Here are some of the common mistakes I’ve seen others make. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I screwed them up at first too! On the plus side, they’re all fairly easy to fix. Here are five highlights from my recent guide: Quit Wasting Time and Sell More Ebooks. Pick up a copy to study, with details and examples, of twenty free promotion strategies that are actually worth the time invested.
1) Using social media completely backwards.
Forget everything you’ve heard about building up a fan page, boosting posts, crafting “click bait” content and all that jazz. Such strategies work for other products, such as those with mass appeal, but not so well in the niche book selling business. Rarely worth the time invested.
If you’ll notice, my fan page has less than a hundred Likes. Yet I generate around 40% of my product page’s traffic from Facebook. Another 10% comes from Twitter, where I have, what? A couple dozen followers? That’s because I use the brand page and personal timeline only to engage with my fans and use the other couple hundred million Facebook pages to find new business.
No, success has nothing to do with likes or spamming. It’s all about building working relationships with other site managers. The goal is to access their pre-screened audience. Demonstrate your book’s relevancy and you’ll be viewed as a content provider, rather than just another merchant. That might seem like even more work, but it’s work that actually pays off. I’m not saying you have to become best buddies with every site admin out there, but you have to put in above average effort if you expect to achieve above average success.
2) Not using affiliate/tracking links.
Use some type of tracking link with your promos to find out what’s really working. I’ve mentioned this enough, I know, but it’s vitally important. This week Pinterest is hot, next week it’s Twitter, then some forum somewhere else… who knows what’s coming? This business is always changing and your niche customers are hopping around. Not to mention coming online at new venues. You have to stay on top of the changing scene. Try Bitly links: https://bitly.com/
The point is, create a separate link for each website you are advertising on and you’ll learn which places your pitches are striking a chord with. It’s the only way to see how many people actually clicked through to the product page. If you entered your retailer affiliate link as the link to shorten, then you’ll also see how many of those click-through’s resulted in sales. Not to mention making a few extra bucks on the side. Of course, affiliate links don’t show you secondary mentions, such as when people share your post on other sites. The links are also way too long for Twitter. That’s where shortened links come in particularly handy.
Don’t forget to sign up for the various affiliate programs at each book retailer you use. Especially Amazon: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
3) Running short promotion events, rather than continuous campaigns
Sure, sure, everything you do is a promotion. I’m talking about the big stuff. Let’s face it, simply talking about your book, or the often quoted goal of “getting exposure,” will rarely sell anything. Drives little traffic to your product page. Unless you’re in front of a giant audience (TV or radio, for example) it’s not usually worth the time. Slashing prices, gifting to charity and running freebie giveaways, all supported by running a paid ad or stack of free ads to get the word out, are the only promotions that consistently sell anything.
But the big question is: why do your promos have little lasting effect? What’s with this short bounce that quickly dissipates after a few days? How do you ride that wave as long as possible?
The answer is straightforward: have a plan to make sure each sale builds upon the visibility of the last. So-called marketing gurus call this “the never ending promotion” and harp on and on about how it’s such a secret. In a way, I suppose they have a point. Most authors take a stab at this and that, but don’t have a real strategy to keep their visibility going as long as possible.
It is truly remarkable how much more effective the same traditional things you’ve always done can be when applied in sequence, as part of a master plan, rather than run randomly. Every event launches on the heels of the previous one and multiplies the sales effect each time. What a sight to behold!
4) Passively waiting around on reviews
This is a sore subject for so many authors. I won’t rehash how crucial a stack of honest, hype-free reviews are to reaching sustainable sales levels and getting respect from advertisers. I pulled my hair out for months over this as well. There are fewer and fewer free book review sites/blogs every year and those still free have an Everest-sized backlog pile. Even if your pitch was great and they agreed to review the book, you’re looking at a wait of months. Sometimes more than a year. It’s surreal.
And don’t even get me started on customer reviews! If more than 1% of your readers bother leaving a review then you’re ahead of the game. At this point you’d be happy with an emoticon giving you the middle finger for a review. Some type of response. Anything! You sit there, in the dark, dreaming darker fantasies as you flip back and forth between your sales reports and your empty review section. Or even worse, your perfect 5-star ranking. Where the only reviews are from loyal friends and chalked full of praise. All of which just screams “bulls#!t” to potential readers.
You’ve begged and pleaded online for people to leave reviews. You grudgingly say “thanks” to those friends leaving heartfelt, but unbalanced and obviously biased reviews. You have run free promotions and giveaways with thousands of downloads that resulted in only the tiniest trickle of reviews. Some of them even negative. Annoying as those are, you’re at least thankful they even bothered. With so few reviews, your conversion rate will be terrible and most mainstream reviewers and advertisers won’t touch your book.
You’re finally tempted to submit to one of those paid review services, like the “professionals” use. Even though you know darn well the $400+ you need to drop to get any review from Publisher’s Weekly would be better spent on a paid ad with BookBub or the equivalent. But what can you do? These unsavory places seem to be the only game in town.
The whole situation is downright embarrassing, nerve wracking… and easily fixable. It takes time, sweat and research, but you are likely ignoring a nearly unlimited and mostly positive source of customer reviews. They’re sitting right there in the “Also Bought…” banner on your product page. Why leave reviews to chance when the internet shows you all the fans of people who liked similar books? Every retailer gives you the alias and a profile of that person. Sites like Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari and, of course, Facebook, provide you even more direct contact options.
5) Not researching your niche
A. Narrowly define your targeted reader. Start with the simple demographic stuff: sex, age, ethnicity, economic or social background, etc… Then dive deeper into their values and interests. A useful starting framework is to search for reviews from similar books in your Also Boughts or on Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari. Then sample their profiles. Not every single one, but at least 10 who loved the target book and 10 that hated it.
What don’t they like? What do they like? What do they find taboo? What do they consider required elements of a story? What are the key values in their life? Try to make a profile of your “ideal reader.” It won’t be perfect until you get some feedback, sure, but organizing your guesses will go a long way towards maximizing your marketing time and budget.
B. Find these people. Where do they hang out? What magazines do they read? What TV shows/movies do they watch? What online sites do they frequent? What groups do they belong to? Compile lists of every data point here. Every unique item gets a line and tally up how often you see them mentioned among your sample profiles. You’ll want to target at least the top 5 later. This is where automated alerts come in handy and save time.
C. Field test your theory. Think like that reader when crafting your promotion pitch. How do I make this story, this promotion or myself relevant to these people? Doesn’t have to be super strong, just some loose connection will do. Take your promos to where your ideal readers are most likely to gather and test them out. Which locations and pitches have the best feedback? Where do you fall flat on your face? Refine your ideal reader bio accordingly.
Most importantly, in every marketing action, ask yourself: “How would this be perceived by my target reader?” Will they be offended, excited, bored or what? Self-promotion has nothing do with your artistic self-expression. Marketing is simply the effective communication of relevancy. Connect your work with the interests and values of your targeted customer and you can’t go wrong. Continuously feed those lessons learned back into your promotions. This is a never-ending process.
D. Don’t box yourself in by marketing just to eBook venues. That’s a fairly small arena and an extremely crowded one. Sure, by definition, eBook readers are a niche audience, but they aren’t your narrowly defined target audience. Those potential customers you so painstakingly profiled. Once you’ve identified your target audience, promote yourself (meaning show relevancy) wherever they are, even if that site/forum has nothing to do with books.
For all the details and sample pitches, please sign up to be notified when “Quit Wasting Time and Sell More Ebooks” is released on 1 May 2014. The first 50 signups will receive a free review copy! http://go.reachmail.net/f.asp?f=6472