What Makes Shopping for Books so Wonderful? #PoweredByIndie

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

SHOPPING FOR BOOKS

Consider the following Tale of Two Stores.

You walk into a department store. What do you see? Sony. Levi’s. Apple. Nike. LazyBoy. Everything is branded. You’re in a big business. Many of the products for sale were manufactured by big businesses. Ultimately, people were involved at some stage: design, manufacture, assembly, shipping, merchandising, advertising deals, etc. Much of the work may also have been automated.

Now you walk into a bookstore. Obviously, you see thousands of books. And there are big brands around, if you look closely enough to see the names of the popular publishing houses. Yet the experience is vastly different.

Most of the books were conceived of and written by, to a large extent, a single human being. You’re surrounded by thousands of such works. They share unique experiences. They store knowledge. They weave words together in unique ways.

Shopping for books, and reading, these are very personal experiences.

Think about that the next time you’re browsing for a book to read.

Even if it’s not in a bookstore. At Amazon, for example, when you’re searching for a book in your pajamas, you have millions of books at your fingertips. And each work offers a personal experience for you.

Not all of the books are published by the big publishing houses. Many are published by small, even family run publishing houses.

Well over a million are published by indie authors. When a single author handles not just the writing, but also plays the supervisory roles of cover design judge, editing overseer, interior design judge, marketing coordinator, etc. (perhaps even doing much of this work independently), the experience is arguably even more personal.

I’ve read several indie books lately, and I enjoy that personal touch. From unique chapter headers to the little thank-you notes in the back of the book, I appreciate how their personal touches spread from cover to cover and even show on the product page (not just in the author’s biography, but in the product description and selection of editorial content).

Many indie authors have learned, through experience or by necessity or by motivation (or probably a combination of all of these), a great deal about marketing. One of the points that many authors agree on is that the author himself or herself can become a very strong brand.

That’s because readers aren’t just looking for a story or knowledge.

Readers like to feel a personal connection with the author to some extent. Learning more about the author, the person, the man or woman behind the words, even little personal notes… all of these things can help to enhance such a personal connection. (So, authors, you have the chance to begin this personal experience in your marketing.)

Shopping for books and reading can be personal experiences.

A book is much, much more than a mere product.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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What I Love about Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) for KDP Select

Models

AMAZON MARKETING SERVICES FOR KDP SELECT

My post will include both the benefits and challenges of using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise KDP Select e-books.

I don’t intend for my title to imply that it will give instant success to all books. It won’t.

I will begin with what I like about AMS—for which there is much—and then I will address some of the challenges and offer tips for attempting to use it effectively.

A few years before AMS was introduced to KDP, I had discovered the Amazon Media Group. Many big vendors for a wide variety of products have used and continue to use the Amazon Media Group’s advertising services.

I had a conversation with the Amazon Media Group about their advertising services several years ago about possibly running an advertising campaign for one or more of my books.

This was before indie authors had the opportunity to advertise directly on Amazon using AMS via KDP Select.

The problem was that the minimum campaign budget was $10,000. If I recall correctly, an ad would generate 10,000,000 impressions over the course of a month.

If you achieved a typical click-through rate (ctr) of 0.1%, you would net 10,000 visitors to your product page. If you achieved a better than average closing rate of 10%, you would net 1000 sales.

But then you would need to earn $10 per sale just to break even.

And if your ctr was below average, or if your closing rate was 1% to 5%, which isn’t uncommon for e-books, and if your royalty was around $2 to $3 per book, you could easily lose thousands of dollars on the deal.

I didn’t place an ad back then because it was very high risk. I’ve since heard stories of a few authors who shelled out the big bucks for a campaign back in those days who lost big.

That’s one reason I love the AMS option for KDP Select e-books.

A minimum campaign budget of $100 is tiny compared to $10,000. AMS made advertising accessible to KDP Select authors.

It’s much lower risk now. It basically wasn’t an option before, as most authors didn’t know about it and those who did generally couldn’t afford it (even if they had the funds, the risk was high).

And you don’t even have to spend the $100 budget. You can pause or terminate your campaign at any time, keeping any losses to a minimum. (Though there are reporting delays, so even after you end a campaign, for several days it can continue to accrue costs. By not bidding too high, you minimize this risk.)

Every author naturally wonders if advertising will help. Now by enrolling your e-book in KDP Select, you can find out, and it doesn’t cost too much to see the results (provided that you don’t get impatient and bid too high). Then you won’t have to wonder if advertising is the answer you’ve been searching for: You’ll know firsthand.

Here’s another thing I love about AMS.

You can advertise your Kindle Select e-book right on Amazon itself.

That’s prime real estate.

People who see your ad are already at Amazon, shopping for products, with their wallets out, ready to make a purchase.

When you advertise your book anywhere else, your ad is basically asking people to stop whatever they are presently doing, leave the website they’re currently at, and visit Amazon to shop for a book.

For several years, indie authors have pleaded for a reasonably priced advertising option at Amazon.

Well, here it is.

What AMS is and what it isn’t.

Advertising with AMS via KDP Select is an opportunity. It’s a tool.

Like the opportunity to self-publish on Amazon itself, and like all other marketing tools, some authors and some books will utilize it more effectively than others.

It will work well for some books, okay for some books, and poorly for others.

What AMS isn’t:

  • It’s not a magic genie.
  • It won’t yield instant success for each and every book. (But for some books it will help.)
  • It probably isn’t the solution for a book that hasn’t been selling on its own. (But you sure can find out.)
  • It’s not guaranteed to provide a positive return on investment (ROI).

If AMS were guaranteed to yield 100% ROI, every author would use it, and then we might as well wrap up every customer in the world with wallpaper packed with Amazon ads.

Using AMS effectively comes with some challenges.

AMS won’t bring instant, automatic success to most books.

But for many books, there exists some beneficial way to use it effectively.

Here are the challenges:

  • Landing a decent impression rate when many other authors are also running ads for similar books.
  • Not bidding more than you can afford to bid.
  • Getting a strong conversion rate.
  • Earning a positive return on investment (ROI).

Too many authors don’t use AMS as effectively as they could:

  • Blindly using KDP’s recommended bid, which is fairly high.
  • Impatiently raising the bid.
  • Not running enough controlled experiments to learn how to optimize the variables.
  • Not using enough creativity with targeting methods.
  • Bidding more than they can afford to bid.
  • Not being content with a low impression rate, if that’s all you can afford and manage to get out of it.

I see many authors make one or more of these mistakes, and then terminate their campaigns.

But you don’t need to terminate your campaign. Your last resort is to greatly reduce your bid and accept whatever impression rate you can afford, even if it’s meager. It may not be what you want, but if it doesn’t yield a negative ROI, even rare impressions are better than nothing, and you only pay for clicks.

On top of this, your ad is competing against authors who have a distinct advantage:

  • Series authors have the potential to generate multiple sales from a single click. They can afford to bid higher, banking on those future sales.
  • Authors with several similar books also have the potential for multiple sales. They can also afford to bid higher.
  • Successful authors know they will have ample royalties from regular sales even if the ad performs poorly. They are playing with the house’s money, so to speak.
  • Some authors use advertising for other purposes besides immediate profits. They might bid higher, not minding a short-term loss, with their sights set on branding or building an initial fan base.

And then your ad also competes against newbie authors who don’t have an advertising advantage, but who bid much higher than they should.

Here are suggestions for how to optimize AMS advertisements.

My first tips are:

  • Be very, very patient.
  • Bid very low to begin with.
  • Always wait a few days before raising your bid to allow for possible reporting delays. Even better, wait a week.
  • Only raise your bid very slightly. I’m talking pennies.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. Waiting diminishes your risk, and makes it easier to assess what may or may not be working.
  • Run multiple campaigns for the same book.* With one campaign, use narrow targeting where customers are very likely to be interested in your book. In an experimental campaign, try to be a little more creative with your targeting, thinking of other kinds of books or non-book products which are likely to appeal to your target audience.**
  • Your bid isn’t the only factor, or necessarily the most important factor, in landing impressions. Amazon measures ad performance. Good targeting and product page appeal can improve your ad performance. If you get a strong initial click rate, your ad can generate more impressions at a lower bid. This is one reason that raising the bid often isn’t the solution. Instead, you should strive to improve your targeting and improve your product page to help improve on ad performance metrics.

