’t really very interesting. If you’re marketing memoir or literary fiction, it will harder to get people excited about your book – especially if you’ve chosen not to write a story, with a hero, and antagonists, and conflict, and resolution.
If you don’t give readers a story, you’re making them work too hard to appreciate your book. But if you have a story that is entertaining for a specific group of readers, book marketing isn’t that hard. It goes like this:
1 Design and publish
Your product has to look good. The other reason people think book marketing is hard, is that they can’t get anyone to open their book, or even take a second to read their book description, because the amateur design isn’t work. The cover is what makes them want to read the book. The description is what gives them confidence to buy it. If you don’t have a beautiful, engaging cover, the majority of your book marketing efforts will fail.
2 Soft Launch to get reviews
Your book needs to be published before you can get book reviews. People can’t review a book on pre-order (unless its a special arrangement with a major publisher). You need at least 10 reviews before you do any book marketing. That means you need a group of people willing to review your book early, OR you need to giveaway a lot of free copies and hope some lead to reviews.
3 Contest for email signups
Getting those early reviews will be much easier if you’ve already built up an email list. So technically, this should have been done earlier, but most authors are actually at this stage already: they’ve designed and published, but still don’t have 10 reviews and are stuck. You need a couple thing to build a list:
- A website, with a landing page/sign up offer
- A prize or something that appeals only to your target readers
The easiest thing to do is buy and giveaway 10 bestselling books in your genre. Buy hardbacks, they have more value. Run a rafflecopter contest or something; people sign up to win the books. These are people interested in those books so they should be interested in your book as well, because it’s in the same genre.
If the people interested in the bestselling books in your genre don’t like your book, you have a packaging or product problem. Either it isn’t attractive enough, or the writing/story isn’t good enough. You’ll need to test which problem you have, and fix it.
4 Guest posting
Besides a contest, you can also be posting guest articles on other blogs where your readers are. Find out where they are, and offer to guest post. Do that at least 10 times. Try to have some content on 10 of the biggest niche-specific book genre sites on the internet. At the end of your article you’ll have a short description of the book and a link back to your site (the articles won’t be about you or your book, they will be about other things that are interesting and matter to your target readers. It will be much easier to drive signups if you say “Sign up to reserve your free copy,” and have a beautiful looking book cover, and stellar book description. You could have these going several weeks before launch, but I like to have a lot of content during the same week of launch. You’re going to maximum sales/downloads in a short amount of time.
5 Get those reviews
Seriously. You need at least 10. Before you start pitching strangers or cold-calling. You’ll lose a ton of your hard work and effort. Make sure the cover and description is good enough. Build up your list and ask them for reviews. If you’re still stuck, find 25 authors in your genre and ask to trade editorial reviews or blurbs (Amazon removes ‘traded’ reviews, but it’s fine to trade with other authors and post them into the book description). You should be doing that anyway. It helps both of you. Asking is sometimes tough, so you can go first: review 25 other books in your genre. It may be more effective to review books that aren’t selling well or don’t have many reviews, by authors who are stuck in the same place.
Post all those reviews on your blog. Then post 25 reviews of bestselling books in your genre. It’s easy, and it’s very targeted, genre-specific content that is going to bring you traffic and tell Google what your site is about. Yes, it means you’ll have to buy and read some books in your genre. A lot of them. If you haven’t been doing that, shame on you. How can you hope to give readers a book they’ll enjoy if you haven’t been paying attention to what they like?
After you post the reviews, email the authors and say you’ve reviewed the book, and would they consider giving you a blurb or editorial review for your own book.
6 The Book Launch
Let’s assume that you got your 10 reviews somehow. Great, now we can step it up to a big book launch. First, go on Amazon and find those bestselling books. See who reviewed them. Pull out the website or contact info on each reviewer if it’s there. It won’t be there on everybody, but will be on some. Do that for 5 or 10 reviews and you should have a list of over 100 book reviewers. Contact them and say “I saw you reviewed X, I’m hoping you’ll review my similar book, Y.” You’ll have more success if you take a minute to look around their blog and get to know them, and make it personal.
