The prospect of marketing can often be intimidating. Marketing is one of the few advantages that traditional publishing still holds over self-publishing. Self-published authors get full control of their book, which seems appealing until it comes time to market. Then things get scary for a lot of people.
They panic and get scared. Many will not confront this fear. They hold out forever for a traditional publisher and accept the first lousy contract that they see. But hey, at least they don’t have to market, right? Wrong! Many traditional publishers still require the author market their own book. Even if the publisher sets everything up, the author will still be required to do the legwork.
So the question still remains: what’s the best way to market your book?
I have tested a ton of methods and received a lot of feedback as to which of these methods garner the most attention. However, it’s not like I reinvented the wheel or anything. These are proven methods used countless times to achieve success.
No matter what particular strategy you use for marketing your book, there are two very important end goals that you must always keep in mind.
- You must write a book that appeals to a specific target audience.
- Your book must be “discoverable”.
Now let’s look at some strategies that will help you achieve these goals.
#1 Write High Quality Books.
Seems obvious, right? Well writing a book that appeals to a specific target audience is 90% of the marketing battle. Let me be blunt with you. If your book sucks, then there is no amount of marketing that can help it be successful. Of course, a great book is not going to be successful without an effective marketing strategy either.
Another effective marketing strategy is to write multiple books. However, each of these books must be of the highest quality. Every time you release a new title, your name recognition is broadened. This is effective due to the mindset of most readers. They will become a fan of certain authors and will look for other books written by these same authors. It’s known as binge reading. Best-selling authors expand their audience by catering to this type of audience.
There are many experts out there who actually recommend that new authors only start marketing once they have three books published. I actually do not agree with this assessment. Here’s why.
Self-publishing success is like running a marathon, yet most beginners treat it like a sprint. So I feel that new authors should start marketing right away so they can get a handle on what it takes to effectively market a book. Learning through experience is the best method.
Once you have written a professional book, then you will need to enhance its discoverability. So we’re going to focus on that next.
#2 Identify your Target Reader and Put Yourself in His/Her Shoes
There is no book that will appeal to every reader so never try and market your book to a broad audience. You’ll be wasting your time and money. Instead, you should define your target audience and market specifically to them. Here are some questions that you will need to ask yourself:
- Do they share a specific profile (sex, age, ethnicity)?
- What are their values?
- What are their interests?
- Who do they look up to?
Gather as much information as you possibly can and then fill out their profile. Write this all down so you have easy access to the information.
Once you have a basic profile in place, consider the types of places where they hang out. What kinds of books do they read? Do they like magazines? Do they belong to any groups? If so, what kinds of groups? Compile this list and add it to your profile.
With all of this information, you now have everything needed to market to this target audience. This does not mean that you should pander to readers as a writer, but use this information to make your marketing decisions. Before implementing any strategy, ask yourself:
- How will this be perceived by my target readers?
- Am I communicating with my audience? Do not look at marketing as part of your artistic expression. Marketing should only be viewed as a means to communicate to readers.
#3 Don’t Allow Yourself to Look Like an Amateur
Your book will be competing with millions of others; some from big name publishers while others will be from self-published authors like you. Everyone is trying to get the attention and consideration of readers. With all of this fierce competition, coming across as a professional is absolutely necessary. You do not want to look like an amateur. Here are a few tips that will help you come across as professional.
Always produce the highest quality books possible. This includes hiring an editor to help polish your book and having it professionally formatted.
Never stop learning. Strive to constantly improve your writing and learn new skills.
Remember that patience is a virtue. Take the time to get things done correctly. Rushing to publish a book will lead to an unprofessional book.
Find someone to read your book to give you feedback. Having other perspectives can help you spot certain issues.
Even if you hire an editor, always proofread your book one more time before publishing it. While most editors will leave no stone unturned, it’s still your book. Your reputation is at stake.
