Just what is “discovery” in book publishing? Simply put, it’s exposure for your book. Many in the industry, including both publishers and authors, believe exposure automatically equals sales. Actually, while gaining exposure isn’t that hard, it doesn’t guarantee book sales. We worked with an author who spent all of her book marketing money to purchase ads in advance of a film release, but ultimately the needle never moved on the sales chart. Her efforts didn’t yield a single sale.
So the challenge is not discovery. Why didn’t her method pan out? I mean, aren’t ads a good book marketing idea? The answer is: it depends.
How Readers Buy Books
Back in early 2017, I was at Digital Book World in New York, and one of the speakers brought a set of slides and some fascinating statistics. I learned that very few sales result from ads, but most books, an incredible 95% of them, are sold via word of mouth.
I know, I was amazed as well. Analyzing that percentage gives real insight into the type of marketing you should be focusing on — reaching the specific reader for your book. Anything less is a waste of time and resources. So how can you identify the precise marketing to target the exact reader who will not only become interested but will also tell their friends about your book? Who Exactly Is Your Target Reader?
When did you last try to figure out who your ideal reader is? When I speak to authors about this, they often tell me they haven’t focused on their ideal reader. They dive right into their book marketing campaign doing things that seem practical, yet they still may not reach their readers. What ultimately occurs is that they waste their book marketing budget on unsuccessful strategies and end up discouraged and maybe (sadly) giving up.
But the process of boosting your sales doesn’t have to be so challenging, and actually, it can be a whole lot easier than what you’ve been doing to date.
Why You Must Create a Book for Your Specific Reader and Genre
A critical mistake some authors make is to forgo reading widely in the genres they’re writing, which in turn, means they’re writing books that readers don’t want. Why? Because each genre has a specific set of guidelines and reader expectations, and this is true for every book genre out there.
Let me give you an example. I was teaching a class recently, and one of the students asked me about his book, which he said was his version of the life of Jesus Christ. Now, this gets complicated, because “his version” could get some questionable feedback if he pitched it the incorrect way or to the wrong people. I later found out the book was actually historical fiction, which presented a completely different market for him, and one he hadn’t considered. He had been focused on going after Christian readers to try and sell them on his ideas about what really happened. His book marketing efforts went nowhere, so I suggested that he change his marketing focus, pitch it as historical religious fiction, and laser focus on that market.
Misunderstanding Who Your Reader Is and Finding Ways to Market to Them
So, why did you write your book? Maybe you felt you had a story to tell. Perhaps you wanted to help someone do something better, or to teach your reader a new skill. Or maybe you wrote a romance novel to entertain, or a true crime book to enlighten. Whatever your reason, writing a book is an impressive accomplishment, but that was the easy part. Getting people to buy it is where the labor begins.
The first step is to identify your ideal reader. Let’s say that you’ve written a book about how to be a good step-parent. So you might automatically think: “Oh, my book should be in the divorce section!” This most likely won’t be the first place a step-parent will turn for information; they are more likely to search for family and parenting books, and this is where you should begin.
Taking the First Step Towards Finding Your Reader
So, using this as our model, what should our author consider? She should concentrate her efforts on parenting bloggers but should be aware that not every one of them will be interested in the step-parent aspect. Some may only target new mothers, and that’s alright because there are plenty of blogs out there. In fact, the author would probably want to start a blog of her own, posting once or twice a week about issues related to step-parenting and navigating the complicated world of parenting someone’s else’s kids.
Next, she should strategically use Amazon keywords and categories to match step-parenting topics. What about the topic of divorce? It should be next and also integrate with her message and focus. So she’ll target divorce blogs, keeping her attention on the parenting element. Her book marketing should never include anything that involves trying to convince the reader that they need her book, which means she should resist the lure of a broader market and keep her initial focus niche instead.
Your Amazon Book Page Should Sell Your Book (to the Right Reader)
Catering to all readers is one of the most common traps that authors fall into when marketing a book. Although authors want to gain as many readers as possible, they shouldn’t rush to capture such a wide audience right from the gate. All of your book marketing efforts should be focused on your core reader since they’re the ones who will help you sell more books. Your book description on Amazon should be focused on your core reader only, and it should be tightly written. Get rid of any flowery descriptions – these just bog down browsers who are most likely skimming your page.
When you turn your attention to keywords and categories, be mind-numbingly specific. Always remember that your core reader is the single most important focus of your campaign. So, for example, I worked with an author who wrote a romance novel that had elements of time travel and a hint of the paranormal. Now, paranormal readers are wildly specific about what they want in their books. “Elements” won’t satisfy them, so I advised her to stay away from that category. As it turned out, time travel had a more integral part in the story, and since this happens to be a separate category and keyword on Amazon, I advised her to focus on that. Yes, time travel could be considered paranormal, but if you read a lot of paranormal romance, you’ll understand why it’s not exactly right for that genre. Having an in-depth knowledge of your genre will dramatically help your efforts; otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark.
Your Amazon book page will have a ton of other products on it that they’re trying to sell. To keep your reader interested and to avoid having them click on similar items, you must make sure that your lead in the book description not only keeps them interested but is concise about what they’ll react to best. Reviewing book copy on similar book pages is an excellent way to start.
Why Your Book Back Matter Is Important
There’s no shortage of methods and techniques I can reflect on about marketing your book for additional exposure, but the main takeaway here is that once you have concrete knowledge about your genre and reader, what they’re looking for and how to hook them, the rest will surely follow.
So you’ve gotten them to finish your book — that’s awesome! Now, what will you do with your reader? Several years ago Goodreads did a study and found that the number one thing that readers want when they get to the end of a book is to engage with the author. Be strategic about the back matter of your book. An author bio is okay but won’t do anything to drive reader engagement.
How to Tell Your Readers What You Want Them to Do
There’s a marketing term called CTA, which means a call to action. I firmly believe that every book should have a CTA in the back, and this can be in the form of a letter to readers to ask them to review the book or get in touch. You might even offer a freebie as an incentive. Your back matter content is a fantastic opportunity to build your contact list and converse with your readers directly, elevating their loyalty and inspiring them to share your book with people they know. Remember the power of word of mouth promotion; these techniques are excellent ways to get the ball rolling.
How to Turn Readers into Super Fans
Book marketing is no easy task, and you may find yourself weighed down by its challenges. But with the assistance of only a few core devoted readers, it can be possible to discover hundreds of thousands of readers. Those devoted readers are called Super Fans, and they’re engaged, excited, and always happy to spread the word about your book.
The back matter is vital because it presents the opportunity for readers to connect with you and when that happens, you can show your appreciation for their support and start a faithful fan base. The thing about super fans is that you don’t need a lot of engaged and loyal readers to create momentum for your book. One reader has the potential to reach ten or more other readers. So if you have 50 people on your mailing list, that’s potentially 500 new readers. See what I mean?
As I mentioned earlier, expensive ads don’t always guarantee increased sales, but utilizing your book marketing efforts with precise, sound strategies will produce more successful results. Paying close attention to your readers and what they’ll most respond to, determining which social media and websites fits best for you, and creating a loyal following relieves a lot of pressure and guesswork in the book marketing process.
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon Optimization programs as well as Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing, and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.