There’s no shortage of advice out there about how to best market your independently published book to new readers. Indeed, it sometimes seems like almost everyone has something to say on the subject.
So who do you believe? Who do you pay the closest attention to? And who, at the end of the day, really has it right?
With those same questions on my mind, I asked 18 of the internet’s biggest names in book marketing for their very best advice, and the results were surprising.
What I wound up with was true gold — the best of the best advice about making an indie book really take off, regardless of its genre. The cream of the crop.
Below, you’ll find advice from bestselling authors, writing coaches, marketing gurus, as well as more than a few in-demand thought-leaders and super-popular bloggers. As you might expect, no two pieces of advice are the same, yet each is a nugget of marketing genius you shouldn’t think of going without.
Read on — your book sales will thank you 🙂
For a new non-fiction author there is little else more effective at breaking through obscurity than having a foreword written by a famous celebrity or someone well known in their niche. In the world of unfettered connectivity in which we live, all the filters and gatekeepers to your heroes are gone; you can now message them in a myriad of ways and actually get responses. I have seen many first time authors take advantage of this fact and end up with forewords written by recognizable names like Donald Trump and Stan Lee. Once you get a foreword from someone with household name recognition, everything else becomes much easier. When new readers select books, they are much more likely to make a purchase if they recognize the foreword writer. This is a technique with long-lasting effects. When you do a press release, media outlets are more likely to view you as an expert and run a story if you have a well known name attached to your book. To get a foreword writer that can boost your name recognition value you have to be persistent. You will get rejected by some, but in the long run it will sell books and increase your own name recognition.
Once you’ve finished your book, don’t be in a rush to get it into print. Spend some time thinking about your potential readers, and why your book might appeal to them. Does it cover subjects no one else is talking about? Introduce a new idea, an innovation, a new concept? Are there potential links between your content and events going on in the world? Go out and find where your ideal readers hang out, where they have conversations. That’s where you want to be. And remember, when it does come time to publish the book that it’s much easier, more fulfilling and more fun to have a group—no matter how big or small—who are eagerly awaiting the publication. So put some energy into building that community of readers first, then create a book that’s squarely aimed at what those readers want and expect, something that will really surprise and please them. You’ll be way ahead of the game if you do.”
So let’s talk about fans, or better: Super Fans because the two aren’t the same and often misunderstood.
Right now there are approx. 4,500 books published each day in the US. This means that every day there are over 4,000 new books competing for shelf space, reviewer attention, etc. Even if they have nothing to do with your book, they are still clogging the pipeline. Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly more evident that engaging with readers on a very basic level is not only important to a successful book launch, it’s mandatory. But what does “engagement” really mean? Well it means nurturing and growing your fans until they become so engaged and so wildly enthused that they’re doing your marketing for you. Let me give you an example.
We worked with this author for her book release: The Publicist. When the second part to this book came out we bundled book one and two and did a promo giveaway. We gave away 61,000 copies, from that number she ended up going from 19 reviews to over 200 in less than a week. She also got in excess of 200 letters from readers on top of the promotion (so within the promotion window which was two days) and these letters have increased as time has gone on. So more readers writing. More fans to engage with. She wrote back each one of the fans individually. Yes, one at a time. Thanking them for writing, for their review, etc. That was step one in turning them into Super Fans. Then she engaged with them on social media, by mailing them character trading cards (which they loved) and doing other promotions around the book that were exclusive to these fans. So step, two she made them feel really important. They mattered and she wanted them to know.
There’s a great book I read that I really recommend it’s called The Curve by Nicholas Lovell. In this book he discusses Super Fans and how they are wildly engaged, huge, huge fans of everything you do. He also cites a study that shows that you only need 1,000 Super Fans to hit a major bestseller list (in the book he says the NYT Bestseller list but I would imagine it works for USA Today and others, too). Why is this? Because a Super Fan is someone who is not only engaged with you but will tell a dozen or more of their friends about this amazing book. They will help you market, they will review the book, share it on their social media. In other words Super Fans are crucial to the success of any author.
Marketing is about personality. It’s about getting your personality—your books—your brand—to as many people as possible. That starts with a platform, and the foundation for that platform is your home on the web. Start building an email list as soon as you can, since this will be your only assured direct route to dedicated readers. Give them content they care about to keep their attention: drawings, freebies, special deals, glimpses into your life. Craft your book launches with care, since Amazon’s sales algorithms will treat you right if you can prove early on that you can generate sales. And most of all—have fun! Don’t let marketing be a chore; embrace it as a challenge. Your audience will sense that attitude and respond to it.
For new nonfiction writers, the best use of your energy is to create a good, solid blog devoted to the subject matter of your book. Drive traffic by commenting on as many blogs in your field as you can and make friends with the other experts. Never treat them as rivals but as allies. Then ask to guest blog for them. Guest blogging is one of the most powerful sales tools for all authors, but especially if you write nonfiction.
