Marketing a book requires time and effort. If you're an author, you know this better than anyone. Whether you're hustling for your next book sale, connecting with your readers, or plotting your next book launch no doubt you've got an entire line-up of marketing to-do's that need to be done. If you're anything like us, you've probably been scrolling through endless social media tips and tricks trying to find that magic one that will boost your book sales. But have you considered your options outside of social media?
While it's encouraged to have a healthy social media following, it's important not to forget about more traditional means of marketing because these can bring you connections, readers, and resources as much as social media can (and in some cases even moreso). It's wise to put your eggs in more than one basket because you never know which one will produce the best results, and often this will fluctuate depending on a variety of factors. Below are 6 ideas to help you get started:
#1 Your Website Holds The Key
A lot of authors invest more time in social media than they do their website. While social media is important, the first place to invest is right in your own backyard. Having a website that is your "home base" is one of the best things you can do as an author because it means your readers have a set destination. They know where to find your books, updates, merchandise, and newsletter without having to search all over for it. It's also where you can control the sale of your books. If you sell copies through your website, you guarantee readers can still get their hands on your novels if something goes wrong with one of your other publishing platforms. For example, if Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) locks you out of your account and doesn't explain why, then you won't be as devastated. You can redirect your readers to your website while your account gets fixed.
Here's where it really starts to pay off. On social media, the sales funnel is broken into different segments (meaning that you have to share x amount about your life, your book, etc. before you ever get to your sales pitch, and while people might see your sales pitch, they may not be motivated to click the link to your sales page). Not to mention that you're not necessarily "selling" to the same person, as you can never be sure that every single element of said funnel is reaching the exact same reader. In a nutshell, social media isn't what sells your novels. It's a tool that can be used to lead a reader back to your website.
Having a site that is functional, attractive, and user-friendly can help cut out the middle man. Rather than breaking apart the sales funnel, your website brings it altogether into one neat package. It hosts your About page, which let's potential readers get to know you in a space that's lengthier than a short social media caption. It allows them to pursue more about your novels and will lead them to the others (whereas they might have to search to know you've written more than one). It lets them sign up for your newsletter if they want to know about your next release, and better yet, it includes the sales pitch that will entice them to buy. And they don't have to click a separate link to find it all!
Exercise #1: Here is a little take-home homework to help you get started. If you don't have an author website yet, your job today is to begin making plans to get one. Research what website platform is right for you (wordpress, wix, squarespace) and set a date on your calendar to make it happen! If you already have a website, your plan is to evaluate what you already have. Is it functional? Appealing to the eyes? Does the copy speak directly to your ideal reader or could it use a touch-up? Is the information shared up-to-date? What about your photos? Your logo? Based on your answers, go in and make any necessary changes or if they are larger changes set a date to make said changes happen.
#2 Tweak Your Newsletter To Make It More Enticing
Think about your newsletter as though it's the bait on a fishing hook. In a traditional email sales funnel, the newsletter acts as the bait. It entices your readers to learn more about whatever it is you're trying to sell but in a casual, no-pressure way. While a call-to-action is inevitably attached, the goal of the newsletter itself isn't to force readers to buy your book. Rather, it's a way for them to connect in a way that feels more personal than a more generalized post on social media. Think of it as on-going storytelling. The reader who signs up for your newsletter is there for you to tell them your story and then once they get to know you better, hopefully choose to support you by buying your novel.
We know what you're thinking. You already have a newsletter but no one seems interested in signing up. But the good news is that it's not your fault. You could have an awesome newsletter, but even though a reader might be interested in it's contents, there's one big discouragement keeping them from jumping on board. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed that no one wants to give their email (private information) away for free, you'd be right. Luckily this is a problem with a clever solution.
Exercise #2: If you don't have an author newsletter yet, your job is to create one. Pick your segments where you share updates, your book, tips, etc. and choose when to send it out each month. If you already have a newsletter, your task is to focus on attracting new subscribers. By creating a newsletter incentive you're doing exactly what it sounds like- incentivizing would-be readers to join in on all the fun. This should be something appealing that offers value to your readers.
#3 Never Underestimate Networking
Networking is your super tool. There's no better form of marketing than word of mouth. This leads to amazing things like reviews, people telling others to buy your novel and gift it to their friends and family, and of course, it helps build your author reputation when people speak highly of you. It also brings opportunities to you in ways that you never even imagined. You may be asked to speak on a podcast, be featured in a blog post or magazine, do an interview- the possibilities go on and on. You never know who or what will bring the next open door so speak to everyone you can about your novel! Don't be shy to call attention to your book online, to suggest that your book would make a great gift for someone looking, to drop off a free stack at your local library with a card suggesting where people can leave a review, etc. Looking for networking opportunities is the best way to find them. Even those that seem small or insignificant can lead to big things later on. Don't forget to look into opportunities that are related to but not directly related to your novel. For example, if you wrote a book about a guitarist who has lost his muse and a woman who helps him find it in an unexpected way, go where music lovers like to hang out and leave flyers, bookmarks, or business cards promoting your story. Chances are, if a customer loves music and also loves to read about books involving music, you'll find your ideal reader there.
Exercise #3: Pick one new networking activity to try. The goal is to reach out to your chosen network and promote your novel! That's it. You're not looking for a sale or to rope in a new reader. You're only there to mention it and to ask that person to spread the word/why it would help. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
#4 Seek Out Opportunities: Writing Events, Universities, Libraries, Bookstores, Community/Church Events
The other side of marketing is actively seeking out opportunities. This can be done from your computer with a handful of Google searches, but essentially your goal is to find events that might present you with a chance to display, promote, and meet readers. Think outside the box here. While writing events (both in person and online) are a great idea, don't forget to think about where your readers like to hang out when they aren't reading. Places like community events, festivals, farmer's markets, church events, and other gatherings can provide unique opportunities for you to connect with readers outside of the traditional marketing methods. Libraries and bookstores are also places where you can set up tables and attract new readers, but many universities or university affiliated programs can provide similar opportunities so long as your book is reader-appropriate and you're willing to work with each program's rules.
Exercise #4: Make a list of all the events going on in your area next month using Google to find them. From there, see what realistically works within your schedule and what also would work for the genre of your book. Choose one or two events to participate in. Depending on what it is, it could be a booth featuring your book or an event where you can promote it and spread the word. Whatever you choose, make the most of it!
Marketing can be difficult, but don't give up! Just like with writing books, selling them is a lifelong pursuit. Once a book is published it's got its entire life to earn, and with that thought it means there's an endless amount of time for you to grow your marketing knowledge.