Bill’s Guide to Book Marketing
I am a self-published author and have attempted to market my books, but the results have been less than successful. So why read a book marketing guide by somebody like me? The principles I will describe still apply, and I have made many mistakes that you will know how to avoid. Remember, you learn more from failure than from success. Does that mean I have learned a lot in my life? Hmm.
At this point, you have written a book, had it professionally edited, a professional cover designed, an ISBN, an Amazon AISN, it’s formatted for ebook and print on demand. It is for sale on Amazon, Kubo, Apple Play, Google reads, Smashwords, Barns, and Nobel. Wow, quite an accomplishment! The problem is that 200+ people a month also released their first book. (Plus, established books are re-released as “new.” So annoying!) Many new books belong to authors with multiple books, and their readers are eager to read more. YOUR GOAL is to convince people to click “buy it now,” and here are the basic book marketing steps (not necessarily in the proper order):
1) To get attention, you must attack this problem on several fronts. Let’s start with the most important one. YOU NEED AMAZON REVIEWS! LOTS OF THEM! The first part of the plan is to send a copy of your work to every friend you have. Then, two months later, pester them for a review. This initial foundation of positive reviews is critical to your success.
2) Put your book info on Goodreads and any other site hosting information about your work.
3) Get a disposable email account like Yahoo. Search for free book promotion sites and put your book there. They will need a bio, picture, ISBN, amazon link, AISN number, Kubo, Apple Play, Google Reads, Smashwords, and Barns Nobel link. Important tip. I have one file with all this information, including all the links. Note that these free sites will spam the email account you provide to death. Here are a few areas to check out:
4) Sneaky tip. Go to Barns and Nobel every week and load your book onto all their Nook readers. Perhaps write a five-star review… Perhaps one on each tablet… Perhaps if you are on vacation… Perhaps if you have friends or relatives in other cities…
5) Should you buy book reviews? I found one site (I will not provide the link because it looks shady) where you can buy Amazon reviews. $300 gets up to 10 (why not an exact number?) badly written reviews. Should you do this?
I do not recommend buying reviews unless you use a professional review service ($1K) that Amazon will allow a “review transfer.” Also, Amazon will likely find and sue these shady sites. Then Amazon will ban all the authors. Or they could try to shake you down. “Hey, you paid us for a review. Now pay us $$, or we will tattle to Amazon!”
6) If you read and followed my previous blog, you have written at least 200 book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Consider posting these reviews to Barns and Nobel, and Kubo. Your new goal is to get more reviews, and there is a group of motivated people who will do a review exchange. Authors!
How to find willing (desperate) authors? First, look for new books on Amazon with a few reviews. Then, comb through them to see if they have a website or some other external way (Facebook) of contacting the author. Email/message them and ask them to do a review exchange. This means you offer to buy their book/ebook on Amazon, read their book, and write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. The other (potential) author will look at your 200 reviews and feel they are getting a good deal.
Is this ethical? Yes, because you are only doing a review exchange. No money is changing hands. Both people paid for the book and are writing an honest review. But, do not contact authors through Goodreads or Amazon because both sites monitor their internal communications for review exchanges.
7) Look for Facebook review exchange groups.
8) Keep a log of all your reviews. Keep in yearly contact with your old review exchange authors. That way, you can contact them again when you come out with a new book.
9) Develop a dedicated website for your work. On it will be your books, your extended biography, a way to contact you, sample pages of your book, updates, and your blog. Many great website hosting companies have great online free website building programs—for example, Godaddy.
Of course, I chose not to use a free online website builder. Why? I am old school and wanted to make a site on my computer that I could endlessly edit offline. My other motivation was that if the hosting company did not work out (like upping their cost), I could move my = domain to any other web hosting company. Yes, I am a control freak.
