You wrote and published a book. Congratulations! Now what? Well, now you have to market your book!
Now it is the time to think about the business of marketing and selling it. The most important challenge you face after publication is getting your book in front of people who want to buy it. Where do you start?
We asked 4,000 of our top-selling authors to share some of their secrets to success. Over the next few weeks, we will share their insights. While you may find some of their answers to be painfully obvious, others may surprise you.
Our survey begins with the reasons authors think their book was a success. Some information is surely from gathered data, but the question leaves room for authors to provide what they think ‘felt right’ in their own marketing plan.
The top 3 answers are all representative of understanding and providing content for a very specific audience. Again and again the words “niche,” “audience,” and “filled a need” came up in answers to this question. As one author said, “Make it your overriding passion to learn as much as you can about your audience and then give them what they crave.”
Take note of two related answers “Only book of its kind” and “Subject matter/topic.” Many authors stress that to successfully market your book, you need a fresh perspective on a popular topic. Or you address a subject that’s never been written about. One author said their book was successful because “it fills a niche with no competition for content, quality or clarity of presentation.”
Also, take a second look at the votes for “Author platform.” Later on, we’ll look at the different elements of an author platform, and which parts of the platform our best-selling authors think helped them the most.
What Should You Do to market your book?
Define your audience. What are they interested in? Where do they spend time online and in the real world? How do they satisfy their need for content similar to yours – for example, blogs, magazines, social communities, events, or video? What can your book offer this audience that’s not available anywhere else?
Key Takeaway – Know Your Audience
The most important step in marketing your product—whether it’s a book, a business or a lemonade stand—is understanding your audience. Successful independently published authors credit knowing their audience and filling a niche as their key to success.
With a sense of who your audience is (and will be), it’s time to go out and get them. We asked 4000 successful Lulu authors how they found the audience for their book. Their responses, while touching on many of the common answers, are still revealing.
Most authors wrote for audiences they either consider themselves to be a part of or groups whose needs and shopping behaviors they have familiarity. This made determining how to reach their audience easier because they had an idea which marketing channels would most grow their reader base.
Is this true for you? For example, if your book is on health and fitness and you have identified your audience as other like-minded fitness enthusiasts, you may already know several websites these enthusiasts regularly visit to learn about fitness and to make purchases.
If you are writing for an audience you do not know that well, you are not alone! Nearly a third of authors conducted online research to discover what made their audience tick and how to find them. They identified pre-existing professional networks, organizations and online communities to reach readers who would be interested in their content.
How do you Market you book?
Make a list of and, if possible, join professional networks, organizations, and large communities to promote your book. Remember, pitch the hook, not the book. Start out with your area of expertise, then mention you are an author.
Key Takeaway – Finding Your Audience
Often, bestselling independent authors are a member of the group for which they are writing. If you are not, research ways to discover their interests and reach out by joining and taking part in their communities.
In the book business, determining where your target audience shops and how to get your books into those places is called developing a distribution strategy.
While every author wants to walk into their local bookstore and see their books prominently displayed on the shelves, there is much more to consider when developing your distribution strategy. Some authors leverage their professional connections to make sales – i.e. book as a business card. Others teach classes and sell their books to students and/or attendees. Still others sell their books through their churches or they partner with websites.
There are innumerable ways to distribute your book and it takes some trial and error to find the right distribution channels. Since every book is different, we wanted to see if there was a pattern as to where authors sold their books.
We asked 4000 of Lulu’s best-selling authors where they sold their books. Here’s what they had to say:
Distribution channels for authors, both traditionally published and self-published, are changing. With the closing of large brick-and-mortar booksellers, all publishers are reevaluating their distribution strategy. In August 2013, Bowker released a study citing a 5% increase in online book sales in the U.S., up to 44% of total book sales compared to 39% in 2011.
