How to Get Customers to Buy
With books, it isn’t a literary case of
Build it and they will come.
A kind of… “Write it and they will buy.”
That’s not (usually) what happens. Readers don’t come, and they don’t buy — not because your book isn’t good, but because they don’t know about you. Yet.
To promote your book, to get sales, to encourage that discovery, and sharing, every modern author needs to do marketing. Sustained, consistent marketing.
Is Lack of Marketing Letting Down Your Book?
I know that many authors are put off at this stage. But marketing isn’t difficult, scary, or sleazy – it’s just about finding ways to let people know your book exists.
You have to get your book in front of readers if you want anyone to find out about you, read your book and share your work.
To kick-start that marketing we have a no-fuss three-step plan that will work for you whether you are well known, or just beginning.
And it will work for you whatever your budget. The problem, for most of us, isn’t coming up with ideas (we have 50 of them in this post alone). No, the problem is prioritising the few things that work. And then finding the time and the commitment to implement them. Yet if you don’t, your book is likely to sink without trace.
Our No-Fuss Book Marketing Plan
We’ve put together a three month plan for you to use. Because we want you to make marketing your book an automatic part of your schedule.
You can make it automatic by adding monthly reminders in your diary. This is easy enough whether it’s on paper or something you can automate on repeat with an online app or calendar (Google calendar is a great place to start if you’re not online yet).
1. Month One: A KDP ‘Select’ Offer
KDP is Amazon’s digital publishing arm: Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the parallel to their print-on-demand service CreateSpace, and we’ll have a look at why you want to consider a print book in a moment.
If you’re self-publishing, and doing it yourself rather than through a self-publishing service, then there are some really nice marketing features you can utilise. But only if you go directly, and also exclusively, with KDP.
KDP works because…
Amazon wants authors to be exclusive to them, so they offer some incentives. More books = more readers, and more readers = more sales.
What might be seen as quite an aggressive marketing strategy can align with our own interests as an author. We, too, want to sell more of our books.
With the right approach, the promotional opportunities that Amazon give you, should help you boost book sales so that it more than makes up for any loss of sales by not being on other platforms. This is the part we’re interested in.
Should You Use KDP Select?
When you publish your book through KDP, Amazon will encourage you to opt in to their ‘Select’ programme. It’s optional but it does give you a couple of marketing advantages over authors who choose not to join.
And it’s a 90-day agreement, which you can choose to rejoin, or not, after which you can distribute your book on other platforms.
The main reason authors and publisher choose NOT to join is that Amazon demands exclusivity for your digital book for each 90 days you are in Select. You can’t sell it, or give it away on your website or through any other distributor or retailer for the period you stay in.
Which means, if you choose to opt in to KDP select, you can’t then sell your book on other platforms such as Kobo, Nook, or Apple’s iBooks. But, on the other hand, it gives you some promotional opportunities that are not available outside KDP.
If it’s your first book, then it’s a good idea to opt in and stay with Amazon exclusively.
As you publish more books, you can opt some in, and have others on wider distribution. You can pick up readers who only usually read on Kobo or Nook, who may be enticed over to Amazon to buy the other books in the series in print format.
Promote Your Book With KDP
The nice thing about being in KDP Select is that you have five days which you can schedule your book either for free, OR you can run a Countdown.
Free is pretty self-explanatory, and the Countdown option allows you to offer your book at a lower price for those five days. Amazon will make it available in a special listing for books on Countdown, and they put a very cool timer next to it.
You can run these five days at any time in your 90 day block — either together in a single block, or spread out and scheduled separately.
Countdown seems to work better if you use the five days together to give your book a chance to move up the listings, but free days can be scheduled separately, perhaps as a two-day and a then three-day event.
Free or Countdown?
Whether you choose free or Countdown depends on a couple of things.
For new books, first in a series, or for authors without an email list, we recommend you choose to use the free days. If you make your book free, it’s likely that more people will discover it, and if you have a popular book it can rank in the free charts — which means even more people will see it and download it.
And, if you’re savvy (which of course you are!), you’ll have a link in your book encouraging readers to go over to your website, and you’ll have an offer there for them to join your email list.
Running a free promotion can help your book get attention, and it can help you grow your email list. This gives you more readers to promote your other products and services to and of course, to whom you can promote future countdown offers or new books.
