6 Meta Tips for Book Marketing Success

by | Nov 7, 2011

Over the past few weeks I’ve been conducting a series of Book Marketing Masterminds. These are in-depth conversations with book marketing professionals who have a wide range of experience, both online and offline, marketing their own or other people’s books.

While editing I got to review them in the space of a couple of days, and it really made the similarities in the interviews stand out.

Each of the people I spoke to has a different background and plays a different role in bringing indie books to market. Yet it was striking how many similarities there were.

Having this almost meta- view of book marketing showed me the 6 tips that stood out the most. Here they are:

6 Meta Tips From Book Marketing Masterminds

  1. Effective marketing takes planning—Whether you’re planning a book launch that you’ll be writing dozens of guest posts for, or arranging the conversion of your e-book files, you have to be planning in advance. Some of these books were in development for over a year, and keeping the whole project together takes systems and attention.
  2. Your book has to stand out—Fiction or nonfiction, you’ve got to put in the time, effort and money to produce a quality book. With the sheer quantity of books being publishing you need to rise above the rest and a good book, well produced will take you far.
  3. Passion fuels your engine—There’s something that drives you to write, and whatever it is will help you do the regular tasks that are called for over time in marketing your book. We need to be strong advocates for our own books, and you can’t be bashful about it.
  4. Where you end up may not be where you think—You can’t tell where your efforts will take you, but opportunities present themselves and it’s up to us to be ready to take advantage of them. As you understand your field better, and you meet more people, your focus may evolve.
  5. Be in it for the long haul—Many of the strategies these marketers are using today will take years to come to fruition. Book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and involves lots of other activities like branding and building a platform.
  6. What’s your next book?—It’s much easier to achieve success at book publishing if you have more products to sell. It’s critical to be open to the development of new books and other products that can be developed from the same content. Then it becomes a business.

A lot of food for thought. Although I’ve been working pretty steadily on training products, there are at least 2 solid book ideas I’ve been wanting to pursue, but haven’t. It’s good to be reminded.

Is there something you would add from your own experience?

Photo by lorda

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13 Comments

  1. Angela Ackerman

    I think another big thing I see with successful book entrepreneurs is the willingness to collaborate. Writers who step outside their own view to learn from others, work with others, and find creative ways to collaborate on marketing and exposure opportunities do very well. Finding people who have the “succeed together” mindset (and being one yourself) is an excellent way to build a pool of knowledge, passion, and experience so everyone can draw from it and benefit.

    Reply
  2. Marcia Richards

    Wow! so many ideas woven through this post and in the comments, Joel! Your 6 tips brought all that I had learned about the process into focus. A reassuring feeling.

    “It’s critical to be open to the development of new books and other products that can be developed from the same content. Then it becomes a business.”

    This statement is something I’ve been tossing around…I have a short story planned as promotion for my trilogy. Now with the conversation here, I have more ideas..audio, bundling, free excerpts, etc.

    So glad I stopped in tonight! You always have great content, Joel, thanks.

    Reply
  3. jules older

    “Where you end up may not be where you think.”

    Right. As I was trying to decide whether my first ebook would be about Prednisone & PMR, Surviving the shift to the Digital Age, or How to make thieving publishers pay up, I suddenly knew the answer.

    It’s about skiing. SKIING THE EDGE came to me in the form of an email from a ski writer who’d spent the night in the Whistler drunk tank. The book’s now half done.

    Don’t just expect the unexpected, embrace it.

    Reply
  4. David Gaughran

    Hi Joel,

    Nice post. This was my favorite point (and one I rarely see made):

    “It’s critical to be open to the development of new books and other products that can be developed from the same content. Then it becomes a business.”

    I think all writers can do this (fiction can be bundled in lots of creative ways – especially shorter work), but it’s especially important for non-fiction writers. I see some smart people selling the same content in lots of different ways – book sized, bite sized, breaking out sections and selling them as NF e-singles which act as loss leaders to get readers to spring for the whole book, you name it. Aside from increasing the amount of titles you have out there (and giving readers extra options and extra ways to discover you), the sales will feed into each other (once your back-matter is all set up right).

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      David, the writers who seem to have gotten the “repurposing content” idea seem to have a lot more energy and innovation in their promotion, don’t they? Using your content in lots of ways forces an author to think about their writing from different points of view, outside the routine. I find that thinking itself very productive, and I’m interested in your ideas about bundling fiction in different ways, would love to hear more about that.

      Reply
      • David Gaughran

        I see writers struggle over false choices like whether to release shorts on their own or in collections. Of course, they should be doing both. Giving the reader more options will always result in more sales. I see series writers selling books on their own, then omnibus editions with three novels and six novels. The omnibus editions might not sell as much (relatively) but just having them will increase your sales overall.

