Book Marketing Techniques That Don’t Work Anymore

Book Marketing

Over the past 10 years, publishing has evolved into a very profitable business with the 5 biggest publishers reporting a profit margin of 10%.  And according to Author Earnings, in 2015, self-published authors had taken 33% of the ebook market.  However the tables were turned in 2016, when self-published authors lost a little bit of their grip on the ebook market not to mention several major publishing companies actually reporting losses.  So now it’s more important than ever that we indie authors spend our time and money where it matters most.

Things will only continue to change as the market ebbs and flows and we indie authors need to be able to adapt no matter the disruptions to the market.  What worked in 2007, won’t necessarily fly in 2017, so I compiled a list of just a few of the things that used to be marketing truths but are now myths.

Post An Eye-Catching Photo With Social Media Posts

The old advice on social media was to post a nice text quote along with a photo and it worked pretty well.  Now the advice is to write your quote directly on the image itself because when you share a post sometimes the original text gets lost or relegated to tiny font at the bottom.

For example:

Pinterest

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Facebook

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Banner Ads

Back in the day, banner ads were the way to get your product noticed but now with ad blockers, nobody even sees them anymore.  Today, the click through rate of a banner ad is around 0.1% down from 50% in 2000.  Sadly places like Goodreads, offer banner ads in their expensive marketing package which can cost anywhere between $6,000 and up.  However most indie authors agree that the best places to advertise books are in discount newsletters like; BookBub, Bargain Booksy and Free Kindle Books & Tips.

Perma 99 Cents

A few years ago the advice was to lower your price as much as humanly possible which is what tons of indie authors did.  As you have already guessed, this doesn’t work anymore, the new advice is to try price pulsing.  That’s where you lower your price for a limited time and then set it back to a more reasonable one.  The feelings are mixed, many say you have to promote the lower prices but if you’re selling a book at 99 cents, promotion may not be wise if you’re on a low budget or just low on time.

Black Hat Marketing

This means anything shady like buying reviews or even buying your own book in bulk.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing business but with technology most people can easily spot a fake.  Not long ago, U.S. President Donald Trump was busted buying his own books during his campaign.  Also, several Christian ministers were found to have contracted a service that promises to help authors get on the bestsellers list by buying large quantities of the author’s book.  They might have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t used money from their own congregation to do it.

Same goes with social media, a few celebrities were busted buying fans a few years back and were exposed by a major media outlet.  To make a long story short, your money is better spent advertising or hiring a good book publicist.

You Need To Be Everywhere on Social Media

It’s old advice that’s still being repeated and it’s just not true and never really was.  Your goal on social media is to build a community which means conversations and engagement.  You can’t do that everywhere because you only have 24 hours in any given day.  So it would be wise to just pick one or a few social media sites where your audience is going to be and set up shop there.  If your book is for young adults try sites like; Snap Chat, Instagram or Tumblr, and if it’s adults you’re targeting, try Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Spamming Works

For those business owners who are too lazy to build their own email lists there are services who are more than willing to sell you email addresses.  Sadly, these people aren’t interested in your book and sending unsolicited emails goes against the CAN-SPAM Act which can result in a fine of $16,000.  Also, it’ll get you banned from email marketing services like Mail Chimp or AWeber.  As if that weren’t bad enough, according to law enforcement and online security firms, the average spam campaign is often a front for organized crime which is why most email filters send these emails straight to the trash bin.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the few books out there that list so called promotional groups on Facebook and Goodreads.  I’ve personally tested them and found them to be a complete  waste of time.  If you look closely at these groups, you’ll discover that they’re nothing but spam pages with author after author dropping links and yelling “Buy my book!”  This is pointless unless, your book is for authors who desperately need to learn about marketing books. 😉

So What Does Work?

Funny enough, it’s common sense that will help you sell a book successfully.  No tricks, just hard work and persistence, oh yeah, and time.

  • Write a book people want to read
  • Edit professionally
  • Get a nice (industry standard) book cover
  • Start building your platform.
  • Invest in your education: Take courses and read books on marketing, publishing and editing.
  • Join a network of professional authors, there are Facebook and LinkedIn groups as well as websites like The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) who help educate and support self-published authors.

In Closing…

There will be more changes on the horizon in 2017, that’s inevitable but that doesn’t have to be a scary thing.  Instead of seeing self-publishing as a disadvantage see it for the opportunity that it really is.  As more and more indie success stories become common place, it will light the fire in some of us to go beyond what we’ve ever imagined.  So until next time, here’s to a creative and profitable 2017 to indie authors everywhere!

