Please welcome Jon Bard as our guest today. Jon has been helping authors for twenty-five years as the co-owner of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. He recently introduced his course Easy Author Marketing–The Simple Solution That Sells Books.
I’ve been helping writers for twenty-five years and I’m the founder of a NY public relations firm. This gives me a unique vantage point on author marketing, and I’m determined to help writers avoid pitfalls and build a real career selling their work.
Free gift for WriterUnboxed readers: To learn how to become a connector and start marketing your books and yourself, download Jon’s free eBook: The 10 Minute Turnaround: Overcome Your Fear of Marketing & Start Connecting with Readers Now! It’s yours with Jon’s compliments, and you can download it right now.
The 6 Most Common Marketing Mistakes Made by Authors
If you’re like many writers, you probably aren’t especially excited about marketing yourself and your books. In fact, on the list of things you’d like to be doing at any given time, I’m guessing “book marketing” falls somewhere around between scooping the dog poop from your yard and re-reading all your old rejection letters.
[pullquote]You poured your heart and soul into your book, and now you’re planning on letting it languish because you’re freaked out about marketing? That’s nuts! Marketing really can be (and should be) simple, fun, and within anyone’s grasp.[/pullquote]
Welp, there’s something you should know:
Marketing is only a drag when it doesn’t work. When it works, marketing is a whole lot of fun, because it means new readers, more income, and taking one step closer to the day you can print up business cards that say, “Full Time Writer.”
So the real problem isn’t marketing. It’s that your marketing isn’t working. I’ve got some good ideas why.
Let’s take a gander at the 6 most common marketing mistakes made by authors and some quick solutions for these errors. Just changing a few things about the way you approach marketing can make a big, big difference!
- Not even trying because it all seems too scary and complex
Whether you’re self-published or traditionally published, if you don’t take the initiative in marketing your book, you aren’t going to sell many books. That’s an obvious statement, I know, but one some of you may need to contemplate.
You poured your heart and soul into your book, and now you’re planning on letting it languish because you’re freaked out about marketing? That’s nuts! Marketing really can be (and should be) simple, fun, and within anyone’s grasp. I can’t teach you everything you need to know in one blog post but trust me, you CAN do it.
Action Step: Take out a notebook and write “I HATE MARKETING” over and over until your hand cramps. Now that it’s out of your system, vow to never say it or write it again. Good marketing equals impact, income, and freedom. Start appreciating that and work to develop a positive attitude about it. It will make all the difference.
- Making your marketing about you, not your readers
I’ll give it to you straight:
No one cares about you, and no one cares about your book. At least not yet.
This is a real sticking point for writers who slave away on their manuscript until its perfect, design an amazing cover and build themselves a cool new website, only to be met by massive, unyielding indifference.
And then they quit. And they tell everyone that “you can’t sell books anymore.”
But they’re the problem, not the marketplace. Just because no one is waiting breathlessly for your book doesn’t mean there’s no market. It just means that you need to find a way to make them care about you. And what they’re asking about you won’t be “Tell me more about yourself and your life story, dear author!” It will be what every customer of every product ever sold has asked:
“What’s in it for me?”
Action Step: Stop and have a good hard think about what your book will really give a reader. Excitement? Knowledge? Laughter? A good cry?
Build a marketing plan not around your book but rather around how your book will enhance your reader’s life. Choose your blurbs, jacket copy, and social media language to accentuate the impact your work will have on an individual reader, and work to frame readers’ experiences with your work in that light.
For example, rather than simply tweeting “Download a free chapter of my book,” say something like “Tuesdays are tough and you need a laugh, right? Take 10 minutes to get happy right now by going to (link to free chapter)”. It’s all about the benefit to your reader!
- Spamming Facebook and Twitter with your book covers and Amazon links
Probably because it’s the easiest thing to do (or, more likely, because no one taught them anything better), many writers’ entire marketing plans consist of going on social media, posting their book’s cover and typing something like “EXCITING ADVENTURE ON THE HIGH SEAS! BUY NOW!”
This may make them feel as if they are marketing, but really they’re just wasting time and pointlessly cluttering up Facebook groups and Twitter feeds.
Not only does this approach not work, it marks you as an amateur. Stop doing it now. Please.
