Book promotion has changed a lot over the years, as have the author marketing strategies companies offer. Part of the reason for that is due to the surge of books that we see everyday in the marketplace. We know from experience that not only does it change how various programs work, but it can also impact strategies that we’ve come to trust, like Facebook ads which don’t have the same impact they did two years ago.
So what’s working in book promotion now? Surprisingly, it’s not at all what you would expect.
The author marketing strategies that work these days are less about what you’re marketing in the moment, and more about the foundation you’re creating. Let’s have a look:
Email Newsletters: I know, it seems odd to start with something so basic, right? But here’s the thing about newsletters. They are a direct connection to your reader unlike social media, which, technically, is not as direct a link as we’d like it to be. An email newsletter may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not as bad as say, managing a bunch of social media platforms (we’ll get to that one in a minute).
Your Reader Fan Bases: With book publishing growing, our window for using blogs for their author marketing strategies keeps shrinking. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t promote your book to the blogger market, but consider this: as the window for book promotion continues to change, one thing always remains steadfast, your readers. Building excited and engaged reader fan bases is a fantastic way to build momentum for your book and letting readers help you with your book promotion by posting reviews and sharing your book release on their social stream. The longer down this road of endless books being published (so far, around 4,500 a day) the more it becomes crucial to build supportive reader fan bases. I’ll put a link to more resources on this at the end of this post!
Why Your Book Cover Matters in Marketing: Book promotion starts long before the book winds up on Amazon and you email all your friends to tell them to buy it. Book promotion starts both when you’re writing the book, and paying a professional to design the cover. While book covers may seem like an odd thing to mention in a blog post about the best author marketing strategies, it matters more than you think. I’ve seen authors throw thousands and thousands of dollars at book marketing campaigns that net them next to nothing in terms of book sales. Why? Because they have a bad cover. I can almost guarantee you if your cover isn’t right for your audience you will not only hurt a book you poured your heart and soul into writing, but you’ll kill any chances of selling copies.
Don’t get so close to your project that you lose objectivity. If your book is already out on the market and you’re struggling to sell copies, consider whether your book cover needs a revamp. Not sure how to do that? I’ll link to a blog post in our resources section that will take you step by step through the process.
Going Local: A lot of authors want to hit the big time with big media and national exposure. And while all of that is great, local media and events are often overlooked. First off, local media loves their local authors. So whether it’s a story about you publishing your first (or fifth!) book, or promoting your local event, local book promotion is a great launching pad for long-term success. Part of the reason for this isn’t because you aren’t national media-worthy, but because national media is harder than ever to get (I’ll talk more about this later). Also, many bigger shows have scouts that research local stories that are gaining momentum. Back when Oprah had her show, her producers often worked with many scouts all across the country to find their stories. So including local promotion in your list of book marketing activities is a great way to add some momentum to your book promotion campaign.
And in terms of local, you may also consider doing events, whether they are library, bookstore, or gift fairs. You could also consider doing events in other non-bookstore markets like gift stores, coffee shops, and other area stores that might be interested in your topic.
If you still aren’t convinced about doing local book promotion listen up. I met an author recently who had done no major promotion. She had done no eBook promotion, no ads, no national reviews. All she did was local promotion. Her bookmarks were everywhere (in all local stores that would let her leave them) and she did a bunch of local events in bookstores, gift shops, libraries and even a restaurant (on their slowest night which helped to bring in foot traffic!). She sold 5,000 copies of her book in the first 90 days of her campaign. Her book marketing budget was almost zero, which is what prompted her to market her book this way.
This example also proves you can’t buy everything by outsourcing author marketing strategies! Yes, you can get help in key areas, and of course I encourage you to do that if you don’t have the time to manage it all on your own, but don’t assume you can hand off all of your book promotion to a third party, cornerstone strategies still are best executed by the author.
Expanding Your Goodreads Presence: Goodreads has been around for a long time and with each month that passes, the site grows more robust. Now, more than ever, it’s important to get yourself set up on that site and start networking with genre-specific groups. This site, more than any other social networking site, is really geared to readers and caters to readers in a way that no other platform does. Start by being a reader, first and foremost. Yes, you have books that you want people to read, but being heavy on the networking/socializing and less on the pushy marketer, will garner you much more attention and, in the long run, sell you more books.
Smart eBook Pricing: Surprisingly, this is a big hurdle for many authors. Mostly because they aren’t really sure what pricing works best for their market, and the guidance around this can be a bit confusing, too. Some years ago, authors were heavily discounting their books, in some cases offering them at .99 cents. This trend hasn’t gone away, per se, but it’s less of a trend than it used to be. Readers aren’t as geared to finding bottom of the barrel deals on eBooks, specifically like they once were. The main reason for this is digital clutter. Kindle or other eBook device readers jammed with more books than you’d ever be able to read isn’t the same as having a fully stocked book shelf, it just feels like clutter. For this reason, the once coveted super deals on books aren’t gaining the same traction as they once were. Smart book pricing, however, is.