For novelists and memoirists with one book, the best advice I can give is to write another one. While you’re writing, slowly build platform and network with people in your target demographic (or their parents and librarians). Almost all the best indie marketing tools require more than one book. So I advise “soft-launching” the first few books while you blog, network, and gather reviews. Then I recommend 3 things:
1) Start running 99c sales or countdowns and advertise them in ebook bargain newsletters,
2) Get into anthologies or multi-author boxed sets and promos
3) Line up some guest spots on blogs that cater to your genre
My number one, two, and three top pieces of advice are the same: write the next book! Make it so great that readers of book #1 will leap in delight and want to tell all their friends…which means targeting it to the same readers as book #1.
(I know we’re all impatient, but I’d even counsel new authors to have 2-3 books professionally edited and ready to publish so they can do a staggered release of all three and grow their readership faster. Almost no one listens to that advice, but it truly does work!)
#4 would be to start your mailing list while you’re polishing your books and getting them ready to release. Build it via a clean, functional, engaging website and other social media that you’re comfortable with (people can tell when you’re not having fun and simply “working” them, so play to your strengths). Start sending out newsletters–keep them genuine as if you’re writing to the one person who most loves your writing and truly wants to know what is going on with your life and your books.
And lastly–repeat after me–write the next book!
Here’s the magic formula: write a great book, give your readers time to find it and enjoy it and tell their friends, repeat.
It’s truly that simple and that hard.
I wrote an entire book on how writers can ensure that readers find books. The book, Discoverability, is geared toward writers with more than 10 books published. Because if you start any kind of promotion before you have a backlist, you’re wasting your time. What the reader wants at the end of the first book of yours they read is to know where to find the next book. If there is no next book, you’ve failed.
And note that I said “the first book of yours that they read” not “your first book.” It’s very rare that readers start with a writer’s first book. Readers find a book that looks interesting, then read and love it, and look for more by that writer. Think like a reader, writers. How many times have you bought a book because someone told you to on Facebook or because you saw an ad? Once? Twice? How many times have you bought a book because you liked the previous book? Too many to count, I’ll bet.
My advice for promotion for new writers: write the next book. And the next. And the next. Start thinking about promotion long about book 5. Trust me. Writing the next book works best.
If a new writer approached me about marketing and promotion advice, if I was in a blunt and honest mood, I’d tell them to not bother with it for a first or even second book except for a few Facebook and Twitter posts to let family and friends know the book is there. Even if the writer can get a reader to pick up their book, and the reader buys it and reads it, what will the reader read next? The writer will have nothing else, so the promotion is wasted. So I believe a new writer should get their work out in whatever way they believe is right for their career and then focus on writing the next book. Focus on learning how to be a better storyteller. Focus on learning business and craft and copyright. Focus on learning what is a good blurb and a good cover. And then somewhere around five to ten books finished and out, start learning promotion.
Visibility on online retailers, especially Amazon, is key to success. This visibility is dependent on a number of factors, but one of them appears to be reviews. Instead of asking family and friends to write reviews of our books, we should consider courting real reviews by running special promotions. Short $.99 sales or free promos (where Amazon price-matches Smashwords or other sites) are good ways for readers to discover us. Expect to wait a few weeks before reviews start coming in. Writing more books is also vital for discoverability. The more online real estate we own with our book titles, the better our visibility on retail sites. And all the while we should have a form on our sites for readers to subscribe to our email newsletter—which is one of the best, most personal ways to market our books.
One of the best ways to create a strong advantage for your professional career development is to be thought of as a credible, top level expert in your field. Appearing as the contributing guest or expert on TV shows and other major online, newspaper or magazine media is a great way to build up your reputation, power and influence.
But how do authors, experts and speakers start building up to a top level expert status that brings them new opportunities and respect in their industry? The best way is to get booked as the guest commentator on radio talk shows in big city markets and on national radio shows. An example of an impressive radio show is one that is considered the flagship station in a major city and is at least 50,000 watts in signal coverage. Appearing as the guest on radio talk shows is one of the best ways to blanket the country with your message, obtain valuable media credentials and promote your book, website and business.
Annie Jennings PR is a prestigious publicity firm that offers authors, experts and speakers the #1 most powerful radio talk show campaign their money can buy. The radio campaign includes a guarantee of performance, unlimited media training and the unparalleled opportunity to work with media professionals who understand how the media works and positions you according to your best advantage.
Cathy Stucker, Selling Books Tweet
Start by making your book the best it can be. Have it professionally edited before submitting to publishers or publishing it yourself. If you are self-publishing, a professionally designed cover is a must.
While you are selling this book, think ahead to future books. Build an email list, so you can stay in touch with your fans and let them know about upcoming events, new releases and other news.