Action Step: Pick one legitimate marketing tactic and try it in place of spamming. Here’s something that usually brings back a quick win: contact your local newspaper, your alumni newsletter or any other publication that’s applicable and send a short press release to them about your book, why you wrote it and what it offers readers. Send along a JPG of the cover and follow up with a phone call. You’ll get more out of the few minutes it takes to do that than hours of slapping your book on every social media outlet you can find.
- Failing to build a community & fanbase before you release your book.
Here’s how most authors market their books:
They start by releasing their book and then just flail around trying to get some attention. If you ask them, “What value are you giving prospective readers?” They might say, “The value is in how good my book is!”
Fine. But no one has read their book yet. And so, they’ve given absolutely zero value. No wonder they aren’t selling books!
Now, let’s look at a different scenario:
Long before they publish their book, the same author develops a community (what I prefer to call a “Tribe”) around a shared interest, passion, or cause. The author showers her community with value. Fun tips, great quotes, freebies, a platform for Tribe members to share their feelings and experiences, a place for likeminded folks to meet each other, and so on.
Then the author releases her book.
And what happens?
Her Tribe rewards her for the value she’s provided them. They are rooting for her. They are excited for her. They buy her book and go on a quest so that others will buy the book (and join the Tribe).
Action Step: Start thinking about building your own Tribe now, so you can release your books into the waiting arms of people who really care about you. Begin by asking: “Who are my potential readers….really? What do they care about? What turns them on?”
Then ask, “What can I offer them that will bond them to me? A memorable experience? Some information that will make their life better or more fun? Some inspiration and positive reinforcement?”
Now you’re thinking beyond yourself and entering the realm of giving people real value. And if people see you as valuable, you’re in a very, very good place indeed.
- Overemphasizing social media
Facebook, Twitter, and the like are wonderful tools, but they are not the be all and end all of marketing. In fact, they’re terrible places to sell anything.
They are, however, wonderful places to cultivate leads. If that doesn’t make sense, a quick marketing lesson: It takes many “touches” before a potential customer becomes an actual customer. They need to see a consistent, customer-focused message from you at least seven or eight times before you really even register with them.
Having people occasionally run across your Facebook posts won’t get the job done. They won’t remember you from one time to the next and they probably are looking at 20 other posts at the same time. That’s a lousy selling environment.
However, if you can use your social media posts simply to drive a potential reader to your site with the promise of real value, you’ve got something. Because once you get them to give you their email address in exchange for something cool (what marketers call a “lead magnet”), you can begin a long-term conversation that’s consistent, one-on-one, and private (since it’s via email).
If you look at the intro at the top of this post, you’ll see that it mentions a free ebook called The 10 Minute Turnaround: Overcome Your Fear of Marketing & Start Connecting with Readers Now! That’s my lead magnet, and its purpose is to connect you to me via something of great value. Once you’re in my world, we can discuss book marketing in a relaxed and unrushed manner. You can get to know me, I can get to know you. That’s much better (for both of us) than just a bunch of indiscriminate social media postings.
Action Step: Take a few minutes to learn the bare basics of building an email list. Trust me, this is a skill that will make a huge difference in your ability to build a community and sell books. Here’s an excellent primer by Jayson DeMers on Forbes.
- Holding yourself back because you think people will judge you for trying to market something
Art and commerce have been uneasy partners for a long, long time. In other words, you’re not the first writer who feels apprehensive about selling their wares.
But stop and think about it: the only reason to feel uneasy about selling something is if you don’t believe what you’re selling is valuable.
You’re a writer. You have the ability to inform, to inspire, to entertain. You can change lives with your wisdom, or bring a ray of light into someone’s darkest day. You whisk people away into wondrous worlds. You bring the human condition into focus, and help give meaning to our lives.
You are intensely valuable, and your work not only deserves to be seen, it’s essential that it be seen. Your words will enhance someone’s life and, with that knowledge in hand, it is your absolute duty to reach that person, befriend him, and share your work.
To do anything less is a disservice not only to your work but to the prospective reader.
Action Step: Get over it. Start being proud of what you do and the value you have to offer. Your readers are waiting for you. Don’t disappoint them.
Do you find marketing to be a drag? Are there ways you hold yourself back? What action steps could you take to reach more readers? Now’s your chance to ask Jon!