I’m so excited to be teaching a class around book promotion at Romance Writers of America this week in New York, which has inspired me to write this post for the many, many awesome romance authors out there!
Romance writing is such a unique market. We know it’s busy and popular, but your readers are also veracious. They read a lot, and they love discovering new authors. Romance authors have been given a wonderful opportunity to really speak to readers on a very personal level, and every element of their book promotion must reflect this. Every time they purchase one of your titles, they’re inviting you into their lives and admitting their (sometimes very secret) fantasies and desires!
Take this role seriously by upping your book promotion game and doing some lucrative housekeeping to ensure you’re adhering to 5 essential strategies for improving book sales and building your return fan base.
- Your Book Cover is a Bigger Draw Than You Think:
We know that, when it comes to author branding and book promotion, a book cover is important, but especially in genre romance, they can really make or break your success.
Even if it’s your first book, and your first foray into romance, your book cover should always look like it belongs on the bestseller list. This means no self-designing your own cover, and no shortcuts.
As part of your book promotion due diligence, you should always keep an eye on the competition. So, when was the last time you checked out what’s topping the charts? In particular, in your subgenre? Regardless of what’s trendy in terms of a cover “look,” a high quality, well-designed cover never goes out of style. The real trademarks of a well-designed cover are not just the emotion it evokes, or how cleanly designed it is, but it should also effectively communicate the tone of your story and who your audience is. Which is why a book cover is your number one book promotion tool. Without it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of book sales.
The covers shared here are all from books that have topped the romance charts. But they’re also very different, and all very effectively communicate the tone of the book and potential buyers are already getting a taste for what they can expect if they buy:
If your book sales are lackluster, you should consider whether or not your cover is up to par for today’s standards, because something as simple as a cover update can really save you a lot of time and money on other book promotion strategies that will continue to fall flat because you’re not setting your book up for real success.
- Romance the Deal with an Irresistible Book Description:
When someone asks me what makes a good book description, I often say: I know it when I read it. I say this because it’s true. You know it when you know it. Much like the book cover you can’t stop thinking about, a well-written book description is something you can’t stop reading – and – gets you to a buy that much quicker. In short, your book cover opens the deal, your book description closes it. Both together, create a powerful book promotion tool.
But there’s also the design element of your book description. And I’m not speaking of the placement of it on the back cover of your book. I’m talking about Amazon. Because having a fantastic book description that lacks some design elements can be a deal breaker, too.
If you’ve ever read a great book description that isn’t formatted properly on Amazon, you know what I’m talking about. The description is often jammed together with no spacing – which makes it hard to read, and hard for the mind to digest, too. A book description that’s jammed together is a real book promotion buzzkill. Proper formatting works with the psychology behind what makes people buy, it also helps shoppers scan for stand out selling points. Big blocks of text definitely don’t do that.
Here’s a short checklist I use to assess whether or not the formatting of a romance book description is working to convert shoppers to book buyers:
- Leads with a seriously enticing opening sentence
- Uses bolding and italics
- Uses multiple paragraphs, with no more than 3 sentences each
- Includes a stand out review excerpt
- Includes any awards or accolades
- Mentions the series if applicable
Now that we know about book description formatting, let’s look at the actual description of your book. Because as I mentioned previously, this is a big book promotion tool many authors (not just in romance!) overlook.
Here’s a short checklist I use to assess whether or not the description of a romance book is working to convert shoppers to buyers:
- It is not just a synopsis
- Leads with an emotion – or an emotionally charged sentence
- It uses creative descriptors
- It includes a teaser or cliffhanger
- It makes the storyline or characters relatable in some way
- It uses bolding to highlight what makes the book special
- It subtly implies the ending meets genre expectations
We’re often too close to our own work to write effective book descriptions – I know I am. This is one area I am always outsourcing. Knowing what you can and can’t do when it comes to book promotion is a willing strategy. I’ll often start it and plug in all the elements I want mentioned, but then I’ll turn it over to an expert – and I encourage you to do the same. Have a book marketing person give you feedback. And if possible, have another romance author give you feedback as well — if you have a reader group you belong to, or your own list of super fans, you can ask them as well.
- Make Your Author Bio Interesting and Follow-Worthy:
One of the most overlooked features of a romance author’s book promotion and book sales arsenal is their author bio.
Too often I see authors defaulting to a short resume, or an overly basic, “here’s me in 280 characters or less.” But romance readers, in particular, need a much stronger connection than that!
