There are tens of thousands of authors trying to promote their books.
That’s a lot of competition. Some of them have huge platforms and big budgets. Others don’t even have a blog yet (maybe that’s you). And there are so many moving pieces, and changing factors.
- How do you get the book in front of people?
- How do you convince them to buy it – and then leave a review?
- Should you use KDP Select, or shun Amazon altogether and sell direct?
- How do you get more traffic to your site?
- How do you get people to sign up for you email list (and then what happens?)
I’ve been learning a lot about this stuff over the past several years. I started with a website for my oil paintings; then a blog about philosophy; then an editing company and some other things.
One of the major breakthroughs I had, which I discuss a lot on www.creativindie.com, is that it’s really hard to promote yourself, sell yourself, or get anybody to care about what you’re doing. But it’s really easy to get attention and followers when you are helping others achieve their goals.
That’s the main point behind Book Marketing is Dead (I hope you picked up a copy of that, it’s free on my website). To be a successful author, you don’t really need to do a bunch of traditional marketing or promotion. You shouldn’t be telling everybody about your book all the time or trying to get people to buy it. You should be getting people to know, like and trust you – and the secret to getting people to like you, is to like them.
You’ve got to care about other people and be interested in them. You’ve got to want to interact with your readers. You can’t get total strangers to do something online, unless what you’re offering is free, easy or extremely valuable.
At the same time, you need to become more of a story. Publishing your book isn’t news; you need to make your book an exciting event, and get others invested in its success by letting them participate in its story.
Other things matter of course, like keywords and categories and your website or landing page, but those are things that rapidly evolve. Building your author platform and changing the way you interact online is always a safe bet for long-term success. Personally, I’m still doing a lot of things wrong, and I don’t have enough books to make a full-time living from writing (yet – but I’m getting there). But I do add a few thousand people to my email lists every month, and I try to help them out as much as I can.
I’m writing a book on Guerrilla Book Marketing, but I won’t publish it until I have some major results (like a 10K book launch). I’ll also be putting out a lot of videos about book marketing and building your author platform.
But in the meantime, here’s a summary of the things you need to get started on.
My top 10 tips for book marketing.
1. Remove barriers to resistance (price, design, social trust).
There are two ways to get people to buy: increase desire to overcome resistance, or remove the resistance. If you have hundreds of reviews (or just a few from famous people), a stellar website with amazing design, powerful sales copy, a perfect book cover and you get mentioned on high traffic sites, you may be able to start earning right away. But if you’re starting with none of that and are just putting your book on Amazon, it’s going to be difficult to get anyone to trust you. Make it easier for them to take a risk on your book by lowering the price – or making it free. Great design and reviews help a lot as well, and that’s something you can always be improving. But making a book free or permafree continuous to be the single most powerful form of online marketing. It doesn’t have to be your main book – maybe write a prequel or a short novella or something ‘else’ that’s between 10,000 and 20,000 words, and make it free to get people aware of you.
2. Make people like you by being human. Authenticity. Failure. Relatability.
Start with who you are and what you have. Put yourself out there. Tell stories. Blog. Put your real picture up. Reveal yourself. People can’t know and like you if you’re hiding behind a pen name or a brand or business. It’s much easier to build relationships if you’re a person. Videos are amazing for this; after a year stalling I’m finally pushing through my insecurities and uploading a lot of videos to YouTube. It makes me feel vulnerable, but I know it will also let my fans get closer to me.
3. Offer something extra for free to get optins, that’s valuable.
You need to grow your email list. You should always have an offer that will appeal to your target readers. It doesn’t have to be long – a short PDF can often work better than a free book. Research and compile “25 greatest heroines of contemporary dystopian romance” or “30 amazing science fiction inventions that are now a reality.” Think of something that appeals to readers who will enjoy your book. Put it together. It will work better than “join now for updates!”
4. Have a decent website or landing page (important).
I have seen some UGLY author websites. In my estimation, the majority of authors are severely design impaired. Or perhaps, they have an artistic sense but simply no technical abilities. A blank slate is not what you want. Never give yourself total freedom. Pick a clean, professional WordPress theme, get a simple text logo made on Fiverr.com (or 99designs if you want to spend more). Then leave the rest alone. Your book cover should be the most beautiful thing on your website. Don’t distract or confuse. Present all the information clearly and have specific call to actions (buy buttons). Don’t spend a lot of time messing around with your website to get it how *you* want it. What you like doesn’t matter – all that matters is readers can find the book, and your website steers them towards the action you want them to take.
5. Build relationships by giving away even more great content in your email autoresponder.
An autoresponder is a pre-written set of emails that are sent out after someone joins your list (like this one).
