As I write this, I’m finishing edits on my first novel, a thriller called The Golden Crystal, as well as putting the finishing touches on a short series of Kindle articles I’m calling theDead-Simple Guides (the first of which is titled The Dead-Simple Guide to Amazing Headlines, available for less than a buck on Amazon).
The editing process, for me, isn’t as straightforward as the writing process. It’s filled with second-guessing, rewrites, and random tangential musings.
On top of that, I’m usually worried about marketing.
While writing the book, I generally have the mindset of “This is so great! Everyone will love it! And buy 100 copies! Yay!”
But when I get to the point when I can say it’s done, I start worrying more and more about the truth to that statement. Great or not, it turns out, there’s some work I need to do to make sure it gets in front of the people who want to read it:
- Should I use Twitter? How often?
- What about the KDP Select promotions?
- How about mentioning it in forums?
- Bundling with another book?
These are all tactics that might end up in my overall marketing strategy, but they’re just that–pieces of the overall puzzle.
How they fit together (or not), and how they work (or not), can rely heavily on how I plan and prepare.
That’s what this post is about: how to plan and prepare a marketing strategy for your book.
I’m going to make some assumptions here, before we get started: First, I’ll assume that you have a platform. It doesn’t have to be huge, or even big. But you need to have a basic “Home Base” set up, meaning a website/blog, a few social media profiles, and a willingness to provide value to your readers.
Second, I’m going to assume that you’ve written a darn good book, at least the absolute best book you’re able to write.
Finally, I’m assuming you’re willing to put in a little up-front work. No book is an island, to borrow a cliche, and no book can succeed on its own merit, without a little marketing input from you. The work isn’t hard, but it can’t be done the night before as well.
Ready? Good. Here we go: How to get the most out of your book marketing strategy…
1. Start with the platform first
You need to have a Home Base or social profile (or both), to tell people about your masterpiece. But don’t get a platform set up just to hawk your wares–work on building something of long-term value for your readers.
If you’re a Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, or J.K. Rowling, sure–you can set up a platform just to tell people about your book. But you’re not, so don’t do it. Build a simple website and give something to people they’d want–a free download of your latest short story, a chapter from your upcoming book, a free video interview, etc. In exchange, ask them for their email address. That way, you can keep them up-to-date with things as they progress.
Go to Twitter and start following the people you read–the authors, writers, and creators you like, and follow some of their followers. Twitter is one of the most reciprocal social networks around, so you’ll probably get quite a few of them to follow you back. But once you’ve started building a following, do not start hyping your book–instead, read these posts and do what they say:
- Why Social Media is Only Half the Answer
- The Ultimate Writer’s Guide to Social Media
- Why Bloggers Fail: How to Build a Solid Blogging Platform
2. Set yourself up for success
If you use WordPress, there are a few things you can do to really get the most out of your upcoming launch. First, make sure your newsletter signup form is prevalent, on all of your pages, and easy-to-use. Check out this post by Derek Halpern on getting it to look really pretty (if you’re using MailChimp).
Second, check out the Pretty Links plugin. I use it a lot for my blog, and for my books. Basically, it takes a link that looks like this:
…and makes it “pretty,” like this:
The benefit, besides being much shorter and easy to remember, is that it’s now trackable. This is huge, in terms of figuring what parts of your marketing are working and which parts aren’t. A great example of what I mean is this: For my book, Welcome Home: The Author’s Guide to Building A Marketing Home Base, I often link to it on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, and from within other books I’ve written.
Whenever I link from Twitter, though, rather than just using the default link, I can create a Pretty Link for Twitter specifically:
Or in another book:
http://www.livehacked.com/welcome-home-BAB (the “BAB” is shorthand for Building A Blog for Readers)
These links would all go to the same place, but I can now track, individually, where they’re coming from. At a glance, I can see how many unique clicks or repeat clicks I have from each source, and tweak my marketing accordingly. This is “knowledge is power” at its best, and I love it.
One more thing: set up Google Analytics. It’s drop-dead simple, and it’s totally worth the little effort. It’s free, and you can track pageviews, top content, bounce rates, and way more. Even if you don’t track it, if you’re ever my client I’m going to ask you for it, so it’s best to set it up now and forget about it!
