Every year, I attend several conferences — and it’s a part of my job that I really love. Not only do I get a chance to reconnect with some of our clients who have become great friends, but I get to meet authors who are really movers and shakers in the industry. Especially when it comes to book promotion, these conferences attract the savviest authors who are kicking ass and taking names. While their individual book marketing strategies and genres vary — they all follow what I’ve come to consider is a core set of practices for author success. While you may not adopt every single one of these ideas, keep them in mind as you grow your own book marketing.
Understand the Difference Between ROI & Readership Growth
This is a big one, and candidly, ROI is a moving target, even for authors with an established reader base and lots of books. But what every author needs to understand is that your marketing efforts are cumulative. Don’t make the mistake of living and dying by ROI. Instead, allow your marketing efforts — and their results — to build on one another, and ultimately, bring in sales. So since you can’t focus on metrics and ROI, how should you measure your success? By readership growth. Anything else wastes your time and isn’t all that accurate to start with.
Take Action: Put together a marketing plan and calendar that focuses on building — and tracking — your readership growth.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut
It’s so easy to find your comfort zone and stay in it. However, now, more than ever, you need to put a focus on changing things up. After all, the marketplace is anything but static. So, keep your eye out for new trends, newsworthy stories that tie into your book, and innovative marketing ideas. Don’t be afraid to try new things. They might pay off big, or they might tank. And both are ok. The most successful authors adapt and are self-reflective. When a new idea doesn’t work, instead of playing the blame game, they figure out what happened and move on from there. Some examples might be: a different ad or different timing might have had better play; your book cover could be stronger, or perhaps readers are getting tired of a specific kind of hero/heroine. Adapting to changes is crucial to building your author success.
Take Action: Make a list of all of your marketing strategies, and focus on what is working and what isn’t. Then, spend some time reviewing what isn’t working and determine why and your action plan moving forward. Don’t forget to update your marketing calendar and any tracking with your new plans. This is a great way to review your efforts and decide if you’re doing enough.
It’s Critical to Write What People Want to Read
If a siren is going off in your head saying “well, no kidding,” that’s ok. This may seem like a ridiculous statement, but it’s incredibly true. Although you should write either what you know or what you want to write, don’t forget to consider your readers and what they want — or need — to read. Know the demands of your genre, and don’t write a book just because that genre is hot right now without doing your research. This will help you sell books.
Take Action: Find at least 5 books in the top 100 for your genre that align with your book (topic, theme, etc.). Why? This will show that you’re writing something people are interested in and buying. Can’t do it? Consider updates you may have to make to ensure you have a saleable product. Another strategy is to take the time to really read the reviews of the top and bottom books in your genre. And, as you go, start building a list of trends, demands, stellar compliments, as well as constructive criticism as a way to develop inspiration for your next release.
Hope is Not a Marketing Plan
I say this often. Don’t release your book and pray it does well. Have a plan, an actual, executable plan that you know you can work… Every. Single. Day. Hire someone to help do the stuff you can’t, or don’t want to be bothered doing. Know what you’re good at and what you need to outsource.
Take Action: Develop your marketing plan, ensure it goes out a full calendar year and be sure to plan for at least one more release.
Keep Writing in Your Genre
Writing one book with a plan to ‘see what happens,’ is almost a guaranteed plan to fail. Just like you can’t build a successful business with just one product, if you write only one book, you limit your audience. Why? Successful authors know that your second book helps to market your first, and your third book helps to market your first and second and so on. This remains true, even if you write different books that aren’t necessarily a series if they follow a common genre or theme. The example I’ll give you is that my books all address various aspects of book marketing. Although none comprise a definitive series, all together, they could be considered a book marketing series. I have a lot of return buyers who want to continue to hone their marketing skills. And that’s what you really want — return buyers. And even if you’re not writing nonfiction, remember this: readers, especially fiction readers, love a series. If you’re trying to launch your career the best thing you can do for yourself is write often and write in a series.