If you have a couple of books, or you have an email list, or a decent social media following, consider a Countdown promotion rather than a free promotion.
A Countdown gives you the chance to offer your book for at least 50% off its regular price. You can choose whether the price stays low for the full five days, or goes up in increments towards the end of its run. Hence calling it a countdown.
If you have a book priced at $3.99, for example, you can offer it at 99c for several days, then at $1.99 on the fourth day, then at $2.99 for the final day.
The Countdown feature is a powerful marketing tool for a few reasons:
- A paying customer is more valuable than a free customer. If someone’s bought the book, they’re more likely to read it. People who read are people who leave reviews, go to your site, and buy more of products or services, and also recommend you to their friends and colleagues. Someone who reads your book is more valuable to you than someone who just downloaded it ‘for later’.
- Amazon has a separate listing for books on Countdown and people do search for books on offer. You get additional exposure which helps boost your sales.
- And, because the reader can see the that the price is rising — and exactly when with the countdown clock — there is more urgency to buy. This (so far) is unmatched on the other retail platforms.
- A Countdown can be a good way to get a ‘Bestseller’ status for your book — you sell books albeit at a lower price than normal. This is good to remember if you don’t plan, or didn’t have, a big launch.
How do I get started?
Simply go to https://kdp.amazon.com/, log into your account and make sure your book’s enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select Programme. Do this from the ‘Bookshelf’ area of Kindle Direct Publishing.
You’ll then see a section to Promote & Advertise your book. Go in and set the date you want the offer to run. Set it a couple of weeks, to a month in advance so that you have time to promote it.
There are sites and social media pages and groups that will promote free books, or books on offer, and you can contact them to get your book listed. It’s a bit laborious, but you can outsource to an assistant, and there are several gigs on Fiverr.com that offer to promote Kindle Countdown and Free deals.
You can also find assistants who will do this for you on sites like Upwork (used to be oDesk). Make sure that you, or the person doing this for you, keeps track in a Spreadsheet, and that you monitor which sites have been approached and which have agreed to promote you.
Keep a close eye on any requirements those site haves, like a minimum number of reviews, or a minimum page count so that you maximise your chances of getting accepted.
And, of course, let your own community know, whether that’s your email list or your social media followers. A nice boost of sales when your book first goes on promotion will help it do better the remainder of the days.
2. Month Two: A Goodreads Giveaway
You might know of Goodreads as the biggest social network for readers, but it’s also an opportunity for authors to connect with those readers.
It’s hugely popular — over 40 million members at the time of writing, has a database of over 1 billion books, and was bought out by Amazon in 2013, leading to ever-increasing synergies between what appears on Amazon and what appears on Goodreads.
Members ‘shelve’ books by adding them to their virtual shelves, to say they have ‘read’, are ‘reading’, or want ‘to read’ them. They rate them, recommend them to friends, add them to lists, and share them with their Goodreads friends and groups, and they can also post their activity to Facebook or Twitter. Phew!
And a Giveaway is one way you can promote your book to all those yummy readers.
As well as the getting your book in front of people who might buy, Goodreads recommends (although does not oblige) winners to review books they receive — so your chances of getting a review are very high. The more books you give away, the more reviews you are likely to get.
How does a Giveaway work?
Goodreads gives you — the publisher or the author — the opportunity to offer your book in a contest, or a ‘Giveaway’; and members have the opportunity to enter these contests with a quick two-click process.
The Goodreads member just clicks to confirm their postal address, and they’re in. It’s easy and all managed by Goodreads so you don’t have complicated contest rules and regulations to think about.
Winners are picked by Goodreads, and it isn’t completely random — readers who review books in similar categories to the one being given away are more likely to win. Hence perpetuating the positive cycle of reviews.
Benefits of a Giveaway (to you!)
The benefit for you as an author is three-fold:
- You are highly likely to get reviews of your book, which is nice of course, because those reviews are on the Goodreads profile of your book.
- There’s the important viral effect of the Giveaway so that you build awareness for your author brand. Goodreads is a social site, people ‘friend’ each other, and they see updates from their friends in the newsfeed. And just as we click through to friends posts on Facebook, so we might also enter a Giveaway if we see something interesting come up, and we see that our friend has entered.
