For many writers, the actual process of creating a book is the easy part. Marketing it successfully is an entirely different story, one that requires intensive pre-planning, plenty of persistence, and a little technological know-how. Heilmann posits that successful marketing ought to begin as soon as the writer sets pen to paper. To get one's book in as many hands as possible, Heilmann urges authors to research the target audience, analyze the competition, and create a long-term road map for success. She offers a veritable treasure trove of quick, effective strategies that authors can use not only to market one book, but to build a credible platform that will serve them well throughout their publishing careers. Heilmann's marketing tips ought to be required reading for every aspiring and established writer who would like to turn a passion into a profitable career.
Chapter 1: Content Book Marketing
"Think and Grow Rich" is the title of a book by Napoleon Hill, a journalist, who studied 500 rich men over several years and boiled down their success into thirteen steps. Let’s change his book’s title into: “Think and Become a Bestselling Author”.
Here are some of Napoleon Hill’s findings: DESIRE, PLANING, and PERSISTENCE will lead you to success eventually. This is not so different from the modern-day concept of visualizing your writing and publishing goal. Authors who create value for others have the right to be as rich as they want. Becoming a bestselling author, or a wealthy one (not only money-wise), starts with your mindset.
Marketing Tip # 1: Research Your Potential Readers
It is surprising how few authors think about their future readers, and even less about their competition. Authors often do very little research in order to really understand their potential audience. When asking “Who is your audience, and who is your competition?,” one might receive only vague answers. These are topics that are not only very important for self-publishers, but also for authors who want to go with a traditional publisher. They need to prove to the agent or publisher that they have done their homework.
Analyze the readers of books in your genre and the bloggers that write about these books. Interview your beta reader(s) or the writers’ group where you are meeting regularly. Check out the reviews of books similar to the ones you are writing. Find out who the reviewers are. Read the profiles of community members on Google+, Goodreads, or LibraryThing. Join at least a handful of book communities in your genre on sites such as BookTalk, Wattpad, KindleBoards, Bibliophil, KindleMojo, etc.
Marketing Tip # 2: Research Your Competition
First of all, make a list with possible keywords that readers can use to find a similar book. Check out the complete categories/genres at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Waterstone’s, and so forth. Study all the books that could be similar to your future work. Visit several public libraries and bookstores to find books similar to the one you want to write in order to learn about your competition. Borrow the most interesting ones, not only to read them, but also to study the book layout and design. Read the online reviews of their books carefully!
Can You Answer These Questions?
- How many books, related to this topic or these keywords, have been published already?
- Where are these books sold, and for what price?
- In what format are they offered: e-book, print, audio book?
- Who are the customers of these competing books?
- How are these books received, and what ones are bestsellers?
- What categories did they choose, and what keywords?
- In which categories/genres are these books listed?
- What cover designs have been chosen for these books?
A Marathon–Not a Sprint:
Becoming an author-publisher is a long-term commitment and requires hundreds of small steps on the path to success! Before you start writing, create a road map. Take your time. See your writing and publishing efforts as a long-term project and avoid unrealistic expectations. First, create a professional-appearing book. Do the groundwork to build up your author platform, and then have fun, winning one reader at a time. The most successful self-publishers don’t view themselves as writers only, but as business owners. They invest in their businesses, hiring experts to fill skill gaps and to gain more time for writing.
Marketing Tip # 3: Use Content Marketing to Promote Your Books
Content marketing is a form of attracting readers/customers to you, the author, through the writing of short stories, blogs, magazine articles, guest blogs, etc. In other words, it’s marketing through your content rather than by paying for expensive advertisements. It’s a way to soft sell your paid writing. The object is to entertain (or educate) first and sell second. You should barely talk about your book. You can mention it in your author bio, but not in the actual writing content.
Writing content aside from your book will not automatically transform your book into an overnight success, but it is a wonderful tool for a long-term strategy. It helps to build an author platform, and it also gives your readers a valuable sample of your writing. And, when you write books for the joy of writing, all the better!
You have already the three main assets to become a successful content writer: your writing skills; the content you have already penned; and, the research you have done for your book(s). Your research can be used to write at least 20 to 30 articles or blog posts. If you regularly post them on Google+, it will boost your search engine ranking tremendously.
Here are some additional benefits of writing new content:
It is a subtle way to promote your book.
You will receive valuable backlinks to your website or blog.
You will have lots of opportunities to post on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can include links to your articles in an e-mail newsletter (that you hopefully send out regularly to your readers.)
Rewrite your articles a bit. Add more material, background information, interviews or statistics and offer them to magazines, newspapers, and more. Start with these: airline inflight magazines (which pay the most), Huffington Post, and Salon, who don’t pay.
Focus more on discoverability rather than selling. Your work is important, so help readers to find it. You can also post on your blog, or contribute guest blogs to other sites that are focused on the same topics as your book. Artists in other disciplines, such as musicians or ballet dancers, train six to ten hours a day. Become a prolific writer by doing the same. It pays; not only in financial terms.
