Strange Magic (the Movie)—and Marketing

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


We saw the movie Strange Magic this weekend.

And in addition to enjoying the movie very much… it got me thinking about marketing.

If you want to learn more about marketing, it helps to see and consider the marketing around you.

Not everything translates directly into book marketing, though. For example, paid advertising tends to be much more effective for paper towels than for books; and no wonder, there aren’t millions of paper towel rolls to choose from.

However, many of the main concepts do translate:

  • easily reading the brand on the label
  • visually appealing to the target audience
  • effective use of color in the packaging
  • text on the product label that not only informs, but sells
  • creating brand name recognition through just the right amount of repetition

Strange Magic, the movie, begins with a bright, colorful scene with a fairy flying. This was visually appealing for the target audience. With books, you want to show your target audience right off the bat (who may be reading the Look Inside as prospective shoppers) that this is very much what they were looking for. You want the beginning to put them in a good mood. Make the audience relax and enjoy the book, rather than thinking critically. Compel the audience to keep reading.

Sitting in the theater, we’d already bought our tickets, so it’s not quite the same thing as the Look Inside of a book, where customers may still be deciding. But if you ever produce a movie, you don’t want people walking out of the theater, and you want everyone to enjoy the movie enough to recommend it, so it’s still important to start out on a positive note. This movie had a great visual beginning.

Another thing you need when you write a book is to have elements of your book that really stand out. Something noteworthy (in a good way!) that may elicit recommendations. Strange Magic has an amazing soundtrack. I don’t normally notice the music much in the theater. This movie had many great tracks; good variety, too. Most played for a short duration, but the movie was packed with great music. That’s a cool feature, where if the audience likes it (a big IF whether producing a movie or writing a book), they might tell other people they know. “Hey, you gotta check this out.” Authors strive to put compelling features in their books. If it’s compelling enough to share with friends, it might lead to valuable recommendations.

Rather than, “That was a great book,” you’re hoping for, “Check this book out because…” An amazing feature can make a difference. The strengths of a book may sell it, but only if the weaknesses don’t prevent the readers from recommending it. Shore up the weaknesses and make the strengths wow. In long-term marketing, content is king.

The movie also has a unique style, artistically. The hairstyles are distinct, and they work. You have to create a distinctive brand, like Sherlock Holmes; something that distinguishes your brand from others. When you write a book, something must define your distinct style (in a good way!). It may be subtle. (If it’s drastic, you take a huge risk.)

The storyline sends a positive message, too. You can see the message as a byline right on the poster: “Everyone Deserves To Be Loved.” Strange Magic is a kids’ movie, but it must also appeal to parents, as they’re the ones who will buy the tickets. And parents (or grandparents) are likely to watch the movie with them. Similarly, books need great storylines, and children’s books need to not only appeal to children, but to parents, too. I enjoyed the storyline very much. So did my daughter.

I also like the title font on the movie poster. The words STRANGE MAGIC are written in a large font, it’s easy to read, the color works well and makes it really stand out, and the style fits the genre. The title font is very important on the packaging. With books, the font on the cover’s thumbnail may be even more important.

The movie poster’s visual image is pretty busy, and doesn’t reflect the bright, colorful imagery shown in the beginning. But maybe it would have been a mistake to base the poster design on the imagery from the movie’s beginning. That may have looked more girlish, whereas the movie isn’t intended just for girls. Similarly, with books, a cover should be striking, but even if it’s quite striking, it will fail if it doesn’t attract the precise target audience. The latter is more important than the former.

If you haven’t seen Strange Magic yet, I recommend it. My daughter does, too.

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

Offline Book Marketing

Juror 1389


A new indie author’s best asset may be offline marketing.

Many new indie authors either (A) don’t market at all or (B) only market online because that seems easier. With many thousands of authors marketing online, it’s hard to stand out, and the top online marketers have already built up huge followings.

There are great opportunities offline. There is less competition for discovery offline, which gives you greater chances of success.

Plus, there is a huge benefit that’s on your side when you market offline.

It’s more personal.

Personal interactions, especially where the prospective readers enjoy that interaction, are more likely to:

  • Check out your book.
  • Review your book.
  • Recommend your book to others (if they enjoy it).
  • Ignore critical reviews on your Amazon product page (so if you run into bad luck with your first few reviews, this is your best chance of stimulating sales despite those reviews). The shopper has interacted with you personally, while those reviewers are unknown sources.

There are many different things that you can do with offline marketing.

