When it comes to selling more books, a lot of authors and publishers like to point to “discovery” as being the program. And by discovery I mean: getting your books seen. The problem with that statement is that it’s not really true. Discovery is easy. I mean, you can get discovery six million times over. We had an author who once bought ad time ahead of a big movie and used all her book marketing dollars. How many books did she sell from that pricey ad? Not a one. In fact her book sales never spiked during her ad run at all.
So the challenge is not discovery. The problem, when it comes to book sales and selling more books, comes farther down the road. Let me explain.
I often talk to authors who tell me that they’re running tons of ads, because they want their book to get discovered by new readers. But as they run these ads, it quickly becomes apparent that their book sales aren’t increasing. Much like the author with the movie theatre ad, their book sales have flat lined. So why didn’t this work? I mean, ads are a good book marketing idea, right?
The answer is: it depends.
Who Is Your Ideal Reader?
When was the last time you spent time trying to figure out who your ideal reader is? When I speak to authors about this, in the majority of the cases they tell me they haven’t really focused on their ideal reader. They’ve launched into their book marketing campaign doing stuff that makes sense to them. But this doesn’t mean it’ll reach your reader. Consequently what happens is you wind up spending a lot of your book marketing dollars on stuff that isn’t working. You end up discouraged and, maybe (sadly) giving up.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and selling more books doesn’t have to be this difficult. In fact it can be a whole lot easier than what you’ve been doing to date.
The Importance of Writing and Creating a Book for your Specific Reader and Genre
When was the last time you read books in your genre? Maybe you don’t have time. I mean you’ve got to write your next book, right? The problem is that authors who don’t read in their genre often don’t end up creating books their reader wants to read. Why? Because each genre has a specific set of guidelines and reader expectations. And this is true for every book genre out there.
Let me give you an example. I was teaching a class recently and one of the students asked me about his book, which he said was his version of the life of Jesus Christ. Now, this gets complicated, because “his version” could get some questionable feedback if he pitches it the wrong way or to the wrong people. As I dug deeper, I discovered that this book was actually historical fiction. Which opened up a whole different market for him, and one he hadn’t even tried to reach. His focus had been going after Christian readers to try and sell them on his ideas about what really happened. Needless to say, so far his book marketing efforts had fallen flat. So I suggested to him that he change his marketing focus, pitch it as historical, religious fiction and take a laser focus on that market.
One Big Book Marketing Mistake: Trying to Sell a Puppy to a Cat Person
At this point, you’re probably wondering what the biggest mistake is that I eluded to in the title of this piece. Well, this is it: trying to sell a puppy to a cat person.
Getting someone to finish your book is a tough haul, or it can be. Of all of the genres, romance readers have the highest read-through, meaning they are more likely to finish your book. Business book readers often stop at chapter five or so, figuring they’ve learned enough. If you’ve written a book for a male reader, you should know that they are far less patient with reading than women are. Women will often stick with a book, while men might be more inclined to give up.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I think that it’s key to know specifics about your market if you want them to actually finish your book. Half of the readers who buy books, never finish them. Why? Because the book isn’t written for the market. Or you pitched it to the wrong reader, or they just didn’t like it.
One of the biggest book marketing mistakes authors make, is trying to serve everyone and trying to market to everyone. Or, in some cases, trying to market to a wider audience, because we all want to get read by millions of people right? But the challenge is this: you don’t want to target them right away. All of your book marketing efforts, all of your tweets, Facebook posts, and pitching should ALL be focused on your core reader. Because your core readers can help you sell more books. How? Well, read on…
How Readers Buy Books
Back in early 2017 I was at Digital Book World in New York, and one of the speakers brought with him a set of slides and some fascinating statistics. One of which talked about how books are sold. Turns out, a very low percentage of books are actually sold from ads, but the majority of books — a whooping 95% of them —- are sold via word of mouth. So, readers telling readers.
That’s pretty mind-blowing, isn’t it? When you consider this number, you start to wonder if any book marketing, except that which reaches your exact right reader, is even worth doing. The answer is no, it does not.
So what does work? Mind-numbingly specific marketing, going after your reader in such specific reader-centric ways, that they can’t help but get curious about your book. But where do you start? Let’s dig in!
Misunderstanding Who Your Reader Is and Finding Ways to Market to Them
So, why did you write your book? Maybe you felt you had a story to tell. Maybe you wanted to help someone do something better, or teach your reader a new skill. Or maybe you wrote a romance novel to entertain, or a true crime book to enlighten. Whatever the reason, writing a book is an awesome accomplishment. But now the real work starts. Now it’s time to dig in to your reader.