* Don’t worry: Your campaigns won’t bid against one another. Any campaigns on your KDP account won’t bid against any other campaigns on your same KDP account.

** Beware though that if the targeting isn’t relevant enough, if you get fewer than about 1 click per 2000 impressions, your campaign is likely to be stopped by Amazon. This doesn’t mean you can’t explore though.

Following are some more tips:

  • Don’t use ellipsis (…) or hyphens (-), for example, in your advertising phrase as these might be considered grammatical errors (!), preventing your ad from displaying on Kindle devices.
  • Read your ad approval email carefully, just in case there are any notes about your ad not being displayed on certain devices.
  • Experiment by running additional ad campaigns. Explore your targeting options. Analyze your data. Try to find the magic combination that will help you learn how to advertise more effectively.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 click per 2000 impressions, it probably means that either your targeting isn’t a good fit for your book or you cover isn’t attracting your target audience. Challenge yourself to improve your click-through rate. Although you don’t pay for impressions, this is a sign that your ad could perform better.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 sale per 20 clicks, it probably means that either your product page doesn’t match customers’ expectations based on your cover or advertising phrase, or that your product page isn’t closing the deal as effectively as it could. Maybe it’s the blurb or the Look Inside, for example. Challenge yourself to make your product page more effective.
  • If your impression rate is very slow for a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of poor scoring on ad performance metrics. If your initial click rate is low, try pausing the ad and running a new one in its place. But it could also mean that you should try to improve your targeting relevance or improve your cover or product page appeal or keywords or categories. You have so many variables to play with, it can take a while to learn how to optimize them.
  • You could have a higher ROI than you realize. The ad report currently doesn’t show Kindle Unlimited borrows or paperback sales. Customers may also buy other of your books in the future. If you can just break even, approximately, it will probably be worth it in the long run.
  • You don’t have to spend the whole $100 minimum budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. If you’re losing money with your ad, don’t be afraid to stop it. But realize that due to reporting delays, you may continue to accrue clicks for several days after stopping your ad. The lower your bid, the less your risk. (If you bid very high, you can blow your whole budget long before it shows in your ad report. Another reason to bid low and exercise patience.)
  • Note that you can now copy an ad to preserve your original targeting when placing a new ad.
  • Avoid pausing or terminating an ad that’s performing well. An ad that’s generating good results has a high score on ad performance, and it’s hard to rebuild that ad performance. If things are going well, don’t touch your ad with a ten-foot pole. Well, you should edit the end date as needed so that the ad doesn’t expire.
  • Note that product targeting doesn’t actually target the products that you select. Rather, it targets customers who have browsed for similar products in the past. So if you target sci-fi books, your ad could show up on a romance page. If so, it means that the customer has viewed both romance and sci-fi books (at least once) in the past. Still, by targeting sci-fi books, your ad is being shown to customers who have viewed other sci-fi books in the past.

What do I know about advertising through AMS?

How do I know? Fair question:

  • I have placed over 100 ads through AMS via KDP over the past 14 months.
  • It took me a few dozen tries to get it to really work, but overall my last 70 ads have done well on average.
  • One ad has generated over 6,000,000 impressions and 3,000 clicks at an average cost of $0.28 per click.
  • I have several ads with over 1,000,000 impressions.
  • Overall, AMS has worked very well for me.

This doesn’t mean that you will have instant success with advertising. I’ve tried to share tips that I’ve learned from my experience, but you will likely need some experience of your own.

There is something to gain no matter what.

Even if your ad loses money:

  • You get information about what percentage of visitors to your product page actually make a purchase. This is valuable information. 10% is well above average. Strive for that. At around 5% or below, you know firsthand that your product page has room for improvement. Knowing that the best covers, blurbs, and Look Insides can close 10% of the time gives you a lofty target.
  • You discover that advertising wasn’t the magic answer you had been hoping for. At least you learned it’s something else. Is it your cover? blurb? Look Inside? Maybe the idea just isn’t marketable.
  • If you change your cover, blurb, or Look Inside, by running a new ad, you could invest a little money to get valuable data: You can find out whether or not the changes you made improve your closing rate (sales divided by clicks).
  • Although you should terminate an ad that’s losing money, you did get your cover and name out there, and you did get visitors to your product page. This is branding. You at least have hope for a few future sales. And if your ad drew in short-term sales, maybe a few of those customers will buy more of your books in the future, or even recommend your book to others. You gained some hope, if nothing else.

Advertising with AMS is relatively low risk, especially if you bid low and keep a close eye on your reports, prepared to exit early if need be.

Good luck!

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Organic IS Better (for book marketing)

Image from Shutterstock.

Image from Shutterstock.

ORGANIC BOOK MARKETING

I take a long-term approach to book marketing.

My goal is to generate periodic sales over the course of several years.

I’m more interested in how well the book sells years after its release than how well it says when it makes its debut.

Granted, a book often gets its best traffic in the beginning, so anything you might do to improve that could be a significant boost.

But if you can get the book to sell consistently for years instead of tailing off, time can provide a huge boost of its own.

That’s the potential of organic book marketing, if you can pull it off effectively.

Organic book marketing also doesn’t tend to be depend as strongly on the latest marketing trends.

There are some fundamental marketing strategies that work long-term even in a dynamic market, whereas short-term strategies tend to be trendy.

We’ll consider several aspects of book marketing, and what it might mean to be organic.

BOOK REVIEWS

As a customer shopping for products at Amazon, if you read customer reviews, would you prefer to read organic reviews? I would.

What makes a review organic?

It can’t get any more organic than this:

  • A customer discovers a book.
  • The customer takes the initiative to review the book.
  • The customer leaves genuine feedback for the book.

Amazon considers a review to be more organic when the customer discovers the book on Amazon.com and the review shows the Verified Purchase label. Amazon’s new machine-learning algorithm, which determines which reviews get more exposure, favors a Verified Purchase.

The machine-learning algorithm looks at more than just whether or not the review is Verified. For example, it also looks at Yes vs. No votes. There are multiple factors. In general, most of these factors favor organic reviews.

Obviously, when a customer discovers a book in a bookstore, reads the book, and leaves a review on Amazon, it’s just as organic. Although it won’t have that Verified Purchase tag, potential customers will see an honest opinion to help them with their purchases.

Even if the customer discovers the book because the author employed effective interpersonal marketing skills, it’s still an organic review if the customer leaves unbiased feedback. In fact, customers are more likely to review a book having interacted with the author.

The problem, of course, is that customer book reviews often come at a very slow rate. It can take 100 to 200 sales, on average, to get a single review. (These numbers may vary considerably, depending on subgenre, for example.) And if the book is selling one copy every few days, that may very well seem like never.

And some book promotion sites, like BookBub, require a minimum number of reviews.

Thus, authors are tempted to look for less organic methods of seeking reviews.

Most customers think they can tell, to some extent, organic reviews from inorganic ones:

  • Suppose a book has a sales rank of 1,000,000, was released 30 days ago, and already has 20 reviews. It may seem suspicious.
  • Organic reviews tend to show a degree of balanced opinions, and a few tend to be off-the-wall. There is a certain variety of opinions and the expression of them typical of Amazon.
  • Checking out what else the reviewer has reviewed can also seem to tell a tale.

Amazon’s SEO can probably tell organic reviews from inorganic ones, to some extent. (Even if it doesn’t do this well now, it probably will in the future.)

If you can find effective ways to generate more sales, that will help to generate more organic reviews.

