During our monthly Author Brainstorm Exchange meeting this week, we had a brief discussion about the importance of wading through the never-ending stream of book marketing advice. There are thousands of potential book marketing tactics, and just knowing about so many of them can make marketing feel overwhelming. Not to mention hearing conflicting advice and trends and new “must try” discoveries.
So how do you begin to know what you should focus on? Following are some important considerations.
Find Out if a New Strategy Lives Up to the Hype
With the proliferation of new book marketing strategies, websites, and opportunities, there are always options that get buzz for a while. One current example is BookTok, which has been enjoying much fanfare. BookTok isn’t a platform on its own, it’s a hashtag used on TikTok. This means that influencers on TikTok make book recommendations using the #BookTok hashtag, and it has certainly helped many books grow readership.
But users on TikTok and the readers who follow them tend to be of a younger generation. According to NPR, the success created from #BookTok has been primarily for young adult and romance books. For those of us writing nonfiction, especially targeted toward a more mature audience, focusing on getting attention through BookTok influencers would likely fall flat.
It’s important to do your research before you climb aboard any marketing party bus. Make sure your audience spends time on the recommended platform, it offers value that aligns your goals, and will ultimately be worth your effort.
Beware of Trends
Please avoid getting sucked into the hype of new trends. Sometimes trends stick around for awhile (Facebook), sometimes they peak and begin to fade (Medium), and oftentimes they fall away completely (MySpace). We can never be too sure how long a trend will stick around, so it’s wise to proceed with caution.
A current example is the buzz you’ve probably heard around selling ebooks using NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). An NFT is essentially a digital asset whose sale is recorded digitally using blockchain technology. This technology has recently become popular for selling digital art, articles, and some novels. The audience for NFT purchases consists primarily of active cryptocurrency investors, and some are taking chances by betting that a piece of digital art or writing will take off and gain value with time. A few buy ebook copies for reading purposes.
Keep in mind if you’re targeting moms, teens, pet lovers, retirees, or just about any audience that isn’t currently trading cryptocurrency, chances are your readers aren’t looking to purchase your book via NFTs. Where will NFTs be in a year or five or ten years? Who knows? Maybe we all start investing and buying digital books this way, but today, this remains highly uncertain.
What Works for One Book Doesn’t Always Work for Another
Perhaps an author friend tells you about a new strategy that’s working for her, or you read an article about a marketing method that sounds intriguing. These recommendations can be useful IF they make sense for your unique book. But not all marketing tactics make sense for everyone.
For example, authors often ask if I recommend hiring a publicist. While publicity firms can bring tremendous exposure to an author and his/her books, that visibility comes with a hefty price tag (typically $2,500+ per month for at least three months). And it’s difficult to earn back a substantial investment in publicity or other marketing services from book sales alone. Our profit margins are just too thin, which is especially true for traditionally published authors.
So, you must decide if it’s worth it to you to gain a spattering of book sales, but not likely enough to be profitable. Some business book authors sell other products and services so the added exposure to various media outlets can be worthwhile because they earn profits beyond book sales. And perhaps you have other goals and getting media attention will help you build credibility toward reaching that goal. Ultimately, deciding to hire a publicist depends on your personal goals, budget, and expectations.
When evaluating any potential marketing tactic, be sure to answer the following questions:
- Does my audience spend time here? Hopefully, by now you have a clearly defined target audience. You know who they are, what they care about, and where they spend their time (what websites they visit, podcasts they listen to, social media sites they frequent, associations they belong to, etc.). Be sure to do a little research on who is the audience that uses the hot new platform before you decide it will work for you.
- Is this something I will enjoy doing? Marketing our books can feel like a daunting exercise, so it’s best to find tactics that you enjoy enough to stick with them. If the tactic you’re considering requires live streaming over video, make sure that is something you want to do and will remain committed to doing. If not, there are plenty of alternative tactics you can deploy.
- Is this a good use of my time? If a new marketing tactic requires hours of time to implement, you must assess the risk vs. reward ratio. If you’ve done your research and feel that hours of time will lead to book sales, then go forward with confidence. But if it’s unclear and your time is limited, it may make sense to wait and find out if others—who write in your genre—are finding success.
- Am I at least fairly certain this will produce results? It’s essential to do your homework before choosing any book marketing strategy. Be sure it has proven to create success for fellow authors in your genre, that your audience can be found there, and it has measurable results.
The truth about marketing is there are no guarantees that any given strategy will work for any product or service. Marketing involves testing to see what works best for your book and its audience, and this means that you can’t be certain every single tactic you try will work. Some will fail, and many will take time to build results (blogging, social media, etc.). But without trying, you won’t get any results at all because books have too much competition. You must go find your readers and help them discover your books.
Make a little effort each day. Set a goal to do just three marketing tasks per day. And remember that small wins add up over time. Marketing books is a marathon, not a race, so find the tactics that will help you stay on track for the long haul.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit for book marketing. It includes checklists, templates, worksheets and more. Check it out!
Great tips Stephanie. Thanks for sharing.