- The average number of entries is around 1,000, and each person entering has the option of adding the contest book to their ‘To Read’ shelf — so you get ongoing awareness and potential sales and readers later. Plus, if you decide to offer another Giveaway at a later date, any Goodreads user who’s shelved the book will be notified and can enter the contest again (or perhaps be nudged into buying and reading it).
- The Giveaways are hugely popular and you can expect hundreds of people to enter — even thousands depending on the genre of your book and whether or not you boost the Giveaway with a little advertising. For the reader, this is the gift of a free book. And, remember, you’re giving away a print copy, which is regarded more highly than a digital version. The more people who enter, the more chance their friends may see… and so the snowball grows.
Giveaways are only available for print books — so you have to have copies of the books printed (easy enough of you have it on CreateSpace or another print-on-demand service), and you have to post the book out, so there is the cost of postage to consider.
You can offer as many, or as few, books as you want — between 1 and 3 is fine, and you can limit entries to certain countries if you want to reduce the postage costs.
There are some things you can do to make your Giveaway more successful:
- Decide how far in advance you want to schedule the Giveaway. Goodreads recommends scheduling about a month in advance. So, for example, you could schedule one on September 1st to start on October 1st.
- Decide how long to run the Giveaway for. Goodreads suggest six weeks but really, a shorter period is fine — three to four weeks is a good amount of time because your book will show up under the ‘Most Recent’ Giveaway tab and then, soon after, under the ‘Ending Soon’ tab. So your Giveaway that starts on 1st October, can end on 27th October, or 15th November, whichever you prefer.
- Take advantage of natural peaks in book sales. As book sales tend to increase towards the end of the month, schedule the end of your Giveaway to coincide with that.
- Avoid major holidays of course, although having a Giveaway in, say November or early December, means you can add “will make a nice Christmas gift” to your description to encourage entries from readers who might not love your genre, but who know someone who does.
Top Tips for Goodreads Giveaways
List your Giveaway at www.goodreads.com/giveaway. Add the dates you want this to start and finish and that’s it. People will find your Giveaway naturally so you don’t have to promote, but some promotion is better than none. These strategies have worked well for us:
- Social media. If you have any kind of a following on social media, you will want to share your Giveaway. And encourage people to share with their friends and followers who might also be interested in the chance to win a free book.
- Blog. Goodreads has widgets that you can add to your blog. Find them in the Giveaway area after scheduling your book’s Giveaway and add the code to a sidebar widget, or after post widget.
- Email list. And of course you want to let your subscribers know about the Giveaway — give them notification when it opens and then mail again three times, a week before it closes, two days before, and then again on the final day.
- Advertising. Most authors don’t realise the potential of Goodreads advertising and a Giveaway is the perfect opportunity to put it to work for you. You can choose to advertise to people who like authors with work that is similar to yours. You don’t need to invest a lot — just enough to pump prime the Giveaway and get those first few entries.
You can create a Giveaway for each of your books as you publish them. There’s no limit on the number of times you can run a Giveaway, but do it when the books are new, and don’t do it too often, because scarcity is attractive. If you were to make your book available as a Giveaway too often it would cease to have an effect.
If you want to learn more about using Goodreads as an author, this course explains everything you need to know.
3. Month Three: Podcasts and Blogs
You need to be seen and heard
If you want to promote your book, you need to put yourself out there.
For you this may come naturally, or maybe you’re already in demand, which is great.
For most of us though, it’s about doing something day-in-day-out that will helps us build our profile and our platform. One author I know, now famous but not always so, told me she spent the first year calling radio station after radio station to get interviews for her book. It worked and she went on to become featured on a reality TV show — but those first few years were a slog. She didn’t give up and neither should you.
What’s working now
Print, radio, and TV media are great, and can lead to some big wins, but it’s very ‘in the moment’ and the effect can wane quickly.
Podcasts and blogs, on the other hand, are evergreen. As they grow, they will attract listeners and readers to their back catalogue. New listeners download or listen to back episodes of podcasts (I know I do!).
Podcasts in particular are enjoying a boom and I encourage you to seek out podcasts to promote your book. If you can get yourself invited on as a guest, you could pick up new readers, raise your profile, and find yourself invited onto other podcasts. Being featured on blogs gives you some specific benefits:
- You get direct traffic of course when the blog you write for, or the podcast you’re interviewed on, send the episode or post out to its audience.
