Feeling frustrated about your sales and reaching new readers?
A lot of authors are. Things have changed dramatically in book marketing. Those of us who’ve been doing this for years are suddenly finding the tried and true tactics aren’t having many results. Sales have plummeted for many, leaving authors with several great books under their belt to hang up their keyboards. Ack!!
Is there an alternative to giving up the dream of writing and making enough to go full time?
Of course! There are many authors who are doing well. They’ve risen to the forefront with strong tactics that hook readers. Can you copy what they are doing? Sure. But a lot of that success stems from feeding readers what they are hungry for. Which means books. A lot of books released as close together as possible.
This might be something you can do, but it is hard. It requires organization, setting deadlines, writing a lot, and still finding time to market.
Because, guess what, saving up that series for a back to back release won’t work unless you already know how to attract readers. You can’t go from zero to thousands of waiting fans overnight unless you win the lottery to be able to pay a marketer (which may or may not work).
And then, what do you do with those new fans who fell in love with you over a short release burst? Will they stick it out waiting for your next series when it took you over a year to write the last one? You set expectations that you’d release a lot more books, like one a month or at least several a year! Are you ready, and capable, of writing that fast?
How to write like a demon
Let’s say that you decide to release books as quickly as you can write them. What does that sort of schedule look like?
I’ll go with a 60,000 word count per book, which gives a fairly decent book size but manages to shave off 40,000 words (over half our new book size) from the average fantasy story. If you want to finish writing a book in a month and then edit while writing the next book, that equates to a daily word count of only 2000 words a day. That isn’t unreasonable! But, of course, add in marketing, editing, and any world building (writer’s block time off not allowed!), and that is a very full schedule.
And, of course, if you want to write and then edit and still publish a book a month, you need to write 4000 words a day. That is getting a bit hefty. Especially if you consider these are calculations not accounting for days off, vacations, the flu, your spouse/significant other… and you need to have those ideas flowing! Both regarding the current series and what is next.
If you can’t write like a possessed AI
Let’s talk strategy. Specifically, how you are handling your current book marketing. Because, as I said above, if you can’t sell one book or a series, generating more books as an alternative strategy might not lead you as far as you are hoping.
Most authors take the shotgun approach. They post to social media, possibly run a blog, pay for advertising, join some giveaways and basically just throw their book into the void as frequently as possible with the hopes something will bring results. But they aren’t really sure what or how to tell.
Yeah, not there best plan. Wonder why you are having problems?
How to strategize your book marketing
There are lots of plans out there to help you develop a book marketing plan and even people who will write one for you. But ? is only as good as your intention to implement it. I’ve written thousands of conservation plans for landowners and I can guarantee that most of them went on a shelf never to be looked at again. That doesn’t help anyone (much less the environment).
So what you need is a cut-to-the-chase sort of plan that YOU will follow and use, one that makes sense, AND has results (so you keep doing it). Sound good? Let’s get started.
Find your brand
Step one is about figuring out what you are good at. What is it in your writing that is
1. Consistent through all the stories you like to write
2. Something that readers love about your writing and notice
Look at what reviewers have commented on. Is it great characterization, amazing world building, surprising twits? What do deliver well to your readers so you can promise it to them up front and use it to attract the right type of reader to your work?
Spend some time talking to your beta readers and looking through reviews. Create a spreadsheet and hone in on what is the essence of your storytelling.
Once you have that, condense it into a tagline or It’s. Something on the like “Do you like death defying fantasy?” You want to be able to use it in advertising, in your blurbs, and on your website. This is what you want to be known for.
Hone your images to match the phrase.
If you are known for immersive worlds, feature exotic locations in all your marketing images. If it is characters, make sure they are front and center in your images and website. Center this message in all you do.
Find other, better known authors who are similar.
Sure, it is great if readers say you are the new G.R.R. Martin, but why? Do you really write like him? Take your core phrase and use it as a keyword search in Google and Amazon and see who comes up. Look at their books and comments. If they are a well known or best-selling author, use their name in your advertising such as “If you like George R.R. Martin you’ll love book 1 of the ____ series.” Or, if they seem to be closer to your level in number of books and activity, reach out to them and see if you can team up. How? We’ll get there before the end of this post. 😉
Locate your readers
Now that you know what you are good at, it is time to find where readers who will like to read what you offer are hanging out. Can you narrow your writing down to an age bracket? A type of interest (video game, other books, movies)? Ask your beta readers their hobbies if you need to or where they go to find books. Once you know who will like your books, you need to figure out where those people hang out. Are there forums, certain social media platforms, or specific hashtags that attract them?
Because once you find out where your readers are, you need to go to them. Seriously. So many people simply join a social media platform they like or join all of them and then feel strapped too thin. But what if the readers who your book will resonate with are on Instagram or Tmblr while you are on Twitter and Facebook? What if Goodreads has fan clubs dedicated to just what you write but you’ve never even created a profile there? Sure, there are people other than your ideal reader who will want to read and love your book, but it is so much more effective to market to the majority rather than a few random people you hope will like your book. Invest some time in finding your readers and then go to them. Your marketing will take off.
