Are you a published (or soon to be published) author wondering what the magic is behind runaway book success?
Unfortunately, the more I learn about wild book success, the more I learn no one knows the exact formula. Just like viral videos, there’s always a bit of luck involved. Like seriously, how have so many cat videos been soooo popular when we all know dogs are better?? Tell me I’m not wrong…
HOWEVER, there are things within your power to give your books the best shot they can at becoming the next best seller.
That’s what this post is about!
For the past month I’ve been taking the Book Marketing Blue Print Course from Author Media. The online course has sessions each day, homework, a community of other authors going through it and giving you feedback, and daily open office hours with the instructors.
What a great course! We talked about everything from how to optimize your author Amazon page, to how to get on podcasts, new strategies for street teams, newsletters, websites, Goodreads, branding, and more! Now to
find time make time (let’s be real, there’s no time to be found!) to do all the things…
Here’s just a few of my highlights from over 50+ pages of notes I took during the course. Don’t judge me! What can I say? I’m a note taker.
Tip 1: Grow your newsletter
I think we all know this is important. The real question is how?
Three tips to grow your newsletter:
- Add a newsletter sign up form to your website. HOWEVER, don’t be that person who’s newsletter signup form pops immediately and stays there until you click out of it. Instead, have it pop to the side and only after 30 seconds. This will ensure readers have been on your website long enough to actually be interested in signing up.
- Ask people to share your newsletter with others. You’d be surprised by people’s willing to help out.
- Make newsletters entertaining and reader-centric. This most likely won’t grow your newsletter following (though it could if its interesting enough for people to share) but will help with retaining your subscribers.
- Do a newsletter swap with another author. Introduce your email base to another author by talking about her in your newsletter and have her do the same to her audience for you! This is a great way to find new readers for your books.
- Use Booksweeps. For fifty-ish dollars you can get a lot of emails from them. Also, these readers are gold because they’re avid readers. To make this work, make sure you an incredible book cover and a reader magnet set up.
Also, bonus tip, make it easy to unsubscribe. No, this won’t hep grow your newsletter list but it will help keep you from being annoying and also breaking the law. You know, sort of important.
Tip 2: Design a killer website
I love this quote from the course: “You need to love your reader as much as your story.”
Anyone else feel convicted by that? Just me sweating over here? Awesome.
One easy way you can do this is by making your website all about your reader and NOT you. Tailor it with them in mind. This is not your resume.
Don’t bore people with details like where you went to school. You can include stuff like that on your media page in your longer speaker bio. But on your website, make your bio interesting and entertaining.
Try and use the world “you” more than your own name. Your website should be created to delight others.
Four website tips:
- Write everything in third person. I know it’s weird to write your bio in third person but it will help you rank better in SEO. In the famous words of Nike: just do it.
- Update your website regularly. Every quarter at least go in there and spruce things up. Nothing screams: “Amateur hour!!” like reading on your website, “Book coming this December” when it’s May…
- Make it easy for people to buy your books. Be sure your books are on the home page. Also, make sure that when readers click a cover of your book, they are immediately taken to a buy page NOT an enlarged picture of your book’s cover.
- Offer bulk discounts and discussion questions for book clubs.
Tip 3: Have a launch team
You’ve probably heard of a launch, or street, team before and the importance of them. This is probably the section in the course we spent the most time on. I won’t share everything I learned here as you’d still be sitting here past bed time (if you had that much patience at all).
Here’s a few highlights though:
- DON’T host launch teams on Facebook. Unless you want your Amazon reviews taken down. Facebook sells its data to Amazon. This means friends within shared groups with you are going to have a hard time validating their reviews on Amazon because they get flagged as fraud. There’s way more to it then just that but again, not enough time here to discuss. Rule of thumb: to be safe, don’t be in groups with your launch team on Facebook. Instead, look into Discord or Slack for hosting your launch teams.
- Stick to around 30 people per launch team. Too few and you won’t get the traction you need. Too many and your time will be sucked away. Again, this is just a rule of thumb and changes on a per case basis.
- If you’re a visual person, try using Miro to collaborate with your street team during virtual meetings. Or, like me, just use it to brainstorm! It’s a super cool tool and the free version works great.
Tip 4: Figure out your brand
How does your brand help others? All the content you have out there (your website, blog, newsletter) all need to be reader-centric. But it also needs to be consistent with your brand.
Are you the sort of person who brings laughter to people? Are you bold and speak up for those whose voices go unheard? Based on your brand, develop a tagline for yourself and how you help others.
For example, after a little soul searching, I realize my brand is all about people slipping through the cracks of society and finding home amidst adventure. My tagline, on my website’s is: A home for misfits. You’ll also see lots about adventures on my website and in my newsletters.
So, what’s your brand?
Here’s some questions to ask yourself to help figure it out:
- What are you the best in the world at?
- What makes you unique?
- What are you passionate about?
Know why you write and why people should read your books.
Tip 5: Play to your strengths
You don’t have to blog. You don’t have to be on social media. If you’re good at those things, great! Stick with them. But those things can be a real time suck and if you don’t enjoy them don’t do them.
