13 tips on how to promote your book…lessons from #RT14

If you’re just tuning in today, I recommend you read Wednesday’s blog on “Why some ebooks sell and others don’t,” because this post is Part 2.

The goal of promotion is basically to get enough readers to buy your book so that the Amazon algorithms will notice it, and Amazon will market it for you. But how do you sell those initial books? That’s the rub.

At the Romantic Times Booklovers Conference held recently in New Orleans, I attended a number of marketing and promotion seminars. The best seminar, by far, was the very last one I attended on how to develop a digital readership that is “sticky,” or as a presenter Courtney Milan called it, “Half-Assing Promotion (and still making money).” Author MJ Rose who used the internet to market her novel Lip Service in 1998 long before anyone was doing that (I remember her, she was big news at the time), moderated a great discussion on “Buzz Your Book.” I also had the opportunity to learn from Bethany Burke, the publisher of Blushing Books, the go-to spanking fiction publisher, who shared her thoughts on sales and marketing.

Until my Breeder sci-fi romance series, I had mostly learned from my mistakes. But that only told me what not to do. It did not tell me what to do. With Breeder, I instinctively did everything right so I was able to learn what worked. It was much more fun (and profitable) that way. So besides the tips I picked up at RT, I’ll share some of the promotional efforts that worked for me as well.

Keep in mind that these are small things–but if you’ve read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, you know that little changes can have a major impact.

13 Ways to Sell Enough Books to Get Amazon to Market for You

Tip No. 1. Get a good cover. Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard this before.  *Yawn* But here’s why it’s important: a “good” cover is one that is uncluttered and that stands out as a thumbnail. All that background detail might be pretty when your cover is viewed book size, but that’s not what people see first as they’re clicking through Amazon. You have mere seconds to catch their attention. They are not going to read your wonderful blurb unless they are grabbed by the cover.

This is not what readers see:

CB_Terran_coverlg

 Amazon Buy Link

This is what sells your book:

thumbnail

 

Tip No. 2. After the cover, the page after “the end” is the most important. Your book should inform readers about your backlist and future books.  If readers have finished the story, chances are most of them liked the book, so tell them about your other books, list your series in order, and tell them what new releases they can expect. Include links to those worksAsk your readers to write a review, to sign up for your newsletter. Include links. Links. Links. Don’t forget the links. Rule of thumb: don’t go over 10 % promo material at the end of your book.

Tip No. 3: Newsletters. Many panels of successful authors said they sent out new release newsletters to their readers. I heard this over and over. A newsletter is an example of “outreach” marketing in which you contact readers as opposed to “inreach” marketing (such as a blog or web site) in which you passively wait for readers to come to you.

Tip No. 4. Spend your promotion dollar on outreach marketing rather than inreach marketing. You can get more bang for your buck out of a newsletter than a static website.

Tip. No. 5. Spend the $5 or $10 to promote your post (not your page) on Facebook. The friends of your friends will see it. (Again, it’s outreach marketing).

Tip No. 6. If you have a series, consider pricing the first book at 99 cents or free. I may have to eat crow on this one (because I railed against this in a recent blog), and the jury’s verdict is not unanimous. Some presenters argued against free and even 99 cents largely because so many authors are doing it that price slashing has lost its impact. But the objective (as I learned from Bethany) is that when gazillions of people “buy” your free or cheapie book, Amazon will  then recommend your next book to them. And if you read Monday’s post on “Why some ebooks sell and others don’t” you know why that’s important.

Tip. No. 7 Email your contest losers. When you run a contest, in addition to emailing the winner—email all the participants and let those who didn’t win know that your book is available for purchase and include the buy link. Links. Links. Links.

Tip No. 8.  Put your buy link high on the page next to your book cover. Don’t make people scroll through the entire blog or website to buy your book. (I’ve been guilty of this).

Tip No. 9 – Early is better than later. Bethany’s theory is that what happens with sales in the first 72 hours of a release is critical for Amazon algorithm recognition and attention. Pay it forward. If an author friend’s book is coming out and you know you’re going to read it anyway—buy it the day it hits Amazon.

Tip No. 10—An ounce of pre-release promotion is worth a pound of post-release promotion. I learned this with Breeder, the first book in my sci-fi romance series. Many authors are reluctant to release too much info ahead of time because they want to have “news” for release day. Wrong. You want people to clamor for your book so that they are waiting to buy it on release day. Your news is that it’s finally available.

CB_Breeder_coverlgTip. No. 11. Spoil the surprise (but not the end!) Run excerpts of your book on your blog/web site in advance of its release. Until Breeder, I’d always advised against this because 1) I didn’t want to spoil the surprise, and 2) Running “unedited” material can bite you in the butt. But with Breeder, I ran excerpts of the first chapter while I was still writing the book.  My gut told me the opening was the best of any book I’d ever written (there are 14 now) and if I could get people to read it, they would buy the book. But I edited the excerpt to the max  before I put it on my blog. If one compares my first excerpt with what was published, you can see that they’re pretty darn close. I believe the posting of THAT EXCERPT tipped the scales for me.

