August 14, 2023
Episode 33: Demystifying Book Marketing:
Simple Steps to Boost Your Book’s Visibility
Episode 33: Demystifying Book Marketing: Simple Steps to Boost Your Book's Visibility
1) understanding who might want to read your book so that you market to the right people;
2) showing what your book is about in a clear way; and
3) being authentically you.
I also share tips about launching a new book; book reviews, and more.
Recap & Takeaways
- 02:16 Book Marketing Challenges
- 06:14 Identifying Your Audience
- 15:50 Building an Engaged Audience
- 17:50 Being Authentic
- 19:51 Book Launch Strategies
- 27:42 The Book Marketing Buffet
Transcript for Episode 33: Demystifying Book Marketing: Simple Steps to Boost Your Book’s Visibility
Hello and welcome to Episode 33 of The Author Switch Podcast. I am your host, Carma Spence, and tonight I’m going to be talking about demystifying book marketing, simple steps to boost your book’s visibility.
So, what I’ve promised to talk about tonight is not only how to demystify book marketing, but to reveal some simple and powerful strategies that you can use to skyrocket your book’s visibility, and explore some practical tips to make your book stand out. Now before I go into all the meaty stuff that I have prepared for you tonight, I’ve just got to give you a quick introduction of who I am, just in case you are new to my world.
I am an award winning and bestselling author. I’ve been in marketing and PR for 30 years. I have been a published author for 16 years. I have written five books on my own and contributed to numerous anthologies. Two of my books have made it to bestseller. One has won three awards. I’m also certified in author marketing as well as the StoryWay methodology. So I do have some knowledge in how to market your book.
So before we go into the steps that you can use in book marketing, I want to make sure that we’re all starting from the same foundation. So what is book marketing?
The way I look at book marketing is that it is simply how you promote your book so that it will sell. So it can include PR, it can include. traditional marketing. It can include promotions. It’s all those things that you do to make your book noticeable by potential readers so they will buy and hopefully read your book.
Now there are a lot of challenges that you may face when you’re about to market your book. And so I’m just going to go over a little overview of these are the challenges you’re trying to overcome while book marketing.
One is saturation of the market. With the rise of digital and self publishing, lots and lots of people are publishing their books. In fact, I would like to, I kind of think about it as television. So once upon a time, like when I was a kid, there was only a handful of channels available. that you could watch shows on.
Maybe I think there were the big four and maybe a few other ones on UHF back when you had to like get up and actually change the channel. Nowadays, you’ve got streaming. You’ve got cable. You’ve got memberships. You’ve got Netflix, Netflix Paramount, Disney. You’ve got so many choices of what you could watch on your television.
Well, the same thing is happening in books. You’ve got digital, you’ve got audio, you’ve got physical books, you’ve got bookstores that you walk into the store, you’ve got Amazon, you’ve got Barnes Noble, and you can even buy books directly from authors.
So the market is really saturated. How do you stand out? That’s one of your challenges when you’re marketing your book. This leads to a discoverability challenge. If there are so many books, your book is just one little fish in a whole school of book fishes, or fish books.
So how do you get discovered? Then there’s the limited amount of resources you have to market your book. You only have so much money and you only have so much time and you’re going to have to use one or the other or both in order to market your book. So you have to be really strategic about how you use the resources you have.
There’s also changing consumer behavior. So once upon a time, all you had to do was get a publisher and they would take care of it, sort of. Not really, but that’s the general theory. Now there’s so many options to get your book published and readers are changing how they read books. I know people who will not read a book if it’s not in audio format.
I know people who will not read a book if it’s not in digital format. And I know people, myself included, that will probably not read your book if it’s not in physical format. So you need to be able to get your book into the formats that your readers will want to read it.
Another obstacle is time constraints. We all have only 24 hours, and believe me, not all those 24 hours are available for marketing your book. You’ve got to sleep. You’ve got to eat. You’ve got to take care of bodily functions. You’ve got to take care of kids, take care of parents. All these demands and some authors are dealing with a day job in addition, or they have a business, or sometimes they have both. So there’s only so much time you have in order to market your book.
