On Episode 41 of the Writer’s Way, authors share the main obstacle that plagues their book sales and Laurie shares her top 5 tips for overcoming that obstacle. Listen and LEARN!
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Hey my friends, it’s Laurie from the Writer’s Way here today. We’re going to be talking about something that surprised me slightly. I reached out to my other writer friends and I said “Hey guys what was the biggest obstacle for you when you were publishing?”
I was expecting people to talk about the writing process, the editing process, maybe finding an illustrator, or dealing with the illustrator or something about publishing on Amazon. But I was wrong. So stick around and you’ll find out what everybody said their biggest obstacle was.
Announcer: Welcome to the Writer’s Way podcast where we celebrate writers who have completed their books and inspire writers who haven’t. Join Laurie and her guests as they talk about writing, books and life in between chapters.
Laurie: OK. So I’m going to let my friend Jonathan share because I feel like he sums it up really well and he speaks with the most fantastic accent. I think everybody will enjoy listening to him explain why the actual publishing process wasn’t the hardest but what came next was.
Jonathan Gunson: creating and publishing a book isn’t the problem!
Hi there Laurie. This is Jonathan Gunson here. Thank you for your offer to ask us the really important question about ‘what’s the biggest obstacle for you in my publishing journey?’
Well I think I’ve yet to run into the biggest obstacle because writing a book, a children’s picture book, which is about a bear. And then you know producing it with illustrations, I haven’t had too much difficulty with that.
Getting it printed in China isn’t the problem either because I have IAPC. And then you know shipping it to Amazon isn’t a problem because that’s part of that system. So none of that really – the production of the book and shipping it to the point where it gets to Amazon – is a real problem.
Marketing the book and promoting it is the REAL problem!
The real problem begins I feel and I’ve yet to confront this is how to promote this book to make it popular and to make it sell and so that’s what interests me more than anything else.
I know you could do Amazon advertising but there’s a whole host of other ways to promote books and answers to that question how to promote your book apart from Amazon ads would be the most interesting for me to hear. That would be really great.
So thanks for the offer to answer this important question and I’m quite sure that marketing books is where most authors begin to trip up and possibly including me. I’ve been in publishing for a long time. Traditionally published but I’ve now moved across to indie and it’s a whole new ballgame.
You know I’m almost starting from scratch so I now understand the problems everybody else faces and I’m the same. So there we are. That’d be great. How to promote your book once you’ve got it listed on Amazon other than Amazon ads. Thanks Laurie.
Laurie: The Publishing Process
Thank you. Jonathan I always appreciate when people take the time to leave me a message and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you. So you’re right, you’re right. And I had a lot of messages from people who said the same thing ‘how the heck do I actually sell my book?’
Let’s break it down a little bit. The first step in the process isn’t that difficult. There are many steps in getting your book actually published, right? You want to produce the best possible book that you can.
Step two is to get it published. Lots of steps. And I’ve talked about that before and that’s why I have a How to Publish Course just so that I can walk with people through that process. It’s not hard but it goes a lot faster when you have one on one help, right?
You publish the best book that you possibly can and then what? The book is up for sale on Amazon. Amazon sells I think 50 percent of the world’s books and all of the other retailers together make up the other 50 percent. At this point you’re stuck with like Jonathan said ‘do I just run ads and cross my fingers? What do I do?’
Marketing tip #1: Optimizing your book page
Let’s talk marketing. Marketing is like – I mean it’s not fancy word but it’s an all encompassing word that really just means you get traffic to your book page.
Okay. If we back up just slightly your book page needs to be well optimized. That just means it needs to have all the pieces of the puzzle in place to convert the casual glancer or to an active buyer. So what goes into that? What goes into a good book page?
An Attractive Cover and a Good Title
Everybody who has been in any Facebook group where writers hang out knows that the first step is a good cover. This applies no matter what type of book you’re writing. You need an attractive cover.
If you’re font is too small, it’s hard to see and it looks off-putting. If your pictures are too small or too clip art-y, it’s off-putting. Your cover really needs to stand out and it needs to be very high quality.
Second is your title, not so much that the title actually matters because truthfully it doesn’t really matter that much, but a lot of people stuff every possible keyword they can think of that people would be searching for into that title area and then that becomes off-putting.
If you just go play around on Amazon for a while and look at some different book pages, you’re going to see what I mean. You’re going to see that it’s a little bit off-putting.
We want to reduce anything, everything that is off-putting as much as possible to start with. We want just a succinct title maybe with a subtitle as well.
An Effective, Interesting Book Description
Then we want a really high converting book description. If you look at your book page and it’s one paragraph, that’s not good copy-writing. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that again. You can go to Amazon and you can look around and you will see lots of examples of this.
Some companies, like Nickelodeon and Disney and whoever sells like the Paw Patrol books or the PJ Masks books, they can get away with that because you’re not browsing the descriptions of the book. You can see just by looking at the title which episode it is and it was your child’s favorite episode and it’s their favorite character etc.
That doesn’t matter so much. You don’t want to emulate those big names like that. You want to emulate the independent authors that are doing really well. You want to go look at their books and see what kinds of wording they’re using, what kind of sentence structure.
