Today the first in a new ALLi podcast series goes live: “Reaching More Readers”. This new series will explore all things marketing for indie authors, kicking off with episode one –”There is no marketing magic bullet”.
With the overwhelming options for marketing and promoting a book, what can indie authors do to get their books into more readers' hands? There might not be one magic bullet, but there are proven strategies and techniques indie authors can use to build a plan that works for you. Dale L. Roberts and Holly Greenland explore the many facets of book marketing in this new podcast series.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: Marketing Magic BulletThere might not be one marketing magic bullet, but there are proven strategies indie authors can use. Listen to the Reaching More Readers podcast with @selfpubwithdale and Holly Greenland. Click To Tweet
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About the Hosts
Dale L. Roberts is a self-publishing advocate, award-winning author, and video content creator. Dale’s inherent passion for life fuels his self-publishing advocacy both in print and online. After publishing over 50 titles and becoming an international bestselling author on Amazon, Dale started his YouTube channel, Self-Publishing with Dale. Selected by Feedspot and LA Weekly as one of the best sources in self-publishing of 2022, Dale cemented his position as the indie-author community's go-to authority. You can find Dale on his website or YouTube
Holly Greenland is a self-published author, content writer and strategic communications consultant. She has worked in marketing and communications for nearly twenty years, including at the BBC, UK Parliament, and award-winning agency Social & Local. Holly is currently completing a Publishing PhD with Kingston University in London, investigating the factors that increase the likelihood of indie author success. Find out more about Holly's writing on her website or connect on LinkedIn.
Read the Transcripts: Marketing Magic Bullet
Dale L. Roberts: With the overwhelming options for marketing and promoting a book, what can indie authors do to get their books into more readers hands? We're going to explore the many facets of book marketing in this new monthly podcast of Reach More Readers, brought to you by the fine folks over at the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Holly, are you jazzed? This is our inaugural episode.
Holly Greenland: I am. I'm very excited. It's very dark here, it's feeling a bit spooky in my little garden office, but yes, very excited to get going.
Dale L. Roberts: Why don't we share just a bit of info about each one of us and our experiences here inside the self-publishing business. I'll just go ahead and lead the way and I'll let you take it from there.
So, for me, I'm an indie author and I'm a video content creator, Dale L. Roberts. I've been doing this business for the past, oh gosh, nine plus years. It's crazy, when I actually sat down and thought about that. I've written over 50 plus books as well as gotten over 29 book awards, been recognized through many different avenues as a self-publishing resource, including of course, the Alliance of Independent Authors, which is crazy.
I made the Watchdog list, and I actually got a pretty good endorsement there.
Holly Greenland: That was quite a difficult one to follow. So, from my point of view, I've been working with the Alliance of Independent Authors for a few months now. I was a member before that, and I look after their blog, which is great. Really good fun. Given me loads of insight on self-publishing, because I've self-published a couple of books, one murder mystery and a middle-grade fiction book. My background is communications and marketing.
So, that's really my big interest in terms of looking at book sales, book marketing, and how you can reach more readers, is how I can use all the things that I've learned from campaigns, marketing, communications, and bring it to book sales.
Dale L. Roberts: But hang on, the part that you failed to leave out is the fact that you're getting a doctorate in publishing. Yeah. Share with me just a little bit more, just briefly, about that because I think listeners need to hear more about your journey that's happening right now.
Holly Greenland: Okay, so this is one of the things that's stopping me writing a bit more fiction actually is writing my thesis. I'm working with Kingston University, in London, in the UK, and I'm looking at what makes up the successful self-published author.
I did a big survey with about a thousand authors and I'm looking at personality types, behaviours, all the different demographics, and trying to work out is there a bit of magic behind who's doing really well.
I've been doing that about two years now, nearly at the end of that. So, I will have my doctorate in publishing, which is really exciting, hopefully next spring. So, I should have a lot of data to share as we go along the way.
Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, I'm jazzed about it because I went to college, but I'm a college dropout.
I think a lot of what I've learned through publishing is just through blood, sweat and tears, lots of tears, lots of crying and self-doubt.
This is a perfect segue into talking about our very first episode here of book marketing, because this is where we're going to really hang our hat on future episodes as well as this episode.
But one of the things you and I connected on, and we actually had a private conversation with Orna Ross, was the fact that book marketing is really not a one size fits all.
It's not just, hey, you can do X, Y, and Z, and you're going to make millions and become very successful.
I love the way you frame it in how it's more of systems that you put in place more so than, you know, it's a magic formula.
So just share with me, what is your philosophy when it comes to book marketing and what is the best practices for it?