There’s also the challenge of building an engaged audience. There’s the challenge of getting reviews that are credible. There’s the challenge of competing with established authors when you’re a new author. And of course, there’s balancing online marketing with offline marketing. Because depending on what your book’s about and who your audience is, you may have to do both. So it’s really important that you have a strong foundation from which to launch your book marketing. That way you can bake better, more strategic decisions about how you use your resources and how you market your book.
So the first tip on marketing your book, and this is really, really foundational, and that is to identify your target market. Because if you don’t know who you’re marketing to, you can’t make any of the other decisions in a strategic or effective manner. So how do you define your target market?
The first step is to define what genre and niche your book fits into. And that may sound like really straightforward, but let me tell you about a friend of mine. I was just listening to her on a webinar the other day where she was talking about when she released her first book, and it was about money mindset, basically. And at the time, her publisher thought, well, it would go in with finances, right?
So they had to put off marketing her book, releasing her book at a certain time, because something else was going to be released at that time in the financial world. And so it wasn’t going to work. So she decided to take it on her own. And she went into a bookstore and looked on the bookshelves. So she goes into the finance section, and she sees all these books that are about how to manage your money, how to make more money, they were all very real world money focused.
Her book didn’t fit in with those books. So she said, well, where would it fit in? So she went to several other areas and she’d landed in the self help area where books by people like Deepak Chopra were, and she realized that this was where her book really belonged. So she called up her publisher and said, Hey, I need to be in self help.
And they gave it a noodle and they agreed. And so her book was released and it did very well. But if it had gone into the original category, they were thinking it might not have gone well. It would have been a completely different story.
So going into a bookstore, or doing your research on Amazon, but I actually recommend you actually walk into a physical bookstore because it’s just, it’s just easier to see your book on the shelves with the books that are there.
And that’s one way of conducting market research.
Other ways you can do market research is by analyzing competing authors. So take a look at the books that you think are like your books. Where are they ending up? What categories are they in? What readers, are they targeting? Maybe this is something you’ve thought of already, or maybe it’s something new.
Figure it out by actually looking at what’s going on in the real world by doing your research in bookstores and on Amazon.
You can also use analytics and insights if you have an existing author platform. So, for example, if you’re already sending out emails, you can use the research on what subject lines are getting opened more, if they’re related to your book. Or you can do SEO, Google analytics type research on your blog posts. Which ones are getting more traction? Which ones are getting more organic versus more sent traffic?
You also want to engage in conversations with your potential readers. These are people who may be following you on social media. They may be people who are in groups that you belong to or can belong to, but you want to like start talking to people. What are they looking for? What would make them read a book like yours? And I also recommend attending bookish events. So that includes book fairs, author signings, other literary events that might have audiences going to the event that would be interested in your book, because then you can get into conversations and talk with potential readers.
So some more ideas on how to conduct market research is do online surveys and questionnaires. You can do these to your email list. You can do polls on social media platforms. A lot of them offer you that option. You can do a Typeform survey and post that to social media.
Another idea is to join book related groups and forums and just listen. Listen to what the people in those groups and forums are saying. Is there something in the conversations that are already happening informative for you and your book marketing? And that, and also monitor social media discussions in general.
You can do Google has like a news feed that you can actually have things pull in and that can pull in news. It can pull in blog posts. It can sometimes even pull in social media posts. So, use, I forget, I think it’s called Google News. And then you’ll want to analyze book reviews. So find books on Amazon that are like your books and read the book reviews.
Read the four and five star ones to find out what do they actually like about the books and read the, the two and three star reviews. What do they think is missing? What are they not liking about that book?
And finally, if you’ve got beta readers or access to book reviewers, interview them. Ask them the questions that you would have put into your survey.
Find out, what did your beta readers like about your book? What did they not like about your book? Ask reviewers what they like about books that are similar to yours. What made them want to review that book?
So these, this is a whole bunch of ways that you can do the market research you need in order to understand your target market and how to market to them.