        Other writers are trying serialized fiction again. Different experiments with length, space between releases, and pricing options for bundles.

        If you are selling direct on your own site, you can offer all sorts of bundling options, or if you are a regular, prolific writer, a subscription option.

        More radical ways of approaching this are out there too. I know one writer who cut out a bunch of chapters from the start of his book, re-arranged them a little, wrote a little bridging narrative and turned it into a standalone novella. He made that free in advance of the release of the novel from which the chapters were taken, and that really helped the book sell well.

        I suspect all of this is just the tip of the iceberg.

        Reply
  5. sharon k owen

    I agree that all the strategies are good and will help in the long run–not the sprint. I think writers who succeed have five common qualities: 1) they are great story-tellers, 2) they are passionate for their stories and love the writing process 3) they are disciplined and do the work of writing 4) they are persistent in marketing their work 5) they are patient.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Sharon, that was almost like a mini-blog post itself, and I can’t help but agree with your points.

      Reply
  6. adan lerma

    nice meta recap joel, thanks!

    though all the points are equally valid, i can best speak to # 5, the long haul ;-)

    i’m now 61, and have written here and there, since i was a child, though more seriously since jr college in the early 70s

    unfortunately most of those efforts didn’t produce enough monies to live on, the big exception being when i took my collection of poetry sayings, and set up for most of the 90s in malls and art shows, and personalized copies for people as gifts

    that kind of physical effort is beyond regular-doing now (actually we don’t do shows anymore), but…

    the opportunies offered by digital media has opened doors of expression never before available

    so, fortunately, because i have persisted for so many decades, i have a huge amount of content – some of it even seems pretty good still ;-)

    and here’s where your other meta pointers really come in: organizing, planning, marketing, e-conversions, whew!

    it’s a job! and it’s a joy ;-)

    thanks so much,

    adan

    Reply
  7. Nathan Lowell

    This is an interesting variation on the subject that is refreshingly different from the same tired tropes.

    I think there are a few variations on these themes that are worth mentioning from my own experience:

    1. Planning – yes. But be willing to have the plan be “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks, then try something else if it doesn’t.” This is the “don’t be afraid to fail” clause. When you’re starting out, in particular, you have no idea what’ll work for you and what won’t–as indicated by item four. Keep in mind that assessment for the plan needs to extend over months–not days–because the internet is sometimes slow (Item five).

    2. Standing out is more than about the product. It’s also about the market. When picking *where* to position your book, you can help the work stand out by not having it be “just another book.” Dropping a paperback into the Amazonian Ocean is like throwing a pebble into the Atlantic. Try some alternate catalogs (I’m partial to publishing in AUDIO first at podiobooks.com) and use a “Big Frog, Small Pond” strategy. When looking for an alternate market, you’re not only picking a place where you can stand out for quality, but you can participate where there may be less competition for attention.

    3. This one is SO important when dealing with social media. Robo-tweets, promo-spamming, and providing “good quality content” are good ways to hide your passion, not showcase it. Honest passion offers a connection that audiences hunger for.

    4. Another great point. If you focus too hard on a preconceived destination, you may well miss an opportunity to go somewhere better.

    5. I hear this marathon idea a lot and it’s one I disagree with. It’s not a marathon – as in, you start a really, really long race against a clock that will end some very long time in the future. I think that, if you’re going to do this correctly, it has to be a way of life. Nobody’s going to fire a gun and start the clock. Nobody’s going to be timing you. You’re not going to burst thru a ribbon at the end, exhausted by jubilant. One day you decide to start and then every single day from that point forward you get up and try to run a few steps in a direction that might be the right one. Some days you’ll make good progress. Some days you’ll run backwards. Some days you’ll stand in place and try to figure out what direction to go next. There’s no win, but there’s no lose either. It’s just how you spend your life. No marathon. No cheering crowds. Just “get up each day and keep going.”

    6. Yeah. There’s an apocryphal story about an author in the 20th century who phoned his agent to ask what should he be doing to promote his latest book. The answer is “Write the next one.” I’m just coming off almost a year of not writing very little new. I’m seeing the results of that mistake now. It’s one I’m rectifying.

    Thanks, Joel. Another excellent and thought provoking piece.

    Reply
    • adan lerma

      nathan, great point on # 5, creative work is a way of life, even beyond being a marathon ;-)

      all good points, thanks!

      Reply
    • David Gaughran

      Re. #5, I like to think of it as a hike. You can go at your own speed, you can follow your own route. You can take interesting detours because there is no clock counting down to disqualify you. Hell, you can climb a different mountain if you feel like it.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Nathan, you’ve exposed the fallacies in this metaphor, and thanks for that. And I wholeheartedly agree that it becomes a way of life rather than an event. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary, it’s really expanded the conversations.

      Reply

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