So, you found a publisher, well done, take a moment to bask in the glow and then grit your teeth because it is time to face some stark facts. Fact number one is, without sales, your beautiful book will become a dust collector, that over time you may grow to despise.
I am going to start with the assumption that you are not a best-selling author; if you are, you should be writing this article, and I should be reading it. I am going to further assume that you are a writer or poet who is publishing your first or second title. If you have moved beyond that level, then chances are you know all of this stuff so don’t need to read any further.
Book marketing should begin from the very start of your project, but with so much to do, it is easy to become overwhelmed; after all, marketing a book is complicated.
Firstly, ask yourself these hard questions, and be brutally honest with your answers:
- What is your target audience? Who is likely to read your book?
- How many books do you think you can sell organically? And how many more could you sell by marketing correctly?
- What’s the budget? How much have you or your publisher set aside, jointly or separately, to market your book?
- How many copies of the book will you or your publisher need to sell to make a return on those marketing costs?
If your answer to any of these questions is something like:
‘I don’t care about any of this, I just write for the joy of it’, then you don’t need to read any further.
If your answer is:
“I want my book to be a success”, then read on.
The first step to success as an author is in building your brand. This is why the big publishing houses focus much of their attention on authors who have already been successful, or (sickeningly) on celebrities, because they are already established brands. So how do you replicate this, how do you build your own brand?
A brand is generally associated with Names, Colours, Logos. For authors, these translate to Name, Book Covers, Titles, Series Names, all those things that will set you and your book/s apart from the herd.
For your book, the branding also takes other forms: Genre, Characters, Setting. But also marketing tags and metadata, the critical pieces of information that allow readers to find you and find your book.
A book’s metadata includes such things as Book Description, Author Bio, BISAC Codes. BISAC Codes assist book retailers and book buyers in cataloguing and allocating shelf space your book, they inform distributors, retailers, and importantly, search engines of what your book is about – the genre, subject, and theme of your work. Without these codes, retailers are unlikely to stock your book as they will have no idea where to position it or who it is aimed at.
When you have established your author brand and your book identity in your own mind, then you need to start sharing it with the world. The easiest way for authors to share their brand with potential customers is across the internet. This should include: website, social media account, Youtube and Soundcloud accounts. Through these channels, you can share information and attract followers.
Digital marketing requires slick presentation, hi-resolution images of yourself, your book cover and your marketing material. Video and audio need to be well-produced, content needs to be informative and engaging. However, none of this needs to be costly.
It is advisable to start your marketing effort well ahead of your book launch. Indeed, you could begin even before your book is finished. Marketing is about building an audience and then selling to that audience, and the best tool available to an author to achieve this is An Author Website.
Creating An Author Website
An author website should contain a Home Page, An About The Author Page, A Book Page, A Content Page and most importantly, a Blog Page. You can add other pages, but these are the essential ones.
Create a media kit that includes all of the information about the book/s, your professionally taken author photo, extracts of reviews and any other book publicity. Ask yourself what readers would ask about you and your book/s, and then answer those questions. This is your Media Kit, and it should be added to the About Page of your website.
After the About page, the two most important parts of your website are Your Blog and your Newsletter capture. Think of your blog as the bait, and the newsletter sign-up as the hook, the fish you are trying to catch is the email subscriber, who is also the potential Future Book Purchaser.
Build your email list by offering subscribers something in return. The best thing to offer is engaging content. Readers want to read, they want to be entertained, so if you write engaging posts, people will sign-up to read more.
There are many ways to encourage sign-ups. You can offer a prize drawn at random; a signed copy of your book if it is already available; an excerpt of your book if it is not yet available; a contest of any sort. There are innumerable opportunities, you should tailor the ones that suit your own individual case while keeping in mind that the prize you seek is that email address of the Potential Book Purchaser.
A word on mailing lists: Management of mailing lists is involved, but there are many providers of services that can help simplify it, they include Mailchimp, Aweber, Mailpoet etc. The more advanced services allow you to segment your lists and target your marketing effort.
A word on your Blog: Your blog is your number one point of contact with your email subscribers. You need to post regularly, and the content should not be all marketing speak. I suggest that 70-80% of your blog posts should be about items relating to the theme of your book. You can talk about the trials of writing, how you developed your characters, other books similar to yours. You can post factual content that relates to your book, its theme or its characters. All of these posts can then be shared to your social media platform. Posting excerpts of your book is a great way to market it without being overly pushy. If your book runs to 20 chapters, post the first five chapters over five weeks. Record yourself reading a chapter or two, load your recording to Soundcloud (free of charge) and embed the link in your website. Make videos of you reading, or promotional videos and share those on your website. Be sure to include links to the best posts in your newsletters and do ask your readers for feedback.
The Author’s Social Media Strategy
Social media is a simple, cost-free way to increase your reach and grow your audience. Use an Author Page, not your own personal page. Again, you need slick graphics and images, fuzzy images look unprofessional and cheap and using them will not serve you well. Use the social media platforms that you think your audience will use. Facebook is popular, Twitter is also, but don’t ignore Pinterest or Instagram if they are likely to serve your marketing effort.
As with your website, post a mix of content. Short posts or tweets, articles from your website or from other sources, and any other material that is relevant to your book’s theme, characters or setting. Again, apply the 70%/30% ratio and sell hard with using the hard-sell.
A quick internet search will provide you with a plethora of links to ezines and magazines that publish reviews. Always check their requirements before sending them an advance copy. Try to make contact before posting anything, a friendly enquiry will be better received than you spamming them with content they have not asked for.
Aim to get 20 books out to reviewers, and if you have done your research correctly, you should garner 5 or 6 reviews. But remember, many publications are quarterly, twice yearly or even yearly, so lead times for reviews can be extended. Try to make contact with influencers, send them an advance review copy of your book and ask them to give it the thumbs up.
Literary events and book fairs are not only an excellent way to make new contacts, but they are also a tailor-made way to market your book. Events fall into two categories: those you or your publishers organise such as a book launch, readings, book signing, and those that are organised on a more global scale such as literary events and festivals, book fairs and expos. Mark them all on your calendar and invest the time and energy required to attend as many as possible.
Being longlisted, shortlisted or winning a book award can do wonders for your book’s sales. The list of major and minor book awards can be researched online, find ones that suit your book’s genre and submit, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Look at these well in advance, mark them on your calendar and be sure not to be caught out by the deadline.
I hope this is of help to those with a book in the works. It applies as much to self-published as it does to traditionally published authors. Remember, even if you are traditionally published, your book is just one of many in a publisher’s portfolio, so it behoves you to take the lead on the project and to drive sales of you book, least it become another beautiful dust collector.