You can’t ask reviews to buy your book and then review it, so you need to make it available for free. You could send them the book directly. I will just do this during my free launch.
7 The Free Campaign
Giving away free books makes authors angry and skeptical. But most mainstream, bestselling books giveaway THOUSANDS of copies – and real copies, too; hardbacks. All you need to giveaway is the ebook, which costs you nothing. And since most big publishers still aren’t doing this, if you’re self-publishing the free campaign is the Ace up your sleeve; the one trick they can’t match us on. But you have to do it well.
Get your ten reviews. Email your hundred reviewers. Email your mailing list that you’ve built up with your contests and content. Tell everybody the book is free. Then post your free book on all the big book sites; I use EbookBooster or a Fiverr Gig to get my book listed everywhere. You need to do this a couple weeks before your dates, and you already need at least 5 reviews or they won’t share your book.
A good free campaign will give you at least 1000 downloads. I’d shoot for at least 5000.
Those are readers who may be interested in the book; if you asked them nicely in the front and back of your book, they might review it. That should get you up to 25 or 50 reviews.
If you don’t want to have your book in KDP Select, you can put your book out on Smashwords or Draft2Digital as well, and set the price to zero, and then get Amazon to price match. But it can take a couple days for the price to filter through all the retailers.
The free campaign is not about book sales; it’s about exposure and visibility. You want to hit #1 in your category under the “Free” section.
8 The 99 Cent Campaign
The 99 Cent Campaign also isn’t about money; it’s about hitting #1 in the paid section. So you need a lot of downloads. You can do all the same things for the 99 Cent Campaign (list in Ebook Booster, etc). But often it also takes a bit of advertising. I may use advertising for the free campaign too.
The trick is to find non-competitive keywords. This will depend on your genre, but in general, pick author names and book names that are similar to your book. If your book is “Hunger Games meets Jaws” then you’d market to people who liked those two things.
Then make sure to use the headline, “Hunger Games meets Jaws” in the ad. That ad will speak directly, specifically, to those people.
9 Keep your readers
If you’ve done a proper book launch and put your book in front of the right people, it should keep selling. I like to get 100 reviews and then basically leave it. In the back of your book you’ve had them sign up for something free, so you can get their email. Now when you launch another book, you can contact them directly.
And you’re done.
“Wait, what? That’s not book marketing!” You cry. But mostly, that’s it. Book marketing is putting your book in front of readers who will like it and remove barriers of resistance (price, lack of reviews, ugly cover, etc.)
If none of that worked at all, your book launch didn’t get enough downloads, you still don’t have any reviews, then there’s a problem with your book, or cover, or sales page. FIX IT, then try it again. Don’t start wasting money on all those Twitter Blasts or billboards. Don’t think that MORE reach is the problem.
BONUS – how to scale
If you send 100 people to your Amazon page and nobody buys, you have a problem.
If you send 100 people and 10 people buy, then great! Let’s say you make $1 per sale. That’s $10. Hopefully it only cost you $5 to reach those 100 people. So go back and spend $50. Use 10 different ads. See which one converts best. Use that one. If you make all your money back, double down again.
Advertising is an easy way to stay in front of new readers. But the other easy and free way, is by blogging, and building an email list.
What about Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?
Not effective – those channels are to share great content and get people to like you and trust you. It’s NOT the place to be talking about how great your books are, like ever. So don’t do it. If you don’t want to be on social media, skip it. BUT it is extremely important to be building relationships with other authors in your genre, and Twitter/Facebook is a non-threatening way to get in front of them casually and interact with them so they know who you are. Cold emails to strangers are unlikely to be successful.
If you aren’t doing these 9 easy steps, but are doing other crazy and fun things, my guess is they aren’t going to work so well. Read the other articles on this site to find out why.