In this section, I will look at some of the methods of marketing books. Regardless of the quality of your writing, you will only attract readers if your potential audience is aware of your work. People must also feel motivated to select your books from among the many available that they could choose from. I will look at some of the strategies that could help you to reach and engage effectively with your target audience.
The topics listed below describe activities commonly involved in marketing books. I have placed the information in what I consider to be a logical sequence and I hope that you will find what I have written useful.
There are millions of books available online and in book stores around the world, in various formats. Readers can choose from a huge variety of fiction and non-fiction titles, which might be sold at full price, discounted or even free. You will therefore be competing with a vast number of other books, some written by well known and well established writers or celebrities. However, this should not put you off writing and publishing your own book, though you should do so with realistic expectations and having done what is necessary to improve your chances of success. Assuming that you have written a good book and that the quality of the published ebook or print book is excellent, you should put a sound marketing plan in place.
Perhaps one of the first things worth asking yourself when contemplating writing and publishing a book is your reason for doing so. As an artist or craft maker, you might be motivated by a wish to promote your work or enhance your reputation as an expert in the art or craft that you practice. There is also the natural human desire to find a sense of fulfilment by publishing a book, which other people can read and learn from. You might view writing a book as an additional income stream, a way of promoting courses or workshops that you run, or something that could lead to invitations to speak at events. Understanding what you hope to achieve can assist your decision making process and increase your chances of achieving some level of success.
Getting your book noticed and bought requires effective marketing skills, which many writers do not possess. Some writers might even consider a businesslike approach to the marketing of their work to be beneath their creative purity. However, regardless of how good your book is, if your potential readers are unaware of its existence they will not buy it. Ideally you should begin thinking about the marketing of your book before it is written, published and available for sale, so that you can put a marketing plan in place. Online you will find many services promising to make your book a success, for a fee, but before parting with your hard earned money, you should take some time to properly evaluate what they are offering. The reality is that most writers sell relatively few copies of their books and fewer still are able to earn a reasonable living from the proceeds of their writing work alone.
Your Author Platform
Before the growth during recent years of self-publishing, writers often spent years trying to find an agent to represent them and sending their manuscripts to publishers, hoping to be offered a publishing deal. Many writers now prefer to publish and market their own books, rather than relying on a publishing house to do it for them. Perhaps the most effective strategy that an author can employ when they want to market their books is to build their own author platform. At the core of the strategy for establishing an author platform will be having a dedicated website and being active on social media. This might sound like a daunting proposition and it will certainly involve a great deal of time and effort on your part, if you are going to do it effectively. However, it is something that you could begin today with a few simple steps and build gradually during the months and years ahead, as your experience and confidence grow.
Controlling your presence on social media sites such as Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube and Instagram, will enable you to communicate directly with your target audience. It need not cost you anything, other than time, and will allow you to engage with your audience, without relying on traditional media, such as television, radio, newspapers or magazines. Having your own website, will enable you to drive traffic to an online presence over which you have total control. You can monetise the content that you add, such as articles and blog posts, and engage with readers regarding current and future book releases. As a writer you are trying to communicate with your readers and by removing intermediaries, you can develop a more direct, personalised and responsive relationship with those who buy your books. Such readers are more likely to become loyal fans of your work, who might help to market your work more widely on your behalf.
The purpose of your author platform is to enable you to engage effectively with people that will want to learn about your work as an artist, designer or maker and read your books. The platform that you develop should reflect who you are as a person, how you want to be perceived by other people and what you want to do with your life, both short term and long term. If you already have a mission statement and vision statements, your author platform should reflect these. You will need to identify and understand your audience, along with where and how to engage with them. You should know what you want to achieve through your work and be able to express yourself clearly, in a way that will appeal to your audience demographic. As you change over time, allow your author platform to change and grow with you, as your audience follows your creative journey through life.
Having a website, where you can post content and through which you can build your own email list, is an essential part of establishing an author platform. Without a website you will be spending your precious time and money driving traffic to a site on which you might have a presence, but on terms that are not under your control. You should certainly make use of social media and other third party websites to engage with potential readers and promote and sell your books. However, where possible you will want to establish direct communication with people who might want to buy your books, so that they become your customers, rather than customers of a third party. When you want to market a new book, or raise your profile as an artist, designer or maker, you can post fresh content on your website, promoting your personal brand to an engaged audience.
Email list building is widely considered to be the most effective method of customer engagement. However, you must ensure that methods used to acquire email addresses are within regulations relating to the management of personal data, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In simple terms this means that a person must give positive consent for their email address to be collected, stored and used. Taking this approach also has the benefit that your email list should be of high quality, as the people within it will be interested in receiving regular messages from you and are less likely to unsubscribe. Typical methods for attracting email list subscribers include exclusive content and give aways, such as free ebooks or other downloadable content. The effort involved in building your own email list will be repaid many times over. Rather than beginning each marketing campaign from zero, you will have a receptive audience, who you are already in regular communication with.