And then there is always review karma. This philosophy is to post reviews of books you have read, and hope that the universe returns the favor.

But that’s different from swapping reviews with fellow authors, which is not organic (and Amazon may choose not to support).

CONTENT MARKETING

The idea behind content marketing is to post valuable content for your target audience on a blog, website, or social media.

Organic content of high quality can generate significant traffic long-term, and is less susceptible to the latest trends in SEO.

In fact, SEO trends tend to adapt toward identifying organic content and eventually penalizing any SEO tactics that aim to “fool” search engines.

Also, organic content is more likely to please its target audience, and result in organic followers.

And no followers are better than organic followers.

An organic follower is someone who discovers your content, enjoys it or finds it helpful, follows you, and is actively aware of your future articles over a long period of time.

My free WordPress blog just passed 300,000 views. It generates about 1000 views per day, presently, with most of the visitors discovering articles through search engines. And if you look around, you can find many other sites far more successful than mine.

It takes months to make content marketing work, but if you deliver valuable content to your target audience, there is much potential to get 100+ strangers to organically discover your site every day.

UNKNOWN ADVOCATES

This is what organic book marketing is all about.

When several people you have never met advocate your book on your behalf, organic book marketing can pay big long-term dividends.

But while it can be the best kind of marketing a book can get, it’s extremely hard to generate.

To get valuable word-of-mouth sales, referrals, and recommendations, you have to approach book marketing backwards.

Short-term book marketing says you need a great cover, then you need a blurb that hooks, then a Look Inside that compels the customer to buy the book, and last on the list is the actual content.

Organic book marketing says that the most important part of the book is the content, and everything else revolves around this.

Fiction authors need storytelling talent. Nonfiction authors need compelling information.

All authors need to write in a way that pleases readers.

And the book needs to be well-edited and formatted in order to be worthy of a recommendation. But the content is still foremost.

True, nobody will enjoy the book unless they first discover it, so the Look Inside, blurb, and cover figure into this.

But the approach is to first develop compelling content that will pay long-term dividends, and then build the packaging around that.

AMAZON SEO

Organic book marketing also tends to be favored by Amazon SEO.

For example, many customers search for books by typing keywords into the search field at Amazon.com.

There are several factors involved in determining the order of search results.

Some of these factors specifically favor organic book marketing.

For example, when customers search for books by keyword, click on your book, and then purchase your book, that organic sale establishes relevance for your book with that keyword.

The more organic sales you generate through keyword searches, the more exposure your book gains this way.

That’s why it’s so important to research (by that, I mean type a variety of keywords into Amazon, to see not only what’s popular, but where you have a chance of standing out among the crowd) which keywords have the best potential to give your unique book exposure.

If your keywords also appear organically in the title, subtitle, and book description (especially in bullet points)–though repetition may not help (other than the keyword from your keyword list matching a keyword in your description)–this may help your book compete in keyword searches (but remember, there are other factors too).

A keyword dump in your title or description will backfire. That’s not organic at all, and customers see that something is fishy. If you want to sell books, your title and subtitle need to make sense, and the description needs to read well and hook the reader without giving the story away.

Amazon wants to have satisfied customers. Amazon’s algorithm can tell such things as:

  • How well does this book sell when a customer discovers it for the first time on Amazon?
  • How satisfied are the customers who buy this book?
  • How many customers who buy this book go onto buy more books like this one?
  • Maybe it can even differentiate among customers, i.e. which kinds of buying history appears to be a better fit for a given book.

When a customer is searching for a book on Amazon, obviously Amazon would prefer to show customers books that perform well in these areas.

For this, you want to have a good conversion rate, which means the cover > blurb > Look Inside need to correlate well and be quite compelling, but you also need good customer satisfaction, but delivering exceptional content.

An organic approach to book marketing oriented around these points can pay significant long-term dividends.

WHAT WRITERS REALLY WANT

Many authors say things like: “I’d rather spend my time writing than marketing.”

Organic book marketing places more emphasis on the writing.

For marketing, there are ways to go about it that appeal to writers, like preparing content-rich articles relating to the topic of your book or writing content-rich emails for a newsletter (which allows you to send an announcement for your next book when it comes out).

Much of organic book marketing consists of writing your next book and writing content for your site or email newsletter.

Not 100%, though. You also want to widen your marketing net. But you can devote a little time each week to this, while still putting most of your time into writing.

You also need to do a little personal marketing, especially in the beginning, as that personal touch can go a long way toward getting the ball rolling in the beginning.

Organic book marketing can start out very slow, with no guarantee that it will ever pick up.

If sales do start out very slow, it takes strong faith in your writing to keep believing that the content is compelling enough to pay off several months down the road, if only you can weather the storm, keep writing, and drive enough initial sales to eventually get there.

But this approach does let writers focus on what they love to do most: write!

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section.

Relevance: The Key to Advertising/Marketing

Relevance

RELEVANCE

Many advertising and marketing concepts can be understood, and then applied, by considering this one word: relevance.

And what a difference relevance can make.

Yet, very often, the advertiser or marketer hasn’t given this concept due consideration.

In your wildest dreams, your audience is anyone who has a head.

But in reality, you throw your money away with such thinking.

Unless maybe you’re selling hairbrushes.

But even then, you’re wasting money showing your advertisement to people who are bald, strongly prefer combs, or don’t care about their appearance.

Let’s look at some specific examples of how the word relevance impacts advertising and marketing. (Many of the examples are specific to self-published books, but the same principle can be generalized to the sale of other kinds of products or services.)

BOOK COVER DESIGN

Can you imagine walking into a covenant to sell a book about how to plan the perfect spring break vacation?

Well, it’s not much different when 80% of your audience glances at the cover of your sci-fi thriller and expects it to be a western.

(If you’re thinking about the movie Cowboys & Aliens right now, you’re totally missing the point!)

If it looks like a western, it probably is a western, so if you’re looking for sci-fi, why waste your time checking it out?

When there are other sci-fi books that actually look like science fiction.

The most important goal of book cover design is to create a cover that is relevant to your specific target audience.

WRITING <—> MARKETING

There are two ways to approach the combination of writing and marketing that have good prospects for success.

If you can execute your approach well.

  • You can find an existing target audience* and write a book relevant for that audience. (Where you are interested in the topic and have the right experience to write it.)
  • Or you can write what interests you (and where you have the right experience), then find the audience relevant for what you’ve written and market to that audience.†

* You don’t have to write for the most popular audience. It can be a niche audience and still be quite successful.

† The latter carries more risk. The worst-case scenario is that the audience perfect for your book doesn’t even exist. It happens…

AMAZON MARKETING SERVICES

Billboard advertising doesn’t make sense for most books. Even though many people do read, only a fraction read any particular genre, and some of those readers are biased towards certain authors or subgenres, so that the majority of the people who see the billboard advertisement result in wasted impressions. On top of that, the sale of a single book usually results in a low royalty, so you can’t afford wasted impressions.

But if you sell automotive parts and advertise on a billboard overlooking a highway, nearly 100% of your audience drives a car, so even though many prefer to get their service done by a dealer or a mechanic, the advertisement is more effective because of the greatly improved relevance.

On top of that, most advertising largely involves branding, which requires repeated impressions over a long period of time. With advertising, the importance of relevance gets compounded through this repetition.

Where should you advertise your product (or service)? Think long and hard about where it would be highly relevant to show your product.

One reason to use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise products that you sell on Amazon has to do with relevance:

  • Customers are already there browsing for similar products.
  • You’re not trying to persuade them to stop what they’re doing, leave one site, and visit another site.

To get the most out of AMS, focus on relevance.

