Congratulations, you have published a book!
That truly is a feat in itself and so I think we need to take a moment to truly give it the recognition it deserves. I'm sure you have all seen that stat, that 97% of people that start writing a book never finish it? Well you are one of those few 3% that did finish it. Not only did you finish it, but you published it.
There is another stat out there though, a more worrying stat. There are lots of stats bouncing around out there, but generally speaking, most self-published authors will likely sell around 250 books or less. Another stat I saw said that 90% sell fewer than 500 copies and the great majority of that group, anecdotally, sell fewer than 100.
And this is not because these are bad books. This is because no one knows about them.
Due to the wonderful self publishing platforms we now have today, publishing your story is now more accessible than ever before. The number of books being published is growing by 264% YoY (2018 vs 2019).
However, books sales have slowed by 17%.
So how can you make sure that your book doesn't just get lost in all the noise?
This is where marketing comes in. Now I can't promise that marketing will solve all your problems or suddenly make your book a best seller, but I can promise that without it, your book will fall into that category of selling less than 500 copies.
It's funny because we writers spend months -- no years -- writing our book, telling everyone that will listen about it, learning all about KDP and book covers and employing editors and cover artists. We become small business owners in our own right and manage our empires with professionalism and adeptness, but for some reason when when the topic of marketing or selling comes up, we run away screaming or hide under the covers?
Why is that?
I think it is because as creatives we feel that as soon as we have to sell our book, we are actually selling ourself out. But that isn't the case at all. Unfortunately the age old adage of 'if you build it they will come' no longer applies in a world of social media. People want to read your book, they really do, they just don't know it yet. By failing to put it out into the world, by not marketing it or telling people about it, asking them to take a chance on it and buy it, you are depriving people of a book that could become their next favourite story, or even of you becoming their next favourite author.
Convinced you yet?
I am Megan Beth Davies, by night a Historical Fiction and Fantasy Writer and avid reader and by day a Marketing Manager who has worked for broadcasters, publishers and tech companies, and this blog article will introduce you to the wonderful world of author marketing.
The most important thing to understand are the different channels you will market it on and which of these you will need to invest money into and those you will need to earn (we call these owned, earned and paid). You will not need to use all of these but it is recommended that you use a mix of marketing channels to get your book out far and wide.
Social Media Ads
Email Newsletter and Website Banner Ads
Paid Content Spots/ Native Advertising
Paid Online Book Tours
Social Media: Mentions, Shares, Reposts
Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads
Mentions on Blogs and in Emails
Your Website (with or without blog)
Your Social Media
Your Email Newsletter
Paid channels do exactly what they say on the tin. It is all about where you pay to advertise your book. And there are so many places you can place ads, from social media to Amazon, from websites and emails to magazines. You can even record ad spots for podcasts and place written articles on websites and in emails that look like media coverage, but are actually paid for (native advertising).
With paid channels it is important to assess a few things first:
The ROI (Return on Investment)
When it comes to advertising, you need to make sure it is to the right audience. For places like social media this is an easy one because you set the audience yourself, but for a podcast or a magazine you need to make sure that the people who read/ listen to it will actually be interested in your books. If you know that your book is most read by women aged 30-35 then advertising it on a podcast with mainly male or young listeners won't yield results, no matter how many listeners they have.
ROI is all about how many books you would have to sell to get profit for this advert. If an advert costs £500 and you get £2 profit per book, that advert will have to lead to more than 250 book sales to make it profitable. At 250 book sales you would only break even, so anything after that would be your profit. This is important to remember when looking at some of the more expensive ads.
As per above, you want to make sure that you track the return on investment from your ads, but how? You need to track book sales from the campaign. There are many link trackers out there that keep track of a number of visits a link has (though that doesn't necessarily mean they bough it). Also, if you are selling your book on your own website then you should get a breakdown from the website analytics about where your buyers came from. Alternatively (and what I think is the most reliable method) is you can allocate a discount code to an ad, that way every book that is brought with that code you know came from that campaign.
Paid adverts can be expensive, but worth it. It is important to have some paid adverts out there at all times spreading word of you book and driving book sales, but you do not have to be doing all of them all at once. Pick 1-2 that you have as always on advertising (I would suggest Amazon and social media ads) and then do a big campaign once a quarter with a third channel and mix it up. For example a magazine advert in Q1 and a podcast advert in Q2.
Next we come onto earned channels. In my opinion, earned is probably one of the most important, but hardest channels to take advantage of. It requires other people spreading the word about your book for free (though you may give them benefits such as free books etc.)
