Your number-one book marketing tool
Authors often struggle with book marketing or get frustrated with poor returns despite spending more time marketing than writing. Of all the lousy advice a budding author can find online, marketing advice is by far the worst. In one 10-minute search, it’s possible to find several examples of so-called ‘marketing secrets’ regurgitated ad nauseam, many of which flat out contradict each other.
I am not saying all marketing advice is terrible, but a sensible business person always questions the source. Always remember that most online marketing gurus make their money selling you their ‘secret formula’, not from using the formula.
My approach to book marketing is simple and straightforward to implement. With my approach to book marketing, less is definitely more.
Your #1 marketing tool
There is only one proven marketing tool for authors, and it’s one you already possess. It’s your writing. This doesn’t mean you publish your book and hope for the best—this is ‘build it, and they will come’ thinking, and we know that doesn’t work. To go from zero to an independent author making a good living, you must first overcome one barrier.
This barrier isn’t money or your lack of industry contacts, it’s not geography, and it’s not your lack of 3 million fans on Facebook. It’s trust. When a potential new reader comes across your work, trust is the only barrier, and the trust question is simple: Will I enjoy reading what this author has to say? If the answer is a confident yes, they will buy your book. Simple as that. This is the same for fiction or nonfiction. And when they’ve finished your book and like it, they are not only more likely to read your other books, but they will also recommend it to their friends.
Once you realise the secret to book marketing is building trust with potential readers, you can see there is nothing sleazy or even complicated about book marketing. Successful book marketing is putting your work in the market and making it easy to find for those looking for a book just like yours. If you are chasing sales, you’re doing it wrong.
Which brings us to the chicken-and-egg question: How will they know if they like my work enough to buy it when they need to buy it to see if they like my work? The answer is simple: You must give it away. For free. And not the meh stuff, your best stuff. Understanding that you must give stuff away to grow your career is critical to your success. It’s what took me from picking up scraps at the fringes to making a decent income from my books. This principle is what honest educators in the indie space will teach you. When you research successful indies, you will find all of them are giving great content away.
The immutable maths of publishing
The immutable maths of successful publishing is you must:
- Write more books; and
- Sell more of your existing books.
I appreciate this is obvious, but what separates successful authors from the rest is they understand that A (writing more books) is much more important than B (selling more books). This is because writing more books leads to selling more books with minimal extra effort from you. Let me illustrate with an example. Conventional advice goes like this:
- Publish a book
- Market the heck out of the book
While this is compelling and straightforward advice, what actually happens is that the author:
- Markets the heck out of the book
- Nothing happens
- Repeats until author goes insane or gives up.
This is because the conventional advice does nothing to answer the trust question I posed earlier. You can yell ‘Buy my book!’ from every rooftop in the land, but it won’t make any difference because nobody cares. I don’t state this to be miserable and negative, but because it’s a fact. Think about it—you are just one voice in the thousand that a potential reader will hear today, and if they don’t know you and trust you, the chance of them caring about what you have to say is near zero.
The secret to successful book marketing
Successful book marketing requires you to accept that until a reader trusts you, marketing your book to them is a waste of time.
To build a successful career as an author, you must:
- Publish a book
- Update your other books and content, so they link to your new book
Note there is no mention of marketing. Once a reader has read one of your books, and trusts you, the links provide the reader with a pathway to your other work. This is where your free stuff comes into the picture. Unlike cat videos and celebrity memes, readers place a high value on you sharing your creative talent, and they will reward you with their trust and loyalty, and by recommending and linking to your work—both free and paid.
This linking—where each piece of your content links to one or more other works—is not only organic marketing best-practice, but it’s also incredibly effective for books. It also explains why writing more books is much more important than trying to sell more books, because the more books and content you have out there, the more of these organic links you will collect, and your books will sell more with no additional effort from you.
Success as an author, indie or otherwise, has nothing to do with how many social media followers you have. What matters is putting out high-quality content and gaining the trust of readers by providing them with a zero-risk way to sample your work. These fundamental principles underpin all discussions of platform, ninja marketing, six-figure launches, and whatever else is the flavour of the month. When you understand this, most of the stress and confusion related to book marketing disappears.
Nigel George is an author and educator. He is the author of five books on technology and self-publishing. Originally traditionally published, he discovered that authors have a far greater chance of success if they independently publish their books. When not writing and publishing more books, Nigel spends his time teaching other authors how to succeed at self-publishing. You can learn more about his work on his website: indiepublishingmachine.com.