Note from D-Sidd: I stumbled across the post below from Matthew Kadish in the 20Booksto50K Facebook group. It’s PACKED with fantastic information that anyone can apply immediately to improve your 2018 author marketing. I wanted to make sure this great advice got out to a wider audience, so I messaged Matt and he was kind enough to let us run it here on Everyday Author. This is one you’ll want to bookmark!
2018 Author Marketing Tactics
Hi everyone. I know we recently had a lot of people post their end of the year income figures here and sometimes newbies can find those big numbers intimidating. After all, when you’re only making a couple bucks compared to other authors who make six-figures, it can make you envious and/or frustrated.
I make 5 figures a year off my books, which isn’t up there with the “big names” but I also only have like 6 books out which allow me to earn a full-time living. So if I had a catalog of 20+ books like most of these rich indy authors do, I’d probably be making a healthy 6 figure income as well.
The reason I’m able to make 5 figures a year off of only 5-6 books is due to my marketing efforts. Things like building an email list and driving converting traffic to my series’ Amazon pages are a big factor in having success with few novels. So if you’re an author who only has less than 3 books out, or are only making a few hundred bucks a month, then I guess this post is geared toward you.
Here are some of the marketing tips that served me best through 2017. I hope by sharing them I can help others get started in the new year on that path to making 5 figures or more off their writing.
#1. Always have a marketing plan. Too many authors just start throwing money at marketing but they don’t have any plan behind doing so. This is a great way to burn through cash and see little to no return. You always want to have some sort of strategy when spending cash for marketing purposes. It could be as simple as “make 10 sales a day” or “earn $10 a day in profit” or even “get below $0.10 clicks on my ad.” Whatever it is, you need to have a clear set of marketing goals before you start throwing money at something. When you know what you want to achieve, your marketing dollar goes way further.
#2. Allocate your marketing dollars wisely. 2017 was the year I completely gave up on Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) ads. I spent months testing the service, crafting all types of ads, and found the following to be true: AMS is too saturated. It’s too hard to scale. It’s too difficult to accurately track your ad spend and conversions. In short, I determined that AMS is a poor use of marketing dollars and a waste of my time. That’s not to say they can’t work, but I feel that money is better spent on a more robust ad platform such as Facebook. AMS is easy to do, which is why pretty much EVERY author uses it. Not every author uses Facebook, though, which makes Facebook way more responsive. Plus, their statistics are more recent and complete, so you know how best to adjust your campaigns and maximize your ad spend. If you’re doing AMS and it’s working for you, that’s great. But if you’re not doing any marketing, I’d recommend focusing on Facebook before you spend money on AMS.
#3. Focus on building your email list until you have more than 3 books out. Spending money promoting your books can be a losing endeavor until you have enough of a back catalog to pay for your advertising. If you only have 1-3 books out, I’d recommend your focus be on building an email list from your marketing efforts rather than getting sales. The reason for this is because an email list builds value over time and allows you to market to those people for free at any point in the future. In short, email lists make your marketing dollar go further. Once you have enough books published to make direct ad traffic profitable, only then would I recommend sending traffic directly to your Amazon page. You can build your list through mailing swaps with other authors, putting your opt-in information in the front and back matter of your books, and by sending ad traffic directly to a sign-up page (something which you can now create in Mailchimp so its super easy to do).
#4. Advertise globally. I think a lot of people get so focused on getting ad traffic from their own country that they forget there are lots more people in the world. I recently expanded my geo-targeting for my Facebook ads to group together the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (basically the English speaking countries) and found this dramatically increased my sales than targeting these countries separately. The reason for this is because I learned that all the customers in these countries tend to use the main Amazon.com site instead of their country-specific stores. So I can send all this traffic to the same destination URL in my ads, which greatly increases the audience size my ads can reach. And as a benefit, I get “run off” sales in the Canadian and Australian Amazon stores. I also break out the UK into its own individual campaign since UK customers tend to buy from the Amazon UK store. The UK is now my second largest source of sales.
#5. Publish across multiple formats. What I mean by this is don’t limit yourself JUST to digital ebooks. Take the time to also publish paperback versions of your work as well as audiobook versions. I don’t make a lot off my paperback sales, but I do pull in a couple hundred bucks a month from them for no extra work or expense. If you don’t have a lot of books published, take what you already have and multiply it to try and pull out more profit. This year I plan to focus on creating audiobooks and I’ll see how much that will pull in monthly (I know it’s a growing market). But since I already put in the effort to write the books, it doesn’t take that much more effort to convert them to other formats.
#6. Be an Amazon Associate. Sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program and use Amazon affiliate links in your ads. This helps to generate extra income off of ad clicks because you also get credit for all purchases one makes after clicking an ad. You won’t be able to retire off the money you make as an associate, but every little bit helps.
