Now that the “Wild West” era of ebooks sales is over, it’s more important than ever for authors to learn how to market their books. But with so many options out there to spread the word about your books, it can feel like an overwhelming task. For Everyday authors, this is multiplied by the fact that we have a very limited amount of time to devote to our writing career. Each day, we’ve got to determine what will be most beneficial for us to do with the few available author hours we carve out. Writing should always take precedence, of course, but there comes a point when, to take a step forward in this business, you’ve got to learn how to market your books. Starting out, that might mean setting a timer to stay within limits. Here’s a few ideas to keep you on a time (and money) budget:
Do something for your mailing list
I know this is pretty broad, but it really depends on where you’re at with your list. If you haven’t created one yet, I’d say that’s your main marketing priority. Although it’s easy to get sucked in and spend hours developing templates and adding sign up forms to your website, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole. It seems everyone these days is talking about author email marketing (and rightly so) but don’t let that panic you. In the limited time you have, make a list of short, achievable action items to start or continue developing your list.
- Join a service (many offer free accounts) if you don’t have a list yet.
- Working on the copy for your newsletter landing page.
- Make sure a CTA (call to action) for joining your newsletter is in the back (and probably the front) of your books.
- Making sure your website is a funnel for your newsletter. Every blog post you write should have a sign up at the bottom.
- Draft a short newsletter to your subscribers ahead of time (it’s always nice to have things like this in the bank).
Once you’ve got a healthy list developed, your marketing will be a WHOLE lot easier. Not saying you can just sit back and relax, but you’ll have more success in the long run if you can go straight to your most dedicated fans with new releases. For advice on this, I recommend reading Supercharge Your Kindle Sales by Nick Stephenson (the first half is on Amazon keywords, the second is on mailing lists). It’s a short read and has a lot of great, actionable advice. Creating and developing a mailing list may sound like daunting work, but if you break it down into manageable chunks, you’ll have subscribers coming signing up in no time.
Pitch book review blogs
It will take a little bit of setup on the back end, but once you’ve created a list of book reviewers you’d like to pitch, shooting them over an email can be a simple five minute job. I recommend saving all of their info like name, email, website, if they’re reviewing your book currently and other notes in a spreadsheet. To start off, you’ll have to do a bit of Googling to find ones that fit your genre (and review indie books if that’s you). At least part of your email pitch (your request for a review) can be a generic paragraph that you send out each time, but make sure to note any special requests the reviewers might have (don’t forget to personalize each one with their name). It’s always good to have an upcoming review or two stashed away for when your sales start to dry up.
Make sure your back and front matter and funnels are up to par
One tactic that I learned from Nick Stephenson’s book (yes, I’m going to mention it again) was to add an email newsletter sign up CTA to the FRONT as well as the back of your books. You want to keep that action fresh on your reader’s minds and often times, readers don’t page through the back matter when they’ve finished the actual story. Another thing can be to analyze your funnels and determine if you’re converting casual readers into buyers. This could mean anything from offering the next book in your series free if they leave a review of the one they just finished, or (like I mentioned above) joining your mailing list if you only have one book out. You never want readers to hit a dead end with their interaction with you.
Tinker with your keywords
This is another one of those things that you can end up spending hours of time on if you’re not careful. Still, just a few keyword changes can put your book in a category with less competition and more room to shine. I’m going to point you in the direction of Supercharge your Kindle Sales again for help on this. (It really is this useful!) Take a look at where you’re ranking in a certain category and then look at the other books alongside yours. Are they similar? Which ones are selling? What other categories are they in that you could take advantage of? Remember though, you’ve got to be patient about this. Don’t play musical keywords just because you aren’t seeing results in the first couple of days.
Read these books
Seriously. And take notes. By the end of this year, I’ll have a large enough catalog that I can start seriously dabbling in marketing. To prepare for that, I’m using my marketing time now to read up on what the best in the business are doing. I know I’m not ready for many of these tactics yet, but I’ll be able to apply the foundational knowledge I’m learning know when it’s time to rock and roll. Note: these are affiliate links but I’ve personally read and recommend each of them.
- How to Market a Book, Joanna Penn
- Let’s Get Visible, David Gaughran
- Your first 1,000 copies, Tim Grahl
- Supercharge your Kindle Sales, Nick Stephenson (you knew this one was going to be here, didn’t you?)
WRITE MORE BOOKS!
I saved the best and most obvious for last. Until you’ve got an extensive catalog (and even then, you’ve got to continue to produce new stuff), you can’t do anything better to market your books than to write another one. This is even more vital if you’ve only got one or two books out. Algorithms aside, the more places and times readers see your books, the bigger the chance they’ll give them a try. An extra fifteen minutes of writing will soon add up over a week, month and year.
Hugh Howey had ten books out before Wool took off and, as far as I know, didn’t do an ounce of marketing for any of them. Michael Sullivan, a successful hybrid author, gives a good breakdown of how you should be spending your time over the course of your first few books. If you’re wondering where you should be at marketing-wise, read his entire Reddit series we took this from.
- 1 book released: Divide time 90% writing / 10% promotion
- 2 book released: Divide time 90% writing / 10% promotion
- 3 book released: Divide time 50% writing / 50% promotion
- 4+ books : Divide time 80% writing / 20% promotion
To many authors, marketing may sound like a dirty, sleazy, time-consuming thing. If kept in heel and done right though, it’s really about connecting readers with books they’ll love. It’s also necessary if you want to make writing your career. Don’t worry about trying every new marketing tactic that comes along, just keep your sights on the long haul and do what you can with the time you have.
Your turn! Tell us about your quick and easy marketing tactics in the comments below.
Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.