I’ve been asked from time to time how to get a book out there and get it going, so I decided to make a post about it instead of telling everyone individually. I have a book marketing eBook on Amazon (for $0.99) and it’s on Smashwords (for free), so you can check it out if you want to learn some extra tips on marketing just to Amazon’s crowd. This is more of a general book marketing and promotion post to tell you some of the things I do that have worked well. I should also put a disclaimer that I’m hardly an expert at this, as I’ve just gotten started myself; however, people are asking me how I’ve been able to sell around 2,000 copies in five months. I don’t think this is amazing success by any sense of the word, but it is probably more successful than most. (At least more successful than around 700,000 ebooks and more successful than about 8,000,000 print books on Amazon.)
First, you need to optimize your book in every way you can. I’m not talking about the actual copy, the print, or the cover (although maximizing these features will help). I’m speaking more of optimizing sales pages where you can. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Author Central tools help a great deal in allowing you to add bits that will help your book sell. When people visit the product page on any sales hub (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), they want to find out about the book and see if it interests them.
The best thing you can do is look at blank product pages for other books if you can find some. Look at the book cover, the author’s name, and any other information that you can find. Would you buy a book based solely on the name of the author, the book’s cover, or other basic publishing facts that are put on the page by default? I wouldn’t, either. When you end up selling millions of books, people might buy it on name recognition alone, but even some of those wouldn’t buy it unless it clearly said, “John Doe’s new masterpiece, author of the Amazing Books That Sold Billions Before is back!” or something like that.
So, utilize these tools to make your product page more attractive and use it to explain your book. The tools are free to use, so there’s no excuse. Make sure everything you put up on the product page has the correct grammar and spelling, punctuation, and etc. This is as much a sample of your writing skill as your book. People are more compelled to try or buy something if it has compelling copy on the product page, but don’t get too “markety” with the language. Readers read books because the material interests them, not because it’s gimmicky or hard sold to them.
Second, we look at multiple sales channels. You may only want to sell on Amazon, but it’s not the only place in the world to list your book. Take a moment to look at these other services, as well.
- PubIt! – Barnes & Noble’s new digital publishing platform. I’ve seen a few sales through here, nothing major.
- Smashwords – A digital publishing distribution service that will get your book on Barnes & Noble (I prefer PubIt for this functionality, but it’s up to you), iBookstore, and their own website where international customers can buy the book. Not all customers can use Amazon or Barnes & Noble, so keep that in mind.
- Your Website – if you don’t have a website, get one, in one way, shape, or form. Make it your own personal space on the web. It has been said that less than 3% of your sales will occur on your website, but it is also said that a great deal of your publicity can and will occur there. If you want to develop “fans”, you’ll need a place for them to learn about you.
Do you want to make all of your sales through places other than the largest marketplace on earth (Amazon)? Maybe so, maybe not; however, you will have more exposure by posting your book for sale as many places as possible. Some people have reported that they found out about the book on Smashwords, but they ended up buying it somewhere else. The same is true for people finding it on Amazon and seeing if it was on Smashwords, for instance. Every little bit helps.
Third, I will expand on “every little bit helps”. Somtimes we get starry-eyed in thinking about how we can maximize, maximize, maximize!!! Always maximize!!! If it doesn’t reach 1,000,000 people’s eyes, it’s not worth the money! Let’s take a look at that kind of thinking. Don’t be afraid, I’ve thought the same way before myself, and I have to bring myself back down to earth and focus. So, let’s talk about it.
If I promote to a specific group of people who are more likely to buy my book, does it really matter how big that group is? Let’s say I have $1,000 to spend on my marketing efforts. I could drop that whole, cool grand into Google AdWords, pick some popular keywords, and that’s all it takes, right? The ads will get bazillions of views and we’ll all be rich, right? Not so fast.
Your book has appeal, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s got an ugly cover (Amanda Hocking, a rapidly rising auhor in the indie world, has covers that many say aren’t that wonderful), some grammar mistakes and spelling problems (even big publishers have this), some consistency problems (Charlaine Harris has been known to be inconsistent, but she’s a bestseller), or other things/problems. This isn’t an excuse not to write the best book you can, but it’s more of a concession that just about every book has problems. But, it’s also meant to say that each book has appeal to someone. Figuring out that someone is the most important part of your marketing effort, and you’ll spend your money more wisely the sooner you find that out.
Let’s say you write a book about young wizards who attend a school of magic half of the year. (lol!) “It’s not J.K. Rowling at all, it’s totally different!” you exclaim with every breath to the naysayers. That’s fine. What would be the best market for people who like books like yours? Well, I’d venture to say that people who liked the Harry Potter series would probably be the best candidates that are easily identified. So, you’ll want to aim your marketing at the websites and places that people who like Harry Potter might visit.
“That’s impossible!” you say, rubbing your chin. “Harry Potter fans are everywhere all the time! I’d have to put up TV ads, put up ads all over Google! I’d spend more than Ford on advertising!”
Well, you could, but you don’t have to. There are places that you can advertise where you reach the audience, but you don’t have to plaster it everywhere. Part of the reason that Harry Potter became so popular (or any book, really), is that one person saw an advertisement, read it, recommended it to their friends, they bought it, read it, recommended it to their friends, and so forth. Sure, it was a large publisher that put those things out like hotcakes and showed it everywhere they could, but you can get exposure without going all out. As you make sales and get a little capital going, you can expand. That’s the essence of expanding a business. You are, after all, a business (didn’t you know?). You make a product, sell it, get profits, and get happy.
