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Book Marketing Foundations With Dan Parsons And Melissa Addey: Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast

Book Marketing Foundations With Dan Parsons and Melissa Addey: Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast

In today's Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast: book marketing foundations. Talk to experienced indie authors and most will tell you that writing well is only part of the equation. If you want to succeed commercially then you must also master marketing. In this episode, ALLi’s Product Marketing Manager Dan Parsons and Campaigns Manager Melissa Addey outline the foundations of marketing a book for debut authors: what works, what doesn’t, and what can work but isn’t applicable for most first-time authors. If you want to save time, sidestep common mistakes and shift early copies, this is the episode for you.

Find more author advice, tips, and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

Dan Parsons writes the Creative Business series for authors, bestselling fantasy and horror novels (under Daniel Parsons), and a weekly blog for The Self-Publishing Formula. In the past, he has worked for three trad publishers, managed two bookstores and listened to an unhealthy number of podcasts. Now he's ALLi's product marketing manager.

Melissa Addey has a PhD in creative writing and writes historical fiction set in first-century Rome, eleventh-century Morocco and eighteenth-century China. She runs writing workshops covering both craft and entrepreneurship, most frequently for the British Library. She's also ALLi's campaigns manager, a role in which she loves observing and supporting the vast diversity of self-published authors. Visit her at her website and pick up a free novella.

Read the Transcripts: Book Marketing Foundations

Dan Parsons: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Beginner Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. I have finally got used to the long name. If you are unaware of who I am, I am the Alliance's marketing manager, Dan Parsons, and today I'm with our campaigns manager, Melissa Addey. Hi, Melissa.

Melissa Addey: Hello, good evening.

Dan Parsons: Today, we will be talking about marketing. Now that we've already talked about reasons why you should self-publish, and the editorial side, eventually you decide you want to launch a book. So, today we're going to go over the foundations of how to market a book as a debut author.

We're going to talk a little bit about what works, what doesn't work, and also what can work, but probably not for debut authors, because there are some marketing tactics that are really good, but you need to have 5, 10, 50 books out before they're worthwhile. So, there's no point doing it on book one. So, we're going to be trying to save you some time and help you to avoid some mistakes today.

So, Melissa would you like to kick us off on some things that possibly don't work?

Melissa Addey: Yes. So, you may be thinking, hang on a minute, last time we only got as far as editing, so how come we haven't even pressed publish yet and now we're suddenly going on about marketing? But actually, before you publish, you should do some marketing work because some of the marketing work has to be inside the book.

So, we're going to go through that today, but that's why we're doing a bit of marketing now. We are laying the foundation for post-publication marketing. So, right now we're doing a little bit of foundational stuff.

What happens sometimes is that people finish editing and hurry up and publish the book, and then they fall into a few traps, which is suddenly they realize that they've published a book and now they have to market it, which is always the next bit, and they haven't got a plan for it, and they haven't put any foundations in place for it, and what they do then is they stop writing altogether and just start marketing in a rather random way because they haven't got a plan. So, that means no writing's happening, which is not good for the long-term success as an author, and at the same time they're often putting in place, or trying to put in place, some marketing things that don't necessarily work terribly well on your first book.

So, for example, they may read that it's really good to have a free book to give away. So, they will go, okay, I will give away the book immediately, which is lovely and may get you lots of interested readers, but often what will happen then is the very interested reader will go, oh, loved it, what else of yours is there? There isn't anything, so that kind of tactic works a lot better when there's some other books behind it. So, that's probably something that you would do a little later on, not on the very first book.

And things that you may have heard about from traditional publishing, oh, I should do a book signing and I should have a launch event, and things like that. There was the most adorable exchange on Twitter the other day where some poor lady had set up a book signing and felt very gutted because no one had turned up and she felt really down about it, I think two people turned up, and the adorable bit was that she'd done that and felt a bit down, but then all these big name authors, very sweetly replied and went, been there, done that, not had any people. So, she was not alone in that, but those sorts of things tend to come a bit later on. So, physical book signing things, that's not going to work when you are absolutely nobody yet and you haven't got going yet.

Blog tours take quite a while to set up, the relationships with a reviewer, that kind of thing, it takes a while to get all of that.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, you need a bit of a reputation to do a lot of this already, don't you?

