It’s a pattern, by now: There are new marketing trends emerging by the second. Every day brings a new social media platform we’re told we mustn’t ignore, or another tally of 60+ book marketing resources. The truth is, book marketing is much more attainable once you cut through the noise and pick up the important stuff—the few tactics that will really work for you.
Of course, these tactics will generally be different from one genre to another. You don’t sell a photo book like you sell a romance novel. That said, there are three elements that any author can’t afford not to have in their marketing toolkit. Forget to work on one and you’ll end up squandering precious time (and readers) in the process.
1. Your Author Website
In today’s age of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr, you might be fooled into thinking that an author website is just another online platform. Twitter’s enough for engagement if my readers grow that curious about me! But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
As explained in a study conducted by the Codex Group, a research firm that tracks trends in book buying, 7.5% percent of book shoppers visit an author’s website before making a book purchase. That’s a whopping 75 out of 1,000 purchases that you could lose if you don’t have a website.
What an author website does is give you a one-stop shop for your brand and books. It gives you a chance to control your image and engage your fans on your own terms, independent of other company-owned social media platforms.
An author website is, in effect, a dynamic business card. It’s there to support all your other marketing efforts. Let’s say, for example, that someone reads a great coverage you got for your book in the local newspaper. They’ll google your name, and will expect to see your website. Then, it’s up to you to design it in a way that it’s optimized for your main objectives:
- Get people to buy your books. Put your books front-and-center, with clear “buy” or “download” buttons to all the retailers where they’re available. For more information on how to build the perfect website, check out this post for 10 tips on author websites.
- Grow your mailing list. In that case, make sure that the sign up form is the first thing they see on your website, and that you offer a nice incentive for joining your mailing list. Also think about adding an exit pop-up. Which brings us to…
2. Your Author Mailing List
Email newsletters might seem old-school, but there’s a reason they’ve weathered so many marketing fads. Their value is simple, really: Everything you do marketing-wise is a waste if you don’t capture and retain the audience that you gradually build up.
Let’s think about it this way: imagine your first book is super successful, it sells 10,000 copies in its first month. Now you want to release the second one in the series. How are these 10,000 people going to know about it? If they’re not in your mailing list, they probably won’t.
Your author mailing list is the one main tool you’ll use to build a long-lasting relationship with your readers, and turn them into repeat buyers and unconditional fans. Every sale you make while your mailing list is not in place could be a lost opportunity.
There’s no secret behind getting people onto your newsletter, either: just make sure that you provide a sign-up form every chance you get. This means:
- On your website
- In the back matter of your books
- In the front matter of your books (to capture the people who use the “look inside” feature on Amazon)
- On your retailer pages (e.g. Amazon Author Central)
- On social media
Then, think about offering a proper reason for them to sign up. You know, other than “stay up to date and don’t miss my next book.” Most of the successful authors I know offer a free book as a “lead magnet”, but if that feels like too much, maybe a free novella, or bonus/extra content? “Free” is a powerful incentive, and you’ll find that people are always inclined to jump in when you offer concrete value in the transaction.
3. An Optimized Amazon Product Page
If I ask you: “what is Amazon?” you’ll probably tell me that they’re a retailer, or a marketplace. And you’d be right, but that’s not how I want you to think of it. Amazon, at its core, is a search engine. It’s actually the world’s third-largest search engine. And the first one for books, of course.
So while you shouldn’t think about selling exclusively on there, you should definitely think about leveraging their audience, and trying to capture some of it. How does that work?
- A reader searches for “Bali photo book”;
- Because you’ve optimized your product page for that keyword, your book shows up;
- The reader buys your book, reads it, then signs on to your newsletter (because, you know, you’re offering some free content as an incentive);
- You build a relationship with the reader;
- The reader goes on to buy the rest of your books.
In short, you use Amazon to generate book-buyer leads for you, which you then convert to sales. The key step, you’ll have guessed, is #2. We could spend a long time on Amazon search optimization (in fact, we’ve got a free course about it), but just to give you a few tips:
- Research categories in your genre and pick the right ones for your book. Make sure they’re not too competitive, and not too niche either.
- Use the seven keywords wisely. Here’s a top post by Joanna Penn on finding the importance of keywords for metadata and discovery.
- Craft a killer blurb for your book. Here are some tips on the Do’s and Don’ts of writing a blurb for your novel.
- Get as many favorable editorial and customer reviews as you can. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got a free course on Book Reviews and How To Get Them.
- Sign up to “Author Central,” and complete your author bio.
- Make your book available in as many formats as you can (it’ll boost your visibility).
There you go: these are the three tools you can’t live without for book promotion. Of course, they’re not the only things you should do: ranking well on Amazon isn’t just a matter of optimizing your page. You also need to sell a lot of copies, which is where the rest of your promotional efforts come in.
About Ricardo Fayet
I am the co-founder of one of the most exciting startups in the publishing industry. I slowly immersed myself in the publishing industry a few years ago, and co-founded Reedsy to create a new publishing model for authors, one that sits at the intersection between traditional publishing and author publishing. It turns out that what we have built at Reedsy is as valuable to indie authors as it is to established publishing companies, so I now get to work with both. In fact, we were named “BookTech Company of 2015” by UK trade magazine The Bookseller.