Last month over 9 nine thousand books were published on Smashwords. That doesn’t include those published on Amazon or by the traditional publishing houses. It’s fairly safe to say that ten or so thousand people took the first step toward their dream of being a well-known author. As many authors discover, writing the book is easier than selling the book. Even when an author achieves a moderate level of fame in his or her genre, the journey can still have its struggles.
Reading is not a national past time. There is a limited pool of readers and that pool is further restricted by the genre a writer selects. That means to achieve even a moderate amount of success a writer needs to market his or her work. There is no shortage of information on “how to market”and every author is encouraged to read and research this information. As a marketing executive, I have come to understand that marketing techniques fit into two categories. The first is what I call the “latest trends.” These are the new and current techniques being employed to catch the buyer’s attention. These trends come and they go – what works and what is hot today soon becomes common place and new stuff arises to take its place. These trends may include buzz words, the use of certain images, or certain types of selling offers.
Here’s one of my hometown examples ~
We have a new car dealership in the area. The owner is very successful both in our county and counties across the nation. His commercials rely on his buzz word “Huge” and most are shot with bad audio, a lot of talking, and an energy level that boarders on (in my opinion) obnoxious. So great, however, is his success that non-car dealership businesses are copying his approach. The word “huge” has become…well huge in our area. Other car dealerships, suffering from lost business, are mimicking his style. They are all getting on television, feigning excitement, and generally screaming about their offers.
Some of this stuff fades and others move into the second category of “foundation” marketing. Foundation marketing is the stuff that “everyone” does and therefore, you can’t get away from it. Without these basic strategies a product will be difficult to sell – be it a book or electronics. In book marketing there are some basic strategies that every author should employ. These things won’t necessarily get you to the best-seller list, but they are the foundation for the “possibility” of reaching that list.
1. Brand/Name Recognition: You write in one or two genres. Your genre and your writing style are your brand. For example if I say, “the King of horror” you’d answer? If I said, “Hogwarts” you’d say ? “Sparkling Vampires?” These are examples of authors who have built their brand and name recognition. When people want to verify a company or product’s credibility the first step is to visit that product’s website. In a Pew survey, 79% of respondents said they look at the existence, quality, and content of a company’s website -if it doesn’t exist or is “off” they don’t buy. As an author your brand is “you” and “your book.” A page on Author Central may be helpful, but marketing 101 says you need a website and that website needs to look genre appropriate and professional.
- Purchase a web URL of your name, your book’s title or a brand you want to use to market all your writing
- If cost is an issue, use a blog to host your brand
- Ensure you have a media kit (you can see mine at www.nightmirrors.com)
2. Interactive Communication: An author website is a destination. Much like books, however, you need some vehicle to drive traffic to your website. Communication cannot be stressed enough. Fans are created when they know who you are, know what you write, and most importantly, they like your voice. But communication is just one half of the equation. You also need interaction – and interaction that doesn’t request a sale. Talking to other writers and readers builds relationships and those relationships will be the difference between only selling books to your family and finding a larger audience.
- Write a blog – not just about your stuff, but things related to your genre
- Join Good Reads and get involved with groups and group discussions
- Host other authors, network with other people – worst case scenario is you make new friends
3. Free Content – Today’s marketing is content driven. In my professional duties I write eBooks, create Infographics, write blogs, white papers and articles. The cost to our potential clients for all this information is – “free.” It can be a real sticking point, however, for authors. Since our product is our written material it seems counter-productive to give it away. As I mentioned in an earlier post – a one book or one day free giveaway is pointless. You have to have material and information to give to your potential fans on a regular basis if you wish to create a real fan base. Consider this – if a million people downloaded your book and you made no money – don’t you think a portion of them would pay a little for the next book if they like your writing? Don’t you think a publishing company or an agent would be interested in your story if it had a million downloads?
- Use the Smashwords Coupon for give aways
- Write a web serial that is free
- Load your first chapter on Wattpad
- Donate books to charity
4. Social Validation – Consumers buy brands because “everyone” else is buying them. Although we like to think of ourselves as independent, free thinkers, the psychology supports the notion that “social” opinions play a large role in the decisions we make. Whatever is “it,” “groovy,” “cool,” “phat,” or “real” or supports YOLO is the thing we want to own. We don’t want to be the only person on Facebook who hasn’t seen that new movie, gotten that new smart phone, or missed whatever happened on the VMA or Monday Night Football. A writer’s social validation comes in the form of reviews – both reader reviews and from professional organizations. While there is much talk about the effectiveness of reviews, 4 out of 10 readers use recommendations to make a book purchase. Testimonials are a core marketing strategy for every company and like the world of writing – these particular gold nuggets are hard to come by. An author needs reviews to validate that others think the story is good.
- Use Good reads for read-review offers
- Get a professional review from places like Kirkus, Foreward, and Clarion Review
- Get your book in as many hands a possible
5. Pricing and Placement: I’ve written a lot about pricing because it is the keystone to product/book marketing. Being too “high” or too “low” (with the exception of free) can kill any chance of selling your first book. The most common ebook price is currently $2.99 and the worse sellers are priced at $1.99. Who knows why – we can’t always figure out the consumers’ mindset on these things. But professional and effective marketing means that we always follow the statistical trends to a degree, especially when the trend is “price.” Once price is determined an author needs to consider placement. I have a philosophy – I want my book available everywhere and in every form. You may want to stick with Amazon – that’s a good choice, they are the biggest. I prefer Amazon and Smashwords. Sure I cann’t do the Kindle Select thing, but it is a trade off to get my book on Nook, Itunes, Goggle books and Kobe. For me, it doesn’t make a lot of marketing sense to limit the books availability to one device.
In marketing some of the things will work some of the time and none of the things will work all of the time. Effective marketing is a long-term proposition, that relies on consistent messaging, new strategies, and as we’ve discussed, the basics. It may takes three months to build a fan base – or it may take three years. That won’t happen if your marketing efforts simply mean you upload a book and await the readers.
Marketing means action and the action is not the readers finding you, but you finding the readers.