Should you have an author website? In today’s day and age, are you still wondering about this???
Yes. Most readers will type in your name in Google and the best place for them to go and learn about you is a website that YOU control. Just like you should go to find your readers, you need to have a way for them to easily find you.
It should have a bit about you, a lot more about your books, and where to find them. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it should be neat and up to date. After all, social media platforms will rise and fall. Even e-book sellers will change or change links, messing up what you have in your book to send them to the next in series. But your website should be the central hub where everything comes together and sends eager readers to the correct, and up to date links and news.
To blog or not to blog
I’d recommend a blog on an author website, even if all you do is post announcements on new releases, updated release schedules, or events. Those are important and wonderful things to post!
But a blog is also a place to attract new readers. You can share excerpts, short stories, character info, world info, writing updates, bits about your life, and so much more. You can give old readers stories of your process, the story of what it is like to write these amazing books, and new readers can join in and become part of the team.
Posting once a week is a great goal. Even posting once a month helps. Some writers get into it and post multiple times a week. Just don’t forget you have to write too!
If you find you like blogging, look for other author blogs or reader focused blogs you can write a post for. Because it is a great way to reach new readers, especially if you can guest post on a blog that has a broad reader reach!
Not all social networks are the same
If you are scheduling the same post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, you are doing it wrong.
The prevailing theory is that a reader must see your book at least seven times before they buy it. I have no idea how true this is, as I’ve never seen a scientific article on this topic, but, since just about everyone goes by this, we’ll run with it.
You want your book to be seen, so you post about it so readers see it on Twitter, run into your Facebook ad, see it on Goodreads as a suggestion, have it pop up on Amazon as a recommendation… the list goes on and on.
But guess what? When you just focus in on the social networking sites, the people who choose and use the various platforms speak differently, look at things in unique ways, and interact with posts differently.
If you are posting on social media and not getting many comments, take a break and start looking at the posts that DO get a lot of comments. What are they doing differently? Are the images different? What are the words used? Take the time to read posts and comments, see how people interact, and then change your tone to suit. It might be as simple as altering word choice or where you put your hashtags. You might need to use completely different language between platforms. But take the time to figure out how to talk to the people on each platform rather than throwing the same message at everyone assuming it will work.
And one final comment about social networking sites: Social media is about interaction. If you are never going to show up to respond to comments, don’t post there.
Feed your readers
So you don’t think you can manage monthly book releases? That’s okay! You are only human. 😉 So what can you do to keep readers interested in what you are writing?
There are a lot of ways of keeping hungry readers engaged while you slog through the process of actually writing. Develop short stories, even something as simple as flash fiction and post them on your blog, newsletters, Wattpad, or social media. Share excerpts while you write, especially to your dedicated fans like those on your mailing list. Write blog posts on the world, characters, magic, situations, the crux of the chapter you are writing. Whatever you can share that will catch reader’s interest, heart, or hopes.
Just because you can’t feed your readers a new book every month doesn’t mean you can’t offer them something that will retain their interest and keep them engaged with your writing!
How to advertise effectively
Rotate through different advertisers to reach different readers and keep track of results. That alone will help you stay on top of your advertising. Create a spreadsheet where you write down who you are advertising with, the date, the cost, and then how many downloads/sales you net. This will help you figure out which advertisers host readers who will like your book and cull the ones that don’t have any impact.
And try different advertising platforms. AMS ads, Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, all can be effective but you won’t know if you don’t try (do some research to learn how to be effective on each) and if you don’t keep track of what you are doing.
Set an advertising schedule that rotates sales through all of your books. Don’t just advertise the first in series. Why not put book 2, 3, or 4 on sale once in a while and advertise that? It will be something new. Sometimes readers will be more excited to see it is an ongoing or finished series and scoop up all of them just because you advertised the final one.
Remember I mentioned contacting other authors with a similar brand? These authors should become your best friends. Offer to share their books to your mailing list and on social media (no one likes to only hear about your books anway). Share new releases from other authors, offer to share excerpts on your blog. Become an advocate for authors who write similar books and you will attract more readers and meet some great authors who will also help you. Plus, you’ll have a lot more people to celebrate with when you reach milestones.
Change your expectations
Enjoy small successes. Seriously. We all want the big win and often forget about all the small successes that make the final big goal happen. Don’t just feel bummed you aren’t in the top 100, didn’t get an orange tag on Amazon, or whatever it is that makes you feel that punch in the stomach and sigh. Instead, set smaller, achievable goals like adding another 50 or 100 readers to your mailing list. Share those goals with others and then make sure you celebrate it when you achieve it!
What I’m saying is look for success in the numbers. Are you selling more books this month compared to a few months ago? Do people want to join your launch team? Are you getting more opens and clicks on your newsletter? Trends, upward trends, are what you need to look for. You’ll only know they are happening if you start tracking them and then go back and actually look at the data.
Okay, that is a lot of stuff to figure out for a marketing plan! But start with your brand. Start being smart about your marketing. It’s either that or learning to write like a demon. 😉