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By Leland Francisco

Before You Pitch A Book Reviewer: 6 Important Tips Most Authors Ignore

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Every indie author comes to the point in their career where they’re going to have to secure book reviews and from what I’ve observed, not many of us are good at it.  Despite what you may have heard there are reviewers that are totally disgusted with the treatment they’ve received from indie authors and have in turn, stopped reviewing indie books.

There is an amount of professionalism that is required of us remember, we’re not only authors but we’re publicists and PR managers which require a certain type of skill.  We need to not only know how to pitch but also what to do once we get the green light.  This article is more about preparing for success and maintaining that success once the dust settles on your book launch.

Get Their Name & Genre Right

A sci-fi reviewer doesn’t want to read a romance novel so read their submissions guidelines carefully.  Also, do your best to address your request to the right person if it’s a multi-reviewer site.  People like it when you use their name otherwise, your email or message comes off as automated or spammy.  Sorry but Dude What’s Up, or Dear Reviewer, isn’t going to cut it.

Give Them Time

Reviewers need time, and that can mean months before they can get to your book.  The bigger the reviewer, the more time they’re going to need.  Unless you’re willing pay them for a rush job, just wait your turn.

Be Gracious 

Send personalized thank you emails and offer to help them in the future if they ever need it.  That can mean anything from a retweet or recommendation.  Yes, even if they trashed your book, you still should thank them for a free, honest review.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow but reviews aren’t about your ego, they’re about promoting your book and every book has bad reviews.

Follow Them on Social Media & Give Them a Shout-Out

Just about everyone these days appreciate free promotion. With all the noise on the internet, something like a social media post or shout out in a blog post is really nice.

Promote, Promote, Promote

If you got a newsletter, make a mention of this reviewer even if it’s brief.  Don’t just promote stuff you’re doing, promote their stuff as well like giveaways and interesting conversations.  Authors are always complaining about not knowing what to post about on social media and this is a way to remedy that.  Also, bloggers are constantly complaining about authors not acknowledging them during a promo.

Stay in Touch

Keep this person in your network and make sure to nurture the relationship by sharing their content and sending them things that will interest them.  Keep supporting them remember, it’s not easy being a reviewer, some of them are harassed online and even threatened.  It’s common sense but people respond to kindness and often ignore those they see as panhandlers.

In Closing…

You’d be surprised at how people skip over these important points when engaging a book reviewer.  There are many blog and social media posts rebuking authors who just ask, ask, and ask but offer nothing in return.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be that author!

SEO Keywords For Self-Published Books: Part 2: Tips & Warnings

SEO Keywords

 

In my last post I talked about the basics of SEO keywords and today, I’ll briefly go over the dos and don’ts of where and when to use them. SEO can help book sales by positioning a book in a clear and concise manner for readers to find easily. It can also hurt, an author when used improperly causing the search engines to actually downgrade a book. In fact, just a few years ago, a retailer took down all self-published books from their website causing an uproar.

But before I go there, I still need to address the issue of sloth.

Keywords The Lazy Way

In my last post, I showed you how to find keywords on Amazon and Goodreads. However, if you are short on time, or just don’t want to bother, there are several pieces of software that claim they can take the hassle out of keyword searches. One is called, Kindle Spy and the other, KD Suite, both claim they can find out what other bestselling authors are doing so you can spy on what they’re doing right. The software can cost anywhere from $47 to $97 (U.S.).

None of the authors I’ve seen have anything special to report after using these types of software. They do what they promise, they save time but there is a question about accuracy. One author who used Kindle Spy claimed to have spied on herself and was surprised to see the software reported that she was selling 6 times more than she actually was. There was also suspicion about that software possibly counting free books as sales.

 

Where Do We Use These Keywords?

After you find the keywords that fit your book best, it’s time to start putting them in the title or subtitle of your book. I highly advise at least putting keywords in a subtitle even if it’s not in your original plan to have a subtitle. This let’s readers know exactly what they’re getting when they click buy.  For example, in my vampire novel Eternal Bond I did this:

EB SEO Subtitle Post

 

As you can see, I told readers it was a vampire novel series in the subtitle just so they know exactly what they are getting.  It worked very well on Wattpad.

