Riding the Wave: How the Tsunami of Books Reshapes Book Publicity

by | Jul 4, 2023 | Amazon Updates & Marketing Tips

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In my 23 years in business, book publicity has changed a lot – but in recent years it’s really seen a shift both in what we do to get our books out there, and how we execute book marketing campaigns.

First, the bad news: there are approximately 3 million books published each year in this country.

Now, the good news: you can still get your book noticed.

The reality is this, 90-99% of the books published each year are never going to get noticed. They’ll sit on Amazon with one or two reviews and eventually sink to the bottom. This happens for a variety of reasons. Surprisingly a lot of authors still think their book is the field of dreams. But the reality is that just because you published it, doesn’t mean they’ll beat a path to your door.

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you aren’t part of that 90%. You know that you must bring your A-game to this venture. You know the competition is fierce.

But it’s more than that. Yes, doing all the right things is important, but there’s still more, and that’s what we’ll dig into in this post.

Who is Your Reader vs Who is Your Buyer

I talk with a lot of authors who make assumptions about who their reader is and, in many cases, don’t realize that their reader and buyer may not be the same person. I’ll explain that in a minute.

But here’s the thing: you really can’t assume who your reader is or what genre your book is. You have to know, without question, where your book belongs on the shelf. Because if you don’t know, your reader isn’t going to spend the time trying to figure it out. You should know your reader and all of the things you do – from your book cover to your book publicity all need to align with their expectations of what your genre “feels” like – and by “feels” like I mean design colors, book title, description, the look and feel of your website – and on and on.

Now let’s talk about reader vs. buyer. If you have a gift book, or a self-help book, or something along those lines – you’re maybe marketing to the wrong people.

Let me give you an example. A bunch of years ago I worked on a book called Bad Girls – Why Good Men Fall for Bad Women. The reality of this book was that most men wouldn’t buy it, so even though that was the intended reader, it wasn’t the actual buyer.

The buyer was the sister, or the mom trying to help out her son, you get the idea. So make sure that you know your reader, but that you also know your buyer – because in some cases the two may not be the same.

If you’re having a hard time finding your reader, here’s a way to create a roadmap.

First off, find other, similar books to your book – just do a deep dive on Amazon and see what you can find. Create a spreadsheet that lists the author’s name, book title, author’s website, and any social media URLs. Then start to do some research. Books leave clues and if you aren’t sure where to go after your reader, profiling books similar to yours will really help you to identify where you should be on social media, and maybe spark some ideas about what to post. Also, check out any blogs these authors have been featured on, maybe they’ll review your book, too!

Your Cover Has to Match Reader Expectations

You can’t take shortcuts when it comes to your book cover because it will dramatically affect the effectiveness of your book publicity efforts. And while it may seem fun and innovative to create a cover that’s unique, be mindful of reader expectations in your genre.

Readers “know” a book, they know what their genre looks and feels like and if your book doesn’t match that, you’ve lost your reader.

If you’re reading this and you’re not sure about your cover or you’ve had people mention that it’s not quite right, or doesn’t fit the genre, it may be time for a redo.

Connecting with Your Reader

Now more than ever, you’ve got to focus on your reader connection. Create a mailing list, find the best social media site to be on, and focus on making a direct connection with your reader. Your reader can help you spread the word about your book, they’ll even share it with their friends. If a reader loves your work, and feels a connection to you, the author, they’ll be your best advocate!

We did some podcast episodes on this, too and I’ll link them at the bottom of this piece!

Be Selective About Social Media

It’s not about being everywhere, it’s about being everywhere that matters. Don’t feel like you need to be on all the sites in order to succeed with your book publicity, because much of it is just a waste of your time.

Be selective about where you’re spending your time on social media. That will free you up to do other things, like write more books.

We did a podcast on this, too – the link is below!

Reconsider Pitching Yourself to Big Media

Just about any author I’ve spoken to would love to be on the cover of the New York Times or on the Today Show, but the reality is that with 8,216 books published each day in the US, the chances of that are extremely thin.

The other element of this is: are you sure that’s what you really want?

Are you sure that’s going to sell you books?

In the past, big shows and big publications moved books, without question, but viewer, listener, and reader demographics have changed. We consume podcasts on demand, we read news online or from one of our favorite bloggers.

A colleague of mine got an author in the New York Times, a lovely feature piece and it was also online. Nice, right? Guess how many books the author sold from this exposure? They estimated no more than one hundred. And I can assure you all the media efforts it took to get that opportunity cost thousands of dollars.

So I challenge you to think of more creative book publicity strategies to get your work the kind of exposure it deserves. Let’s dig into a few ideas!

Focus on Local Media and Local Influencers

Authors very often overlook local media. Why? Because it’s less glamorous than the big shows – and I get it. But that’s the reason you want to add it to your toolbox: because most authors overlook this area of promotion.