So, like you said, if you go and do book signing tours and things like that throughout the country, often there needs to be a little bit of a buzz around you for when you turn up otherwise, and I'm saying this as someone who used to manage a bookshop and had to console lots of disappointed authors, the only trade you'll get are people who are walking in the bookshop to browse, and they may end up buying a book from you, but generally you need to bring your own traffic and if you don't have the marketing punch behind you and this reputation that you build up over time, then that sort of marketing, because a book signing essentially is a marketing tactic, it doesn't work for you, and you end up spending lots of money. I've seen people bring cake and balloons and all this type of stuff that they've brought to the book signing to make it really magical and the people who have been running the bookshop have ended up eating half the cake and very few readers have actually come in, and it just didn't really work.

But yeah, as a very early author, one of the things that I recognized was what you said about the sort of scattergun approach to marketing. So, I didn't go straight into a big bookshop and try and do all that stuff because I was one of these authors who released as eBook first and then paperback at a later date. So, I tried promoting my first ever eBook, and you do the 99 cent discount or you do the free run, and you try to get people to download it on mass with the idea that lots of them will read the book and then they will hang around for the next two years while you're writing the next one, and then they'll love the next one and they'll pay full price for it. But often what you find is the people who do really well with that tactic, A have lots of other books so that the reader who's been grabbed by that one free book immediately goes on to read these paid books, and they've got that channel that sort of funnels people through.

But B, they also know how to market a free book, and you think, how hard can it be to give away a free book? Turns out, really hard. Until you actually know how to market a book, there are lots and lots of tactics that are quite complicated and go beyond the scope of this podcast. But yeah, the authors that do a free book giveaway and then give away 50,000 copies and get a thousand people on their mailing list, and things like that from that promo often are really good at marketing and have a large marketing budget behind it to push the free promo. So, it's not quite as easy as you think.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, and also, you've just mentioned a whole bunch of things that have had to be put in place by that person. That there are multiple books, that they've got a marketing budget, that they've got a mailing list set up. There's a whole bunch of other stuff that's been set up there just to do that one promotion.

So, before we get anywhere near any of that, what we are looking at is putting in place the foundations, and the foundations can start being put in place while you are still working on a manuscript, because while you finish that manuscript, anytime you get really tired of writing, you can switch over and start learning to do a bit of marketing.

So, there's a few things that you can start doing. The very first thing is what we were talking about last time, which is making sure that the book is good quality because you can't market your way out of that. You can try, but it won't work.

The book has to be a good book, and it has to look professional.

Dan Parsons: I think the best-case scenario with that. If the book looks good, but it's not actually professionally edited inside, you'll ultimately market a book and sell loads of book one, but no one will follow you through to any of the other books and you'll get bombed with one-star reviews.

So, you're better off using the production process as a foundational marketing exercise. So, there's lots of foundational things you can do in that way.


Melissa Addey: and the first thing that I start doing, even now as the first thing for a new book, and that is the cover, and the cover is a very big deal.

I meet so many people who skimp a bit on the cover, and then after the book comes out, they go, so now what should I spend marketing money on? And I'm like, the cover. Go back, because the cover is so important. First of all, it's the first thing that anybody sees, and second of all, you can use it in so many ways and you can start using it well before the book comes out.

So, well before the book comes out, that will appear on my website, on my social media, on my email signature, all kinds of stuff. That image is going to start appearing and allows you to start playing with the marketing. It allows me to start developing book trailers and all sorts. If I have that image, it's a really important image.

Dan Parsons: I think it's multi-pronged as well, isn't it? It needs to be objectively good, as in you can tell regardless of what genre you read, you can tell when a book is professionally made compared to one that's not professionally made by the cover. So, it needs to be objectively good by design standards. But also, specifically within the book industry, which is different to any other industry, you need to appeal to a subgenre of readers, and usually there's a little trick that you can do. You can find that subgenre of readers by looking at it on a retailer like Amazon or Kobo or Barnes and Noble, going down the best seller list for that subgenre, seeing themes that run across all of the covers and then trying to replicate one.

I used to work for a publishing company where the manager would always say, we want the book to stand out, not stick out. So, you don't want to go against the grain and try to pop out on the bestseller chart. You want people to know exactly what they're getting into because the book cover isn't meant to tell the story of the book, it's meant to give a flavour of the book so that the reader can jump into the story.

