Writing a book is just the start, now it's time to get marketing.
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So, you’ve written a book (or you’re thinking of writing a book). Congratulations, you’ve done the easy part! If your shoulders just slumped then you’re in good company, as promotion is the single biggest challenge facing most independent (self-published) authors.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts, there’s one critical piece of advice I must impart – if you’ve already written your book and don’t fancy some heavy editing, you may wish to turn away now.
The promotion and marketing of a book should be planned BEFORE you write a single word. This strategy is called ‘writing to market’ and it’s the method some indie authors have used to generate seven-figure incomes (and how I’ve sold over 120,000 novels).
In simple terms, you need to identify your target audience and write a book which resonates specifically with that audience. This is critical, as Amazon’s virtual shelves are heaving with millions of books and promoting to an audience of ‘everyone’ is doomed to failure in the indie world.
Let me give you an example.
In 2016 I began planning my first novel; a time-travel adventure. However, there are approximately 7,000 time-travel novels currently listed on Amazon.co.uk, so how could I possibly stand out in such a crowded marketplace? The answer was to write for a niche audience within the genre.
Firstly, I decided the narrative would be distinctly British: the language, the cultural references and the humour. Secondly, I set the novel in a period I knew would resonate with readers like me – the 1980s.
Those two decisions cut my potential market by about 95%, but I knew the remaining 5% (British readers aged 40-60) would embrace my novel if I did a half-decent job with the writing.
That novel went on to become a bestseller and, at the time of writing, it still features in the top-twenty time-travel novels on Amazon.
Apologies if I sound like a narcissist, but it does demonstrate the importance of identifying who your readers are before you decide on the book you're going to write. If you do, targeting those readers most likely to buy your book is both easier and cheaper.
One final point if I may.
Ask yourself if your book delivers a great first impression. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what readers do, so your ‘product’ must look as good as those being churned out by major publishing houses. A major reason some indie authors struggle to attract readers is because their covers aren’t up to scratch.
If you create an amateurish cover it will stand out for the wrong reasons, so invest in a professional cover designer. Once a reader has seen your beautifully designed cover, they want compelling reasons they should buy your book. Therefore, a short, impactful description is also crucial.
Assuming you’ve created a product as polished as it can be, here are my top recommendations for promoting it…
What better place to promote a book than on the world’s largest online book retailer. If you scroll through any book category in Amazon, you’ll spot sponsored listings – those are Amazon Ads. You pay a set amount every time someone clicks your advert and Amazon will track purchases to ensure you’re getting a decent return on your marketing spend.
When setting up your adverts you can decide which keywords trigger your ads and those keywords could be the title of similar books, or popular authors who write in your genre.
There are two different platforms for Amazon Ads—one for advertising in the US, and a separate one for UK advertisers—so you’ll need to set-up two different accounts if you wish to target readers in both countries.
There are dozens of book promotion services but BookBub is undoubtedly King of the Hill with a reputed mailing list of three million subscribers. Every day, BookBub emails its army of readers a list of the latest book deals.
Having your book featured in that email is considered the holy grail of book promotion by indie and traditionally published authors alike. If you want to hit a bestseller list, BookBub is the promotional tool most likely to help you realise that aim.
However, there are two issues with BookBub. Firstly, it’s not cheap with an international promotion in certain genres costing over £600. On the upside, most authors see a decent return on that investment, but like all marketing there is a risk involved.
Secondly, every author wants a BookBub promotion, so demand exceeds supply. In my experience, you’ll need to submit your book for consideration sixteen times before you’re accepted, and you have to wait four weeks between each submission (of the same book). Patience and persistence is the key to success with BookBub.
As a slight addendum, BookBub has launched its own sponsored advert system similar to Amazon Ads. I don’t think it’s as effective as the Amazon platform, and nowhere near as impactful as its email promotion, but some authors have had success so it is certainly worth considering.
Over 40-million people in the UK now have a Facebook account, so it’s a no-brainer as far as promotional tools are concerned. And with the ability to laser target any audience, you can easily reach your ideal readers using Facebook Advertising.
For example, you can target people who like an author in your genre, or if you write non-fiction, people who like pages about the subject of your book.
A word of caution, though – the cost per click can be prohibitive if you only have one book available; particularly if that book is priced at £2.99 or less.
Experiences will differ for every author, but I didn't generate enough income to consider writing full-time until I released my fourth novel. If you want to make a career out of writing, it's highly unlikely you'll do that with just one book to your name. Therefore, the most effective way to sell more books is to write more books.
Keith A Pearson is a bestselling author from Hampshire. You can learn more about his work and writing career at www.keithapearson.co.uk, purchase his newest book Tuned Out, or browse his other novels on Amazon.