You'd think writing your book is the hardest part of the whole self-publishing journey, but the truth is, it is often much harder to get people to buy your book. In this article we'll help you overcome the one thing standing between you and the success of your book: marketing.
There are a lot of articles out there that provide an exhaustive list of options or that advise you to do everything under the sun in oder to sell copies. This isn't one of those articles.
This is written for people that have only a few hours a week, little budget, and not much marketing experience. If that's you, we've got good news: you can be successful and we'll show you how.
Start with your target market
The most important thing we can advise you is to always start with your target market when marketing your book.
When it comes to promotion, most authors make the critical mistake of starting with their book without giving much thought about their target. This is why you'll see a lot of authors using social media and digital ads to try to get people to "buy my book!"
It's understandable. Authors work really hard to get their book to become a reality. It's like having a baby—all consuming and a little traumatic. As such, it's reasonable for authors to become fixated on their book but doing so causes them to miss a much better way to help their book succeed.
So, what does it mean to start with your target market?
Everyone is self centered, meaning we all go through life looking for ways to find happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We are trying to better ourselves and our situations. We're trying to solve our problems and reach our goals.
There's an old saying in the advertising industry that everyone's favorite radio station is WIIFM: what's in it for me?
Knowing everyone is this way, start with what it is that your target is trying to accomplish. What problems do they have? What goals are they trying to accomplish? What life are they trying to live?
If you can answer these questions then you can position your book as a solution and that's how you start with your target.
Do the work of figuring out who specifically your book is for. Who exactly did you have in mind when you wrote your book and what ways does your book help your target realize their wants and desires?
Once you have a clear picture of who your book is for and how it helps them, it's time to develop a persona. A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal target.
Marketers create personas to better understand the needs and wants of their target market and to ultimately hone their messaging to that target.
Creating a reader persona
- Do your research! Talk to people that fit your target market. Read studies on your market—there is plenty of free information to be had with a simple Google search. Compile as much information about your target as possible, as we'll sift it and distill it in the next step. For now, just try to learn as much about them and their wants, needs, and problems.
- Answer the following questions: Age, gender, professional role, income, personal roles (mother, son, volunteer, etc.), education, channels (the places you can find them), pain points, and how your book helps solve their problems. As you're doing this, start to look for common threads or themes.
- Once you have identified commonalities and themes, write out your first draft of your reader persona. For example: Harriet Edwards is a 68-year-old retired accountant living just outside of Boston. She loves gardening and spending time with her three young grandchildren. She uses Facebook and Instagram, and likes to watch YouTube videos on gardening. She wants to introduce her grandkids to gardening and wishes she could spend more time with them outdoors, but the kids seem uninterested in anything that's not a video game.
- Test your persona by sharing with others to get their feedback. Make sure to have people that fit your target market review it. Take the feedback you get and refine your persona.
Now you have a good idea of who exactly you should go after. You know exactly what they are looking for and how your book can solve their problems and add value to their life.
In addition, the persona-creation process will have given you an idea of where you can find your potential readers. This means you won't have to flood the internet with the constant drumbeat of "buy my new book!" but will instead be able to focus your efforts on things that produce results.
Craft your title & design your cover
Ideally, you are early enough in the process that you can still craft your title and design your cover. If you've already printed your book move on to the next step. If not, good news: you can use the info you gained from making your persona to develop a killer title and book cover that your target reader won't be able to resist.
If you want your book to sell, getting the right title and cover is one of the most important aspects of a successful marketing campaign.
To create the ideal title, go back to your reader persona and to the research you did to create it. Try to craft a title that explicitly addresses the problem they are experiencing and the solution your book offers. Using Harriet Edwards from above, you could write something like:
Title: Creating Gardeners for Life
Subtitle: How to turn distracted kids into passionate gardeners
Keep your readers' problem in mind when working on a title. Try to keep it short, creative, and add an element of intrigue or create some curiosity if you can.
Next, develop a cover that will engage your target. It is a good idea to work with a professional designer on this, as your cover is often going to be what makes or breaks a sale.
Even though we say, never judge a book by its cover, that's exactly what we all do. Your book will be judged by its cover, so make it good.
Your cover should support the main message of your book. Use high-quality photos or illustrations. Make sure the type is nice and legible and that it's professionally set. Your cover should be creative, clean, and on message.
Market test both your titles and covers, even if it's an informal test. Show multiple options to your target market and ask them which they like and why. This will help you find a title and cover that speaks to your target readers.
A word of advice: **do not** ask people outside your target market to weigh in on titles and covers, unless they are experts in book publishing, copywriting, or design. Everyone has an opinion, but almost always they are too subjective and not relevant to your audience. People that don't fall into your target will have strong feelings, but might lead you astray from what your target likes.
