Publishing is not a field of dreams. They will not come just because you build it. It's surprising that so many authors today still make that assumption. Unfortunately, that’s just not how things work, at least for most of us. If you expect sales you need to set up your book marketing plan well ahead of actual publication.
When to Begin Marketing Your Book
Writing (and publishing) a book that will sell actually starts before the book is published.
Yes, post-publication book marketing is a huge part of selling more books, but authors need to place more value on what they do before the book is up for sale.
A Big Dose of Reality from a Literary Agent
Jane Friedman recently interviewed a literary agent about the changing landscape of fiction. While it focused heavily on how authors can get a publisher, these tips are equally relevant to indie authors.
Aside from a synopsis, prospective authors must provide a list of five comparable titles from the past five years. In addition, they must furnish a short marketing plan, a description of the next work in progress, and a list of alternate titles for the work being submitted.
What Does This Mean for You?
What’s the point of all the homework? With over 4,500 books published every day, literary agents need to know an author is serious about their success. Simply writing the book doesn’t cut it anymore. And what’s more, indie authors must hold themselves to the same standards.
We ask each of our author clients to provide a synopsis. And honestly, their ability to communicate about their book really drives whether or not we can work with them. Almost immediately, I start assessing if they have what it takes to succeed in this industry, and if it makes sense for us to encourage them to invest in professional marketing support.
If you can’t convince someone to buy your book, how do you expect to succeed on Amazon when you don’t have a captive audience?
Understanding Your Market
You must have a solid understanding of your target audience — what they like and dislike, what they expect, and what they want to see. A great way to do this is to take a look at what successful authors in your genre are doing.
This isn’t a time to fangirl over your favorite authors. Nor is it a dream board. Instead, your goal here is to prove there’s a market for your book.
Because if you’re going to put in the time and effort to publish a book, you want to be as sure about it as possible.
Building a Book Marketing Plan
Building a solid book marketing plan is next, and it’s important if you want to publish a book that will actually sell.
And while agents may require specific components or formatting, if you plan to self-publish, the intent is more important than the structure.
Ultimately, your goal here is to map out the marketing strategies that you plan to execute. Ideas might be blogging, social media, eBook promos, and really, everything in between. You also want to consider giveaways, your presence on Amazon and Goodreads, how to get reviews, and more. Every week I share essential book marketing strategies on my blog, so if you’re not reading up on it regularly, I encourage you to take the time to do so. It will really help give you a starting point.
Nothing sells books better than more books. Period.
Readers see you as an investment of their time and energy, and they’re more likely to buy if you’ve got another book coming out, even if it’s in the early stages.
Far too many authors want to test the waters with one book, and candidly, that’s not the attitude of an author who’s in it for the long haul. Not only will an agent smell that coming from a mile away, but your readers will too.
This relates back to the importance of a good marketing plan. Ensuring you have a plan of action shows that you’re serious on multiple levels, and that you have the skills to turn yourself into a brand that readers can get behind.
Opening Doors to More Sales
Creating alternate titles is a great exercise even if you don’t plan to submit to an agent. It stretches your imagination and opens doors to alternatives that may fit the market needs better. Even if you had a title in mind before you started writing, it’s important to acknowledge the number of changes that take place from the time you first put pen to paper and publication.
In this same vein, I also suggest brainstorming subtitles. You'll want to read this piece on the importance of subtitles because it’s become a really strong strategy for Amazon optimization. A well-designed subtitle is another sales opportunity that gives you a chance to speak to your genre and to work in your keywords.
Why All of This Work Matters
Book marketing can seem overwhelming. But the more you can do in advance to make sure you’re going to publish a book that will sell will spare you playing catch up — something I see authors doing every day.
So, if you can begin with a solid understanding of what tools you need to succeed, you’ll be far better off.
Know your reader, know your competition, and make sure you have a great marketing plan. Not only will you be starting out ahead, but you’ll be well-positioned to sell more books than the competition.
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.