Make sure that your book’s cover looks professional. Browse books from major publishers to see some examples of a professional cover. Some important factors that contribute to a professional cover are simple images (complex images often come across as unprofessional) and big fonts that are easy to read when viewed in small thumbnail form. Readers see book covers as thumbnails on long lists before they ever click on one of them. If you’re not a graphics designer then you should hire a professional. Along with an editor, it’s the best investment that you can make in your book.
#4 Brand Yourself
Branding is often associated with businesses so it’s often overlooked in the world of self-publishing. I can assure you that it is equally as important for authors to brand themselves. Think about the brands that authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King have established. Using these two authors as an example, you can easily see the two key advantages that branding puts on the table:
- It gives you greater discoverability by building trust with readers.
- It allows you to charge more for your books since you are a trusted authority.
Start out by burrowing a narrow niche within the category of your book. This can be based on a catchy theme, unique concept, or even a compelling image associated with your book. Whatever you choose should set your book apart from all other in the same category.
Once you have chosen an element that sets your book apart, you’re going to build your brand around that unique element. This brand should be apparent in anything related to marketing including blog designs, promotional copy, business cards, and even your author photos. The goal is to make your brand become uniquely identified with you so that readers will identify who you are.
#5 Book Pricing
Book pricing is an area where many beginners really drop the ball. Price it too low and you’ll come across as an amateur – price it too high and no one will risk their money on you. You can choose to run promotions for your book where you either give it away for free or set the price down to $0.99 but you’re going to want the book’s normal price to be between $2.99 and $4.99 for Kindle books and as close to $9.99 as possible for print books. The reason is because studies have shown that readers are willing to risk around $5 on a new author for a Kindle (or all other eBooks) and $10 for a print book.
Put yourself into the role of your target readers. If the price is too low, you’d probably assume that the book is “cheap” and assume that it’s self-published. On the other hand, if you price your book too high then you’ll lose out on a lot of sales because you are not branded at the level of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
Also, the amount of money you get from royalties is affected by the price you set. Always price at a range where you get the highest percentage. For example, Amazon pays 35% royalties for books priced between $0.99 and $2.98 or anything above $9.99. They pay 70% royalties for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. So you need to aim for the range that pays the highest, which happens to be $2.99 – $9.99. Readers are only willing to pay up to $5 for new authors. Therefore, $4.99 seems to be the most effective price.
#6 Craft Compelling Promotional Copy
This might be one of the most common mistakes made by self-published authors. We tend to work diligently while crafting our books but when it comes down to writing promotional copy, we fall short. Notice how I use the word ”we” here? That’s because I have also fallen prey to this mistake early on in my career. So I understand how easy this is to do. However, my hope is that you will avoid repeating this same mistake.
First of all, your website and product page are two entirely different marketing outlets and should be treated as such. Never copy and paste your product description onto your website. These are two entirely different steps of the marketing process.
A website is the opening to a sale.
A product description closes the sale.
The final step of the sales process is always going to be the product description page, so it should be written appropriately. Its main purpose is to close the sale. Whether the lead came from your website or a reader browsing through numerous other books, you already have their interest. So close the sale by making sure the sales copy on the product description page is as persuasive as possible. It should also include a call to action.
However, your website will likely be the first or second step during the sales process. Its purpose is to build trust and motivate the buyer to click through to the product page. Therefore, it should be a bit more casual while including a specific call to action that tells them to click through to the product description page.
I always tell clients to use their website to establish trust. Its goal should not be to sell, but to open dialogue with a reader. There are some advanced strategies that defer from this but for beginners, it’s best to keep things simple.
Remember that promotional copy for a book is supposed to act as a teaser. It is not a presentation of the book but rather a teaser to build curiosity. It should never cure that curiosity.
Now we are going to look at four marketing strategies that are designed specifically for Amazon.