For example, when advertising a KDP Select self-published Kindle e-book through AMS:

  • All else being equal, Amazon is more likely to show AMS ads that generate and maintain a high click-through rate. That’s a strong indication of relevance.
  • Precise targeting makes your ad more relevant to the customers who view it.
  • A cover that conveys the precise subgenre/subcategory and content at the tiny size shown in the ads is a big plus.
  • The short marketing pitch shown with the ad can also help to convey relevance.
  • Thus, relevance can help you generate impressions without raising your bid sky high.
  • Ultimately, the blurb, the rest of your product page, and the Look Inside must also be relevant to convert clicks into sales.

CONTENT MARKETING & SEO

I use a free WordPress blog. I will soon pass 300,000 views (if I haven’t already), as I average 500 to 800 visitors per day finding my blog through search engines.

Yet I don’t employ any SEO “tactics.”

My goal has always been simple: Provide helpful content to anyone interested in self-publishing.

If the content is relevant to your audience, you have a strong organic marketing edge with much potential for long-term success.

Relevant content will naturally include the right keywords and keyphrases, lead to recommendations and referrals, generate followers, and encourage discussion.

You can blog successfully with short articles. What matters is that the content is relevant and helpful.

Trying to “fool” search engines into thinking that an article is relevant when it’s not won’t lead to long-term success.

THE DREADED BLURB

To help close the sale, the blurb needs to implicitly convince the customer (with help from the Look Inside) that the content is relevant to the buyer.

It must reinforce the subgenre/subcategory and content conveyed by the cover, title, category, and keywords.

The style of writing and storytelling must also be relevant to the customer.

It needs to be the kind of story and characters that the customer wants to read.

Without giving the story away. Because once the customer knows the story, it’s no longer relevant.

Fiction blurbs need to be short, while nonfiction blurbs should highlight important points with bullets, since the customer doesn’t want to waste time—not yet sure if reading the blurb is relevant or not.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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Advertising: Amazon vs. Goodreads

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

ADVERTISING e-BOOKS

Since KDP introduced Advertising Marketing Services (AMS) for KDP Select books earlier this year, I’ve placed 50 ads on a variety of nonfiction Kindle e-books.

I’ve also placed over a dozen ads with Goodreads. It’s interesting to compare the two options for advertising e-books.

AUDIENCE

There are two great things about advertising right on Amazon’s website or on a Kindle device (both are possible with AMS via KDP):

  • Many of the customers who see your ad are already shopping for other books, i.e. they are looking for books to read, they have their wallets out, and they are ready to spend money.
  • Since they are already on Amazon, your ad isn’t interrupting some other activity and trying to persuade customers to leave one site to visit another.

If you advertise at Goodreads with a link to your Amazon product page, you’re asking readers who were busy doing something else at Goodreads to stop what they were doing and visit another site all together.

You could instead advertise at Goodreads with a link to your book’s Goodreads page or a giveaway page, but if your ultimate goal is a sale, that’s an indirect way to go about it.

However, the way the self-service advertising options are presently setup, Goodreads ads seem to have an advantage with branding. We’ll return to this important point later.

TARGETING

The targeting options are considerably different with Amazon and Goodreads advertisements.

Amazon offers two kinds of targeting with AMS via KDP:

  • Interest targeting competes for ads based on category. Amazon has recently improved interest targeting by adding subcategories. Some books do fall nicely into one of those subcategories, but those subcategories are still too broad for other books, especially in nonfiction.
  • Product targeting lets you search for specific books or other products by keyword. Amazon has an advantage here, as Goodreads doesn’t offer keyword targeting, nor does Goodreads let you target specific books, nor does Goodreads let you target other products besides books (like movies).

Goodreads also offers two main kinds of targeting:

  • Goodreads also has categories to choose from, but these tend to be very broad.
  • I prefer not to select any categories, but to target by author instead. Visit Amazon and search for very popular books that your specific target audience is likely to read. Then enter those author names at Goodreads to target readers of those authors.

A great thing about Goodreads is that when you target specific authors, they will show your ad to Goodreads readers who have given those authors high ratings.

Imagine if you could target customers at Amazon who rated similar books 4 or 5 stars. You have to love Goodreads for this option.

I try to avoid other targeting options at Goodreads, such as gender, age, or country, since some accounts may not have selected an option.

COST

Advertising with AMS via KDP requires a minimum $100 budget. You’re not required to spend your whole budget: You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. But if you bid high, you could blow through your budget quickly without knowing it because the ad report sometimes has significant delays.

I find that I can get very low-cost advertisements with effective results at Amazon. I have several ads with average CPC bids of a dime or less.

In comparison, I find that I must bid much higher at Goodreads.

My strategy with AMS is to bid very low in the beginning, and always wait at least 3 days before raising my bid, knowing that the ad report can be delayed. When I do raise my bid, I only raise it a little. I’m in no hurry, but after a few weeks, I finally start to generate impressions, clicks, and sales at a good rate, and my strategy minimizes my expenses (and lets me opt out before spending too much, if necessary).

IMPRESSIONS > CLICKS > SALES

Both services charge by the click. Impressions are free. Click-through rates (ctr) can be quite low (clicks divided by impressions): You might get 0.1% (1 click for every 1000 impressions), which is typical of much online advertising these days. But the ctr doesn’t really matter, since those impressions are free. Every impression helps with branding; you only pay for clicks.

While I often generate impressions at a good rate with AMS with average CPC bids of 10 cents or less, I often must spend 50 cents or more to generate impressions at a good rate at Goodreads.

AMS seems better for generating sales directly, while Goodreads seems better for branding, generating activity at Goodreads (followers at Goodreads, getting on to-read lists), and generating interest in a Goodreads giveaway. That branding issue is big.

BRANDING

Most companies who pay big money for advertisements don’t expect to generate immediate sales from it; they use advertisements to help with branding.

When you drive by a billboard, see a commercial on television, or hear an advertisement on the radio, do you stop what you were doing and race over to the store to buy a product that sounds great? Probably not.

But the next time you’re shopping for a product, see if you favor products you’ve heard of before. If so, branding has worked on you. And even if it didn’t work on you, it does work on the majority of consumers.

It’s not easy to break even in the short-term from advertising. The bigger goal is long-term, through branding.

That said, I do have some advertisements through AMS that have paid for themselves or brought a profit short-term, and I have benefited indirectly through more sales of paperbacks, similar books, and Kindle Unlimited pages read. This is partly because I apply a low bidding strategy, and partly because these ads aren’t asking customers to stop doing one thing to start doing another (they’re already shopping for books on Amazon).

But I also feel that I get better branding out of Goodreads, and this is an important long-term goal. However, you don’t want to lose too much short-term with branding hopes. Unlike AMS, it’s not as easy to gauge short-term ROI at Goodreads. You can see how much the ad is costing you, and you can see the clicks, but you don’t know how many of those clicks lead to sales.

If you use AMS, you can find out what your conversion rate is (sales divided by clicks). If it’s around 1% to 3%, that’s pretty low; if it’s 8% or higher, that’s pretty good. But if you spend too much on your clicks, or draw a low royalty, you can still lose out even with a nice conversion rate. You want to look at your royalties earned compared to money invested, but also want to consider possible indirect benefits like Kindle Unlimited borrows, print sales, sales of similar books, and potential for future sales through branding.

TAG LINE

Both AMS and Goodreads let you enter a short tag line. This is text that will appear alongside your ad to help generate interest. Goodreads lets you enter a longer tag line.

Put some time and thought into how to use this valuable advertising space. It can make a big difference.

FACTORS

Advertising isn’t for all books. It probably won’t be the cure for a book that isn’t selling.

Here are some factors that can impact the effectiveness of an advertisement:

  • content has a significant audience
  • wise targeting choices
  • wise bidding strategy
  • tiny thumbnail of cover attracts target audience
  • how likely blurb, Look Inside, price, reviews, etc. help in closing the deal
  • how much royalty you will earn for each sale
  • effectiveness of your tag line

OTHER ADS

There are many places to advertise on the internet.

Ideally, you want to be able to target readers, namely your specific target audience. You want to generate impressions and clicks at a good rate, but with little cost.

