BOOK MARKETING MAGIC
It would be hard to find anybody who can sell books better than Amazon.
At first, this seems like a great benefit of self-publishing. Just throw your book on Amazon, and the word’s greatest bookseller will sell your book for you, right?
Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Even though you may have heard others speak of book marketing, you stubbornly cling to the hope that you won’t need to learn it.
You just have to see for yourself to realize that you need to market your book.
And then book marketing seems like magic. Only you can’t find the right magic words. Or if you do, apparently you don’t pronounce them quite right. When you try using smoke, mirrors, and sleight of hand, it just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.
But it’s not really magic. You want easy and instant success. That really would be magic. That’s not marketing. That’s too-good-to-be-true luck that will never happen to you.
Book marketing is work. Think and plan long-term, learn effective long-term book marketing strategies, keep writing, and gradually add to your marketing with sights on a professional author platform several months in the future.
You can learn by watching others. And who better to watch than Amazon?
LEARN FROM AMAZON
It’s amazing how much you can learn about book marketing from Amazon.
This is where the fact that Amazon is an exceptional bookseller can help you.
You’re trying to sell books. You want to learn how. Watch the pro.
Obviously, I don’t mean you should create a website, pour millions of dollars into website development and advertising, and sell books yourself.
I mean to study Amazon’s marketing and make connections between how Amazon markets and what you can do to help market your own books.
Some examples follow.
In my opinion, this is Amazon’s #1 marketing asset: content engagement.
The first step is that Amazon has amazing selection, convenience of shopping at home, and good prices.
With all that, plus good customer service, and already the top bookseller, you might think Amazon wouldn’t need to market at all.
Yet, Amazon does market, and markets very well. It shows you that even if you have a great book, you still need to market.
Amazon is exceptional at motivating customer engagement. Here are a few examples:
- Customers engage with the website as they browse Look Insides and read customer reviews.
- After the purchase, they are further engaged with customers-also-bought list recommendations.
- The customer review platform brings customers back to Amazon after the purchase to engage with the site again. A few customers return again to check on voting and comments.
- Kindle Unlimited motivates customers to return time and again to browse for books. With the habit of shopping at Amazon, some subscribers begin to check Amazon first when they need to buy other products besides books.
- Amazon Prime similarly engages customers. Although Prime customers can only borrow one book per month, Prime also engages customers with Amazon Prime Video, for example. Prime customers also tend to shop at Amazon first to take advantage of fee two-day shipping.
- Amazon frequently releases new programs or revises current programs. Each revision or new program is news, so Amazon is often in the media. Many of the programs spark debate among authors or publishers, which creates additional free publicity. The internet is almost always buzzing with the latest developments at Amazon.
- Customers (and authors) can subscribe to a variety of email newsletters. If those emails engage your interest, well, you’re hooked. You’ll be aware of the next development. You’ll see an advertisement for a new service. But the emails aren’t just advertisements. The KDP newsletter, for example, includes a variety of tips and success stories. Good content is needed to make these work.
- Promotional prices and exclusive offers bring customers back to Amazon. I’ve received offers such as: free $20 gift card when you buy $100 in gift cards, exclusive offer for $15 appstore credit, and great sale prices on Kindle devices. Amazon offers a one-time discount on something that’s likely to hook customers by engaging them. Selling a Kindle device at a discount may lead to regular reading of Kindle ebooks, and a free appstore credit can hook you on apps—or just get you in the habit of using Amazon from your phone.
- Customer discussion forums encourage customers to return and engage on the site.
- The KDP community forum engages many self-published authors. It’s not just readers Amazon is engaging.
- The sales and royalty reports also engage authors. Once you dive into self-publishing, it’s a challenge to not check on those reports constantly. Kindle Unlimited’s new pages read policy makes the reporting even more engaging, since pages are likely to be read throughout the day. Sales rank is another number that engages authors.
- Although Amazon has Twitter and Facebook accounts both for customers and for authors, direct social media posts are a minor component of Amazon’s marketing platform. These seem to be there more for the customers who love social media or who want some way to engage with Amazon. Though if you explore Amazon’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, you will see that they post regular content and there is customer engagement there. And although the following is large by a typical author’s standards, compared to how many hits Amazon gets per day, it’s tiny in that regard.
- Amazon launched a new Amazon Giveaway program, where anyone can run a contest by purchasing a new product and having Amazon ship the product directly to the winner. Contest sponsors (for books, usually these are authors) tweet to announce the giveaway with the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag, and often other Twitter users retweet the contests. This way, authors and Twitter users who love to promote contests do all the promotional work, while the hashtag attracts contest lovers through Amazon’s name. It’s a clever and effective use of Twitter hashtags.
HOW DOES THIS HELP YOU?
For one, you too can thrive on content engagement. Obviously, not in quite the same way.
To start with, you should have more than just one kind of content:
- Your books are content, of course. That’s your main content.