A Warning About Keyword Stuffing

But you don’t have to stop there, keywords can be used on social media as well.  For example on Twitter, hashtags, help people connect to the topics they’re interested in.   The best way to get visible and possibly go viral is to use keywords so people can find you.

SEO Keywords Twitter Pic

 

Now on the flipside, sites like Twitter and Instagram encourage users to not put more than a few hashtags per post.  It’s considered unsightly and douchey by some.  Remember it’s nice to have keywords but use them sparingly even on social media.

 

Under No Circumstance Should You Try Black Hat SEO

As you may have already guessed there were some authors who were not honest when listing their book’s genre.  In fact, several authors have been busted in the past listing their books under the incorrect categories intentionally because those were the hottest genres at the time. This is why Amazon allows readers to report books incorrectly labeled and will even recategorize a book if the mood strikes them.

This all came after an incident called, Erotica Gate where erotic books were allegedly mislabeled and put in the children’s section of the online store. Though the allegations were never proven, that didn’t stop several retailers such as Kobo, Amazon and WH Smith from taking down thousands of indie books in response to this story.

Methods where products are intentionally manipulated (misrepresented) to gain visibility from a search engine is called: Black Hat SEO. Remember retailers, and social media sites all have search engines and they all have rules regarding how to use their sites. Violate those rules and you’ll find your book demoted or banned from their site.

Back to our story, after the Erotica Gate incident, several retailers changed their rules about category listings and keyword usage in order to improve metadata. This was a positive change for readers but it came at a price—literally.

In Closing…

SEO has become a powerful aide when promoting blogs posts, or books because if readers can’t find  what they’re looking for, they can’t read it. Also, SEO can help you gain visibility on sites like Wattpad and Twitter so it would be to your benefit to learn a little about it in order to position your work for success.

SEO Keywords for Self-Published Books: Part 1

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Three years ago, I wrote an article for authors called SEO Keywords for Fiction Authors and it was one of my most popular posts.  However, a lot has changed since then and SEO has become even more important for authors. Over the past few years Amazon as well as a few other sites have changed their rules about how many keywords you can use and which ones. In fact, several authors have found their books recategorized after choosing the wrong keywords. If you don’t want this happening to you, it would be in your best interest to learn which keywords are best for books in your genre.

Why Bother?

Every major retailer has a search engine to help their customers navigate their websites. Today, the biggest search engines in the world are Google and Amazon. Yes, you read that right, Amazon is considered a search engine as is Apple, so it would be wise to learn how shoppers search if you want to position your book for better visibility.

A few years back, when indie authors everywhere were squawking about keywords and claiming to have gotten sales by tweaking the categories and keywords on their books, I wasn’t a firm believer. That was until I did an experiment with one of my free stories on Wattpad and went from having just a couple of views to a few thousand views. So SEO does matter when ranking in the search engines but as for sales, that’s another story. I do believe that SEO can be a powerful asset to a marketing strategy but in and of itself, it’s not a strategy to rely on. You still need to do other things like advertise, secure interviews, and utilize social media right along with strong SEO.

Types of Keywords Authors Can Use:

Genre: Romance, Thriller, Sci-Fi, etc.
Subgenre: Sweet Romance, Crime Thriller, Sci-Fi Adventure, etc.
Geography: Chicago, Medieval England, Mars.
Language: English, Klingon, Elvish, etc.
Topic: Social Issues, Pathologies, Special Groups.

To find your genre and subgenre go to Goodreads and check out their genre page. Click on the genre that fits your book best, and it will take you to a page with related genres in the upper right hand corner. You can find everything from Bulgarian Literature to Dragon Lance in the Goodreads genre list. When I clicked on Young Adult, I was taken to a page that listed subgenres ranging from fantasy to contemporary literature.

SEO Keywords for Authors
They kind of take out the guesswork don’t they?

If you want to find your subgenre, go to their genres list.

You can also do this also with Amazon, by going to their books section here and choosing to shop by category. When I chose Teens and Young Adult, I got not only subgenres, but the most popular categories, authors, and series. Meanwhile in the left hand margin, I got more subgenres to consider like art & photography as well as social issues.

Keywords for Indie Authors

 

Lost?

If you are totally lost and don’t know what genre to list your book, ask yourself several questions:

1. What age group is my book geared towards; adult, teens or children?
2. Is the conflict internal or external? If it’s internal, then you might want to consider labeling it literary.
3. Is the book geared towards women or men? Men’s fiction usually consists of thrillers, crime and graphic novels. Meanwhile women’s fiction usually consists of romance, chick lit, and erotica.

