Becoming Your Book’s Number One Salesperson
Have you found yourself in this position? You’ve finished your book, and it’s great. Now, how and to whom are you going to sell it?
Writing is an intensive process. Authors are subject to a constant push and pull as they seek to take in information and ideas, then pour them back out in written form. The process can be exhilarating but also exhausting.
Launching a multi-channel marketing campaign for their latest book is probably not at the top of most authors’ lists of self-rewards for its completion.
Having a plan already in place would be a real reward. If you plan your launch like you plan your book—with care, attention to detail, and an eye on the deadline—then you can enjoy a smooth transition from creating to marketing and get your book the attention it deserves.
Identifying Your Reader
Transitioning from artist to a salesperson is a challenge. You know your book is great: you wrote it! But do you know who will want to read it? Do you know why someone would want to read it?
To become a salesperson for your book, you need the answers to these questions. But don’t consider these questions from your own point of view. To sell your book to someone else, you have to understand what that someone else wants and needs from you and your book. You need to identify your target market, or in this case, your target reader.
Author Colby Marshall, sharing her tips with Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn, notes that writers should avoid promoting their books to everyone and instead focus on the readers who are “most likely to become [their] audience.”
Find Your Reader’s Hangout
There are many methods for identifying your prospective readership. If this isn’t your first book, you can analyze your own past sales information. If you are a new author, you could look at who is purchasing similar books.
The explosion of review and fan sites makes this task much easier than it was in the past. Websites such as GoodReads and LibraryThing allow readers to freely share reviews and discuss their favorite books and authors. For children’s book authors, websites such as Common Sense Media and Scholastic.com open a window into what young readers and their parents are thinking.
Whatever your book’s niche, there is a group somewhere on the internet dedicated to talking about it.
Learn About Your Readership
You can further define your target audience by considering their demographic and psychographic profile. What age and gender are the readers who are most likely to purchase your book? What kind of values and attitudes do you think they have?
Increasingly, social media platforms can help you track and identify your audience too. Tools like Facebook’s Lookalike Audience and Google’s In-Market look at your current fans or customers and then find people with similar profiles.
You can employ these tools and affinity marketing methods to match your promotional efforts to the media and methods that are most likely to reach your best audience.
Prepare Your Marketing Channels
Even if you are working with a traditional publishing house, there is no guarantee that you’ll receive the marketing support you need to see your book sales soar. Thus, it’s up to you to pick up the slack and make sure your book is the success you know it should be. You can do this by reaching out to your existing fan base and finding new fans.
The first step is to create a digital platform to communicate with the people you know are going to love your book!
Start with a Website
Even though setting up a website takes knowledge and time (or money to hire someone with knowledge and time) it is an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. Your website is your front door to the world. I consulted with expert literary strategist Tom Blubaugh about why an author should have a professional website. He graciously shared the following advice with me.
Being an author is a business and should be treated as such. A website is crucial and is where all potential followers should be directed. Although the website is a business—it introduces followers to the personal side of the author. This is who they want to know.
Tom also emphasized the importance of having a website that is professionally built and maintained. We each have our own areas of expertise—for most authors, web design is not at the top of the list.
Before you hire someone to create your website, think about what features you’d like it to have.
Will your website include a landing page for each book? Do you plan to blog or invite others to provide guest posts? Will you sell your book directly from the website?
If you do plan to engage in any type of commerce using your website, it is a good idea to set it up as an https (hypertext transfer protocol secure) site.
You’ll also need to choose the name for your site and purchase the URL before you can begin building it. The easiest way for people to find your site is if you use a listing such as Firstnamelastname.com. If your name isn’t available, you will have to come up with an alternative. Keep your URL short, simple, and understandable for the best results.
Include Social Media Outreach
Year after year, the influence of social media in marketing has grown. In the past, using social media was considered ancillary to other more traditional marketing efforts. But that is no longer the case. With limited exceptions, to fully engage your audience now requires you to fully engage in social media.
Because of the many options and the constant flow of information, engaging on social media can seem like a daunting task. But with careful planning, you can tame the social media beast. Plus, there are many social media management tools and professionals available to help you.
Launching your social media outreach campaign starts with another round of decision making. Different groups of people tend to prefer different social media outlets. As part of your advance planning, you’ll want to research the preferred platforms for your audience. Will you need to harness the power of YouTube to reach a young audience? Are your fans gathered on Facebook?
Also, don’t overlook the potential of smaller social media venues. If you find the perfect small pond for your niche, then you won’t have to compete against all the other fish in the open sea.
Remember, you aren’t trying to reach everyone. Time is a limited commodity. Spend your time with the people who are most likely to purchase your book.
Implementing Your Communication Plan
Once you’ve decided whom you want to reach and where you’ll reach them, it’s time to prepare your content. Since you’ve just completed a book, you already have a great start on content creation. You can share excerpts, links to resources and references, and personal quotes as part of your content strategy. A single piece of content can be reformatted and repurposed to fit several different marketing channels.
The content you share should include information that is of interest to the audience that you hope will purchase your book. You should also choose material that gives your readers insight into your personality. Audiences respond best to genuine, engaging content from trusted sources.
Engaging Your Audience
This is where the real work begins. We live in a fast-paced world with no dearth of things to purchase. Convincing someone that your product is worth even the time it takes to consider buying is a challenge. Today’s consumer has very high expectations when evaluating their customer experience.
Make Interactions Rewarding
One way that you can stand out in this crowded marketplace is to actively build a relationship with your customers. Actively engaging with your audience requires some give and take. Visitors to your website and followers on social media expect to be rewarded for their investment of time with useful information and a personal touch.
In an excellent blog on the topic, Denise Lee Yohn makes clear that engaging with your audience doesn’t mean bombarding them with information through every medium available. Instead, you can engage your audience by revealing yourself to them, sharing your own insights, and giving them a reason to want to know more about you and your book.
Keep Fans Updated
A well-prepared marketing and outreach plan can be a vehicle to share your progress and build anticipation for upcoming publications and in-person events. One author and blogger who has mastered the art of merging her online and live event efforts is Jen Yates owner of CakeWrecks.com and author of Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong and Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets “Festive.”
When Jen rolls into town for a book signing or other event, local bakers are waiting with trays of treats to serve her fans. Not only are there edible treats to share, but her audience fully engages by bringing their own “wrecks” to show and share. After the event, Jen will post updates on her blog and the engagement continues.
Get Real Feedback
Another way to stay engaged is to solicit feedback directly from your readers. Rather than waiting for the reviews to appear on other sites, ask your readers what they think of your work and follow up on the responses you receive. Asking for and responding to feedback serves the dual purpose of providing you access to a fully involved focus group and connecting you with your readers in a way that makes them feel appreciated.
Whether you’ve just released a new title or are months away from any announcements, maintaining an active dialogue with your target audience keeps you where every marketer wants to be—front of mind with your target audience.
Other Ways to Market Your Book
If you are ready to become your book’s best salesperson, then these tips are just the beginning. You can also use paid advertising and a PR campaign to boost your book’s visibility.
To begin your PR efforts, reach out to your personal and professional network and let them know that you would like their support. You can also offer to participate in interviews for podcasts or submit guest posts to spread the word about your publication. The creativity that you employ every day as an author can be used to dream up new and exciting ways to market your book, too.
If you have come up with a unique or interesting way to market your book, I’d love to hear about it. Just send me a note or connect with me on Twitter. I’d love to hear about your latest success!