Your bio is a chance to really communicate with your reader, telling them why you write romance – or whatever subgenre you’re writing to. Used correctly, an author bio can be a key book promotion tool as well. Consider the following ideas:
Who inspires you?
Is there a book that inspired your journey?
Yes, you are a writer but you should also show that you’re a fan – because readers love this. And if your personal life is at all relatable to the subgenre you write in, by all means make that connection obvious! You want to be likeable, you want to seem real, you want to be someone they feel confident investing time and money in. Readers often don’t just buy a book, they buy an author brand.
When it comes to book promotion, wasting a good sales opportunity by not taking your bio seriously, and having some fun with it, will definitely hurt your overall sales potential in the long run.
- Give your readers something to look forward to:
Romance readers are voracious! Which is why you often hear of authors with very aggressive publishing schedules. If you don’t have a plan to publish more books, get on it. This piece isn’t about publishing strategy, but if you’re feeling pressed for time don’t overlook the power of the novella when it comes to meeting publishing deadlines. Sometimes the best book promotion tool is your next book.
The good news with romance readers is that once they find an author they love, they will stick with them through thick and thin – but you’ve got to give them something to look forward to. Novellas work, absolutely. And they’re a nice way to keep your reader engaged while they’re waiting on your next full-length novel. Yes, you can do discounts and giveaways and show up all over social media, but at the end of the day, readers, and shoppers in general, want a sure thing. And that sure thing is your next book. That’s book promotion 101.
Establishing a publishing schedule and sticking to it, and of course promoting it, is really the backbone to a romance author’s long-term book sales potential.
So, tying this back into earlier tips, get creative by highlighting upcoming releases in your book descriptions and in your bio! It may seem like overkill, but shoppers want to make confident, easy buying decisions, so repeating key information in multiple locations across your platform actually serves to create those much-needed impressions everyone talks about. In fact, you’ll notice in this book promotion piece I did the same. Repeating points or referring back to prior points. Because readers (even those of us who are writers!) miss these details the first time.
- Look the Part of a Bestselling Author:
Obviously, a romance author’s brand could be an entire book promotion post in and of itself, but I want to tie this into everything else I’ve already covered.
Branding is established through the details and the details should tell readers you’ve already made it, even if you haven’t (yet). But remember that though author brand refers to how you show up in the world, it also means looking the part. As I mentioned earlier, a professionally designed cover, great and enticing book write up, and an interesting and engaging author bio are the book promotion tools that help build your author brand.
So, whether you have one book, a couple of books, or an entire backlist of titles that you hope will continue to sell books, you need to make the necessary updates and improvements across the board:
Get into Amazon Author Central and update your bio for all your titles. If you write in multiple sub-genres don’t miss the opportunity to speak to those unique readers with clever variations.
Next, one of the most overlooked book promotion tools is as simple as updating your book descriptions on Amazon Author Central. Use the checklists I’ve created above and if you’re stuck for creative ideas: enlist the help of an editor or author friend to gain some ideas and perspective. Believe it or not your formatting choices can help solidify your brand as well, and make your products uniquely recognizable to shoppers.
Get into Amazon Author Central and use all the different fields to find creative ways to work in your book keywords and other great insight that maybe ends up on the cutting room floor after updating your book descriptions. This includes sections like From the Author and From the Inside Flap. I suggest getting super creative and designing your own Q&A to insert into the From the Author section as a way to share more about yourself, who you write for, what makes you and your work special. When it comes to really effective book promotion, it’s the unexpected and it goes a long way.
Your covers also play an important role in your brand as a romance author. If you look at your collective titles online, do they look like they came from the same person? Or are they a mish-mash of different designers and different moods and different phases of your publishing career? This might be some good insight into how readers view you, too. If your covers all look vastly different, this can impact your author brand recognition as well.
Now is the time to take yourself seriously enough to do an overhaul. Find a designer that specializes in your particular subgenre and start getting quotes for bulk upgrades across the board. At minimum, ensure all your series covers look alike, and the titles are all consistent with mentions of the series order – start there – and once these efforts start moving the sales needle, I’m convinced you’ll be inspired to tackle all your titles!
Sometimes the best book promotions are the simple things we so often overlook. While it’s fun to do big, splashy book launches, none of that will matter if the other pieces aren’t there as well.
If you’re going to RWA, give me a shout out! I love meeting my readers!
I’d love your thoughts below. Have you done any of these points and seen a jump in book sales? Or has this piece inspired you to take another book at your book cover, etc.? Let me know in the comments below!
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