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By William Ballard
What lies behind the incredible success of some of the most highly recognized independent authors? You know, the people like J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking, who we read about in blogs and news sites?
The answer is marketing.
That is, communicating the right message about their books to the right audience, through the right media, and over a period of time.
Sure, these authors have a lot of other things going for them, but you can't discount all the time and effort they put into spreading the word about their books, growing their brands, and converting readers into loyal fans.
Being a successful writer and author takes courage. If you are too scared to put your book out there into the marketplace and actually market it, then there is absolutely no point in writing one.
But for those of you that are looking to experience the same success as those authors above, it's time to get to the basics of book marketing.
Generally speaking, there are two ways to approach independent self-publishing:
Most self-published authors, because they are motivated by passion, take option #1. You can market either kind of book, but your results may vary. With option #1, you're counting on determination (and a little luck) to make your book interesting to people, marketable, and profitable. If you're publishing and selling a book you already know your readers want, you've taken option #2. Whichever path you've chosen, book marketing is paramount to helping you reach your goals.
Let's take a closer look at the basics.
Book Marketing As We See it Today
Book marketing is a big topic these days, so to make it more approachable, let's break it down into areas we can look at individually. When reviewing these areas altogether, you should have a complete look at what's involved in successfully marketing your book and allowing it to reach its full potential.
Having said that, the absolute first and most important element of all book marketing is... the book itself.
Why Do Books Sell?
There is absolutely no way of denying a good quality physical book. Quality products pay back marketing efforts 10 fold because once other people learn about and interact with the product, they are much more likely to buy it and recommend it to others.
In other words, potential readers really do judge a book by it's cover. You could have the most invaluable content in your book, but it doesn't really matter (at least not yet) if your potential reader can't get past the cover.
There are lots of different kinds of books, and we can point to a few clear reasons why some books sell better than others:
This last bullet point is the ultimate goal of our marketing efforts. You cannot force people to buy your book, no matter how much you spend on advertising or how many times you appear in television shows, or on the radio. A friend who tells you that you just "have to read it" is far more influential and convincing.
Keep in mind that you also need to make completely sure that there absolutely no errors or defects in your book before launching it , because a book that's poorly edited, hard to read or awkward to handle is going to have significant obstacles finding a wide readership. For this reason, make sure your book conforms to generally accepted editing and design standards so you don't handicap your own marketing efforts.
Okay, let's say you've done your research and put together a book you know people will want. It's been edited and designed flawlessly , and you're ready to go. What's next?
Marketing vs. Selling
First, it is important to understand the difference between marketing and selling, two aspects which are often confused by newbie self-published authors.
Selling is a transaction: one person exchanges money to acquire a product from another. That's not what marketing is about, and you'll be much more successful if you realize that you don't actually have to sell your book at all.
Your duty as an author/publisher is to market the book.
Marketing is communication: the process of taking the ideas you've put into your book and communicating those ideas - and your own passion for the subject - to as many people who might be interested in that subject as possible.
How do you communicate about your book? This is the basis of your marketing efforts, so it makes sense to pay attention to the parameters of your marketing. For instance:
Why You Need a Marketing Plan
To some authors, this part sounds like going in for dental surgery, and to others it's the reason they wrote their book in the first place. Even if you're not particularly looking forward to working on your marketing plan, spend some time thinking about these important points. You'll be glad you did.
First, understand niche-marketing. Most self-published books that sell well are in niche-markets. That is, they may be of interest to only a small segment of the book-buying public, but within that niche they are authoritative, influential, or groundbreaking in some way.
Remember this phrase: "If you try to please everyone you will end up pleasing no one." Focus your attention on to your niche-market and then let the market itself spread your message to other markets.
Understanding the niche into which you are publishing is critical for creating your marketing plan. For instance, when doing this, you will know where the readers interested in your book's subject matter tend to congregate, online or off, what other kinds of books they buy, and what motivates them to want to learn more about your particular topic.
These elements will form the basis of your marketing plan, and give you a step-by-step set of activities that you'll complete to reach the greatest number of people with your message.
Remember that your message is not, "Hey, I just published a new book, buy it." Your message is the same reason you wrote the book, more like, "Hey, did you know that there five rules that every successful writer follows? If you're interested in that kind of stuff, you may enjoy my new book which is now available for pre-order at Amazon."
Also, a big part of your marketing plan is likely to involve social media, and there are great reasons for that. Social media is the easiest, fastest, cheapest place to create a sense of intrigue for your book. It's constantly changing as far as features, yet it is consistently a way for people to communicate and network; and that will only increase overtime.
Setting Book Marketing Goals
As with most things in life, if you have no idea where you are going, you're unlikely to know when - or whether - you've arrived. That's why goals are important.
A key part of book marketing is establishing realistic, attainable, and exciting goals. What are your goals? They might be as diverse as:
With each of these goals, you can measure the effects of your marketing efforts to track your progress.
Next, you need to understand how to know whether you're meeting your goals.
In each of the goals I've listed above, there's a way to track your results. For instance:
Other Book Marketing Options
As you progress with your marketing, you can start to explore even more ways to make your book marketing effective. Here are some ideas to get started:
How to Create Your Long-Term Book Marketing Plan
Being a successful independent self-published author means creating a long-term game plan. Many marketing efforts take months or years to come to fruition, and as you mature as an independent self-published author, you will start to think of other books you can write and publish to further engage your current readership.
Here are some of the strategies you can put in place that could provide a huge pay off down the road:
Do these things, and as the launch of your book approaches, you'll be miles ahead in starting to market for it.
Communicating, listening to the responses you get, improving your products, and networking within your area of specialty will soon be part of your ultimate book marketing machine. And you will reap the success that comes with intelligent book marketing.
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About William Ballard
Freelance Writer, Copywriter, Blogger, Inbound Marketing Specialist, and Author, William Ballard, helps small businesses and entrepreneurs, like you, broadcast their message across the Internet (and offline through direct mail response) and be seen as experts in their field. He has been dubbed the Expert Marketer of Writing.
William, a writer and blogger since 2007, enjoys sharing with others his experience on how to become a successful writer, blogger, and author. View more about William Ballard →