As a mystery author you’ve taken on the challenge of giving people a level of excitement that they definitely don’t (or shouldn’t!) be getting in their every day lives, but with that also comes a pretty intense responsibility to hold their attention and deliver something truly unique, and if we’re being honest, often mind-blowing.
No pressure, right? But you can better prepare yourself by making some lucrative upgrades to your book marketing strategies to ensure you’re adhering to 5 essential tactics for improving sales and building your return fan base.
- Understand who’s really reading your book.
The mystery genre is complex because there are a lot of factors that push readers to start favoring particular subgenres. And once they’re hooked, they go back for those kinds of books over and over. It’s like a drug.
So it’s really crucial to not only understand who you’re writing for and what they expect, but to also rise to the occasion.
An author who is able to meet the expectations of a particular subgenre will find their stride and build a following much quicker than an author who tries to pull in too many people at once or tries to straddle a few different subgenres with a single title.
If you feel sales are lackluster and everything else seems to be in place, consider whether you’re reaching too broad with your intended readers and commit to doing an in-depth and insightful reader profile for your next title. Remember, the goal should be to please a more targeted audience.
- Give them something to talk about.
Think of the best mystery books you’ve read, what sticks in your mind?
Whatever it is probably had your attention for quite awhile. Meaning, it consumed part of your brain, part of your day, it made you want to get right back to that book as soon as possible to see what was going to happen next.
The structure of a successful mystery book, and what successful mystery authors have figured out, is key to demanding a reader’s time and attention – and eventually – a return purchase.
Yes, this is tough to apply to an already released title, but you can certainly make the most of what your current books offer by highlighting these “can’t put it down” features in your book description. And then of course, put a lot of emphasis on this for your next release.
Or this is a great reason to revise and release a stagnant title that seems to have died a slow (or not so slow) death.
- Seal the deal with an irresistible book description.
A well-designed book description is absolutely imperative to add to your list of book marketing strategies when it comes to what really closes the sale with shoppers.
And I say well-designed instead of well-written on purpose!
I’ve read great book descriptions that aren’t formatted properly on Amazon and I’m willing to bet these authors are losing sales by the day. Not only does proper formatting work 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 mystery book description is working to convert shoppers to 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 an award
- Mentions the series, if applicable
On the other hand, I’ve also read mystery book descriptions that are formatted correctly, but they just don’t sell the book.
Here’s a short checklist I use to assess whether or not the description of a mystery book is working to convert shoppers to buyers:
- It is not just a synopsis
- It uses creative descriptors
- It includes a teaser, cliffhanger or sense of danger and the unknown
- It makes the storyline or characters relatable in some way
- It uses bolding to highlight what makes the book special
- It subtly implies there are twists or shockingly unpredictable elements
I can tell you we’re often too close to our own work to write our own book descriptions. Yes, you can start it, or create a working outline, but I strongly encourage you to have an editor give you feedback. Have a marketing person give you feedback. And if possible have another mystery author give you feedback. All three of these individuals will give you really unique input on what they feel works, and you should really take all of it into consideration when developing the final description that goes on your website and on Amazon.
- Give them something to look forward to.
Mystery, thriller and suspense readers are notoriously loyal – once you earn their respect.
Part of earning that respect, beyond putting out excellent books with really well done covers of course, is an aggressive publishing schedule. This piece isn’t about publishing strategy, but if you’re feeling pressed for time don’t overlook the power of the short story or novella when it comes to meeting deadlines.
The reality is we’re all short on time these days, including your potential buyers, and one of the best sales tools to capture their attention is the promise of your next book. 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.
Establishing a publishing schedule and sticking to it, and of course promoting it, is really the backbone to a mystery author’s long-term sales potential.
Author Daniel José Older is a great example. He nestled his Ghost Girl in the Corner novella in between his New York Times Bestseller, Shadowshaper, and it’s official sequel Shadowhouse Fall to close the nearly two year gap, and to prevent losing all the momentum his breakout debut created.
So tying this back into earlier tips, get creative by highlighting upcoming releases in your book descriptions, add them to your bio, and remind followers on social media and in your newsletter regularly. 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 marketing people always talk about.
- And don’t forget it’s really all about branding.
Obviously a mystery author’s brand and how to develop it could be an entirely separate post, but I want to tie this into what I’ve already covered and a few extra bonus recommendations.
Remember, branding is established through the details.
So be sure to do a fresh reader profile and really dial in on the market you’re serving, their likes and dislikes, the subgenres they’re most drawn to, and get more specific with your writing and the direction you’re taking your work in.
Focused will beat out broad every day of the week.
Going forward, or if you’re ready to give a seemingly “failed” book another shot with a revision and re-release, be sure you’re really working in those memorable, “I just couldn’t put it down!” moments we authors love to see mentioned in reviews! Even if you’re not an outline type of author, consider creating one of all your key plot twists, reveals, and the like, to ensure the pace lives up to genre expectations.
Get into Amazon Author Central and update your book descriptions. Use the checklists I’ve created above and enlist the help of an editor or author friend to gain some perspective. Believe it or not, your formatting choices can help solidify your brand as well, and make your products uniquely recognizable to shoppers.
Your covers also play an important role in your brand as a mystery author. If you look at your collective titles online do they look like they came from the same person? Or are they a collection of different designers and different moods and phases of your publishing career? 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 a 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.
Last but not least, nothing creates a strong mystery author brand like a beautiful display of titles on your author page, so keep an aggressive publishing schedule until you’ve earned the right to make people wait. Because once you do that – they will wait – and you won’t believe how exciting those releases will be!
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