A successful book is what every author wants. However, choosing what steps you take to build upon your success is what will set your book apart from the 4,500 other books published each day. Authors that take the time to establish a rock-solid foundation first, will see this time and effort pay off, because from there you can employ a variety of strategies to boost book sales. Although a strategy may sound boring, putting the right infrastructure into place early on can make all of the difference.
Building up your infrastructure is the most important thing you can do as an author. Over the years, I’ve met a lot of authors who believe (mistakenly) that once they list their book on Amazon, sales will roll in without additional effort. But, in reality, there’s so much more that must be done. Take a look at the checklist below to make sure you are setting your book up for success:
• Website: Think of this as your business card. Your website should represent you and your book(s), and present them in the best possible light.
• Newsletter: This is crucial! Your newsletter is a reliable way to stay in touch with your followers, so start building an email list early on.
• Social networks: Again, this is another great way to stay engaged with your readers. Ready to get social? Find the networks where your market is most active and make sure and add the social icons to your website. My book Red Hot Internet Publicity spells out some great social media strategies.
• Is everything linked? There’s nothing more frustrating than broken links on a website, or links that go to the wrong pages. Make sure that your social icons link correctly, and that your “Contact us” works, too. Make it easy for people to find you!
• Branding: Create a uniform “look” that’s consistent across all of your platforms. Keep in mind not to personalize it too much, or it’ll look more like your personal Facebook page, rather than your overall brand.
If you’ve successfully built your infrastructure to your satisfaction, then great work! Now, it’s time to start weaving in some marketing strategies. As I mentioned, more than 4,500 books are published every day compared to only 500 when I was first in business. I am sharing this not to be a buzzkill, but to remind you that your marketing plan needs to include more than just hope! As you prepare your marketing plan, and build upon your existing infrastructure, you’ll want to keep the following strategies in mind.
Connect With Your Readers
A simple way to grow your network, get great reviews, and sell more books is to simply ask! Write a thoughtful letter to your readers and ask for what you’d like them to do. When it’s not written in a pushy, sales format and includes a genuine “thanks for reading,” this can go a long way.
Fans, Readers, and Super Fans
When you’re first starting out, getting blogger and reviewer attention is crucial. Bloggers, like the rest of us are really busy. While you should certainly keep pitching bloggers and reviewers, you should also start building a fan following. Why? The average reader can help drive sales. The next tier of readers are the super fans -- and the average super fan can not only drive sales, but also help spread the word about your book.
It takes a bit of work to engage readers and turn fans into super fans but it’s worth it! When the book launches, start to get in touch with fans. Encourage them to write you by putting a thank you letter in the back of your book as I just mentioned. Once you have some fans writing you, you can start engaging more with them and encourage their dedication. Make them feel exclusive -- give them something to make them feel special. Try offering an early release of your next book, or a special “behind the scenes” from your first one.
If fans are engaging with you already, the next step is to keep the conversation going. Make sure that you are reaching out to them a few times a month to maintain this relationship.
Free is Your Friend
Free is a powerful marketing tool – if you find that free isn’t working for you, then you’re doing it wrong. You have to use it strategically – you should be using free to draw in readers – from there it’s up to you to keep them engaged. If you have several books, rotate books in and out of a day-long freebie that you promote both to your readers and on social media.
Understand Amazon Algorithms
The first thing you should understand about Amazon is that it’s a search engine. So, in order to gain maximum visibility for your book (and get more sales), it’s important that you understand how to work Amazon’s internal algorithm. By focusing on keyword strings (rather than individual keywords) that will resonate with your target audience, because that’s how they search. (If you need some help deciding how to select the best keywords, you can read more about it here.)
Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
Reviews can be hard to get, but they’re really important, so be sure to focus on your Super Fans! In addition to providing future readers with some background on your book, they also trigger the Amazon algorithms, meaning they will help boost your book’s visibility. If you have an older book, securing ongoing reviews is a great way to keep the title feeling “new,” and to keep triggering Amazon for more exposure.
Making the Most of the Pre-Order
The pre-order feature on Amazon is a great way to feel like you’re actually “launching” your book. It can give you time to generate buzz and if used correctly, it can help boost a book’s sales rank for up to three months on Amazon. Here’s how:
Keep your pre-order short – no more than three weeks. Remember when I talked about generating that feeling of exclusivity? You can get reviews for this pre-order, and get them up within 36-48 hours on Amazon by offering a copy of your book to your Super Fans in exchange for an honest review. Then, incentivize them to review early.
Pricing, especially eBook pricing, is a big deal to most consumers. I recommend starting your book off with a lower price when it goes live, and keep it there for a week, maybe two. This will help keep you on the “new release” list even longer.
Pricing matters to your consumer, so it should matter to you. When it comes time to set the price for your book, look at your competition to see what they’re charging, and price your book competitively.
Pricing is especially important for eBooks. There is a rumor going around that eBook sales are declining. This is actually not at all true. The reason this became an issue, was because traditional publishers were saying their sales are down. They are down, because they are pricing their eBooks too high. Consumers don’t want to spend the same amount for an eBook as they do a print book, so be sure to price it less.
Own the Shelf
Previously, you could put out one book, and wait around to see what happened, and then think about writing another book. That time has long gone. Now you need to keep filling your virtual shelf space on Amazon. And if this sounds daunting, consider this: short is the new long. Not every book you publish has to be long – but it has to be quality. How short is short? Over 50 pages or 20,000 words is ideal. The more (quality) work you keep pushing out there, the more you’ll start to “own” your virtual shelf space.
Follow What Works
Book marketing can seem daunting, what with the seemingly endless (and growing!) possibilities for promoting books. So start small with a strong infrastructure and use it as a foundation for all of your marketing efforts. I’ve shared several of my top strategies here and recommend that you use these as a starting point for your marketing efforts. Once you’ve created that solid foundation, then you have room to experiment with new possibilities. You’ll soon be able to recognize what is working for you and build on it.
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.