As one of the few authors who attended the Bookseller Marketing and Publicity conference this week, I was impressed with the incredible marketing campaigns that publishers have put together for their top authors and the books they decide to focus on. There are definitely some talented and enthusiastic marketing professionals out there and of course, all authors would love that kind of marketing attention.
But what about the 95% of authors who don’t have brand author status, who are not given nine months of marketing campaign focus, and whose books are not the ‘chosen ones’ for the season.
Here are some key principles and also specific tactics that authors can use for their marketing.
(1) Think long term
Steve Bohme from Bowker shared fascinating statistics about how readers decide to buy books in one stand-out presentation.
23% of buyers surveyed bought a book based on an author they had previously read, by far the largest percentage. A further 6% followed/were a fan of the author and 5% bought from an author interview/event. This ‘author-related’ category was the largest percentage in total and also on the rise in 2013, while physical bookstore browsing was decreasing, although still a comparative volume of book sales.
This also reinforced Chris McVeigh’s talk on the Amazon algorithms, which exist to give customers what they want to buy next, before they even know it themselves. You can bet that Amazon are recommending the latest book by an author previously read, as well as books that top the categories buyers have bought in before.
What does this mean for authors?
Once we can entertain, educate or delight a new reader, we have the best chance of that reader continuing to buy our books. This is amplified if we can hook into emotional triggers, which stimulate word of mouth, according to Molly Flatt’s presentation.
This is where the email list plays a critical part, because you want to be able to contact that buyer again over time. So make sure that at the back of your book there is a notice that says something like “Enjoyed this book? You can sign up to hear about new releases, competitions and more at yoursite.com/list”. In this way, you will always be able to reach readers on a new release, even if that list grows at a tiny rate. Remember, we’re in this for the long-term!
(2) Persist with small, cumulative marketing activities
It was notable that all of the campaigns outlined, and many of the speakers, pointed at a multitude of marketing activities, rather than one specific thing for the success of book campaigns.
Simon Scott from Push Entertainment stated that “it’s the little things that have a cumulative effect over time”, and that “the things that go viral are just little things that go big.” The only way to aim for that kind of success is to keep plugging away at the little things, because no one really knows what tips a book or a song or a video over the edge into virality (or we’d all be doing it!)
Social networking is clearly one of these things to chip away at. Karla Geci from Facebook talked about the huge shift into mobile and how Facebook users increasingly interact with the newsfeed, the most popular page, through their smart phones. To harness engagement, use larger photos which Facebook is moving to show prominently in the ‘new’ newsfeed and think about how your content sharing appears in the newsfeed. Be sure to post commentary on links rather than just text link sharing, which gets the least amount of engagement.
Images are actually one of my own favorite social things to share, either related to my research on the latest book, or a cool pic out and about on a normal writer’s day. This can be authentic and give an insight into your life without giving too much away, but is also engaging. More importantly, it’s fast so you can get back to writing!
Snap an image, edit it on a smartphone app and then load it to your Facebook page, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest in about five minutes. People love to share photos and you can now use hashtags on Facebook as well. Remember that Facebook has a 20% max text limit on images so book covers can be the worst thing to share. Instead, focus on images from your daily life that resonate with the themes from your book or other authentic aspects of your life. One photo a day could actually be more powerful and engaging over the long term than one massive marketing campaign.
Continuing with social, The History Press gave a specific example of using twitter @TitanicRealTime during the centenary to post ‘real time’ tweets from the ship as it launched, travelled and ultimately sank. They prepared the tweets from the featured author’s books and it was a popular part of the campaign. This idea is something authors can do for free with scheduling tools like Socialoomph or Hootsuite.
Social also segues into Simon Pont’s idea about “digital media creating oblique entry points into story”. This doesn’t have to be expensive, for example, create a Spotify playlist to go with your book, or a Pinterest board with images from your book research. Think about the world of your story and how you can create multiple ways into that world. This could also take the form of shorter content like short stories or novellas which are easier to market at a lower price to entice new readers.
(3) Be authentic and nurture readers with community
Authors are readers. In fact, I’d say that we’re in the super-reader bracket, so it was brilliant to hear Patrick Brown from Goodreads speak about the opportunities for engaging with readers on their fantastic site.
The best way, of course, is to be an active member of the Goodreads community, posting and reviewing books in the genre you love and write in, so you can connect as a reader. This is easy to do through the mobile app as well as the main site, integrating with Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest too so you can utilize ‘social amplification,’ another buzz-phrase of the day.
Similar to Amazon (who now own Goodreads), there is an algorithm driving the recommendation engine. Although the exact details weren’t revealed, getting your book onto people’s ‘To Read’ list is certainly part of the mix. Doing a Giveaway is one method of raising your profile on Goodreads but other functionality was mentioned too, for example, sharing quotes from books, adding video to the author page, and participating in groups. Patrick has also openly shared his slide pack, so definitely go and download it from the Goodreads Slideshare page to learn more.
This also ties into the message Simon Scott shared about his lessons from the music business. To maximize the impact of your launch marketing, think of ways to engage your existing audience before your next book comes out. Remind them of your existence, for example, use a giveaway on Goodreads for backlist books, release a special short story or novella to prime their interest, or do something special for your mailing list e.g. find a special word from the printed book, or a character name as a key to get into a special webpage for a competition.
Finally, Tara Benson from Harlequin talked about loving your product (yes, the book is a product!) and being a real member of the community. She also mentioned taking advantage of serendipitous opportunities for marketing, like marching for libraries with Mills & Boon banners or taking advantage of a modern art piece that riffed on the old M&B covers. I have also found this openness to serendipity particularly important and opportunities have come through personal connections with other authors formed through social networks, so make sure you connect and stay in touch with your author community.
So even if you don’t have a budget of thousands or the time to spend nine months preparing for a big launch, you can still make a marketing impact with some of these tips.