Each book is unique, and so is each author. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all offline marketing strategy. Explore your options. Try a variety of strategies out. Get a feel for what appears to work best for you.


Here, I will describe a variety of offline book marketing ideas, and I will use a real author as an example.

I bet you’ll find a few useful tips with strong potential that you hadn’t thought of before.

G.T. Trickle, author of Juror 1389, has done some amazing things in the way of offline book marketing. I will highlight some of these amazing things to serve as examples and inspiration. If you’d like to learn more about G.T. Trickle, please see below.

I will also show examples of specific challenges that G.T. Trickle faced in her offline marketing and how she dealt with these challenges. Strengthen your will and you, too, will find a way.

Tip #1: Improve your sphere of influence.

Wouldn’t it be great to have other people helping to spread the word about your book?

Well, you can recruit help without begging for people to advertise your book for you.

The first step is to choose beta readers wisely. Think about it: They’re reading your early draft, sharing their ideas, developing a vested interest in your book. They become intimately acquainted with your book and want to see your book succeed.

If you’re just using friends for beta readers, you may be greatly diminishing your potential sphere of influence.

G.T. Trickle contacted book clubs with courteous requests for beta readers. She also searched for beta readers among social groups (like churches or community groups) and other people who had influence among readers in her target audience. Imagine people who might recommend your book to dozens or hundreds of other readers in person. That could be huge!

You actually prefer to have strangers in your selection of beta readers. For one, friends share a similar sphere of influence as you do, so strangers help you get beyond your friends and family. For another, strangers can give you that brutally honest criticism that you really need (and you have to prepare to cope with it so you don’t ruin this potential help).

You get a second benefit from beta readers who are involved in clubs or organizations. You can offer their groups a discount. Pass out business cards, bookmarks, or brochures with info regarding how to contact you and order directly at a discount. If they’re local, they also save on shipping. One advantage of selling directly is that you may be able to entice the reader to attend a book signing, which helps to populate an event.

G.T. Trickle didn’t call them beta readers. She created the 1389 Project Team (for her book, Juror 1389). The readers feel like they are part of a team, really involved in the project, rather invested in the project. They want your book to succeed. G.T. identified one team member with a large sphere of influence, and designated this person the 1389 Ambassador. The “ambassador” received a magnet featuring the book cover and “1389 Ambassador” on it, and the ambassador placed this magnet on a golf cart. This magnet suddenly became a conversation piece, as people asked the ambassador about the magnet.

Another great way to improve your sphere of influence is to create an IndieGoGo or Kickstarter campaign. It’s not just about raising funds for your book, but about raising awareness and creating buzz for your book. The packages you offer can include free copies for people who again feel invested in your book’s success, and who may therefore recommend your book to others (if they like your book).

When your book launches, identify people with influence among readers in your target audience and consider giving free copies of your book to them.

For children’s or educational authors, try to get input from teachers, educators, homeschool teachers, and librarians beginning at the developmental stages. They can be valuable in your sphere of influence.

Tip #2: Take advantage of the setting and other unique features of your book.

Where is your book set? If it’s a real location, people who live there (or who would like to visit that locale) may be interested in your book.

In G.T. Trickle’s book, a huge retirement community in Florida was featured in the book. G.T. Capitalized on this as a marketing opportunity. She made arrangements to make an appearance at the rec center. The rec center didn’t actually permit back-of-the-room sales (most venues do), which presented a unique challenge. To combat this, G.T. visited the local Barnes & Noble. The manager verified that Juror 1389 could be ordered in the store through Ingram, and G.T. also spoke to the manager about a possible signing and stocking copies. It’s hard to get into chain bookstores, but some managers make exceptions, but the main thing you want from a chain store is support. Show them that you’re professional and at a minimum strive to foster a supportive attitude from the management and staff in case customers visit the store to order your book. G.T. was targeting retired seniors, many of whom prefer to buy or order in a store rather than Amazon, so this was important.

A book can actually feature multiple locales in its plot, which helps to expand your marketing opportunities. In a locale featured in your book, approach local bookstores and other businesses for possible support. Small local stores are more likely to stock your book. Research how to prepare a press release kit. Start small and local to develop experience and confidence. Some stores will buy your books outright, others prefer consignment. You might be able to sell your book for a discount of 40 to 55% off the list price, or leave them at consignment for 35 to 40% off the list price. It’s a negotiation. You also need to discuss returns, and what happens to lost books left on consignment?

