Book Marketing – What 200+ campaigns has taught us.
A good writer should bleed. Not literally but figuratively. People connect with honesty where the writer is a little vulnerable. We have given this advice on many occasions and now we shall implement it ourselves. We have been running book marketing campaigns for years. Over 200+ campaigns.
We’ve worked with self-published authors, major publishing houses, brand new authors and established best selling authors. What follows is what we’ve learned about book marketing. We have decided to bare all. Both the ups and the downs. This post will not remain static. It will be updated and refined as we continue our work.
Book Marketing Is A Marathon Not A Sprint
The title above makes me feel like a management consultant. So let me rephrase my point more eloquently. The best time to start planning your book marketing strategy is before your book is ready. Start to build your platform. You may have heard the term platform recently, coming from publishing houses, agents and marketing professionals. A platform translates to visibility and a way to reach your audience reliably and regularly. A specific example would be a great blog, that receives excellent engagement and has a strong email subscriber list. Or you could focus on cultivating a highly engaged social media following.
This is something more publishers are looking for, especially with new authors.
There is one way to shortcut building your own platform and that is PR. We pick up on this later on in the post.
Don’t Write A Press Release
Seriously, don’t even think about writing a press release. If you’re still sending press releases please stop.
Imagine yourself in the shoes of the journalist or the content editor at a large newspaper and their online counterpart. You have hundreds, possibly thousands of pieces you could write about or schedule for the next issue or post on the website. An author sends you a generic document with a few images, telling you about their latest book.
Pitch them a story. Really dig deep about the newsworthy elements within your book. What inspired you? What is your personal story. Sell them on this. We are all storytellers so sell them a story. I don’t mean to sound like the Wolf of Wall Street but you really need to understand the level of competition you are facing for that spot. Get selling!
- Are you about to send out a press release for your book? STOP and read this first. Click To Tweet
Reliably and Regularly
Reliably and regularly are two words to really focus on and something to keep in mind when planning your book marketing. This is where the difference between book marketing and book promotion kicks in. Securing a feature in a major newspaper is great promotion but it can’t be leveraged regularly. Therefore when you succeed in securing good PR make sure you have a plan in place to extract long term value.
How can you do this? One example would be to have another great piece of content on your blog when the article is published by the newspaper or website. Additionally, you would offer new visitors and exclusive piece of content if they sign up to your mailing list. That is turning your promotion into more regular and reliable marketing channel. By converting them to subscribers you are able to build a relationship. This ensure your platform (which we mentioned above) is growing.
Scared Money Never Wins
The title of this section was taken from a wonderful piece by Chris McVeigh. I would urge all authors to read this post. He has really examined the state of publishing as it stands. What it really make me think about is how authors perceive publishing and book marketing.Your book and your book marketing strategy is an investment. You have spent weeks, months and years perfecting your book. Make sure you invest in ensuring it is a success. Have a professional cover designed, hire an editor and ensure your book is professionally proofread. This really comes down to backing yourself and believing in the book’s success. If you’re too scared to invest in professional publishing and book marketing then perhaps this isn’t the book to be writing.
I know analytics are mentioned in every post on our blog when it comes to book marketing but it is paramount. Analytics and data is what ensures you are building on your successes and avoiding another failure.
By gathering data you can analyse what is generating a return for you. This is relevant for everything from your Facebook ads manager to your Google Analytics. There are a huge number of tools you can use. We will cover this in our book marketing guide in more depth.
Of course it is impossible to know where an Amazon sale came from. This is why when testing new marketing methods it is often advisable to pause other efforts. This will allow you to monitor the sales based on the book marketing channel you are focused on at that moment.
It Isn’t JUST A Book Cover Anymore
Your book cover is now a product thumbnail, the header in an email campaign, your Facebook or Twitter header, the main image in a blog post or piece of PR. It doesn’t just sit on a shelf these days. It is all over the internet. It becomes an intrinsic part of the media package and your book marketing campaign. We have had journalists and bloggers say they won’t use an image because of its appearance. They have invested years building a beautifully designed blog. Therefore they are specific about what they use. This applies to traditional media outlets as well.
The product thumbnail is really the most important oversight made by authors and publishers. You are competing to grab the attention of a possible buyer amongst approximately 3,400,000+ (estimated by Claude Nougat ) other books on Amazon.
A final point to make here is that the reader doesn’t know the significance of that minute detail you added to the cover. Many book covers only make sense once you’ve read the book. Your goal with the cover is to entice people to purchase your book.
A great book cover is the linchpin of a successful book marketing campaign.