Setting up and running your own website will involve an investment of time and money. You might need to learn new skills, or employ the services of those who possess the necessary web design and development experience. Content on your site might include a blog, audio and video, tutorials or anything else which you think might attract targeted traffic to your website. Testimonials and customer reviews posted on your website can encourage visitors to make a purchase. Having your own website could also provide you with an additional income stream, by for example selling directly to customers or monetisation through affiliate programmes. Rather than explaining what is involved in setting up a website, we have looked at some of the benefits of having a website. If you would like to learn more about getting your own website up and running, you could read Grow Your Small Business Online, which is available on Amazon in eBook format.
Establishing a following on social media can require an investment of considerable time and effort. However, it has the potential to raise your profile with people across the world, grow your author platform and increase sales of your books. Rather than spreading yourself too thinly across numerous platforms, you should try to focus upon two which you believe will prove most effective in reaching and engaging with your target audience. Begin by identifying your target audience, the platforms they use and understand how they use them. Determine some measurable objectives and how you are most likely to achieve them. This might involve trial and error on your part, though you could begin by looking at successful social media accounts run by people in fields related to you own and ask yourself what has worked for them.
Popular social media platforms include; FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Regardless of the social media platforms that you choose to use, you should regularly post content that your followers will value and want share. You could benefit from having a FaceBook page, though managing it can become time consuming. Twitter is used by many writers, as it enables them to communicate quickly and easily with their followers, keeping them up to date on fresh content and news. LinkedIn can work well for writers of material that is more business oriented. A YouTube channel can be an excellent way to engage visitors with video content, if you have the resources to produce them. Instagram is a good choice for those who want to post a large volume of high quality photographs. Pinterest can be effective if you have sufficient visual material to create engaging content.
Reviews written by people who have read your books, whether posted on your website or on a site such as Amazon, can increase the chance that more people will buy them. If someone who has a large following on social media notices your work, decides to read your book and recommends it to their followers, it could lead to a substantial increase in sales. It is also easier to promote multiple books rather than just one, therefore if you have already completed your first book, consider writing more and cross promote them using your author platform. When selling a book, you could promote upcoming books to your readers, so that they are looking forward to being able to buy it even before it is published. This works particularly well if you are able to write a series of books.
Ask family and friends to share what you post on social media with people that they know. Remember to thank those who actively engage with your author platform and share your content. You could post on topics that relate to what is currently trending and use hashtags that will help people to find what you have posted. Sharing useful links and information that can help other people could increase the chances that they will follow you and recommend you to others. Using scheduling software will enable you to post messages at suitable times and appropriate intervals. Take time to design your social media presence so that it is consistent with the rest of your author platform, which at its heart is about the communication between yourself and like minded people. Ensure that anything you write reflects your quality as an author and represents the personal brand and author platform that you are building.
Marketing your book will involve communicating with a target audience why they should purchase and read a book that you have written and published. You have a better chance of being successful if you put in place a marketing plan, rather than leaving it to chance. Determine the size of your marketing budget, any existing resources that you can make use of and the time available. When creating your marketing plan, remember why you wrote your book and highlight why other people should read it. The core of your marketing plan should be to develop your author platform. However, with a limited budget you will need to spend wisely, on things that are likely to bring the best return on your investment of time and money. Set yourself clear objectives, with measurable targets, so that you can evaluate what within your marketing plan is being effective and what is not.
The best time to begin marketing a book is now, regardless of whether it is not yet written, or has been published and is available for purchase. As an artist, designer or maker, you will want to write a book that can appeal to your target audience. Therefore, the best time to understand what book people will want to buy is before you have written it. If you published a book some time ago, but have had disappointing sales, putting in place an effective marketing plan could improve sales. You might be planning to write a second or third book, in which case you should begin engaging with potential readers as soon as possible, so that you can communicate with them before, during and after publication. Your author platform will provide you with an opportunity to develop a relationship with your followers that could translate into sales and reviews of your book when it is published.
As a self-publisher you will not be in a position to compete in the arena of traditional media against large established publishing houses. However, the Internet provides you with a level playing field, on which with even a limited budget you could learn to compete effectively against them, if you acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Study and learn from both successful and unsuccessful marketing campaigns, as you decide what you are going to do or not do. Read marketing industry publications and engage with people who you think might be able to help you. As an expert on the subject matter you are writing about, you are in an excellent position to share what you know with followers who will want to read what you write. Having identified your audience and what you want to communicate, you must now decide how best to do this as you plan and implement your book marketing plan.
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