Even if after all this, you’re still confused just ask another author or even a beta reader what genre they think the book is. Don’t stress this too much, if you mess up, you can always go back and tweak things later.

Before I go, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that SEO is just one part of a successful marketing campaign.  There is no magic bullet when it comes to marketing books just ask the publishers at the New York big five.  However good SEO does help give your book the visibility it needs to compete in a market saturated in books.

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 4: Advertising

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For the past month, I’ve been talking about affiliate marketing as another stream of income and also about using it as an opportunity to promote your book. Today, I’ll talk about approaching affiliate marketing as an advertiser. Yes, you can pay an influencer to promote your book to their audience. However before you get excited, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

Why Use An Affiliate?

If your platform is small to nonexistent then you’ll probably need to borrow someone’s audience. I talked about this in my post: “How to Pitch and Approach Influencers” last year. A large platform takes time and hard work to not only build but also to maintain and most authors don’t have the time or know how to do it. This is why it makes sense to seek out influencers to promote your book.

How Much Are You Willing To Pay Them?

This is important because price will matter significantly when it comes to interest in your product. If you’re selling a 99₵ eBook, there will be little interest in it, even if you’re splitting 75% of the profits. However, if you’re selling a print book for $8-$20 and splitting 75% of the profits, that may generate more interest. If you’re selling other products like eCourses, or workshops it will generate even more interest because those usually cost more and more money, means bigger profits for the content creator.

Do You Have A Marketing Plan?

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A meme I created for author Dellani Oakes

As convenient as hiring an influencer is, it doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to promotion. You still have to plan because wishful thinking doesn’t sell books. You need a release date (or rerelease date in some cases), a good price, a social media strategy, blog posts, interviews, etc.  Yes, you still have a responsibility when promoting your own book.

Things To Consider Doing During Your Campaign:

1. Create a script for the content creator: You can be as formal or as informal as you want to be.
2. Create social media posts: If social media is part of the deal make sure to supply them with the info they need like; links, prices, sales dates, etc.
3. Create: Graphics such as memes.
4. Hold a giveaway or contest on your site.
5. When you get those people to your site, make sure you get them to sign up for your newsletter. You do have one right?
If all goes well, you’ll get a few sales and a few new subscribers for future promotions.

The Takeaway

Yes, affiliate marketing can be hard work no matter which side you’re approaching it from. It takes study, planning and not to mention, guts to succeed at this. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t remind you that affiliate marketing isn’t a get rich scheme. Like with most things, it takes time to learn and it takes time to build trust with advertisers and content creators.

Affiliate marketing isn’t just profitable monetarily but also in the sense of platform building. If you want to make a career as an author, your thoughts should be more on the long term rather than on the next sale. But that’s another post for another day…

If you missed the other 3 parts here they are listed below in order:

Social Media: Why Your Numbers Mean Nothing!

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Pic by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Here’s a small sample from my upcoming book “Social Media Hacks No One Tells You About.”  It includes celebrities, cheating and public scorn, I hope you enjoy it.😉

These days you can buy just about anything online like fake book reviews, fake girl friends and yes, even fake social media followers.  There are multiple online businesses that promise to help people look popular online and increase the number of their social media followers.  Their prices range from a cheap $10 for 5,000 Facebook followers to $300 for 10,000 Facebook followers.  These tactics are appealing for those who are lazy or for people who want instant fans but there’s no way to fake popularity no matter how hard you try.  Let me prove it to you…

According to a Forbes article celebrities like Shakira, Lady Gaga and even President Obama were called out on their inflated Twitter following when it was noticed that many of the same accounts were following famous people, which had little or no activity on them outside of just following people.  It was presumed these were fake accounts from a hired service but no one involved anticipated being discovered.

You see someone created an app that can go through a person’s Twitter account and tally up all the fake or suspect accounts.  Since that time several websites offer this service for free and for today’s lesson, I’ll be using one called Twitter Audit to prove a point.  But before I do that, let’s see how this service works.

According to the online site Twitter Audit, “Each audit takes a random sample of 5000 Twitter followers for a user and calculates a score for each follower. This score is based on number of tweets, date of the last tweet, and ratio of followers to friends. We use these scores to determine whether any given user is real or fake. Of course, this scoring method is not perfect but it is a good way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means.”

