Marketing a book abides by the same basic principles as marketing any other product or service. If your book isn’t selling as well as you would like, start with the 4 P’s of Marketing: Product, Place, Promotion and Price.
In the excitement to make your book available, some things may have been overlooked or you may have gained some knowledge after you published the book. Look for clues from reviewers if you aren’t sure if changes are needed. If you self-published your book through CreateSpace or Ingram Spark or your ebook through KDP, you can quickly and easily make changes to your manuscript and upload the new file.
Next, look at your cover to make sure it is doing enough to sell your book. Does it draw the reader in or announce your book as self-published? If you didn’t spend the money on professional cover design the first time around, consider it part of the marketing investment in your product.
Note: If you change the cover in any way, you need a new ISBN. You can make changes to the interior of the book without ISBN changes.
Finally, make sure your book is available in print and ebook to reach the widest audience of readers.
Where is your book available? Amazon is not the only game in town. Make sure you’ve chosen Expanded Distribution in CreateSpace or enabled Ingram’s worldwide distribution network. It will be available to all online retailers, bookstores, libraries and academic institutions. That doesn’t mean they will stock your book, but it will be available if requested by a customer. If you’ve published with a company other than CreateSpace or Ingram, explore the distribution options with the publisher. Because self-publishing is a dynamic industry, changes are being made every day to the options available for publishing and distribution even if you just published your book 3 months ago.
Choose categories for your book that give you the greatest chance for discoverability. When you register your book, you have the opportunity to choose categories that define what your book is about. Although it makes sense to go into a popular category, the opposite is actually true. Choose a category that fits your book AND contains the fewest competing titles. The goal is to get on the first page of the search results. KDP also allows for the use of keywords. Use keyword phrases like “publish a book” instead of “publish” to allow readers to find you.
In addition to retailers, make your book available on your website in both print and ebook versions or direct them to a site like Amazon to purchase. Purchase wholesale hard copies for sale at book signings, workshops, speaking engagements and when you bump into an old friend on the street.
Setting the price for your book is an important part of the marketing equation. Priced too high, a book will be passed over for a lower-price option. Priced too low and it can be perceived as a lesser quality. To find the sweet spot, consider cost, competition and, to a lesser degree, royalties.
Look at other books in your category on Amazon or another online site. How does your book compare in terms of quality of cover design, number of pages and content? Are other authors in your category well-known or relatively unknown? If you are the reader, what would you pay for your book? Why?
While the money you spent getting your book published may be a factor in your decision to price your book at a certain level, being too eager to recover your costs may put you at a disadvantage. Think in terms of quantity of books sold rather than simply relying on a higher royalty per book. If your wholesale cost per book is so high that it makes it difficult to sell at a competitive price, it may be worth considering republishing through a less expensive publisher (CreateSpace for black and white interior or Ingram Spark for color interior).
Book promotion it the part you know you need and the hardest for most authors to consistently achieve. It is the last leg in the 4 P’s of marketing and the part that is subject to the greatest variation. Promoting your book will take time or money or both. This article won’t go deeply into any of these methods, because each path deserves its own book.
Promotion is how you let readers know that you have a book that solves their problem even if the problem is that they need another book to read. Where do you even begin?
Reviews – Reviews are gold to the author. The more positive reviews you have, the better. There are a few ways to get reviewed: organically from readers, purchased reviews (I don’t recommend), and through giveaways. Giveaways through Goodreads or KDP give you the opportunity to advertise your book, get your book into the hands of readers and generate reviews for your book.
There is a common understanding that winners of Goodreads giveaways should review the book that they win. Not all do, but it is requested by Goodreads. You must have a printed book to give away, so there are book and shipping costs associated with participation.
A giveaway through KDP is a cost-effective way to generate reviews and visibility for your book. You can set the amount of time for the giveaway and incur no costs in running the promotion. It gives you something to post on social media as an added bonus.
Book and/or author website – Use the website as the anchor of your promotional efforts. Include the cover, description of your book, an author bio, press materials, a link to purchase the book, reviews, contact information, upcoming appearances, other services you offer (if any) and resources, book discussion questions or anything that adds value for the reader. You can include a blog here, as well to give background info on the book, talk about the writing life, give writing tips, or give your readers the scoop on an upcoming book.
Social Media – Social media is best when used for, well, being social. It isn’t a place to sell potential readers. It is a great place to engage readers. People buy from people and businesses they know, like and trust. It takes time and consistent effort to grow a following over time. Be a giver of information, knowledge, humor, inspiration, insight or support. You should post 80% for the reader and 20% about you. Think of yourself at a cocktail party. If you talk all about yourself and try to sell your book to everyone there, soon no one will talk to you.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the most likely general interest platforms for authors. The most popular site for authors is Goodreads because that’s where the readers are. Consistently posting interesting, valuable content is key to attracting readers. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Give them bread crumbs to follow you to your next book. They will reward you with loyalty and great reviews.
Email Marketing – While social media is great for developing relationships with readers, email is where you have more control. You don’t own your social media lists and the rules can change at any time. Engage readers on social media and your blog then entice them to sign up for email updates. Offer sample chapters, checklists, free downloads, tools, or other value-added items for your readers. Send regular updates and include a link to your book and a request for reviews. Grow your list to be ready for your next release.
Live Events – Get out of the house and host live events! Teach a workshop, speak at a library, talk with a book club and do a book signing. Call libraries, art communities, community colleges, and churches for the opportunity. Most of all, get out and meet people at parties, community events or volunteer your time with groups of people. You can do well by doing good! You can combine these with online webinars and podcasts to multiply the effect.
Public Relations Campaign – Get yourself in the news! Send out press releases for publication or a book launch, get interviewed for your expertise or insight, or be part of an article, webinar, or podcast. Use services like PR Newswire or HARO to get in front of reporters and bloggers.
Paid Advertising – The opportunities for paid advertising abound. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Sponsored Posts, Goodreads banner ads and all kinds of print publications are available. Highly targeted advertising can be effective in generating interest for your book.
Lay the foundation with product, place and price then reel them in with promotion.
What has been the most effective promotional tool for you?