There are three types people who are key in your earned media strategy:
Your Network/ Readers
Your Network/ Readers
Your network and your readers are the most important people - not only are they your buyers but they are also those that are most accessible to you. Do everything you can to nurture them. Choosing some of your most engaged readers in your network to be on your street team is a great idea to do this. Send them ARCs and swag and give them sneak peaks of new and upcoming works. The more you make your readers feel special and a part of your journey as a writer, the more likely they are to share your posts and talk about you in their own channels.
Influencers are also key and some of these people may cross over into your network. Now we all know about the big influencers like the Kardashians that make thousands of $ on one post about booty firming cream they have likely never touched in their lives, but these are not the influencers you need to worry about. It's all about micro-influencers for authors. These are individuals who have between 10k and 50k followers (though anyone with a few thousand engaged followers are just as impactful). These people will have active bookstagram/ writergram accounts and be willing to read a copy of your book for an honest review. I would treat them the same way you do your network and readers, nurture them, get to know them, get them excited about your book. At the end of the day, this isn't selling or conning them, you are literally just reaching out to them with a great book you think they will like and offering to send it to them for free. I don't about you, but I wouldn't mind getting messages like that from my favourite authors.
The last groups are journalists and these are the hardest to interact with. The first thing you need to do is create a press kit and then you can go and identify the media outlets you would like to feature your book. This is a good resource on how to create a good press kit. From there it is a case of reaching out to them and sending them your pitch. don't forget your local papers, and awards competitions. It is important to reach out to everyone you think might be interested - a little like querying.
Top tip: you should also try and propel sharing and engagement with paid promotion by mixing it with earned channels. Get your followers and network to augment a paid campaign by sharing it on their own channels too.
Finally onto your owned channels. These are the most simple channels, they are free and they are controlled by you, win/win!
The main owned channels are:
Your Social Media
Your Email Newsletter
This is your online shop window. Without a website people don't have a point of reference for all your books or for you as an author. They don't know how to contact you or how to buy your books. It is important for every author to have a website even if it only has is three pages - one about you, one about your books and one with how to contact you. There are so many website builders out there that you are spoiled for choice, but Square Space, Wix and Wordpress are good ones to start with. Also, if you can, make sure you set up a space on your website where people can buy books directly from you including signed copies or special editions. You will cut out the middleman (like Amazon) and their fees.
Your Social Media
Your social media profiles are where you will build your network and attract your buyers. There are a lot of different social medias out there: Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are the main ones and while I don't suggest you have all of them, I would recommend having an Instagram account for you as an author, a TikTok account to promote your books and a Facebook group for engaged readers at the very least. Maintaining a consistent social media presence can be a very overwhelming so I would recommend you to plan and schedule your posts in advance and dont worry too much about posting every day, just as many times a week as is doable for you. Many authors that use social media to promote their book often go too far one way: either they only post about their book or they never do. I find that a rule of 80/20 works well. So 80% of your posts are regular posts such as writing tips, book reviews etc. and 20% are marketing posts.
Your Email Newsletter
Where social media is great, it has one big downfall - you don't actually own it (even though it is in the owned channel category). What I mean is that Instagram could choose to remove your account tomorrow and there is nothing you could do about it. Even worst, there would be no way for you to reach your network. This is why email is so important. I would recommend you creating and sending a monthly email newsletter in order to continue nurturing your followers outside of social media. Fill it with things they might not get on your social media pages like sneak peaks, discount codes and exciting updates. You should also include a "magnet" to encourage people to sign up (such as a short story or a special discount code from your books). The people that sign up to this newsletter are your most engaged readership so you want them to feel special.
Top tip: The more you get your branded content out there with paid and earned channels more your drive traffic to your owned channels (website/ social media etc.) and the more it adds to your SEO meaning your rise in your rankings on google.
And that's it! While that all may seem daunting, marketing can really be dissolved into a few key elements:
Talk about your book on your website, social media and in your email newsletter
Don't be afraid to reach out to others who have read your book asking for a review
Spend a bit of money on promoting your book, set aside a budget each month
I hope that helped demystify some of the ways you can market your book. If you have any questions or would like me to elaborate on any of this, you can DM me @meganbethdavies.
Meet Megan Beth Davies
Megan Beth Davies is writer of Historical Fiction and Folklore with a generous helping of romance. She grew up by the wild English sea, reading old fairy tales by Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Andrew Lang. She studied languages, classical literature and ancient history through her school years, inspiring a lot of what she writes today. She writes tales that transport the reader to another time and place and speak to the heart.
Megan lives with her partner and cockapoo in a hundred year old Edwardian house on the South Coast of England. When she is not writing, you will find her reading, hosting historical dinner parties or practicing yoga (albeit badly). She is also a Marketing Manager who has worked for broadcasters, publishers and tech companies.