…Every Author Needs to Know
As an author myself (but mostly blogger), I’ve learned a great deal of insight with book marketing over the years. If you take away anything from this post, it’s that you’ll learn a lot about marketing purely from testing and observation, two things that I think many authors frequently don’t do enough of.
When you allow yourself time to test various combinations of social media marketing of your books as well as observe your results, you open yourself up to do more of what works and you’ll stop posting just to… well, post. We call it an empty engagement post. Posted purely just to put something up. And it’s a social media behavior that you’ll want to refrain from.
Below are 10 key things that you’ll want to know about book marketing. These are observations and findings from my own testing as well as just sound advice that is echoed with other graphic designers and marketers in the author market.
What Works in Book Marketing?
Let’s focus on what works, what doesn’t, and fill you in on some discoveries I’ve made in the process of marketing my own and others’ books online.
- Marketing is not meant to be all about you and your book products. What I often see with authors is constant posting about their books and their own articles. They’ll use their social media real estate for their own benefit (which is good only about 20-30% of the time) exclusively instead of focusing on building a community. You probably don’t want to be considered an online narcissist, so instead, focus on other people and other articles and books written by others, too, and blend those articles and books and positive moments of others into your feeds.
What you say about others online (and in general) can have an impact on your book sales. Truth. When you compliment others and draw attention to others, people start associating those positive statements and compliments with YOU, not just your person of focus. It’s the “Oh, she just complimented and shared so-and-so’s book saying they are super nice and the book was great. That was nice. She must be a nice person. So I want to support her, too.” type of thing. There have been studies conducted on this “science” of associating the niceness of your conduct in relation to how others perceive you. Naturally, I tend to be a complimentary person myself and do this regularly, but when I made this discovery in managing multiple FB pages, it only solidified what scientists were discovering, because it correlated with book sales.
Moral: be nice to others, be inclusive, and make sure you focus on community instead of broadcasting your own material all the time.
- Marketing is about catering to your audience more so than what you’re selling or writing. One of the things I’m intently focused on is whether or not an activity on a blog, social media post, or article is giving the audience value. Are they getting something out of reading it? Are they being entertained enough? Why are they on their social media platform to begin with? Why are they visiting the website? What do they want?
It’s answering these tough questions – which seem simple I know (but requires some thought) – that will help you arrive at what you need to do to ensure you’re providing something of value and not just posting or sharing without a strategy behind it. What do THEY want to hear and read about? What do THEY want to watch? Sure, it’s your page, your profile, whatever. But strictly posting your teasers, book links, and getting short-term engagement with that is not a long-term strategy. It’s only giving you false positives which make you THINK you’re going to get long-term success. I studied this phenomenon simply by mixing both book teasers with question engagement posts. The fun engagement posts out-performed the book teasers by a long shot. Posted on the same day of the week, one week apart, at the same time.
Moral: people like to be able to voice their opinion, to answer questions, share their favorites, and vote. Book teasers and covers may be lovely, but mixing in engaging posts that give your audience a voice will out-perform your book marketing posts most of the time (which means you may need to boost your marketing posts).
- Truly engaging with your audience goes a lot further rather than the simple “like” or “thank you”! When you have a post that is getting popular online, and is fostering more and more comments, really feed into that with some time and effort. This is your opportunity to win loyalty points, by feeding their excitement with that of yours. It’s so simple, really… but so many authors don’t take the time to comment on each individual comment with something meaningful beyond “thank you”. So DO take the time to engage with meaningful responses.
- Before and after you publish, think like a blogger. Not an author. Too often we get wrapped up in our books – our babies, right? The marketing of the books. The posting, the sharing, getting reviews, posting in groups, etc. But what really matters is focusing on activities much like a blogger would, rather than an author – there’s so much focus on posting about the book and getting people to read it and not enough on more long-term activities. What activities should you do to bring in web traffic to get your book exposure? What is going to build my email list? What can I give away besides my books that will build up my subscriber list?
So, let me fill you in on a key piece of information from a blogger standpoint. We don’t give away our prime product (that means we don’t usually give away free books!). We sell our prime products. But along the way, we help our audience with bits and pieces of content upgrades, give them a taste of what we offer, and then pitch them with our prized product. (And hopefully convert!)
What really needs to happen here is to expand your view, expand your activities beyond just blogging about and posting about your book. Give your audience everything bookish-related including content upgrades, without giving away your enchiladas (aka, your book products).
Moral: Don’t be afraid to put on your blogger hat and think outside the typical “author box”.
