Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss

Jasmine Henry Answers Authors’ Burning Marketing Questions

I’m just going to go ahead and get a whole bunch of awkward statistics out of the way. There’s a lot of information for free on the internet. 2 million blog posts are published every 24 hours, enough to fill Time Magazine for 770 years. Something like 3 million English books are released each year, despite the fact book sales have been on a steady decline since 2007. All factors equal, your book has less than a 1% chance of ever making it into a bookstore.

We’re living in an era of content abundance, which is why the small percentage of authors who are picked up by major publishers are resorting to even sketchier paid services to make it onto bestseller lists. Are you feeling depressed yet? Well don’t, because I’m here to talk about marketing. Not the kind of slimy marketing that means contracting with a “guaranteed bestsellers firm” and stepping back, but the kind that requires your time, muscle and sweat.

Jen was kind enough to ask her network for input on their burning questions about marketing. We received a few submissions, which I’ll be addressing in this post today:

Question #1:

Marketing for Authors

Tracy Slonaker wants to know where to put her energy, because she’s tired. You and me both, sister.

I’m a firm believer that you basically don’t exist online without a blog. BIA/Kelsey research has found that 97% of online consumers are headed straight to a major search engine to perform research on products and services. Only 3% of these consumers are ready to make a purchase the first time they Google. Having a website that’s filled with fresh and compelling content will put you first in line to make BFFs with major search engines. While the exact ins and outs of how search engines decide to rank content is a mystery, it’s clear that websites who often publish fresh, compelling and authoritative (original and well thought-out) information will probably be at the top of the search results for queries like “YA novel with lots of dragons,” or whatever else you write about.

Question #2:

author marketing tips

Sydney Logan wants to know how she can promote her personal brand without breaking the bank. She’s tried pens, magnets, keychains and more. What’s next?

I’m going to take a slightly controversial stance here, and warn you that I’m mostly operating off experience because I’m not aware of any double blind, scientific studies on author giveaways. Give away your time, because you can’t scale effort. It’s the most valuable, non-renewable resource you have, and it’s bound to result in word-of-mouth recommendations.

Consumers still value word-of-mouth recommendations more than any other form of marketing, according to Nielson Research. 92% of consumers trust what their friends and family have to say, while only 70% care deeply about online reviews. Building relationships with people who are going to tell their friends about how awesome you are might actually matter more than your GoodReads or Amazon rating. Your next giveaway should be an opportunity to give an up-and-coming author feedback on their first chapter, concept or steamy love scene. Total cost to you is $0, and I bet they’re going to be a lot more likely to Tweet to their friends and family about their new talented BFF author who gave them feedback and effort than a keychain.

Question #3:

Marketing for authors

Erin Anderson may have asked the toughest question of the night, so hats off to her. What’s the worst thing that authors do all the time?

There’s a lot of bad things I see often. Terrible email marketing that doesn’t follow the laws of the CAN-Spam act, which is federal law. Spammy social media and blog articles that don’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t already been reading the author’s blog for a few months. However, I’m going to go with my first impulse and say it’s simply failing to stand out. Why should anyone buy your book if it’s the same as 3,000 other novels published this year so far?

Kathy Caprino, who writes for Forbes, thinks that it really comes down to self-awareness and market research (buying your competitors’ books for a hate read). You have to know specifically what makes your [books] better…and be adept at communicating that.” Some of the artists with the best brand marketing I know aren’t afraid of the weird. Jen writes about her husband’s creepy tendencies. Nashville-based band The Lonely Biscuits sends their fans swag in exchange for hilarious memes. I can’t tell you where to hang your freak flag, but by all means, let it fly.

If you didn’t get a chance to ask your question on Twitter or Facebook, chat me up in the comments. I’ll be lurking and waiting for you, in a non-creepy way. I’m always happy to connect with talented authors, and it might increase the chances that Jen and M invite me back.

Jasmine has more than 11,000 followers on Twitter, even though she’s pretty boring. She likes riding in Jen’s car, wearing Jen’s pants, and eating Jen’s quesadillas. Also, she’s Senior Copywriter at Inbound Marketing Agents in Nashville, and you can holler back here.

J and M invite you to ask questions in the comments. Jasmine will be with us all day, so pick her genius marketing brain! If she can’t get to your questions today, we’ll invite her back for more fun and learning.

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About Jen Barry

Author of Young Adult novels. Reside in Nashville with my husband, a gorgeous Irishman. Drink too much coffee. Online way too much.

26 thoughts on “Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss

  1. [...] Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss. [...]

  2. [...] Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss. [...]

  3. Kayla Curry says:

    I really like your idea about giving away your time. I may have to disagree with you a little about the merchandise. I think that merchandise is fun and also promotes word of mouth. “Look at this cool key chain I got today for a really awsome book!” It also gets your cover image out in the public eye. People might see your book cover on a tote bag or elsewhere and get curious. I see merchandise like that as walking advertisements. Perhaps mixing the two concepts of merchandise and time would be a good way to go. I think I’ll try that in my next giveaway! Thanks for the tips!

    • Jen Barry says:

      I think perhaps she meant if you’re looking for something to reinforce the swag you’re giving away – not that swag is a bad thing or unnecessary. Getting the cover image out there is also wildly important, as you said, but sometimes a little extra “umph” is needed.