Build a marketing funnel
Okay, you've done the foundational work. You have a good understanding of who your target market is and how your book might meet their needs. You've created a reader persona. And, you've developed an effective title and a cover that will grab your target's attention and make them click.
Now it's time to build your marketing funnel.
A marketing funnel is a multi-step process that moves your target from being unaware of your book all the way through to buying it. It is based on the understanding that people don't just decide to buy something out of nowhere, but rather we all go through a process when making a purchase.
By identifying your target's purchasing process you can build a funnel that draws yout target readers in, moves them nicely through the buying process, and results in a sale.
To build a funnel, use the following process as a guide:
- Build awareness
- Create interest
- Encourage evaluation
- Get commitment (monetize)
There are plenty of ways to do build awareness. You can make lots of noise on social media, run ads in magazines, pay for ads on Facebook or Google, or even hit the author circuit and do in-person book signings (assuming you can get events set up!).
The best way, in our experience, to create awareness is to use social media to build an audience. That said, don't feel compelled to set up accounts on every platform. Find the social media platform that your target is using. We recommend focusing on one platform and doing that well. Too many authors try to build multiple audiences on multiple platforms and end up being spread too thinly.
Each platform is different and has slightly different audiences, rules, and expectations. With that in mind, we won't go into how to build an audience on any given platform. There are a lot of free resources to be found online to help you find your way.
The key is to avoid trying to sell at this stage. You're just trying to build an audience and develop awareness. And, at this stage, awareness can be really just about you. People don't even need to know you have a book at this stage. Try to put out content that your target audience will enjoy, draw them to you, and start to build that audience.
Audience building can be hard so don't lose heart if it takes a little time to get things moving. Once you have an audience it's much easier to move them along to subsequent stages in your funnel.
Once your audience starts to form, it's time to create interest. You can do this by sharing information about your book from time to time with your audience.
Talk about awards, reviews, and write ups. Maybe share content on what it was like to write the book or what your journey from having an idea to being a published author was like. Essentially, you want to draw your audience into more of a relationship and at the same time expose them to your work. Ideally, you're doing so in a way that makes them curious—because after all, you should be building your audience based on your target persona.
As you're creating interest, provide your audience opportunities to evaluate your book. This can be as simple as sharing images of the cover, but can include things like a free chapter for download or audio or video of you doing a read of a particularly engaging passage.
To get people to commit, make sure to ask for the sale from time to time. Don't be pushy, but if you post multiple times a week to your social media account, maybe one out of every four to six posts can be a link to your book. Test this out to get a feel for how often is ideal. In most cases, less is more, as you're in this for the long haul and you want this audience around for any subsequent books you publish!
One way to encourage commitment, meaning your target adds your book to their shopping cart, is to create special offers from time to time. This can be a discount on the price or on shipping, or can be a signed copy which you can sell at list price.
Whatever you do for specials, be careful to not offer discounts too often or you'll be training your audience to always wait for a sale to buy.
Hopefully this has helped you gain a better understanding of how to build and run a marketing funnel. Next, let's talk about making your book easy to buy, as there's no point in doing all this work if people can't transact.
Make your book easy to buy
It's surprising how many online stores are difficult to use in this day of e-commerce. There are so many great options for anyone that wants to sell a product, like a book, online.
Set up a website
First, regardless of where you think most of your sales will come from, you need a website to promote your book. If you've already got an author site, you're all set other than adding some info about your new book.
But, if this is your first book, you'll need to get something set up that gives your audience info about you and does a good job of promoting your book.
If you want to sell your book directly, check out platforms like shopify.com, as they do a really good job making it easy to get set up while handling all the complicated e-commerce details with ease.
Of course, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, WordPress is a decent option. It takes more work, but you can have more control and potentially keep more of your revenue in the end.
Get your book on Amazon.com
Second, you probably should get your book on the world's biggest online retailer, Amazon.com. There are plenty of online resources to guide you though this process and to advise you on tactics for success on Amazon.
There are some downsides to Amazon, so be sure to do your research and talk to other authors already selling on the platform.
Price your book strategically
Lastly, we want to share some thoughts on how you can use pricing as a way to market your book.
Price is a great way to communicate value. You'll be tempted to sell your book at a cheaper cost in hopes that people will see it as a great value and will buy it. The fact is, when buyers see a low price they often assume that the low-cost item is also low quality.
The last thing you want your audience thinking is that your book is amateurish or not valuable.
If you invested in a good cover and you came up with a solid title, you should be able to charge what other authors with books in your genre are charging. Do some research to get an idea of what books like yours are selling for. Don't feel that you have to charge less just because you're new or because you want to sell more. Charge a fair price within your genre's range.
There is a lot to marketing and marketing a book has so many unique aspects that we can't cover everything in one article. Even so, we hope this overview has helped you gain a clear picture of how you can successfully market your book and sell lots of copies.