Tip No. 12: Use your Amazon Author Page effectively. If you have a series,  list all the books in order on each books listing. Tell them your stand-alones. Give them interesting info about you. Add a short excerpt to your “From the Author” section.

Lucky Tip No. 13: Start a Street Team to help to promote your book. I have a small, but dedicated team that has really helped me lot, and I’m so grateful to them. (Thank you, ladies!).

I could list more, but I’ll save that for another post. Thank you for visiting. I’d would love to know what tips have worked for you.

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52 Responses to 13 tips on how to promote your book…lessons from #RT14

  1. Nic Starr says:

    Thanks for sharing. It is definitely food for thought. With my first novella due for release, so not having done this before, it is great to benefit from the experience of others.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say, especially #9. My husband made me a spreadsheet with graphs (I’m useless in Excel) that just shows the better your book does at the start, the better it will do in the long run.

    The only part I still am not fully on board with is sharing too much before the book is ready to buy. I read so much these days that I have a very short memory when it comes to titles. There have been a very small handful over the last year that I’ve been waiting on. I still think if you can have that ‘buy now on Amazon’ button ready, it works better but I’m hearing you and I do appreciate your POV on this.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Regarding sharing, I don’t think one should spill everything or even most. But share an excerpt long enough to hook the reader. With Breeder, I shared about half of chapter one on my blog. If I had waited until after its release to post that, I think the results would have been different.

      Also, how much you share depends on the length. If you’ve written a 100K novel, you can share more. A 5,000 K story — far less.

  3. Hi Cara! Thank you very much for this post (and the previous one). These are great tips! I was wondering about number 7, though. Wouldn’t emailing the losers telling them to buy your book be considered a bit spammy?

    Thanks!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I think it depends on the information and tone of the email. In fact, you are emailing them to tell them they did not win the contest. Remember, they chose to enter your contest and give their email address so they could be contacted in the event that they won. Don’t you ever wonder what happened with that contest you entered? But to use their email without their permission in your newsletter would be spammy.

    • Tammy Faris says:

      I attended RT and entered tons of contests for the gift baskets. Unfortunately I didn’t win any. BUT, today, I received an email from one of the authors telling me she appreciated me entering her giveaway and wanted to let me know she was having a giveaway on her website for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. As a reader and blogger, I thought THAT was VERY cool. She’s a new author and made a big impression on me by doing that. (just my two cents) 🙂

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this! I agree totally with the cover and all banner advertising. Make your title clear. I see so many words used in twitter adds and covers that are almost unreadable in either the wrong colours or fancy fonts. You’ve got to make it stand out and hook your reader.

    You’ve taught me something new with regards to the newsletter – what a great idea. Love your tips, Cara, and thanks for sharing !

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re welcome. Glad you found it useful. I’m sure that there is an entire psychology around covers (but I don’t know what it is): people v. no people, partial people v. whole faces, colors, background. But the consensus is uncluttered is best because it stands out. They also said that your name and title on the cover are not important (does not need to be big) because they appear printed with the thumbnail photo. I agree about the name, but disagree about the title. I personally think that the title can be a powerful hook–and I have been stopped in my tracks by title alone. Also the title works in conjunction with the artwork to convey the tone of the novel.

  5. Tara Finnegan says:

    Again, wonderful tips to work with. A lot of learning points. Thank you.

  6. LB Grant says:

    Another great list of helpful info. A couple of these I picked up at other #RT14 sessions, but your #11 was most helpful for me today. I’ve seen people coming down on both sides of the pre-release excerpt releases, but as a reader, I know they do help me to anticipate a particular release. As a long time Rod & Cane fan, I can attest your Breeder excerpt worked perfectly on drawing me into giving Breeder a try. I often pass on Sci-fi as it isn’t my first choice sub-genre, but I am so glad I read it and because I was already following you because of R&C, you hooked me with the excerpt.

    I also attended a session that really pushed the power of pre-sales and I think it goes hand in hand with this strategy since all of your pre-sales will hit on that critical first day of release, boosting your precious day one sales higher with Amazon.

    ~LB

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yes, I remember hearing about pre-sales too. And I’ve seen it on Amazon. I think pre-sales are offered to publishers and/or top selling authors. I suspect that option is a “phase four” thing. I am not sure that one can request/choose to do that. What did you learn about that?

  7. Rayanna Jamison says:

    I keep hearing “Street Team” but not sure what it is exactly or how to get one. Can you elaborate? And thanks for the post! Very informative!

  8. Cara Bristol says:

    A Street Team is an author’s group of friends/fans who spread the word about the author’s book. What they do depends on what the author wants/needs. Here’s a link to my original Street Team recruitment announcement: https://carabristol.com/2013/05/do-you-like-the-rod-and-cane-books-join-my-street-team/

    BTW, I’m still looking for team members myself!

  9. Cara, could you elaborate on #4? What marketing is considered outreach besides newsletters? My newsletter venue is free, so there’s no outlay associated with that, but what else can be done in this area?

