Tim Lewis: In this final chapter of the audiobook, I’m going to talk about … It’s probably most fascinating subject in self-publishing, which obviously overlaps with every kind of online business, which is how to actually market a book. It’s not something I’ve mastered but I’ve got a fairly clear idea about how you should do it. Do I ever follow that advice myself? No, of course not.
Tim Lewis: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned about book marketing is that you really do need to focus on it, can’t be an afterthought. If it’s even remotely an afterthought to your book creation process, then you’re way less likely to succeed. I’m not suggesting you should always write to market, but I think you should have an idea of where the possible market for your book is and go down that route, looking for that market, rather than just creating a book and then thinking, “Okay I’ve got a book, how do I market it?”
Tim Lewis: So anyway, let’s get over to the audiobook. How to market a book? Now, not every author is bothered about whether their book is commercial or not, some people just want to create a book because they say they created a book. Other people just want a book so that they can go to conferences and other places and say that they wrote a book on the topic. And that’s completely fair, but for 95% or more of authors, a question they really want to know is how do I market my book? How do I get sales on my book?
Tim Lewis: Now, I’m by no means an ultra-successful bestselling author, but I have interviewed over 70 people talking from a variety of marketing and other backgrounds, and I’ve got a fairly good theoretical idea about what you should do to have a successful book hit.
Tim Lewis: Now, the first thing to appreciate is that book marketing is not easy, however easy people might paint it to be. You can have the best book in the world and have a very good and decent marketing plan, and sometimes it’s just not going to work, it’s just not going to take off. And there’s not really a lot you can do about that, but there are quite a few things that you can do to try and skew the likely success of your book away from the normal it’s not selling any copies to oh it’s selling loads of copies.
Tim Lewis: And certainly if your sole desire is to have an Amazon number one bestseller in a particular category, then that’s relatively straightforward to do. It’s worth noting that Amazon categories vary dramatically in how many books they actually need to sell to get you to number one in the category. And this is something to bear in mind when it comes to marketing.
Importance of Categories
Tim Lewis: So for example, there used to be the situation that if you sold one book in Rodeo Romance, which is romance involving rodeos, then you could become a number one bestseller in that category. Does that mean you’re going to make huge amounts of money from writing a Rodeo Romance book? No, of course not. But that would give you the cachet of saying that you’ve got a number one Amazon bestseller, and you’re going to be able to have a little mark on your Amazon book saying bestseller, even though you’re really nothing of the sort.
Tim Lewis: In the wider context, the thing that we want marketing to do for us is so that when our book is released or sometime afterwards, but the easiest time is during the release period, we want a whole group of people to go on to the Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk, or any other Amazon, or maybe on the Apple’s iBooks site, or somewhere else, and all buy our book in a concerted manner. That’s basically the result that we’re looking from.
What Marketing is all about
Tim Lewis: So we’re looking to actually get end sales. So the question is, “Well, why are people going to buy your book?” Now, if we went back from this rosy scenario that hundreds of people are going to go onto Amazon.com and order your book in the first couple of days of it being available, then we got to ask, “Well, why would that happen? Why would people buy our book?”
Tim Lewis: So there’s a couple of possible explanations; one is that you are in a category or you’re talking about a subject for something to do with the cover of your book, something that appeals to people who are searching or casually looking through the Amazon.com store, and they purchased your book because of that. There’s something that appeals that’s special about your book that jumps out to people who are browsing the Amazon store or are searching.
Tim Lewis: So if your book is the only book about underwater brass rubbing, and there’s been a huge pent up demand, people searching every week for books on underwater brass rubbing, then your book can sell itself with very little in the way of marketing by yourself. You’re letting the Amazon platform do the marketing for you.
Tim Lewis: Another reason why people might be buying your book is that you have written, say, 100 other books beforehand. And people already know your name, they’ve read your previous books, and they think, “Oh, that’s a new Tim Lewis book, I’ve got to read that, I really enjoyed the last one I read.” This is another reason I even write a lot of books. And I think with time, any author, if you write enough books and you’re talented enough, and people eventually will get a hold of your books, the so-called word of mouth marketing technique.
Word of Mouth doesn’t work
Tim Lewis: The only problem I would say with word of mouth marketing is that it’s not quick at all. Some people like to say, “Oh, well, I want my books to sell themselves, because they’re so wonderful, and I expect the readers to go and tell other readers.” The trouble is even if your book is brilliant and the best book ever, you might get your friends and family to read your book, but they’re going to tell people that the book is wonderful anyway because they’re your friends and family. And that’s not quite the same as somebody who’s like totally unknown to you recommending your book to other people. And there’s a time lag between when people read the book and when they recommend it, for things like getting you to Amazon charts and charting in a category and getting exposure that way.
Tim Lewis: And that is one of the best ways to get exposure to your book, is to get into charts. Success begets success in terms of book marketing. Then you really don’t want to be having to rely on people recommending the book after they’ve read it. Unless it’s such a good book that after reading one chapter everybody is rushing down to other people and saying, “You’ve got to read this book with me.” But let’s face it, that doesn’t happen very often.