- You get valuable backlinks to your site. And quality backlinks are part of the algorithm that Google uses to rank your site. More backlinks (with good quality, well-optimised content) is likely to give you a boost over similar sites, and better discoverability in the search engines.
- And, if you’re approaching sites with a bigger audience than you, they probably get more search traffic. Which means you can get a trickle of ongoing visitors back to your site from people who’ve found your article on Google.
- And this strategy is free. No need to pay a publicist or a PR agency.
You have to pick carefully of course, but, for a new author, when you’re thinking about how to market your book, this is something that will keep you going — and keep those sales going — for months. And the more you do, the more impact it will have.
Finding the right audience
Finding the right audience is they key to making this part of the marketing plan work for you.
The mindset to adopt is that you are not looking for exactly the same people you reach already (or want to reach), but you want to reach a wider audience.
Sites that have a more general interest often have a bigger audience (and you can easily check this on Alexa.) It’s the same with podcasts. Go for ones that broadcast frequently and have a big, and growing audience.
Look for ones that are a fit for you and your topic. If you write on Eating For Diabetes, for example, then look for sites that write or podcast on healthy eating, fitness, weight management, or perhaps sites that target your audience — say mommy blogs, or blogs for retirees.
It’s great for your credibility to be featured on larger sites, and you still attract a decent number of visitors, even going if it’s a small percentage of their audience.
Check the Basics
Bloggers and podcasters are often grateful for the contact — they need new and exciting content, or interviewees, and, if you’ve got expertise and interesting content, they are happy to host you.
Do check that they take guest posts, or that they do interviews on the podcast, before you approach them. Blogs may often advertise the fact they take guest posts. And you know just from skimming the episode index, whether a podcast takes interviews or is all about the host. Even if it is all about the host, or the blogger, perhaps they do book reviews — which is still a great opportunity for you to get your content in front of a new audience.
To find the right podcast, go to the iTunes store and browse the podcasts. Look for ones that are closely related to: your book’s topic or content, your own profession or expertise, or topics you are passionate about, and can speak knowledgeably on.
Listen to a few episodes of the podcast to get a feel for the podcaster and the topic and the type of content he or she likes to feature.
Find the podcaster’s contact details — usually their website is the best place for this — and send an email — scroll down for an outline of that email.
If you’re a little nervous about being interviewed, then pick a smaller show, or perhaps one where you know the host. When you approach podcasters in the future, you can give them a link back to the show you already appeared on. Sometimes podcasters will check out that you make a good interviewee so it’s nice to have some ‘safe’ ones under your belt.
It’s quick and easy to contact blogs. If they accept guest posts, there’s usually a process.
Some (like us), prefer you to contact them with an idea.
Others are very happy for you to send them ready-made content and they’ll decide whether or not to use it. And, of these, some sites are happy to take a post you’ve already published on your own blog, but do check because it’s important to how you get found in Google. Don’t try to recycle something you’ve already written if the site doesn’t want this. The relationship is more important in the long term.
Most sites will want original content, so do remember this, especially if you’re sending content to more than one site. Wait until the first one you send it to approves or rejects it before you send it on to someone else.
If you’re starting your research, and you really don’t know which sites to approach, then simply ask your email subscribers, or your Facebook fans what blogs and websites they read. You want to find sites that your perfect reader visits — even if the site attracts a wider audience overall.
You can do your own research, or you can ask your assistant (if you have one) to do the research. And you can outsource this quite easily to people you find on sites like Upwork.
Reach out and make personal contact rather than sending a generic email. If you’re using an assistant, get him or her to make these personalisations or edit the emails emails before they go out.
Making your introduction
Keep it brief and to the point – remember just it’s a first contact to see if he or she is interested. You can follow up with more information later.
You want to do an email that looks something like this:
Tell them who you are.
- Introduction – who you are, what you write, how big your own audience is. (I’m a former auditor turned author with two series of books on XYZ. My readers are passionate about PODCAST OR BLOG TOPIC and I have a 20,000+ email list and rapidly growing social media fanbase.)
- If your email list is of a good size, give the number. The podcaster or website owner will relish the idea of your email list tuning into his or her podcast or site. Most people on the web want more exposure, and the bigger your audience, the more attractive a guest you will be.
