There are many schools of thought about book marketing, and I’m going to cover each of them, but I also want to tell you about the system I use for my books. After all, it’s worked for me, so I imagine that it will probably work for you, too.
So let’s start there. Here’s the exact system I use to launch a new book.
- I set it up for pre-release, and then change the back matter for all my other books to include information about the pre-release, along with a link to the preorder page on Amazon. The preorders I receive give me that “dribble” of sales that’s necessary for my ranking to become sticky when the real sales start coming in.
- I send an email to my advanced reader’s club telling them of the upcoming book and asking for volunteers to read it for free and review it on the day of its release.
- I send out book review requests using the names and email addresses I get from companies like Book Razor.
- Within a few days of its release, I run a promotion for the book at 99 cents. For nonfiction, I like to use Buck Books.
- During the promotion, I email my list and tell them of the sale, tweet it and post it on Facebook.
- I sit by the computer all day and watch the sales come in, and my rankings go down. Seriously, there’s nothing more exciting than watching your “baby” hit the hot new releases list and make it to the top twenty in its category.
- Keep the price listed at 99 cents for 3-5 days. This will keep those dribble sales coming in and help you keep your ranking once the flood of promotional sales stops.
Okay, that’s how I market my books, but I realize that my system may not work for everyone, so I’m going to talk about many other marketing methods in this article.
Some of them I’ve tried, and I’ll tell you about my experiences with them, and some of them I haven’t. But I want you to have all of the information in your hands so you can make the best possible marketing decisions about your “baby.”
So get ready, because in this article I’m going to cover every possible marketing tactic available to authors.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
Table of Contents
- 1. Set up Your Author Page
- 2. Get Active with Social Media
- 3. Make Use of PR
- 4. Write a Guest Blog Post
- 5. Post Articles on Quirky Sites
- 6. Win an Award
- 7. Issue a Press Release
- 8. Maintain a Blog
- 9. Create a Sampler
- 10. Run a Goodreads Giveaway
- 11. Do a Blog Tour
- 12. Run a Promotion on Book Sites
- 13. Use Amazon Marketing Service ads
- 14. Write on Wattpad
- 15. Get Email Subscribers Through Prolific Works
Before you ever hit the publish button, you should set up your Amazon author page. This way, if readers want to know more about you, they can click on the link and read your bio and see a listing of all the books you’ve written.
Also, you can use the page to point them to your website so they can sign up for your list. If you have a blog, your blog posts will appear on that page as soon as you sync them.
Personally, I don’t believe you can sell many books on social media, but I do believe you can build a great following, and that will lead to book sales. Here’s the difference. Some authors constantly tweet out links to their books over and over again until people get tired of seeing them and unfollowing them. But some authors have huge followings, and if that author tweets out that they’ve just released a new book, their followers will likely click on the link and buy it.
I see this as a long game and believe it will take at least a year to build a social media following that will eventually lead to increased sales. For the time being, I make it a habit to post social media posts in thirds. One-third of the time, I tweet (or post to Facebook) an article of interest to my readers from an established site.
For instance, I tweet or post many articles about small businesses and working from home. A third of the time I create graphics related to small businesses and post or tweet those. (I use canva.com to create these graphics easily.) And the other third of the time, I tweet about my books, whether I’m running a 99-cent special, or I’ve just released a new book.
Sometimes I create special graphics to promote them. I use Google URL shortener to create links that I can watch to see how many people click on them to get an idea of how effective my tweets are.
3. Make Use of PR
Just because you’re not a New York Times bestselling author, that doesn’t mean you can’t use PR to get the word out about your book.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is one of the best-kept secrets in the writing world. You can sign up for email alerts notifying you three times a day about reporters who are looking for sources for stories. The stories are about all things, from lifestyle to cooking to business to…you name it.
The reporters will list their requirements for the story and ask for pitches from people interested in being interviewed for it. When you find a story you’re interested in, you’ll send them a pitch via an email address that’s provided, and then wait. Sometimes you’ll be notified when the reporter uses your pitch, and other times you won’t.
