Let’s face it, we live in a world rife with distraction. In order to stand a chance against the millions of other books in the world (Google counted 130 million in 2010), you’ll need the help of marketing to make your book stand out. Marketing can seem daunting at first, but we’ve gathered advice and techniques from successful self-published authors and top marketing experts to help your book succeed.
There’s a simple secret to successful marketing—make a plan, then stick to it. It takes some work, but your efforts will pay off for your debut title as well as subsequent releases. Best-selling author Seth Godin recommends starting three full years before your book release. To help you get started, we’ve listed techniques that you can use to find and energize your audience.
A successful book launch takes time and money, there’s no way around it. When developing a budget stick within your means—a general rule of thumb is that marketing should account for around 30% of your budget. Break your long-term goals into weekly chunks that you can measure and evaluate.
Of course, don’t be afraid to get creative, sweat equity will go a long way. Danny Iny once spent $1,000 on a flashy book trailer, but didn’t see results. The next time around, he spent an afternoon and $50 on a trailer that ultimately resonated better. The lesson? “Apply the simpler strategies you can execute well,” he says.
Whatever your subject is, you need to find the people who will be as excited as you are about your book. “Among people even willing to buy a book, yours is just a needle in a very big haystack,” Godin says. Many new authors think that everyone will want to read their book, but you’ll be more successful marketing to readers who share your interests.
Next, figure out where to find them. Author and marketing expert Nick Morgan stresses meeting your audience where they already are. “How can you connect with them?” he asks. “Do they meet at rallies, do they all wear a certain kind of shoe, or do they all drink Starbucks coffee?” Starbucks-obsessed people are already congregating in certain places—think of Starbucks fan blogs, Facebook pages, or message boards—and they’re ready and waiting to learn about your barista memoir. Why make them come to you, when you can go to them?
Social media is an excellent way to find and engage your audience. The key word here is “engage”—it’s not about continuous self-promotion. Readers want to feel like part of a community. British author Mark Dawson has an enormous following on Facebook. His personal approach and consistent engagement keeps his followers coming back for more. “I’ll respond to every comment,” Dawson says. “I share my success and share my failures because it makes people feel like they’re invested.”
Once you understand your target audience, it’ll be easy to find them on social media. Samita Sarkar wrote a travel memoir, and realized her niche would be women interested in solo travel. She was able to find entire Facebook groups dedicated to solo female travel. By reaching out to group members she began building word-of-mouth momentum. Plenty of tools exist that can help you schedule out social media updates and save time.
Your potential audience is out there, reading blogs and listening to podcasts. Meet them where they are with a virtual book tour of blogs and podcasts in your subject area. Danny Iny, a self-published author with over 100,000 sales, reminds authors to attract “influencers by supporting them.” Bloggers and podcast hosts get a lot of requests, so your support will help you stand out. That might mean cross-promoting them on your own podcast or blog well before asking them to promote you.
Samita Sarkar has a bonus tip. “For every blogger willing to write about you,” she says, “there are ten who are willing to feature your writing.” Interviews and book reviews are big time investments for bloggers. So instead, offer to write a free guest post.
All your efforts should be oriented towards encouraging readers to sign up for your mailing list. Why? Each new subscriber is a long-term win. “A subscriber is more important to me than a sale,” Dawson says, “because I know that I can offer them lots of books, rather than one.”
Don’t worry if you’re starting from scratch. Your social media, website, blog, or podcast can all be directed into growing your mailing list. Engage subscribers with regular writing updates, free excerpts, and subscriber-only giveaways.
Your website can be a simple landing page create through a free platform like Wix. The key is keeping your mailing list sign-up and sales links front and center. Incentivize customers to visit your site and join your list with preview chapters or book giveaways, available to anyone who joins your mailing list.
Blogging can also help build your reputation and following. Author Mel Sherratt blogged about her writing process to build a dedicated audience ready to buy her first book.
Map out a strategy that extends past your launch. Nick Morgan has tips for getting your book into top rankings on Amazon by creating urgency around your launch date. But that’s not the whole picture. “Marketing and selling a book is a long-distance run,” he says. The launch date isn’t the finish line, it’s “only the beginning of your journey to make your book count.”
Remember, there’s a reason you wrote this book! Marketing is important, but it isn’t an end in itself. You want to get people as excited as you are about your ideas. Every author has strengths and skills that will help them market. If you’re stuck, YourWriterPlatform has an excellent list of 71 book marketing ideas, from hosting readings on Skype to creating a reader’s guide. Get inspired and get creative.
Give yourself time to market your book—before, during, and after the launch. You put time, brainpower, and energy into writing and editing, so don’t sell yourself short by skimping on marketing. Talk to us today if you’re ready to take the self-publishing plunge.