If your book features a real city, this opens the door for a creative marketing opportunity. For example, G.T. Trickle created a promotion based on businesses that a character, Dorsie, visited during her book. G.T. recruited local businesses to display Dorsie was here! posters in town. This is a good selling point for businesses, too, so it’s mutually beneficial. Readers would find the signs in participating businesses. They could get a small freebie (or a discount works, too) by identifying what Dorsie ordered at the business in the novel. Small local businesses tend to be supportive, and like you, they’re looking for creative marketing opportunities. This strategy has the added benefit of helping readers “meet” the character and really immerse themselves in the story.

It’s not just the setting. Where you live is also an asset. Go for local support from bookstores, other stores that may sell books, and local press (small newspapers and radio stations).

Tip #3: Identify your specific target audience.

Your book may have a few specific target audiences. For example, the book may be for mystery readers, but the plot may revolve around a popular sport, which gives you two different audiences to target right off the bat. For a book that involves golf, for example, golf course pro shops and golf stores may be willing to stock your book. Every book has one target audience in terms of genre, but may also have additional target audiences in terms of topic or subject. You want to market your book to all of the specific audiences which are a good fit for your book.

G.T. Trickle knows her specific target audiences well. She identified them and found many opportunities to reach them through offline marketing. She was targeting anyone who followed the Casey Anthony trial, seniors, people who reside in the book’s settings, and local readers, for example. There are several sizable audiences here, and each one can be targeted differently.

She created a 1389 Reader Trivia Contest (the 1389 because the book is called Juror 1389), which required people to read the novel to enter and which was relevant for a specific community in the target audience. Seniors enjoy entering contests (one of G.T.’s target audiences), so this enticed direct sales at offline marketing events.

Another creative marketing opportunity that G.T. Trickle capitalized on was a 1389 pizza night at a local pizza parlor, where she was able to offer free beer to anyone bringing in a book for a signing. That’s an imaginative way to help populate a signing (and to get people to buy the book for the signing).

Tip #4: Press includes more opportunities than you might realize.

You should research how to write a press release and prepare a press release kit. You should contact local newspapers and radio stations. You should think of various angles that can make you or your book newsworthy.

But you should also think outside the box.

G.T. Trickle sought coverage in newsletters from clubs and organizations relevant to her specific target audience. Now look back at Tip #1. If you have a beta reader (I mean Project Team member) who might feel invested in your book simply from being included in the process and who also has influence in a club or organization relevant to your target audience, this improves your chances of getting featured in a valuable newsletter. For those clubs or organizations where you don’t have beta readers, a free copy of your book as part of a press release kit may be enough to garner support.

There may also be magazines or minor television stations that are a good fit for your book. There are many online opportunities, too, among bloggers, online magazines, book reviewers, indie journals, etc.

Tip #5: Strive to create successful events.

You can have a reading or signing, book launch, or other event. Local bookstores, other stores, and libraries may offer some support, but you can also recruit help from coffee shops, restaurants, or theaters (who may benefit from the customers you bring in by selling drinks, for example), and there may also be public places like parks (great for a zombie race), but you may need to check with the city or county first.

You can’t just show up as a no-name author and expect people who don’t know you to show up. Getting the support from other people as described in Tip #1 is a good way to find people to help populate a few events and to help recruit others to attend. But you don’t just want a few people to show up to an event, and you can’t expect the same group to show up to all your events. Friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers can help a little, but you really want some strangers who are genuinely in your target audience to show up. The busier your event is, the better impression it will make on those who attend (and pulling in strangers who inquire about what’s going on), and the more people who didn’t already know about your book who show up, the more effective the event will be. You need to focus on how to draw in strangers from your target audience as well as how to recruit attendance and people with influence to help recruit attendance. You really need to build good connections in your community and to have good personal interactions.

Your project team and other people who can help expand your sphere of influence (recall Tip #1) can help you hold a successful book launch. G.T. Trickle worked very hard to assemble her project team and build connections for a wide sphere of influence, and she also contacted local press with a press release kit. The result was a festive book launch with the press attending.

Tip #6: Seek duplication.

When you interact with people in your target audience, they see your message once.

What you really want is to duplicate your message, but not by repeating your message yourself.

You’d really like to have other people sharing your message.

This helps to brand an image for your book or for you as an author.

People are more likely to buy a product they recognize.

People are more likely to trust recommendations from people they know.

The way to help with duplication is to recruit support from other people. Tip #1 is particularly helpful with your project team. But you can also get valuable help from local press, people with influence to whom you send free copies, online bloggers and reviewers, etc.

