The First Rule of Marketing – Never Give Up

October 2, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

virtual book shelvesHow many authors put true blood, sweat and tears into writing their books. Hours of research, editing and re-editing, proofreading and formatting. Finally their book is ready to publish and then it is all systems go.

Friends and family are enlisted to help promote the book, reviews are sought and provided (hopefully of the verified purchaser variety) and some initial sales are made. Then the ideas run out, the social media buzz goes quiet and what looked like a promising start seems to wither on the vine……sales stop altogether. Months go by and there isn’t a single sale.

So what do you do now, Give Up?

For a hard copy book sitting on the  shelves of book stores, this would have been the death knell, the books would be removed from the shelves to make room for more popular varieties, books that are actually selling. Even publishers and bookstores need to make a living and a book that is not selling does not turn a profit – they have to go.

Traditional publishing is where books, printed in large quantities at equally large cost, must either sell or become door stops. Also if the demand for these books has waned, a commercial decision has to made about whether a further print run is likely to result in a profit or it is simply time to take them out of print.

But that is not the case for ebooks or print on demand, there is no physical stock to carry or to take prime spot on a bookshelf. These books sit on a virtual bookshelf that is of unlimited size and are always, as they say analogically…..in print.

Authors and publishers of ebooks and print on demand books have a huge advantage over traditional publishing for this reason and that is why you must never give up promoting books that are still available in digital format or can be printed on a one off basis at reasonable cost.

It has to be said, the best chance you have of taking a book to best seller status, with Amazon in particular,  is in it’s early days after initial publication, getting a second or third wind underway is always more difficult. But not impossible.

Marketing ebooks successfully is about having a marketing plan, one that takes into account the initial launch and then, equally importantly, ongoing and long term promotion.

Initial Considerations for Marketing eBooks Successfully

eBooks are like any other products that need to be sold, they have to appeal to a specific market and be visible to that market. So how do you do that exactly?

First of all, whether you are writing a reference or a fictional book, you need to think about exactly who will want to read your book. In many ways that is easier to do for reference books, because you are writing about a topic of specific interest and if you do it well, so that you answer questions and solve problems, then there is a good chance with enough visibility that people will buy those books, especially in a highly sought after topic.

Fiction is a little more difficult because they are made up stories, but they still need to be approached in the same way. For example, if you are writing for children, young adults, lovers of horror or action adventure. The book should be written to appeal to those audiences and not alienate them in any way. For example you cannot write a children’s book and then include some explicit sexual content, a bit of an extreme example admittedly but used to make the point. Mistakes of this type will mean you cannot market to your intended audience. So when you are writing a book, stay true to the theme, if it is intended for young adults or is in a specific genre try and make sure it meets that objective for the entire book.

Identifying Search Keywords

The second aspect of book marketing is about visibility, or being found by your target audience. Here there is a need to consider a little bit of search engine science i.e. it is necessary to think about how people search for books on the Internet, even on sites like Amazon or Kobo.

One of the simplest ways to find a book is to search using specific words. In search engine world, these are called keywords (or sometimes tags). It is always a good idea to identify keywords that people use to search for books that are relevant to your book. One way to do that is to make a list of keywords that you think are relevant to your book and then go to an Amazon site and start to type those words into the search box. Below there is an example of how Amazon use predictive text, based on previous searches, to try and lead you to the product you are searching for.

Marketing Ebooks

You don’t know how many people type the specific search terms listed, but you do know they are real searches that have been entered previously. So if you can find the best ones i.e. the ones highly relevant to your book, you can list them ready for potential use confident in the knowledge that people are using those terms to look for products. I say products because the searches relates to all of Amazon not just books, so just be sure you are selecting book related terms.

The second part of this exercise is to find out how much competition you are up against. So when you have your list of keyword phrases you should go back to Amazon and find out how many search results the keywords return.

Successful book promotion You can see from the result for the search term ‘The Whistleblower Affair’ that there are 49 results for that term.

Why is that important?

It is important because that is the number of books you are competing against for that specific search term or keyword phrase. What you should be trying to do is to find a mix of low to medium competition, especially for a new book. In other words you want to be more visible in the search results and a way to ensure that is not to be competing against too many other books.

Clearly as you make more sales, get more reviews and achieve more success for your book, your sales rank will increase and then you can consider going up against more competition. But until then it is better to operate in the low to medium competition arena.

A further aspect of this exercise is ensuring that your book is associated with a search term or keyword phrase. There are a couple of ways for doing that. The first is to use an allocated ‘search keyword’. Amazon allow you to add seven search keywords to your book details when you add it to the bookshelf. When you do this you will always be returned for that search keyword in the search results, although the critical aspect… is in what position?

This, as previously alluded to, will depend on the competition you are up against. Both in terms of how many but also in terms of sales rank. Amazon like to push books that are selling to the forefront, for obvious reasons the better sales rank books will be returned first. So the fewer books you are competing against the more likely it is you will be listed in a more visible search position.

The second way to get your book associated with a search term is to use those search terms in titles, headings and descriptions. There is no guarantee with this method, but it is a way to get your book listed beyond the seven allocated ‘search keywords’. Don’t be tempted just to stuff keywords into your descriptions and titles however, because you still want to appeal to a human audience and not alienate the people who actually buy the books. Just use this technique if it can be done naturally and, even better, provide you with an attention grabbing title or description.

