Book Marketing Fundamentals
by Hank Quense
While working on my new book, Book Marketing Fundamentals, I asked some author friends what they do to market their books. The answers startled me. No two of the answers were similar. It appears that each author has their own special way to promote their books.
Below are the answers arranged in no particular order. Along with the author’s name is a link to their Amazon page or website. While most of the authors write fiction, a few are non-fiction authors.
Q. What is your favorite or most successful marketing tactic?
I can’t reduce it to one. I have three or four.
A. Developing an eye-catching cover.
B. Writing a good book description.
C. Using Amazon Marketing Services. I’m an Amazon exclusive writer, and I like AMS because it’s point-of-sale marketing. People who click on Amazon ads are Looking for a book to buy.
Conceptually, I also like search engine optimization (SEO), where you use the right combination of words in your book description, title, keywords and categories to rank high in an Amazon search. It’s hard to do, and doesn’t always work, but discoverability on Amazon is key to selling.
I hire out developing and managing my Amazon ads to a person who understands the amazon system much better than I do. He develops hundreds of ads per book, and he develops ads for three different marketplaces, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and amazon.ca.
My favorite and I feel most-successful marketing tactic is the Goodreads Giveaway. I do the $119 one.
I use the giveaway to add awareness of and visibility for my series. If I have a new release coming up, I’ll run a giveaway for the first book of the series. The giveaway is for as many as 100 ebooks, although you can give away as few as 10. Goodreads handles everything: they notify the winners and distribute the ebooks. I pay for the giveaway through my Amazon account. The coolest thing is that everyone who enters the giveaway has my book added to their “want to read” list, which also shows up in their friends’ feeds on the site. You may end up netting more reviews, as well, since Goodreads sends a reminder to the winners after 8 weeks to rate and review the title. Reviews, of course, also help with visibility.
Instead of the Goodreads’ recommended 1-month listing, you’ll be in Goodreads’ “recently listed” and “ending soon” alerts if you keep the giveaway length fairly short.
What is your favorite or most successful marketing tactic?
Connecting personally with readers and potential readers (my favorite and most successful).
Pre-COVID-19 I connected in-person with readers and potential readers by holding public talks, being interviewed for talk radio, offering classes, and, when I could, attending conferences and renting a vendor table. Now I connect digitally — I still do the interviews for talk radio and podcasts since they were and are often done virtually; videos, social media posts and blog tours (June 7 starts a blog tour for my next book, a paranormal romance). I’m offering two writer workshops virtually in July and August of this year, and I’m trying to figure out how I can offer signed copies of my work during the live session. People like the signed copies!
I spent a year as a sales rep, many years ago, and the experience left me with a deep distrust of all sales talk and techniques. I learned how much cheating, lying and exaggeration goes on in the field. As someone who’s always loved honesty and truth, I now find it hard to associate myself with marketing and promotion. However, I want people to read my work, so I take the route of least activity: I list my work on my website, do very occasional tweets and Facebook posts relating quotes from reviews of my books, and have attended the launches of my books, which have usually been at an annual convention run by my publisher. Whilst there, I also work on the book stall to sell other books published by my publisher.
A mix of tactics is crucial — personal appearances, a home state media tour, and online outreach. I n all cases the goal is to get people talking about your book. Word-of-mouth recommendations are the only thing that sells books.
* Posting quality content about the book’s story and insights in specialized social media groups and engaging in the discussions the posts generate;
* Sitting for interviews with quality podcasters who explore the same themes and issues: their present audiences and your potential readership probably overlap;
* Creating a newsy, friendly, accessible author website designed to invite conversation and capture addresses for an email list;
* Presenting book readings and Q-and-A sessions via Zoom through such groups as the Quarantine Book Club.
I am genuinely very poor at marketing. However, a few things do work for me in a small way. Every person we meet for the first time, is part of at least one large network of people that does not include us. Sometimes, it can pay to give away a book for free in these circumstances. For example, when my publisher sent me a dozen copies of the Polish translation of one of my books, I made a point of sending one to a colleague in an office in Poland. He may never have read it himself, but soon everybody in that building knew I was a writer with books available in their language.
Similarly, my email signature always contains a reference to my books, so that even a note sent to my bank will work for me as a form of advertising.
I’ve found third party newsletters to be useful, relatively inexpensive, and effective.
There are many newsletters to choose from. Start by researching them as a reader and find the ones that would best suit your book. This tactic generally works best when you have a first in series book marked as free. But many authors have been successful using other pricing strategies with it.
L. Diane Wolfe:
One of our favorites is marketing to libraries. They have several distinct advantages – libraries don’t return books, they have to replace books as they are worn out which leads to more sales, they introduce readers to new authors, and they are great places for authors to hold events or make appearances.
We have a large database of libraries, both in the USA and around the world. With each of our authors, we compose an author sheet that highlights the following: their professional qualities, organizations, awards, and areas of expertise; their speaking topics; select videos and podcasts; other publications; and their new book and reviews. We also compose a book sell sheet that lists all of the book’s information, including how to order. Starting 1-4 weeks before its release, we email the two items to libraries. This results in libraries both stocking the book and inviting the author in for an appearance if local.
I don’t know that I can qualify this as my favorite, as it’s also the one that terrifies me the most, but in-person events can be incredibly useful in moving books, especially when you don’t have the type of high-profile book that’s landing on best-of lists or getting reviewed in the biggest publications.
And I don’t mean straight single-author readings. First-time, low-profile authors are going to have a tough time getting people to show up for an event like this if people don’t already know you and/or your work. Think about how you can provide added value to attendees. Show up in conversation with another, higher-profile author or industry professional. Teach a workshop at a literary festival. Give a session at a conference. End up as the main speaker at an event that is somehow connected to the topic of your book. Or maybe even participate in an already-established reading series, where multiple authors are reading. Things like these have built-in audiences.
Much to my surprise, I’ve found that if I can get myself in front of a group of people, I can then win them over with my writing or with my knowledge base or with my boundless charm and then they end up clamoring to buy my book.
My favorite tactic is getting reviews. Another favorite is to sell books at events such as library lectures. The lecture topic may be non-fiction but folks tend to buy the fiction books along with the non-fiction books.
Granted, reviews are not easy to get, but once I do get a 4 or 5 star review, I spread the word about the review using social media. For lectures, I contact libraries, introduce myself and ask if I can hold a lecture there. Even if the library doesn’t pay me a speaking fee, I have the opportunity to sell copies of my print books
For my budget and time, podcast interviews. Being a guest can be free if you trade your time for finding shows. Or pay someone else/find a service that connects hosts, shows and guests.
It’s as easy as having a conversation with someone who is asking questions about something you already know you, your story and your book. there’s not a lot of prep work involved. Make sure you have the right soft-ware, quiet space to record, your time zones right and you know how to log in to the show. There’s nothing more nerve racking, for you and the host, then to be late.
I have my own podcast and reach out to be a guest on other shows. Then I write about the experience, what I learned and maybe something that happened behind the scenes, because that happens a lot.
Doing too many shows, my own or others, can be a time vampire. It takes away from the time I could/should be writing. So now I limit both. When I was hosting Page Readers I wasn’t focused on my own writing and I over loaded myself with guests, shows and all the prep-work. Burnout was inevitable and I learned a lesson: I don’t want to be be tied to a microphone.
Balance between all three is required for me to feel like I’m making progress with the big picture of writing, podcasting, and playing golf (aka, having a life).
Book Marketing Fundamentals will be available on October 1, 2020 in both ebook and paperback editions.
For more by Quense on book marketing as well as self-publishing and fiction writing go to Writers and Authors Resource Center.