So, the next thing you need to do in marketing your book is to craft, develop, nurture, and engaged author platform. So, first of all, what is an author platform?
An author platform is the target audience you have for your book that you can communicate with. So, this is the people who are subscribed to your email list. This is the people who are following you on the various social media platforms. This is your platform. Now, you don’t want to only depend on social media because social media does not equal purchased books as much as your email list. You really, really, really need your email list.
So how do you go about building this engaged author platform? First of all, you wanna be very clear on your brand and then be consistent about it everywhere. And I recommend actually having a page in your Brand Bible. You do have a Brand Bible, right? If you don’t talk to me, I, I can help you with that.
Anyway. Have a page in your Brand Bible that says these are all my social media platforms. These are all the places that my brand is expressed. That can be social media platforms, that can be forums, that can be places like MeetUp, that can be your blog, that can be your email list. So that anytime you change any aspect of your branding, like you got new headshots, make sure those are proliferated through all the places where your headshots are, because you really want people to be able. To like, if they, if they first got to know you on Facebook and then they find you on LinkedIn, the picture doesn’t need to be exactly the same, but it probably should be close enough to like the same shoot that they would recognize, yes, this is the same brand. If you change your colors. Change them everywhere because you want your branding to be consistent because that helps build trust and rapport with your audience.
You want an author website and it needs to be your own website. One that you host on your own server. Now that doesn’t mean you own the server in your house. No, that means you’ve gone to some place like HostGator, or GoDaddy, or one of my favorites, NoHassle websites, and it is being hosted. It is not through one of those free website self hosting things.
And you want it to express your brand. You want to put on these various channels in your social media and your blog and your website. You want it to have engaging content. And you want, you probably want to be actively blogging. Now, does that mean blog every day? No. Pick a cadence and be consistent. You could blog once a month.
That’s fine. The, the important part is consistency and I will admit that I am a little bit not so good at that. I get good for a while and then life gets in my way, but, that is something that is really good to do to build up your audience.
You want to have an email newsletter. Again, pick a cadence that you can stick to and do, and give it out regularly. In fact, you can poll your readers. In fact, I just, just last week, I polled my readers and asked them, I want to launch a newsletter, because I’ve just been emailing them random emails. Well, not that random, they were strategic, but they were, there was no cohesiveness to it in formatting like a newsletter.
And I said I wanted to launch a newsletter. How often do you want to see it? What kind of information do you want? How do you want that information shared with you? And I got a response. And coming up, by the time you watch this on the podcast, it’ll already be done for you watching live. I’m launching it this Friday. Very cool. It’s called The Author’s Vision.
You want to have a consistent social media presence that matches your brand. You want to interact with your readers. So that means if they are commenting on your posts, engage with them. Engage with them. That means, like, if they say something, say something back. If nothing else, at least like it so they know that you saw it.
Now, some little bit more advanced ideas for building an engaging your author platform include running contests and giveaways. This is not something I’ve done a lot of, but when I’ve done it, it’s been very well. It just takes, that is something that does take a lot of forethought, and it does take a bit of effort to do, but it can be very rewarding.
You can have events and book signings both as a host and as an attendee and use visual content. Now, when I say visual content, that includes video, that includes images, that includes infographics. All your content should be hitting, not all your content, your content should be hitting all the different ways that people like to communicate.
So that should be visual, audio, and text. Does each post or blog have to have all three? No, but you should have a nice healthy mix of all of them. And what’s nice about video, you can have short form, you can have long form, you can have webinars. Very cool. And then monitor the analytics on your blog. Again, as you’re, and on your social media, as you are trying out new strategies, have some way to monitor the results on that.
And one reason why this is so important is if you’re getting royalties regularly from Amazon, the royalties you get this month are because of something you did three months before. And so if you get a blip, it is really nice to be able to look back and say, okay, I did this thing three months ago. It clearly got me a lot more sales. I should do it again.