    Thanks so much for all the great information!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I would have liked the presenter to elaborate more on outreach too! However, off the top of my head, I would say: Interacting on FB and Twitter, promoting one’s post on Facebook, advertising on various blogs, seeking out reviews, notifying people of one’s blog posts, attending conferences and meeting readers in person.

      Anybody else have any suggestions?

  10. Toni Sue says:

    Great tips! Thanks, Cara.

  11. Very helpful information, Cara. I wasn’t able to attend the marketing panels, so thank you for sharing.

  12. Lisa Wells says:

    Another great post. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Casey McKay says:

    Thanks again for sharing! I never thought of emailing the losers of a contest, but it makes sense! And I think if done the right way it would not seem like spam.

    Some of this I have been doing, and some of it had not occurred to me. These posts have been really helpful!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yes. You don’t want to hit the contest losers with a “buy my book” email, but notifying that they didn’t win would be acceptable. And you could tell them about your next contest.

  14. M.M. Justus says:

    Maybe I’ve just been reading too much of this stuff over the last couple of years [wry g], but what happens if you’ve been trying to do most of this for a long time (the mailing list in particular has been a dud because I can’t get anyone to sign up and believe me I’ve been trying — everyone tells you you need to have a newsletter, but if you don’t have anyone to send it to, it’s pointless), your books are getting good reviews, you’ve got the best covers you can manage, but you’re still not getting sales? In addition if you know where to send me for stuff specifically for authors who don’t fit into a genre, I’d be extremely grateful. You’d think cross-genre books would give you more places to promote, but it actually gives you far fewer.

    Thanks!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yes, cross genres are a tough sell. I have observed that with some author I know. The more genres you mix together, the harder it is to find readers because one of the those genres will probably not appeal. Does anybody write what you write? My suggestion would be to try to join or create a group of authors who write in a similar vein (or as similar as you can find). I did this with spanking romance. I looked for groups to join, but found none. So I formed a Triberr tribe and asked authors I knew who wrote what I wrote to join. Then I started a Facebook Spanking Fiction group. We all help to promote each other, and shares tips. I believe that authors can learn from each other.

  15. Karen Lynch says:

    Very helpful. Thanks for sharing. Karen

  16. Greta says:

    Thanks, Cara–another useful post.

    I recently picked up a few “how to” books on indie publishing. Are there any titles you would recommend?

  17. VJ Schultz says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this useful information with us. Marketing is a challenge and all the tips will help. At this point I’ve got three collections of short stories up on Amazon and making myself market them–what good is a book without readers? I’m learning, with help from wonderful blogs like yours and other resources, how to get the job done….although I’d rather be writing. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Marketing is something all authors wrestle with. It can be so time-consuming–but, once those algorithms kick in, one can cut back on marketing.

  18. Mary wehr says:

    Thanks for sharing, Cara. Very informative and helpful. Congrats on your book!

  19. Glenda Horsfall says:

    Thanks for taking the time to list all the tips you have picked up Cara. It has been a most informative read. I found lots of useful information which I am going to try and implement in the coming weeks as I prepare for my first release. I know marketing can be time consuming, but if we don’t get our name out there then readers will not know we exist. Thanks again.

  20. Margaret Taylor says:

    Ms. Cara,

    Thanks so much for both these posts! It’s so nice to finally have some helpful information. I was going to RT this year, but missed it due to some real life issues, so I’m glad you were there and thankful you are willing to pass along what you learned. Now, I just need to implement some of this stuff!

    Margaret

  21. Another wonderful post, Cara. Thanks so much for sharing all those pointers. I especially agree with Tip #10 and pre-release excerpts. Your excerpts of Breeder definitely prompted me to buy it on the first day it came out on Amazon. I remember the day you announced it’s release and a slew of readers posted their disappointment because LooseID wanted it solely on their web site for a period of time. I do purchase some books directly from Blushing and LooseID, but I like the ease of having a book go directly to my Kindle. Readers were clamoring to purchase your book. Such a dilemma to have….

    • Cara Bristol says:

      As a result of what I learned about the impact of immediate sales, I have decided with future books to not announce the release until it hits Amazon. I don’t know how many people automatically go to Loose Id v. how many go because I direct them there, but I’m better off if they buy from Amazon. Even though I get a greater percentage from Loose Id sales, Amazon sales serve me better in the long run because of the algorithms.

  22. Susan Keene says:

    Great info. I even took notes.
    Thanks.

  23. More good advice & tips for my future marketing work for upcoming novels. I really appreciate the sharing.

  24. Rubey Noire says:

    Great article. I took notes, and will definitely incorporate some of these ideas when marketing my books! I especially like your tips on managing the Author’s page on Amazon, and what to include at the end of a book to call readers to action. Thanks!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Authors who are published by publishing houses don’t have control over what goes at the end of their books–but they should certainly suggest it. I know Loose Id lists my books, but doesn’t link them. Indies, however, have complete control over that.

      I do use my Amazon author page, but I am in the process of redoing it after picking up all this information at RT.

  25. Cara, what a terrific post. This is such good information that I hope to make use of as my second book is near to getting a release date. Thanks for the super information

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