Knowing how to effectively market your e-book can be a challenge if you don’t have any formal education or professional experience in sales and marketing. Plus, these days, the default strategy seems to be “I’ll use social media.” But that’s not a strategy, it’s a tool.

When I teach the basics of marketing communication to e-media majors, we start by discussing the marketing mix, also known as the 4 Ps. Some say this model is outdated, but it’s still a useful way to begin a discussion about marketing a product.

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This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible facets of the 4Ps, but it helps give you an idea of what comprises each.

Aside from having a quality e-book (Product), probably the most talked about factors for selling an e-book are:

  1. List price (Price)
  2. Cover art (Product, but in some ways also Promotion, since it’s a critical element of many promotional materials and sales pages)

There are a host of other factors that you ought to consider as well. Here’s a basic checklist.

PRODUCT

  • Does your e-book have the same features or attributes as competitors in your genre/category? Consider story structure, chapter conventions, word count, illustrations, etc.
  • Are there features you could add to make your e-book more marketable?
  • Is it possible to launch with a series that will help with branding and repeat customers?
  • Are you offering your e-book in the formats your audience most favors? Should you invest in additional formats to maximize sales?
  • Does your e-book compete well against similar titles in terms of quality? Consider cover quality, formatting quality, editing quality, etc.

PLACE

  • Is it easy for readers to buy your book at their favored online retailer or for their favored device? Consider if it’s wise to limit the places your e-book is sold for your own convenience or savings. If you limit its availability for marketing reasons, then ensure you’re maximizing promotion or visibility through your primary distribution channel. For instance, if your goal is to push all sales through Amazon to get a higher ranking, make sure you’re maximizing all of Amazon’s tools and know how the ranking system works! See link below to Carolyn McCray’s series on Amazon marketing.

PRICE

  • Have you chosen the right price for your reputation or brand that makes sense in your market? Most DIY authors are using the 99 cent and $2.99 price points in order to maximize earnings as well as opportunities for promotion (since higher volume gets you on bestseller & popular lists).
  • Lower price points can communicate something different than higher price points. The higher the price, usually the higher perceived quality or greater expectation of quality or valuable information. Traditional publishers or bestselling authors can often charge more (at least for now) because they’re known quantities.
  • Can you take advantage of discounts as a promotional tool?

PROMOTION

Coming up with marketing and promotion strategies is primarily a creative act and should naturally arise from your work’s subject matter or themes, your own network of relationships, and your strengths in using particular media. I can’t possibly offer a comprehensive or customized list of ideas here, but consider the following.

  • Start with a selling strategy: How will you distinguish your book from others? What is your key selling point or hook? What will appeal to your audience?
  • Develop a marketing plan by listing all the concrete channels you have available to you for marketing: e-mail addresses, your website/blog, your e-mail newsletter, social networks, online communities, organization/business affiliations, important relationships with influencers, teaching or speaking opportunities, and any other ways you touch potential readers. Create a timeline of action steps or tactics for each channel.
  • Have you taken full advantage of your book’s Amazon page as well as your Amazon Author page? Have you written the most compelling copy possible? Have you optimized your book for search/discovery on Amazon? See this series of articles by Carolyn McCray at Digital Book World.
  • Have you researched book bloggers who might review your book? Here’s one list of reviewers.
  • Have you considered a blog tour, where you visit blogs that serve your target audience? Can your book be easily excerpted and offered up as guest post content on specific blogs?
  • Does your book’s subject matter (or does your self-publishing approach) have a newsy angle that would merit coverage? Can you pitch articles to specific sites or media outlets that tie into your book’s themes or release? (For example, John Warner wrote a personal essay for The Millions that ties into his traditionally published novel.)
  • Advertising is not recommended for authors without experience in researching target markets, writing good copy, and measuring impact. If you don’t know the acronym CTR or know about “conversion,” then you’re not ready to advertise online.

A final word of advice

If your book is not selling as well as you would’ve thought, given your existing reach to your audience, then look at each one of the 4Ps, and decide where your weakness might lie. Then develop a strategy to strengthen your position, and a way to measure your effectiveness. The only way you can improve over time is to analyze what works and what doesn’t work.

Anecdotally speaking, I often see the most weakness in authors’ key selling points; some people have a hard time getting past “Buy my book!” You’ll have to be more imaginative than that to catch a stranger’s attention!

About Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is the co-founder and publisher of Scratch, a quarterly magazine focused on the intersection of writing and money. She teaches digital publishing and media at the University of Virginia and is a full-time publishing consultant. Find out more at her website.