Novice writers, pro authors and business owners alike need to focus on their marketing plan, particularly with limited time available. But, which elements do we need to work on—and why?
Ironically, you should first work on your Why: your reason for writing.
Coming from a ‘why’ perspective, it gives any author a strong motive to move past their comfort zones. I lived my fear-of-being-seen for ten years, so I know first-hand how this inhibits sales. Therefore, identifying a good reason to spread your message is imperative.
As you undertake self-publishing lessons, you will be learning about author brand, reader benefit writing, landing pages, keywords, and teaser lines. These may be outside your comfort zone as well, but are all helpful for attracting the right people to any book.
Besides, planning your writing from an audience perspective has three other benefits.
- Rather than worrying over your ‘product’, your message is front and centre. This is great because it means more people connect with your ‘hook’* or your ethos.
- You’re motivated to write every day to help a certain sector of people. You can even see them in your mind’s eye as you write.
- A niche marketing mindset helps save you advertising dollars. That’s because choosing a niche will help any type of author attract fans. Using certain words, a phrase, an acronym or even a book title that shakes things up can be an ‘attractor factor’. E.g. ‘Joyful Eating’, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#$$’.
* A hook is just an angle that will engage a consumer’s mind quickly. It doesn’t need to be misleading or ridiculous to be effective.
What Not to Do: Novice Writers
In my experience, if novice writers just pop down ideas and stories into a book form without doing any audience research first, they often come out with a book that does not hit any mark. It is far too broad or it is full of their own opinions and not that of the target reader. One author went so far as to make up her own spelling (to prove a point) but starting the book like this is sure to confuse and ostracise the English teachers she wanted to reach.
So, what can we do to plan a best-selling book? Firstly, open our eyes very wide and then use competitive research practices.
Planning a Book for a Solid Selling Market
Being a true Aquarian, I’ve only recently discovered the pay-offs of planning. For my recent book, I set out to draw up a Target Audience and Brand Plan. Customised for book marketing use, this three-page document includes:
- Questions I’ve been asked (or survey results): prompters for thought.
- Competitor books and their themes: I spend a fair amount of time looking at successful books, noting the selling points, and reading their 3-star or 4-star reviews.
- Questions to narrow my target audience: what kind of person is my reader? Young, middle or older? What do they desire most (out of the three money aims)? What dreams are they missing out on? What real interests do they have?
- Audience and market: Here’s where I define the narrow specifications according to my answers found by researching and thinking on those questions.
- Brand elements: This is simply the colours, brand values, market positioning (relates to the audience’s income and needs), competitive advantage the book has, and cover elements.
- Possible Kindle Categories (see below).
- Top 5 keywords to use: Using Amazon customer keyword research and matching with my book sub-topics.
- Future book titles, course or series: inspires me to think more long-term and professionally.
Category Research is Illuminating
Using one of the amazing Kindle research tools available, I wanted to define my categories from hot cells or hot niches that are not yet over-crowded. Rather than stuff a hot-selling topic into my existing book idea and potentially annoy readers, I instead scanned for possible topic categories that would fit my original purpose.
For my work in progress, Creative Ways with Money, I identified the two categories to use after sifting through a 2019 Kindle Sales research report on Money/Business Books from K-lytics.com:
- Business & Money–Business Life–Motivation & Self-improvement (a hot niche)
A hot niche, according to K-lytics, is high sales (in this category, 49 per day for top 20 sellers) and medium competition, plus a high average price ($9.13)
2. Business & Money–Marketing & Sales–Sales & Selling–Home-Based Business (a hot cell)
A hot cell is under 2,000 titles but a low competition category (here, only 297 titles)
After I was finished my book competitive analysis and audience needs identification, I needed to take a quick lie-down.. but not for long.
Far From Economic Worry, Rely on Creative Ideas
Creativity plays a big part in making a book angle that will sell well. And for this, I believe we need to turn off our constant worry about money, the economy, and sales revenues.
