Books don’t sell themselves, especially when no one is physically allowed to go to bookstores anymore. You need to market.
Luckily, we have e-commerce, as well as ebooks. The global e-book market was valued at $18.13 billion USD in 2019. Amazon commands 83% of the U.S. market share, leaving the remainder primarily to Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Google. These should be on your radar as primary outlets. Whether your book is digital, print, or both, you’ll need to establish a solid marketing strategy if you don’t want all those hours of writing to go to waste. Here are the dos and don’ts.
Do The Hard Part First: Promote-Then-Publish
When it comes to selling a book, the steps we tend to jump into first are developing a brand, building out a website, and of course, fussing endlessly over the jacket design down to the last perfect detail. While these are important steps, they’ll do nothing for you if the book doesn’t circulate. Prime the engine by promoting early.
“During our last self publishing survey, we asked top-selling authors to share some of their secrets to success,” says Stephen Spatz, President of Bookbaby. “One of the most important findings: over 80% of these successful authors started marketing their books before they began writing.” He says the ‘promote-then-publish’ mentality is spreading amongst independent writers and self-publishers.
Don’t Be Too Proud To Cold Call
Get your book out there with some good old-fashioned cold calling.
Targets should include book reviewers, relevant bloggers, influencers, and key people from industries or communities connected to your audience. Be prepared to reach out to them, sometimes repeatedly, and to field a lot of rejections.
“It’s a real lesson in humility,” says Peter Aiello, author of Hidden Treasure. “You have to be willing to plead with people to read your book. Give copies away if you have to. Pencil this in as part of your marketing strategy, and remember that it’s just labor. You send a number of groveling emails and phone calls per day, and then clock out.”
Support Your Book With Content Marketing
People are more likely to care about what’s in your book if they’re already interested in what you have to say. So crack those knuckles and get blogging. Author Joanna Penn recommends that in addition to articles and blog posts, you create podcasts, vlogs, a white paper, or a webinar. All the free content you produce is marketing.
“Every day, I post useful links to other sites and some of my own,” she says. This includes social media posts and responses to followers. Posting an article at least every two to three days is good idea. “Most of my social media is scheduled in advance across multiple time zones. I batch the creation and have at least a week’s worth prepared in advance,” says Penn.
Each week she posts at least one YouTube video and a podcast, including a transcript on the blog. Each month she does webinars, live events, or guest appearances on other people’s podcasts. Each year she writes more books. “It might look like a lot of work,” she says, “but if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never run out of ideas.”
Stake Out Your Own Online Real Estate
Don’t build your entire presence around social media. A social media platform is someone else’s real estate. They can change the rules at any time, and when they do it will disrupt your income stream. On top of that, most social media material is fleeting, especially given the rise of ephemeral content. Use social media as a way to engage your following, but not as your primary brand or marketing presence. It’s critical to drive social media traffic to your own website and to collect email addresses so you have a direct line to your audience – and not be dependent on another company’s platform.
“Your website is the place where you control the narrative,” says Aiello, “the look and feel, and the brand presence, and most importantly, the message.” It’s where you keep your blog posts, press releases, and professional headshots. “It’s also the gathering point for all the links to your retailers and distributors. As you build out your website, treat it like your anchor in digital space.”
There will be a lot more to do, but if you’re following these steps, your book will have momentum. Don’t forget that people are hungry for new reading material, now more than ever. Getting your pages in front of them is just a matter of smart marketing and a commitment to following through on the daily workload.