The first piece is to understand who your exact right reader is. And let’s say that you’ve written a book about how to be a good step-parent. So you might automatically think: “Oh, my book should be in the divorce section!” But that’s probably not the first place someone looking to be a good step-parent may look, more likely, they’ll probably be looking through the parenting books first. And that’s where you’ll want to start.
Taking The First Step Towards Finding Your Reader
So, using this as our model, what would a book marketing campaign look like?
Well, first and foremost, this author would want to focus on parenting bloggers, and not all will be open to the step-parent topic, some may only serve the new mommy and that’s fine, because there are a lot more out there.
The author would probably want to start a blog, blogging once or twice a week, about issues related to step-parenting and navigating the sometimes tricky element of parenting someone’s else’s kids.
Her Amazon keywords, and categories would also align with this topic of step-parenting. But what about the topic of divorce? Well that’s a close second, and this will also become part of her message and her focus. So she’ll target divorce blogs, and focus on the parenting element, which will help her to keenly identify blogs that will work for her, vs. those that just don’t cover the parenting aspect of divorce.
Your book marketing should never include anything that involves trying to convince a reader that they need your book. Which means stay away from the lure of a wider market, and keep your initial focus niche, instead.
Make Sure Your Amazon Book Page Sells Your Book (to the right reader)
One of the biggest mistakes that an author does on their book page is trying to write a book description that appeals to “everyone.” Your book description should be focused on your core reader only, and tightly written. By this I mean limit a lot of flowery descriptions unless they enhance your book description overall.
The other piece of this is your keywords and categories. Again, remember: be mind-numbingly specific about everything. You have a core reader and that’s the single most important focus of your campaign. So, for example, I talked to an author who wrote a romance novel that had elements of time travel in it and a hint of paranormal. Now, paranormal readers are wildly specific about what they want in their books. Having “elements” of it won’t satisfy this reader so I advised her to stay away from that. Instead, since time travel was a bigger piece of it, and since time travel is a separate category and keyword on Amazon, I told her to focus it there. Yes, time travel could be considered paranormal, but if you read a lot of paranormal romance, you’ll understand why it’s not exactly right for that genre. And that’s where understanding your genre really comes into play, because if you’re just guessing, you’ll probably get it wrong.
Finally, remember that your Amazon book page is cluttered with other stuff Amazon wants consumers to buy. So your benefit to the reader needs to be the lead in your book description. You need to be clear about what your reader will respond to. So reviewing book copy on other, similar book pages is a good way to start.
Your Book Back Matter and Why It’s Important
There are a whole bunch of other book marketing ideas I could get into in terms of things you could do to get the word out there about your book, but the idea is that once you have a solid grasp on your genre and your reader, your book marketing options will easily fall into place.
So what about world domination? What about reaching more readers and what about that statistic I threw out that 95% of books are sold word of mouth. By now you’re probably wondering how you can make that happen, right? Well here’s how: your back matter.
So you’ve gotten them to finish your book – that’s awesome! Now what will you do with your reader? Several years ago Goodreads did a study and found that the number one thing that readers want to do when they get to the end of a book is engage with the author. So what’s at the end of your book? Is it your about the author? If so, that’s fine, but it won’t help drive reader engagement.
Telling Readers What You Want Them To Do
There’s a marketing term called CTA – which means call to action and, in my humble book marketing option, I believe that every book should have a CTA in the back. This would be in the form of a letter to readers, asking them for a review and to get in touch with you. Ask them to email you their opinion on the book, or to stay in touch, or offer them some freebie to get in contact with you. Why? So you can build your email list, so you can reach out to readers and engage with them, directly, to build reader loyalty and to invite them to share your book with their friends.
Turning Readers into Super Fans
At the end of the day, your book marketing journey might seem too daunting to take on. First off I’m telling you that your marketing is wrong, and if you want to sell more books you need to get specific and maybe even change your genre? While that maybe seems like a lot of work, and in some cases an impossible task, it really isn’t. Because the truth is if you want to reach hundreds of thousands of readers, you only need a few core, faithful readers to help you make that happen. These readers are called Super Fans. They are engaged, and excited, and always happy to spread the word about your book.
Back matter in your book is important because you want readers to get in touch with you. When they do, you can reach out to them personally, thank them for reading and begin building a loyal tribe. The thing about super fans is that you don’t need a lot of engaged and loyal readers to create momentum for your book. One reader has the potential to reach ten or more other possible readers. So if you have 50 people on your mailing list, that’s potentially five hundred new readers. See what I mean?
Being hyper-focused in your book marketing efforts is not only smart, but in the end it’ll pay off better than a splashy add in the New York Times book section. This hyper focus isn’t easy, but well worth it. Because once you’ve become crystal clear on who you are marketing to, things like what social media site to be on and where to spend your book marketing equity become considerably easier.