Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Marketing Tactics Round-Up

Hi Folks,

I'm sure you are wondering what I'm doing here on a Wednesday post instead of Rachel. Well, after last week's blogging ate three of Rachel's mornings, we have come to the long-building conclusion that we're both blogging too much. Books aren't getting written and that means Things-Have-To-Change(TM) around here.

We're still going to update everywhere Wednesday with new advice and helpful posts, but Rachel and I will be alternating who's up each week.

Anyway, there's been a lot of requests for marketing posts and, as I'm always asking for post requests, I'm going to try my best. Marketing is a HUGE topic ya'll. People get degrees and spend lifetimes perfecting it as a skill. In a way, we're always talking about marketing here in some form or another.

Since "marketing books" is too big a topic, I'm instead going to list and talk about every single book marketing tactic that I know of. It's going to be a,

Book Marketing Tactics Round-Up

We all need some practical, effective, actionable information to sell books with. While there's loads of abstract marketing strategy we need to talk about, books still need to sell and we all have work to do. SO, let's focus on the pragmatic stuff today and I'll have more abstract strategy talk for ya'll on another day.

What, specifically, can you do to market a book?

I'm going to try to list things in the order of power/importance they will have on your book's sales.

0. Write a good book, write another good book
You knew I was going to say this right? ^_~ Having a good story, well-told is the foundation. 

Marketing will just make a bad product fail faster, but a good book will enjoy word-of-mouth recommendations which are still one of the strongest and best form of marketing around. A really good book will have opportunities beating their way to it. (Kindle Big Deals aren't offered to bad books. Awards sell books too. Etc)

Launching new books is the second best thing an author can do marketing wise. Nothing sells books like selling new books. So yeah, primo marketing advice is to write, write well, write better, and keep writing.

1. Title, Cover, Blurb, First page
We've talked about this a lot. These are what get customers to click, to sample, to buy, and to read. I cannot emphasize their importance enough as fundamentally powerful marketing tools.

If your book isn't selling well, but has good reviews, then maybe you should consider changing these elements around. Check out my post on relaunches and rebranding for more.

2. Back Matter and Front Matter
The front and back of your books are powerful tools, but limited. There's not a lot of space here to work with. Here's what Rachel and I consider to be sorta minimum best practices right now.

For front matter,
  • have as little as possible, get people to the story asap.
  • include your blurb. Kindles don't show the blurb. People will often add or buy your book and then read it months later. You want to remind them, then, why they were excited enough to buy it. Remember, it's not about sales, it's about earning readers. (and retention rates!)
For back matter,
  • thank the reader ^_^
  • ask them to leave a review. This one trick will double, triple, or even quadruple the number of reviews you get.
  • ask them to join the newsletter
  • hook them on your next book (if you have a next book, or a pre-order if you have one of those)

3. Reviews
Good reviews sell books and build careers. Endorsements and recommendations are the primordial forces of marketing after all. Items #0,1,2,3 in this list will help you get reviews on websites that sell books. Beyond that though, it's worth the time to court reviewer sites, bloggers, and such.

Reviewers lend their own reach, voice, and authenticity to a book's online profile. They help provide links, google search results, and direct traffic/sales.

It takes time to build good relationships with reviewers, but it's worth it. You literally cannot buy this kind of press. When going for reviewers, here's a few guidelines,
  • Don't be pushy or obnoxious
  • Make things easy for them (provide many formats, media packet, timely responses, etc)
  • Don't attempt to influence the review, not even slightly
  • Don't give them crap if the review isn't as good as you wanted
  • Honor their efforts with your own links and press for their review site/account/page/blog...
Know that, when you ask someone for a review, you are committing to whatever they put up. If they don't like your book and say so online, too bad. You don't have to link to their bad review and you don't ever have to send them another book again. Silence is the most and best you can do with a bad review. 

While having a good book is important, you also want to court reviewers who you think would genuinely like it. Not only will they be more likely to say yes to reviewing the book at all, but you'll stand a better chance of getting a good review. Lastly, it's rude to waste people's time. So don't send books at reviewers just cause they have a large audience.

Ideally, reviewers are also your fans.

4. Website
Believe it or not, the author website is pretty good at selling books. Especially when you have a blog or other content marketing paired with it to draw traffic. + Pretentious Title have sent a total of 5000 people to Rachel's book buy pages over the last year. Going by our affiliates data, that's about 2000 book sales in total. That's not chump change.

