THE BOOK PROMOTION TOOL BOX
Do you have the right tools to promote your book?
As an author, you must promote your book if you want to see significant sales, and that is true whether you self publish, publish with a small commercial publisher, or with one of the big New York publishers.
Whether you publish your book yourself or publish with a commercial publisher, you need a basic Promotional Tool Box.
The home page should include cover thumbnails and buy links for your books, a huge, eye-catching image that represents your brand, and a free-gift newsletter signup box. You can include pages devoted to your book worlds, a books page with excerpts and buy links, a calendar if you wish, and a blog. (You can skip the blog if you want to work a different social media platform regularly.) Make sure that it works on tablets and a phone.
Social Media Platform:
You do need a medium that allows you to be in touch with readers to make them aware of price discounts, new books, and to distribute entertaining content such as book reviews, free offers for books like yours, fun YouTube videos, interesting webpages, and the like. Include a mix of 80% entertaining content and 20% ‘about my book’ information. You can use Facebook, a blog, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, or others, depending on where your readers’ interests and where they tend to hang out.
An email service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp will cost you some dollars as your email list grows beyond their ‘free’ limit, but you must have a good service. Cheap services get blocked by host spam filters and never even get to the recipient’s spam file on their computers. The email list is your most important promotional asset. You will use it to offer discounts, ask readers to review your book, announce a cover reveal or book launch, or the like. Create a ‘sign up for discounts and news‘ box and include the link on your website, your email signature line, your ebook back matter — any place you can. Offer signers free content for signing — the services will let you do that. Collect email address through contests or giveaways on your website.
Put the book out with Select for the first year or until book two launches. Yes, it’s only on Amazon now, but you want the Kindle Unlimited exposure and most ebooks are still purchased on Amazon.com. Readers can read books for free on Kindle Unlimited, KU, and they will try new authors. If they like you, they will pay for books later on. After that initial launch with Select ‘go wide’ when you have another book or two out by dropping Select and putting the book out on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. You want the greater price control that going wide allows you to have on Amazon. When you have at least 2 other books out, this book should stay free, ideally. Nothing competes with ‘free’ for reaching new readers and it will always be available to use on InstaFreebie or other giveaway services.
Cover and Blurb:
The cover must look professional and suit the genre. Hire a good pro and expect to pay $250 – $500 for the cover. If you cannot write a movie-trailer quality blurb, pay for one if you’re going to use one. Those two things either send the browsing reader to read the ‘look inside’ sample or they prompt that reader to move on.
Your book will not sell if it is priced too high. In 2017, spring, the sweet spot is and has been for the last year, $3.99 for the ebook. Print book sales will not be significant right now, and are there mainly for those people who want to buy a gift for someone. Price the print book to give you a $1 royalty and don’t worry about price beyond that. Buy author’s discounted copies to sell at conferences and readings or to place in local bookstores. As of 2017 there are NO good distribution options to get self published or small press commercial print books into US or Canadian brick and mortar bookstores. You CAN get scammed, however, so be aware of that if someone offers to get your books into the brick and mortar bookstores.
Free content is king for expanding your email list. Publish novelettes or longer stories as stand alone ebooks with a professional cover, create short collections, and use them solely as free giveaways with InstaFreebie. Every person who downloads a free book ends up on your email list.
Paid Facebook Ads:
They are cheap to experiment with. Keep good notes so that you can calculate your per-action cost, and set CLEAR goals for that particular ad. As you begin to fine tune the particular type of boost that works for you, they can become cost effective PR. You can buy paid ads on all the social media platforms, so spend money where your readers hang out.
Paid Kindle Ads:
They are not cheap and some knowledge of Google Ad Words strategies will help you, but in general, until your book is showing up as an ‘also bought’ on Amazon and the search spiders are bringing it up for browsing readers, you will probably not see a good ROI. Readers realize the ‘sponsored product’ means somebody paid to show up on their page whether the book is any good or not and are wary. Work on your Amazon category rank first and bring it to #1 in your category before you spend money here.
Use your ‘free days’ with Kindle Select to make your book FREE with BookBub (if they accept you — it’s hard to get on their list), Fussy Librarian, or BookBarbarian if your book is speculative fiction. Books Butterfly seems to work well at their more expensive levels, not so good at the cheaper levels. Combine the discounted book offer with newsletter and FB boosts for maximum effectiveness.
SCHEDULE YOUR PROMOTIONAL TIME
Create a time budget for yourself for writing time and promotional time. Then stick to it! Writing is critical and it can be easy to get fixated on promotion and social media. You must have that next book to publish or your momentum will falter! But promotion is also critical. You WILL NOT sell significant books without it, and if you hate it, it’s easy to put the work off. Make a monthly schedule and stick to it.
The Long Tail:
The NY sales model yields high numbers in year one when the book is on the ‘new release’ shelf in the brick and mortar bookstores. Except for the rare blockbuster bestseller, sales plateau or fall dramatically after that year as the print books vanish from the bookstore shelves. New York ebooks are generally priced too high to allow new authors to reach readers and few commercial publishers if any will permit authors to have any price control. There goes your most important promotional tool… It can be very difficult to maintain or increase sales.
The Independent sales model is a relatively low number of sales the first year, even when you set up a campaign to make the ebook rank #1 – 3 in its category on Amazon.com. You want to concentrate on reaching readers, not making money from paid sales. As you publish more books and build a loyal fan base, your sales will keep rising.
IF YOUR BOOKS SUIT THE READERSHIP YOU ARE TARGETING the author can expect a 5 figure per year royalty return by book six. (It can be higher, this the basic level for a good book and regular effective promotion that I see.) That is based on a $2.80 royalty on a $3.99 ebook, and includes KU page reads and print book sales (which are invariably low). This does require a continuous ‘maintenance level’ promotion plus launch campaigns and regular ‘big push’ campaigns to outreach to new readers. It also requires a minimum 1 new book a year or even more often for some readerships (romance, military SF, and urban fantasy, for example).
The main reason well promoted books fail to reach that level of sales is that the book does not meet reader expectations. Do not assume that your book does. No amount of promotion can make a book sell well if it does not suit the readership. Get an evaluation and make sure that the book is ready to publish!
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR YOUR BOOK
Every book has a unique promotional profile, and the promotion that works well for Book A may be a dismal failure for Book B. You need to set up a specific goal for a campaign — increasing your email list, getting reviews on Amazon.com, or increasing your sales — and combine the tools that suit your book and your readership to achieve that goal with your campaign. Then you need to do it again and again, and again. That’s simply part of book marketing!
If you have a good book and use your tools effectively, you will sell books!
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