book sales, Uncategorized

Selling Your Baby

Copyright Ben Cavanna

All dressed up and looking for a buyer                                                                                               (Photo credit Ben Cavanna)


“So you’ve written a book.” Foreboding voice in your head

In the olden days, seven years ago, you would have found an agent, endured participated in the editing process to make your manuscript the best written most marketable product it could be, and then sat back while your agent shopped your baby to the highest-bidding publisher. Your book would hit the shelves, and you’d laugh all the way to the bank in your brand new Ferrari.

“Wait. What?” You

Well, maybe it wasn’t ever that easy or profitable, but we all know the landscape has changed. Today, whether you’ve self-pubbed or kept your ego in tact through dozens of rejections and finally hooked up with the agent/publisher of your dreams, you know the weight of marketing your precious baby will fall on you. The author. Because that makes perfect sense.

Now you’re wandering helpless through unfamiliar and intimidating territory, wondering how to:

1. Find your potential readers

2. Reach your potential readers

3. Convince them to BUY YOUR BOOK!

Let’s look at conventional wisdom.

Reviews  You’ve heard you need reviews, lots of reviews, to sell your book. Maybe you have (or can recruit) a Street Team of willing friends who will read your brilliant manuscript and post 5✮ reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, their personal blogs, Starbucks’ bulletin boards, and FB posts including a photo of them holding reading your book. But are reviews really effective for selling books?

Who reads reviews? People who have already heard about a particular book, and are looking at it online. And how many readers are we talking about? According to a 2005 Gallup Poll, only 7% of readers choose a book based on reviews, so… maybe they’re not as influential as we’ve been led to think.

Blogs  There are bloggers who do book reviews and interviews. You could ask a few of them to interview you or write a review in exchange for an all expenses paid spa weekend a copy of your book. If they agree, and if they read your book, and if they write a review, their posts will slide through their followers’ Reader streams. If a title or picture catches a follower’s eye, or a follower just likes that blogger enough to read whatever they write, then they will be exposed to your book and they might consider buying it.

Online Marketing Experts  Many, many online “experts” prey on authors have developed programs they claim will dramatically increase your book sales. I listened to one of these guys on a webinar last week. (He has a “sure-fire” method he will be happy to share with you for only $597.) He used to sell Facebook ads. He says one of the options you can choose when you purchase a Facebook ad is to target the people who follow top selling authors you’ve identified in your genre who have FB pages. The author won’t be aware you’re doing it, but your ads will appear next to those followers’ FB Newsfeeds. Of course, this guy claims FB ads are the “most effective” way to market your book. (One word: AdBlock)

How many of the book ads that show up next to your FB Newsfeed do you read, much less click on to make a purchase? (GD Deckard and Atthys Gage share their experience with Google and Amazon ads on this very site, in Jousting Windmills and its comments.)

SO WHAT WORKS? Here’s what I think:

Finding and Reaching Your Readers  Common sense works here. If you write YA SciFi/Fantasy, and your followers are middle aged women and men, posting about your book on your blog, FB and Amazon book pages, Goodreads, Twitter, G+, Tumbler, IG, or Pinterest probably won’t sell books. Start closer to home; go where your potential audience is. Local schools (middle grade to junior college) have English teachers who might see the value of inviting a local author to talk about writing and publishing. Your local library might be interested in having a local author host a brief workshop on creative writing. They might be willing to pay a speaker’s fee. Even if you speak for free, you’re finding your audience. Sure, have books available to sign and sell, but set your goal at connecting with the people who can spread the word. If you incorporate things like decorations, costumes, snacks, and give-aways themed on the most exciting aspect of your book, you create something attendees will tell other people about.

Word of Mouth  When I get excited about something — a movie, a play, a restaurant, a book — like most people, I talk about it. I recommend it to my family, friends, and anyone else who’ll listen. If it’s a book, I buy copies as gifts. What author doesn’t appreciate that? What makes me excited enough to spread the word? Three things:

  1. Excellent quality: For a book, this means a well-written page-turner.
  2. A certain something…je ne sais quoi…the X Factor…”It”: Something out of the ordinary — not just weirdness — that catches a reader’s fancy. Consider Rowling’s Harry Potter or Weir’s The Martian. Subject matter? Voice? Novelty? Controversy?
  3. A Buzz: Everybody’s talking. Word is spreading like a viral video.

How do you create a buzz?  Well, a viral video would work. (When you figure out how to guarantee that, let me know, okay?)

A friend who began her marketing career 20 years ago at a publishing company, has her finger on the digital pulse. She says one highly effective marketing strategy is to engage the opinion of a “digital influencer” in your genre. These are celebrities whose tens of thousands of followers seek out their posts, read them, and take what they have to say seriously. A digital influencer’s recommendation starts a buzz. But my friend doesn’t suggest stealth bombing their followers with ads for your book; she says to build a relationship with the influencers by interacting with them, commenting on their posts, creating a conversation.

Look at marketing that works, and adapt it for your book. Since LOST first created an online world that treated Oceanic Airlines, the Dharma Initiative, and Widmore Labs as if they were real, movies like Interstellar and Independence Day 2 have used this technique to get people talking. Don’t make a normal, boring book trailer. Do something innovative.

Ultimately, marketing your book is far more than posting ads and links and waiting for the royalties to roll in. It’s about connecting with your potential readers and engaging them in your story’s world. We have a pretty good idea what doesn’t work, so take a look at all the successful marketing around you and make it work for you.