Melissa Addey: So, this is a big problem, is that the author, knowing the story, would like all of the story to appear on the cover in some way, shape, or form. But the thing is that the only person who will appreciate that is someone who's finished reading the book, by which point, they don't need to be convinced anymore because they already read the book. So, the book is doing a different thing. It is not telling you the whole story. What it is telling you is, this is the kind of book you like to read. It fits with all the other books that you have enjoyed, and that's what you were saying about it shouldn't stick out, it should stand out as in, oh wow, that looks really cool in that group that I like to read. Not, what is that?

And the simplest way to do this, Amazon is a wonderful tool for this, you sit down, you find your little category that you belong to, and you'll know because you'll know what are the most similar books to yours, you pick recent books, as in the last two years or so, because trends change with the covers quite a lot, and you want books that have been successful and you take 10 to 20 of those book covers and you make yourself a little mood board, and as soon as you put them all on a page in front of you, I swear you will start noticing what the rules are for your category, and it is so incredibly useful.

So, I did this with a series, and I could just tell immediately, I was like, that's the kind of font you have to use. There were three main colours you were supposed to use. There were two, well, there were three kind of sub-sub genres, and it was like, well, does it mostly feature a woman? Does it mostly feature a man? Is it mostly a political-thrillery thing? Those were your options.

So, from that, it was very easy to then go to a cover designer and say, here's a set of images, which is so useful for them. You go, here's the images from my category and these are the key themes that I need to see. They're the colours, the fonts, those sorts of things, and then, yes, you can mention a little extra thing. You can go, it would be great if the birds were magpies. It would be great if there's something, but don't get too hung up on some little thing that means nothing to anyone who hasn't read the book already.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, absolutely. Because as you say, they wouldn't even know that there was a story-based discrepancy on the cover because they haven't read the book.

As opposed to the cover, though, there's also things that you need to do from a marketing perspective inside the book. Now, there's a concept in book production called Back Matter and Front Matter, and the front matter is the page with the book title and things like that on there. There's sometimes a copyright page and things like that at the front, and then the back matter often has marketing materials. If you look at a trad published book, sometimes they'll show some of the other books that they've also published so that you can look at their list.

With authors though, they're mainly three-ish things that people try to promote. So, there's a newsletter sign up. There's upsells to other books, which you wouldn't have as a debut author, and there's something like a Patreon where you can try and nab readers in some way so that you own the exclusive ability to contact those readers in the future, as opposed to, they read the book and then they disappear, and you never see them again.

So, if you put these things in the back of your book, then often that will create an ongoing relationship, and what you know is that people can click a link in the back of your eBook, or they can visit a link that you've printed out in the back of a print copy, and then when they're on your mailing list, there are so many different ways that you can talk to them and direct them in different ways for different things that you produce.

That reader becomes really valuable to you, and over time as your list grows you can release books in the future where you know you can tell people that already liked the last book, so they're going to want to read the next one. So, that's a really powerful thing that you can do.

Melissa Addey: And I think it's a really nice thing to remember, for people who feel that marketing, that they're a bit worried about it, they feel like it's cold calling, they feel like you're just screeching about your book all the time, if you have a mailing list that is people who are keen on your books, they would like to hear about it.

You're not screaming into the void and you're not annoying people, you're going, you know how you really like that book, here's another one.

And that back matter that you're talking about frequently contains what get called calls-to- action, and that is when someone's finished reading the book, what would you like them to do?

So, some of the things we'd like them to do would be come and join our mailing list or something like Paton, come and read another book so we might give the opening chapter of the next book if we have it, or, and this requires a little bit of thinking about, but it is worth doing, when I plan a series, I know all the titles in advance. So, when I list all the books that I have, even if they're not written, I put existing and forthcoming books, and I'll go two-three titles ahead to go, these books exist. They're going to be part of this series.

I've had people come to me and go, I've looked everywhere for that book, where is it? Where is the fourth one? I'm like, it's on my desk, I'm writing it. But they were looking for it, and the only reason they were looking for it was listed in the back matter of my book. So, that got them interested and they knew there was going to be another book.

Dan Parsons: It does feel a little bit like time travel as well, because obviously your thought to think about books in the future that don't exist yet, and you have to do a similar thing in the way that some calls-to-action are, can you leave a review on this book now that you've read it, and then you supply a link so that they can click through to your book, but sometimes the sales page for that link doesn't exist because you haven't published the book.

