Learning to market a book can be daunting and overwhelming. There are countless tactics and strategies you can use. It can feel like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. But if you want to become an author with staying power and ongoing sales, make sure to master these three steps:
- Identify a clear target audience, preferably with a niche focus.
- Understand the needs, interests, and challenges of your audience.
- Serve them with engaging content.
While there are plenty of ways to promote books and generate sales one book at a time, the steps outlined here can set the foundation of your long-term author career. Let me share some real-world examples:
Karl Palachuk teaches owners of IT companies how to grow their businesses. As a former owner of an IT business, he remembers what it was like to struggle with finding new customers, hire and manage a staff, and deal with daily operations. So, he uses his vast experience and educates his audience through a variety of content marketing methods including a blog, podcast, and speaking. As a result, his book Managed Services in a Month has been a top seller in its category on Amazon for years. He also sells courses, digital downloads, a manual with standard operating procedures, and sells six figures in corporate sponsorships each year.
Jenny Levine Finke suffers from a gluten allergy, so when she decided to write a prescriptive memoir sharing her journey along with tips for gluten-intolerant readers, she was able to put herself in the shoes of her target readers. Her book is Dear Gluten: It’s Not Me, It’s You, and she promotes it to the community she’s cultivated at GoodForYouGlutenFree.com. Because she knows her audience and share tips and recipes regularly, her book sells briskly. She also sells meal plans, coaching, and corporate sponsorships.
Linda Franklin is the author of a powerful memoir: I’ll Always Carry You: A Mother’s Story of Adoption Loss, Grief and Healing. After being forced to give up her son for adoption when she was young, she spent years grieving the loss and decades later she went on a journey to reunite with him. (You’ll have to read the book to find out how her story ends!) Linda’s target audience is others in the adoption community, including parents who’ve given up children to adoption, parents who’ve adopted, and adopted (adult) children. A clinical social worker and psychotherapist, Linda now leverages her book to speak at adoption events across the country and sells copies to event attendees.
For those of you writing memoir and narrative nonfiction, you can learn from Linda Franklin’s example. Find a theme in your book and make that the focus for your target audience and your content.
Now let’s break down the steps.
Step 1: Identify a Niche Target Audience
What do the authors in the real-world profiles shared above all have in common? Each has chosen to serve a niche audience. This makes it far easier to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Karl Palachuk could have decided to write business books for all small business owners, but he chose to stick with his (teeny, tiny) niche of IT business owners—and that decision led to thousands of book sales and a lucrative full-time business. Had he decided to be a general business writer and coach, his books would be SO MUCH harder to promote because the competition in that space is great. But there’s little competition in the IT space which allowed Karl to become a rock star in that community.
Jenny Levine Finke could have written a memoir focused on leading a healthier lifestyle with the goal of reaching more people. But choosing to focus on gluten intolerance allowed her website and book to rise to the top.
Linda Franklin could be striving to get people to read her memoir, but when she focuses on others involved in adoption, it’s practically a no-brainer for readers to buy her book.
Bottom Line: Choosing a niche audience can make a tremendous impact in building your marketing plans and your author career.
Step 2: Understand Your Audience’s Needs, Challenges, and Interests
One of the most basic principles to marketing anything—whether it’s a book, a piece of real estate, or a Disneyland vacation, is to address the needs and interests of the target audience.
It would be nearly impossible to sell a Disneyland vacation to retired grandparents who prefer low-key activities like attending theater events. But a family of four based on the west coast with school-aged kids would probably love to invest in that kind of trip.
A Realtor selling a five-bedroom house with a four-car garage and a pool on a hillside would waste time pitching to first-time buyers who don’t yet have children, let alone a budget to afford a home of that size. But tech company workers and executives with older kids would find it ideal to meet their wants and needs in real estate.
See how this works? Before you begin selling your book, it is imperative to understand the needs, interests, and challenges of your target audience so that you can address those through your marketing efforts.
Step 3: Ramp Up Content Marketing
Once you understand your audience, then you can attract them and cultivate loyalty with content marketing strategies. This can be done by using one or more of the following:
- Column you write
- Social media sharing
- Email marketing
- Digital downloads (reports, templates, worksheets, sample chapters from your book)
Keep in mind that your content should address the interests, needs, and challenges of your audience. To get clear on that, ask yourself these questions:
What does my audience care about?
What do they want to know?
What do they need to know?
What are their greatest struggles?
What entertains them?
Are they most likely to read a blog post, listen to a podcast, watch a video—or use a combination of these mediums?
One way to get answers to the above is to imagine you are a member of your target audience. Maybe you need to go back in time and remember what it was like when you were getting started. Put yourself in their shoes so you can get clear on what matters to them.
You can also simply start asking. That might mean reaching out to your social media followers with a poll or asking your email subscribers to respond to some questions. Or you could create a survey with a tool like Survey Monkey and if you don’t have an audience to share it with, you can invest in advertising with Survey Monkey or promote the survey through social media advertising.
You could also pick a muse. Think about who you know that is part of your target audience. Let that person serve as your muse as you work to develop content that serves them.
Yes, content marketing is a lot of work. But this is what long-term book marketing requires. There is a reason traditional publishers want to work with authors who have a platform (AKA: audience). Having an engaged audience leads to book sales, plus all kinds of other opportunities. So, if building a long-term author career is important to you, make a plan to identify a niche audience, serve them with useful content, and then you will keep those book sales churning.
If you like this post, you will love our Book Marketing Master Course!