I got notified via Twitter this week when a reporter from Hearpreneur used me in a story about how entrepreneurs came up with their business names.
4. Write a Guest Blog Post
I know, you’ve heard this before, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. If you write nonfiction, this will be easy for you because all you have to do is look for blogs related to your book topics and offer to write a guest post for it. Most bloggers are happy to get free content for their blogs.
If you write fiction, it will be more difficult, but still doable. For instance, I wrote a post about the books that shaped me as an author for my fiction pen name and it got my books in front of that blogger’s audience.
5. Post Articles on Quirky Sites
You may be able to stir up some publicity by submitting funny or attention-getting articles to sites like Buzzfeed, one of the hottest content sites online right now. Be sure to tie in the article to your book, and write it in a way that will drive sales to it because you’ve grabbed the attention of people.
6. Win an Award
Selfpublishingadvice.org offers a list of 50 awards that are open to indie authors. If you win an award, you can issue a press release or use it in other ways to call attention to your book.
7. Issue a Press Release
These days, press releases are used often by companies to promote themselves, and that extends to authors. Your book is big news and can be promoted with a press release if you do it correctly. Here are some tips to help you write a press release that will be picked up by the media.
- It has to be newsworthy. The fact that you released a new book isn’t considered newsworthy enough to make the media sit up and take notice of your press release. Instead, you’ll need to find a way to tie it into national news or put a spin on it that makes it pique the interest of the media. For example, if you write about working from home, you can tie it into a national story about rising unemployment. Or if you write fiction and your story is about someone battling weight issues or childhood trauma, a press release that uses statistics from those areas that tie in with your book will likely get noticed.
- When writing your release, you should plan to keep it at about 400 words, use keywords in it that are relevant to your book, and include at least one—but no more than two—links to your book’s sales page.
- Once the press release is written, use sites like PRWeb.com to get it distributed to thousands of media outlets. Prices start at about $160 per release.
8. Maintain a Blog
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, a well-written blog that utilizes SEO tactics can help bring in readers that may not have found your books otherwise. But writing a blog is a long game, so you can’t expect it to reap instant benefits.
For instance, I created a blog for RainMakerPress.com, and while it took a couple of years, my blog now consistently brings in new readers for my books as well as additional sales. (I’ve recently begun selling RainMaker Gear like hats and t-shirts, along with PDF fillable workbooks only available on my site.)
If you do create a blog, be sure to share your posts on social media using tools like ShareThis and AddThis that allow you to add sharing buttons on your post. You should also insert clickable tweets into your posts to enable your readers to promote it on their social media channels. ClickToTweet makes it super easy.
9. Create a Sampler
This is one of the best things you can do to introduce new readers to your work. I was one of the first people to do this with my fiction books, and it continues to bring sales and new readers to my books. The secret is to include just enough of the book to get the reader hooked, so they’ll click on the link and purchase the full book. To make the most of this, you should include chapters from all your books in the sampler.
Be sure to state clearly that the book only contains samples, so readers don’t become angry when the story ends abruptly! Just like a regular book, you’ll need to design a great cover, write a good description, and then market it.
You’ll need to make the sampler free to get people to download it, and the best way to do that is to upload it to StreetLib.com and price it as free. They are then able to distribute it to Amazon as a free book.
This is the only book distributor that can publish a book to Amazon priced free. Your only other option is to upload it via D2D or another distributor and then try and get Amazon to price match it, but that can take some time and effort.
An alternative to this is to make the first book in your series free or 99 cents, whether you write a fiction or nonfiction series. Many authors see great success with this, but for it to work, you’ll need to have a series with multiple books published in it.
10. Run a Goodreads Giveaway
You can set up a promotion on Goodreads to give away one of your books (paperback or Kindle), and have people sign up for the contest.
I’ve done this a few times, and although many people enter and shelve my books, I’ve never seen a significant sales spike from it. But some people claim that they do, so you might try it.