Tim Lewis: So as I say, you either need to have your books stand out in the Amazon store to people who searing or browsing, looking at your particular category, or you need to bring people onto Amazon.com to buy your book. And this is where having a community of some kind available, either people who’ve read your previous books or a community built up. Let’s say we have an email list, or you’ve got a Facebook group that you built up over time, or you got follower to a blog or podcast that you’ve been running. It’s those kinds of people that you’re looking to get on to Amazon.
Tim Lewis: And they may not be people who buy that many Amazon books, but you want them to buy your book, and you ideally want them to buy it a time after it’s come out, so that you got more chances of charting. Because one advantage to getting sales when your book has just come out is that everybody likes the new for a start, and also Amazon has new release charts. And it’s a lot better to say, “Oh, this book is new, it’s just come out,” than, “Well, this book came out two years ago, and we just discovered it now.” Two years ago is for really the word of mouth slow drip sales over time.
Why some books stand out
Tim Lewis: So we’ve got this aim that we want to use our marketing techniques to try and get sales to our books, when the book comes out, in the first week or so preferably, or the first few days.
Tim Lewis: It helps that the parts that involve your presence in store. You do need to give some thought to book cover design. So if every other book in your category has a black and white cover, maybe splash colour into it. But try as much to not go beyond the normal format of those books. People hate your cover, but it is different, that’s not necessarily going to be very good. So you want it to be both different and similar as the terms of cover art goes. Give very serious thought to what categories your book is in, and what keywords do you use.
Tim Lewis: And as has been said the traditional marketing approach is to do a lot of research before you create the product to actually find if your product is going to work. Now, most self-published authors don’t do this, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this. The advantage to creating a book that you know has a marketplace that people you could sell to, is that you have got that pent up demand. And you’ve got all of this period when you’re writing the book to keep teasing elements of the fact that this book is coming, you’ve got all of that time to get your audience excited enough so that when it’s actually available they can go on and order it. And that, again, saves so much time over just suddenly sending an email out apropos nothing on the day of the release of your book asking people to buy your book.
Tim Lewis: So book marketing does basically come down to building people up to the point when they can actually go onto Amazon or whatever other site you want to send them to buy your book.
Tim Lewis: My advice for new authors who only have one book to market and don’t have a platform of any kind, so they haven’t got a blog or an email list or a community, is to give serious consideration to all the categories, all the keywords of that book. And also to go around everyone of the people you know in any capacity, and let them know the book is available, and beg as much as possible without seeming too annoying, to get your friends and family to buy the book. They are not in any shape or form a consistent audience for your book or books, but the advantage is that this will hopefully get your book into a category where it will get exposure to people who are the correct audience for your book.
Tim Lewis: And if you’ve got things like email sign-ups in the back of your book, or you’ve got a Facebook group, or something like that where you can send people, then this is a fantastic way to start building a core audience that you will need for later book releases.
Tim Lewis: Now, if you’re very adept at social media and marketing in general, and if your book is very specific, so let’s say it’s on shoes for walking in the Pyrenees, something along lines, you may already have connections in say Facebook group and other areas, for people who like walking in the Pyrenees Mountains. You want to be leveraging those connection as well to say, “I’ve written a book on shoes for use in the Pyrenees.” And again, you want to be letting them know, preferably as far ahead as possible of release date, the book is coming, then let them know that it’s coming again, and then kind of like just make it again around the time that you want them to buy your book, around this time if they possibly can.
Tim Lewis: Obviously you can use things like lowering the price to try and sell more books. And for a non-launch book, price discount policies are probably the best way to go. But for a brand new offer, leverage all the audience you can to try and get your book into a chart, so it will then sell. And then you can start building up an audience of core followers that you then know are going to be able to buy your future books.
Tim Lewis: Now, coming from a fiction side as writer, you’ll hear an awful lot about sites like Freebooksy and BookBub, and those can be tremendously useful for a fiction author. These services are basically services where they have an email deal of a day kind of service, where they send out emails to a huge amount of people who signed up to those books discount services. And if you can get an offer on one of them, and it’s very difficult to do that on BookBub, which is the biggest and most successful of these email list aggregators, then that is a good way to actually push up the success of a book, whether new or otherwise.
Tim Lewis: The only caveat for most of these services is they require a certain number of reviews for your book, before you can actually apply for them. So that’s another good reason for being able to get that initial push of people, so that you get enough sales to get enough decent reviews so they can actually apply to these other services.
Tim Lewis: This is only a very quick guide to how to do marketing. There’s huge amount of possible channels and ways of doing it. Social media marketing has really reduced the cost of marketing communication for a lot of small businesses.
Tim Lewis: So to sum up a very, very big topic in a very simplified way, you’ve got to be looking to spend the time and focus on thinking why are people going to buy my book? How can I make them want to buy my book? And you need to have marketing as an integral part of your publishing process.
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