And that’s not to say that you should copy it. Just do some research and look at the different ways you can structure your book description.
Formatting your book description
Standard practice now with high-selling indie authors is to have one line at the beginning of your book description and then a space. And there’s some people who go so far as to dictate how many words should be to be in that line. I believe the optimal number according to some people is six to eight words.
You want it to be skim-able. You want people to look at a glance read that first sentence really quickly. They’re going to to skim it and you want it to be interesting enough to hook them.
That is called your hook. Your first sentence hooks the reader into reading the second sentence. Now the second sentence can be a little bit longer. It can be a little bit shorter. That second paragraph, or really the first paragraph after the first sentence, can be a few sentences long. They need to be interesting, my writer friends.
All of those sentences need to be interesting, and as Joseph Sugarman shares with us the whole point of that first sentence is to get people to read the second sentence, and the whole point of the second sentence is to get people to read the third sentence, and so on and so on. It’s a waterfall effect.
Your Call To Action
You don’t want them to be able to tear their eyes away from your book description. And then they’re going to land on the very last sentence which includes a call to action commonly known as a CTA. You want it to say something like ‘get it now’, ‘buy it now’, ‘this is for you.’ Something like that, because it’s been proven psychologically people respond better when you tell them what to do.
If you tell them ‘buy it now’ the chances of them buying it go up a lot. So why wouldn’t you say that? OK?
You optimize your book page and you get out the very best possible book that you can. You know you have a fantastic product in this book. The book page is set up to convert casual readers into buyers. So that’s excellent.
But now the question becomes how do you get people to that book page? How do you get people to find your book? And that’s where the marketing comes in. I’m going to take a break from talking and share a another blurb from Katie who shares some ways that she does her marketing in addition to ads. Let’s hear from Katie.
Katie Clark: Spend a Little Time Each Day on Social Media Platforms
Hi my name is Katie Clark, author of ‘I’m a Super Vegan’. The hardest part of publishing for me was the marketing. It seemed very overwhelming and I only had a little bit of time every day to devote to it.
So I decided to run Twitter ads, Instagram ads, Facebook ads, and Amazon ads to maximize the visibility of my book. In addition I decided to spend 30 minutes a day reaching out to organizations, bloggers, and spending time on social media. It was much more manageable for me and I felt like I was getting things done.
Laurie: Showing up consistently is key!
OK, so Katie does say that she runs all the kinds of ads that you can run it sounds like. But she also has dedicated herself to showing up consistently every day. She said just for 30 minutes a day. To me that does not sound overwhelming. And she alternates between reaching out to influencers or bloggers and just showing up on social media.
Those things are all considered marketing. They are different ways that you can increase your book’s visibility by sending traffic to that book page that you worked so hard on. You can send traffic to the book page with all kinds of ads. Obviously that’s paid ads and you’ll be out some money if it doesn’t convert to sales, but you can also post on social media.
Marketing Tip #2: When Posting on Social Media, Don’t Be Spammy!
Now this is where things get really tricky because there’s all kinds of people out there doing social media marketing but it ends up being really spammy. It ends up being ‘buy my book’, ‘buy my product’, ‘buy my service’, ‘buy my whatever’.
I’m going to suggest to you that instead of concentrating on selling things, what you need to do is concentrate on building relationships.
You need to reach out to people who might be your ideal buyer. The nice thing about having a children’s book is that it’s a pretty specific group. It’s either parents or grandparents or teachers or counselors. Obviously there’s a lot of different areas within that, but those are the broad, general groups of people that you are going to be targeting.
Then What Do I Post on Social Media?
What kinds of things do parents want to see on social media? Well they probably like a lot of memes about being sleepy and needing a lot of coffee. That will go over well! It doesn’t relate directly to your books but it’s funny. And I’ll be the first one to tell you that any funny post will get a lot more attention than anything else that you post. If you can be funny and make it geared to parents, they’re going to start paying attention.
They’re going to comment on your posts, they’re going to share your posts, they’re going to like your posts. They’re going to remember your name and when you show up consistently and you interact with people on social media in a non-spammy way, they remember you. They get to know you, they get to like you, they get to trust you.
Share What’s Going On With Your Book
And every once in a while you post something about ‘oh my gosh’ my book, I left my book on the bus. I don’t know. What do you want to say?
I left my book at a restaurant. My book got a new review and it was fantastic. My book got a new review and it was terrible. My book hit number one in its category. The sequel to my book is out and I’m so excited. It’s not directly selling your book. It’s not asking people to buy it, but it is talking about your book in a way that makes people interested possibly and then they’ll go find your book on their own.
If you know who your target audience is and you’re able to interact with them on the different social media platforms that you’re already on, this is called social media marketing. It’s a way to reach out and make friends with people that you don’t already know in real life.
It works really well when you’re not spammy. It works really well when you’re trying hard to make a relationship, a friendship, a connection, if you will.
You Only Need to Start with Half an Hour a Day!