#7. Treat men readers and women readers differently. Believe it or not, men and women do not respond to the same marketing material in the same way. I found I was able to get much cheaper clicks and conversions when I broke the genders up into their own campaigns and tailored them to the specific genders. So if your marketing budget is $10 a day, serve up $5 to a “men only” campaign and $5 to a “women only” campaign, and make sure you optimize your ads for them accordingly instead of just serving a single ad to both sexes. You’ll be amazed when you see the different things men and women respond positively and negatively to.
#8. Split test all aspects of your ad at least once. Facebook now allows you to run split tests within its ad manager. This was a HUGE benefit for me in 2017 because it allowed me to optimize my FB ads like never before. Instead of getting between $0.30-$0.50 a click, I now average between $0.05-$0.08 a click, all because I took the time to test out all aspects of my ads. So you’ll want to split test: Ad image, ad text, headline, article text, and the call to action button at least once. This will give you the best possible converting ad to run. When you only have $5 or $10 a day to spend on advertising, you get WAY more bang for your marketing dollar when your ad costs $0.05 a click as opposed to $0.30.
#9. Use Facebook Ads to optimize your Amazon landing page. Though Amazon doesn’t give us conversion data, you can actually use Facebook Ads to optimize your book’s Amazon product page to try and get the conversion of your books higher. You can do this by split testing your book’s cover, headline, title, and blurb in a Facebook ad. You’ll be surprised to find how many more books you sell when you take the time to optimize your Amazon page. I tested out 5 different blurbs in a FB ad for the first book in my series, and used the one that performed best from my ad, and saw an instant increase in sales from doing so. The logic here is that if people like it in an ad, they’ll like it on your sales page. So if you’re having trouble making sales, try this method out and see if you can’t increase the response rate of your Amazon product page. (Note: This works for other storefronts too!)
#10. Be patient. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in finding the quickest way to make more sales or make more money. But when playing the marketing game, remember it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. If you have a monthly marketing budget, stick to that and don’t burn through it in the hopes that you’ll make money faster. After a book is completed, it’s available to be sold for all eternity. This means you have plenty of time to market it and try new things. The worst thing you can do is become impatient and burn through your budget by experimenting with stuff that isn’t guaranteed to work. If you do want to experiment, do so little by little. Over time, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. When that happens, you’ll be able to focus more on what actually works and get more value from doing so.
#11. Don’t compete with other authors. I know it’s tempting to brag about rankings in the book lists, launch day income, or to talk about how you’re able to write 100,000 words a day and publish a billion books a year, etc. But remember – this is about YOUR success, not other people’s. Don’t get wrapped up in what someone else is doing, just focus on doing the best YOU can do. With me, I simply focused on optimizing my advertising campaigns and marketing funnels while continuing to write new books. I kept my head down and didn’t get wrapped up in competition or getting jealous/envious of other authors. Know that eventually, success will come if you continue to work at it. You don’t have to be making “Michael Anderle” money to be a successful author. Don’t get discouraged when you see other authors making more money or being more popular than you. In time, you can achieve that as well. Use other people’s success as inspiration to keep trying to succeed, rather than as a call to compete.
#12. Take the time to set up your marketing after you finish a new book. I know a ton of authors who could be making SO MUCH MORE money than they currently are if they just took a little bit of time to set up their marketing systems before they dive into writing another novel. I know the key to making six figures as an indy author is to publish more, but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a week or two off of writing to focus on marketing. After all, marketing is what allows you to make huge profits! And once you get your marketing set up, it takes hardly any time to manage it. Because marketing is so important, you shouldn’t neglect it – especially if you dislike doing it or don’t understand how! It’s like the difference between being given a fish and learning to fish. Learning to fish will feed you the rest of your life as opposed to that one time you were given a fish. Learning to market will extend the life and profit value of each book you publish, so take the time to not only lean how to do it, but to set it up between writing new works and let it work for you.
As an extension of this tip, don’t simply hire someone to handle your marketing for you. Take the time to learn how to market on your own before you take such a step. The reason for this is that you need a frame of reference to judge whether or not the person you hire to market your work is actually doing their job correctly. All too often, hiring a “marketing manager” is a waste of money, because they will do the bare minimum and often do it incorrectly in exchange for their cut of the ad spend. Don’t fall for this trap! It’s always cheaper and more effective when you market your own work.
