July 1, 2017

How to market a self-published book in 5 easy steps

by Belinda Griffin

So you’ve written a book - congratulations! Seriously, what you have achieved is epic and something that very few people manage, despite everyone and their dog claiming that they could write a book ‘if they had the time’.

But why aren’t you celebrating? Why do you feel so empty inside and embarrassed to tell anyone that you finally reached your goal?

I get it. No one knows your book exists and you’ve exhausted the list of family and friends to beg to read a copy (let alone pay for one!). Your book is sinking deeper and deeper into Amazon’s depths of anonymity and you remain unknown. The bleak humiliation after all your months, years even, of writing effort is too much to bear. You feel like giving up.

Wait! It doesn’t have to be like this! There are just 5 simple steps to reverse this desperate scenario and luckily I’m here to share them with you. Read on to discover how to market a self-published book in just 5 easy steps.

Publishing a book is like having a baby

Having given birth to a book, it’s just like having a newborn plonked in your arms. No one tells new parents what to do. Ok, parents, in-laws, midwives and half the world try to tell them what to do, but there’s no manual. In the end it’s up to the new bleary-eyed parents to make their own choices. And it’s the same for new authors.

Just as you wouldn’t give birth to a baby then hope for it to raise itself with no further input from you, you can’t expect your book to sell itself. It will need you to tirelessly support it to make its way in the world, even if you’re not sure if what you’re doing is the right thing.

There are authors who do know they have to support their book launch with marketing, but they operate in a chaotic fashion, jumping from one tactic to another but never truly getting to grips with any of them and always believing that when they find the mythical magic pill they won’t have to do anything else; their book will be all grown up and able to sell itself. (If you can bear for me to carry on with the baby analogy, this is like new parents in search of the holy grail of a ‘routine’!)

Let me be clear right now; there is no magic pill. Book marketing is a long-term commitment and takes consistent effort. This is why traditionally published authors still have to do much of their own marketing, as publishers will only do a marketing push for a short time around a book’s launch. After that, an author is on their own.

Book marketing needs to have a plan

It’s obvious then that without any book marketing or promotion your book is very unlikely to gain traction and will slip to the bottom of Amazon’s rankings incredibly quickly.

But even with marketing, this can still happen, but why?

The short answer is, you don’t have a plan. Ad hoc marketing may just about keep your baby alive, but it won’t thrive without consistent effort.

So many writers dream of writing a book, then they dream of getting it published, then they dream of selling a bazillion copies and becoming world famous.

Actually, that’s not true. By their very nature few authors dream of fame and fortune. But some recognition, enough sales to justify their hard work and earning the respect of fellow writers, friends and family, would be very welcome indeed.

No author dreams of the work that has to be put in between publishing a book and selling a bazillion copies (or even 1 copy). But without this step, it’s likely your book will disappear into obscurity.

Now is the time to wake up from the dream and roll up your sleeves. Now is the time to make a plan to bridge that gap between ‘published author’ and ‘selling books’.

The 5 steps to market a self-published book

Many of the authors I’ve spoken to have resisted marketing for a number of reasons. For some it’s that icky feeling they get when they think about ‘selling’, for others it’s the fear of wasting time that could be better spent writing, while for others still it’s the feeling of total overwhelm, believing they have to do everything all at once.

Don’t panic. Marketing and selling are not the same thing, so you don’t need to ‘sell’ your book. Book marketing effectively doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, and when you know it’s working it won’t feel like a time suck. And I would encourage anyone to NOT do everything. Trying to be everywhere all at once will only lead to burnout, which won’t be helpful to your marketing or your writing.

So, shelve everything you currently think about marketing and be open to the idea of something new.

Step 1 - Mindset

The first step is to get into the right frame of mind.

The exciting thing about book marketing is that it’s in your hands. You have control over the exposure of your book and therefore its sales. That can be a huge burden, but it’s also empowering. It’s up to you how much time you commit and what actions to take, but ultimately it’s those choices that will determine your book’s success.

Own the responsibility and take control.

Before you can begin to put together a marketing action plan, you need to acknowledge that marketing requires hard work and commitment. To motivate you to do the work, even when you don’t really fancy it, think carefully about why you are doing this and what it is you hope to achieve.

Yes, marketing does require consistent effort. As I’ve already said, there’s no magic pill. But if you’re prepared to take consistent action, you will see results.