Do something every day to promote your book and build your author reputation. Use both new media and traditional marketing methods: blog, send press releases, be active on Facebook and other social media, speak to local groups, do radio interviews, and take advantage of every opportunity you can to get in front of potential readers.
A lot of people will tell you that the best way to market your book is just to write more books. After almost 20 years of working with independent authors, however, I’ve found that it’s the people who begin marketing their work before it’s even been published that are inevitably the most successful.
Which isn’t to say that it’s too late for your already-published work that’s maybe been kinda-sorta marketed to succeed. Not at all.
When used as part of a larger marketing and PR strategy, learning how to write a press release that captures the attention of the local and national media is one of the best things you can do for the health and longevity of your book sales.
Don’t forget the power of visual marketing for your book! The combination of compelling words plus a powerful image gets viewers to stop and take notice. And, image quotes are among the most re-shared social media posts.
How can you make these viral images? Start by pulling a couple dozen sound bites from your book. Shorter is better – 6 to 12 words each. Create ONE simple background that coordinates with your book cover. Add the book’s name and website URL small at the bottom of the image. Place each of the quotes atop the background and save as individual files. Visit my site to learn specifics on how to easily do this yourself, with free software!
When it comes to marketing, the absolute worst thing authors can do is NOTHING. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start, but all you have to do is break down big tasks into smaller ones. Start by figuring out who your target reader is, then find out where those readers hang out online — what blogs, websites and social media platforms do they use? Then all you have to do is jump into the conversation and start connecting with your readers. We recommend getting started with the “Boflex” method — dedicate 20 minutes, three times a week to marketing. Knock out the little things first and you will build toward a broader marketing plan in no time. As long as you’re doing SOMETHING you will be making progress and meeting new readers!
The best marketing for a book is good word-of-mouth, and you won’t benefit from that unless you write an excellent book that looks and reads like it has been traditionally published. Even the least discriminating reader can spot a self-published book quickly and will move past it to one the reader knows has gone through the editing process that’s guaranteed by a traditional publisher. So . . . write a great book (and get that confirmed by objective beta readers) and spend money on editing and packaging.
Simultaneously, learn as much as you can about who is most likely to love your book. That’s your target audience. When you know that person well, it will be easier to get your book title in front of people just like her through publicity, social media, and other means. You want to make sure that the people who will benefit the most from your book know that it’s out there ready and waiting to entertain, enlighten, or inform them.
There’s no doubt about it, social media has revolutionized book promotion. You can now connect with your book’s audience instantly and for free. Unfortunately, I see far too many authors get stuck there. To maximize your book’s success, it’s important to have a promotional plan that includes offline as well as online promotion, traditional media as well as social media. The good news is, the two flow together seamlessly. The articles and excerpts you’re pitching as guest blog posts can also be pitched to regional newspapers and magazines. The interview questions or presentations you’ve prepared for webinars will work just as well for radio shows and book store appearances. The more you expand your PR horizons (where and how you meet your Potential Readers), the better chance your book will have for real and lasting success.
Frances Caballo, Social Media Just for Writers Tweet
As early in the process as possible – ideally why you’re still writing your first book – work with a webmaster to create a website with a blog. As you continue to write your book, venture onto those social media networks that make sense for your genre. In other words, go where your readers are. I think every writer needs to be on Twitter but beyond that, don’t waste your time on social media networks if your readers aren’t there. For example, if you are writing Young Adult or New Adult novels, you need to be on Tumblr. If you write romance novels, you need to have a Facebook page and a Pinterest business account.
Once you have accounts on social media, begin to involve your readers as much as possible in the book you are writing. For example, let your readers help you select a book cover or even a name a few characters. Create milestones on your Facebook page for the day you began writing your book, the day it goes to an editor, your publishing day and your first book reading.
Above all, remember that social media is a social experience. Never use social media as advertising. People come to social media to have fun, connect, and as readers, to get to know the writers. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to accumulate high numbers of followers or Facebook likes. The Holy Grail of social media is engagement and the more engaged you are with your readers, the more books you will eventually sell.
Words can be a springboard for change, and authors can be movement makers. Find a passion or purpose beyond your book and make specific goals around that purpose. Your goals should have nothing to do with the number of books you plan to sell or a dollar amount you will get back in sales—the goals should be about what you want your book to do in the world. Take those goals into every decision you make in publishing. Creating goals based on purpose and passion keeps you focused on real tactics that will connect with readers; if you focus too much on the numbers, you’ll miss the point (and ultimately, the success).”
Book publishers can increase their revenue and profits with large-quantity, non-returnable sales to buyers in corporations, associations, schools, government agencies and the armed services. These people purchase books directly from publishers for use as premiums, incentives, sales promotions, for educational purposes, and sometimes for resale. The factor differentiating this segment from bookstores and other retailers is that you sell directly to buyers in these organizations. Content is king in this sector. Buyers want to use your content as a tool to increase their sales, introduce new products, educate students or motivate members or employees.