#13. Don’t spend money boosting Facebook posts unless you have a healthy Facebook Page following. I know some people confuse “Facebook Ads” with “Boosted Posts,” and they really are two different things. Unless you have an active Facebook page with a large and active following, boosting Facebook posts is a waste of money. Creating a Facebook Ad, however, allows you to target people who aren’t already aware of you, and funnel them toward a specific goal, like a newsletter opt in page or your Amazon product page. People who get frustrated with Facebook often tend to waste money on something like boosted posts and then complain “Facebook advertising didn’t work for me.” Don’t fall into this trap. Always remember to spend your marketing dollar wisely and learn the ad platform you use backwards-and-forwards.
#14. Don’t get wrapped up too heavily in social media. Though I enjoy social media a great deal and love interacting with fans and fellow authors, I’ve found that efforts to market through social media for free is way too time intensive to be worth the results. If you can afford to pay for advertising, do that instead. The time it takes to post to twitter and facebook regularly enough to gain a following isn’t worth it when you could be using that time and effort to write a new book. If you enjoy doing social media casually, by all means, do so. But for marketing purposes, it’s far more efficient and profitable to simply pay to do so. (The one exception to this may be Instagram, but I’ve yet to test it enough to be sure.)
#15. Be diligent in stopping what isn’t working. An easy trap to fall into when marketing is to spend money on things that don’t work and to keep spending money on such things. Always find ways to cut marketing costs if you can and be ruthless in judging what wasn’t working and STOP DOING IT. An example of this is I found that women under the age of 35 cost the most to target and made the least amount of sales. So I adjusted my ads to only target women age 35 and above, and instantly, my cost per click dropped and my sales increased just by optimizing my ad spend to focus on the demographic that actually converted. Another example of this was I was using Twitter ads to drive traffic to my series and was spending about $100 a month to do so. Not a whole lot of money, but I was getting zero sales and zero newsletter signups from it. So I stopped advertising there and used that $100 to increase my Facebook ad spend. It’s easy to get lazy and just ignore the different ways you can waste money while marketing. You gotta pay attention and be diligent about protecting your ad dollar.
#16. Email your mailing list regularly – at least one a month. I know many authors only email their lists about new releases, or don’t know what to send their list so they just let it sit dormant. But it’s SO IMPORTANT that your list hears from you on a regular basis. Not only does this help create a relationship between you and your subscribers, but it also increases the response rate and decreases the unsubscribe rate of your email lists. Most of my newsletters don’t even sell anything. I’ll just send out one a month telling my subscribers what I’m up to and encouraging them to interact with me through email or Facebook. It’s helped me to create a very responsive mailing list.
#17. Manage your email list. This is very important, especially if you’re spending money to build that list. By managing your list, I mean actively separate the people who open and read your emails from those who never open them. In Mailchimp I have a separate list for “responsives” and “unresponsives.” This is important because not only can I get better responses to new releases this way, but I can also save money in Mailchimp by deleting my unresponsives from my account (after backing them up on my hard drive, of course). I also use my unresponsive lists to create lookalike lists in Facebook to target ads to, so they’re not completely useless.
#18. Educate your readers on how to read your books! What I mean by this is that I’m all-in on Amazon, but I always get asked by people who use iBooks or Google Play or Kobo how they can read my books. So I added an automatic email to my newsletter sign-up that teaches them how to download the Kindle app to their preferred device and read my books on it. You’d be amazed how many Apple and Android users didn’t know about the Kindle app! They just used the default book store on their devices – iBooks and Google Play. But with just 1 automatic email, I’m able to get more sales by educating my potential readers on all the different ways to read my Amazon-only ebooks.
#19. If you don’t have the money to buy ads, put in the effort to market them for free. When I worked in Hollywood, I discovered the concept of the “Production Triangle.” This says that you can have something cheap, fast, or good, but you can only ever have just 2 of these things for any one project. That means if you want something fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If you want something good and fast, it won’t be cheap. And if you want something good and cheap, it won’t be fast. Well, if you don’t have money to market, you have to go with the “good and cheap” method, which means it won’t be fast. You’ll have to spend a lot of time and effort promoting your work on social media, finagling email swaps with other authors, doing guest blog posts, and any number of other free publicity methods. But you MUST set aside time to do so until you are making enough to afford to market your work.
Always reinvest your profits in yourself. Whatever money you make off your books, keep pumping it back into your marketing until such time as you have maximized your marketing spend without losing money. Don’t pocket cash you can use for marketing if you don’t have to. Think of it as investing in yourself. To do this, you have to be willing to forego short term profits to build your business, but don’t be afraid to do so. If you still have a day job, keep doing that job until such time as you’ve achieved marketing optimization and are making profits off your books. Authors who don’t invest in themselves and their work quickly get overwhelmed with the lack of progress and can give up. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to spend any profits you make on growing your business.
Okay, wow, this is a long post! I could probably go on, but I’ve wasted enough of your time by now. I hope you guys got something out of this novel-length post. Happy new year, and here’s to a prosperous 2018 for everyone!