Some services, like Bookbub, E-reader News Today, and a host of similar sites, can help to advertise short-term promotional prices. In this case, the short-term promotion can help create a compelling impulse to buy now. But you need an external promotional service that can help your book reach its specific target audience to get the most out of this strategy.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How to Market a Book with a Blog

Image from ShutterStock. Space Age font from http://mickeyavenue.com/fonts/spaceage/license.php.

Image from ShutterStock. Space Age font from http://mickeyavenue.com/fonts/spaceage/license.php.

MARKET A BOOK WITH A BLOG

My self-publishing blog currently has 150,000 views, with 350 to 550 views per day, and 5990 followers.

Most of my blog traffic comes from search engines, so it functions as a content-rich website.

A blog can be a highly effective marketing tool if you can draw in hundreds of visitors per day.

People discovering your blog through search engines don’t already know about your book, so this can be great exposure for your book.

It’s not just for nonfiction books.

In fact, I just launched a new blog for a science fiction series that I’m working on, called Alien Curiosity.

You can check it out here, in case you want to see what my blog for a coming fiction series looks like:

http://aliencuriosity.com

Feel free to follow my Alien Curiosity blog to see how I use it.

Note that I launched my blog months in advance of when I will release my science fiction series.

My goal is to have hundreds of visitors discovering my Alien Curiosity blog before I publish the first volume.

BLOGGING TIPS FOR AUTHORS

Realize that you have two separate audiences:

  • There is your current audience of followers and fans, who are likely to give your post initial views, likes, comments, and occasional shares.
  • Then there is your future audience who may discover your post through search engines.

Both audiences are important:

  • Fans and followers make your blog lively and interactive through likes, comments, and shares, and followers who are genuinely interested in your writing can give you initial support when you launch a new book.
  • Search engine visitors are people in your target audience who don’t already know about your book, which gives your blog a very wide and powerful reach.

Choose your content with both audiences in mind:

  • Prepare content that is likely to draw in search engine visitors from your target audience (so the content needs to be relevant to your book and its audience).
  • But the content also needs to interest and engage your current following (and that audience may be somewhat different from the audience for your book; many may be bloggers themselves, so you may share common writing interests, for example).

How to interpret your blogging stats:

  • In the early months, views, likes, follows, and shares will probably be scarce. Even the best blogs often start out very slow. Don’t sweat this data.
  • You start with zero followers, just like everyone else. It will take time, many posts, and even marketing your own blog (include a link in your book along with a reason to visit—it works both ways) to slowly gain traction. Don’t sweat the beginning.
  • The key is that blog stats can accelerate after months of blogging. If you can get your blog stats to steadily grow, this is a positive indicator.
  • Once you have several posts, look at the visitors you’re getting (or not getting) from search engines. If your search engine traffic is steadily growing (even if slowly), your blog has excellent long-term potential.

Your blog has two goals:

  • Slowly build a following and grow your views, likes, comments, and shares.
  • Strive to get 100+ daily visitors to find your blog through search engines (and don’t stop there). 100 daily visitors means that 3000 people who didn’t know about your book are discovering your blog every month.

Remember, these are long-term goals. It doesn’t happen overnight.

To help grow your following, be interactive. Find blogs that interest you. Read those blogs, like them if you enjoy them, leave comments, and reblog those that may be relevant for your followers.

To help gain search engine traction:

  • Content is king and will survive longer than the latest SEO tactics. Write good content that will attract your target audience. (For fiction books, you can still find relevant nonfiction content to blog about.)
  • You needn’t post every day. Once weekly can work. Posts needn’t be lengthy. Around 1000 words can work. (But there isn’t just one size that works. Some bloggers are highly effective with a very short daily post, others are effective with much longer, less frequent posts. But if you write very long posts, you really need great content to attract readers.)
  • Choose 3-5 broad categories that fit your article well. Choose 3-5 specific tags that are perfect fits for your article. For example, I wrote a post about Amazon & Goodreads giveaways. My categories were quite broad (yet relevant): Amazon, books, contest, giveaway, and Goodreads. My tags were much more specific: Amazon giveaway, book contest, free books, and Goodreads giveaway. I like for the tags to extend the categories by adding one or two words to make a keyphrase. But that’s not the only way to do it: See this WordPress example.
  • Start typing keyphrases into the Google search field and it will pull up popular matches. You at least want to make sure that your keyphrase is searched for daily. (Google also has apps to help you judge popularity. But you also have to consider, would you rather be on page 12 of the most popular keyphrase, or page 2 of a less popular one that’s still searched hundreds of times per day?)
  • The keywords and keyphrases that you used for categories and tags should appear quite naturally in the content of your post. Your post should have headings or subheadings. Chances are that one or more of these headings can include those keywords; other keywords will fit into the body text. First and foremost, your post needs to read well (and definitely not like a jumble of keywords). And you don’t want to overdo it. (Google can smell a rat.) The keywords and keyphrases should be a natural fit for your content, and if so, it should be easy to use them in a natural way.
  • Write your post so that it’s skim-friendly. That’s right, most people don’t read every blog article in its entirety, but skim through it. They skim to pick up the main points, to see how much the article interests them, and to decide which parts to read. They might read all of it, but you can’t count on everyone reading every article in its entirety. So make it skim-friendly. Use headings and subheadings to help organize your content. Use bullet points. Use boldface, italics, and color. But use them sparingly so that it’s effective. You can even use images as a visual aid.
  • Every post should have at least one relevant image. That visual appeal helps people decide which articles in their WordPress Reader to check out. You can also use the images for your posts to brand your image as a blogger; you just need a consistent style.

Be patient. You can’t build Rome in a day, not even a blog about Rome. 🙂

Many bloggers give up after a few months, not realizing that their blog stats may accelerate at some point. (If you stick with it, the dropout rate actually works in your favor.)

Do research:

  • Check out other blogs. See how other bloggers use their blogs effectively. There are many different ways to do it well. You can find great ideas just by checking out other blogs and interacting with other bloggers.
  • Try to learn a little SEO. It’s not really about knowing the latest trends, but about finding things that are likely to work long-term. Those who try to use SEO to fool Google often plummet way down the lists once Google catches on. Those who have great content are likely to rise to the top over time. But there are ways to help present great content in a way that’s search engine friendly, and those are the subtle tips you’re looking for.

Some variety is okay for your blog. Sometimes, when you explore something new for your blog, it winds up being better than what you were doing before.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Book Promotion Opportunities for Authors (It’s Free)

Images from ShutterStock

Images from ShutterStock

BOOK PROMOTION OPPORTUNITIES

Marketing books is hard. I will try to help.

I have a few book promotion opportunities for authors.

Participation is FREE.

(1) Meet the Characters

I have a page on my Read Tuesday website called Meet the Characters.

On this page, readers find short creative pieces featuring one of the characters from various books.

The idea is that readers can learn about books without first seeing the cover or price.

Their first taste of the book is a character’s personality and the author’s writing style.

Many authors and readers have expressed positive feedback about this idea.

(If you like the idea, please tell a friend.)

But we need more authors to participate. Signing up is free.

The earlier you participate, the better the reader-to-book ratio works in your favor.

Once submissions grow enough, Meet the Characters will grow onto multiple pages, different pages dedicated to different genres.

This is potentially permanent exposure for your book, which will hopefully grow over time, with just a little work for you to do in the beginning.

I make no promises about results, but I do offer this opportunity at no cost to you.

Learn more about Meet the Characters and how to sign up here:

Meet the Characters

Meet the Characters Follow-Up

(2) Cover Reveal

I’ll be doing cover reveals for a few of my books in the coming weeks.

But why reveal only my own cover?

This is an opportunity to reveal the covers of several books alongside my own.

The first cover reveal will be soon, but if you miss that, don’t worry, there will be others.

Have you done a cover reveal recently? Will you do one soon?