So, some authors do a double release where they release once without that link in the back, and then they re-upload the files with that link there so that everyone who reads the book can go on to leave a review, and it massively boosts the number of reviewers you get on your first book before you've got a mailing list.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, but even without the link. So, I never used to put in the request for a review. It wasn't something I put in, and then I had a book and I thought, oh, well, yeah, I'll put in a request, and all I said was, it would be really nice, if you enjoyed it, please review it. It matters a lot. It helps people find their stories. I didn't even have a live link in it, and I got six times more reviews than the ones that didn't, in a far shorter space of time.

So, it was very clear, it's reminding readers. Readers don't know how much you like reviews, they don't understand how important it is to an author. They read the book and they go, oh, that was brilliant, and then they put it down. They don't think, and now I shall go and write a review. So, you need to remind them. You need to just coax them in and go, it's a really big deal to me. So, even without a live link, it made a big difference. So, with a live link, even better.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, I can see that William has a question in the comment here as well. So, should a call-to-action page request one action or more than one?

Well, honestly, it depends on your strategy. So, lots of authors, particularly as you've built your business and you've got lots of different assets and things going on, people release courses and they've got all these different things on the side, and they want to do lots of different things and promote all of them to everyone at once, and sometimes you have to make a call, with this next book that I release, what is my strategy going to be?

I typically would say, you don't want to do any more than three calls-to-action, because if a reader is given too much choice, they do nothing.

So, absolutely maximum of three. Ideally, two or one, and you can always switch them out. So, say you want a book to get more reviews when it first comes out, you can put a call to action to ask for reviews in the back, but then when the book is a bit more mature and it's got enough reviews so that it's getting the readers that it needs, you can upload a new version of the book, because we can do that as self-published authors, and you could have switched that last bit of back matter out so that people sign up to your mailing list instead. So, it's entirely up to you and it can change over time.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, that's a good question, William. I think also when you are picking those three calls-to-action, think about what's in it for the reader. So, if I ask for a review, that's for me, they're not getting much out of it, so I've asked them to do something for me, so now maybe the next call to action should not be, and also come on my mailing list, because again, that's for me. Maybe now I need to give you something. So, I need to go, oh, I have a free book if you'd like to sign up for it. That's a way of getting you onto my mailing list because I've given you something or I can say, oh, and here's the next book, and that's exciting for you, and obviously you're going to buy it so it's nice for me as well. But try and think about how that's going back and forth between us, what that action is doing for you or for me.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So, now that we've actually spoken about the inside of the book, I'll just pop very briefly back to the outside of the book because we've got another question.

So, how would you know how to choose the right book cover before your manuscript is finished?

Well, generally it's by, like we said, taking the essence of the book, because you may not know where the book is going, but you know what genre it's going to be in, and you roughly know who the main characters are, and that's enough information generally to come up with a concept.

There are lots of authors who release ridiculous amounts of books throughout each year, very fast rapid release authors and they might release 10 books in the year, and they haven't written any of them yet. They've just got a one-line description of what the book is going to be about, and based on the one-line description and the sub-genre they work in, they can usually work out the type of book cover that they want to commission in advance, and they do that on mass. Scarily to a huge scale.

Melissa Addey: But to be honest, at the point where you are, I would say, get the first draft done of the book. So, you're pretty sure what this book is now, while you are polishing it, start the process going with the cover. You, at that point, know full well what the story is, and you can easily choose a cover for it, but there's still quite a way to go till that book is actually published.

Dan Parsons: Yes. One step you have to take to go that way is actually to create metadata in advance. So, if you are unfamiliar with the term metadata, it essentially means data about data. So, if you think of your book cover file and the interior file with all the pages and words, they are your data, and then the data about the data are things like the title, the product description, the categories, and all this type of stuff that floats around it in digital worlds that help you to market.

So yeah, what sort of ways can we optimize our metadata, Melissa?

Melissa Addey: Okay. So, there's a bunch of things that we get asked for as we first upload that book to publish it, essentially.