Take Action: Plan a publishing schedule and block out time to write on your calendar. Even if your publication dates are a moving target, having a goal and dedicating your time to writing is 1000 times better than winging it.
Covers Reign Supreme
I write about the importance of a killer book cover. Like yours, but never fall in love with it, because that’s when you lose your perspective and ability to make good judgment calls. And, as more books are published, this truth only grows. Otherwise great books with great marketing will fail if their covers are terrible, but so will those with even marginally bad covers. If the cover is bad, no one will ever know how good your book is.
Take Action: Make a list of the top 10-15 books in your genre, and start comparing their covers. Similarities might include imagery, font size, and style, colors, etc. Then compare your own cover. If it doesn’t fit the mold, start talking to designers.
If Your Editor Doesn’t Make You Cry, Find a New One
People always laugh at me when I say this, but it’s true. The best editor is one that you have a love/hate relationship with. They should push you to grow as a writer, and in fact, mine sometimes makes me cry. If your editor returns your book without any edits or suggestions and claims to “love everything about it,” they are not acting in your best interest. No one, not even a bestselling author, is such a good writer that their first draft is perfect. In fact, top authors will tell you that their first effort is always crap. Think of your editor as a personal trainer for your writing. They’ll push you to keep doing pushups until you’ve executed those 10 perfect ones.
Take Action: If your editor doesn’t measure up, leave this pitfall behind and start interviewing someone else! Sometimes you don’t know how much better you can be until you give a different editor a chance. And it’s not personal — it’s business, and your success is what will suffer.
Treat Your Readers Like They Are Gold
This is something you’ll hear from every successful author. Take the time to connect with your readers on a personal level. Invite them into your world and to be a part of your journey. One author I spoke to said that her readers help ensure that she gets 50-60 reviews within two weeks of a book launch, and I think this is a solid goal as you grow your readership. You can accomplish that personal connection any number of ways, and in any medium, including social media! Another idea is to remember birthdays or send a note if you see something about a sick family member, a birth or death in the family. Yes, it’s work, and yes, it takes time. But it’s worth it. Spending some time each week connecting with your readers will pay bigger dividends than any ads could possibly offer.
Take Action: Make time to connect with at least one reader every week in a personal way. It won’t take long to become natural, and your entire online presence will shift in very positive ways.
Narrow Your Networking Focus
When I was first in business, I went to a lot of networking events, pounded a lot of proverbial pavement, and handed out a ton of business cards. I was busy, but now I question how productive I was. Now, I’m finding that less is more when it comes to networking. Build a core group of people you can count on. It might be made up of authors in your market that can act as a sounding board for you to run ideas by, and maybe even work together on collaborative promotions.
Take Action: Find an author network you feel comfortable utilizing, and then use it! Make this valuable tool work for you. Don’t just pay the dues and consider it a win.
Nurture Your Micro-Influencer & Super Fans
Super fans are readers who are crazy about your work. But the funny thing is, you don’t need a lot of super fans to make a difference. And, they don’t have to wield a huge circle of influence. Micro-influencers are becoming a big thing these days. While a Twitter account with a million followers sounds like a big draw, how many followers actually see shared content? Here’s another instance where less can be more, especially when they are super engaged. 5 people who buy your books and share your content is more important than 1000 people who never share a single post. Consistently engage with them and get to know them. Then, build and engage your next 5, and on down the road. All successful authors form their village one fan at a time.
Take Action: Create a superfan group and start building your group of… well, groupies. And if you don’t know where to start, contact me. I’d love to help you out.
It takes a heck of a lot of work to be a successful author. And you want to make sure you work smarter not harder in order to make the most of your time. If you truly want to stand above the crowd, these habits of successful authors are not simply optional, they are a must. As in, to be successful, you must begin incorporating them into your marketing practices. Be patient, be persistent, and be consistent. Dig in, make the adjustments you need to, and watch your hard work pay off as your author success trajectory grows.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.