Local print, local radio, tv, etc,. all of that is great for pushing your book – local media loves their local authors and more often than not, pitching this angle is last on an author’s to-do list.

The other piece of this is local bookstores, gift shops, and libraries. If you haven’t reached out to these folks, now is the time.

We did a podcast on this recently that I’ll link to at the bottom of this post.

Bulk and Special Sales

Wouldn’t it be great to sell your book in bulk? I’ve made bulk book sales in upwards of 10,000 copies in one order. Pretty great right? And you know the best part? There are no returns on bulk sales.

Consider this: who might benefit from offering your book to their team, their customers, or their clients?

Do you have a business management book that speaks to new managers? Maybe Hilton wants to offer it to all of their incoming hotel managers. Could you imagine a sale like that?

Do you have a travel guide? What about offering it to hotels in the area, to put in rooms? Or even as an incentive to book a room at their hotel, or as a welcome gift?

I know an author who sells all of their books on cruise ships – the ship buys the book in bulk and offers it to their passengers on all their Alaska cruises.

Got a self-care book? What about a spa, and getting them to include it in one of their packages?

The point is, start thinking outside the norm for book publicity and sales.

I can guarantee you most authors won’t be doing this. The other reason is that books aren’t throwaway items. If you go to a conference and you get a free pen or a mug you may not keep it – but a book is not something people easily throw away so as a bulk sale incentive item, it’s a great idea.

Subscription Box and Catalog Sales

I adore subscription boxes and ever since 2020 they’ve really taken off. There are more subscription boxes today than ever and many you’ve never even heard of.

There are self-care boxes, boxes for single women, children’s learning boxes, mystery lovers boxes, the list goes on.

You’re going to need to get creative around this to figure out the pairing and you must spend some time perusing their websites to see the kinds of things they offer, but if you can find an angle, it could be a really great way to move some books!

Catalog sales is another great opportunity and despite all of our online shopping, there are still a lot of catalogs out there to choose from. And consider product matches, like I mentioned earlier – so for example if you have a fun little book on cheese, or wine, or entertaining, maybe you want to see if Harry & David or Wine Country Gift Baskets might want to include it in one of their baskets. And it doesn’t just have to be food related. They have gift baskets for all occasions from weddings to baby showers, Father’s Day – you name it.

The Rise of the Micro-Influencer

When we’re marketing our book we often think big, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but consider this: you’ll get a much better response rate and return on your investment of time, by targeting micro-influencers. So what is a micro-influencer? They’re someone on Instagram, or maybe even Tiktok or maybe they run a blog and they are small but tightly focused on their audience. They may just have 5,000 followers but their posts get some great interaction and comments.

Micro-influencers are a great way to get right to your audience because they’re typically singularly focused on whatever your genre is.

I love bigger influencers, but I have found that they don’t always move the needle in terms of book sales, much like celebrities who have a huge following but you don’t really know if the folks who follow them would be interested in your book.

Keeping a very tight focus on your market will really help you gain more traction with your book publicity.

Be Selective About Running Ads

When it comes to Amazon ads, I wouldn’t let these huge publishing numbers deter you. It’s been my experience that most if not all of these authors won’t run Amazon ads, don’t know how to, or do for a short time and realize they’re losing money (because they’re doing it wrong).

But ads on social media are a different animal. Places like Facebook and Instagram have made it super easy to run ads and a lot of authors do this – many do so successfully but a lot of authors do not. The reason? We are inundated with ads and, if you’re advertising on social media keep in mind that getting them from Facebook to Amazon or your website isn’t easy. In fact, for every click you ask a consumer to make, you lost 20% of your audience.

So be selective, or find another route to gain traction or, just focus on running Amazon ads.

Yes, there are a lot of books published each day in the US. Some may say too many.

I agree that we need more vetting of books, better covers, and a barrier to entry might not be a bad idea.

I suspect that, at some point, Amazon will create some sort of a gatekeeping system that will help filter out books with bad or no editing, or just bad books.

But how do you decide that? There’s likely no AI system (yet) that can do this. As they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure so who’s to say if a book that you think is awful isn’t going to succeed (spoiler alert: most don’t)?

But even in publishing, there’s a “natural selection” – books that are flat-out terrible will only see the light of day for a microsecond before they sink into the abyss.

But the issue is that all of these terrible books still clog many of the traditional pipelines – and, sadly, subscribe to the old way of doing book publicity.

So I hope this article has inspired you to tackle this differently.

Look for opportunities most authors don’t bother to consider, be selective about where you spend your time, and stay hyper-focused on your exact target market.

I have a feeling that, even despite the staggering amount of books that are published each day in the US, you’ll still succeed.

Resources and Free Downloads

Quiz: test your book marketing knowledge!

“Doing marketing” versus building your brand: podcast

Why promoting locally can be a goldmine: podcast

What we really think about social media advertising: podcast

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Check out all the episodes of our book promotion podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts!

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