Marketing can be broken into two broad categories, passive and active. The last post dealt with active marketing, which involves driving your prospective reader to your sales page. Passive marketing is all about getting them to buy your book once they arrive. There is a well understood formula to doing this, and it applies to everything from electric razors to books.
If you’ve studied neuroscience or psychology as they apply to marketing you’re familiar with the idea of reader buying criteria. They have a mental checklist they will iterate through when evaluating a prospective purchase. If you fail any stage they’ll move on without buying. This entire evaluation process happens in just a few seconds, with many experts giving a number between 7-9. Different readers have different lists, and the order of these priorities change from person to person. Here’s one I put together to match the profile I created in Part 1:
3- Author name
6- Overall book score (1-5 stars)
Fans will buy your book by stage 3. Most potential readers might buy it anywhere between 4-7. Picky readers will go to step 8 to see if they like your writing. If all eight are top notch you’ll convert nearly every visit into a sale. The more gaps you have the lower that conversation rate will be.
I’m going to go very quickly down the list with the tips I’ve used to set each. My first novel is only four months into publication, but I’ve been consistently in the top #10,000 books since launch and am often in the top #5,000.
#1– The ugly truth is your entire audience judges books by their covers. If yours isn’t eye catching you will make very, very few sales. This doesn’t just mean beautiful, but also targeted at the type of reader you’re after. Take a look at my covers below. Chances are most of you see zombies and werewolves and have no interest. That’s very, very intentional and part of my strategy for getting reviews as you’ll see later. Your cover is about discouraging the wrong kind of reader as much as it is attracting the right one. It is also critical that the thumbnail is just as eye catching as the full cover, because no one will see the full cover unless they like the thumbnail enough to click it.
#2– Your title needs to be evocative. This means provoking a question in the readers mind. A book that fails utterly at this is Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. It’s clearly a made up fantasy word, and there’s nothing to differentiate it from a sea of similar fantasy novels. This was Brandon’s first book. His next book was called Mistborn, which succeeds magnificently. Something was born in the mists. What is it? As a reader I don’t know, but I’m intrigued enough to find out.
#3– You can only really control your author name when you set the pen name up, but if you aren’t using your own name I’d suggest something short and catchy. I went with Chris Fox instead of Christopher Fox, because I thought it made me sound less pretentious. This was a difficult choice, because it made SEO ranking much more difficult. Consider that when picking your pen name.
#4– This is the part I most often see authors get wrong. Take a look at the blurb for No Such Thing As Werewolves, particularly the first paragraph. Notice that I mention a pyramid in the first couple words. I’m giving readers two tropes that are completely unrelated, which evokes curiosity. How or why are werewolves and pyramids in the same book? Then I state the problem(s) the book is about, and what the ultimate stakes will be. I was also very careful not to mention any specific characters, because my story is more plot than character driven.
That doesn’t mean the characters aren’t fully fleshed out, just that I’ll attract my readers by painting the story in broad strokes. If you’re a zombie fan think about how you’d describe The Walking Dead to a friend who hadn’t seen it. You might mention your favorite character, but only after you’d mentioned that it was a zombie apocalypse set in Atlanta. Figure out what type of story you’re writing and describe it accordingly. If it’s character driven make sure you give the reader a character.
#5– Price is much easier to get right. If you aren’t sure where to place it look at the other books in your categories, and put yours the same or lower. Almost no one will pass on a book because it’s too cheap. Quite a few people will pass on it if your book is too expensive. That said, don’t under sell yourself. If the average price in your genre is $4.99 then don’t be afraid to charge the same. You can always lower your price if your book isn’t selling. Experiment.
#6– This is a direct extension of reviews, so I’ll discuss both in the next point.
#7– Reviews are a difficult topic to tackle, because they are largely outside of your control. You can’t choose who will post one, and you can’t really influence what rating they give you. However, there are some tools at your disposal.
The single best thing you can do is target your audience correctly. My books are about as far from literary fiction as you can get, and if I submitted to literary reviewers they would shred it. So I approached reviewers who enjoy my kind of fiction. I found most of them by looking at the top books in my genre.
Before approaching them I looked them up on Goodreads. You can see what kind of reviews they offer, and what their average score is. Some will never give a five star review, not even to Lord of the Rings or To Kill A Mockingbird. I simply avoid those and only ask ones who I feel will enjoy my work.
#8– i underestimated the importance of the sample, but many fellow authors have told me that they always read it before purchasing a book. It makes sense. This is your writing, and if it doesn’t grab a reader right off the bat why would they buy your book? If there are spelling or grammatical errors you have even less chance. Before publishing make sure your book is error free, and that your first few chapters are amazing.
Wait a few weeks, then go back and read your sample on Amazon. Do it again a few weeks after that. Keep checking back and making sure that sample is the best you can write, because many, many prospective readers make it this far only to move on without buying.