So, as we put that book up, we get asked for some things. We get asked for the blurb, so we get asked for the description of that book. That's a very visible thing. That's something that the reader is going to look at. They are going to judge, mostly they judge on three things. The cover, the reviews, and the blurb; you get to control two of those, which is the cover and the blurb, the reviews you hope for, but the other two you have to control. So the blurb, again, you do the same thing again, that set of books where you looked at their covers, I strongly suggest that you read each of their blurbs, one after another, 10 to 20 blurbs, and then try and write yours, because you will hear the right buzz words, the right uses of emotion, the right kind of questions that a blurb might ask. You will get a feel for what it should sound like in your category, and so that's a really useful way to get your first draft out.

Dan Parsons: What you'll often find is that within sub-genres as well, they have buzzwords that you don't realize are in every description, but they essentially are little psychological hooks for that type of reader. So, if you read Epic Fantasy, they may always mention a dragon, a sorcerer, magic. They may use certain words like; I don't know.

Melissa Addey: Forbidden worlds.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, things like that, and then if you go to a chic lit author, they may use other words like shopaholic and things like that, which is one of the big brands. So, you want to make sure that that your description contains enough words to hook the type of readers that you are trying to pull in, and an easy way to do that is to use a tool like a word cloud, which is something you can find online. You can copy and paste a load of the leading book's descriptions into a word cloud, and it will tell you the most popular words that are used across all of them. And once you've realized what the most popular words are, you can then use those in your own blurb to appeal to the same readers, providing they actually align with your book.

There's no point mentioning a dragon, if you don't have a dragon in the book.

Melissa Addey: People will be going, now, where's this dragon you were talking about?

Dan Parsons: Yeah, it was a really small dragon. No one saw it.

Melissa Addey: It's really small. Anyone who finds it gets a free book.

No. So, it's really important to get that feel for it. There's a really interesting tool, an organization called K-Lytics, and they write reports on different book sub-genres. So, they'll give you a market report, and one of the things they do is go, here's all the blurbs, these are the words being used in your category. So, sometimes if there's a report for your category, they've done a lot of the hard work for you, so you might want to have a look at that as well.

So, that's your blurb, and when you write your blurb, interestingly you would think that the platforms would make it easy for you to do things like bold the title or put a couple of italics here and there just to emphasize certain important things, but they don't always do that.

Dan Parsons: Even spaces between paragraphs.

Melissa Addey: Yes, that would be a joyful thing. But they don't always, so sometimes you upload your lovely little blurb that you've written, and then when you see it on the page, you're horrified because it's just all scrunched into just a mass of text. So, you will need to learn just a few, don't panic, HTML tags that will just put it in a few dividing lines, italics, bold.

Dan Parsons: If that scared you, there's also a really handy tool, which is not affiliated with the podcast in any way, but I use it quite a lot because it's so useful. There's a tool called the Kindlepreneur HTML description generator, where you'll basically pop your description into there, and then you can put the spaces in, bold certain words, italicize other words, and then press a button and it will spit out the description with the code in there so that you can just copy and paste it into retailer platforms. So, that is really useful.

Melissa Addey: So, blurb, definitely, that's a visible thing and that's something that's really important and you can tweak it over time but try and get it right first time. Try and get other people to read it and see if it makes sense to them. The way you phrased it, they understand. If they feel excited about it and hooked into the story and want to read it. That is the point of a blurb. So, that's your blurb.

The next thing that you're going to get asked for is, you will be asked for a set of categories, depending on which platform you go into they call them different things, but it will say, where does this book belong? So, you are almost filing it in a bookshop. So, you're being asked, where on the bookshelf am I supposed to put this?

Now weirdly, and a bit irritatingly, on the Amazon platform, when you put it on, they will only give you two categories and they're very broad.

So, mine would just go fiction, historical fiction. That's it. Not as tight as I need to go with my categories. But that's okay. You just put up whatever they've got, whatever they offer to you, whatever matches most closely, and then, and this is the secret bit, about a week after you've published, you can go back in and you can ask for up to 10 categories, and that's where you get really specific. You go not just historical fiction, you go historical fiction, Asia/China. That's the category I want be.

Dan Parsons: I'm going to jump in here, because I believe that Amazon sent out an email this week saying that they've reduced it to four categories.

Melissa Addey: Oh, what? That is so mean!

Dan Parsons: Yeah, I think they're starting to use the description more in the metadata. So, they will assign you secret categories now with some of the other metadata that's so useful that we're talking about that you put in, Amazon is going to be doing some of those choices for you with categories. So, they're trying to make it easier for authors so that you can sell more books to the right readers, but you just have ensure that you get a really good blurb.