Excerpt taken from: https://www.twitteraudit.com (Scroll to bottom of page)

So I decided to use Twitter Audit and see if anything had changed with pop star Shakira’s Twitter account which was featured in the Forbes article.

I typed in her user name and according to Twitter Audit 64% of Shakira’s Twitter followers are fake.  Now let’s take those numbers and put them into perspective:  As of Aug 19th 2015, Shakira had a following of 32,686,984 on Twitter and of those 20,919,699.76 were fake.  To break it down even further as to how many people that is, keep in mind there are only 19.75 million people living in the state of New York.  Yes, Shakira can populate the entire state of New York with her fake Twitter followers!

Now do I believe Shakira was directly involved in this scandal, no.  However I do believe her PR team was involved and they were desperately trying to build their client’s social media account by any means necessary.  Sadly they chose to use a technique known as black hat SEO.  It’s the process of artificially inflating web visibility either for social media accounts, websites, or blogs using unethical techniques.  Now granted, if websites like Twitter find out what you’ve been up to, they won’t throw you in the slammer.  However they can delete any ill gotten followers, or retweets, they can even ban you if it suits them.  Keep in mind, when you sign up for an online account, there are rules called Terms of Service, or TOS, and it would be wise to adhere to those rules if you want to do business, on a particular site.

Case in Point

According to The Daily Dot, Sony/BMG and Universal Music were stripped of two billion views on their Youtube accounts.  No, you did not read that wrong, I said billion with a B.  They violated Youtube’s TOS by hiring a service that uses bots to click on pages and artificially increases views for their clients.  So keep in mind social media websites like Youtube can and will clean house when they see someone abusing their platform.

Author See, Author Do

Since it seems that everyone and their mother is doing this, some authors mistakenly believe there is nothing wrong with “faking it till they make it”, and are risking credibility in order to create artificial buzz over their books.  Several years ago, author John Locke was one of those exposed by a New York Times journalist doing a story on businesses providing fake reviews on Amazon.  To add insult to injury, Mr. Locke was outed by the very person he paid to supply the reviews!  Later on several retailers had to give refunds to customers who had purchased Mr. Locke’s book on self-publishing.  Ouch!

Mr. Locke was probably trying to get the Amazon algorithms to work for him.  According to many, if you get enough reviews, Amazon will start promoting your book for you.  But as you see, things didn’t go according to plan.

Why Are You Bringing This Up?

As you spend more and more time on social media you may be approached by these services and you need to know the facts.  Keep in mind there are services which are legitimate and can help you boost your social media following using various methods like advertising, cross promotional groups, and even helping you with content creation.  However, they don’t guarantee a specific amount of followers let alone any engagement.  Though it may be tempting to cheat the system in order to look popular, it isn’t worth it.  Besides aren’t real followers better than fake ones?  Like most things, social media takes time and effort.  You can’t create a bond with readers overnight so don’t waste your money on services that can’t deliver what you really need.

 

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 3: Targeted Opportunities

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For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about affiliate marketing for authors. I shared several of the most popular online affiliate sites and today, I’m going to share more affiliate resources but this time, they will be more writing and book related. I also talk about how to find those hidden opportunities.

So let’s get started…

Where to Look

If you’re an indie author, and looking for an advertiser to partner with it makes sense to look for businesses within your industry. There are publishers, retailers, and online schools that are looking for access to an interested audience, and if you can provide that, you stand to make money.

Publishers

Retailers

Software

eCourses

Pitching Direct

Though there are many businesses that have affiliate programs, there are some that don’t publically announce it. This could mean hidden opportunities for an authorpreneur willing to do the research and who has the bravery to pitch. If you think major corporations are the only ones to approach think again, there are authors with books, and eCourses who would love to hear from you. There are also publishers and agents with seminars and workshops who are desperate to sell tickets to their events.

Now before I go on, most pitches fail because they’re terrible so here are a few tips to help you with your pitch letter.

Tips:

  1.  You have to contact the right people.
  2. You need to answer the question: “What’s in it for them?”
  3.  You’ll have to give them proof that you can reach the people they’re targeting and are a good match for their product.
  4. Describe how you’ll market their product to your audience.
  5. Give them several ways to contact you.

Keep in mind even if you do everything right, there is still a possibility that they may pass and that’s fine. You can easily pitch their competition instead, because that’s how business works.

I hope you found this post helpful, stick around next week because this series continues with Part 4: Advertising. If you missed the last two parts of the series check them out here: