Be honest now, are you still dreaming of that contract with a publisher? Fantasizing about a mile-long book signing queue outside the book store?
If so, you’re not alone. Most of my writer friends still cling to the author dream of writing a book, then doing nothing further except being signed by a publisher who does everything else, such as printing, distributing to book stores, and mass marketing that turns their book into a bestseller.
Unfortunately, very few publishers do this any more. I’m sorry to shatter anyone’s illusions, but those days are fading away, thanks to the one store that rules them all:
Amazon. Ignore It At Your Peril
You see, because of the huge number of books sold online by Amazon and the explosion of self-publishing, publisher’s profit margins have been seriously squeezed, and it has also affected main-street retailers. Every day another book store closes.
So publishers will now only spend money promoting brand name authors such as Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin, because their large fan bases make them a safe bet.
But if you’re a new author, no such luck, except in rare instances. Even if you do have a publisher it’s still largely down to you to market your own books.
So I’m going to give you the seven key marketing strategies you need to do this successfully.
No selling is required either. In fact, your primary strategy is simply to ensure that your books are discoverable.
i.e. easily found by readers wherever you sell your books.
And if your books are well written and resonate with readers, then you’ll begin to build a fan base of advocates who tell all their friends, which will ignite the most powerful form of book marketing – contagious word of mouth recommendation, reader to reader.
But first, they need to find your books. So let’s look at how to make your books discoverable. Here are seven clearly defined strategies to make your books more visible, increase sales, and grow long-term readership.
7 Bestseller Book Marketing Strategies
1. Choose Your Genre So Readers Can Find Your Books
It’s vital to determine exactly where you fit in the marketplace, so your books can be found by readers of a specific genre.
For example: Thriller, Romantic Fiction, Historical Romance, YA, Police Procedural, Crime, Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal. Or even a tiny sub-genre within one of these.
But whichever you write for, there is one certainty: The narrower you focus the genre, the more likely you are to be successful, because most readers look for specific types of books and obsessively hunt them down. It’s better to be meaningful to a smaller group of you-holics who love your work and talk about it.
Don’t become a wandering generality.
Be a meaningful specific.”
2. Create A Unique Brand That Stands Out From The Crowd
Considering there are millions of titles available on Amazon, your books need a unique point of difference to stand out. Otherwise you’ll be jostling for position with several thousand others, with no discernible reason why readers should pick yours.
Your literary point of difference could be derived from almost anything in your books – distinctive characters, narrative, plot, setting, style, voice.
Maybe it’s a special character trait, or a new take on an historical event, or an unusual location. Even a remix of two separate cultural memes, such as Wizards and English Public Schools.
Furthermore, sum up this memorable point of difference with a tagline, and use it in your blog header, in social media profiles, as your email signature – everywhere.
Once you’ve established your unique position in the marketplace, you’ll own it forever, and become an increasingly visible Lighthouse Author Brand.
3. Write A Series. The Single Most Effective Career Strategy
Of all the things I’ve encountered in the ‘book business’ that lead to success, there’s one in particular that tops them all: Series.
There’s no question that sales of a book series will far outstrip a sequence of one-off books. It’s the single most effective career strategy you can employ.
A book series will sell itself.
Readers become addicted to a series with a central character to whom they become deeply attached. If you can get people hooked on the first couple of books in your series, the subsequent books sell themselves.
The momentum carries over from each book to the next, as readers become desperate to find out what will happen.
Take a moment to recall the power of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudelaire, Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Stephenie Meyers’ Vampire Edward Cullen, and the all-time classic, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, the super-sleuth.
It’s no accident that all of these photographs are from movies or TV shows based on books. When you create a successful book brand as a series with a central cast of characters, it opens up other opportunities too.
Special note re ‘series’ for Romantic Fiction writers:
Because most Romantic Fiction stories must have a happy ending, it means the main character’s issues have been resolved. So the character cannot easily start again in a next book.
This is not always the case, but is true for most. 50 Shades was series of course, and also the YA Twilight books which was a four part series.
But they are not the type of one-off books to which I’m referring. For single Romantic Fiction books, instead of series as such, more attention needs to go into developing great writing, memorable author brand, attractive tagline, and appealing covers with your author name writ large.
4. Know Who Your Reader Is, And Target Them
Who are they? Mothers with children? 20-something girls? Young teens? Sci-fi geeks? Discover what they’re obsessed with. What are they interested in, their hobbies? Think of them as a person you have come to know. Form a mental picture, and note it down.
Moreover, craft all your communications specifically for them. Mirror their interests and obsessions and they’ll soon notice. Learn where they spend time online too, so you can interact with them and gain their interest.
This is reader-targeted marketing. You want your books being read by a specific genre audience, not just in-store on the shelves.
5. Use Your Author Platform To Attract Readers
Your Author Platform is comprised of all the ways your books are made visible to readers, through your communication channels and your network of contacts and relationships.