Melissa Addey: I'm wary of this.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, and they're always testing things.

Melissa Addey: I'm so wary of this. I've seen people being put into comedy something or another when they write horror.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, my zombie books got put into erotica once, which is not what you're {inaudible}.

Melissa Addey: Well, we'll see how that plays out. We'll see.

Dan Parsons: Outside of categories, one of the things that does feed into all of this is keywords. So, what you really need to do is optimize the keywords. On many retailers, they give you anywhere between three and 10, generally, fields where you can put in different keywords and depending on the size and popularity of the platform, you'll go very niche or very broad for the keywords that you put in, and it's different per format.

So, you may have different audiobook keywords on some channels and then different ones for eBook or paperback, and you can use a few different tools like Google Trends, or Publisher Rocket, or something like that to, help you choose.

Melissa Addey: On a basic level, I always say to people, you met me at a party, I talked to you a bit about my books. You've gone home. You like the sound of them. You can't remember my name anymore. I'm awful at remembering authors names, which is dreadful of me, and you can't remember the title of the book, but you know roughly what it was about. Now go and find it on a platform, what do you think you're going to type in?

And that helps you start thinking about keywords, because if you've got the author's name or you've got the book title, then that's what you're going to put in. But if you haven't got those, you're going to be looking for something else. So, then you have to think about the themes that are in the book, the kinds of characters, the sorts of topics that are going on, and that is what will help you put the right kind of keywords into the data, which will then reveal the book when someone's looking for those things.

Dan Parsons: Yes, and obviously once readers have found you, because all of this metadata that you're putting in is foundational marketing that allows readers to more easily find you, you then want to win them over.

We've already talked about the book itself, but around the book you've also got to optimize your entire brand in the same way that a business does. So, if you look at Apple products, it's not just about creating a really shiny, nice white computer screen. It's also about creating this vision of what you will become if you buy an Apple product. That sort of stuff.

So, you want to promote yourself and your books as a professional package. So, you may want to have a professional headshot taken as an author, and you'll want that to be consistent across all social media platforms, alongside a biography.

And one little tip, when you're writing a biography, write it at a few different lengths. So, you'll want one that's 50 characters, one that's 200, one that's 500, because depending on the platform or who you are talking to, if you're doing some marketing where you're going to be pushing out interviews and things like that, everyone wants a different length bio. So, it's good just to have those to hand optimized, perfectly edited, and you can just pop them out and they're ready. So, if you can have that cohesively across all channels, that's good.

Melissa Addey: It makes a big difference. I see a lot of people who have, this is my best picture of me on holiday, and I'm like, that is not what we're after here. We're after a good quality shot of you on a plain white background.

Dan Parsons: Why are you holding a Yeager bomb?

Melissa Addey: Yeah, exactly. It's no good. My tip for this is, you go to something like Groupon or whatever, and you get yourself a voucher for £20 for a hair and makeup and photo shoot, and then they'll take 200 pictures of you, and you pick the one awesome picture of you that makes you look terribly nice, stylish and {inaudible}. And then you use that across everything, because it so much easier to find someone. I've been to ones where I've seen this author, I know what they look like and I've seen the picture on their website, and now I'm trying to find them on Twitter and they've used a completely different image, and I'm like, no, use the same one. Use the one that I know how to find you easily with. So, it makes a big difference, and it looks much more professional.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So, on top of retailers and social media places and things like that, which will all be matching, the one main place that you really want to brand really well is your website, which is going to be matching everything else in style, but you've got your own unique extra flavour that you can add to it with your website. And you want to optimize your website for things like the back of the book. So, if you send people to your website, they can sign up to your mailing list, you may want to give away the free book that we mentioned, which is called a reader magnet, and then when they join your mailing list, you may have what are called onboarding emails, which are just a series of emails that you automatically send to readers when they sign up. It'll give them the free book in the first email, and then the proceeding emails will just tell them a bit about yourself to warm them up so that they know you more, and then they're more likely to listen to your call to actions in future emails.

Melissa Addey: Yep. Open your newsletters, all of that. So, a lot of people say, oh, well, but I've got a Facebook page. I've got a Twitter page, I've got a whatever page, what do I want a real whole website of my own for?