Become a publisher and not just a seller! Content marketing guarantees you more of your readers’ trust! Become a part of your readers’ lives without selling. At least half of your marketing effort should be content marketing. Your writing content can be in a variety of media or formats: print, web, radio, social networks, video, and even web TV. More benefits of content writing: As more of your writing appears online and in print, and more people learn about you as an author, your writing and publishing success will increase.
Marketing Tip #4: Write More Books
I know, you might not consider this to be the main tip. However, are you not annoyed when Amazon, Apple, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble online retailers promote books of competing writers in your genre—often on your sales page, right underneath your own book?
“Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” disrupts your sales page. Potential customers are stopped in their tracks and encouraged to click on the books of your competition before they even scroll down to read your book reviews. If you only publish one book, then those slots get filled with books written by other authors. What if, instead of five competing books, five books in the same genre, written by you, were advertised on your sales page— for free? This would allow potential book buyers to see the whole collection of your titles. Isn’t this alone a reason to write and publish more books?
Marketing Tip #5: Write and Sell More Short Stories
It might take years until you have written so many books that only yours will show up as suggestions at online book retailers. A better way to promote your writing is to craft and sell short stories to magazines or as e-books. Another option is literary magazines, for example, that will offer the perfect opportunity for you to make your name and work available to the public. Short story competitions are immensely popular. They usually charge entry fees, which are used to fund the prize money and cover the expenses of the judges and online promotion. Try to work one a month into your regimen.
Readers have short attention spans. With smartphones, tablets and digital books, people are tending towards shorter pieces. With all the distractions from other forms of entertainment, it can be a struggle to set aside an hour or two and find a quiet spot to read a book. Short stories can be read in minutes while enjoying a break, riding the subway, or waiting in a queue.
The benefit for authors: Writing articles is one of the most effective methods to attract website visitors. If a reader values the content you write, they will often pass it on to their friends through social media sites, such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Include the right keywords in your content, so people will find your articles in the search engines. Submit these articles to online or print magazines, to newspapers, as guest blogs, or even to e-Zines. Always add your web links. Readers will click on these links and come to your website or buy your full-length books.
Jim Devitt wrote an article about reasons to write short stories. Here are the most important ones:
It takes time—a lot of time—to write a novel. If you have a new idea and you’re not sure how it will fly, you can always write a short story to test your concept. Within days or weeks, you can have a finished product.
Does your audience know you as a Young Adult, Romance, or Science Fiction (SciFi) author? Short stories give you an opportunity to test your writing chops in other genres. This will build a base of fans that will help you when you’re ready to tell the world that you are a horror writer, too!
Yes, you can actually earn money with short stories. Just ask Hugh Howey, author of WOOL. As successful as he is, he still earns royalties on published short stories.
Short stories are a great way to stay engaged with your fans between novels. Your short story could be a side story to a previous novel or an “origins” story, a prequel, which links to a character in your novels.
Many people hate the idea of giving a novel away for free. They have less of a problem doing so with a short story. Why not make a short story permanently free in order to open the door to new readers?
Many e-zines, magazines, and anthologies have contests rewarding the winners with publication, and sometimes even cash prizes. Having a couple of short stories ready to go could give you some material if one of these opportunities arise.
Writing short stories is not a short cut to book writing. It’s important to consider that a short story incorporates the same story development as a novel. Great short-article writing shows the real professional writer. Look at Stephen King’s short stories or many of The Atlantic’s articles.
Marketing Tip #6 : Publish Articles on LinkedIn
Linkedin http://Linkedin.com allows their members to publish articles on their site; completely new ones, or former blog articles slightly re-written. It gives you credibility, shows your expertise, and gives you more exposure on their site - thus more potential book readers. And if you have lots of followers, they all will read your posts because LinkedIn sends them your content via e-mail! Since I started writing from time to time on LinkedIn, I have suddenly gained lots of new followers. Your posts on LinkedIn can serve as a blogging platform—without any technical set-up or know-how.
Marketing Tip #7 : Sell Amazon Kindle Singles
Out of a couple hundred Kindle Single titles, more than 5 million have been sold in the last three years. 28 of these authors sold more than 50,000 copies. Now it is possible to write 5,000- (better yet, 10,000-) and up to a maximum of 30,000-word articles. Amazon calls them “Kindle Singles” and sells them online. A prominent author of these Kindle Singles is Stephen King. His Single, “Mile 81”, is a top seller. Individual writers may benefit the most from the program because it makes it easier for them to self-publish works that for reasons of length can’t find support from traditional publishers.
Marketing Tip #8 : Sell Short Stories to Magazines
Author W. Terry Whalin said: “I understand how people value books. I appreciate the worth and cost of writing a printed book for a traditional publisher and I have completed this task over 50 different times for many books. With one article, I have reached millions of people. The greatest feedback (and maybe the most money) that I have received has been for my magazine writing. I have written for more than 50 publications over the last 15 years.
Magazine writing leads to book publishing. Many beginning writers overlook magazine writing. Often these new writers (and even some of the older ones) are only trying to publish books.
Some people dream of holding their own novel while others are creating some how-to or nonfiction type of book. Each dream is valid and their work is to be applauded.”