11. Do a Blog Tour
These days, not many authors do in-person book signings. Instead, they organize blog tours, which are digital versions of book signings. Some authors claim major success from these tours, but for them to work properly, you’ll have to do some serious preparation and planning. Here’s how to set up a successful blog tour.
- Decide which blogs you want to appear on, and then approach them. Remember most bloggers are happy to have contributing authors, and many love to support blog tours.
- Mix up the content that you provide to the blog posts, so some of your posts are interviews, others are reviews of relevant books, others are articles, and others are done in question-and-answer format. Be sure to slant your posts to the audience of that particular blog. Also, include a small blurb about your book as well as links to the book, your website, and your social media accounts.
- Schedule the tour so you’ll have time to complete all the posts in time. There is nothing worse than committing to a post and then not having time to complete it. As an alternative, you can write all of your posts before the tour and make it a less stressful experience.
- Post the upcoming tour dates on your website and all your social media channels.
- Think about offering a giveaway for each blog you appear on. This can be as simple as one of your books.
- Plan to stick around at the end of your appearances to respond to comments made by participants.
- Finally, be sure to thank your host, both publically and privately.
12. Run a Promotion on Book Sites
If you’re looking for a quick boost in sales, or if you want to ramp up your rankings, running a 99-cent promotion is one of the best ways you can do it. But, you need to be aware that although many promotion sites offer these services, only a handful of them produce results good enough to move you up in the rankings.
Rather than going through all of the sites that don’t work, I’m going to list the sites that have worked for me, for both fiction and nonfiction. If you don’t see a site on this list, I’ve probably tried it, and it didn’t produce results I was happy with.
Keep in mind that many sites will get you sales of 7-10 books, but in my mind, that’s just not good enough. Your goal for running a promo is to sell books, but also to move your ranking, which will make your book visible, and that will sell even more books.
Meanwhile, here are the sites I’ve used with success.
- Buck Books. I’ve only used this site for nonfiction, and I average about 60 sales each time I use them.
- ENT. I’ve used this site for fiction, and I average 120 sales for my books.
- BookBub. I haven’t been lucky enough to be accepted by them, but I can wholeheartedly tell you that if they accept your book, you’ll do well. It’s expensive to run a promotion with this site, but it’s universally agreed upon that the results more than make up for the cost.
- Reading Deals. I’ve had mixed results with this site, but the good has been good enough that I thought I’d mention it. On the good promos I’ve run with them, I’ve had close to 50 sales, but I’ve also had a promo that only netted 2 sales. I include them in this top tier list because I believe I ran this promotion too close to the prior one, and that was the reason for the poor performance.
That’s it, folks; those are my go-sites. I would like to mention a couple of others that I consider second-tier promotion sites because they’re well thought of in indie circles, but I can’t personally attest to them.
- Robin Reads. They offer cool graphs on the site that show the average number of downloads for both free and paid promotions. From what I can tell, you should expect between 20-40 sales.
- Bargain Booksy. From what I understand, you should be able to get about 20 downloads running a promotion with this site.
- Book Sends. The site lists their subscribers by genre, and from that, I estimate that you’d get about 20 downloads running a promotion with this site.
13. Use Amazon Marketing Service ads
Amazon Marketing Service ads are necessary to effectively market your book on Amazon and to use them effectively, you must follow a few simple rules. I like them and use them consistently, but I don’t think anyone has figured out a full- proof system to get the most out of them. But, I’ve been using them since their inception, and I think I’ve figured out how to get the most from them without spending too much money.
Here are a few simple rules to help you get the most out of your Amazon AMS ads.
- Use sponsored ads instead of product display ads. Currently, sponsored ads outperform and will give you the most bang for your buck.
- Name your campaign. To make it easier for you to track, you should name each of your campaigns. Trust me; when it comes to tracking them, you’ll need all the help you can get.
