by Heather B. Moore
Months ago, when I was strategizing my marketing campaign around becoming a U.S.A Today best-selling author, I knew that anything I could pay for to promote my book, I could do myself. The question became time versus money spent. In the end, I decided to learn the ropes myself so I could replicate my efforts for future campaigns. It took a lot of time, but it resulted in reaching my goal!
If you’re willing to invest your time into marketing, or your discretionary funds are very low, then learning the marketing ropes will also benefit you. Yes, you can also hire someone to do the work, but always ask yourself this question first: what is your ROI (Return on Investment)?
Most authors don’t sell enough books to completely pay back their marketing dollars spent. This is particularly true if you only have one book out. The reason is because even if someone buys your book, loves it, and reviews it—then what? There’s no second book for them to buy. It’s hard to capitalize on a fan base when you only have one thing to sell them.
But if you have more than one book published, and you are smart about marketing, you will likely start to see residual effects with your earlier books over time. At some point in your career, hiring someone might, indeed, pay off. But my advice would be to not spend a lot on marketing when you only have one book published (unless you have a business platform in place that your book is supporting and you know you’ll reach a larger audience based on past marketing experience).
Now, of course you still need to market that first book or the ball will never get rolling. So, while you’re building your product line, check out these top DIY promotion picks. Some of the items below (1-3, 7-8, 10) can be done by YOU only if you are indie publishing; otherwise they’ll be done by your traditional publisher (be prepared to help them on all steps; in fact, you may need to offer to pay for some of the promotion sites if they’ll agree to temporarily discount your book).
- Book Description & Marketing Pitch: The book description should be short and entice the reader to buy your book above the others she is looking at. Your book description IS your marketing pitch. The description also becomes a searchable entity on Amazon.
- Categorizing & Metadata: E-book platforms such as Amazon allow you to choose categories and keywords. See my previous blog post about this. There are great marketing books that will take you through this process step by step. You want to categorize your book properly, as well as select keywords that can get you onto Top 100 best-seller category lists.
- Back of Your Book: At the back of your e-book, include an invitation to your readers to review your book as well as sign up for your newsletter. Some authors will offer an incentive, such as a free novella, if the reader will sign up for her newsletter. This allows you to direct-market to your readers through an emailed newsletter. (You can set up a free newsletter service on your blog/website through many providers.)
- Newsletter: Collect names/emails when you are presenting at a writers conference, speaking to a book club, or through social media requests. An author newsletter sent out periodically is considered direct marketing, and is one of the more effective ways of letting truly interested readers know that you have a new book release.
- Review Team: When someone agrees to review your book (or if you find, online, that they’ve given you a good review), ask them if they’d like to be on your review team and be sent a free copy of your next book in exchange for an honest review. Whenever I’ve had a fan email me that they like one of my books, I ask if they are interested in joining my review team. I’ve never been turned down. (You can set a “Google alert” for your name and the name of your book in order to receive notice of when something relating to those terms has popped up online; this will help you see who’s voluntarily reviewing your book.)
- Street Team: Some authors will put together a street team, which consists of a group of people who help you market (mostly on social media). For example, when you have a new book release, your street team will post the announcement to Facebook, Twitter, etc. and do “shout-outs” so that the word gets out. Authors will offer prizes or incentives to award their street team for their help. (You can ask fans, reviewers, family, friends, etc., to be on this team, though you don’t want to ask too many other authors since they’ll be busy with their own campaigns.)
- Submitting to Media Reviewers and Author Review Services: Submitting to media reviewers doesn’t cost anything, but you will have to do your research to find the right fit. Some newspapers only review certain genres. Author review services are paid services, and depending on the number of reviews they guarantee, will determine the cost for the service. At the high end, review services such as Kirkus charge around $425 for a review.
- Pricing Strategies: Changing your price on your e-book can give you something to announce to your readers. It’s harder to get your price changed through a traditional publisher, but many of them are willing to do it for a short-term. I’d recommend only doing short-term price drops, then go back to your regular price (so you generate interest, and when buyers come back for more, they are paying the regular price; which is another reason to have more than one offering out). The highest selling price points on Amazon and other ebook retailers are $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99. This means that more volume moves at these price points than any other. You might need to experiment with the price of your e-book to see what price will sell the most books.
FYI: Pros & cons of discounting your book
Pros of discounting mean that you can promote the lower price to your readers, more readers are likely to take a “risk” on your book and, in return, you’re more likely to get more reviews of your book. (In addition to, or in exchange for, discounted books, many authors will have one free ebook or novella/short story to drive readers to their regular-priced books.) Cons of discounting your book is that some readers will assume it’s “self-published” unless the discount is only temporary (while self-publishing has gone pro, there’s still a stigma attached to less-than-professionally produced books, which are generally sold for cheap), and you are competing with many other similar products, which makes it hard to stand out. Last, the royalty percentage is a lot lower ($0.35 on a $0.99 book).
- Facebook Advertising: Facebook has an Ad Manager that allows you to select your target market, the $ spent per/day, and track your click rates. Anything over $0.25/click would be a waste, so you want to learn how to structure your images/text for the best ROI. Ad Manager is not “boosting” your posts. There are several online tutorials on how to do make Facebook advertising work for your book. Mark Dawson has a great tutorial on his website.
- Scheduling Promos for Your Temporary Sale: Don’t discount on a whim, but make it a part of a promotion strategy. Weeks in advance of your price drop, you need to apply to various e-book promo sites. (Important to note: I would never pay for any advertising until I have at least 25 reviews on my book.) My most recommended promotion sites are:
- BookBub (expensive, but ROI is great)
- KindleNationDaily (can be expensive, but ROI is great)
- EreaderNewsToday (moderately priced, ROI is great)
- Book Funnel
The following e-book promotion sites are all under $30. You can see a more comprehensive list in my marketing book: Ebook Marketing 101.
UNDER $30 PROMOTION SITES
Check to make sure your book fits their requirements before submitting. Sites with * are automatically submitted by ebookbooster when you sign up for their promotion.
*Awesome Gang $10
eBooks Habit $10 (For guaranteed placement)
eBook Soda $29 (additional $9 promo options for Twitter and Facebook)
Free and Discount Books $12 (Prices based on book price)
Free Books Hub $10
Free Kindle Giveaway $10 (Bronze Sponsorship)
The Fussy Librarian $13 (Prices based on genre)
Good Kindles $25
My Book Cave $5
The Kindle Book Review $10 (For Social Media Blast)
Reading Deals $29 (To guarantee submission)
Choosy Bookworm ($29, but on sale as of 2023 for $14.50)
Remember, whatever promotion you’re doing, you need to ask yourself about potential ROI. In most cases, you will need to spend a little money/time on tasks like the above for every book, but you don’t need to break the bank or give away the farm running your promotions/giveaways. Once you have several books in place, then consider a little more aggressive promotion. And the final tip? Keep writing!
Time for comments! Any tips to add to Heather’s?
Heather B. Moore is a four-time USA Today bestseller and award-winning author of more than eighty publications in diverse genres. She is the owner of Precision Editing Group and the publisher of the popular Timeless Romance Anthology series. Her websites are hbmoore.com and precisione