I’m still figuring them out. I’m not an expert. I get a lot of traffic, and I offer some great stuff for free. By the end of 2014 I had over 10,000 subscribers. But I hadn’t built up a relationship with them. They just wanted the free stuff and didn’t know who I was. If I tried to send them something later – a free book or an event or something – a small fraction of them would even open my emails. So I deleted most of them and started over. Thing about what kind of series you can offer (for fiction writers, can you serialize a short story – 5,000 words a week? It may also keep you on task! And when you finish you can publish the book and start again).
You can also send book recommendations, things you’re reading, or anything else that your followers may be interested in. What you don’t want to do is just keep asking them to buy your book. Focus on providing value.
6. Write MORE books (it gives you more power).
Most of this stuff isn’t going to work very well if you only have one book. For non-fiction, a book is usually just the platform so you can sell other things (services or high priced classes or speaking engagements). Though I do have some friends making a lot of money with non-fiction books, they have almost 50!
I make about $100 a month from each of my books, and I have 5. So not that much… but when I have 50 books that will be $5000 or more. However, I’m much more interested in fiction, because it usually sells 10x as much (there’s much more demand). This year I plan to start several trilogies in different genres, though I don’t expect real earnings until I have at least 10 novels published.
7. Get more traffic (better content on bigger blogs).
The easiest way to get more traffic to your website is to post content on bigger websites with more traffic. Some sites are free to use, like Hubpages or Medium. Others will accept guest posts if you pitch them and the content is good. Focus on appearing on the blogs or websites where your ideal readers are hanging out. Research keywords related to your niche or genre and make a list of the top 25 sites that keep showing up in the search results. Then figure out how you can get published on those sites. (Podcasts are also exploding right now, if you can get interviewed by any).
8. Strategic Partnering to share platforms (see how you can help others).
This is actually my favorite, and probably the most important. Focus on creating a network of authors in your genre or niche. Seek them out. There are probably a hundred self-published authors out there trying to promote books similar to yours (or thousands, more likely). Build a platform or event for them to share and promote their work. Give them the opportunity to gain visibility for their books. You’ll be helping them, and creating a much bigger event/platform, and everybody will drive their own followers to it, resulting in something much bigger that you’ll be able to participate in. Start locally: make a Facebook page called “(Genre) writers of (City).” Then send invites to all the authors you want to connect with. If you can get 50 personal finance authors of Portland Oregon together on a Facebook group, collectively you’d have a lot of clout.
9. Earn social karma by focusing on helping others.
Never ask for anything until you’ve given something (a promise of future gifts doesn’t work).
Read other author’s books and leave them reviews. You can let them know you’ve reviewed it and enjoyed it. You can let them know you wrote a book as well… but don’t demand a ‘fair trade.’ Go out of your way to shower benevolence on anybody you can help in any small way. Do so consistently and you will build up a tribe of loyal followers and friends.
10. Optimize Amazon to get found (important, but not enough by itself).
The secret to Amazon or any other book sites are these:
- Research keywords using Google’s Keyword tools.
- Find out what people are searching for.
- See if you can use those search terms in your title or subtitle.
- Add them into your description also.
- Bonus points for adding them in bold, or in a checklist.
- Put your book in very targeted, minor categories.
Choose your categories by looking at the top 1st and 20th book in categories where you find books similar to yours. You need to show up on page one of the categories you’re in, so you need a sales rank higher than the 20th book. It will be much easier to show up there if the 20th book has a high sales rank (over 100K for example). It’s better to show up in a category that’s not competitive, than it is to be invisible in a more competitive category. Amazon doesn’t really let you select all its categories, but you can set them by using the right keywords, or contacting customer support. There’s a list of categories here.
11. Create content.
This is an important one as well but it didn’t fit in… though it’s similar to #7. Write the type of articles that would be enjoyed by your readers; post some on your blog and others on bigger sites. You can use the “WordPress title generator” plugin to brainstorm hundreds of powerful blog post titles related to your keyword. Spend an hour and make a list of 100 titles, then write 1 a day for three months. You need a lot of content to start getting traffic. (Unless, you just have a powerful optin offer in your site and go straight to guest posting on major sites with lots of traffic. But that means you have to keep writing new content all the time. Write 100 articles for your blog and you’ll get natural traffic coming straight to you for years to come.
Book marketing isn’t rocket science but it takes awhile to get your head around it. Let me stress again – the easiest way to mess it all up is to have an ugly website with a lot of crap on it. Keep it clean and simple and fast. In the next email I’m going to talk about author websites in-depth, and focus on the elements you must have to build your author platform and sell more books.