- Additional content can come in the form of a content-rich website, for example.
Creating a content-rich website is relatively easy, and you can find relevant nonfiction content even if your book is fiction.
Start out with a simple free blog and make regular (don’t have to be too long or too frequent) posts that have content relevant for your target audience. Blogging can start out very slow, but after months things can really accelerate. If you succeed in generating search engine traffic, you can pull in 100+ visitors per day from your target audience who didn’t already know about your book. My website began as a simple, free WordPress blog, and after a couple of years of growing, it nets hundreds of visitors per day.
Content is king. That is, what really matters most is quality content that your target audience will appreciate. That’s true about your books and also about your website, and any other kind of marketing content that you create. Some people can fool search engines with SEO tricks in the short run, but content rules in the long run.
Once you have the content, you want content engagement. You want your target audience to interact with your content.
Engaging your target audience brings multiple benefits:
- If your readers regularly interact with you, they will be aware of your future releases. But you need engaging content to attract them and hold their interest.
- Lively interaction looks good to newcomers, and helps invite their participation, so that your engaging content reaches beyond your existing fan base.
- Branding, a huge part of marketing, requires repetition. Content engagement gives you that repetition, helping your brand your name and image as author.
- Your audience gets a chance to see your personality. That personal touch can help drive sales, and is more likely to inspire reviews.
Here are some examples of how, like Amazon, you can engage your customers with content:
- It’s kind of funny, but creating new content also helps with content engagement. Each time you release a new book (or even a story), it gives you another chance to engage your audience with it (and grow your audience, too). It’s another chance to create anticipation, do a cover reveal, and invite feedback. You also get new exposure in Amazon’s new release categories each time you release a new book (or a different edition of the same book).
- Blogging provides a regular supply of new content to help engage your audience. Amazon is constantly engaging customers with new products or new programs. Your blog helps you regularly (even once a week is regular) provide opportunities to get discovered by new potential readers and to interact further with current fans. If the content is rich, you have good long-term potential for search engine discovery.
- Another way to engage your audience is to request feedback. Amazon seeks feedback from customers via reviews. Authors can ask for feedback on cover reveals, blurb reveals, ideas for future stories, etc. In addition to engaging your audience, this can help create buzz for new releases or works-in-progress.
- You can create an email newsletter, following Amazon’s example. Amazon includes valuable content, like tips, stories, or promotional discounts, in its email newsletter to make it worthwhile to join the newsletter and to check it out. That’s what you need: an incentive for fans to subscribe and to keep checking it out once a month or so.
- Amazon provides good customer service, with a good return policy. Authors can also supply good personal service. Content engagement lets you provide that personal touch, and show your personality and character. Personal interactions, online and in person, improve an author’s chances for sales and reviews.
- Much like Amazon, authors can offer short-term promotional prices. But, unlike Amazon, which already has a large following, authors must either externally advertise their promotional prices, or must grow a large subscriber base (such as through an email newsletter or an engaged online following). One thing Amazon likes to do is offer a discount on a product that’s highly likely to lead to additional sales. Series authors, for example, can discount the first in a series, hoping that readers will want to read the rest of the series.
- Amazon is often creating buzz. Some new program or revised program has Amazon in the news much of the time. What are you doing that’s new? What are you doing that’s newsworthy? If you get yourself some media coverage, you also get to mention your book in the news. Good old-fashioned media coverage can offer nice exposure. Start small and local, where you’re more likely to have opportunities, and work your way outward as you gain experience.
- You can hold contests. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, or a Goodreads Giveaway, or hold some other kind of contest.
- Follow Amazon, Amazon KDP, and CreateSpace at Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get good ideas for ways to use these tools to engage your audience. Study how often they post, whether to include images, how they use images, what size images they use, etc.
OTHER MARKETING YOU CAN LEARN
There is more you can learn from Amazon about book marketing. Here are a few more examples:
- When you shop at Amazon, what you see are pages of cover thumbnails. Amazon strives to create visual interest. It’s a strong part of marketing. Your own cover thumbnail can help you with this. But so can the images that you use for blog or Facebook posts, for example.
- If you read a long book description at Amazon, you’ll note that it often gets cut off. Customers must click a Read More link to read the rest. What Amazon is telling you is that customers have a short attention span, and won’t read too much just to decide which book to read. The Read More flag is saying, “Make sure your most important information comes before this part of your description.” (Otherwise, most people won’t see it.)
- By organizing the bestsellers in subcategories, Amazon is the perfect repository for you to research how to write and sell a book in the genre or category of your choice. Study the covers, titles, blurbs, Look Insides, biographies, author photos, and product pages. Find those authors online and see what their author pages look like and learn their marketing strategies.
The next time you find yourself interested in a new product at Amazon, stop and think about how you got interested in that product. Is there a lesson that you can learn here? There probably is.
Write happy, be happy. 🙂
Copyright © 2015
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
- 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
- Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)