As the song says, the times they are a-changin’ and that certainly applies to book marketing trends. We read a lot about what’s working, how it’s working and why, but I see very few articles about what’s not working because I mean, don’t you want to know what to stop doing? I’ve found it’s best for my business to stay on top of the hottest marketing trends so I can make solid recommendations to indie authors. After countless client conversations, I’ve found some really common practices that you’ll be best to stay away from, as well as ideas for how you can improve existing book promotion efforts. Here’s my assessment on some of the strongest switches you can make in your game plan.
1. Generic Anything
We live in a world that slams us with thousands of impersonal messages and ads to us each day. Each of us is beyond saturated with messages that are not on target, emails that don’t pique our interests, and phones that fill with thousands of generic missives, just waiting for us to respond. The thing is, we don’t. Attention – both getting it and keeping it – is the new currency and in order to do that, you have to personalize.
Instead: Personalize Everything
Personalization, in anything, always takes longer and considerably more effort but in the end they can pay off in big ways. We’ve all gotten the emails that say “Dear Sir” if you’re a woman, or “Dear Madam” if you’re a guy. These emails always feel lazy and they very rarely get our attention. However, emails that are personalized (“Dear Penny”), or even start off by attempting to connect go a long way. For example, they might say something about a blog post you wrote that the sender enjoyed, or maybe you’ve connected on Facebook or Instagram and they loved your recent vacation pictures. Whatever it is and whatever you’re doing: don’t be generic. This works even in pitching – and especially if you’re pitching bloggers or the media. Make a comment on a recent story they did, or blog they posted. Just a small, thoughtful addition like that will make your pitch stand out amidst the thousands of other pitches they’ve gotten that week.
2. Print Ads
An author recently told me they were holding off doing any marketing until their ad ran in the New York Times. He had bought a $5,000 ad in the book section and was eager to see how it worked. Turns out, it didn’t work at all. Print ads, unless you’ve already got a platform, are best to avoid. And even if you do have a platform, it’s still sketchy unless you’re Nora Roberts or someone equally well-known.
Instead, try ebook ads
Ads, like the kind you buy to promote your eBook, work well, but I am beginning to see the effect of these fading – you actually have to do more ads now to get the same amount of bounce. Thankfully most eBook ads are cheap, so you can still do a lot of them and spend far less $5,000.
3. Generic Blog Tours
It’s a sad truth that you used to be able to host a blog tour and see the momentum for your book kick in almost immediately. That’s not really the case anymore. Blog tours that are more generic in nature are a complete waste of your time and money.
Instead, try Genre-based Blog Tours
Blog tours that are focused on your book topic, specifically, and are far more effective and a better use of your time and money. They tend to be more work, but they are absolutely worth it in the long-run. Even if that means getting your book featured on 10 blogs, instead of 100 (which some tour companies offer) your focus should be much more to the niche blogs. This is not just because you want to stay away from generalized topics, but because the audience for most ‘general’ blogs is lower and less focused than for the niche ones.
4. Press releases
Unless you’re well-known or have something major to announce, you’re far better off saving your time and money on a press release and spreading the word via social media and your mailing list. But before you announce anything – even your new book, ask yourself why anyone would care. Yes I know, you wrote a book and that, in and of itself, is a grand achievement. But no one, perhaps beyond your immediate family and friends, may care enough to click over and buy it. So save your big announcements, and big drum rolls, for something that really matters.
Instead, try a newsletter.
According to Experian,“Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue.” Why do I love a newsletter so much? Because with all of the noise on social media, you really want to have a way to get in front of your readers with specials, promotions, or new information on your topic! And speaking of newsletters, I always recommend that your website features a way for your visitors to sign up. A newsletter is a great tool even if you don’t plan on using it for a while.
5. Expecting Social Media to Sell Books
There was a time when you could actually sell a lot of books on Facebook without having to buy any ads. Amazing, isn’t it? Well that’s not the case anymore. In fact, that’s not the case for any social site, even Pinterest which has a history of being a good buying haven.
Instead, Use Social Media for Exposure
Social media should be looked at as exposure and even then, you’ve got to be careful how much time you throw into your social media because not all exposure is created equally. I always like to say that you don’t have to be everywhere, just everywhere that matters. What I mean by this is that you don’t need to be on every social media sites, but you should be on at least one that has a strong tie to your industry. Then, make the time to create personal connections with your followers. Much like the generic blog tours and generic anything I addressed earlier on in this piece, the more personal you can get with your social media, the stronger your connections will be – even without buying ads.
6. Bad Blogging
We always hear: you need to blog. So many of us (myself included) would just blog for the sake of blogging. There’s a lot of content out there, and much of it isn’t really worth our time. I mean, let’s face it, it’s got to be really good for us to want to spend time reading it, right?
Instead, Practice Good Blogging Skills
This sounds perhaps obvious, but it’s SO true! Put out really solid content even if that means reducing the times per month that you blog. I used to blog four and five times a week, but the stuff I put out wasn’t always great. Now I blog just one time a week and I like to think that it’s stronger, better content. Less is more, especially when it comes to content. Not only will your readers appreciate it, but Google loves superb content and will send you more traffic for one great piece, than five so-so blog posts that are only interesting to you, and maybe your cat.
7. Promoting YOUR Book
I know, I’m a book marketing person and I’ve got some nerve telling you it’s passé to promote your book, right? Realistically, no one but your mom (and maybe your cat) cares that you wrote a book. But this is one of those marketing trends you’ve got to watch out for!
Instead, Promote THEIR Book
By this I mean, focus on what this great book offers readers. What can the book do for THEM? Even years ago I was telling authors to never market your book, always market what your book can do for your readers and that’s true now more than ever. That’s ultimately what readers care about. So promote the benefits, promote how it’ll make the reader feel, what they will learn or how wildly they will be entertained. That’s the key when it comes to creating a sales pitch that will actually sell!
In the end, while the marketing trends I’ve identified as no longer working don’t necessarily hurt (except in the case of the $5,000 NY Times ad that was painful to the author’s pocketbook), they’re not the strongest options available. We’re all incredibly busy, so why spend valuable book promotion time on efforts with the least amount of pay off? Stay flexible, be prepared for what you KNOW to be ever-changing, and focus on the most efficient use of your marketing time and budget.
Great article. A few years back I did a few simple actions, ran a 5-day free download on Amazon, shot to #1 best seller in young adult sci fi for several days and that led to many cash book sales. Then I got sidetracked for a few years running my business. I recently came back to find my earlier techniques are obsolete. I appreciate what you’ve put together here. Thanks for the useful info!
Christina, I’m so glad you found it helpful! If we can help you with any of your book marketing efforts, please let us know!
Great article, Penny. As always. I have to strongly disagree about press releases… yes, you are correct. MOST of them are a waste of time and money. For many of these reasons.
They are not done professionally
They are just a book announcement (not news)
They are done in a vacuum – no targeted research or strategy
They are not part of a campaign to build credibility and relationships with the media
One press release IS a waste of time. A series of strategic releases can land media interviews, help with SEO if released online through PRWeb or other distribution sites, and build your credibility. The simple fact that you have a press room or a link to a REAL press release makes you look newsworthy. And if getting media attention is part of your strategy, you’d better have everything all in one place on your website if the media comes looking.
Thanks for all you do!
Lean you make a really solid point – or points rather! I appreciate your insight and input. Now you’ve given me an idea, it might be fun to write a piece just on how to do a solid press release that gets attention!
Great idea! If you need input – an interview with 30 years of ‘in the trenches’ PR person – let me know!