And finally, be yourself. Be genuine. Be authentic. Let Geek Flag fry…. I always say geek flag fries. Geek, flag, fly. Let people know who you are on a real three dimensional human way. So for example, if you’re following me on social media, you will often see two types of posts. My Friday cat memes, which feature my cat, Bold Kitty. Because I’m just having a lot of good fun creating these memes and I just wanted something sort of fun and light to do on Fun Friday. Other posts you’ll see will show you how much I love… Science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Mostly science fiction and fantasy, but I love genre speculative fiction. It is my, my love.
I write it. I watch it. I do a podcast with my husband about it. It’s, it’s part of who I am. And if I was all business all the time, you wouldn’t know that, would you? And I wouldn’t be as attractive to the people who I am meant to serve. And don’t be afraid to be authentic. Now be your best self. I mean, don’t let your dirty laundry, unless it’s strategic.
Sometimes you could strategically hang dirty laundry on social media, but I wouldn’t recommend it most of the time. But the reason why you want to do this is because you want to attract the types of people that like who you are. And when you are who you are, the people who don’t like who you are will walk away and you don’t have to work with them.
And that just makes everything wonderful. And the thing is, there are so many people offering similar services that you do. They’re not in competition. They were meant to serve different people who want that service. And it all works out. There’s enough to go around, and you will attract the right people if you are you.
My third tip is using social media for book promotion. So first I want to say, just a little caveat, social media can be very powerful in selling books. In fact, I took my last book that I launched, I had actually hired someone to do a bestseller launch for me, and before she could do anything, I took it to bestseller just by posting on social media.
Now that’s because I’ve built up my audience and they were looking forward to this book. So I really lucked out. So I just actually had her work on a different book and that worked great. So you need to know your audience so that you know what kinds of things to post and you need to be authentic. I know I just said that, but it’s really, really important.
And finally here, you really want to tell stories on social media. Yes, there are the informative posts, which happen to be my favorite because I’m kind of a, my, my public speaking superpower archetype is The Professor and I’m so, so that. I love to teach. In fact, my happy place is what I’m creating. And when I’m teaching. Those are my two happy places. I love to be doing those things. So I do tend to do a lot of educational posts. But you also want to tell stories. So earlier in this podcast, I told the story of my friend who went into a bookstore to identify the real category her book belonged to. That was a story. And that’s a story that educates. And it’s a story that people can relate to.
So you want to tell stories that help people say, yeah, that’s me. Or yeah, I know someone who’s just like that. And it gets them engaged with your content.
Use visuals. You can use visuals that are photographs you’ve taken. I do that a lot. You can use photographs that are professionally taken. You can use animated visuals. You can use video. You can use infographics. It’s just like, just have a visual component in your feed.
Respond to comments. I said that earlier, too, but respond to them. It helps the, okay, so all the social platforms want you and everyone else who’s on them to stay on them as long as possible. So, when you can engage people on their platform and keep them on the platform longer because you wrote engaging content, they commented, you commented, they comment back and you have a conversation, people are staying on that platform longer.
That wakes up the algorithm and actually will show up not only that post where all the action is happening, but other of your posts as well. So responding to comments actually helps all your content on that platform.
Contests and giveaways are another good way to get people to engage with their social media. But of course that often will take them off the platform if you’re using a software or you can even just say, “Post your picture of yourself at the beach with my book and I will pick the best one and give them a copy of my book.” I mean, that’s a contest that you can do right there on the platform that keeps people engaged on the platform and, but it’s fun for people.
You can also give away Amazon cards. You’d be surprised what people would do for a $5 Amazon card. It’s not that expensive and it gets people engaged with you and your content.
Be positive and inspirational. In the mix of stuff that you talk about on social media, include what one of my mentors likes to call dopamine boosters. These are posts that make people go, Ah, I feel good. And that can be inspirational posts. It can be like fun memes, like my Bold Kitty cat memes that I post on Fridays, it’s things that people will go to your feed and they’re like, I want to go to your feed because I feel good when I see the content there.
Always have something like, once a week, once a week post something inspirational, funny, fun. Sometimes it can be snarky if it makes people laugh or feel good in some way. It will help draw people to you.