It is steadily built up over the duration of your career, and essentially it funnels readers to your books where you have them for sale. e.g. Amazon. This diagram displays all of your communication channels.
The heart of the platform is your blog - home base of your promotional activity
The way to capture the attention of readers with a blog is by writing posts that reflect their interests perfectly. You introduce your books during these posts (rather than at the beginning) so when readers come across them, they’ll already be in a fascinated frame of mind and take an interest, rather than feeling they’ve been pitched.
This is known as content marketing.
Further to this, another major advantage of a blog is the ability to build an email list of readers and supporters by giving away eBooks in exchange for email addresses.
It enables you to contact all of them at any given moment. To see the advantage of this, picture a list of readers ready and waiting to be notified when you launch your next book.
I’ll be blogging soon about the power of author email marketing, how to do it effectively, and the easiest way to set it up.
Use social media to engage readers and attract them to your blog
Post intriguing teasers about your blog posts on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Place clickable links in the teasers to attract supporters and readers to your blog where you introduce your books. From there you can send them on to Amazon.
Avoid constantly spamming “Buy My Book!”
If you constantly advertise on social media instead of being interesting, readers will tune out. People are on social media to chat, interact with others and be entertained, in a similar way to talk-back radio listeners.
Conversely if you intersperse a limited number of promotional Tweets amidst interesting content Tweets and interactions, then you’ll successfully draw attention to your books. The thing to avoid is being promotional all the time. Be promotional at the right time. i.e. after you’ve spent time giving out value first.
More specifically, here’s my rant about what authors should NOT do on social media.
6. Commission Beautiful Book Covers That SELL
Book covers are the billboards for your books that identify your genre and your point of difference. If they’re strikingly beautiful, they’ll stand out amidst inferior covers, especially at thumbnail size on Amazon. And because of their attention-grabbing power, great covers can significantly increase impulse purchases by first-time buyers.
Amateur design attempts have no place when you are working to attract attention for your books. Have beautiful covers designed by a professional.
Note. Visit my informative article about creating beautiful book covers that sell.
7. Make Full Use Of Amazon’s System
There’s no question that Amazon rules the world of online bookstores. Yes, there are lesser lights such as B&N Nook, Kobo, Apple iBookstore and Smashwords. But Amazon should be central to your activities. So here are some key Amazon actions to take:
Write attractive, attention-grabbing book descriptions
You need to toot your own horn, because no-one else will.
On the book’s sales page, write irresistible teaser headlines that focus on your central character, and capture the appeal of your book. Briefly expand on this, and end with a cliff hanger so the reader is left wondering “What on earth is going to happen?”
For example, Nora Roberts tantilizing description of her book Public Secrets.
“Emma. Beautiful, intelligent, radiantly talented, she lives in a star-studded world of wealth and privilege. But she is about to discover that fame is no protection at all when someone wants you dead…”
Utilize Amazon’s categories accurately to boost discoverability
When picking two Amazon categories to list a book, use the same approach as you did when choosing your sub-genre. Include specific keywords in your book subtitle and the description that readers will use when searching for your type of book.
As I said, the narrower your focus, the more likely you are to be found and bought, because readers look for certain specific types of books and obsessively hunt them down. Plus you’ll have far less competition.
Be patient, Amazon’s Phoenix Effect will eventually kick in and boost sales
There’s no need to become downhearted if your Amazon sales are slow.
Unlike in a book store, a book on Amazon has time to find its audience, because it’s there forever. Not only that, but if by chance your books don’t sell initially, once you have several books written and on sale they all begin to sell each other.
This is when the Phoenix effect kicks in. Your reader addicts will go back and chase down everything you’ve written in the past, often going on a bender and splurging on several of your books at the same time. This has an accelerating effect on sales.
The earlier books rise from the ashes of previously lackluster sales and catch fire, selling a growing number of copies. The more books you have, the greater the power of this phenomenon.
“How Much Time Should I Put Into Marketing?”
My recommendation is to divide your available author-career time into 70% for creative writing and 30% for promotion. It’s the ratio I use for my own work.
The reason for this strong creative bias is that your writing carries the day in the end.
Most book sales are driven by word of mouth, and that will only happen if your books have reader appeal. So make it your primary focus and you’ll be far more likely to succeed.
The Bottom Line: Get Those Books Out There!
Let me know in the comments below of your writing progress, your publishing plans, ideas, trials and tribulations.
Note: This post is part 3 of a 3 part series on how to sell more books.
Part 1: The Book Launch Strategy Every Author Should Use
Part 2 How To Attract Readers By Creating A ‘Lighthouse’ Author Brand
Did this help? Which of the 7 strategies do you like most? Which one causes you the most trouble? Please leave a comment or a question.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / Book Marketing Coach / CEO Bestseller Labs
Notice: This article is copyrighted material. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at BestsellerLabs.com