I have a couple different companies and many, many products. Do I do a lot of marketing. Some works and some doesn’t. More importantly, some works some of the time. Almost nothing works all the time.
That’s why I do lots of different things.
Because of some networking circles I’m in, I meet a lot of authors. When I see their marketing, or talk to them about marketing, many of them are trying the same things. I guess that’s because they talk to each other.
I am a rare breed among authors: I make decent money selling my books and related products online, directly to my audience. Now, to do that I have have invested twenty-plus years into my profession and seven years building the book/seminar business. I mention that to keep expectations in line.
Every once in awhile, circumstances and timing allow someone to come from nowhere, try a simple-looking marketing plan, and sell millions of dollars worth of books. But that almost never happens, and there aren’t many useful lessons to be learned. Most of the time, you need to figure out some basic marketing strategies and make the most of them.
Note, also, that marketing is not sales. The goal of marketing is to get people into your sales funnel. These functions touch each other, but don’t overlap very much. Keep that in mind when evaluating marketing ideas. Ask yourself, for each marketing endeavor, “What is the goal of this marketing?”
I see four categories of marketing activity: Required, high value, medium value, and low value. “Value” refers to how effective each activity is at getting people into your sales funnel. Alternatively, if you have a different specific goal, it refers to the effectiveness of meeting that goal.
Here are some marketing ideas and my thoughts on them. Your mileage may vary.
Required Marketing Activities
I consider these required – and there are only a few of them – because they are absolutely required. You must do these if you want to make money selling books. Period. There are lots of things that people describe as “must do” activities, but there are lots of authors who don’t do those things.
- Web site – You need an author site. In my opinion, you need a book-specific site. I have dozens of web sites because I have dozens of products.
- Shopping Cart. This is tied to your web site(s) and allows you to collect money.
- Ebook versions. Whether it’s Kindle, Smashwords, or just a PDF you distribute from your web site. Ebooks are necessary because some people only want to order in that format. Give them what they want!
- Mailing list. This is the ultimate marketing tool. It is a direct line of communication between you and people who want to hear from you. This is a list of people who do not consider themselves strangers. Most of the rest of your marketing efforts will consist of adding people to this list.
High Value Marketing Activities
While not required, there are a few high value activities that I recommend all authors do. Most of these cost a small amount of money and take little bursts of time commitment. The exception is the production of an audio book, which can be significant. But the result is an additional format for selling your book!
- Articles. Submit articles to web sites, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and anywhere else you can think of. In some cases, you will get paid for this. But even if you don’t get paid, you’ll get publicity and links back to your web site.
- Audio Books. People LOVE audio books. If you have the experience or money to produce one, you will probably find people who would love to listen!
- Blog. If you really are an author, then writing an article (blog post) each month should not be difficult. You can use your blog to promote yourself and others, gather in new followers, and increase that mailing list!
- Domain Names (custom domains for your name and your book titles). Under “Required” activities, I mentioned a web site. That means any web site. Here I refer to a site name that is specific to you or your book. For example, publishyourfirstbook.com.
- Personal Assistant. If you have the ability to hire an assistant, you will be amazed at how much marketing work they can do for you. This includes virtual assistants and part time employees.
- Radio Interviews. What’s better for an author than being interviewed on the radio? Just make sure you have a snappy, easy-to-hear domain name.
Medium Value Marketing Activities
Some people might think some of these activities are high value. I put them in the medium category because, in my experience, they are good, solid, steady, slow marketing. Every author should have some videos. But unless one goes viral, it’s not going to have a dramatic effect on your mailing list.
- Author Video. Go to You-Tube and create videos for your books and other products. Here’s an example from one of my books:
- Freebies related to your book. Normally, these will be downloads. Ideally, you will trade an email address for the freebie. Hot tips, audio programs, book chapters, etc. Think about items related to your book and helpful to your audience.
- Book Reviews. Ask everyone you know to write reviews of your book on Amazon and other sites. Make sure you thank them!
- Email Newsletter. Once you have a mailing list, put out a newsletter at least once a month. Make it useful and valuable. You’ll keep current followers and draw new ones to you. Every newsletter should include drip marketing for your books and seminars.
- Marketing materials (handouts) for when you speak. With luck, you have small, medium, and even large speaking gigs. Always have a handout. Make it nice. Draw people to your web site, your blog, and your mailing list. Don’t expect many on site sales.
- Press Kit. Create a standard press kit to send out about your book. It doesn’t have to be big. Include information on yourself and how you can be reached.
- Press Releases. At least once a month, put out some kind of press release. Announce future project, speaking gigs, special events, etc. You can building a mailing list of media people by scouring their web site. Or pay for a “professional” press release distribution.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is an odd one. One one hand, everyone agrees that this is important. On the other hand, you should never someone to Search Engine “Optimize” your web site. The best you can hope for is that you get a high ranking for a short period of time. The way to kill with SEO is to write lots of good, valuable content. The search engines will find you.
- Social Media Services. IF – and it’s a huge if – you will jump into social media with both feet, create a marketing plan, and execute it month after month, then social media makes sense. And paying a service to give you a professional look and get you started is a great investment. If you won’t do anything after it’s all set up, then move this item down to the Low category.
Low Value Marketing Activities
While some of these activities might bring returns, for the most part they are a waste of time and money.
- Author Displays and Kiosks. Unless you’re on a major, sponsored roadshow and have a marketing plan that requires this extravagance, don’t even be tempted.
- Book Shows / Book Fairs. Most of the book fair offers are in the range of $500 to $2,500. I have never heard of any author that has ever attributed the sale of even one book to these events. They seem to exist so that brokers can sell packages to authors.
- Book Signings. Unless you’re just throwing a party and having a good time, don’t expect a good turnout or a lot of sales. My favorite video on this is: http://youtu.be/_ZoJ5OKmEJY
- Contests. Contest can be fun. But don’t pay a lot and don’t take them too seriously. I enter most of my books in some kind of contest each year just to say they’re “award winning” books. I almost put this in the medium category, but I don’t know if it has ever done me any good.
- Facebook Fan Page. Figure out how to create a page for your book. Post up information from time to time. Don’t expect a lot of traffic. But if you DO get traffic, be sure to engage people in conversations!
- Postcards, book cards, book marks, and business card-size ads for your book. It’s nice to have handouts (see handouts, above). But spending money on professionally printed bookmarks, etc. just seems like a waste to me. There’s no call to action on most. They don’t sell books or get people on a mailing list. With luck, someone will go to your blog. I think a useful freebie handout is better.
And don’t forget . . .
Your marketing doesn’t have to be perfect.
You just need to do it!