      • lil87blue says:

        Yes, I agree. I have noticed that giving away books is not helping sales at all. I gave away walk on roles in future books, which were prizes I found people really wanted. I gave the winners choices on what they wanted and the three walk on roles were gone in the first six picks. I think I had 10 prizes all together.

      • Jen Barry says:

        This is a fantastic idea! I name characters after people I know all the time, but offering up a character as a prize could bring in lots of views. Those chosen are nearly guaranteed to buy the book just to see their appearance.

      • Oooh, giving away walk-on roles in future stories is a great idea! And fun all around.

  4. Sarah Hoss says:

    Hello everyone! This is a great post. I am a new author with one book published and another out in a week. I am on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Pinterest. I have a blog and a website and I am on the blog of my publisher….. I can’t imagine that there is anywhere else I can be. There are times I feel like I should be doing more. Am I missing something?

    • Jasmine says:

      Sounds like an awesome marketing strategy, Sarah! The only other suggestion I’d have is ensuring you’re doing plenty of guest posts. I hear that Jen and M are accepting content :)

  5. Robert Coles says:

    I felt like this article was really well researched. I enjoyed reading it.
    Jasmine, I think that your answer to question number 2 is spot-on. Word-of-mouth is still the best form of marketing out there, and it’s especially important that a person’s online presence back up their word-of-mouth review.

  6. Robena Grant says:

    I frequent several blogging sites, have my own, am on FB and Twitter (a little bit) Goodreads, Google+ and most recently Kindleboards.

    My first two books came out in late January on KDP Select for Kindle readers only, and will go to print and all digital in May. I gave the kindle books a good push over the first two weeks, but I’m being selectively cautious in not wanting to overwhelm my readers with too much marketing and promotion prior to the full release.

    Of course, I will need to advertise the free days in mid-March. My question is, is this a wrong approach? Should i be going all out? I have done a few guest blogs, interviews but had decided to wait and do more at the full release. Does any of this make sense to you? Ha ha.

    • I was in the same boat, Robena. Interested in what Jasmine will have to say. When my book came out early, I put the word out on blogs and did a few limited guest posts, but held back a more comprehensive effort for when it was available in all formats. I heard a lot of comments of “sounds great, but i have a nook” or “I prefer print.” All that is cool, but since I’m like the vast majority of writers and don’t have a lot of time and money to spend, I decided it would be best to concentrate my biggest effort when I could reach the biggest audience. I kind of treated the early release as more of an ARC period to get some interested started for a big push, maybe some reviews, a little practice and experience under my belt. I think it did help, at least for me with my first go at any sort of marketing.

      As far as the free days, I wish I’d known more and did a bigger push for those. I’ve since heard of many sites and resources to plug the free Kindle days at no cost. I’ll definitely utilize those and do more research for additional ones with my next book.

      • I really think Melissa nailed it. The only thing I can add is that it’s never too early to start building real relationships with your audience and expanding your social media presence, so there’s plenty of willing ears when your full release comes!

  7. Karyn Good says:

    Very interesting post, Jasmine! I especially liked what you had to say about Question #1. When it comes to my website and blog I will try and focus on content I enjoy giving and what may drive readers who read the kind of stories I write to my online home. I also like your idea of giving away time. I agree consistency, quality, and creativity are the key to finding readers. Thanks.

    • Having fun and enjoying what you do when it comes to marketing, promotion, blogging, posting, honestly has to be the best advice I’ve received, even if it took me a while to realize how important and true it is. The difference really shows, not only in my how I approach it, but in people who read it, too, I think.

  8. [...] Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss. [...]

  9. I enjoyed reading this article. As an author with 8 books out and 2 more releasing this year, I need to streamline my effort as I continue to broaden my reach. I’m on most social networks and have them linked, as well as I write my own personal blog. I recently joined a marketing co-op to share promotions with other authors, and we are considering giving away a character slot in our upcoming books. Great post!

    HOT WATER, romantic suspense, coming in July
    DIME IF I KNOW, series mystery, coming in September

  10. [...] Real Authors, Real Questions: How to Market Your Books Like a Boss. [...]

  11. bethtrissel says:

    Fascinating post. enjoying it very much!

  12. Great advice! One question, though. We all tweet our little brains out, but does anyone actually read tweets? If so, do you have to have the right hash tag to get noticed?

    • Jen Barry says:

      I’ll take a stab at answering this, but only with my own personal experience. I think we tend to forget Twitter is a SOCIAL media tool and go overboard with the marketing sometimes. If you’re mixing in personal stories, quotes, and observations, people are more likely to stick around for the marketing tweets. If you’re just pushing your wares 24/7 without any engagement, you can bet you’re on the ignore list for most of your followers.

      • Ugh, right? I know most people find it a chore to see nothing but the same content over and over, and everything seeming like a commercial. Personally, i like things that have character, and I’m trying to hard to figure all that out with Twitter and Facebook and everything else. I guess it all falls back to the “have fun, let your personality and freak flag fly” like Jasmine said. It is more fun to read–and write–that way.

  13. [...] support. The input from everyone. All the topics and interest. We went from classics to fanfiction, marketing, reading, [...]

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