- If your list is tiny, don’t be tempted to exaggerate! It’s not necessarily about how big your list is, but it can certainly help. If it’s small, you can say it’s ‘growing’ – podcasts are evergreen and blogs get found in the search engine, and new readers in the future may be tempted to tune into old recordings of the podcast, or go over to the website.
- If you don’t have a large email list, you can talk about your Facebook fans, or Twitter followers. If you don’t have any of that, don’t worry, just be yourself because it’s the and personal connection that matters.
2. Talk About Them
It’s about them, not about you.
- Talk about their site, mention a particular episode that you like, or that one of your fans recommended to you.
- Compliment the podcaster or blogger. (I enjoy your podcast and the XYZ episode where you interviewed NAME prompted me to write to see if you think I would be a good fit for a future episode.)
3. Now it’s about you
It’s time to introduce what you have.
- What are you offering? Talk about your expertise or your book’s theme, and desciribe (briefly) how you could expand that in an interview, or make a suggestion for a post. (I notice that you haven’t yet covered YOUR TOPIC, and I would love to talk about it / write about it for you).
- If you’ve appeared on other podcasts, or you have YouTube videos, or webinars, etc., now is the time to mention that.
- What about your own site? Give them a link, or link to other sites you have written for.
- For podcasters especially, it shows that you aren’t afraid of a microphone, have some degree of eloquence, and aren’t likely to get stage fright right before the interview!
- For blogs, reassure the owner or editor that you’ve read the guidance. Mention the length of the post and any guidelines they have to show that you’ve read them, and talk about how your content will be a good fit for their audience.
4. Time for Action
What are you asking for? Be specific.
- Sign off with a proposed action. Perhaps the simple suggestion that the podcaster or blogger contacts you if he or she wants to pursue the idea, but with a note that you will follow-up. (I’ll leave it with you. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to chat. And, if it’s OK, I’ll check in with you in a couple of weeks.)
- And then, if you don’t hear anything, please do follow-up. We are all busy and sometimes an email gets a little far down the inbox. This happens to me and you’d be doing me a favour if you wrote again. Also it forces a decision — nothing’s worse than not knowing and better for someone to say, “Thanks but No Thanks” and you can move on, rather than keep you hanging on with unanswered emails.
5. An incentive for their readers / listeners
And, finally, as you get closer to the post or interview, offer a gift for their readers or listeners. Perhaps you have an audio version of your book, with some free download codes? It’s a nice incentive for their audience to read or listen to your book, and you might pick up some fans and reviewers along the way.
Remember, this strategy that we are laying out for you here is all about building your audience reader by reader. Everything you do will be the foundation for the next level of your business.
Rinse, and Repeat
With a three month plan like this, it’s easy to do it, take a break, and then come back to it. Doing a structured promotional cycle like this twice a year will really show returns for you.
If you just have the one book, you can stretch out the blogging and podcasting parts, or alternate it with content creation and service delivery. If you have more than one book, you can do it for one book, then another.
Set reminders for yourself throughout the year like this.
- January 1st – KDP Offer for Book One;
- February 1st – Goodreads Giveaway for Book One;
- March 1st – Podcast or Blog blast for Book One;
- April 1st – KDP Offer for Book Two;
- May 1st – Goodreads Giveaway for Book Two;
- June 1st – Podcast or Blog emails for Book Two.
- And so on…
Success is about consistency and, if you can systematise this plan, and keep it going, you will get more and more visibility, and, of course, more sales. It’s easy enough to manage this with a part-time VA or even an intern.
Send out requests to bloggers and podcasters every month; reduce the price of your book and notify bargain book sites; set up a social media schedule where you tweet and post excerpts from your book on Facebook; answer reader Q&As.
You can add in virtual book tours, paid ads, Facebook sponsored posts, LinkedIn group participation, Google+ posts and more. It really is endless!
Month after month, you get extra exposure for your book and your business, and you create even more opportunities for potential readers to find you and your books.
And you still have plenty of time to write your next book.
If you’d like to have your own book marketing spreadsheet that you can personalise, just click the image below.
This post was written by Michelle Campbell-Scott, author of Goodreads for Authors and our editor, Cathy Presland, co-creator (with Michelle) of the online training course Goodreads for Authors. We’d love to see you inside the course if you want to get to know Goodreads!
Are you running any of these promotions at the moment? What else works for you? Let us know on social media…