I’ve had questions about book marketing, but when I look at the sales of most of our authors, honestly, we should be bombarded with questions. A few are actively marketing their books, but most are overwhelmed and don’t know what to ask or where to turn. So, over the next couple of months, Lawrence and I will put out a series of blogs to direct, educate, and hopefully inspire you in all areas of book marketing. As most of you know, I live in the fiction world, so much of what I will offer as examples will undoubtedly be colored by that perspective. However, most of the ideas outlined will bridge the expanse into nonfiction as well.
Let’s begin with the big picture. You have written a book, or perhaps multiple books and you are just now coming to grips with how vast your competition is. The truth is there are well over a million books published every year. How is anyone going to learn about your book? You’ve made a product – you’ve worked hard, you’ve suffered through edit after edit, and now you have your name on the front of a book. The problem is, there are so many books out there, it is like creating a masterpiece painting and hanging it in your living room. Only a few people will ever see it and appreciate it, and most of them are related to you. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the cost of finding others to see your work has dropped so dramatically, most of it is free or very reasonably priced. You just need to know where to begin.
Let’s start with the real goal: 1000 Fans. Some out there will argue that 1000 subscribers will not get you to bestseller status. And on that, we would agree. Subscribers are only distantly related to fans. I would also point out that bestseller status is not the goal. WHAT? I know you are all aghast. But, nope. Not even bestseller in your genre or bestseller in your subcategory are good goals. This is important. FORGET about becoming a bestselling author. Forget about the masses. Forget about the world. Trying to sell your book to the masses is like dropping a bucket of food coloring into the ocean – it will have NO effect.
Forget the ocean. Find yourself a nice small pool, one close by, one where you might know people that go there, one that the temperature is just like how you like it. Now, you have something in common with these pool patrons. If you drop a bucket of purple food coloring into this pool, suddenly, all your new friends are purple pool goers. Okay, maybe I took the analogy too far? You get the idea.
Find a small group of people close to you, people who like the same things you like and wrote about in your latest book. If you wrote a vampire thriller, find the vamp-lovers group near you – they exist, I assure you. If you wrote a murder mystery, find the mystery dinner theaters, or the murder mystery home-parties that are happening in your hometown. I’m not making it up, they are happening and would love to meet you. Maybe you wrote an espionage thriller, find the conspiracy believers who may only meet online as they want to remain anonymous. Historical fiction? Easy, there are thousands of historical societies, join one. I am telling you, if you forget about the masses, and you begin to think of small, local groups that align with your book, its characters, and topics; you’ll begin to find your fans. And more importantly, you’ll begin to sell books.
I mentioned before that subscribers are not fans. But what are subscribers? They are people that agree to be on your email list via any means available: website, social media, in-person appearances, blogs, advertising, the back of your book, etc. You’ll need a lot of subscribers, so get signed up for a free email list through Mailchimp, Mailjet, or any number of other Email Marketing Service Providers. (The first thousand subscribers are usually free.) I don’t know exactly how many subscribers it will take for you to reach 1000 fans. I suppose it is different for each individual author. What I do know is it takes a lot. Subscribers are casual. They may find you interesting or want your free give-away, but they won’t all stick around. By the way, this is fine. Don’t get pushed out of shape when you lose subscribers. You should always be working on your 1000 fan-base, if a subscriber leaves, they were never going to be a fan. Also, it should be noted, not everyone who buys and reads your book is a fan. Some will simply not like it. That’s okay too. Keep looking for fans.
What is a Fan? Fans love you. They love your work, your books, really, everything you do. Why? Because it fits in with how they see themselves. We all want to fit in somewhere. Without wading in too deep into the psychology of marketing, I’ll quote Simon Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.” You create murder mysteries because you love them. You love the formula, you love the suspense, you love the challenge, you love the humor or the nail-biting or even the kitschiness. Whatever it is, that’s the same reason your fans will love your work. If you love to write global espionage because it is intriguing and smart and unpredictable, so will your fans. If you wrote a novel about the Civil War because it inspires, or puzzles or amazes you, your fans will feel the same. Fans will come to see you, want to talk to you and not-so-patiently wait for your next book to come out. You build a relationship with fans. It takes time, just like all good relationships.
Hopefully, you have your author website. Now get an email list going. Create a signup form on your site and ask everywhere you go, online and in-person, if visitors will signup to your list. Why? Exactly for the reasons we have already explored – your WHY.
The next blog article will focus on Email Marketing, what to do and what not to do. I’ll focus more on tactics and examples. For now, focus on the small pool nearby. There are fans there just waiting for you.
P.S. There is bound to be someone out there who wants to know what to do after you have 1000 fans. Almost none of our authors have reached this level yet, but. . . the answer is to find another 1000, of course.