Step 2 - Know your reader

When you know your reader really well, you can far more easily target your marketing efforts. You can write Amazon blurbs that will resonate with your ideal readers, you will know if your readers prefer to hang out on Twitter or Facebook, and therefore where you should be, and you’ll have a clearer idea of relevant publications or blogs to approach for publicity.

When you’re writing you don’t necessarily have to write with a reader in mind, you should be writing for you, particularly in fiction, but once you start book marketing you do need to appeal to the right people, and you can only do that if you know who they are.

Step 3 - Choose your strategy

Book marketing without a strategy is much like jumping in a car to go on a long distance trip to somewhere you’ve never been before with no map or sat nav. If you haven’t thought about your objectives either, it’s much like setting off without an address!

For most authors these days, the ideal strategy is to build an author platform, so readers can get to know you first before being introduced to your books. But there are other strategies, such as short-term strategies that simply focus on making book sales.

It’s important to decide on a strategy early, as it will influence which tactics you should use.

Step 4 - Select your tactics

Marketing tactics are the tools and methods you use to implement your marketing strategy. There are numerous tactics available to you, but flitting from one to another is not going to be effective. It’s this inconsistency that leads many authors to believe their marketing efforts aren’t working and are a waste of time. If you commit to one or two tactics and learn to do them really well, however, they will work.

This is where it helps to know your reader and where they hang out, as you will be able to choose the best tactics to reach them. For example, do they like to read blogs? Do they prefer Twitter, Facebook or Instagram? How and where do they find new books to read?

Step 5 - Monitor, measure & adjust

How do you know if your marketing is working? Book sales are one indicator, and quite probably the most important, but if you’re doing several things to market your book, do you know which one in particular is having the most impact? It could be that one thing you’re doing isn’t having any effect at all, in which case it would be better to stop doing that and use the time saved on something else.

Make use of analytics tools, such as Google Analytics for your website and the analytics built into social networking sites, to monitor your marketing activity and learn what your followers like best out of everything you’re sharing.

It’s important to ditch what isn’t working and automate whatever you can in order to make the best use of your valuable time.

It’s your turn to get started

It’s all very well knowing what the steps are to market a self-published book. Now you need to put these steps into action with your own book marketing.

Step 1

Think about what exactly it is you want. I don’t mean ‘book sales’, which is the obvious answer. I mean, what do you really want. Financial freedom? To win accolades and awards? To be well known?

Decide what success means to you and what steps you’re prepared to take to get there.

Step 2

Think about the ideal reader for your book and write a detailed character description for them.

To do this, firstly you should think about demographics, specific characteristics like age and gender, and then you’ll want to consider psychographics; these are the things that relate to what your reader cares about, how they think and feel, their desires, fears, values, interests and political views. Finally, you need to think about how to find and communicate with your ideal reader - consider blogs, social media, promotions and offline events.

Step 3

This one’s pretty simple, do you want to build an author platform, or focus solely on shifting books?

You may think it will be easier to forgo the author platform and simply concentrate on book sales, but in reality it’s incredibly hard for an unknown author to sell books without either a platform or using paid strategies, such as advertising.

Instead, if you decide to build your author platform and focus on getting potential readers to know, like and trust you, it will be easier to sell your books further down the line.

Step 4

If you’ve put in some work so far to define your ideal reader and choose your book marketing strategy, choosing tactics will be fairly straightforward.

If you know your readers hang out on Twitter, you should be there too. If you know your readers like to read certain blogs, you should be trying to guest post for those blogs. And if you’ve chosen to grow your author platform, you should be building an email list to keep in touch with potential readers.

Step 5

Having put together a plan so far - you know why you’re bothering with book marketing, you know who you’re trying to reach (your ideal readers!), you’ve chosen a strategy and the tactics to use to reach your goals - all you need to do now is keep track of what’s working and adjust as necessary.

It’s easier to do this than you may think. Social networks all have their own tools to let you know which of your posts have been most popular and email services, such as Mailchimp and Aweber, will let you know how many people have opened your emails and clicked on links.

All you need to do is keep an eye on the numbers and draw simple conclusions about what people like most and then do more of the same. Do less of anything that seems to turn people off. It only needs to be as complicated as you make it!

Now take action

So that’s it. Getting started with book marketing really is that simple. Now it's time to take action!

Have you started your book marketing yet? What have you found easy or hard? Let me know in the comments!


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