You don't own the social media platforms; you're renting space on them. If they go down, which, some places may be having trouble at the moment, and things that seem like, oh, they're going to be there forever, they may not. So, whatever followers you've got on there that you're so proud of, you are renting them. They're not really yours. You need to bring them onto your part of the internet that's your place, your own home, that you can contact them directly. So, having your own URL with your own name on it is really important and building your own website.

I am not a techy person, and I built my own website, it was very plain. What you do is, there are some good sites to use. Squarespace is easy, Wix is easy, WordPress is very easy. What I recommend if you're going to do WordPress, is use a premium theme. Find a premium theme because that's what will make it look pretty. You can make it yourself basic, but the prettiness comes from having a premium theme.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, or do what I do and have a web designer friend, so I just outsource everything.

Melissa Addey: Or that. But the number of people I have known, more in the past than now really, who have had a beautiful website made for them by someone else, and they have no clue how to update it. No clue. You have to know how to update your stuff. If I get a good review on one of my books, it is on my website within five minutes because I can open it and change it, and I've met people where they're like, I don't know how to put an event on. I don't know how to put the stuff on. I'm like, but it's your site, you have to know how to do this stuff.

So, if someone else does it for you, have a little training session with them.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, and usually it's easy enough, it's not all code. Sometimes they'll even give you some sort of WordPress type platform where you can just, copy and paste and then click send and it comes up.

So, now that you've set up all of this foundational stuff, you've got the website, you've got social media, retailer stuff, all your books and everything look lovely, you've got bios and descriptions and everything; you may want to do a little bit of outreach.

What people tend to do often is they will have heard, if you're in echo chambers like I am on places like Facebook, there'll be online marketers that will tell you, you need to learn Amazon ads, Facebook ads, Google ads, TikTok ads and all this, and you need to spend thousands of dollars, and immediately you'll become a millionaire.

Often, what you find when you don't know what you're doing right at the start and you don't have optimized books on a good platform, you basically just sink a load of money into nothing, and you are throwing it out the window.

What you are better off doing is actually testing to see if there's any demand for your books in the first place by doing some free PR, and you can do this often by setting up things like pitch email templates, and sending off to trade professionals like book sellers to see if they're ordering some copies to indie bookshops, or you could send to journalists to see if they can give you an editorial review.

I know somebody asked a question about an editorial review earlier. The answer is they are important in certain genres. If you are writing literary fiction, then the type of readers that read those may read an editorial review. But in general, for genre fiction, a lot of readers are not really interested in that one prestigious review. They're more interested in; do you have 500 reviews on Amazon with a four star and above average from customers?

Melissa Addey: Or a blogger, or reviewers in that area that they're used to seeing quotes from.

Dan Parsons: It doesn't have to be The Times.

Melissa Addey: No, and unlikely to be, very honestly.

Dan Parsons: So yeah, you can set up these pitch emails in advance so that you've got templates ready to send to everyone. You want them to be personalized but templated enough that you can do them economically with time. Then you may also want to set up what are called AI sheets, which are basically an A4 page with a book cover and some information, ISBNs for different formats, and you can send these out to bookshops.

Usually, if you visit them in person, you can hand them over the counter and say, would you consider taking this behind the till and ordering some copies when you've got some time, and giving them the ISBNs and all this sort of useful information in advance will make it easier for them to find them through their own distribution channels, rather than just walking in, handing them a physical copy of your book and then they've got to try and work out where the information is.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, and an AI is an advanced information sheet so that you are giving the information in advance of it coming out or it being ready. So, you can be preparing all that stuff, hence the cover, the blurb, all that kind of thing. You can be preparing that in advance of that book actually being ready.

Dan Parsons: Yeah, and similarly with journalists, you can create something called a press page, which is just a nice-looking page with your book cover and some bits and pieces talking about the book. Then give them potential questions or angles that they could write an article on and things like that. So, what you are essentially trying to do is take all of the work out of the process for them, so if they decide to write an article about your book or about the story of you around the book to promote it, then they don't have to think. You've taken an afternoon of thinking and scribbling notes down from them so that they can just write the article, and it makes it much more likely that you actually get people pushing your book for free.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, and you can get some nice templates for, that's often called a media kit as well, you can get some nice templates for that on Canva, and things where you can just go there and fill in all the nice information, the pictures, the covers, the bit of blurb, the angles, like you say, that will draw the attention of a journalist.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So, all of this I know, sounds great for your debut book, but is it scalable? Does it work long-term, or do you need to then scrap all this sort of stuff and do more advanced things later on?

