As a former Barnes & Noble community relations manager, I have ten years of experience working with authors and promoting books. And in my current agency role, I have a fair amount of knowledge in current marketing strategies and tactics. Still, even for me, successful book promotion is a big topic. In April, I was interviewed by Dr. Judith Briles in her weekly podcast for her company, AuthorU. Judith works with and educates authors on successful book promotion and helps them get their book from concept to distribution. She interviewed me to gain some insights on how authors can promote their books more effectively. (You can click here to download the segment.) If you're more visual, here are some takeaways from our talk:
The 7 Steps to Successful Book Promotion
(In the podcast, I talk about five steps, but there's actually seven when you add in writing the book and understanding your book's unique value proposition.)
1. Write a Book Worth Reading
Successful book promotion starts with a book worth reading. Just because you can self-publish, doesn’t mean you get to cut corners and write dreck. Write the best book you can write. Get a good editor to help you hone your story. And always keep your reader in mind when you’re writing. Will they find this useful? Entertaining? Enlightening? Ultimately, you are writing for them, not yourself. If you’re writing a book for yourself, that’s called a journal.
2. Research The Book Market
Part of writing the best book you can write comes down to researching what is currently available in the marketplace and what’s already been written on the topic (Or if you’re writing fiction, what’s been written in the genre). See what traditional publishers deem print-worthy and what readers find read-worthy and learn from them.
3. Define Your Target Market
Who is going to read your book? Who will find it interesting and a must-read? Is it stay-at-home moms? Electricians? Mystery lovers? Make sure the market is big enough and that it is also reachable. There may be a fair number of albino salmon fishermen in the world, but how are you going to reach them? Also, if your material is so niche as to only appeal to a very limited audience, say that of you and your mother, it’s probably not really a book worth writing.
4. Understand Your Unique Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition (UVP) is comprised of two things. First, what is different about your book? Second, what is special about you as the author of it? Your UVP has to be part of your promotional messaging. For example, if you are a zoologist and your book’s protagonist is a zookeeper, you offer readers an informed point of view on zoos and zoo employees that is unique. Further, your UVP outlines how your book is distinct from what’s already available in the market. For example, your book is the first with a zookeeper as crime fighting super sleuth who uses his animals to help him solve crimes.
5. Craft a Strategy
Once you’ve written the book, you are no longer, as Judith Briles says, the Chief Writing Officer. Now you are the Chief Marketing Officer, and you must market your book. Unlike the movie, Field of Dreams, where if you build it, they will come, no one will read your book until you promote it. Successful book promotion requires effort.
Assuming you’ve written a good book, done your market research, designated your target market, and realized your unique value proposition, now it’s time to craft a strategy. Your strategy statement covers the who, what, and why of your book promotion. For example, “I will tell avid mystery readers, zoo supporters, and animal lovers (who) that my book features a one-of-a-kind crime fighting team of a zookeeper and his animals that will delight their imaginations (what) because it’s written by a zoologist who trains bears in his spare time” (why). The statement says who the target market is, what are they going to get, and why the writer and the book is unique.
6. Choose Tactics
Tactics are the delivery method for your strategy. And this is where most authors make their mistakes. They choose tactics first before doing any of the previous steps I’ve outlined. They’ll decide even before they have finished the book that they’re going to promote it on Facebook--or a book tour or flyers or with whatever they feel most comfortable.
Selecting your delivery channels is one of the last things you do. If you’ve done the previous steps correctly, your tactics will practically choose themselves when you factor in your budget.
Tactics can be digital or traditional. Traditional methods are TV, radio, print, live readings, snail mail, conventions and conferences, and media relations. Digital methods are websites, videos, podcasts, webinars, pay-per-click advertising, email campaigns, social media, and marketing automation. (Digital tactics are always evolving, so this is a partial list.) Your budget will largely shape your choices as different tactics come with varying price tags. TV, radio, print and pay-per-click advertising are generally the most costly. Keep in mind that each approach has a time price tag as well. If you know that blogging and social media are the best tactics given your audience, message, and budget, you have to allot time in your schedule to create the content to feed these channels.
7. Measure Your Efforts
Whatever tactics you choose, you must measure the results. Successful book promotion requires learning what’s working and what’s not and adjusting your efforts accordingly. You don’t want to spend precious time and money on things that aren’t garnering sales. Find what works and keep doing it.
Download the podcast for more specific information on things I’ve seen authors do well and things you should never do to promote your book.
If you want to learn how to get media coverage for your book, I'll be speaking for AuthorU on Saturday, May 6th in Denver on how to leverage the media to sell more books. You can register for the event here.
Finally, if you are an author who doesn’t want to become a marketing expert, contact FiG Advertising and we’ll handle your book promotion for you.