#7 Use Categories Correctly
Amazon is the beast that rules the world of literature. They know how to get it done and provide the tools that will allow authors to attract readers. One of the most powerful tools on Kindle is that they host a wide range of different book categories and subcategories, each of which has its own bestseller list. This is extremely useful in helping your target readers discover your book.
However, this tool is only useful if you place the book into the correct category. This is why defining your target audience is so important. Consider that target when deciding what category to place your book in.
Amazon only allows you to list your book in two separate categories or subcategories. However, if you want the best discoverability then avoid placing it in generic categories like “Science Fiction” or “Romance”. Dig deeper to narrow it down by using subcategories like “Romance Suspense”.
Find subcategories that are highly searched by readers but have a low competition. This will give you a high chance of getting your book on that category’s best-seller list. You can research each category by browsing Amazon and searching the category tree on the left side of the page.
#8 Never Spam Readers
Don’t become one of those annoying authors who spam comment boards and forums with their book link. Instead, establish helpful, mutual relationships with readers. Many self-published authors do not use social media correctly. They send out waves of emails and tweets that tend to become annoying. I’m sure most of us know people who do this.
Some self-published authors look at paid advertisements as a waste of money. However, this is not always the case. You’ll want to really look into paid advertisements because I’ve noticed that some genres seem to convert at an astonishingly high rate while other genres fall flat.
Social relationships should be looked at as “traders” and not “takers”. A trader is willing to give something in return while a taker just sees themselves getting paid, not taking into account that a reader wants something in return. Social networking is the best way to build this relationship but not through spamming posts and sending out dozens of tweets a day to promote a book. Instead, choose a single outlet like Facebook or Twitter and become a valuable contributor. 90% of your posts should be entertaining or useful. The remaining 10% can be used to promote your book. The whole point of social media is to interact with potential readers, not to pitch to them. If they like you then these readers will click your profile to see what you have to offer.
#9 Encourage Readers to Leave Reviews
Reviews are the backbone of a book’s success on Amazon. It’s the digital age’s form of “word of mouth” advertising. There are a number of ways that you can ask for readers to leave reviews but the absolute best method is to close out your book with a quick message asking the reader to leave a review.
Reviews give a new reader affirmation of the value of your book and will help persuade them into making the purchase. However, under no circumstances should you go out and try to buy reviews. Nor should you ask friends or relatives to post fake reviews for you. Attempts to game the system will result in Amazon terminating your account, plus they are completely dishonest. This stuff will hurt you in the long run. If you have written a great book then great reviews will happen naturally.
#10 Utilize Amazon’s Marketing Tools
Amazon is my absolute number one recommendation for those new to the self-publishing world. It’s the easiest platform to achieve success since they provide a ton of tools for new authors to reach new readers and maximize their visibility. Amazon will continue to be the best bet for self-published authors to attain success in the business. Here are a few of Amazon’s tools that you should be using.
- Be sure that you participate in special promotions on Amazon. This includes utilizing their KDP Select program to its fullest advantage. However, on rare occasions, Amazon might hold a special promotion. People have been known to sell tens of thousands of books during these impromptu promotional opportunities.
- Don’t forget that you should be exploiting your ranking on Amazon’s bestseller list. If you have achieved a high ranking in a subcategory, then don’t be modest about it. Use it with your marketing efforts. Tell your social media followers.
- Make sure you either run short-term giveaways or countdowns for books that are enrolled in KDP Select. These promotions will give your book a shot of adrenaline to jumpstart its success.
- Don’t panic if your book does not sell right away. It takes time for new authors to establish themselves to readers and build a fan base. Sometimes it takes several months. Instead of worrying, spend your time working on the next book. To be perfectly honest, authors only really start establishing themselves by publishing several different books.
EBooks are forever so once a book is uploaded, it’s going to sell for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The fact that you can always go back and make changes to your book is one of the advantages of self-publishing. Appealing books will always find an audience. By appealing, I mean being well-written, having an awesome cover, and a well written description.