Holly Greenland: So yeah, I totally agree that you want to open a book and find that there's all these exact things you need to do, this is where you need to go, these are the exact platforms. Actually, it just doesn't work like that, and it's the same with marketing across everything I've worked on.
So, I've worked in marketing for nearly 20 years now in lots of different places, including BBC, at Parliament, quite a lot of charities, and actually it's the same wherever you go.
Unfortunately, there isn't something where you can look at the exact answers, but what I think runs across everything is that bit of planning at the beginning.
There are two areas that I am always going on about, your audiences, which in this case is your readers, and also about your objectives, so what are you actually trying to achieve?
Once you get those, it helps you make those decisions about, where am I going to go, what am I going to do?
Then you can pick and mix from all the techniques and the tips that we're going to be sharing in the podcast, you find out what's the mix for you. So, there isn't one that everyone can grab off the shelf, but actually you can make the right mix for you based on what you want to achieve and who you want to speak to.
So, those are my two big things that I'm always banging the drum on, I suppose.
Dale L. Roberts: It's a great philosophy, and I think there's so many authors out there that just really, truly want to focus on the craft. That they want to just write that next book, that they want to publish that, but then all of a sudden they get gridlocked. They're like, oh no, I've got to actually market it.
To me, I think the whole process of marketing is being more visible. Am I correct in saying something like that? It's about being visible.
Holly Greenland: Yeah, I would say, because there's marketing and there's promotion and they're two slightly different things.
The marketing is about getting that visibility, raising yourself up, starting to reach people, communicating with them. I guess I would see it more as a long-term activity. Promotion is that thing where you're like, I'm launching today, I'm going to place some ads here. It's one-off, it's usually got an end date.
That marketing is something that sits underneath everything, I would say. Particularly when, I think nowadays a lot of authors feel that you do need some kind of brand, and that might not be about sharing everything personally about yourself, but what's behind what you're offering, what are your values or what are they buying into, I suppose, and that sits under a lot of the marketing as well.
So, just some thoughts to have there. Even if, and I know this is a worry for a lot of authors, even if you're an introvert and you naturally want to sit back, just thinking about how you can even lean into that in a way, how that's part of your brand. You don't need to be putting everything out there, but just having those kinds of underlying thoughts before you get started, I think is really important.
Dale L. Roberts: Let's reel it back just a little bit because I think you brought up a very good point in understanding who your audience is. For a lot of authors out there, that probably don't know what that audience is, I mean, maybe they know their niche, but they don't know who their actual readers are.
How can they start to clarify what that is and define who their audience is, so that way they can be able to properly market themselves to those readers.
Holly Greenland: I think there's a few things.
I come from a really hardcore strategy background. So, I would be right in there looking at demographics. So, in the UK for example, we have the office of national statistics, it's literally public data available. So, if you're thinking you've got an instinct about who's reading your books based on maybe some early reviews, people that you've done some tests with, and you're thinking, who are those people?
So, for example, maybe I'm writing my murder mystery. I knew it was probably aimed at women, probably aimed at women who were thinking about having a family or have got a family, because it's set around a new mum's group. So, you can actually go and look at that data; who are young mums today? Where are they? Who are they listening to?
It just starts to build up a bit of a picture. You can even write a little pen portrait, who am I speaking to when I’m talking about my book, and it just makes you think about where are they?
So, rather than maybe going to the traditional places, you're thinking a bit more broadly.
Then obviously looking at people like your competitors. Who do you know are picking up those books, and can that help you understand what they're looking for? We've usually got a good sense of who we're sitting against, particularly if you search online for your own book.
So, I think there are a few ways you can start to just build a picture, but quite often a lot of your instinct is right, but you've maybe not sat down to think through the detail of what that actually means. I might have an idea of who those people are, but what does that mean in terms of how I talk to them?
Dale L. Roberts: It was a struggle for me when I first broke into this business, because I was just an activities director at a senior living community, and I was challenged to write a book about fitness because I was very excited about it and I was very informed, and my wellness coach says to me, you should write a book about fitness, and I was like, yeah, I should.
I didn't think about an audience. All I thought about was the end result of actually having a book done, and it wasn't until I had this fantastic conversation with a good friend of mine and a marketing genius. His name is Mark Stafford. I handed my book over to him, just beaming with pride.
I'm like, yeah, my self-made cover, which looked like absolute garbage. Speaking of marketing, oh my Lord, if you cannot create a book cover, if you do not have the good sense to create a book cover, hire out. That's a good marketing practice right there, and part of that marketing practice is hiring a cover designer who knows your audience and knows exactly what they expect from your content.
At any rate, I hand that book over and Mark looks at it. He's thumbing through it and I'm smiling, because I'm like, yeah, it's the first time he's ever met an author like me. I was that egotistical. He looked up, and it's funny, he had his reading glasses, and he just looks from over his glasses at me, and I'm like, oh my god, am I in trouble? He looked at me and he said, who's your audience, Dale?
Who's my, what do you mean who's? Everybody.
Holly Greenland: Everyone's going to want to read this, genius!
Dale L. Roberts: He takes his glasses off, he puts it down, closes the book up and crosses his fingers and leans forward, and he says, you mean to tell me, you wrote a book this thick, and he holds up his fingers, which, by the way, was a 44,000-word manuscript, this thick, is going to teach teenagers and senior citizens?
I'm like, yeah, some of it.
He says, come on, Dale. You do know that you can't speak the same way to an older adult that you would a teenager. That's a communication skill that is completely different.
I sat there, I thought about it. I'm like, oh my gosh, did I just publish a complete heap of garbage? After that meeting, it sucked everything out of my soul, understanding that I really was writing for nobody.
The problem is, I think that in order to really get good with getting more books in readers hands, is understanding who those readers are so you put it in the right hands, because that “fitness book” was not fit for anybody. It literally was not. In fact, I even delisted it a number of years ago.
I tried to edit it and make the most out of it and do the best I could with it. It was hot garbage at the end of the day, which by the way, the first book is always the worst book I've always heard, and such. It's not always the case for everybody.
Holly Greenland: Don't say that. Don't say that.
Dale L. Roberts: Not for you, Holly, that's why I had to amend what I was saying there.
I think you at least have that advantage, because you got to go through a lot of the education. For me, it was a school of hard knocks because my first two years in the business was trying to get to know who my audience was.
So, I think that there's going to be a lot of people out there that are probably listening to this and wondering okay, I don't know who my audience is Dale. I really thought that it was going to be good for young adults and older adults. So, how do I refine that process?
It's trying to figure out what Holly said. Who are the other authors in your niche that are successfully doing it? Don't just look at any of the other authors because there's going to be a lot of authors. In fact, there's probably more authors like you that haven't identified their audience than there are those that are crushing it and successful with it.
Those that are successful, you'll see time and again at the top of bestseller lists, recommendations, the reviews look beaming, they're really spot on.
So, when I started to explore the whole fitness world, I saw an author, he's crushing it still now, Michael Matthews. He knew exactly who his audience was, and so when I started to understand and study what he was doing, I started to fix how I was communicating in my books to where I was like, okay, here's my audience. It is primarily male. They don't have a gym membership, and they don't have very much money to spend on a bunch of designer equipment or anything else like that.
When I got good on that, for some reason, boom. Within a couple of years, it just clicks. It's just amazing.
Holly Greenland: You can feel instinctively that you're, oh, I need to reach out to everyone, because I want to tell people, as many people as possible, what I've got. Whether that's a story or whether that's non-fiction information. Actually, what you're doing is you're then not appealing to anyone.
So, like you say, once you go down to a niche or even a micro-niche, particularly if you're a small-scale business, if you're thinking with a business mind and thinking, I'm a little micro business here.
If you go down to that niche and really engage them and really get them on board with what you're offering, then you can build a really substantial readership that you're totally targeting. Whereas, if you're trying to go to everyone, like you say, you could end up with no one so there's a bit of a risk there, I think.
Dale L. Roberts: I know this is probably a conversation we should have for a future podcast episode is some of the multi-genre authors. What is your stance on multi-genre authors? Is that a good practice? Or is that a bad practice?
Holly Greenland: It seems to me, the more I'm hearing from members at ALLi, and the more I'm speaking in more depth with people who have got different approaches, I guess, to their business model, it seems some people are making it work and others aren't.
That's one of those things that, if we do an episode on that, I think that would be really interesting to get some case studies to bring along and have a talk about. There's someone in particular I'm thinking of who's a member of the team actually at ALLi, who has two different pen names, completely separated what they're producing, and it's working really well for them.
I know another person who's got a massive amount of different things on there, and in fact you've got quite a lot of different things now I'm thinking about it, and it seems, it works. So, there's something there.
I mean, I'm so into working out why things work for some people, not for others, hence the PhD I'm doing, whether I'll find out, who knows? But I think that could be a really interesting thing to look at in a bit more depth, actually.
Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, it is a very challenging thing to be a multi-genre author, and I think a lot of people have mistaken my message anytime I've shared over through my avenues is, you know, it's not that I want to tell people that you shouldn't be a multi-genre author, you shouldn't be able to do it, but you should be prepared if you are trying to market to very different audiences that you're taking on a larger workload.
Especially if you have these two separate pen names, you've got two separate pen names, that means you've got two separate businesses that you're going to have to maintain, and it does become somewhat overwhelming.
I've always heard the old proverb, one finger is pointed forward, three is pointed back, but the man who chases two rabbits gets none.
So, I think it would be awesome if we just sit down and explore that whole avenue.
I'm just going to say this right now, let me give you the TLDR when it comes to multi-genre authors; it is possible, but it's not going to be easy.
That's going to be the thing, but what part of this business is easy, to be honest with you?
Holly Greenland: Indeed, and I think it's, again, it's the same probably across most businesses. There are some people making things work and other people making others work.
We've just done two blogs actually about rapid release, which a lot of authors totally will say is the way to go if you're looking for big audiences, but also, we did another one about slow release, which we got plenty of people coming through who had made that work for them.
So, that's that thing maybe again about that beginning bit of planning where you're thinking, what are your objectives? How do you want to work? What works for you and the way that you are, and then starting to build your strategy from there.
So, maybe there's some connection there, I guess, in terms of thinking, what's going to work for you.
But I agree, I'm thinking there's probably fewer people who can make that big multi-genre business work, but it seems to work for some.
Dale L. Roberts: It really does, and this is what leads us back to our overarching theme here for today's episode, which is that magic bullet of marketing.
There really is no one magic bullet. There is no one-size fits all in this business because everybody comes with their own experiences. They come with their own creative skills. They come with their own skill sets and understanding of marketing.
While I can probably tell you Holly, I think you're fantastic, you're articulate, you're smart, you should get on camera and do a YouTube channel. If in your gut, viscerally, it opposes everything that you're about, then that's probably not going to be a good fit because you're going to go into this whole thing, this arm of marketing through video and you're going to be miserable.
Let's just say for instance that it is successful for you, and it takes off for you, and you start selling books, and you start reaching more readers. Now you've got this albatross hanging on your neck, because now you're saddled with something you don't want to do.
I think that right there is what it comes down to, yeah, there's going to be some systems that have worked for some people, like myself for YouTube marketing and such, but for someone like Holly who, I don't know, I don't want to speak up for you or anything else, who may not like that, doesn't want to get on camera, doesn't want to spend that time and that specific avenue doing that, then that probably doesn't make any type of sense.
I think you and I can probably say that there are, gosh, they're a dime a dozen, these premium marketing services, how many marketing services are out in the world? I mean, I'm just curious, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands?
Holly Greenland: God, probably, yeah.
I think that thing about sustainability is important because, particularly if you're trying to build a career out of your books, you want to have a sustainable strategy. Not just for your writing, but for the marketing, because it is an ongoing activity, and if you've chosen a route that you absolutely hate, or that you feel takes up too much of your time, or that your finding isn't working, but you feel you should because someone else says it works, you're not going to be able to sustain it.
Whereas, if you find those things that work for you on all those levels, then you can keep it going and make the most of it, I think.
Dale L. Roberts: Absolutely.
You know, we have burned through about 20-minutes like it's nobody's business and this is fantastic. We really want to get it to where we infuse our own experiences into each one of these episodes, but I think it's going to require a little bit of feedback from you, the listeners.
We're going to be covering big questions we hear across ALLi and their wider indie community. I think Holly has got a great pulse through the ALLi website.
What are some other things that people can anticipate in future episodes here?
Holly Greenland: So yeah, we're going to be looking at those big questions. It's great because we have a team who answer questions all day, every day from indie authors. So, we know exactly what people are looking for, which is brilliant.
I think it's good as well if we can pick up on any of those changing things in the landscape, because marketing for books is always changing. There are new platforms and there are new opportunities. There's tips that are coming through to us, and being able to share them so people can think, is that going to work for me, as quickly as possible, will be great. So, because it's monthly, we can pick that up every month, and just giving people lots of options, I think, so they can make that plan that's going to work for them.
Dale L. Roberts: This is really good. I'm excited to dissect everything about the marketing business, and especially have someone with your experience and your education, Holly. I feel balanced right here. We've got the yin and yang for this podcast here, and with a lot of the experiments that I do, and the case studies that I do for my personal channel, hopefully I'll be able to share some of this experience.
So, in the meantime, please folks, whatever you're listening to this from, make sure that you hit the follow, make sure you share it with somebody, and of course, follow the Alliance of Independent Authors. They're not even paying me to say this. I just say this because I am a genuine fan of the Alliance of Independent Authors, and it's just such a great privilege to be able to share the same space as you, Holly.
Oh, thank you.
Yeah, put your questions onto the forums, onto the Facebook group, and we'll pick them up through the rest of the team and we'll see if we can get them answered.