S.T. Ranscht is the co-author (with Robert P. Beus) of ENHANCED, the first book in a YA SciFi trilogy. She is currently working on the “final” edit prior to re-submitting their baby to a requesting agent. Her short story, Cat Artist Catharsis, earned Honorable Mention in Curtis Bausse’s 2016 Book a Break Short Story Contest, and will be published in its upcoming anthology, The Cattery. Her online presence can be felt on WordPress at Space, Time, and Raspberries, Facebook, and Twitter @SueStarlight. You can follow ENHANCED on Facebook and Twitter @EnhancedYASyFy.


37 thoughts on “Selling Your Baby

  1. Pingback: Writers – Marketing is easy, right? – Space, Time, and Raspberries

  2. trE says:

    This is definitely great advice and I think it’s extremely profound in details and can assist all future potential authors regarding giving birth to their babies and sending them off to the world. 🙂 Nicely done, Sue!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sue this is well written, with all the bells and whistles that come after hard research and experience. I love it; it hits the nail on the head, so I couldn’t just scroll down because it made me want to read. Really good.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    Really, really excellent. I’m going to read this several times, to make sure I have absorbed it all. You are a valuable resource indeed. I’m sure we will all turn to you for advice as we move forward. You certainly sound like you know the ropes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. GD Deckard says:

    Thanks for the very informative blog, Sue! Detailed marketing tips for the digital age is exactly the information I need. You put a lot of thought and effort into this post. Great job!

    Your tags are also a revelation. It’s good to have someone here with experience utilizing the ‘Net for promoting books. Welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mimispeike says:

    I am not too fact-focused, marketing plays, etc. Nor have I put a lot of time into trying to connect with blogger-pundits. I am still pre-published. I’m still writing, and I’m working on my website. My strategy, for the moment: interact online in an amusing voice, so that any who read my comments might make a note, mental or otherwise, to look up my book when it’s able to be found.

    On this site, on Book Country, on anywhere, it’s the voice that catches my eye. I once read a whole chapter in a book on insurance because it was so beautifully written.

    I think of my mind-set as supply-side marketing, which I’ll concentrate on until I’m ready, product in hand, to beat a big bass drum.

    Until then, I’m looking for pointers, and Sue is chock-full of them. Wonderful-wonderful! We need these kind of nuts-and-bolts thinkers. We can’t all be magical-thinking build-it-and-they-will-come types like me. Still, my approach has a place in this discussion somewhere. Something to do with best foot forward.

    The remark above that this site has a narrow appeal, that’s true. I try to entertain a bit, hoping that my free-range nonsense may attract a few more flies to this picnic.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. GD Deckard says:

    “…it’s the voice that catches my eye.”

    Right on, Mimi! As Henry Miller put it, great writing is symptomatic of the author’s personality, “not expositions of thought-out techniques.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. mimispeike says:

    That’s what irks me about the how-to manuals. I probably would not be able to limit myself to mechanics (never, not in a blue moon!), but for the right project, a thriller, etc., I can see how that might work.

    But mechanics alone don’t do it, you must discover and develop a voice, a way of perceiving and organizing the world, and a way of expressing your vision. Authorial personality will inevitably flavor the result.

    I assume that even the despised Fifty Shades has some seductive attitude, and I’m not referring to the sex. But I’m not curious enough to find out. Anybody here read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read Fifty Shades of Gray. Not the erotic s&m fest by E. L. James; I’m refering to Harold M. Fishburn’s book of the same title: a memoir of merchant ship hull painting during WWII. It was . . . great bedtime reading.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for that tip, Carl – I must get Fishburn’s book, it sounds fascinating. Incidentally, have you read Jocelyn Cloudy’s Fifty Shades of Grey? A very perceptive analysis of the Irish weather forecast. Good book for the beach.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Heh-heh! Another good alternate take on that infamous mommy-porn title. (PS. Not sure where else to put this, but Atthys & I have posted our Fright Night submissions under PAGES, PRIVATE. I think a separate category under WIPS would be better, so that others can comment. I don’t know how to post a new entry under WIPS, nor do I see a way to comment on PAGES stuff. Can you help us out here, Curtis? Thanks! & Happy New Year!)

          Liked by 2 people

          • ‘Tis done! There’s an ‘allow comments’ box at the bottom of the panel on the left of the page draft which I forgot to tick. But they’re both posted now on the WIPs page with comments possible. Happy New Year also!

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: QUOTES 2016 | writersco-op

  10. @Sue: Great article! Nicely done. As one who hates to self-market, I’ve bookmarked this page in my browser. Good, clear-eyed, thoughtful advice on a loathsome (I’m sorry; are my feelings showing? Heh!) subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you, Carl. Haha! I understand completely. My writing partner and I spent 6 weeks marketing ENHANCED during a Nerdist / Inkshares contest. We finished 12th out of 335, and managed to acquire more than enough pre-orders to earn Inkshares “light publishing” option, but we passed in favor of going for traditional publishing instead. What we learned was that marketing is a soul-crumbling endeavor. It took me 6 months to recover all the pieces and feel whole again. We submit our first four queries Tuesday morning. When things eventually fall into place, I know our role in marketing won’t evaporate, but I expect it will be delicioulsy diluted by some traditional help. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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