Marketing is something that can be challenging for every author. There are so many different options, and so many different opinions on what you “should” be doing for success, that it can get quite confusing. Fortunately, the secret to great marketing is not to master everything, but rather to focus strongly on a few key things.
Below is my list of the 5 best things to focus on for book marketing if you are an indie author:
Your Author Newsletter
I hear from my clients all the time about their challenges with their author newsletter. Some writers tell me they see very little response on it, others tell me they don’t see the point. In nearly every case, when I dig deeper, I discover that the writer doesn’t really understand how to use their author newsletter to their best advantage, and so the problem is not with the newsletter itself, but rather in the approach the writer is taking to it.
Best Book Marketing Tip #1:
An author newsletter should be treated like any other form of marketing content.
The primary purpose of your author newsletter is not to share news about your personal life or updates about your writing progress. While those topics might be interesting, and they can help to foster greater intimacy with your audience, they should never be the main focus.
As a form of marketing content, your author newsletter should either a) offer free information that is valuable to the consumer or b) make an offer (i.e., sell a product). Author newsletters that contain links to a podcast that is featuring an interview with you, or an article you wrote on Medium, fall into the category of “free valuable information.” Author newsletters that alert readers to a sale on your books fall into the category of “making an offer.”
If your newsletter doesn’t contain content that falls into either category, then your newsletter is not fulfilling its function and you won’t see any substantial return on it. If you don’t have anything to send right now that falls into either category, then wait until you do, or get busy creating some free valuable content to send out.
Your Email List
This ties in with your author newsletter, but it’s also its own separate thing. Similar to the author newsletter, most writers also don’t understand why so much importance is placed on building their email list. Because they’re not using their author newsletter in the best way and they’re not seeing much in the way of results from it, they then conclude that not only is the newsletter a big waste of time, but so is building their email list.
Best Book Marketing Tip #2:
Treat your email list like gold.
Your chances of making a sale—any kind of sale—to someone on your email list is about a hundred times higher than making a sale anywhere else, and that includes all social media platforms. The fact is that people only let those for whom they feel some measure of trust into their inbox. If social media is like one big public party, then a person’s email inbox is like their home, and when they let you into it, it’s kind of like they’ve opened their front door to you and they’re willing to listen to what you have to say, even if only for a few minutes.
The people on your email list have expressed interest in you and your work, and they’re willing to give you a chance. They’re willing to give you a level of attention that, frankly, they’re not willing to give anyone they happen across on social media. It is an incredibly valuable use of your time to do the hard work of figuring out how to engage with these people and recruit more of them to your list.
Your Attitude Toward Selling
For a lot of writers, “selling” is a bad word. I’ve actually seen writers physically cringe when I try to open up a conversation about it. However, contrary to some of the negative ideas we get about marketing and sales from popular culture, selling is not an evil activity. Selling in itself is neutral, it’s the beliefs we bring to it that show it in a positive or negative light.
Best Book Marketing Tip #3
You must think of yourself not only as an author, but as an online business owner.
Writing books is important, but selling them to people is also equally important, because the selling of the books is what’s going to enable you to continue the writing of the books. In other words, if you don’t sell any books, you’re going to have to find some other way of earning money to support your book-writing habit.
In order to cultivate a healthy, positive attitude toward selling, you’re going to have to look at any pre-existing limiting beliefs that are standing in your way. Do you feel like sales work is “slimy” or “icky”? Do you feel like all selling activities have to be pushy or invasive? More importantly, WHY do you feel that way? Where did these beliefs come from and are they still serving you, or can you let them go? Once you can release what’s NOT working, you can begin to bring in a more helpful attitude that will.
Your Fear of Being Seen
This shows up most frequently for writers as a badly designed website with no author photo, no About Page, and no way to contact anyone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across an intriguing Twitter bio and wanted to learn more about the author and connect, only to find that they seem to be a ghost, and impossible to send a message to in any form, other than using the most generic social media messaging options.
Best Book Marketing Tip #4:
As an author, you need to have a (somewhat) public online presence.
You don‘t need to share all the intimate details of your life, or even any details of your life, but you do need to have a name, a picture people can connect the name to, a brief description of who you are and what you write about, and a way for people to get a hold of you. Having all of this on a website that is easy to navigate and looks professional doesn’t hurt either.
I’ve found that a lot of authors sabotage themselves in this area because they are afraid of being seen, and consequently, being judged. Usually, they grew up in homes or went through experiences in school where it was safer to be invisible and they’ve carried this safety net with them into adulthood, although it’s no longer needed, and as an author, it’s only holding them back. If this is a problem you’re grappling with, start by taking it slow. Put a picture of yourself on your website, a few lines about your writing, and make sure you include the standard contact form. Boom. You’re done. Progress!
Your PR List
For many indie authors, their PR list is non-existent, and when I say the phrase “public relations,” they can only give me a blank look, or they assume that they need to hire an outside PR person and pay thousands of dollars to get their name out there. Rest assured, you don’t need to spend one dime if you’re willing to learn, put yourself out there, and organize a list of possible media leads on your own.
Best Book Marketing Tip #5:
Build your own homegrown PR list and work on it regularly.
You can start by creating a simple Excel spreadsheet and adding columns for podcasts, blogs, interviews, and book reviewers. You can add more columns for other leads as you go. At first, just concentrate on researching podcasts that might be interested in interviewing you, blogs that might be open to you guest posting for them, people who might want to interview you about your book, and reviewers who may be open to you sending them a free copy in exchange for a review. Do a weekly review of your PR list and add any new leads you’ve found, as well as update the status of the existing entries.
Cultivating your own PR list and doing outreach on your own isn’t the most glamorous part of being an author, and it doesn’t usually result in overnight success either, but it is worth it. The value of a good PR list is that it grows over time, and you also grow over time with it. You’ll go from unsure and hesitant about who to talk to and how to reach out to people, to an author who has confidence in their ability to talk about their work and what kind of value they can bring to an interview or a feature.
Each one of the book marketing tips above takes time and effort, and sometimes a shift in mindset, but each one will also bring you a substantial return on investment if you do decide to commit. Each one also has the potential to help you grow as a person, both creatively and in business. The key is to be open, be curious, and be willing to be surprised by what your journey in book marketing may bring.