Marketing Basics for Authors

Recently, someone asked my advice about marketing to reach more readers. It was a rush-rush morning, but I wanted to say something helpful.

Here’s what I said, in email, warts & all…

To sell more books, start with the basics. Even if you’ve already set up some of these systems, revisit them regularly. (I do, with my own books & marketing.) There’s always room for improvement and updates/tweaks.

If this is new to you, it may seem daunting. It’s not. You can do nearly all of this – or at least start the ball rolling – in half a day or less.  (My marketing motto is: “Better, not perfect.” A little here, a little there… it adds up to greater success, week by week.)

1) Set up an Amazon Author page.

You’ll do this via https://authorcentral.amazon.com/  You can use up to three pen names per Author Central account.

(If you have more than three pen names – as I do – set up a second Author Central account with a different email address. That’s perfectly legal.)

A short, whimsical/intriguing author bio is good, whether you’re in fiction or nonfiction. In the bio, lean more on “fascinating, extraordinary person” than on the authority angle.

If you’re in a fringe niche, go with the cool/weird/interesting vibe. 

Make sure your blog feeds to your Amazon Author page, too.  You’ll set that up in Author Central, with just a link.

For more details… well, I haven’t watched this video, but Dave Chesson is a good friend and he’s usually a reliable resource:

2) Create an Author Page at Facebook.

Set up a Facebook Page (not a Group) for your pen name. At first, set it up so you moderate all comments. Once the fans are there to speak louder than trolls, etc., you can change that, so you reduce admin time. You’ll use this to promote your books and make it easy for readers to Share your posts, too.

I’m assuming you’re using something like HootSuite‘s free service to manage your social media accounts.

(I’m using PromoRepublic, and absolutely love it. But, if you’re starting out and have more time than money, there’s no reason to leap into that kind of expense… yet.)

Social media is kind of a must. Focus on whichever media reach your target audience. Facebook followers are very different from Twitter followers, in age, income, and interest.

See this article about which audience is where: https://promorepublic.com/en/blog/10-ways-find-audience-social-media/

3) Work on “also boughts.”

If this is new to you, read https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/also-boughts-authors-books/ but don’t pay any service that might look shady to Amazon.

Mostly, think about the people who should buy your book and know what you’re doing. What best-selling books are they already buying? (Yasiv.com can be useful for this.)

Work on those as “also boughts.”  I recommend using your free days in Kindle, coordinated with a $5 promotion or two by bknights at Fiverr.com. bknights’ promotions are easily the best deal I’ve seen for the money, and they can organically improve your book sales, while staying within Amazon’s Terms of Service.

I’m not sure if this podcast might give you more insights, as I haven’t listened to it, but Chris Fox is pretty reliable on any book marketing topic:
https://cksyme.com/episode36/ 

This video (also by Chris Fox) may be helpful, too:

4) Put your book covers (and Amazon OneLink Affliate links to them – https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/node/topic/202165020 ) in the sidebar of your website.

Add Pinterest-ish graphics to your posts, for more exposure. I recommend  LH OGP Meta Tags (free WP plugin) for OGP Image selection, and Social Media and Share Icons (Ultimate Social Media) (also a free WP plugin) to get more buzz, as well.

Those are starting points for authors to reach new readers.

How Much at What Rank?

When I set book marketing goals, I like to know what I’m aiming for. That helps me decide what to budget in terms of time, money, and other resources.

The following chart is just a ballpark estimate. I started with the Kindle Sales Calculator on Dave Chessons’s site: Kindle Best-Seller Calculator.

Then I added the average net income, per book, for a Kindle book sold in the U.S., and I figured my  numbers from there.

(I’m posting this because I keep misplacing my own copy of these figures. If they’re on my website, they’re easier to find.)

Approximate net income per book sold

TikTok and Social Media Marketing

Vlogging? Know your target audienceHere are my thoughts about vlogging, TikTok, and cultural disconnects.

Remember that line, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”? Late yesterday, I wondered if we should replace “loud” with “raunchy.”

Okay, I’m joking.

For those who don’t know me in real life: Yes, some music is too loud. But… there are also signs when people start acting “old.” It has nothing to do with age. It’s more about getting locked into a specific set of era references, and refusing to accept that time moves on & things change.

But, after looking at TikTok, I’d really like to turn back the clock to a time when people under age 25 (or so) could enjoy the innocence of youth and limitless optimism.

TikTok – at least the videos the site suggested to me – made me want to weep, seeing the cynicism and anger in so many of their apparently popular videos.

Then, my husband said TikTok might echo other cultural norms, which probably reflect the site’s roots.

Now that – apparently – TikTok is trying to go mainstream, their content emphasis may change.

May 2019 update: Yes, their emphasis is changing. So, yes, this may be a marketing opportunity for some.

A Travel Vlog Aside

And that brings me to a friend who’d launched a travel-ish vlog. At Facebook, I’d linked to one of her first videos, and email’d the URL to a few friends, too.

Friends’ immediate feedback let me know I’d blundered.

Well… I didn’t think the language or humor were a big problem, though I’d flagged it as NSFW. Apparently, I should have been more clear about that. Some people felt the video was too raunchy.

I’m not sure of that. My friend may be aiming for a very particular audience. For them, the language and humor may be fine… even an asset.

She was on a South Korean game show, and has a fan following from that. So, she may be tailoring her videos for those fans.

If her target audience included people who might recognize her from her former role at an Orlando theme park, and go all starry-eyed as a result… she may have missed the mark.

Also, if she has an ultimate goal of landing on one of the bigger lifestyle streaming services, her videos probably shouldn’t be NSFW.

That’s not my call.

Would my husband & I watch her videos if we didn’t already know her…? Probably not. Our tastes are more plain-vanilla G-rated than anything at the upper limits of PG-13.

But that’s us. We’re the kind of people who go to Disney World at least two evenings each week. We don’t drink and don’t smoke. And I think twice before I even say “heck” or “darn.”

On the other hand, we’re not snobs; we love keeping up with friends, via blogs & vlogs, when they’re living far from us. So yes, we’ll keep following my friend’s adventures. She and her partner are bright, fun people. We like them.

Other travel vlogs we follow?

Well, via Roku, we regularly watch Fawesome.tv’s UK travel shows like “Samuel and Audrey.” (We don’t know them.)

That couple go to everyday places and find quirky and interesting things to talk about. I’m pretty sure they’re earning a living from travel vlogging, and being on channels like Fawesome.tv helps a lot.

Samuel & Audrey's YouTube channel is at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnTsUMBOA8E-OHJE-UrFOnA

So, yeah… Different styles. Different audiences. Different goals.

You can’t be all things to all people.  Choose your people. And choose who you’re going to be. (Not necessarily in that order.)

And That Gets Us Back to TikTok as a Marketing Option

I’m posting this to say: If your success depends on – eventually – reaching a very broad audience, consider the “what ifs” of what you say & do, now.

To me, TikTok looks like over-eager people, being silly & (maybe) seeking fame/fortune.

Long-term, TikTok could go mainstream… or become yet another “bad neighborhood.” So, I can’t recommend it, unless you’re a high-roller in marketing terms.

(I also wonder what will happen when a future employer does a social media search, and stumbles onto someone’s unfortunate TikTok video from years earlier. Oops.)

As I said, you can’t be all things to all people, but – between an audience of, say, your 1000 True Fans, and Every Person On Planet Earth – there IS a level of success (and an audience) you’re aiming for. From the start, think in those terms.

Be a dreamer, but also be realistic. Decide the expectations of the largest audience you aim to attract. And plan accordingly.