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Saturday, July 26, 2014

10 Things Authors Ought to Know about Book Marketing

Chip MacGregor is the president of MacGregorLiterary, a full-service literary agency on the Oregon Coast. A former publisher with Time Warner, he has worked with authors as a literary agent for more than a dozen years, and was previously a senior editor at two publishing houses. An Oregon native, Chip lives in a small town on the Oregon coast. Chip is also the author of a couple dozen books and a popular teacher on the craft of writing and marketing.

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Someone recently said to me, "I feel like I keep hearing the same stuff when it comes to book marketing. What would you say are the things we haven't thought of?"

I’m happy to take up that challenge. Here are ten things authors ought to know about book marketing, but many don't...

Don't limit yourself to Amazon
1. When selling your book, don't just limit yourself to Amazon. Sure, they're the biggest ebook retailer and the research suggests they probably sell about 60% of all digital books... but that means 40% of the market is buying their books elsewhere. So get your book onto, get it into the iBookstore, make it available at the Kobe bookstore (which is just starting here in the States, but a big deal in Europe and Asia). If you work with Smashwords, they'll get your book onto all those other sites, by the way.

2. Insert ads into the back of your current backlisted ebooks, promoting your new, soon-to-release title. It's called "cross-selling," and you need to be thinking about it. Sticking an ad for you new book into the back of your current one helps get the word out to people who are already reading you, and build interest in your title as it launches. Most authors won't do this because it's a pain, sticking in a new page in the back of all their old books. But it works - it helps you sell books.

Track your current marketing efforts
3. If you want to become a smarter marketer, track your current marketing. If you keep track of your blog numbers, for example, you'll begin to see what topics generate readers. But many authors never really check to see which marketing is working and which is not. They do the things they are comfortable with, instead of doing the things that their research has proven effective. Does your social media activity generate interest? Does offering something for free on your website generate a bunch of requests? Does having a contest create excitement and sales? In my experience, most authors think they know, but many haven't actually tracked the data to find out what really works when it come to marketing their books.

4. Have a "buy" link for you book on your blog, your website, your social media, and anything that brings readers to you. Giving potential readers a clear path to walk on, a clear method to purchase your book, is part of good marketing, and it's a part that is often overlooked. Many authors want to focus on getting the message of their book out, but they need to also focus on making it clear to everyone who visits how to purchase a copy. Make it easy for them.

5. Try bundling some books for a short time. Take three of your books and sell a three-in-one for the price of one book. Sure, you're giving up money on a couple of sales, but those may be sales you wouldn't make because readers are looking for value. Often "value readers" will buy a bundle because they see it as a deal too good to pass up -- so you've made a sale you otherwise would not have made.

6. Buy an ad. I know... all those Amazon authors have told you that you don't NEED to buy an ad for an ebook. They're all telling you to get onto Facebook and do more social media. But we're still a visual, ad-based culture. So check out the cost of BookBub or RT or BookRiot. Check out the cost of working with Google or BlogAds. Explore what they're doing on One Hundred Free Books. Publicity is marketing that is free; advertising is marketing that is paid for. Sometimes it's worth it to invest in the advertising side of things.

7. Share the facts of your book with your non-social-media
network. Yeah, yeah, you're tweeting and sticking stuff onto Pinterest and you've set up a Facebook page. But what networks do you belong to that might be interested in the fact your wrote a book? Have you had done a talk at your church about your book? Did you send something to everybody in your alumni association? Contact your local radio stations to suggest an interview? Propose a "local boy makes good" article in your local newspaper? Offer to speak to the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs?

8. Work with other writers who you know are completing books and create a sampler. It will have the first chapter or two of your book, and maybe samples of half a dozen other writers in the same genre. Then you give it away for free to as many people as possible. You could even print up copies very cheaply through Lulu and hand them out. But whether digital or print, make sure you have a clear method for the reader to purchase the rest of your book.

9. Drop the price to 99 cents for a few days. I'm not one who is crazy about giving away a ton of copies any more -- I think there are readers out there with a ton of unread free ebooks on their kindles. But take your ebook and make it really cheap for a few days... so cheap that readers just can't say no. Don't leave it sitting there at one price forever. Do the occasional daily deal. Or do a holiday weekend deal. Mix it up a bit, which will force you to stay on top of it.

Throw yourself a party when you bat .300
10. Throw yourself a party when you  bat .300. (I realize not everybody understands what I'm talking about, so stay with me.) In baseball, every time a batter goes to the plate, they keep a statistic called an "at bat." If a player goes to the plate ten times over the course of a couple games, and gets three hits, he or she is batting .300. That means they failed seventy per cent of the time, but they succeed thirty per cent. Understand the math? Over the course of the season, any batter who gets a hit thirty per cent of the time, and has a batting average of .300 will be considered a HUGE success. A player who batted .300 for an entire career is almost sure to land in the Hall of Fame. In other words, guys who fail seventy per cent of the time at the key element of their sport are considered heroes. (Think about this: The last guy to hit .400 in a season was Ted Williams, arguable the best hitter ever, and that was back in 1941. He failed at the plate sixty per cent of the time... and nobody has been able to duplicate his record in more than seventy years!) So if about 30% of the stuff you do seems to work, throw yourself a party. Don't sweat the 70% that didn't work -- focus on the 30% that DID. Then go repeat it.

There you are. Ten thoughts about book marketing you may not have heard!


  1. Good advice (though buying ads isn't my favorite...make sure you use the daily spending limit on Google or Facebook). Your biggest marketing tools are your books. Keep writing. And the link in the back of the book to take the reader to another book is an absolute must. Next book not ready? Check out a Wordpress app called Pretty Link. You set it up and you can re-direct it later. So if you just release a book, the link will take you to a page that says "My next book will be released in November! Sign up for my newsletter here and you'll be the first to know about it." Then, when you've published your next book, you can change the link direct to the purhcase page. If you really want to hit home runs, you set up a different link for the formats (Kindle, Nook, etc.). And please, friends don't let friends spam twitter. You're better off spending your time writing the next book.

  2. Great advice as always, Chip. I see there are many platforms out there that I need to study. Thanks!

  3. One great way to keep track of marketing strategy effectiveness is to follow your sales. Brandilyn Collins did a great Novel Rocket post on how traditionally published authors can track e-book sales by their Amazon rankings. It's one of the most helpful breakdowns I've seen on the topic. Indie authors get daily reports of sales. It's important to follow what your readers are responding to and that Amazon Kindle rank is a quick/easy way to determine that, indie or tradpub!

  4. This is so true, but I also think most of these could apply to selling almost any product with a few tweaks here and there.


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