Well, honestly, you can generally do more of the same, but just scale it up over time, and it can be a slow process, but it's a very steady, predictable process that delivers bigger results more or less every time.

So, as long as you get all of your ducks in a row like you have with the first book for future books. So, that is, you'll file, your metadata, all of the copy for all of your marketing and promotion stuff, and the different materials, the different sheets that we've mentioned. You can just do this over and over again, and every book will have a slightly bigger reputation than the previous one to the point where you are doing really well, and you can release books and sell a few hundred in the first few months and things like that.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, and I would say, you mentioned adverts and things, I wouldn't touch adverts with the first book. I really wouldn't. It's really hard, you've got to do a lot of learning, and there's plenty of basic foundational stuff that we've been talking about to get in place for the future than to rush into adverts where you are then going to struggle a bit.

I had this, I felt I didn't have enough books to do adverts yet, so I felt, it's all very well if you love my book, and then there'll be nothing else for you to read. So, then you'll forget about me because you've read one of my books and it takes, I'm quite a slow writer, it'll be another year before you get another one out of me, and I thought, well, you'll forget about me.

So, I waited till I had a series of four, and probably I could have started them, but I then waited a bit longer because I was doing some other stuff. But I waited a bit longer till I had another series that was almost complete because I thought, if you read eight books of mine, and you love them all, you will wait for me. You will wait after that, and you'll remember who I am.

Dan Parsons: It also doesn't matter if you lose money then on the first book with promotions, because everyone will read through, and you'll make the money back.

Melissa Addey: Exactly, and people are very dedicated and loyal once they like your stuff. They really hang onto you, which is very sweet.

Dan Parsons: Yeah. So yes, you can use pay-per-click advertising, but only when you've got more books out and you know what you're doing, and you know there's a demand for the books you've already written, which is very important.

So yeah, that essentially concludes this foundational entry into the world of book marketing from us.

If you want some more resources so that you can explore a few other avenues, then I think Melissa's going to take us through those.

Melissa Addey: Yes, I'm going to read them, so I get them right. So, we have Creative Self-Publishing by Orna Ross, which covers like the whole process in such detail. We've got a really nice one, which is on pre-order at the moment, Reach More Readers, Sell More Books by Orna Ross and you pre-order a copy at selfpublishingadvice.org/reachmorereaders.

Your First 50 book Reviews, and that's written by the ALLi team, and you know it ‘s gutting at the beginning, you're just scraping for reviews and every review feels like, ugh, awful, really hard to get, but that one helps you get up to that first 50 and after that, it feels a bit more like, okay.

Dan Parsons: It starts to get easier.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, it starts building its own thing and after a while you stop worrying about it. Once you've done quite a few books, you're like, oh, they'll just come in, but I know how it feels at that first one, so that's a good one for that.

Audiobook Marketing for Indie Authors, which is on the self-publishing blog post, and then Influencer Marketing for Beginner Authors, and that's Orna Ross and your very good self's, podcast. That is just beginning to show you how to approach influencers, how to start that marketing process.

Dan Parsons: It will talk in depth a little bit more about how to craft a pitch, if you're going to write pitch templates, and things like that.

Melissa Addey: Yeah, but we will certainly be doing more marketing later on. We just wanted to pause you before you publish and think about those foundations, putting them in place, because so many of them have to appear inside the book itself.

Dan Parsons: Yes, and on that note, that is almost everything from us. I don't think there's anything else on the horizon in terms of focuses that you want to talk about from a campaign angle. If not, we will just introduce the next episode of this podcast.

Melissa Addey: Yes, our next one is going to be creating an imprint and everyone will be going, a what now? That is basically your own publishing house, if you like, and we'll talk about why that's important and how to do that and all of these things.

Dan Parsons: It is important once you start to get going.

Melissa Addey: It is very important. Yeah.

Dan Parsons: So, yeah. It is goodbye from me, and I believe Melissa for this month, and we'll see you on the first Tuesday of next month. Bye everyone.

Melissa Addey: And happy festive seasons.

Dan Parsons: Merry Christmas.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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