The Advanced Guide to Book Marketing for Self Published Authors

In the first two posts in this series, “Book Marketing Strategies : Quick Start Guide for Self Published Authors” and “Beyond the Basics for Indie Authors: How to Take Your Book Sales to the Next Level” give you a complete set of actions which can sky rocket your book sales.

In this post I revisit those action ideas in more depth and draw inspiration from the stories of successful authors we have worked with.

How do I Get Started?

For self published authors publishing a book is a two step process.

book publishing checklist templateThe effort – and also the joy- of being a self published author comes from owning these steps yourself. There is no magic bullet to solve your problem. As a self published author review & research these steps and write down what you need to do in a To-Do list. Also remember that being self published doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, so your To-Do list also should contain a list of people (friends as well as paid experts) who could possible help you.

Nomenclature

Here’s a short list of nomenclature:

  • Elevator Pitch & Author Bio: This is concise attention grabbing introduction of yourself and your unique message – in 50 words or less. Imagine you meant a prospective reader in the elevator, what will you tell him about yourself and your book in 1 minute?

    Author Bio, on the other hand is a brief introduction of yourself and your works which can be on your website. Though it is very similar to the elevator pitch, it can be a bit longer. Here are some great tips on what an Author Bio should contain: 10 Tips on How to Write an Author Bio

  • Landing Page: The book landing page is that page on your website which is dedicated to your book. This page includes a short author bio, information about your book, select reviews and how one can purchase your book. Here are some great examples: 13 Book Landing Page Examples Which Can Double Your Sales
  • Sales Funnel: Sales Funnel refers to the art of connecting with the prospective buyers of your book and then getting them to look at your book and then getting them to buy. As an example, you reach a lot of buyers through social media, “funnel” them to your book landing page, and then hopefully your message will resonate with them and they will press the buy button on the book landing page.
  • Book Launch: This refers to all the activities that go on the day you publish your book, say on Amazon. While a book can continue to sell for many years, the next few weeks from the day of publication is what is monitored closely by all publishers. As an example if a book sells 1000 copies in the first week of its publication, you would be on your way to Amazon’s Bestseller Top 100 list. Apart from the snob appeal of being a bestseller, this lends a lot of credibility to your book and will improve its sales in the years to come (e.g. You can write across your website – “This book was on Amazon’s Bestseller List!”).

    During your book launch week, if you opt for Amazon KDP promotion and Countdown Deal, you can also send information to other sites like FussyLibrarian, BookGorilla, BargainBooksy, Booksends, Ereader News Today, and other blog tour companies. If you plan to run ads (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Google, Amazon & Twitter ads) you can concentrate them during the launch week to spike sales.

  • Giveaways: Authors often plan some free giveaways of their books to get the word out on the street about it, and more importantly to get some reviews. You can announce giveaways on your blog or contact other popular bloggers who ‘host’ giveaways. Most importantly these giveaways can spike your book sales in a particular week nudging it up the Amazon best seller list. As you see in the above “Book Launch” explanation, spiking sales of your book within a particular week is important and giveaways play a big role in it.
  • Author Street Teams: This is a group of readers, friends and fans who like you and your book. Authors usually collect such a group over a period of time and nurture their group through swags, giveaways and advance copies of their books. These “Street Teams” play a large role in getting initial good reviews of your book and referring other buyers.
  • Author Platform: An “Author Platform” is really the set of websites, social media channels, press kit that you have online so that your book readers and buyers can find you online, read about you, contact you – and most importantly buy your books. Here is a great example of an author website: Hugh Howley

What is a Bestseller?

The definition of what is considered a bestseller varies by the different organizations. New York Times Bestseller List includes those books which sold 9000+ copies in the first week of launch, Wall Street Journal considers 3000 copies in the first week as a bestseller, while Amazon considers 1000 copies sold in the first week as a bestseller.

Some companies may even use black hat techniques like buying large volumes of an author’s book in the first week to get it into the bestseller list as mentioned here in this article by Forbes: Firm That Helps Authors Buy Their Way Onto Bestseller Lists Goes Into Stealth Mode.