- Your book cover is so much more than just a cover! Click To Tweet
Being Published Doesn’t Necessarily Help
I recall the first time a published author approached us for help. He was a traditionally published author. The publisher had covered the proofreading, editing and distribution for him. The book however wasn’t selling. This wasn’t as a result of the content. It was an enjoyable read. The author had been a professional writer in another industry for years. The fact is the publisher didn’t know what to do when it came to book marketing. There are great publishers but the vast majority have small budgets and aren’t sure where to invest them. I hasten to add this isn’t an attack on publishing houses at all. It is more a commentary on the challenges that book marketing presents. A strategy that worked well a few months ago may prove ineffective in the months ahead. Influencers grow in reach and others recede. It is a full time job to keep on top of the landscape, which is why companies like Publishing Push that specialise are flourishing.
Our author in question had to then spend money with us in order to ensure his book was being marketed and there were sales. The downside for the author is that they have to invest their own money while the publisher profits from the sales. Great for the publisher not such a great deal for the author.
The other issue for the author here is that if a book doesn’t sell well it will make it very hard to secure another book deal. If they can still secure a second deal the likelihood of it being competitive is very small indeed.
On the other side of the coin we have worked with many authors who decided to self-published their first novel. They worked hard and invested in a high quality professionally published book. They hired us to assist with PR and book marketing. Our clients received excellent reviews, achieved strong sales and used this data as social proof to secure a traditional publishing deal through a literary agent.
Still upset that you’re self published? There are huge upsides to not following the traditional route.
Know your audience
For example stating they are historical fiction fans is not enough. Know them intimately. What other interests do they have in common? This is going to impact how you try to reach them through your book marketing campaign. This has to go much deeper than just saying they are aged 30 to 67 and are 30% male. Understand what they value. This becomes important when you decide how to reach them. It becomes even more important when you create content. If you know your audience you will create content that your audience will connect with. This will determine which publications you seek to obtain publicity in, which reviewers you approach and which social platforms you use.
PR Is Still A Crucial Component
We recently worked with Paul Frampton on his new book ‘TRICKED! – The Story of an Internet Scam’. Paul had launched and sales had been relatively flat. A dribble at best. He reached out to us and hired us to conduct a book marketing campaign for him. The focus was a PR campaign. We contacted the The Mail Online. It was tough because Paul’s story had been covered in depth by many outlets a few years prior. We dug deep and pulled out new newsworthy topics for the reporters to discuss with Paul. We arranged for the reporter to head to Paul’s house along with a cameraman. We had sold them on the story and a week later it was published.
The story broke and instantly sales reached the 100 sales per day mark. PR is an essential part of a book marketing campaign. Get a piece in the right publication and you will generate sales.
The most valuable PR I received (by far) was the exposure…in traditional media, print newspapers and magazines, and particularly radio: the interview on Vermont Public Radio. – Tim Weed – Author Published by Namelos and former Client
Focus on finding outlets that align with your content. Examine what they have covered in the past and what has been featured recently. Be confident in your pitch. Go get them!
Of course you can obtain PR yourself. However, with all the other tasks keeping you busy as a writer hiring a PR firm can save you a great deal of time. They will also generally be much faster as this is what they do day in and day out.
- PR is still vital to the success of a book marketing campaign. Click To Tweet
This is where knowing your audience is vital. Who do they respect? Who do they trust? This goes beyond reviews. Get prominent authors in your genre to give you a quote you can pop on the front cover or on the back of the book. It provides social proof which is vital.
This is an absolute must have for new authors. If you come with a stamp of approval from someone respected in the genre it will carry significant weight. Lets say you have just completed a fantasy novel. You’re ready to start marketing your book. Find a respected author in the genre with a large following and pitch them on reading your book. Appealing to their ego is a good place to start. Don’t do this falsely and for the sake of it. Be genuine about why you admire them and the reason why you would be thrilled to have their opinion on your novel.
Find A Mentor
This is overlooked by so many authors that I speak with. It is overlooked by people in a vast array of industries. I spoke with an old colleague Anca Dunavete recently who now works with SAGE Publications. She is a passionate writer and working on her debut novel. However, she recognised how helpful a mentor would be. She reached out to her favourite fantasy author and he is happily guiding her writing process. They talk about book marketing, story telling, the industry and the all important securing a publishing deal. It has advanced her writing and knowledge of the publishing industry dramatically.
Reviews are really important. They are an indicator of social proof. Have you seen the First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy video? Social proof is required to convince people that your book is worth purchasing. They are going to look at how many other people have purchased the book and what have they said about the book. A large number of reviews is absolutely vital.