Unlike other people who write articles like this, I’m going to tell you exactly where you can get such advertising opportunities. One place that I use is Project Wonderful. You bid on advertising space, and, if you bid the highest, your ad is displayed on that web page. It’s not expensive (for the most part). Here’s where I will expand more on the less is more mentality.
Rather than dropping my $1,000 on an expensive newspaper ad or somesuch, I decide to put $20 on Project Wonderful and target a few specific markets. Since we’re using a children’s fantasy book as an example, I would probably be best putting my advertisement on web comics that deal with fantasy or magic, children, or other specific, similar topics.
Let’s say I find a website that gets about 1,000 unique visits a day, and they’ll let me put a button or square advertisement on their website for a minimum bid of $0.01 per day. So, I can put my ad up there, about 1,000 people will see it a day, and it will cost me a grand total of 30 cents to run the ad for a month. After a month, 30,000 people (about) would have seen the ad. If I sell 0.01% of the people who see that ad, I’ve made 3 sales. So, my book that’s priced at $2.99 has made 3 sales at that price, which gives me a $6.60 return on Amazon’s KDP. After the cost of advertising is taken out, I’ve made a total of $6.30. It’s not big money by any means, but I think you’ll find that any advertising that has a return of 2000% is good advertising. There are plenty of worse options.
Let’s say you want to use more than that 30 cent investment per month. Let’s say you’ve even found a good ad space for your particular book, it matches the target audience very well, and it’s $1.00 a day. The site is much busier than the last, let’s say 30,000 unique visits per day. After a month, you’ll spend $30 for 900,000 views on your book. At a 0.01% conversion rate, you’re getting 90 sales in that month. If your book is $2.99, you’ll make about $2.20 per sale on Amazon, which comes out to be just under $200.00. Could you use an extra $200.00 per month in your pocket?
An extra $200 per month would pay my cell phone bill plus a utility like water or gas. Or, it would pay a little less than 1/4th of my mortgage. Or, I could go on a mini vacation out of town for a weekend. Better yet, I could use that additional money to get more advertising the next month to expand my sales further. Once I have some wiggle room, I can try new marketing methods that were, before, a little too expensive to try out. I could use the money to put out a print copy of my book(s) that I’ve been wanting to do. The options are as limitless as any money spending affair. The point is this: I now have $200 more in my pocket because I made sales on my books, and I have the knowledge that 90 more people were willing to give my book a try and see what they thought. It’s a win-win situation.
Beyond direct advertising, there is promotion and publicity. I much prefer promotion and publicity to straight advertising because it’s more useful and usually free. There are several ways you can acquire publicity for your books, and I’ll list the methods below. I’m sorry if this is becoming a long post, but I wanted to get as much as possible out there this time.
Book publicity things that I do, every time they’re offered/available:
- Book reviews (pre-publication) – I try to get at least three pre-publication reviews before I put it out if I can. Reviewers who post to Amazon (at least) are preferred, but it’s not a strict requirement. Book reviews that you can get posted from professional sources can help explain and sell your book because they are from third parties without an association to you, they are book reviewers (so they read a wide variety of books), and they give unbiased opinions on what they think about it. My preferred source for reviews is Midwest, but I’ve contacted bloggers and reviewers with a specific interest in my genre independent of Midwest, as well.
- Book reviews (post-publication) – I try to line up as many book reviews, blog reviews, and other networking that I can after a book has come out. Book bloggers and book review websites grant extra exposure for your book, and most will review and post because they want material for their site visitors to try. The book review process grants them free copies of books to review to generate traffic for their site, they can sell advertising (or just enjoy the many visitors, whichever is their fancy), and, in turn, generate traffic and interest for authors.
- Press Releases – I issue press releases for free through PRLog.org. I haven’t done any lately, and I’ll probably be getting back to that, but it’s a free service and extra exposure. You need as many as you can get.
- Interviews – I participate in book interviews about my book at every opportunity. It’s extra exposure. I usually do this through email, and I respond as soon as I get one with my answers (usually within 1 or 2 hours of receiving the questionairre unless I’m asleep).
- Facebook – I keep my facebook active. It’s extra presence, but you won’t see a huge number of additional sales from this venue. I do advertise on Facebook, but I don’t put much money into it.
- Twitter – I didn’t have amazing results from Twitter. Like Facebook, social networks are more for connecting with people you find interesting, not for being sold on something. It’s more like “local social news items of little importance” most of the time, but it never portrayed itself as anything different.
- Discussion forums – I’m big on these, and I think they do help. Don’t just post “Buy My Book plz!” threads. Join in the discussion and enjoy yourself, your contribution, and the contributions of others.
The last thing I’m going to talk about right now is multiple books. I highly recommend putting out more than one book and not resting on your laurels. Very few authors make enough money from a single book – especially in self-publishing – to keep them afloat for the rest of their lives, and this is especially true for your first book. It will usually not be your greatest contribution to the human experiment. So, do what a writer is supposed to do: write!
Having multiple books out means you are granted additional exposure for your other books, and you have more things for people to try. Branch out into different genres (unless you’re doing exceptionally well in a single one that you enjoy), try new things. Write new books. Write interesting books. Try to make them as good as you can. Get the word out, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!
If you have additional tips, I’d love to hear them, so reply to this message and let us know what you think! If you know an author, publisher, writer, or anyone interested in promotion or marketing in general, feel free to share this article on your preferred social network. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you check back for the next one!Share