Choosing Categories

Amazon allows independent publishers to select 2 categories from their large list of available categories. This is another key area for gaining much needed visibility. The best way of gaining a good position in a category is by being specific rather than adopting general categories. As with ‘search keywords’ you need to consider what is relevant to your book and how much competition you are up against. The reasons are once again to try and ensure you get that critical level of visibility where enough people actually see your book and are hopefully drawn into making a purchase.

romance competition Take ‘Romance’ as a category for example, you can see here that there are 170,462 books in the romance category. That is a lot of competition and unless your book is a top best seller it is unlikely that it will ever be given the light of day if this category is chosen.

romance-military-competition Military romance on the other hand immediately brings the competition level down to a more reasonable 3,186 books in competition. Still a big number but at least a half chance, if you get some sales, of being visible and there are other categories with even less competition. But remember you book does need to fit under the category chosen, so go for at least one category that is relevant with the least amount of competition and select another that is possibly even more relevant but has more competition. That way you get a good mix for advancing the number of potential sales and for ensuring you gain at least some visibility.

Also don’t constrain yourself to fiction only, if your book is relevant to a non-fiction topic and that looks like a better opportunity, give it a try. If it doesn’t produce any sales you can always change it after a reasonable trial period.

Why this is important, for Amazon anyway, is that you may be able to achieve  the much coveted top 100 listing, that gives your book higher standing and extra visibility through being included in list promotions for Amazon’s best sellers.amazon-best-sellers

If your sales are flagging or have dried up completely it is not too late to go back to basics and if you haven’t performed these exercises then why not do it now? You may just stumble on some way of sparking sales, even if it means a new title, description or choice of search keywords and categories. It really is never too late to get these basics right.

More information on successful book marketing can be found in these articles:

 

photo credit: Zenobia Gonsalves via photopin cc

Who Are You Writing For?

June 17, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, eBook publishing, Writing & Publishing

To me this seems like a fairly obvious question to ask when planning on writing  a new book. Coming from a technical background involving new product development, the very first thing considered before embarking on a new development is primarily whether there is a market for the product. Then secondly what are the product requirements that will fulfill the customer needs?  In technical terms, the latter is the product specification.

Well clearly there is a market for books, all manner of them, and in both printed or digital formats. Although I sometimes feel when I read a book,  that an author has somehow crossed boundaries and managed to alienate what could have been a significant market sector as a result. In the analogy, they have got the product specification wrong!

Who is your intended audience

Book Markets This then begs the question again  ‘Who Are you Writing For?’

You really do need to consider which genre you are going to write for and then who your target audience is. Are you interested in fiction writing or producing non-fiction books for educational or reference purposes for example. In many ways non-fiction is easier to write than fiction, there are clearer objectives that need to be met and certain criteria that needs to be fulfilled, most of which can come from your own expertise or the research that you do.  That said you do still need to think about your target audience, whether you are trying to communicate with a layman or someone that is already a technical expert. You could be targeting a younger audience or looking to appeal to a more adult and mature sector, maybe you are ambitious and want to target the whole caboodle.

Regarding fictional writing the borders can  become significantly more blurred. As a writer you are just letting your imagination run, once you start the words will appear to materialize from your subconscious mind and whatever pops in there is likely to appear in your story line. This is after all the artistic aspect of writing a book, something that is written completely and entirely from the imagination of the author. Often you will, even for a fictional book, have to research places, times and events to add credibility to a story. Not always, sometimes that can be completely invented as well.

But once you have that first draft down and it is there in black and white for anyone to read, do you then stop and think about your customer requirements. Part of the editing process should include whether you have considered market expectations and more importantly have you met them. Did you just write a book that would be a brilliant story line for children to enjoy and then for some reason go and add a section that included some explicit sexual content. Because if so you could just have alienated a whole customer base that the book may well have had a large appeal to.

This example is intended to illustrate that one small chapter dedicated to explicit sex could rule a book out as an option for children or teenagers but may not have sufficient adult content to keep the interest of a mature population looking for something that is gritty and hard hitting with sexual content i.e. something in an adult reading category. Somehow you may simply have gotten the customer requirements wrong by spanning two completely different sets of requirements that were not compatible with one another.

Don’t take this completely the wrong way, you shouldn’t get so hung up about the requirements that you stifle your artistic flow, rather just give some thought to the direction you would like to go in before starting and just check that you haven’t drifted too far off course when you have a first draft to review. If you do drift off course and prefer the new direction you have taken, then just make sure you have gone far enough in the new direction to engage that new audience.

The bottom line is this, if you are writing a book that you want to appeal to an audience and that you want to sell on a commercial basis, then that is a product and a product typically must have a demand and then must meet certain specifications to fulfill the customer requirements generating that demand.

For many reading this it may seem to be a case of stating the obvious. But it is surprising how easy it is to ignore (or simply forget) about the intended audience and to just hope that the end product appeals to someone, anyone, when it is finished. Truth is that there will always be an element of people a book will appeal to, but with a little thought about who you are writing for, as you follow the process, there could be so many more.

Things to think about

  • Intended genre
  • Book categories
  • Age range of target audience
  • Audience gender
  • Audience intellectual level
  • Audience expertise
  • Search terms that might be used to find your book

These are a few things worth having a think about when you are planning your next book, particularly from a target market perspective.

For more information and help writing a book why not take a look at what this experienced editor and author has to say.

 

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