Most publishing houses agree that if you have sold 10,000 copies of your book you have certainly achieved sensational success as a writer.

How Much Can You Earn as a Self Published Author

Please see the post on author earnings: Self Publishing: How Much Money Can You Make as a Writer?

What Really Works in Book Marketing?

The posts in the series Book Marketing Strategies give you a complete blueprint you need to create and conduct a book promotion campaign.

Here are some more tips from our interviews with successful (and unsuccessful) authors:

  • Both successful and unsuccessful authors focus on Amazon reviews, giveaways (Kindle and Goodreads) and press releases.
  • Successful authors focused on pre-sale activities (building email lists, social media subscribers etc.), book launch (e.g. book launch parties, concentrating book sales during the week of launch), using a publicist, book tours and video book trailers. Unsuccessful authors did not focus on these activities

We see that unsuccessful authors focus on the easy and obvious marketing campaigns, like asking friends to review books or paying for press releases. On the other hand successful authors do a lot of work at all stages of book marketing.

Another point which distinguished successful authors is that they wrote and sold many books. It is very difficult to market a single book; it is much easier to market a large number of books. You can bundle books for discounts, do cross promotions, and you get visibility more easily through multiple books.

Publishing a paperback (in addition to eBook) is yet another action which helps immensely in cross promotion.

You can also consider signing up with the Amazon subsidiary ACX to turn your book into an audiobook: https://www.acx.com/ Audio books are becoming more and more popular everyday now.

Getting book reviews is crucial. If you get enough reviews (say 50 reviews on Amazon) – Amazon will start recommending your book to others which will increase your book sales by a huge degree.

How to Sell Books in Large Volumes with B2B Marketing?

In addition to focusing on Amazon for direct to consumer marketing, successful authors also reach out to schools and libraries. One of the successful authors I know worked with the local school board to get her book adopted as mandatory reading in the schools in her district.

What is the Most Important Element in Book Marketing?

There is no single silver bullet. The magic is in doing everything in a planned and sensible way.

How Long Does it Take for a Marketing Campaign to Start Working?

Plan for at least a 2 year time frame before you start seeing results. So if you are planning to launch a book in the next two years, your pre-sales activities – social media activities and blog posts and finding friendly reviewers and journalists – must start now.

Which Channels Drive the Most Book sales?

Here is a rough breakdown of which channels drive the most book sales – the leader is of course Amazon, followed by Libraries and then other stores.

Remember this chart includes both books by indie authors as well as those from the traditional publishing houses. As an example, the traditional publishing houses also sell their books on Amazon. However we see similar trends in both self published as well as traditional houses as far as channels are concerned.

Which are the Biggest Publishing Houses

Here are the “Big 5” publishers stacked in descending order of market share:
Penguin Random House
HarperCollins
Simon & Schuster
Hachette
Macmillan

Things you Must Know about Amazon

Considering the fact that Amazon is the most important channel for an India author, it is good to review this post published on Huffington Post: The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon, and Top Five Things Kindle Doesn’t Want Authors To Know on LinkedIn.

Create a Weekly Plan

Create a checklist of activities for each week – this ensures that you never fall off in your book marketing. Here are some examples:

  • Contact 5 organizations about buying 20 books for their clients.
  • Talk to your hairstylist to check if it’s possible for him or her to carry a small amount of your books in the shop.
  • Contact 20 libraries about ordering your book.
  • Publish a blog post about the process of writing the book. Ensure that the post has a link to buy the book.
  • Update your author page on the marketplace – e.g. Amazon author page
  • Contact universities and other venues (e.g. meetup groups) for possible speaking events.

Conclusion

We have found that ANYONE can be very successful if he or she has the willpower to follow through a well planned marketing. I will go even so far as to say that the success of a product – e.g. a book – depends only partly on the quality of the product itself. What really moves the needle is the successful marketing and sales of the product.

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