So, my quest began. My first stop was to buy a copy of the gold standard for website development, Microsoft Front Page. To my utter surprise, it is no longer supported. What the heck? Well, I still had the silver standard Corel website creator. Wow, it has become awful. So, I went through every program from Adobe, Google, and many others. Pure junk. (How do companies make their sites? I do not know.) Fortuitously, I found a free program called Rocketcake. It was easy to use, fast, and produced excellent results. The downside is the lack of power. (It did not support splashy features. Only basic website stuff.) But there was an exciting upside. It generates tiny webpages that display lightning fast.
There was another benefit to Rocketcake that no other website builder had. It (accurately) showed how my website looked on mobile devices, and I could tweak the pages to look good on all platforms. Godaddy and other online-generated web pages look awful on small devices. Do people browse the web on their phones? Hmm. Perhaps there was some logic to my crazy decision.
Then I needed a hosting company and found WHP. Incidentally, WHP is the least expensive, and their service is decent. Coincidence?
10) Get a Facebook personal account and then make a separate page for your author’s activities. Make it look professional by examining what other authors have made their page look like.
11) Generate buzz on popular social sites groups like Twitter and Instagram. How does this work? I do not know. Twitter and Instagram are not my scene, but I know there are promoting guides on these sites.
12) Send out free books/ebooks. Several sites let you post your work for free to generate buzz. KDP select allows you to do this, but in my case, fifteen people downloaded my book and… Nothing.
13) There are a few (odd) free sites. The deal is that if you post an Amazon review, you get to read more free books. The problem is that all reviews read “…good book… I posted this review to claim the free book on XXX site, and this review is of my own volition.” What the heck? Stay away from those sites. Amazon will eventually take down all those phony reviews and punish the author.
14) Hire a publicist. I have investigated several and failed to find a good one. Why? When you hire somebody, you need a measure of their success. “You are a housepainter? Can you give me the address of a recently painted house so I can look at it?” Makes sense. “You are a publicist. Can you show me a book that somebody paid you $100 to promote, and they got $1000 in sales? You can’t?” Hmm.
I find publicists are glorified spammers. They take your $ and send out spam, Twitter spam, Instagram spam, text spam, website banners, or other spammy muck. There is no way they can directly show how our hard-earned $$ leads to reader interest or sales. Plus, spam angers potential customers.
I read stories of miracle publicists on the Facebook group Writers Helping Writers. After inquiring with the author about them and contacting the publicist, I learned they were riding on the coattails of a successful book.
Side note. There is a business here, but I have yet to crack the nut that will lead to successful promotion.
15) Start a blog on your website, Facebook, Goodreads, and any other site you can find. Keep your blog fresh, post at least once a week, and mention your book often. Your topics should be books, writing, life, and light topical subjects—no heavy stuff like politics.
16) Make a YouTube promotion video of your book. Or beg your famous YouTube friend who knows the trade. The problem is that ~10K videos come out weekly, making it hard to stand out.
17) There are Facebook groups for authors and books. For example, Writers Helping Writers. Post as often as you can, but don’t be a pest, and do not directly plug your book, or you will be booted off.
18) There are online reading groups. Tread lightly when you make your plug so they don’t kick you off.
19) Pay for an advertising campaign on Amazon to up your search ranking. Paying them seems counterintuitive. Amazon is supposed to do this for free because they are the retailer. If they promote new books and authors, they will sell more books.
Alas, no. Amazon makes you fork over money to up your search rankings. I have not tried paying Amazon because I want 100 reviews first. Nobody will buy an unreviewed book, no matter how often it appears in searches.
20) Do an advertising campaign on Barns and Nobel or Kubo. They seem to be much better at promoting books.
21) Keep a record of all your advertising efforts for taxes and understanding what works and what does not.
22) Last but not least, write more books. The more you have, the more you can market on the same dime. It only takes one success! “Hey, I loved Bill’s book Interviewing Immortality. Why not read his other book, Pushed to the Edge of Success or Cable Ties.” See what I did there? I snuck in a plug. Plug, plug, plug! Everywhere you can! This is a numbers game!
Unfortunately, that’s all I have about book promotion, and I feel your anger. “There have to be more options. When I search on ‘book promoting,’ I get a hundred hits.”