By smart book pricing, I’m not talking about price discounts and running specials – although that’s good, too. What I’m speaking of here is smart book pricing overall. Book pricing at launch, for example, can be slightly lower than what your regular pricing might be. Even a dollar discount can give your book a helpful bump when launch time comes around, But eBook pricing, in general, should still be weighed against what the market will bear and where you’re just starting out. I’m also not a fan of pricing eBooks over $9.99. So if you’re just starting out, it’s advisable to consider that pricing or a tad lower. Remember that if you’re a new author, readers are taking a chance on you and might be much more inclined to do so if your book is priced at a price that feels more “impulse buy.”
Amazon Book Page: This is another area that authors spend a shockingly small amount of time on. I think in general, we get really outwardly focused on our book promotion and forget the all-important landing page we are sending our readers to. Your book page on Amazon should have a clear description with white space and no paragraphs crammed on top of each other. I’d also recommend enhancing your book page using your Author Central Page. From there, you can access all kinds of stuff, like adding reviews to your page, including an author interview, or book experts. Your book page should be a sampling of your personality and information helpful to the reader – helping them make a decision to decide to buy your book is a terrific way to help drive more reader engagement on your page. I have a blog post linked in the resources if you’re ready to tackle this! Or, you should write us and ask about our Amazon-specific book promotion services and campaigns, designed to ensure you’re not leaving any opportunities on the table when it comes to converting Amazon shoppers into book buyers.
Amazon Advertising: I have a real love/hate relationship with Amazon ads (also referred to as AMS ads). When they revamped their platform (and the associated advertisement algorithm) the traction that some books were getting using AMS ads dropped like a rock. But since that time, the platform has found its footing and the ads are doing much better, with (in some cases) higher return than we saw previously. A few guidelines for ads are that you’ll want to have at a minimum, 400 keywords. Start your ads off at $10 a day in budget and no more than .50 cents a click until you get a sense of how the various keywords are doing.
I love doing AMS ads at campaign launch, starting them the week before the book launches (provided it’s on pre-order), I also use them a lot to promote my pricing strategies – when I’ve lowered the book for a couple of days to coincide with an eBook promotion I’m doing.
Keeping Your Social Footprint Small: While this may sound counter-intuitive, it’s my firm belief (and based on mountains of research) that we’ve become digital-weary. Users are leaving Facebook in large numbers, or not posting regularly, Twitter has become a bigger political platform than it ever was, and Instagram is staying delightfully middle of the road, meaning of all of the social platforms, it has the most universal appeal.
The problem with trying to be *everywhere* meaning on all social media platforms, is that it’s hard to be engaged on all the sites, all the time. And engagement does matter, in an age of fake followers and fake accounts, the user with the most engagement, even if their numbers are small, far outperforms accounts with millions of followers. But keep in mind that a smaller social media footprint doesn’t mean less work necessarily. You’ll be less scattered, for sure, but you will still need to put the effort into that site, whichever one you decide to be on. Engaging readers on one social media platform in a consistent and fun/informative/helpful way is a far better book promotion strategy than trying to be everywhere. As I always say: it’s not about being everywhere, but everywhere that matters.
Knowing Your Audience: Many authors I speak with have no idea who their actual reader market is. When I ask them, they’ll often say: everyone. You know who markets to everyone? McDonald’s, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. But they didn’t start out focused on everyone. Amazon, for example, started out becoming a book site, and reaching readers. It wasn’t until they built a base of readers that they began expanding out into other things. Knowing who your audience is is not only important when you’re writing your book, but absolutely crucial when you’re trying to market it. Zeroing in on your core reader, specifically is key to any successful book promotion campaign.
So now that we know what works, what doesn’t work in book promotion and author marketing strategies – or maybe a better question is: what should authors not focus on related to their campaign? Let’s take a look:
Big, Robust Media Campaign: Make no mistake, media is great. A good (big) media hit can really give your book marketing campaign a major boost. But the problem with this is that media, especially big media, is overwhelmed with stories. I mentioned in the above bullet how important local media is, and it’s important to remember that sometimes the biggest and most robust campaigns start small. The other element of this is that if you’re going to swing for the fences, make sure you’re ready to do so. If you want big media, you should have some media reels from prior appearances (even local media), a media room with talking points, a robust social media presence and an active blog. This is why when an author comes to me asking for a big, national media campaign right out of the gate (with no prior media work and little to no social media presence) I do my best to encourage them to start with other elements that will help them build their platform. You may ask what it can hurt to pitch yourself to media anyway, even if you don’t have a platform? Well, some authors do this and get lucky, but that’s rare. Don’t exhaust your opportunities before you’re really ready for them!
Being Everywhere on Social: Having a good, robust social media presence can be a great boost to your book promotion campaign. Picking the right platform for your audience is crucial. A lot of times I see authors getting on every social media platform, because more is better, right? Sometimes it’s just more. A focused social media campaign, even if it means being on just one platform can be really helpful to your campaign. Why? Because you can spend all of your time focused on one area and, I can almost guarantee you, if you’re in the right place this will give your book promotion campaign the boost you need, and still leave you enough time to write another book!
Selling Your Book: As crazy as it sounds the worst thing you can do to market a book is sell a book. The key here is to sell the benefits, not the book. No one, except for your mom, cares you wrote a book, they care what the book can do for them. Selling the benefits is key to making the sale, because if you can get the reader to care about what the book can do for them, you’ll make the sale.
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