A major source of local Australian authors’ success has been a willingness to come up with a creative idea and put it out there, faithfully. Examine the cut-through ideas from these books:
- Four Ingredients cookbooks (differentiating from difficult recipes)
- Amplify – about podcasting step-by-step
- When in Rome (exciting life events made into a movie)
- Enormity novel (perhaps idea that was made into movie Yesterday)
According to Valerie Khoo, if you only focus on revenue or sales, then it can reduce your creativity and growth. Exploring the world of art helped her business, as it has many other creative business owners. The Power Stories author talks more about creative curiosity in business.
Creative curiosity being profitable is the opposite to what some people assume, so give it some thought.
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Create, Don’t Copy for Social Media Marketing
You don’t need to copy other people for your social media imagery and postings. You do you. Some authors use their phone camera to take overhead shots of books and journals, while others play with Adazing or Placeit pre-made templates or Canva templates.
(Place-it and Adazing both use your own front cover on three dimensional backgrounds without you having to do Photoshopping).
There are many low-cost tools to get you started in using visual imagery for book marketing. I use RelayThat, a low-cost template tool which also accesses free stock photos. Having bought a licence at a low, one-off cost on AppSumo, this appeals to my cheapskate and get-it-done-fast side.
I sometimes use an app that helps repost on Instagram, but I prefer making my own posts from photos of book covers or RelayThat’s magical help.
Creating Physical Marketing Materials
Using creativity can also apply to posters, a roll-up banner, bookmark design, informative website, or even custom-made software. One author even designed a custom wallet that let people save more often. But if you’re going with physical merchandise, don’t over-capitalise on this early on.
This is where the planning of talks, expo tables, stalls and keynotes will help you decide which material is appropriate for your book’s marketing. (Remember, the message is most important, not just the book cover). One cheap method I did was put an A3 colour print, with a ‘quote’ and my author portrait in it, and frame it. A pull-up banner also works, but this frame was small enough for a stall table.
Don’t forget to include your own smiling face in your online marketing banners or bookmarks. This helps people remember you.
Giving something free to take away also helps people remember you (within a physical environment). I gave away a statistic-based infographic, but this was only successful when pitched at the right niche audience (freelancers). A big fail for general authors!
Plan Short-Stint Marketing and Media Activities
It’s too hard to get started if your marketing elephant is just too big. So bite it off a small chunk at a time! With a three-month market and media plan, done inside a project management tool, you’ll find it doable.
When using the free version of Asana, I found it easy to then explain and allocate each simple task to my book’s Virtual Assistant. This lifted some of the heavy weight off my shoulders. When setting it up, I used the “project plan” template to start with and created three sections:
- Pre-Launch Planning Tasks
- Marketing Tasks–or Creative Deliverables, its fancier name
- Post-Launch Activity and Results
Example of Book Launch Project Plan
Since I’m a self-publisher who does most tasks, the planning tasks became the practical section to keep my book on track. If you have lots of support, this might instead hold initial marketing activities, like “get my author shot taken”.
Planning tasks also includes filling out Amazon, an ISBN, and other P.O.D. information. It includes finding an editor or beta readers. There should also be a task for Launch Party. You can include finding bloggers to review book (advance copies) here too.
Marketing tasks include all those social media tasks, writing press releases, contacting bloggers from that list already made, and creating a list of podcasts, radio stations, TV stations and influencers to approach! Luckily I drew on my Book Creation Success club’s resources and added more.
Post-launch activity includes a few things, like: filling out Amazon Author Central, individually checking all retail feeds are working, checking the book on Booko.com.au, looking at sales dashboard and writing up feedback of what you learnt during your book marketing process.
Simple Book Launch Cheat List
So, no more worrying over what to do when planning a non-fiction book…
- Plan your book or series brand and target audience
- Think of creative ideas to resonate with that audience
- Pick a favourite app, experiment with photography, and create a social media marketing campaign
- Plan any physical marketing materials needed
- Plan scheduled marketing and media for 3 months
- Have a short lie-down.
Jennifer Lancaster is the author of five money or marketing books in Australia and operates Business Author Academy (the memberships) – for non-fiction authors.