Marketing Homework Any Author Can Do to Boost Book Sales

Gill Fernley

It’s back to school time for the kids, but they aren’t the only ones who’ll be in class. This month, we’re reviewing a few marketing basics and giving you some homework of your own.

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Lesson One: Make it the best book possible

Hopefully, your book is written, edited, and polished to a high shine already. But you can do a few other things to ensure it has a better chance of selling.

Ask a professional to look over your back cover copy. Or if that’s not in the budget, run it past some authors in your genre. Get some feedback, and polish that blurb as much as possible.

Take a look at your cover and ensure it’s high quality, fits your genre, and is easily visible in miniature on Amazon and other online stores. If it doesn’t meet these requirements, you may need a cover revamp.

Evaluate your categories. You can only choose two categories when you set your book up on KDP, but if you message Amazon, you can select up to ten categories. Pick your categories carefully, and think about where best to list your book. Sign into Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), then go to Amazon’s Contact page: https://author.amazon.com/en_US/contact. Next, select “Amazon Book Page” under “How Can We Help?” and choose “Update Amazon Categories.” You can then ask Amazon to add your book to more categories and to remove any existing categories that don’t fit your book.

Check your keywords. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur has a helpful article on how best to use your keywords: https://kindlepreneur.com/7-kindle-keywords/.

Homework assignment: Before your next book release, go through the above checklist and see how your book measures up.

Lesson Two: Make a plan

It really does help to be organized.

Pick your launch date and work backward from there to where you are now.

Put any events on your calendar, such as your book launch party, author takeovers, book signings, and similar events.

Work out when you need to finish graphics, when your book cover will be ready to share, when you’re going to email your list, and any other key dates. You could either add your dates to a planner or use an online calendar, whichever works for you.

Set up your social posts in advance with a scheduler like HootSuite or MeetEdgar. That way, you don’t have to spend all day constantly posting when you’re busy with your launch.

Book promotion sites well in advance. More popular sites fill up quickly, so if you want to book a promo site or two or try promo stacking before your book launch, you will need to plan ahead so that you don’t miss out on the promo dates you want.

Homework assignment: Schedule your next launch.

Lesson Three: Build your mailing list

Your mailing list is one of the most important ways you can reach readers who have already shown an interest in your books.

Amazon doesn’t give you the contact details of anyone who bought from you, so you have no way of reaching these readers when you release a new book.

If you build your own list, however, you can market to your subscribers whenever you want. And if that marketing is done well, it will get you sales.

The other argument for taking the time to build your mailing list is that if Facebook and other sites kicked you off or suddenly ceased to exist, you wouldn’t have any way of reaching your readers. All that time you spent getting likes and followers would be gone, and you wouldn’t be able to market your books to those audiences. Without a mailing list, you’re vulnerable. With a mailing list, you own a valuable asset that can bring in repeat sales. And it’s yours indefinitely. 

Homework assignment: Find a solid email platform, and set up your list and a sign-up form on your website. Create a reader magnet and start advertising to your audience.

Lesson Four: Get to know other authors

Get to know other authors in your genre. Find your tribe, as they say.

Other authors know the utter joy of writing that perfect sentence or how it feels when the words just won’t come. They know that writing books is a real job and that indie publishing is just as valid as traditional publishing.

Gather some great author friends around you, and you’ll have a team of supportive people who believe in you and who will be there to push you or prop you up when you need it.

When it comes to marketing, you’ll find that most author friends will be happy to share your new release in their groups, to share your post, or to give you a like and a comment. You may even be able to arrange newsletter swaps and other promotions between yourselves to get word of your books out there.

Homework assignment: Join at least two genre groups on Facebook. Get to know some authors!

Lesson Five: Read books in your genre

Reading is priceless research, and it will help you write books that fans of your genre want to read.

Hopefully, you’ll be reading something you enjoy, but at the same time, you’re also becoming more familiar with your genre, the tropes, and expectations. You’re getting to know what your readers want and what makes a great book in your genre.

Homework assignment: Read the top-selling book in your genre. Look at the cover and the blurb too. What can you learn from it? Apply what you’ve learned to your books.

Lesson Six: Don’t forget SEO

Although search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t at the top of most book-marketing lists, it does work to get you found in search engine listings.

Take the time to research keywords that you want to be associated with. Then, include them whenever you write.

Use keywords in your social media posts. Add them to your blog posts and your website. Incorporate them in your headers, subheadings, the first paragraph of any copy, in your meta description, in image descriptions, and at least once more in the body of your copy. Don’t overdo it and “keyword stuff,” but at least do the minimum.

In addition, ensure your website is fast loading and mobile responsive. Both of these are ranking factors for Google results, and they do make a difference. So many people now shop on their phones that you can’t afford to have a site that doesn’t work on mobile devices. As for site speed, how many seconds will you sit and wait while a site tries to load before you go elsewhere? Probably not long, and your potential readers won’t wait forever either.

Homework assignment: Make sure your website is in up to date, and start incorporating keywords. Backlinko has a comprehensive Google SEO guide if you’re not sure where to start: https://backlinko.com/google-seo-guide.

Lesson Seven: Regularly check what’s working and what isn’t

Not everything you try will work. Keep an eye on your statistics so you can see if your marketing efforts are effective. If you don’t check your statistics, you won’t know if you’re wasting time on what isn’t working or not doing enough of what is.

Look at metrics, such as the number of copies sold, number of new email subscribers, clicks and open rates, how much you’ve earned this month, your monthly word count, or results from using promotional sites. What you choose to measure depends on what is most important to you and how you define success, so decide those first, then pick your metrics.

Check your statistics at the same time each month to see where your readers are coming from, what keywords they are using, and what they’re buying. You can then compare your current statistics with last month’s to make sure you’re moving in the direction you want to go. And if you’re not, regroup and try something new.

Homework assignment: Look at Google analytics for your website, and check your stats on social platforms too. If you’ve never done it before, you might be in for some surprises.

Book marketing isn’t fixed. New ideas and updates constantly crop up. Keep learning and keep up with the latest developments. Lessons don’t stop outside the classroom, and that new strategy might lead you and your books to a whole new audience.

Gill Fernley

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