- Be friendly to all, and make friends. This is a business where it’s important to know people, get along with people, be kind to everyone, smile, and make friends. Sure, you could sit there, alone, and try to make a go of marketing your book alone, but believe me, it’s a much more successful journey to have friends and make friends, too. Be kind to your providers, and don’t treat them like servants. Be kind to your ARC team… even when they don’t get their reviews up on time. Be kind to other authors in your genre, as they will likely share your book releases if you’re nice to them. Make friends with editors, marketers, agents, publishing companies, well, just everyone. It’s just better when everyone gets along and works together. This is not a good market to be in if you’re going to be passive aggressive, overly competitive, entitled, narcissistic, and domineering. Make friends with other authors, and you’ll find success in this business. While not a requirement, it certainly helps.
Moral: Kindness, even in the face of disagreement or differences, goes a long way for your book marketing endeavors.You’ll find that even service providers will go the extra mile if you are nice to them.
- Pinterest will be your best source of email-building opportunities. I have tested BookBub, NetGalley, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Pinterest beat them all out. You will not find another platform that brings in a quality, interested, buying audience like Pinterest does. And if you learn how to work Pinterest for your author profile, you will WIN at book marketing and build your audience like you never thought possible. Constant, daily growth is available on this platform. But you have to learn how to use it as a business and not just as a consumer.
- You really DO need to focus on delivering value on your website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been interested in an author’s book just because of the coolness of their website, the intrigue they created, and the quality of their subscription/lead magnet process. When authors chat in the groups about their websites with a “meh” or dismissive attitude about the importance of their website, I’m often shocked. THINK OF ALL THE ACTIVITIES! <Stepbrothers reference here> You cannot rely only on social media to drive your sales. Any platform could change their rules, jack up advertising rates, and really ruin what you thought was a good marketing thing going. Your website is your true ally in your book marketing process. Have a good plan in place and invest in your website.
- Posts that work for one author may not for another. I did some substantial testing on engagement-type posts these past couple months. What was popular for one, was not as popular for another. Too often authors (and bloggers, too), are tempted to mimic what others are doing without really doing their own testing. They’ll copy blindly, without understanding what the underlying strategy is.
Is there a time of day that works better? Does font matter? Do all posts need to be on-brand? What subjects of posts worked better than others? What size of image worked the best? Photo only or photo with text? What happened when there was a link?
The results were that every audience responded differently to a series or string of varied posts. Some had photo & text, some were photo only, some where multiple choice, some were seeking comments, etc. Each and every page responded differently. Your audience is a special mix of people specifically interested in something you have to say. So your audience may not respond exactly the same as another romance author, if you write romance. It’d be wonderful to be able to say “oh just post this and that and it’ll work out great for this type of genre”. It really doesn’t work that way. Your specific talent and style of writing has attracted a specific audience for a reason. So why copy everyone else? Don’t do that. Find your own style and combination that your audience responds to the best.
- Constantly changing your cover will create confusion, and lack of sales may be because of a bad cover. I’m all for updating an older, outdated or non-performing cover. But only once. Not every other week, changing the font, colors, layout, information, etc. This is confusing for your audience and makes it look like you don’t have your $#%* together. Plus, it creates an absolute nightmare on Pinterest. Why? Because people can report your pins and knock down your rank if the image on Pinterest they clicked on doesn’t match the web page they go to. They may have liked the cover they found online, but then when they click into the image, may be disappointed that it doesn’t match.
I typically find this happening more with authors who are trying to do their own covers, and instead of taking the time to do it right, they make critical mistakes repeatedly with their cover art – everything from white outlines on their cover models to mis-matched backgrounds, bad blend jobs, using fonts that do not match the genre, etc. Work with a professional graphic designer who creates covers that sell well and consistently.
Then there’s the lack of sales issue. This is typical even with books that have 50+ reviews, but then sales fade. This is usually a symptom of a bad book cover. The author will get the initial reviews from their ARC team, but then the book sits consistently at 250k+ in rank or higher… and regardless of posting everywhere, does not sell.
- Focusing on your lists is super key: ARC team list and your email list. These are two things you have control over. Your ARC team is essential in getting that book launched with a ton of positive reviews. Let me tell you, even for popular authors, it takes time and effort to build an ARC team. So start building as soon as you can and make that a focus to work on with your PA. Then, there’s your email list. I view email lists as your source for sales and loyalty. My list is about 60k and is a combination of both bloggers and authors, as I’m a cross-over writer, entertaining both markets as a writer with non-fiction titles. Each time I send out something of value, I build loyalty. Each time I send out a marketing email, I make sales. And that’s a huge plus, to be able to be making sales on whatever platform you desire whenever you need to. Both of these lists can be built with social media as well as Pinterest.
And that’s my list of discoveries about book marketing. I hope you’ve found the information helpful and that you’ve been able to jot down some notes on what you may need to do differently in the future or what you may want to focus on.
I’ll report back with more insight as it unfolds. Oh, the drama of book marketing. So much to do, so little time, right? Until next time, keep giving your best work and keep writing! I know you can get that book done.
Also published on Medium.