What does this mean for you? As an author, you must focus on your audience and develop the best distribution strategy for them. If you are communicating with your audience through your existing channels or through online networks and communities, Lulu.com’s marketplace can be a strong component of your distribution strategy. If you need to target a broader audience that seeks content all over the Internet and online stores, expand to additional retail distribution channels.
Getting Your Book Noticed
Ebook Formatting Fairies did a survey of readers in August 2013 that revealed fantastic insights into how readers perceive books and authors. We’ve compiled a few highlights of their findings below:
- 95% of respondents were more likely to buy a self-published book from an author who is known to them.
- When asked where readers get information about new books, Facebook came in first place.
- When readers were asked where they get information about their favorite authors, Facebook and author websites were virtually tied. These findings reinforce the need for author’s to create and maintain author platforms that incorporate both social media and author websites.
What Should You Do?
Ask your readers or people in your target market how they discover new books and where they shop for them. The answers to those two questions are the key elements in developing your distribution strategy.
Key Takeaway – You, Online
Create an online presence from which potential readers can learn more about you and your book.
Drive online Sales
These authors credited their website with the lion’s share of their sales. When you combine the website-related responses with “email list” and “search engines,” you see that almost half of an author’s traffic and sells can be credited to their website(s).
To further highlight this finding, think about your own behavior. What’s the first thing you do online when you want to learn, do, or purchase something? You search for it. Then you browse the websites listed on the search results page. If you’ve ever searched for a company, person or event online and been unable to find any information, you probably gave up or got distracted by other things. From your own experience it is easy to see that the harder you are to find, the less likely you are to sell your books. Hence the importance of having a website to market your books.
In addition to websites, authors also mentioned social media as a tool for generating sales. Of all the available social media marketing techniques, having a Facebook page was overwhelmingly the most often cited way to sell books. We saw similar results earlier in our discussion of distribution strategies.
- Create a website for your book using a simple tool like WordPress.com.
- Make it easy for people to sign up for your mailing list with a free service like Mailchimp.com.
- Create a Facebook page dedicated to your books: https://www.facebook.com/about/pages.
- Write regular blog posts for your website and when possible on other sites as a guest poster.
- Find events where you can speak or share your knowledge with an audience interested in your topic.
- Improve the visibility of your website, either through advertising or search engine optimization.
- Send free promotional copies of your book to influential people, such as bloggers in your niche or book reviewers.
Bestselling independent authors employ a mix of tactics to promote themselves and their work.
Need Some Help With Marketing? Ask A Friend
The last question we asked our authors was where they turned for marketing assistance. While it’s easy to imagine bestselling authors employing a team of marketing experts, the truth is, most of them did it alone.
It’s refreshing to see that 58% of authors had no help and an additional 21% had only unpaid help from friends and family. Only 21% – about one in five – paid for marketing support with just 2% hiring a marketing team. That’s one in fifty authors with a marketing team, versus six in ten doing marketing all on their own.
If you need help, phone a friend
While most authors did their own marketing, don’t hesitate to get help if you need it. Whether it’s hiring a designer to make a new cover (something many of our authors recommend) or recruiting a family member to stuff envelopes for a promotional mailing, there are plenty of ways to get the support you need. Here are a few ideas that we heard from the authors who responded to our survey:
- If you don’t have a big budget, offer to trade services. For example, write something for the graphic designer who you want to redo your book cover or website.
- Engage your fans, followers and subscribers. One of the best ways to get noticed on social media is to ask for your readers feedback or suggestions. Ask your audience which new book cover they like best or which email service provider they recommend.
- Hold a contest and give away signed copies of your book to the winners.
- Check out Fiverr.com. You can get a lot of marketing tasks done for cheap on this website. Be sure to select someone with at least ten reviews of 4.5 stars or better and test them out with something small before dedicating a large portion of your marketing budget to them.
If you could get help with just two tasks on your book marketing plan, what would they be? Identify and reach out to people with those skills.
58% of best-selling authors had no help with marketing. Only one in five paid for marketing help.