We spoke about how important your book cover is when readers are browsing through Amazon. The next item they look at is going to be how many reviews the book has. (The overall rating out of 5 is also a large factor.)
This is one of the first steps we take. It is a necessary step and cannot be overlooked.
Which is why we have invested a huge amount of time cultivating our community of reviewers. We have generated 30+ genuine reviews for clients in under 24 hours. About 25 and above is the magic number. Remember you are competing with approximately 3,400,000 (Claude Nougat) other titles on Amazon.
Be The Journalist
You’re probably thinking I do enough writing already. Unfortunately there is no rest for the writer. Having a profile in a popular blog that your customers read is a key component to successful book marketing. This is particularly relevant for non-fiction authors. There are many publications where with some great content you will be able to secure a regular article. New outlets creep up over time so keep your eyes peeled and reach out where relevant.
“Go where the bloggers go.” – Tim Ferriss #1 New York Times Bestseller
This is the evolution of book tours. Every industry has influencers and you need to connect with them. Offer value to their audience and you will have their ear. When it comes to book marketing there are a plethora of blogs and they all have a specific focus. Make sure your content aligns with their goals.
Bloggers have a very large reach. Their audience trusts them for recommendations. You can approach bloggers for a review or many will accept a guest post. This is very similar to approaching newspapers for PR. You need to nail the pitch and ensure your guest post aligns with their audience. It must give value to their readers.
We have a vast community of bloggers and reviewers we reach out to for book marketing. This is an area where an agency can provide value and really save time.
Social Media For Book Marketing
This is an important subject. Our views on social media are treat it like traditional PR. This doesn’t mean you should neglect building a following altogether. However, that takes time and for more immediate results Social PR is the way to go. We have spoken on this topic in depth elsewhere on the site and in The Guardian.
Does social media marketing generate book sales? Yes but not from tweeting and not from status updates on Facebook. They do help but the impact is marginal. Social PR is where you generate sales. This is because it is effectively influencer marketing. It is endorsed by the page and the social proof is there for potential readers. It comes with a seal of approval from an influencer they trust.
We will continue to update this post as we continue our journey to refine the inexact science that is book marketing.
An EXCLUSIVE Book marketing guide will be available soon. The guide will be guide will be FREE for everyone who signs up. We are going to explore the topics covered above in much greater depth.
I have been writing since 2003 and published 19 books. Then I discovered PUBLISHING PUSH. I have been very impressed with the detail and expertise they bring to publicity. Just what my book needs. I look forward to working with a business that cherishes its authors and forms a successful partnership. The future is looking bright indeed. Miller www.millercaldwell.com
Most of my questions, thoughts, what-ifs, thought-bubble contemplations were addressed here. My children's book is in the editor's hands and marketing the book is the monster in the closet I fear most but excited to face at the same time--much work to do! I look forward to receiving a copy of the book marketer's guide. Thanks for a wealth of valuable information!
You will receive you copy very soon!
3 Skills Every Author Need to Sell More Books | Authors Crib Digest
[…] This is a blast from past and it’s a heck of tips and lessons that will help you take better decisions as an author in the pursuit of selling your book. […]
There was so much information in this post, I'm keeping it "earmarked" to re-read. All it took was a simple tweet from me that I'd fallen into the trap of not promoting my first book aggressive enough. An established author tweeted me back with this link. I have a second book heading to my Indy publisher know. Time to get started on its promo ASAP! [I write using the pseudonym, Evelyn R. Loren-Martin. It's my author's website below.]
Thank you, Robin. Promoting your book is so important. Especially after pouring so much effort into creating a great product. Make sure you are sending our advanced readers copies. It will make a HUGE difference: https://medium.com/@PublishingPush/should-you-offer-advance-reader-copies-d57313c54d14
lots of food for thought here - one sentence I bookmarked immediately - re book covers - not just making sense when the book has been read, but enticing readers to get it in the first place. (Am in the process of discussions to re-design covers specifically for e book thumbnails at the moment, so holding onto that thought.)
Thank you Margaret. We offer a book cover design with unlimited revisions. Charles will send over an email with some details for you :)
The Book Launch: 3 Things To Expect & 3 Things To Do | Winterwolf Press
[…] define everything from your finalized book cover, to your standee to grace bookstores. As Publishing Push shared, “Your book cover is now a product thumbnail, the header in an email campaign, your […]
Quite inspiring and informative. Writing is creativity as much as strategy.
Teneisha R. S. Jones
This is a fantastic read. I think i will start by re-thinking my "press release". Thank you!
Great to hear thank you Teneisha :)
You are very welcome Teneisha!