Book Marketing for Author. 1 The Buy Decision

Book Marketing for Authors. 1 The Buy Decision

As part of a series of marketing articles for writers, Chaffinch Press looks at why some authors sell and other don’t

We know that millions of books are published every year and that not all of them become bestsellers, so what is the difference between those that succeed and those that don’t? The answer is not always about content, quality of writing or theme; in fact, it is rarely about those aspects, important though they are.

If you’re an author published by a small press and want to succeed, you must understand and cultivate your audience. Above all, you must  appreciate what compels a reader to buy a book.

Understanding what influences buying decisions will inform your marketing strategies. You need to understand the reader’s impulses, both emotional and logical, and form a connection to it, leaving an impression that will ultimately lead to a sale.

Motives for buying

The book meets a need

At the most basic level, consumers buy food because they are hungry, clothes to stay warm, shoes to protect their feet. Their choices of flavour, brand and design are mostly about fashion or personal preference, but every purchase meets a need.

Readers, also, buy books to meet a need. Some would call it a burning need – a yearning for entertainment/escape, education or fulfilment. A DIY enthusiast will buy DIY books to learn, a keen cook will buy cookbooks; these are purchases driven by a need to learn. The purchase of books for entertainment or escape are edriven by desire, impulse and curiosity.

An inconvenient fact

When you started to write your book, there wasn’t a readymade audience for it. People were not waiting for your wonderwork to land so they could rush to their local bookstore to buy it. But there are consumers who are driven by desire, impulse and curiosity, and if you can prove your book will satisfy those impulses, you will increase your book sales and thus your earnings.

All your marketing efforts should focus on the desire that your book fulfils. If your book is a travel guide, the desire is to learn how to negotiate a country; if it is a gardening book, the desire is to have a beautiful garden; if your book is poetry or fiction, then the desire is to be entertained, challenged or engaged.

Ask yourself a question. What does your book offer to potential readers? When you discover the answer, make it the bedrock of your marketing. And remember, most desires are subliminal, so your marketing should be too.

Books as gifts

Gifting a loved one is a major impulse to buy, and books make superb gifts. They are inexpensive, can be signed by the giver, are easy to wrap and fulfill an emotional need for both the giver and the receiver. People exchange gifts every day of the year, and these gifts mark holidays and milestones such as birthdays or anniversaries, as well as including the ‘just because’ gifts.

Would your book make a wonderful gift? Of course it would, but who would it best suit? Figure that out and use it to your advantage. Market your book as a perfect gift to a loved one, a child, a spouse, a cook, a gardener, a DIY guy or gal. Position it as an ideal gift for a graduation, a birthday, or Christmas or other festival.

Books make wonderful presents, so work that into your marketing strategy, encouraging customers to buy your book for an occasion. Remind your audience that books make the perfect gifts, are always fashionable and appreciated.

Impulse purchases

Impulsive,  spur-of-the-moment decisions to buy are based on emotions – emotions that trigger the impulse buy.

Book covers play a key role in a person’s impulse to buy. Put simply , a good cover is your number one marketing tool when it comes to impulse purchases, so right from the outset ensure it is compelling. And remember,  after the front cover draws buyers to your book, and the title intrigues them, the back cover should seal the deal with a compelling blurb and one or several strong reviews.

All this is as important online as in the physical bookstore. Your book needs to stand out if it is to catch people’s attention.

Personal connections

How many people do you know, 10? 100? 1000? More!

Our connections with others come in many ways. Some people we know personally, others we know as virtual friends, some we know because of their profile such as media stars, influencers, politicians and so on.  One of the reasons people buy books is because they have a connection to you, the author. Some of these connections come easy – family, friends, relatives. Other connections require work.

Either way, authors who succeed cultivate connections. Not every buyer of your book needs to know you, but if they do, they will be one step closer to becoming one of your readers. In short, cultivating connections is an important marketing tool.

Let’s play a game called ‘I bought your book because…’

I’ll go first… and remember, every sentence starts with, ‘I bought your book because…’

  • I read a wonderful review of your work, written by someone I trust or respect.
  • I heard you on local radio and you sounded so interesting.
  • I read one of your blog posts and was so engaged I just had to buy your book.
  • I saw you at that writer’s festival and thought you were very impressive.
  • I read one of your other books and loved it.
  • I heard you on that podcast and was entranced.

Now it’s your turn. Add to this list as many sentences as you can that begin with: I bought your book because! Then make those reasons real.

Forge personal connection in the real world, and in the digital world too. When people feel connected to you, they will be more inclined to buy your book.


Heads-up. Recommendations are one of the easiest ways to get your book sold. If I read a book and tell a like-minded friend how much I loved it, they are more inclined to go and buy it. 

However, recommendations do not happen automatically. They need to be encouraged, cultivated and, when they happen, highlighted. They  can come from various sources, so let’s examine them.

Recommendations from influencers are probably the most potent. Get you book big-upped by Oprah and you’ll sell millions, regardless of quality.nn.

Ok, so you don’t know Oprah, but you do know some influential people, right? So reach out to them, send them a gratis copy and ask them to recommend it.

Recommendations from trusted reviewers are invaluable to your bottom line, so find them, target them, and get your book to them.

Recommendations from staff in a bookstore are often overlooked, but staff in bookstores hold the faith of your book in their hands; how they position it, place it, feature it are all important. But more importantly, do they recommend it? A recommendation from a member of staff in a big store is solid gold, so take the time to talk with them and get to know them – and give them a free book !

Review sites are a lot more influential than you may think. ‘I never buy a book until I check it out on Goodreads’ is becoming a refrain. So cultivate consistent, strong reviews. Find reviewers in your genre, friend them, send them a gratis copy, or better still an advance copy and ask for a review.

The bottom line is that recommendations, be they word-of-mouth, online or in print, sell books. So invest in obtaining recommendations. Get your book in front of influencers, reviewers and readers and ask them to recommend it.

Your book is discovered online

Readers discover and purchase books online. And as we’ve said, decisions to buy are often impulsive. Here’s something that you need to get your head around if you want to sell is this, your book is seldom be found by chance! Online, books are categorised by metadata, little snippets of information that tell the retailer what genre your book is, what audience it is suitable for, and what demographic is likely to purchase it.

You know when you go on Amazon and see those Books recommended for you listings, or when you see this annoying thing, People who bought {insert title} also bought {insert another title}. These are not random recommendations, but are based on the metadata of your previous purchases.

When people search online using terms like ‘Fiction, Crime, Poetry’ etc. the search is returned by metadata. So attaching the correct metadata to your book will control where it sits, what searches it will be returned in and to whom it is recommended. And there’s more. Book metadata is also used in physical stores, and pretty much for the same reason. Metadata tells staff and shop owners where to position the book, what genre it belongs to and to which demographic it will appeal.

Your book will only be discovered online if your metadata is well structured, so make sure you pay attention to it, or your publisher pays attention to it. 

The power of the excerpt

Say your book costs €10.00. In the greater scheme of things, that is not expensive; however, people are driven by a fear that they may be wasting their money. The way to overcome this is to present the potential buyer with an excerpt. How often have you seen a person in a bookstore read the first page of a book before committing to it?

It is not for nothing that publishers look for strong openings, especially killer first lines and wonderful first paragraphs. Excerpts are the key that gain you access to the potential buyer’s pocket, so make sure your excerpt is as strong as it can be.

Over the coming weeks, Chaffinch Press will delve deeper into the science of book marketing, author branding and audience building. Authors, watch this space!

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