And much like Katie says you really only need to do half an hour a day just to start. The most important part of starting and being consistent, if you are consistently on social media for half an hour a week, I’m sorry to tell you, that you might as well not not be doing that. You might as well put that half an hour somewhere else because that’s not going to work in growing these relationships and connections.
Marketing Tip #3: Content Marketing – Social Media Swaps
Let’s talk a little bit about content marketing. Content marketing is when you incorporate some content into your social media posts or maybe into blogs or even videos like Facebook lives or YouTube videos or something like that. Or maybe if you’re on a podcast you talk about something, let’s say for example, an illustrator services because we talked about picture books or a format or services or an editor’s services.
You talk about the fantastic service you got from this company and you highly recommend them and here is the way that they can find that person. And you know about that person because you used them on your book. So you’re sharing about your book but you’re not selling your book.
A lot of authors do this in their newsletters and they do what’s called newsletter swaps and Instagram swaps and all kinds of social media type swaps are now all called swaps but you get the idea. I’ll post about your book that’s content for me and I’m sharing about you.
And if people are interested, if the cover or the description of the book, or what I say about it makes them interested in your book, they’re going to go and find it on their own. I probably don’t have to give them a link. If they’re interested, they will go find it.
Content Marketing – Brainstorm the Content that Appeals to your Audience
Another way to do content marketing is once you know the main benefit of your book, the point of your book, and you know who your audience is, you can brainstorm what kinds of content would appeal to them. And that’s what you can put into your social media posts or into your blog posts. You can talk about when you’re a guest on other people’s blogs or podcasts.
When we talk about the benefit of your book some people will come back and say my book doesn’t have a point or a lesson or a value. It’s not teaching anything, it’s just a good story that is interesting to children and they will ask for it over and over and over again. The benefit of this kind of book is just that it really is a good story that children will want to read over and over again.
That’s the benefit that you share when you tell people about your book. My book is the one that 5 year olds reach for when they’re going through a dragon phase because the book is about dragons. They love it and they make their parents crazy asking for it so much.
OK, you wouldn’t use those exact words but I hope you get what I mean when I say there’s still a benefit. There’s still a point and you need to be really clear on that so that you know how to share that with people.
Marketing Tip #4: The ‘Free First In Series’ Method or Free E-book Method
A lot of novelists use the free first in series method of marketing which is ‘Here try my product if you like it here’s five or 10 more in the series.’ Now with middle grade novels that might work, but with picture books there isn’t usually a series that you read in order, if that makes sense. So it’s less effective as a strategy.
You can have your book in Kindle Unlimited and then parents can get the e-book for free and it’s a similar technique. Instead what you might want to offer is some added bonus to your book.
Marketing Tip #5: The Opt-in
What I like to do is make an opt in. If you don’t know what that means it’s those things that you write your email address in for because you want the thing that somebody is offering you. You give them your e-mail, they give you the PDF or the checklist or the grocery list or the recipe or whatever it is that you want, and you go on their mailing list. And you either get really good emails, which is not very often, or you get a whole lot of spammy emails, which is more generally the case.
If you’re an author and you’re a children’s author and you’re not sure how to grow your email list in order to market via email, a good idea is to think outside the box and offer something that people would want. That is not a free book because it does not work as well for picture books. So maybe a coloring sheet, although I think that’s a little lame. So maybe a few coloring sheets.
Laurie’s Email List Strategy
I make a song. I don’t make it myself; I commission a song for every book. So I offer the song, I offer lesson plans, I offer Parent Resources.
There’s lots of things you could do. You could create a video book, create a reading that you do of your own book, create some kind of dot to dot picture or some kind of word puzzle or something like that. Depending on what age of your book what might be good. Maybe it is a checklist of some sort for parents. Maybe it is a list of resources for teachers, of course depending on what you’re talking about in your book.
That’s what works really good on autopilot for me and it grows my email list. Once in a while I send an e-mail out. I’ll tell you I work really hard to not be spammy. I delight in the email responses that I get back from people who say that was the best email I’ve read in a long time and I just had to let you know.
It feels really good to not be adding to all that junk in people’s email inboxes. And truth be told I’m sure there’s lots of people out there who don’t enjoy and appreciate my emails. But every once in a while I get somebody writing to me to say thank you. And I have to say that it really warms my heart to get those.
Publish Coach Pro Course
Here we are at the end of this episode.
I’ve shared with you the most common obstacle most indie children’s authors shared with me anyway and that has been the marketing. I shared with you five different ways that you can do different kinds of marketing. And remember that marketing is really just driving traffic to your book page. In the beginning I shared with you that the book page needs to be the best possible book page that you can do.
I want to share with you about a new course that I am starting in September. It’s called Publish Coach Pro. In the course we’re going to start by reworking your metadata which is your keywords and your categories. We’re going to make sure that your book page is properly optimized to the best of all of our abilities. We’re going to quickly learn how to set up our Amazon ads.
And we’re also going to get a crash course in setting up a really good personal Facebook profile so that the chances of you reaching out and making friends and making connections is high, which is what we need. I’ll also share with you some theory and some information about the algorithm that happens with Facebook.
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