Let’s explore what these sites offer. 90% do two things. First, they spam. Do you read spam? Do you want your brilliant book to be associated with that kind of “gray” marketing? Second, they “tweet to 10,000 followers.” How does this help you? Having 10,000 nobody’s Tweet to 10,000 nobody’s. Do these people even speak English? Are computers tweeting to computers? Where is the proof they did what they claim? A computer printout? An angry letter from Twitter telling them to stop spamming?
When paying for advertising or promoting, understand the Return On Investment. This is the relationship for advertisement payments and your profit. All established marketing companies 100% understand this question, and 40% can competently answer it. If they cannot, you are wasting your money.
You may find a website that offers to promote your book on their “heavily visited site.” When you pay, you will see your book on their front page. Here is the issue. The only place readers go to find out about what books to read is Goodreads or Smashwords. (Umm, perhaps Amazon.) They do not care about other sites. Those “heavily visited sites” only exist to extract money from authors. If you look, you will see they all look the same, and I suspect one company runs them.
Many sites offer package deals. A combination of the Tweet/spam/put your book on their worthless site. Or they “manage” your Amazon advertising campaign. Or they “promote you on Google.” You can pay Google and Amazon directly to up your rank and do not need help.
Side note. If you have a unique title like Interviewing Immortality (see, I plugged my book again), then it will usually pop up first. Having your book for sale on many sites greatly helps. For example, I pay nothing, and my book is the first hit when I google “Interviewing Immortality.” See, I plugged my book a third time. This is a numbers game!!
I was Facebook messaged today by a guy who wanted to “up my brand awareness.” Here is his run-on sentence pitch:
I will do a strategic awareness your brand on some high-score social media platforms to increase awareness of your brand, generate real, active, and organic traffic from any country of your choice (USA, UK, Germany, Spain), and so on targeting those who will be particularly interested in the genre of book of your book . You will also gain a wide range of other effective results through my work.
“High-score social media platforms” = SPAM And the mathematically backed return on investment report is… Did you spot the extra space before the period?
What about book bloggers? They certainly can promote your work. The problem is that they require $$ without guaranteeing they will even read your book. Plus, they are arrogant and will give you a rotten review even after you pay. If you read/watch one of their negative reviews, you will see their sense of pride as they tear a book apart. Study their online content first, and be careful!
What about getting your book on a list of “100 outstanding books you have to read.” Hard to say, but it is worth investigating. Make sure you are not paying for this option. Your work should stand on its own.
In 2021 somebody reached out to interview me on the radio! Of course, I was interested!!! Turns out… For only $60, they would turn my book cover into a 3D animation that loops on a YouTube video. The audio (read by a computer) was me answering (over email) six questions I asked myself.
I searched YouTube and found several videos posted by the person who messaged me. She uploaded the first in 2015. Guess how many views it got by 2021? Two! This person’s most popular video (an odd religious rant in English and Italian) received eight views. (It was eight because I accidentally clicked on it twice.) The lesson is to be careful. Many people want to separate you from your cash.
Wait, I know what you are thinking. “Bill probably does not know a thing about internet marketing because his sales are in the toilet.” Well, I am not bragging, but I do.
The entire purpose of those patents was to define, clarify, justify, quantify, and improve one number. Return On Investment (ROI) And, if my boneheaded partner did not have a mental breakdown because he feared success, I would be a multi-billionaire. Yes, this is 100% true. Did I mention he was a BONEHEAD!!!!! I want to repeat it. John, you are a complete BONEHEAD!!!!! Hey blog readers, thanks for letting me vent.
I know, not inspiring you. Book promoting is a tough road. More challenging than selling a product or service. I started this journey with the idea that I would instantly get popular (because I wrote a fantastic book), and the checks would roll in. I now understand how profound this fantasy was. Yet, things are not as bad as they seem. You now know the pitfalls, the questions to ask, where to market, and how much effort is required.
You’re the best -Bill
February 26, 2018. Updated April 08, 2023
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