Learning how to market your book is an important skill for every authors these days because:
- Publishers are spending much less time and money marketing books, except for a few, high-profile authors with an established following–think Stephen King.
- Indie authors chose to go the route of self-publishing, which means they have to do all the marketing for their books
- There are just SO many books in print right now, it’s difficult to stand out from the rest
So, if you’re an author or a small press, strap on and get ready for a wild ride.
Marketing your book with digital marketing
- Digital marketing is particularly effective for marketing your book — if you can figure out how to cut through the clutter online. That’s because the cost of digital marketing is a small fraction of the costs involved in traditional media, like print and broadcast (TV, radio).
- Digital marketing also provides superior targeting, allowing an author to optimize their reach and frequency to those most likely to buy their books with a relatively small budget.
- While digital marketing isn’t easy, it’s much easier than traditional advertising.
A caveat here: digital marketing won’t be successful if you don’t have your ducks in a row: write a compelling book, fill it with real characters, manage pacing so you keep readers engaged, and craft a storyline that amazes. You can’t market your way out of a crappy book, so focus most of your time and efforts on writing a great book.
Elements of digital marketing
Let’s talk about what elements you need to put together to form your digital marketing strategy (you can get my ebook with a step-by-step guide for doing digital marketing using this link):
As an author, you might not need a full-blown digital marketing strategy and you might not need something formal, but you need to consider the following elements before starting your strategy:
- Who is my target audience (those most likely to read my books — and most of us have that figured out)?
- What resources will I need to market my book? And, we’ll talk about these in the next sections.
- How will I assess my performance with an eye toward improving it?
A website/ blog
It’s possible to market your book without a website, but I still recommend a website as a first step in marketing your book. Alternatively, a good profile on Goodreads can work, but there are severe limitations to using someone else’s platforms.
Why create a website?
Simple. You own it — no one can take it away, change the platform without your consent, tell you what you can do … Plus, you control the look and feel of your site.
- review books written by other authors. I find these are the most heavily read articles on my blog. Plus, it helps build a community of authors who will support each other. Next time you publish or need some help handling a tricky element of your book, or want a thoughtful critique you have a community of writers willing to help.
- write about your book, even offer free chapters to engage readers even before your book is published.
- share personal information, especially about your struggles as a writer. Readers love this stuff and it will turn them into strong advocates for your writing and bring in new readers/
Another big reason for including a blog is SEO-search engine optimization — the free element that helps readers discover you. Just a few years ago, you didn’t need a blog because the Google Algorithm that brought most of the traffic to your site didn’t rely on content marketing. But, that time is long past. Now, you need fresh, valuable content on a consistent basis if you want free traffic from Google (70% of searches still happen there) and other major search engines have followed suit. The effectiveness and cost of paid advertising on Google is also affected by this content.
I recommend posting new content on your site at least once a week (a minimum of 300 words). Install a plugin to help with SEO (if you’re on WordPress, which I recommend, that means Yoast). Read my ebook for other recommended plugins that enhance the usability of your site.
Another reason for creating a website is that you get great analytics and Yoast helps again with a great plugin to handle that. These metrics guide you in future strategies that optimize your return.
Some authors use free sites, like WordPress.com, Blogger, or other similar sites. I strongly recommend against that as it’s really hard to get good rankings from a free site.
I also strongly recommend against using copy and paste tools like Wix to create your website. They look cookie cutter, no matter how many custom graphics you add and, again, it’s hard to rank well with these tools (they don’t have good, well-coded websites backing them up). However, you can create a custom site for less than $100 and it’s less than $10 to maintain it. With all the great themes and plugins, you don’t have to write a single line of code to get them working well.
If you want step-by-step instructions for creating your own website, grab my free ebook.
I have a couple of recommendations:
- Choose social media sites that match your target audience — that usually means Facebook and Twitter, along with Goodreads. If you’re writing in YA, you may want to add Snapchat.
- Don’t spam your audience. Notice this infographic recommends the number of times you should post per day across different platforms. You can vary from this somewhat, especially occasionally, but don’t overdo it on any network.
- Remember, social is a 24/7 proposition, especially if you have readers in other countries. so you shouldn’t schedule all your daily posts at the same time. Spread them out across the day, focusing on times when your audience is likely online. Automation helps with this task.
- Don’t talk about yourself too much. Experts recommend an 80/20 split between posting interesting content (80%) and stuff about you (20%).
- Build your social networks organically, don’t buy followers. I found the best way to build a social network is by following interesting folks and sharing their content liberally.
You should think about using some paid advertising, in addition to building your community organically. I find Facebook ads work very well, for very little money.
Once you have social platforms, you need content to share on those platforms. Remember the 80/20 rule from above. That means curating content to share with your audience. I find Buffer works exceedingly well as a tool to find interesting content at a reasonable price ~$10/month. You can also use Feedly for free, although it’s a little more work to share using this tool.
I know it sounds like there’s a lot of work involved in marketing your book. Automation is a way to help manage daily digital marketing tasks efficiently.
To market your book, I recommend Buffer and Hootsuite and I use them in combination for my smaller clients for around $20/month. Both have trials and both offer free versions, although I find I need the extra tools offered with the paid versions.
These tools allow me to:
- find interesting content and share it on my preferred schedule so I always have new, fresh content to share (Buffer and Hootsuite)
- find and follow interesting folks so I’m building my network (Hootsuite)
- craft unique images for my posts (using Pablo, which is free on Buffer)
- monitor who’s engaging with me on social networks — nothing kills a social strategy faster than ignoring those who engage with you (Hootsuite)
All your work is for naught if you can’t monitor what’s working then use that information to optimize your market performance. At a minimum, you need Google Analytics (which is another reason for doing a self-hosted website over the alternatives discussed above).
Google Analytics is a free service that gives you incredibly detailed information about your website including:
- number of visitors and what drove them to your site
- conversion rate, as well as conversion rates by channel (social network, for instance)
- shopping cart abandonment rates (lost opportunities)
- effectiveness of content in driving visits
Most social platforms also include analytics to help optimize performance on that network. I wish Amazon and Goodreads shared more information about visitors to our book and profile pages so we had more information to manage sales.
I’ll spend about $30 on this ad and reach about 7000 people. The best part is that they all identified as “readers” on Facebook, so I know they’re interested. I also target Tamaulipas, MX (where the book is set) and the US. So far, all my sales have been to Mexico.
I planned the release date for Black Friday to take advantage of the large number of visitors to Amazon on that date.
I’m only charging $.99 to get in new readers because this is the first in a series of books. I want to hook folks on the first book, then increase the price for subsequent books in the series. (Also, I’ll likely increase the price in Jan, then offer it for $.99 on periodic specials). I’ll also do giveaways on Black Friday.
I joined Kindle select, which means I can only sell my books through Amazon, but that allows me to offer the book free to Kindle Unlimited readers. In exchange, you get a share of the Kindle Unlimited subscription fee and you introduce more readers to your books.
I joined Goodreads in August and linked my blog so I also have content there. I linked my books (I have a couple of marketing books already published). I joined some groups and engaged with folks in the communities.
Final thoughts to market your book
I hope you found this overview of marketing your book helpful. Hausman & Associates can help get you started at a reasonable rate if you need more help. However, you should subscribe to get bi-weekly updates that can help optimize your digital marketing.