A frustrated aspiring author recently asked me, “How do I rise above the noise out there? Sure, I can get a book on Amazon, but how do I get people to notice it and buy it?”
What a great question. Here is how I answered him.
The first thing you need to do is throw away all of your preconceptions of the world of publishing. Book publishing today is a whole different animal than it was 15, 10, five, or even two years ago. Forget every piece of old advice and urban legend you ever heard about publishing. Start fresh.
Today is the era of the self-published book. Somewhere around 2 million books are published in the U.S. each year – that number includes traditional “Big Five” publishers, small independent publishers and one-time authors. An author advocacy group, Author Earnings, recently reported that “indie published books” now make up 31 percent of daily e-book sales on Amazon. Another six percent of daily sales are from authors publishing through Amazon.
This means that even if you are a first-time, totally unknown author you have a chance to get people – more than just your friends and family – to buy and read your book. But just putting your book on Amazon won’t get you where you want to go. Here are first steps in making yourself heard in the very noisy world of book marketing.
- Think e-book and paper book. If you are writing fiction, you should start with an e-book first. Non-fiction writers should still have a paper book right away. Why? Because the non-fiction writer’s best way to sell a book is through seminars, while fiction writers can most quickly make a name in the online world.
- Be Polished and Professional. Your editing, proofing and formatting should be excellent. Make sure your book is polished and professional. Your formatting, for e-book or paper, must be excellent, too.
- Covers sell books. Paying a graphic artist for an interesting, professional cover will pay off in sales.
- Have a Searchable Title. You’ve thought of a great title, Google it, and find that someone ele – maybe even 30 someone else’s, have thought of it, too. Don’t get lost in the crowd. Come up with a new, brilliant title. You can also use a subtitle to help differentiate your book.
- Have the Right Metadata: Metadata is words and phrases that make your book searchable on the internet. Make sure your book is categorized properly; the more detailed, the better. You’ll be able to choose categories when you place your book on Amazon.com and when you register your ISBN. Some categories have many more sales than others, making it harder to get good rankings. Don’t just label your book “mystery,” or “self-help.” Be specific: “Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Women Sleuths” or “Nonfiction > Self-Help > Self-Esteem.” (I’ve taken these straight from Amazon.com.)
- Become a Self-Promoter: If you don’t do it, no one else will. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Twitter, and any other social media where people who read books similar to yours hang out. Don’t forget your friends. Go on Facebook and ask them to buy your book. If it’s online, you are only asking them to spend a few dollars; $2.99 is a lot less than they would pay to have a cup of coffee with you.
- Ask for Reviews. Reader reviews are extremely important in online sales. Your first goal is ten reviews. Why? Because once you have ten, you are eligible for a variety of online promotions. Again, ask your friends to review your book. Tell them to be honest.
- Write a second book. And a third. Use book one as a “loss leader” to attract people to your more recent works.
- Don’t give up. Many people market a book for two or three months, then get bored and quit paying attention to social media, book rankings, and promotional opportunities. Just remember, the day you stop marketing your book is the day it stops selling.
Speakers at the Winter Writers’ Weekend, MARCH 4-6, 2016 will be discussing all of these techniques, and more. Our fourth annual event where you’ll learn from the experts about how to gain the attention of book bloggers and book review websites, why a book trailer can increase your book sales, and how to make an audio book. Register early.