And then monitor what’s going on. If you’re getting a lot of engagement on this post, document it. Find out why. Why is that post doing better than this post over there? So, for example, I’ve found that on my, on Facebook, people really engage with my question posts. Not all of them, but a lot of them. In fact, I’ve even had famous authors engage with me on my question posts, which like total fangirl here. I was like, Oh my God, I can’t believe CJ Cherryh commented on my posts. In case you don’t know who she is, she’s a fantasy author. Anyway. Monitor what’s going on, what’s working, what’s not working, so that you can do more of what’s working and not waste your time doing stuff that’s not working.
And my final tip is some tips for book launches. Book launches are great at generating interest and anticipation.
They’re really good at helping you get to bestseller. They help create visibility and they boost sales.
Now there’s different kinds of bestsellers. There’s the Amazon bestseller, which is probably the easiest one to get. It really is. Even with all the changes that Amazon has recently done, where they’ve reduced the number of categories you can be in and they’ve increased the paper content, it’s still easier to get on a bestseller list on Amazon than it is anywhere else.
In fact, if you want to be on the New York Times bestseller list, you’re probably gonna have to pay $10,000 or more. Possibly even a hundred thousand. They’re really, really expensive if you want someone else to do it. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it on your own, but it’s not easy. Because in order to get on Amazon bestseller list, you only need to sell on Amazon.
To get on every other bestseller list, you need to sell on multiple platforms a certain number of books within a certain short period of time. But a book launch can help you do that. If you do it well. There’s lots and lots of ifs there.
You want to leverage book reviews and testimonials. These can help you, from the launch, you get people to review your book and give you testimonials and then you can use those to keep the algorithm going so that it continues book sales.
And all of this work that you’re doing helps establish your reputation as an author, which means that you can sell more books in the future. So, for example, I’ve done a lot of work with my books on Amazon and the last time I checked, I had like 200 followers on Amazon, which is, you know, decent. It’s okay.
I checked a couple of weeks ago and I had 2,000. I have no idea how I got to that number, but that is going to be awesome for my next book release because when someone follows you on Amazon, every time you release a book, Amazon sends that person an email saying, Hey, an author that you follow has released this new book.
Here it is. Go buy it. That doesn’t mean everyone who gets that email will buy it, but more of them will than people who don’t follow you on Amazon. So that’s always something, if you can build that followership, it’s really, really helpful.
Having a book that does well can improve your networking opportunities, which can lead to speaking gigs, better and higher paying clients and media mentions. And of course, media mentions can help you get to those other bestseller lists. So it’s like doing all those different things help everything else in your business.
And as you do this more and more, you build momentum. Now, I just want to give out a caveat here. I have only touched the tip of the iceberg of book marketing. I’d like to think of book arketing as a smorgasbord. You know, one of those big, all you can eat buffets that you see at the fancy restaurants in Las Vegas. Now, when you go to one of those buffets, do you take your plate, and take something from everything on that menu? Everything? No, of course you don’t. You pick and choose the things that you like, the things that work with you for that. In fact, one day you may go to only one of the buffet tables and pick everything from there, and then the next day you go to the same buffet, you go to a different table and pick different things.
Book marketing is the same way. There are a plethora of things that you can do to market your book. You don’t need to do all of them. And the ones you want to do, you don’t have to do all at once. Pick and choose those that work for you and your audience, that you have the time and the resources to do.
Now there are some bare minimum ones that I highly recommend. They sort of create your minimum viable book marketing assets. And if you want to know what those are, go to BookMarketingClub.com/bookmarketingessentials and pick up your free cheat sheet of the four book marketing essential assets that you need to market your book.
Also, if you want to learn more about a wide variety of book marketing tips, go ahead and follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or better yet, grab that cheat sheet at BookMarketingClub.com/bookmarketingessentials and get on my newsletter because every week I will be giving you at least one book marketing tip.
So I hope that you found the information I was able to share with you today, even though it’s just scratching the surface, helpful and useful for your book marketing efforts. Thank you so much for tuning in. This is the end of this episode of The Author Switch. This is Carma Spence, your host, saying ciao for now.