If so, leave a comment. Once you’ve written a post about your cover reveal, leave a link to your post in the comments.

Remember, I’ll be doing multiple cover reveals, so I may not include all of the covers in the same reveal, but may choose to spread them out (it depends on the number).

(3) Book Contests

Similarly, I’ll be running a few Goodreads giveaways.

When I announce my book contest, I could also announce your book contest.

Goodreads giveaways are preferred, but I’ll consider others.

(Amazon Giveaways tend to finish quickly, so they would be hard to work in unless my post happens to be perfectly timed with your giveaway, which is unlikely.)

If you have a Goodreads giveaway that will be open sometime in June, leave a comment to let me know. If it happens to be running when I do one of my contest posts, I’ll include mention of your giveaway in my post.

(4) Special Categories

Many authors feel that their book doesn’t quite fit properly into any one of Amazon’s browse categories.

So I created a Cool & New Books page at Read Tuesday.

This will showcase books which would best be classified by categories not currently listed at Amazon.

Even if your book is getting by with the available categories, but would fit better in a new category that doesn’t exist, you may submit your book.

Here is your chance to stir reader interest in a brand new category.

The first authors to sign up will enjoy the greatest reader-to-book ratio.

Learn more about Cool & New Books and how to sign up here:

Cool & New Books

(5) More Opportunities

I expect to create more opportunities to help authors promote their books.

When they come, I’ll either announce them here on my blog or over on the Read Tuesday blog.

Follow me and follow Read Tuesday (if you don’t already) to stay tuned.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Big Bang, Inflation, Steady-State (Marketing Strategies)

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

BOOK MARKETING STRATEGIES

One of the main book marketing strategies that I see focuses around a Big Bang.

Yet a book marketing strategy that focuses more on consistency may have better long-term potential.

There are benefits and disadvantages of each, which depend on the nature of the book and author.

And recent changes in the dynamic book publishing environment impact the decision for how to market.

BIG BANG

The Big Bang book marketing strategy focuses on driving as much traffic as possible to the book’s product page over a short period of time.

Pre-marketing and buzz-building are amped up for a powerful book launch with several early reviews and many early sales.

BookBub and related promotions are utilized to revitalize sales with additional Big Bangs throughout the year.

Email lists for a newsletter and online followings are grown to launch the next book with a Bigger Bang.

New content is released frequently to generate more Big Bangs.

STEADY-STATE

The steady-state book marketing strategy strives to fuel consistent sales.

Regular sales are favored more than sales spikes.

One main goal is to sustain sales long-term.

Another main goal is to reach a point where sales generate much on their own.

INFLATION

The inflation book strategy is similar to the steady-state strategy.

Emphasis is placed on long-term growth.

It’s not sufficient to sustain sales; the goal is to improve sales annually.

New content is released to help improve sales.

Branding, word-of-mouth, and long-term strategies are applied to generate future sales.

COMPARISON OF BOOK MARKETING STRATEGIES

Many successful indie fiction authors that I have met have used the Big Bang book marketing strategy quite effectively.

Traditional publishers often launch their books with a Big Bang.

I have drawn my success in nonfiction with the inflation book marketing strategy.

There are also popular authors who have earned their success with a combination of Big Bang and inflation strategies.

Personally, given a choice, I prefer sales consistency to sales spikes. That’s the key to long-term success.

You aren’t presented with a choice, though. For some books, a Big Bang is more attainable than sales consistency.

But if you can have both sales spikes and annual sales growth, you get the best of both worlds.

Furthermore, some recent changes in book publishing dynamics may shift the balance a little.

BIG BANG BENEFITS

If you succeed in generating many sales over a short time, your Amazon.com sales rank can really soar.

This improves your chances of landing on a hot new release or top 100 bestseller list (at least in a subcategory).

Some customers browse through the bestseller lists, so this is your one shot to reach those readers.

Frequent sales help give your book additional exposure through customers-also-bought lists, recommendations, etc.

In can take 100 to 1000 sales to get a review, so the sooner you get your sales, the sooner you get customer reviews.

You also get word-of-mouth exposure sooner, and you can build a fan club faster, which helps you release your new books.

If you have other similar books, a sales spike in one book can feed sales to your other books.

BIG BANG DRAWBACKS

It’s hard to maintain a stellar sales rank, which limits the benefits.

If you generate a lot of early reviews from an early sales spike, once the sales rank drops off, the review-to-sales-rank ratio may arouse customer suspicion. (But you can run new short-term promotions in the future to help revive your sales rank.)

Some of the popular methods of Big Bang book marketing, like BookBub and other advertisements, can be somewhat expensive, which makes Big Bang marketing riskier.

Amazon may have recently changed their algorithm to limit the long-term influence of sales spikes on sales rank.

If you could get many of those same sales distributed more evenly over a longer period (not that this is easy to do: a short-term promotion is easier), such sales consistency might have a better long-term impact on sales rank. (Analyzing which factors impact sales rank is complicated, though, and so this might not actually be quite the case.)

It can take a lot of work over a short period to create a high level of anticipation and to generate many early sales.

CONSISTENCY BENEFITS

Consistent sales over a long period lend better stability to your Amazon sales rank.

This may now also have a stronger long-term influence on your sales rank.

Customer reviews are more likely to seem aligned with sales rank at any given time.

Your book is less susceptible to one untimely influential review, technical problems beyond your control, etc.

If you invest in advertising, you can do it with a long-term promotional plan, risking less per month than with the short-term promotions involved in Big Bang marketing.

There is much long-term potential if you succeed in driving consistent sales over a long period.

Your first few books haven’t dropped off the chart when you release a new book, which makes it easier to help a new release feed sales to your older books.

You spread your work load out over a longer period.

CONSISTENCY DRAWBACKS

It takes very frequent sales to get the best exposure with bestseller and hot new release lists.

It’s not easy to generate consistent, long-term sales over a long period of time.

You need to find effective, long-term marketing strategies, and it takes dedication and patience to see them through.

Consistent sales over a long period often requires releasing new content periodically.

It takes longer to recover your investment, and more time to grow your sales.

While it would be great to achieve both, you do have to make some decisions that lean one way or the other.

For example, if you tell everyone you know about your new release at the same time, many are likely to buy it on the same day. But if you tell different groups on different days, you might get more consistent sales. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. (Though if your book will be on sale for a short period, why not be a nice guy or gal and let people you know in on the deal?)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Strange Magic (the Movie)—and Marketing

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.

STRANGE MAGIC

We saw the movie Strange Magic this weekend.

http://strangemagicmovie.com

And in addition to enjoying the movie very much… it got me thinking about marketing.

If you want to learn more about marketing, it helps to see and consider the marketing around you.

Not everything translates directly into book marketing, though. For example, paid advertising tends to be much more effective for paper towels than for books; and no wonder, there aren’t millions of paper towel rolls to choose from.

However, many of the main concepts do translate:

  • easily reading the brand on the label
  • visually appealing to the target audience
  • effective use of color in the packaging
  • text on the product label that not only informs, but sells
  • creating brand name recognition through just the right amount of repetition

Strange Magic, the movie, begins with a bright, colorful scene with a fairy flying. This was visually appealing for the target audience. With books, you want to show your target audience right off the bat (who may be reading the Look Inside as prospective shoppers) that this is very much what they were looking for. You want the beginning to put them in a good mood. Make the audience relax and enjoy the book, rather than thinking critically. Compel the audience to keep reading.

Sitting in the theater, we’d already bought our tickets, so it’s not quite the same thing as the Look Inside of a book, where customers may still be deciding. But if you ever produce a movie, you don’t want people walking out of the theater, and you want everyone to enjoy the movie enough to recommend it, so it’s still important to start out on a positive note. This movie had a great visual beginning.

