Marketing And Sales For Novelists, by Greig Beck
Okay, I admit, I’m biased. I’ve worked in sales and marketing for 20 years and believe that, except for a few rare exceptions, marketing really matters.
You could be one of those writers who has penned a book and, like the rest of us, believe it’s fantastic, enjoyable and just what the public is looking for. Unlike everyone else, through the addition of some mystical Hogwartian factor, your book has an element of magic that cuts through and is picked up by book clubs, web genre-pages and millions of readers across the globe. Think 50 Shades of Grey or Hugh Howey’s Wool series.
If, like the great majority of writers, you are out there screaming ‘look at me’, you need to make things happen by yourself. You may be luckier than most and have a publisher who has a skilled marketing and publicity machine behind them. If not, then in the words of Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
I’ve been an author since 2009 and, even in that time, have seen monumental changes. The playing field is leveling and the internet has given everyone the same sized shop window. I’m luckier than most in that I now have a worldwide readership, and have books published globally in many languages and in various mediums (paper, eBook, audio, etc). When it comes to marketing, I’ve seen things that have worked and things that have not.
Okay, so your book has just hit Amazon, iBooks and other online retailers, and its ranking is still in the hundreds of thousands. You just need a couple of small things:
1. More people to read it!
2. More people to talk about it – and glowingly!
Here are some things that that might spark some ideas:
EMPATHISE: Most of us are readers as well as writers. So what makes you buy a book? For me, the first thing that hooks me is the cover art. Next, it’s the blurb. Maybe the first few chapters that you can sample, but, most of the time, I’ll already be sold. As many ebooks are inexpensive, if I don’t like it then I’ll just move to the next – so price is important – the lower the price the lower risk. What about book trailer videos? I’ve used them. I’ve also seen a lot. Although I hear good things about them being persuasive for wholesalers and book fairs, I’m just not convinced these work at the reader level. A book trailer has never influenced me to buy a book. Track record is a strong determinant of value. If I know the author’s work and have enjoyed it, then I’m more than likely to buy their next book. So, deliver a quality product and it will turn drop-ins into recurring customers.
BOOK REVIEWS: Know your audience! There are mountains of book reviewers these days. Some command the attention of thousands or hundreds of thousands of readers, while others just reach a small circle of friends. Seek them out and persuade them to read your work. There’s nothing like a good sales letter in an email – short, sharp and compelling. Introduce yourself, include a short punchy book blurb and then why you think they’d enjoy the work. It might be something like: “I saw you recently enjoyed Book of Bones. My book, Boney Book, is similar, but has X & Y as well.” Just look for reviewers who are writing about (and enjoying) books similar to your own. A key thing is to do your homework. Please remember your targeting: don’t try to get your horror book reviewed by a romance book lover. The review might not be what you wanted. If they write a good review, thank them and then link to their review on your website/Facebook page/other media. In return, they get more traffic back to their site. If they’ve reviewed one of your books and liked it, then there’s a good chance they’ll review your next.
BAD REVIEWS: Roll with the punches. We all get bad reviews. Some are worthwhile criticism, while others just show that whoever was spitting the venom hadn’t even bothered to read your work, or didn’t like the price or the look of you on your website with all those happy, smiling teeth! Never take them on, as all that might happen is they’ll wait for your next work and do the same again. After all, they’ve got nothing to lose and they’re anonymous. Did I tell you about the reviewer in India who hated my first book so much he tried to get his book blog readers to all write to my publisher to ask them never to publish me again? Thank heavens they didn’t agree with him, but still.
AVID READERS: Just as there are those who will dislike your work, there will be even more people who absolutely love it. They’ll seek it out, seek you out, write to you, want to know more about you and tell their friends about you. These are the readers that form your Praetorian Guard. They’ll write early reviews for you that are important for your rankings, and also defend your honor. Never forget them. Engage with them and always make time for them.
INTERVIEWS (all formats): Have a ready-set-go thumbnail sketch of your book on-hand. In the first on-air interview I did I was given a simple prompt: “Tell me about your book.” I suddenly realised, I couldn’t describe it quickly, so I waffled, umd and ahd, and, when finally done an agonising several minutes later, I knew I certainly hadn’t done my book justice. From that point on, I wrote and rewrote a small piece that succinctly gives the reader a reason to want to read it, and always had that handy and memorised.
ADVERTISE: Facebook and Goodreads are getting very good at audience targeting programs. If you wrote a book about a young, one-legged werewolf, now you can select target demographics right down to werewolves, one leg, and readers between 15 and 21 years of age, and also those readers that just love ebooks (tip, remember the differing time zones if advertising in several countries at once, and also that Sunday night is a big night for ebook purchases).
DON’T SPAM: Don’t overdo it with your readers on mailing lists or social media posts. Learn to get the balance right. Don’t bother going on some of those author/writing sites and continually talking up your work. All you’re adding to is authors spamming other authors. Hey, guess what they’re more interested in? Their own work, not yours!
CULTIVATE RELATIONSHIPS: Get involved with literary networks (no spamming!) and other authors. Advertise together, organise book signings together to share costs and goodwill. Go to events to be seen and heard, and to see how the successful authors do it. If you’re just starting out, then getting noticed matters. Sometimes you need to do free stuff: write articles or start a blog about things that interest you – and bonus points if you can segue into some of your stories (see some of my blog posts on Thriller Central). Also, offer to be a guest judge for literary prizes. Just do whatever you can to lift your name/profile above the crowd. Don’t forget, there’s an old saying: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So don’t be afraid to ask other known authors to read and blurb your book. Sure, they’ll probably say no, as everyone is busy, but if the subject matter is what they like to read then you’re half way there.
BE PATIENT: Selling books is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The more books you have in the market, and the more readers who like your work, the more people will seek out your backlist. Sales generate more sales and the rolling snowball gets bigger.
Now, what are you waiting for? You should already be writing the next one!
Greig Beck’s author website: www.greigbeck.com
Writing Novels in Australia