At the end of the day though, the author website is part of the marketing foundation. It's not just for people finding you and your books online, but it's also a crucial tool for many other aspects of online marketing. 

I've an entire post about all the features a good author website brings to the table. Please check it out.

5. Author Newsletter
Are you gathering your readers into your own private newsletter? If no, then get started. This is a very powerful marketing tool that allows you to cheaply and effectively market directly to readers. It's so essential that I'm sure you've all heard a lot about how you have to have one these days. 

There's a lot of different formats for these things. Some people use them like a blog, emailing the list with content every week/month. Others, like Rachel, only use it for big announcements. Both ways are fine, but there's a golden rule you need to know about newsletters.
Don't waste people's time.
Remember, this is email. If people click to open, that's already a big leap of trust on their behalf. If you then waste their time... BAM! Unsubscribed. You need to grow this list, which means that your every message needs to be valuable / entertaining enough for people to (a) open and (b) stay subscribed.

We use for Rachel's new release mailing list, but there's lots of good free and paid offerings out there. I should do a post on these, it's a huge topic. For now, make sure you get one that comes with (as an option for later if nothing else) automation options. You'll want things like welcome letters and such as your list grows and you desire stronger features.

Tips for growing your list,

  • Ask. You have to tell people about it! You have to ask them! Almost no one will sign up if you don't ask. As I said above, asking at the back of the book works super well.
  • Don't waste people's time. This is important enough to say again. Ask yourself, "is this wasting their time?" every time you send out an email to your list.
  • List bait works awesomely. I'll have more data on this later, but the #1 thing we've done this year to increase newsletter signups has been the Mother of the Year reward for membership/signup. It's more than doubled the monthly growth rate (so far).
  • Team up. Other authors often team up to collectively email using their combined lists. This is a powerful tactic that can get a lot of new customers and also new sign ups. 

6. Bookbub and Email Marketing Services
Newsletter marketing is strong stuff marketing wise. It's no wonder then that there are tons of email marketing services out there that you can pay to use. You'll probably never have a 2 million person email list, but Bookbub will send you out to theirs for a couple hundred bucks.

Anyway, you all probably know about so there's no introduction needed there. Getting your book featured on Bookbub as often as possible is a great strategy. It's tougher every day though and it's also expensive. (Totally worth the cost IMO)

If you'd like some alternatives, check out my NDFL Mega Fall Promotion post. I've tried and listed a lot of smaller email marketing services there. They might sell hundreds, or merely dozens, of books, but they are easier, cheaper, and efficient. That was by no means an conclusive list though (I didn't try the Fussy Librarian or Kindle Nation Daily). You should definitely search for more.

These services are all very useful in getting actual sales for you and helping you build momentum on your career and series.

7. Author Team Ups
We've never done a boxed set of books, and Rachel doesn't team up with folks often, so I don't speak from a lot of experience here. Teaming up with other authors to run signings, hangouts, promotions, newsletters, write books and publish boxed sets is a powerful tactic. I've heard no end of success stories about these methods so I would be remiss in not mentioning them.

Romance rocks the team ups!
Business-wise it makes sense to me. Why reach 1000 newsletter subscribers when you can team up and suddenly reach 10,000? Getting 5 authors together can make for a pretty big hang out audience. A good multi-author promotion can work wonders through your combined reach and appeal.

How to get in on these things? I'd start by cruising, but often times you need to network with other, similar to yourself, authors. If you are particularly gung-ho about these, go make one happen. Authors are all pretty easy to contact what with everyone being publicly on social media and such. Most are eager for promotion opportunities as well.

Don't know who to contact? Why not start with authors who show up in your also-boughts? You know you've got something in common.

8. Appearances
Any sort of guest post, interview, podcast, video event, signing, blog tour, and so on. Appearing in a place other than your own blog and social media. These sorts of events are very handy in that they leverage someone else's audience. Ideally that's an audience that is fresh (hasn't heard of you) and is receptive / appropriate for you to appear in front of.

Rachel's about page is a good example of these kinds of things.

Honestly, this stuff can be a mixed bag of success. Getting featured by someone big can result in a great boost of traffic. Medium and small sites will contribute also, but it's easy for these contributions to be invisible to you.

While we generally take an "it all adds up" philosophy here, but the gotcha on appearances is that they take time. Often they take more time that many of the other things I've mentioned above. A written interview, for example, might take a day to fill out.

Appearances are probably one of the most fun types of marketing though. It's not all about coldly calculated ROI after all. Just be careful about letting appearances get in the way of your writing. We see a lot of authors fall prey to that trap.

Note - Conventions kinda fall into this area but not always. Rachel has an entire post about this topic so please check out Writing Wednesday: Are Conventions Worth It?.

9. Distributors is pretty much a given for all authors, but every store front you can get your book on is technically more eye-balls and more sales. Readers don't overlap between distributors a whole lot, which is good for finding fresh eyes, but it's troublesome because you almost have to build your readership on each sales channel separately. Be prepared to invest time and effort to succeed with any bookseller.

Anyway, the main reason I wanted to bring up distribution as a marketing tactic is because there's various marketing options here beyond just putting your book up on a new bookseller.

For example, Kindle Unlimited. While KU makes you Amazon exclusive, it puts your book into a much smaller pool. This increases exposure and reduces competition. Pay-outs, despite everyone's moaning, are still pretty darned good. Rachel makes more money from KU some months than from regular sales.

Another example would be Kobo. I loved the Kobo panel at RT2016. Mainly because Kobo really wants to work with you, the author with the good book, on promotions. Aside from coordinating launch promos and other sales events, one bit of advice I heard was to apply to be in Kobo's monthly 30% off sale. Applying is easy and authors are encouraged to apply month after month. Getting in that sale brings in a lot of positive exposure and builds readership on Kobo.

I have on good authority that both B&N and the iBookStore both have author promotion teams that you can email from within their portals. Both are looking for launch events and sale events to promote if you give them your time, effort, and book. They, like Amazon, also sometimes do their own big sales events and a working relationship with these promotion teams can help you get in on that stuff.

Pro tip, you are much more likely to succeed with these promotion teams if you make sure to give them enough advanced notice. The number 1 suggestion I heard for getting this kind of help was lead time. A month or two out ideally so that it can be planned and fit into the promotion team's schedule. Last minute requests for launch promo help is often just not possible for them.

Last, but not least, you can use Amazon's KDP count-down deal feature. This places your book on a special count-down deal page and everything. Right by itself that's good for boosted exposure and sales, though I'd recommend you pair such an event with a Bookbub or other, external promotion at the same time to maximize the punch.

There's more of these kinds of interesting options out there than my examples of course. So I'd encourage you to explore. Hopefully though, I've made my point that the booksellers have some great offerings.

Warning - stay away from Google. I'm not mentioning google books here because they can change your books' prices without notice, permission, or warning. This causes a price match on Amazon and other sites. If you have a book on Google, your entire empire is effectively at their mercy. Google decides your book is $0.99 for the month? Well, I hope you didn't want any royalties that month and I hope you didn't have any other sales planned! They don't care if they blow your 60-day Bookbub prerequisite.

We've actually talked to Google reps about this, but got no good answer. .(Google call us with a better one!)

10. Social Media
Wow! This is #10! That's almost the bottom of the list. YUP. For all the importance placed on social media, it's terrible at selling books. We've done a lot of experiments with social media here and conversion rates are terrible on every platform we've ever tried. (1000 to 1 or worse!)

IMO social media suffers from a huge case of preaching to the choir.  Most authors only reach people who already know and like them. Now, some folks are really good at getting their marketing message to transmit outside of their own bubbles. If this is you, great. If its not, then social media is going to have a very poor ROI for your efforts.

Facebook is a bit of an exception, in that author pages are a great place to build fandom. Again though, if you don't do it naturally, you will likely be in for a bad time.

11. Paid Ads
You can also just engage in paid advertising. The best marketing is free, but money buys eyeballs from lots of places. Amazon Marketing Services, Goodreads Ads, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Twitter for Business, and so on, are all examples of paid ad distributors that can work for authors.

If you want to try these out,
You need to measure the results
While you need to measure the results of any advertising (time is money friend), measuring these methods is essential. See, really making them work takes R&D. You have to try, experiment, research, learn, and refine. It's gonna take spending some money and eating some losses until you learn how and where to market your stuff.

I'll be open about this, our experiences here have been universally rough. Everything I named above, except Facebook ads which we haven't given a serious try to, has been a loss. I've been doing R&D as I'm advising you and I've been having a terribly unsuccessful time with it.

IMO this isn't because these places don't work. It's because we here have a poor product funnel. Rachel has 11 novels (not counting 2k to 10k) out but the low royalty rates on the 8 NY novels nukes the return on any advertising investment we make.

This'll change as she writes more indie books though. I am very much looking forward to having a completed, 5-book, Heartstrikers series to play with for marketing purposes

12. The Weird Stuff

There's more to marketing books than I've covered here today. This is just a list of popular places and methods that I've encountered. There's endless opportunities out there. I haven't talked about YouTube at all, because I know and hear very little about it (publishing wise). There are guys out there who make power point presentations for free or sale to promote their non-fic platforms and do so very successfully. There's also running a podcast or internet radio show. There's Google groups. There's email courses. There's so so much.

Thank's for reading

I hope that, while we weren't talking strategy, I have given you a good list of workable tactics you can pursue to promote your own books. Later this year, I'm hoping to have new and better information for you as we are wrapping up some major experiments this summer. Data is still coming in though so it'll be a bit on that.

We'll have plenty of other business posts in the mean time though, don't worry! Not like there isn't a shortage of things to talk about in this industry.

Anyway, next Wednesday's post will be Rachel on writing. As I said at the top, we're going to be alternating  who does the Wednesday post.

If there's any topics you'd like me or Rachel to talk about here on the blog, please feel free to leave them below. We're always working hard to find information that is useful to you. You can also just hit me up on Twitter, that works too! (@TravBach) Rachel's social media links are here as well if you want to get live updates! (Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Google+)

Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you all next week!



Kessie said...

I found Good Dragons from Bargain Booksy or one of those. I loved the summary and bought/read it, and only then went, "Hey, isn't this that 2k to 10k lady?" I've been following the blog ever since. I mostly discover books through those newsletters, myself. I browse books by pretty covers and titles. If they have dragons, I read the blurb. If I like that, I buy it. I usually only read reviews after I've read the book--they have zero factor in my decision to purchase. I found Marc Secchia that way, too.

Tom Sweeney said...

Nice recap of marketing overall. I always hear about writing good books and having enough to present a critical mass being the most important thing, but I'm come to realize, as you say, that this is just the price of entry.

I'm getting closer to that arena myself, and appreciate the article. My only question (you didn't think i was going to politely leave without a question, did you?) concerns the Mother of the Year gambit.

I know you are not selling it, just making it available for those on your list, and this likely resulted in a LOT of people signing up. I'm just wondering how effective it was for the end game goal, not building a list per se but selling books. I understand your data probably doesn't have enough granularity to determine how many of the new signups went ahead and bought one or more of the Heartstriker series books. You could have each sold lot of MotY copies at $.99, so do you think you came out ahead with enough Heartstriker books sold to cover the loss of revenue had you sold MotY?

Travis Bach said...

@Tom Thanks!

Also, I love questions! Please feel free to ask away.

Though, to answer your question, we needed list bait, wanted list bait, and so it was made specifically to be that. MOTY's exclusivity is a crucial part of its functionality so we're not going to try to sell it. Besides, we're not in the short story business, so I don't think trying to sell it would be a wise idea.

That said, its likely worth more as list bait than as a 99c sale item anyway. The new release mailing list has a very high conversion rate (30% to 40%). MOTY has increased signups from 50-80 per month up to 200-300 per month. It's been, so far, phenomenally successful beyond what I'd hoped for.

Now, I'm sure that some people are only signing up to get MOTY, and the list's conversion rate will go down a little because of that. When HS4 comes out and we send out the release letter, we'll see the rubber hit the road and I'll be waiting with analytics. There will def be a post about how it all shook out in 2017 when I have the full data to compare.

Are people signing up for MOTY also buying Rachel's books? Hard to say. I'm going to guess that they are almost all people who've already bought and read her books. That's fantastic IMO. We want legit fans on the list, not random people who don't know or care about Rachel's books. That's how it all comes back to earning readers ^_^

I've seen many authors do things like free kindle (the eReader itself not a kindle version of their book) giveaways for social media follows and list signups. TBH, I've never seen the point. I have to wonder about the quality of signups they are getting. How many people followed or joined just to get an entry in the raffle? Probably a lot. The whole method has very poor targeting and vetting.

MOTY was carefully chosen. Its a piece of fiction that mostly only interests people who've already read NDFL and beyond, since it relies on the reader having some series knowledge. It was also a format that we could not do anywhere else, the interview. Lastly, it was released at a time when it could also help wet people's appetites for the release of No Good Dragon. So we managed to double down on its promotional possibilities.

Man, this might make a good blog post. And keep me from wall-of-text criting the comment thread lol.

Selene said...