Another thing you need when you write a book is to have elements of your book that really stand out. Something noteworthy (in a good way!) that may elicit recommendations. Strange Magic has an amazing soundtrack. I don’t normally notice the music much in the theater. This movie had many great tracks; good variety, too. Most played for a short duration, but the movie was packed with great music. That’s a cool feature, where if the audience likes it (a big IF whether producing a movie or writing a book), they might tell other people they know. “Hey, you gotta check this out.” Authors strive to put compelling features in their books. If it’s compelling enough to share with friends, it might lead to valuable recommendations.

Rather than, “That was a great book,” you’re hoping for, “Check this book out because…” An amazing feature can make a difference. The strengths of a book may sell it, but only if the weaknesses don’t prevent the readers from recommending it. Shore up the weaknesses and make the strengths wow. In long-term marketing, content is king.

The movie also has a unique style, artistically. The hairstyles are distinct, and they work. You have to create a distinctive brand, like Sherlock Holmes; something that distinguishes your brand from others. When you write a book, something must define your distinct style (in a good way!). It may be subtle. (If it’s drastic, you take a huge risk.)

The storyline sends a positive message, too. You can see the message as a byline right on the poster: “Everyone Deserves To Be Loved.” Strange Magic is a kids’ movie, but it must also appeal to parents, as they’re the ones who will buy the tickets. And parents (or grandparents) are likely to watch the movie with them. Similarly, books need great storylines, and children’s books need to not only appeal to children, but to parents, too. I enjoyed the storyline very much. So did my daughter.

I also like the title font on the movie poster. The words STRANGE MAGIC are written in a large font, it’s easy to read, the color works well and makes it really stand out, and the style fits the genre. The title font is very important on the packaging. With books, the font on the cover’s thumbnail may be even more important.

The movie poster’s visual image is pretty busy, and doesn’t reflect the bright, colorful imagery shown in the beginning. But maybe it would have been a mistake to base the poster design on the imagery from the movie’s beginning. That may have looked more girlish, whereas the movie isn’t intended just for girls. Similarly, with books, a cover should be striking, but even if it’s quite striking, it will fail if it doesn’t attract the precise target audience. The latter is more important than the former.

If you haven’t seen Strange Magic yet, I recommend it. My daughter does, too.

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

Offline Book Marketing

Juror 1389

OFFLINE MARKETING

A new indie author’s best asset may be offline marketing.

Many new indie authors either (A) don’t market at all or (B) only market online because that seems easier. With many thousands of authors marketing online, it’s hard to stand out, and the top online marketers have already built up huge followings.

There are great opportunities offline. There is less competition for discovery offline, which gives you greater chances of success.

Plus, there is a huge benefit that’s on your side when you market offline.

It’s more personal.

Personal interactions, especially where the prospective readers enjoy that interaction, are more likely to:

  • Check out your book.
  • Review your book.
  • Recommend your book to others (if they enjoy it).
  • Ignore critical reviews on your Amazon product page (so if you run into bad luck with your first few reviews, this is your best chance of stimulating sales despite those reviews). The shopper has interacted with you personally, while those reviewers are unknown sources.

There are many different things that you can do with offline marketing.

Each book is unique, and so is each author. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all offline marketing strategy. Explore your options. Try a variety of strategies out. Get a feel for what appears to work best for you.

BOOK MARKETING TIPS

Here, I will describe a variety of offline book marketing ideas, and I will use a real author as an example.

I bet you’ll find a few useful tips with strong potential that you hadn’t thought of before.

G.T. Trickle, author of Juror 1389, has done some amazing things in the way of offline book marketing. I will highlight some of these amazing things to serve as examples and inspiration. If you’d like to learn more about G.T. Trickle, please see below.

I will also show examples of specific challenges that G.T. Trickle faced in her offline marketing and how she dealt with these challenges. Strengthen your will and you, too, will find a way.

Tip #1: Improve your sphere of influence.

Wouldn’t it be great to have other people helping to spread the word about your book?

Well, you can recruit help without begging for people to advertise your book for you.

The first step is to choose beta readers wisely. Think about it: They’re reading your early draft, sharing their ideas, developing a vested interest in your book. They become intimately acquainted with your book and want to see your book succeed.

If you’re just using friends for beta readers, you may be greatly diminishing your potential sphere of influence.

G.T. Trickle contacted book clubs with courteous requests for beta readers. She also searched for beta readers among social groups (like churches or community groups) and other people who had influence among readers in her target audience. Imagine people who might recommend your book to dozens or hundreds of other readers in person. That could be huge!

You actually prefer to have strangers in your selection of beta readers. For one, friends share a similar sphere of influence as you do, so strangers help you get beyond your friends and family. For another, strangers can give you that brutally honest criticism that you really need (and you have to prepare to cope with it so you don’t ruin this potential help).

You get a second benefit from beta readers who are involved in clubs or organizations. You can offer their groups a discount. Pass out business cards, bookmarks, or brochures with info regarding how to contact you and order directly at a discount. If they’re local, they also save on shipping. One advantage of selling directly is that you may be able to entice the reader to attend a book signing, which helps to populate an event.

G.T. Trickle didn’t call them beta readers. She created the 1389 Project Team (for her book, Juror 1389). The readers feel like they are part of a team, really involved in the project, rather invested in the project. They want your book to succeed. G.T. identified one team member with a large sphere of influence, and designated this person the 1389 Ambassador. The “ambassador” received a magnet featuring the book cover and “1389 Ambassador” on it, and the ambassador placed this magnet on a golf cart. This magnet suddenly became a conversation piece, as people asked the ambassador about the magnet.

Another great way to improve your sphere of influence is to create an IndieGoGo or Kickstarter campaign. It’s not just about raising funds for your book, but about raising awareness and creating buzz for your book. The packages you offer can include free copies for people who again feel invested in your book’s success, and who may therefore recommend your book to others (if they like your book).

When your book launches, identify people with influence among readers in your target audience and consider giving free copies of your book to them.

For children’s or educational authors, try to get input from teachers, educators, homeschool teachers, and librarians beginning at the developmental stages. They can be valuable in your sphere of influence.

Tip #2: Take advantage of the setting and other unique features of your book.

Where is your book set? If it’s a real location, people who live there (or who would like to visit that locale) may be interested in your book.

In G.T. Trickle’s book, a huge retirement community in Florida was featured in the book. G.T. Capitalized on this as a marketing opportunity. She made arrangements to make an appearance at the rec center. The rec center didn’t actually permit back-of-the-room sales (most venues do), which presented a unique challenge. To combat this, G.T. visited the local Barnes & Noble. The manager verified that Juror 1389 could be ordered in the store through Ingram, and G.T. also spoke to the manager about a possible signing and stocking copies. It’s hard to get into chain bookstores, but some managers make exceptions, but the main thing you want from a chain store is support. Show them that you’re professional and at a minimum strive to foster a supportive attitude from the management and staff in case customers visit the store to order your book. G.T. was targeting retired seniors, many of whom prefer to buy or order in a store rather than Amazon, so this was important.

A book can actually feature multiple locales in its plot, which helps to expand your marketing opportunities. In a locale featured in your book, approach local bookstores and other businesses for possible support. Small local stores are more likely to stock your book. Research how to prepare a press release kit. Start small and local to develop experience and confidence. Some stores will buy your books outright, others prefer consignment. You might be able to sell your book for a discount of 40 to 55% off the list price, or leave them at consignment for 35 to 40% off the list price. It’s a negotiation. You also need to discuss returns, and what happens to lost books left on consignment?

If your book features a real city, this opens the door for a creative marketing opportunity. For example, G.T. Trickle created a promotion based on businesses that a character, Dorsie, visited during her book. G.T. recruited local businesses to display Dorsie was here! posters in town. This is a good selling point for businesses, too, so it’s mutually beneficial. Readers would find the signs in participating businesses. They could get a small freebie (or a discount works, too) by identifying what Dorsie ordered at the business in the novel. Small local businesses tend to be supportive, and like you, they’re looking for creative marketing opportunities. This strategy has the added benefit of helping readers “meet” the character and really immerse themselves in the story.