- Select your daily budget. Here’s where you can make a huge difference in how your campaign works. One of the biggest complaints about the program is that it can be difficult to get Amazon to spend enough of your money. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but if your campaign is set up properly, it will result in book sales. When I first began using AMS ads, I used a large daily spend, thinking it would cause Amazon to display my book more often, but that’s not how it works. I became frustrated because I wasn’t getting enough impressions, which is when
- Amazon shows an ad to consumers. Instead, I found that if I set up a lot of smaller campaigns for the same book, keeping the daily spending at $1 a day, the books are shown more often. For example, instead of having 1 campaign for your book with a $10 daily spend, you would set up 10 campaigns for $1 a day. When you hit on a campaign that works, simply copy it over and over again. Weird, I know, but it works. That means you’ll have a lot more campaigns to manage, but it will pay off.
- Use a lot of keywords. You will be given a choice between using Amazon’s suggested keywords and entering your own, and you should use a combination of both. Some of the suggested keywords won’t make any sense, but you’ll find some that do. Click on the ones you want to use and then select “add keywords” and begin typing in your own. You’ll need about 200 keywords for a successful campaign, and you’ll need to do some work to get them. Start by brainstorming all of the keywords you think people will type in Amazon’s search bar when looking for a book like yours. Then use the search bar and look for additional suggestions like you did when you came up with your book topic. Then go to your book’s page and type in all of the author names and titles in the “also bought” section, and then look at the sponsored ads on your page and search for similar books, and then use those author names and book titles. Amazon automatically suggests that you pay 25 cents for each keyword click, but you’ll have to determine what works best for you. Some of my highest-producing ads do fine with 10 cents per click. It all depends on your genre and the keywords you use, so play with them until you find the sweet spot for your ad.
- Write your copy. Next, you’ll need to create your ad copy. You’re limited to only about 35 words, and you’ll need to ensure that they grab the attention of viewers. Start with a great sentence that addresses your reader’s pain point. For instance, my most effective ad for this book starts with “You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on publishing courses!” Create a few different campaigns and then once you see which ones are working, copy them.
- Refresh them frequently. No matter how good a campaign does, it will eventually become stale. It’s good practice to copy your well-producing campaigns at least once a month. New campaigns always do better than older ones.
- Watch your ACOS (advertising cost of sales). This number tells you the percentage you’re spending in relation to sales. Keep in mind that this number only reflects Kindle sales and doesn’t take into account any paperback or audiobook sales that resulted in someone clicking to your book page. You can (kind of) track the paperback sales manually by examining the sales numbers, but you’ll have to guess at audiobook sales. The system isn’t perfect, but you’ll get better at estimating once you’ve done it for a while.
14. Write on Wattpad
Wattpad.com is a platform where writers post short chapters one at a time, and readers log on to read those chapters. The idea behind the site is to build a community of readers who like and follow your work, in hopes of gaining diehard fans who will eventually purchase your books.
The readers are sent alerts each time you post a new chapter, and they can interact with each other on the site. Some authors have had great success with the platform.
15. Get Email Subscribers Through Prolific Works
Prolific Works is a platform that allows you to give away copies of your book in exchange for an email address. I’ve run a couple of giveaways because other authors contacted me and asked me to be a part of their cross-promotions. Here’s my takeaway from it:
- I did add about 1,000 new subscribers for each of the promotions I ran. I think the number was so high because I was cross-promoting with bestselling authors. But it’s possible to get a few hundred signups by simply listing your book on the site if your book topic appeals to a lot of people.
- About 40 people for every 1,000 new subscribers either gave me a fake email or unsubscribed on the first email I sent them. In other words, they just wanted a free book.
- Before I added the Prolific Works subscribers, my open rate and click rate for my mailing list were way above average. With the addition of new subscribers, the interaction rate has gone down. (But it’s still above average)
- It’s not quite as personal. The people who subscribed to my list because they like my books are a lot more interactive with me, and I enjoy communicating with them. The people from Prolific Works haven’t yet reached that level. I hope to get there with them.
While it’s true that Prolific Works can bring you a lot of new subscribers, it’s important to know that not every subscriber you get this way will be right for your list. But some will, and I’ve decided to continue using this method to find the hidden gems.