A Necessary Evil — Part III

When should your book marketing begin? For most new authors, including those who’ve managed to sell a book to a Big Five imprint, the marketing should begin as early as possible. One of your goals should be to garner as many pre-orders as you can. In other words, you want to start selling your book before it’s available.

The idea is to create demand, and when the book does become available, you’ll chalk up sales from the very first day. And the more, the better, but not for the obvious reason of earning a quick return. If you can drive enough pre-sales, the online retailers will notice, especially Amazon, and they’ll work your title into their own in-house marketing designs.  Amazon has more product placement algorithms than anyone else, and another of your goals should be to take advantage of them.

So your first buying targets are the fans you already have. In the case of a first-time author, these are friends, family, and co-workers. Add acquaintances who might be interested as well as anyone who follows you on social media. Think back to old connections, former co-workers, school chums, or whole graduating classes. If these names and email addresses aren’t already in a list of some kind, build one now!

Just having the list isn’t enough, of course. You have to give the people on it a reason to order your book early. You might consider a price reduction of some kind, say half off if ordered by a certain date. Or you might provide a PDF copy of the book. If it’s fiction, you might consider providing a short prequel or maybe deleted scenes. If it’s non-fiction, you could consider a study guide or a recording of an interview with an expert–maybe even yourself!

When it comes to rewards and bonuses, the trick is determining who actually placed an order. The online retailers won’t divulge that information, so you’ll have to be more creative. One of the easiest ways to solve the problem is to have buyers email a copy of their receipt to an email address which you will supply in your sales copy. Then, whenever you receive a receipt, you can reply with an email that either has the bonus as an attachment or which provides links to your bonus material online. Either way, the buyer gets feedback very quickly, and you can keep track of sales.

Make a note of who actually bought your book in a new mailing list. These are folks who’ve already shown an interest in your work. You’ll want to go back to them in the future with your next offering. Think of them as VIPs, Very Important Purchasers.

Getting pre-sales isn’t the only reason for having and using your contact list. You’ll also want to enlist their aid in promoting your book. So when you send emails to them, don’t be shy about asking them to give you a mention in their social media. Obviously, you have to believe in what you’ve written; you can’t go into it half-heartedly. By the same token, you don’t want to try and be someone you aren’t. Be yourself!

There’s a reason you’re excited about the book. Share that! You don’t need some Madison Avenue type to draft fancy schmancy ad copy. Discuss the subject matter if it’s non-fiction, or the characters, plot, or location if it’s fiction. If reading it is apt to change someone’s life, say so! Share what you learned while writing it, where and/or how you researched it, who you talked to during the process, or how working on it changed your life. If you’re excited about the book, and you’re able to share that excitement, chances are the people on your list will feel the same way.

The most successful pre-sale campaigns send out the first email about a month before the book’s release date. These are typically followed by additional emails designed to keep building enthusiasm for the debut.

How often you should send something depends on how interesting you can make your message and what extras you can offer. Non-fiction books on topics of interest to specific groups–retirees living on fixed budgets, government employees, people with dyslexia, anyone who went to summer camp, etc.–might lend themselves to excerpts, lists of some kind, or other content-based bonus material. Works of fiction may be a bit harder to plan for, but with a little imagination, you can find ways. Cover reveals, contests, giveaways, promotional items, etc. are all possibilities.

Unfortunately, some people won’t join in your enthusiasm, and they won’t be happy about receiving any email from you that feels like a sales pitch. So it’s important to let them opt out of future mailings. Reputable services such as MailChimp make it easy for people to do that. Honor those requests. It’s the fastest and easiest way to prevent potential problems. Remember, you’re not just building an address list of people you know; you’re building a database of fans and followers.

You’ll need them for your next book.

Stay tuned. There’s more!

–Josh

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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4 Responses to A Necessary Evil — Part III

  1. dorisreidy says:

    Thanks for some good information about the hardest part of writing a book.

  2. Words FROM the wise… Great advice

  3. polinto says:

    Groan. Good but painful information.

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