It’s not just the setting. Where you live is also an asset. Go for local support from bookstores, other stores that may sell books, and local press (small newspapers and radio stations).

Tip #3: Identify your specific target audience.

Your book may have a few specific target audiences. For example, the book may be for mystery readers, but the plot may revolve around a popular sport, which gives you two different audiences to target right off the bat. For a book that involves golf, for example, golf course pro shops and golf stores may be willing to stock your book. Every book has one target audience in terms of genre, but may also have additional target audiences in terms of topic or subject. You want to market your book to all of the specific audiences which are a good fit for your book.

G.T. Trickle knows her specific target audiences well. She identified them and found many opportunities to reach them through offline marketing. She was targeting anyone who followed the Casey Anthony trial, seniors, people who reside in the book’s settings, and local readers, for example. There are several sizable audiences here, and each one can be targeted differently.

She created a 1389 Reader Trivia Contest (the 1389 because the book is called Juror 1389), which required people to read the novel to enter and which was relevant for a specific community in the target audience. Seniors enjoy entering contests (one of G.T.’s target audiences), so this enticed direct sales at offline marketing events.

Another creative marketing opportunity that G.T. Trickle capitalized on was a 1389 pizza night at a local pizza parlor, where she was able to offer free beer to anyone bringing in a book for a signing. That’s an imaginative way to help populate a signing (and to get people to buy the book for the signing).

Tip #4: Press includes more opportunities than you might realize.

You should research how to write a press release and prepare a press release kit. You should contact local newspapers and radio stations. You should think of various angles that can make you or your book newsworthy.

But you should also think outside the box.

G.T. Trickle sought coverage in newsletters from clubs and organizations relevant to her specific target audience. Now look back at Tip #1. If you have a beta reader (I mean Project Team member) who might feel invested in your book simply from being included in the process and who also has influence in a club or organization relevant to your target audience, this improves your chances of getting featured in a valuable newsletter. For those clubs or organizations where you don’t have beta readers, a free copy of your book as part of a press release kit may be enough to garner support.

There may also be magazines or minor television stations that are a good fit for your book. There are many online opportunities, too, among bloggers, online magazines, book reviewers, indie journals, etc.

Tip #5: Strive to create successful events.

You can have a reading or signing, book launch, or other event. Local bookstores, other stores, and libraries may offer some support, but you can also recruit help from coffee shops, restaurants, or theaters (who may benefit from the customers you bring in by selling drinks, for example), and there may also be public places like parks (great for a zombie race), but you may need to check with the city or county first.

You can’t just show up as a no-name author and expect people who don’t know you to show up. Getting the support from other people as described in Tip #1 is a good way to find people to help populate a few events and to help recruit others to attend. But you don’t just want a few people to show up to an event, and you can’t expect the same group to show up to all your events. Friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers can help a little, but you really want some strangers who are genuinely in your target audience to show up. The busier your event is, the better impression it will make on those who attend (and pulling in strangers who inquire about what’s going on), and the more people who didn’t already know about your book who show up, the more effective the event will be. You need to focus on how to draw in strangers from your target audience as well as how to recruit attendance and people with influence to help recruit attendance. You really need to build good connections in your community and to have good personal interactions.

Your project team and other people who can help expand your sphere of influence (recall Tip #1) can help you hold a successful book launch. G.T. Trickle worked very hard to assemble her project team and build connections for a wide sphere of influence, and she also contacted local press with a press release kit. The result was a festive book launch with the press attending.

Tip #6: Seek duplication.

When you interact with people in your target audience, they see your message once.

What you really want is to duplicate your message, but not by repeating your message yourself.

You’d really like to have other people sharing your message.

This helps to brand an image for your book or for you as an author.

People are more likely to buy a product they recognize.

People are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know.

The way to help with duplication is to recruit support from other people. Tip #1 is particularly helpful with your project team. But you can also get valuable help from local press, people with influence to whom you send free copies, online bloggers and reviewers, etc.

Tip #7: Add the personal touch.

You want to interact with people in person.

Personal interactions may be your biggest marketing asset as a new indie author.

The personal touch shows that you’re a human. It helps to generate interest in your book. It helps to generate interest in you, which can translate to interest in your book.

People who interact with you personally and who enjoy that interaction are more likely to check out your book, buy your book, review your book, or recommend your book to others. They’re also more likely to ignore any critical reviews on your product page.

Think discovery, not advertisement. What I mean is, if you walk into a room, don’t say, “Hey, I’m an author and I just wrote a book,” but spark up an interesting conversation and try to get someone to ask you, “What do you do for a living?” That’s a golden opportunity to mention your book.

Appear confident, but balance this with humility. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but can be quite effective when done well.

Tip #8: Print bookmarks.

You could make business cards, brochures, posters, bumper stickers, and a host of other promotional items.

One of the more effective promotional tools for authors is the bookmark.

Why? Because readers are more likely to actually use a bookmark, but are far more likely to throw your business card in a junk drawer.

Business cards are nice, too, as they fit in a wallet. If you can find people willing to put your business card in their wallet, go for it. But you can acquire many more business cards than will fit in a wallet, in which case that bookmark may actually get used.

The bookmark should be visually appealing and while it should feature your book and online marketing platform, it should also not seem like an advertisement.

Overnight Prints, Vista Print, iPrint, and a host of other sites print promotional items fit for authors. Some of these have nice holiday pricing right now, too.

Posters can come in handy if you can get support from local businesses.

But you want to give something to everyone you mention your book to, so they can easily find your book and learn more about it.

Tip #9: Sell directly, too.

If you can achieve consistent sales on Amazon.com, that will be huge.

But that’s not easy to do when you’re starting out. And even if you do get consistent sales from strangers at Amazon.com early on, it will still help to supplement this by reaching readers offline.

Selling directly won’t impact your Amazon sales rank directly, but enhancing your readership may give your more online and offline sales in the future.

Selling directly does give you the chance to earn a higher royalty, and it also allows you to offer a discount while still earning a good (possibly still higher than Amazon) royalty. That discount can help to attract customers, and customers buying in person also save on shipping.

Buy more copies than you need and buy well in advance. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to exchange defective copies, and you may need replacements for replacements. Better safe than sorry. You can find horror stories on the internet from authors who’ve booked successful events, but who hadn’t ordered extra copies or placed their orders far enough in advance.

Another benefit of selling directly is that you can sign the book.

Yet another benefit is that you can offer a discount to clubs, groups, or organizations (return yet again to Tip #1).

Tip #10. Seek feedback on your offline marketing.

You become a better marketer through experience and feedback.

So don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

When you approach your first few local stores, ask for advice on your approach and pitch before moving onto the next store.

In general, people like to give advice. You also need to be wise about which advice to take.

Also seek advice from people who know or respect who attend your events.

Tip #11. The book itself includes marketing.

In offline marketing, you need the front cover, spine, and back cover to make an excellent visual impression.

People will see your book stacked up at your event. It needs to attract your target audience.

People will pick it up and check it out. It needs to look appealing inside. The front matter and beginning of the first chapter need to sell your book. The back cover blurb needs to compel readers to look inside.

The better your story, the more likely people are to recommend it to others. Not just the story, but also the way it’s told.

Selling print copies gives you added benefits. One of these benefits is that people will see your book on coffee tables, in planes, on trains, on buses, at airport terminals, and anywhere else somebody might be reading your book. The better your cover, the more likely people will ask someone about your book, and the better your story, the more likely you’ll get valuable recommendations.

CHECK OUT G.T. TRICKLE

G.T. Trickle is the author of Juror 1389.

She has largely focused on direct sales and bookstores, though of course her book is also available from Amazon.com, BN.com, and other online stores.

Check out her website here: www.gttrickle.com.

Check out her book at Amazon here: http://amzn.com/0990541606.

Read Tuesday

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Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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