I just read a post from Chris G. about his success with blogging and online business, where he says it’s mostly a matter of relationships, not specific technologies, tricks, etc. Then I got an email from an author who’s on the lookout for new ways to market books. Perhaps the combination of the two may have prompted me to speak lucidly about book marketing.
Incidentally, and as a preface, I think book marketing is vastly overrated and often fails because authors are often either:
a) trying to promote a subpar book, either in content, design, etc. or
b) trying to get readers interested in a book they aren’t interested in
If you have a well-written, well designed book, and you’ve taken the proper steps (you have reviews, a description that sells, a clean and functional website/online presence somewhere) selling isn’t really that hard.
The following is my response email, which includes 10 tips (and a bonus) that I hope will be useful for authors trying to looking for book marketing tips:
Book Marketing is mostly a matter of:
1) Being newsworthy (doing something, some physical action, that is worthy of commentary. This rarely has to do with your book.)
2) Helping other people and being useful to people who have big networks. Forget about your book and ask how you can help other people who have huge networks. Once you establish a relationship with them, ask to do a guest post, and link to your book at the bottom.
3) If you have a blog, don’t write about your book – write things that other people want to learn (for example, how to write certain scenes, how to write characters, how to do anything related to book publishing. Help someone else do what they are trying to do, and they will find you (and your book can be on the sidebar).
4) Get a lot of good reviews on amazon, B&N, etc. before you start marketing, otherwise it’s a wasted effort
5) Price as low as possible in the beginning. You want TONS of people to read your book, so that you can get the most reviews and visibility possible. Free is fine. 99cents is pretty good. After you get a few thousand downloads and your numbers stabilize, and people know who you are, you can raise your prices and start making money. In the beginning, it’s not about money – it’s about building a group of people who like your work, and to do that you have to remove all resistance between them and your book.
Some sneakier things:
6) Buy book reviews from fiverr.com, post them all over. (It doesn’t matter where a review is from – positive reviews have positive impact even if readers don’t recognize the source). I know there’s a controversy about fake reviews/paid reviews. But paid reviews are already acceptable (Kirkus, etc.) – it’s OK to pay someone to give a genuine reviews. Keep in mind that glowing reviews for a bad book will backfire, sokeep it real. Negative reviews are better than no reviews.
7) Make Listmania lists or lists on your blog post and include your book with famous books, like “My favorite novels about horses” or “10 best historical romances books of all time.” Put them on squidoo, etc.
8) Create a fake controversy surrounding yourself or your book (read “Trust me I’m Lying”).
9) Write lots of short stories/novellas, in several categories. Crank them out. They don’t have to be perfect; mediocre is good enough for a .99cent book (don’t let quality get in the way of production, because quantity will outperform quality almost every time.)
10) Don’t try too hard promoting one book. Books take time to build up speed. You might sell nothing for a year and suddenly people start noticing. Mostly it’s a matter of getting readers to your book (you can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink). Remember – remove the obstacles. Before spending ANY money on marketing, make sure:
A) your book cover looks professional. It can be simple, but a homemade book cover is a huge turnoff for many readers. Don’t let it be a barrier. You can make a good ebook cover in MS Word if you have to – (find a pretty picture, add simple text, no dropshadow, no gradient).
B) your amazon description/sales copy converts (it turns browsers into buyers). It’s only about 300 words. Pay to get it edited. It needs to be powerful!
C) you have a lot of good reviews – at least 10. Even bad reviews are fine. A book with average 3 stars, even with some awful comments, will still sell better than one with no comments. Don’t worry about the reviews, just get as many as you can – (remember number six, buy them if you have to. But remember, if you buy glowing 5 star reviews for a terrible book, you will get an abundance of very negative reviews from readers who feel cheated – but if you buy reviews for a good book, you are only helping readers find a book they will like, and you’ll get more good reviews. Get the ball rolling.
Of course your book should be clean, edited, formatted, and look pretty on the inside -but what really counts is the story. Readers will forgive an ugly book with a good story (but not a beautiful book with bad writing and no story).
If you have A, B and C already, you can tentatively start marketing, but don’t spend much. If A, B and C are there AND you have a great book (that people want to read) you will sell about as many copies as you are able to sell, without doing much work. If that number is too low for you, consider that you may be expecting too much and trying to sell people a book they don’t want to read. If that’s the case, you will have to keep marketing nonstop to get people to buy it, and it’s doubtful you’ll ever make enough profit to justify the time and money investment.
Which leads to:
BONUS TIP 11: I should have mentioned this at the beginning, because the most critical element in book marketing, promotion in sales is the one that very few authors do:
Write a book that people want to read.
Not the book you want to write. Don’t bet your career on the book of your heart that you love more than anything. Look at what kind of books are selling. Look at what’s popular. Write books like that. Giving consumers what they want is the only way to make money in any business – why should it be so different with publishing?
I know this breaks our socially ingrained viewpoint that “ART” should never be for profit, and always be straight from the heart, but this rather warped view was actually a recent invention by Klimt and other modernists who built on Romanticism break with form, training and knowledge to focus on pure sensation.
If you’re having trouble selling the book of your soul that you were put on earth to make, but you still think writing books is a good way to make money (and it is!) then start focusing on the business side of things, and write books that will sell rather than selling the books that you’ve written.