Instead, focus on what your strengths are. This goes for the plethora of ideas and strategies I developed in this course. I can’t do it all. But I can pick the ones that will best play to what I’m really great at.
One note here, while not everyone is good at public speaking, it is highly encouraged that most authors do some public events. It’s a really great way to connect with readers in person and build long lasting relationships.
Success of marketing by event type:
- Library events– usually gold (even if only a handful of people show up) because the people who do come are avid readers.
- Book signings– bad idea unless you’re well known. If you’re a debut author or don’t have a huge following yet, very few people will come to a book signing.
- Conventions– usually too expensive to have a good ROI unless you have a large back list of books. Meaning, you have multiple books published so that even if you only sell a few books at the con, you hopefully convert them into lifelong readers who then buy your other books. If you’re a speaker though and get a booth for free definitely jump on that!
- Home school events– mixed results. This depends a lot on the type of book you write as well as the individual event and the regulations, among other factors. A lot of conventions you may only break-even but if that’s the case, that’s actually a win. You’ve built in person relationships with your readers and, if you have a series, those readers will hopefully go on to buy your other books. Same is true here about being a speaker. That’s always a sweet gig you should say yes to!
- Schools– if you write MG and YA this is a solid opportunity. If you have connections to a school, by all means go for it!
Tip 6: Go on podcasts
Podcast tours are sort of like the new media tours. The strategy here is to trade up.
Podcast hosts want to know you’re going to entertain their listeners and sound professional. Once you have one good interview you can display on your website, it gets easier to book other interviews.
Start with small podcasts or newer podcasts and then, as you get more comfortable, go bigger. Eventually, if you keep trading up the chain you might work your way into radio, TV, and news.
6 Podcasting Tips:
- Get professional gear. Never do an interview from your phone or laptop. At the bottom of this post, Thomas gives great recommendations on the cheapest gear you can buy and still have solid audio quality.
- Be grateful. Send a thank you note to any podcast that brings you on. Not only is it the right thing to do, but will help you get on podcasts down the road.
- Use Podchaser to decide which podcasts to be on. Pro tip: ones with a score are in the top 10% of podcasts.
- Use Author media podcast finder to find podcasts relevant to what you write about.
- Create a media kit on your website with: high res photos of you and your book, short bio, long bio, topics you speak on, potential questions any media hosts might want to ask, along with any speaking/recording samples.
- Be interesting! If you bore the podcaster’s listeners not only will you never be invited back but you may actually hurt your book sales.
Tip 7: Keep going the first 30 days
Have lots of other activities going on after launch. Competitions! Scavenger hunts! Social media fan interaction! Library readings! Also, make sure you (and/or your publisher) are using the right Amazon categories for your book.
With the right categories selected, a launch team, and lots of promotional activities within the first 30 days, it’s very possible you could become an Amazon best seller in a category!
Unfortunately, Amazon won’t let you know when this happens so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your Amazon sales and screenshot it when that happens.
Tip 8: Don’t forget the tech stuff
Back up everything weeky! Or better yet, have it automatically back up. This means EVERYTHING. This will help your book sales because, you’ll have more time since you’re not redoing everything when inevitably your cat knocks coffee all over your laptop.
Back up your book, your notes, even all the text on your website. Updraft Plus can help you back up your actual website.
Also, on the note of tech, get Lastpass or some sort of password manager to keep you safe from hackers, or more likely, help you not to lock yourself out of stuff… As a plus, it will keep you from using that same password for everything. Password123 needs to die. Come on people.
A final word of advice regarding tech, a great resource is My Book Table. It’s a plug in that shows the progress of the books you’re working on.
Tip 9: Use Goodreads
Goodreads is sort of like libraries in that the readers you find there are priceless because they’re veracious readers! So, here’s a few things you can do on Goodreads to make sure you’re getting the most out of it:
Four Goodreads tips:
- Connect your blog. By connecting your author account to your author blog you will actually send any followers of yours a direct email whenever you have a blog post. It’s great visibility!
- Run a Goodreads giveaway. While the cost for this has gone up, it’s still a really great strategy for both ebooks and paperback. Though which one you chose to give as prizes is still a bit controversial…
- Update your profile. Just like your website, make sure you’re checking this every once and a while and updating it with your latest books.
- Ask other readers to add your books to relevant lists on Listopia.
Tip 10: Collaborate with other authors
Last, but certainly not least, collaborate with other authors and get feedback! In the Book Marketing Blue Print course we had tons of opportunities to do this. Many of my key insights and takeaways are from other authors.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve gone through the course, collaboration is powerful. Do newsletter swaps, cover reveals, panel interviews with other authors, get feedback on back cover copy, and more! Find other writers and help them and you’ll find yourself helped along the way.
And there you have it!
Ten ways to grow book sales from the marketing course by Author Media and from talking with other authors in the course. There is way more I’ve left off (including my own personalized plan and action items) that course participants walk away with. For the full list of learnings and your own personalized plan be sure to sign up for next year’s class!
What marketing strategies have you seen work well? Let us know! We’d love to hear in the comments below!
Candace signing off to sort through pages worth of marketing action items…