3. Use the “bell curve” launch strategy
- Start promoting your book’s release date about a month before. Tweet a few times a day to hit most of your followers, and consider posting on Facebook once a week. Send a newsletter update mentioning how excited you are, and how people might be able to help if interested.
- Two weeks out, begin mentioning it in your newsletter more often (though not as the main feature–just as a sidenote). Send a specific, “here it comes!”-style newsletter two weeks out.
- The week prior to launch, get the date solidified in your readers’ minds. Remind them through a newsletter update, and ask them to take specific action on the launch day (explain what action–buy it, review it, share it, etc.).
- The day of launch, remind your following of the release, and give them a link. Tell them to share it on their platforms, and with friends and family who might want to hear about it. Offer an incentive of some kind (contest, giveaways, prizes, etc.).
- The week after launch (specifically 1-2 days post-launch), THANK YOUR NETWORK. Remind them that this was a once-in-awhile thing, not a weekly occurrence–thank them for putting up with you, and remind them that they can jump into the incentives if they grab your book (or whatever your giveaway way).
- Two weeks after launch, share the results and thank everyone again. Remind them that you’re not going to be sending much more about it, but they can still grab the book at a reduced price.
And that’s it. Obviously, there’s infinite altering/tweaking you can do within that (scheduling your KDP Select free promo days right after the launch week, teaming up with other bloggers/newsletters, etc.), but you get the idea. Use your creativity, and have fun with it.
The point of the bell curve is that you “build up” toward an exciting and climactic launch week/day, and then quickly thank everyone and get out of the way. Don’t disappear, but don’t keep bombarding people with messaging–it might be perceived as spam.
4. Plan the long-term
How are you going to keep the sales up post-launch? If the launch doesn’t get you into the bestseller lists, are you going to have a backup plan for maintaing your “midlist” status?
I keep links on my sidebar to the latest books I’ve released/published, and I mention them in most posts, in some way or another. I have ads for the books in my posts, and I have them on my weekly newsletter sidebars as well. On top of that, you can use Twitter and other social networks to gently remind people/new followers of your previously-released books.
Don’t forget about price changes as well. I’ve had great success changing the pricing of my books/products in both directions, believe it or not. When you lower a price, you can mention it a lot that day on Twitter, and a few times thereafter. When you raise the price, the marketing is more “up front”–you’ll be saying things like, “Hey–my book is going up in price this weekend! Make sure you grab it now for cheap! [link]“
Also, look at bundling. If you have a group (I shoot for at least 3) of books on a related topic, or even a group of short stories, consider bundling them together at an enticing price–you can follow the bell curve launch strategy again, or you can choose to release it “secretly,” and just promote it after the fact.
5. Keep writing.
Many authors talk about the most important part of their careers–writing–as the most important part of their careers. It makes for a funny sentence, I know, but it’s true in more ways than one. Obviously no one can successfully market nothing, so you need to have a constant supply of writing projects to build that backlist.
J.A. Konrath claims that his best (only?) marketing strategy is having a huge backlist–and writing more and more stuff all the time. If you follow his blog, you’ll know that he writes a lot. If you struggle with writing quickly, check out The Write Practice and the Write Like Freddy program–both great options for improving the craft and speed of your writing.
I’m playing with publishing short stories, short nonfiction, longer works, and everything in-between. It’s a cool strategy that seems to be working, but it’s also really fun. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one category–or genre–of writing, especially if you’re a career-seeking writer.
Don’t give up. Just give more.
Write like your life depends on it–it might one day actually depend on it. Write everything you can, and publish everything you’re comfortable publishing. There’s certainly an expectation of quality you need to define for yourself, but it’s different for everyone.
I ended my book, Welcome Home: The Author’s Guide to Building A Marketing Home Base that way, and it’s so true. Whenever I’m down, or feeling like it’s “not working,” I realize that I could have given more here, there, or everywhere. I could have written A or B instead of taking a break, and I could have promoted the book on one more freebie site.
These aren’t bad things to think if you do with the expectation that you’re improving constantly. If you think like this to beat yourself up, it’s not healthy. But if you think these things to improve your marketing campaign and launch strategy for next time–you’re that much closer to the big win.
What do you think of this stuff? Do you like this content? Did I leave anything out? Leave a comment, and let me know! Also, if you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter let, here are a few reasons you should consider it.