I would love to see a post about effective revisions+editing. Realizing just how much time I spend on this, I've abandoned pantsing for plotting, but my timeline still looks something like this:

Planning novel: 1.5 months
First draft: 2 months
Creating a plan for the revision: 3 months
Implementing revision: 4 months
Editing: 4 months
(Send to beta readers)
Revision and editing based on feedback + proofreading and final polish: 3 months

(I've got about 10 hours a week to spend on writing.)

Looking at the numbers, ideally I'd just write a perfect first draft and cut out all the rest, but yeah, that's never happened yet...

Travis Bach said...

Hi Selene,

Have you checked out Rachel's post on editing?

Its an old post, but still one of her best.

There's also the post, "Planning your editing like a pro"

If those don't answer your question, please let us know. (I get emails when people comment on this thread)

Selene said...

Thanks for the reply! I did read those, and I work pretty similarly, e.g. I use notecards to make a "scene map". I guess the main areas where I'd love tips on how to be more efficient are the following:

1. Making the revision plan. This takes me months. I think that's because even simple changes create ripple effects throughout the entire manuscript. Say e.g. I need to move a scene. Sounds simple, right? But instead the ripples go through almost the entire book, and I have to adjust the information flow (who knows what where), rearrange other scenes because one character suddenly disappears for too long, adjust subplots that are affected etc. etc. Trying to sort out all these multiple ripple effects whilst not breaking the book is a major headache. (Creating the plan before making any changes does seem to save me some work though, as I otherwise fix one problem only to realize the ripple effects of the next one means the work of the first one must be redone.)

2. Line/copy editing takes me several hours per scene. What with having 150 scenes in this latest book, and only 10 hours to work on it per week, that's a lot of time. I'd love any tips on how to do this faster. Maybe practice is the only way to go...?

I have a feeling that my first drafts might be more "broken" than Rachel's, even though I'm plotting and not pantsing these days, and maybe that's the main reason it takes so long. On the upside, by first book took 7 years to complete, so at least I'm making progress here. :-) (The current one is my fourth.)

(I thought I already answered this one, but I don't see my comment, so maybe it was lost in cyberspace. Apologize if you get two of these!)

Travis Bach said...

(The email reply apparently ate my reply to you as well. Thankfully gmail saved it.)

You're welcome!

If it makes you feel better, those reordering problems you mention are pretty universal. When Rachel moves things around, all that kind of reordering happens to her as well.

While practice and experience do make a big difference in speed, a factor of perception might be that Rachel works full time on her books. That "1 week edit" for her is 40 to 60 hours of work. Which is 4 to 6 weeks of equivalent work at 10 hrs a week, at least. So maybe you are editing at a good pace, but it's just a timing difference.

That said, I have to ask about your book. I can't find who you are from the comments, but 150 scenes is a lot. Like, a lot a lot. How long is the book? 300k+ words?

Having helped Rachel assemble and reassemble 15 or so novels now, I have a lot of experience with this. My gut says that your book is very likely either long and/or very complicated. While it might be an amazing book, you are likely wrestling with these complexities as an author and it shows up in construction time and execution challenge level.

For example, can you tell me the book's central conflict in one to two sentences only?

Selene said...

That's true about 40-60 hours' work coming in at 4-6 weeks, alas--one reason I'm always looking for ways to be more effective. I also have a really hard time fitting in more than one hour at a time, which is the worst when it comes to planning the revision when I have to keep a lot of stuff in mind at the same time. (It also sucks when writing the first draft when I'm in "the zone".)

The scene number might be a bit misleading, because more than scenes, it's what I've put in separate notecards in Scrivener, so includes sequels, transitions and other logical divisions that help me keep track of things. Still, it's some 40 chapters, and about 160 K.

It's something of a high concept book, so it's easy to summarize the central conflict (I'd rather not get into details here at a public forum), but it's also very fast-paced, with three POV characters (all each others' antagonists), and the kind of structure where everyone takes actions all the time, causing complications. The subplots are also very tightly woven into the main plot, and there are different factions with various agendas that play a role. It all ties in nicely at the end (I think... provided I don't confuse the heck out of my readers first!), but I suppose it's quite a bit to juggle in the getting there.

Anyway, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer! You've made me feel better about being "slow". :-D

Travis Bach said...

Glad to help. Best of luck with your writing.

Anne Hagan said...

You mentioned putting the blurb at the front of the book in one of your points. I hadn't heard that before but I can see the wisdom in it. I know how to go into the Kindle software and read that info but I know that most people don't bother. Thanks!

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