Tip #7: Add the personal touch.

You want to interact with people in person.

Personal interactions may be your biggest marketing asset as a new indie author.

The personal touch shows that you’re a human. It helps to generate interest in your book. It helps to generate interest in you, which can translate to interest in your book.

People who interact with you personally and who enjoy that interaction are more likely to check out your book, buy your book, review your book, or recommend your book to others. They’re also more likely to ignore any critical reviews on your product page.

Think discovery, not advertisement. What I mean is, if you walk into a room, don’t say, “Hey, I’m an author and I just wrote a book,” but spark up an interesting conversation and try to get someone to ask you, “What do you do for a living?” That’s a golden opportunity to mention your book.

Appear confident, but balance this with humility. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but can be quite effective when done well.

Tip #8: Print bookmarks.

You could make business cards, brochures, posters, bumper stickers, and a host of other promotional items.

One of the more effective promotional tools for authors is the bookmark.

Why? Because readers are more likely to actually use a bookmark, but are far more likely to throw your business card in a junk drawer.

Business cards are nice, too, as they fit in a wallet. If you can find people willing to put your business card in their wallet, go for it. But you can acquire many more business cards than will fit in a wallet, in which case that bookmark may actually get used.

The bookmark should be visually appealing and while it should feature your book and online marketing platform, it should also not seem like an advertisement.

Overnight Prints, Vista Print, iPrint, and a host of other sites print promotional items fit for authors. Some of these have nice holiday pricing right now, too.

Posters can come in handy if you can get support from local businesses.

But you want to give something to everyone you mention your book to, so they can easily find your book and learn more about it.

Tip #9: Sell directly, too.

If you can achieve consistent sales on, that will be huge.

But that’s not easy to do when you’re starting out. And even if you do get consistent sales from strangers at early on, it will still help to supplement this by reaching readers offline.

Selling directly won’t impact your Amazon sales rank directly, but enhancing your readership may give your more online and offline sales in the future.

Selling directly does give you the chance to earn a higher royalty, and it also allows you to offer a discount while still earning a good (possibly still higher than Amazon) royalty. That discount can help to attract customers, and customers buying in person also save on shipping.

Buy more copies than you need and buy well in advance. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to exchange defective copies, and you may need replacements for replacements. Better safe than sorry. You can find horror stories on the internet from authors who’ve booked successful events, but who hadn’t ordered extra copies or placed their orders far enough in advance.

Another benefit of selling directly is that you can sign the book.

Yet another benefit is that you can offer a discount to clubs, groups, or organizations (return yet again to Tip #1).

Tip #10. Seek feedback on your offline marketing.

You become a better marketer through experience and feedback.

So don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.

When you approach your first few local stores, ask for advice on your approach and pitch before moving onto the next store.

In general, people like to give advice. You also need to be wise about which advice to take.

Also seek advice from people who know or respect who attend your events.

Tip #11. The book itself includes marketing.

In offline marketing, you need the front cover, spine, and back cover to make an excellent visual impression.

People will see your book stacked up at your event. It needs to attract your target audience.

People will pick it up and check it out. It needs to look appealing inside. The front matter and beginning of the first chapter need to sell your book. The back cover blurb needs to compel readers to look inside.

The better your story, the more likely people are to recommend it to others. Not just the story, but also the way it’s told.

Selling print copies gives you added benefits. One of these benefits is that people will see your book on coffee tables, in planes, on trains, on buses, at airport terminals, and anywhere else somebody might be reading your book. The better your cover, the more likely people will ask someone about your book, and the better your story, the more likely you’ll get valuable recommendations.


G.T. Trickle is the author of Juror 1389.

She has largely focused on direct sales and bookstores, though of course her book is also available from,, and other online stores.

Check out her website here:

Check out her book at Amazon here:

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday:

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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
  • Boxed set now available for Kindle and in print (limited time offer: Kindle boxed set currently 80% off the price of buying separately)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Marketing the Wrong Element of Your Book

Marketing Images


The big challenge of book marketing is finding what works for you.

It’s often not just what you do, but how you do it.

The difference between a successful or unsuccessful marketing technique may lie in something incredibly simple.

Like which element of your book you mention.

You do mention your book in all your marketing.

Online, at the very least, you show the title of your book or a picture of the cover.

In person, you also mention the title of your book.

Online, you include a link to your product page.

In person, you pass out a business card—or even better, a bookmark.

But the title of the book may not be enough to really show potential readers if your book really is a good fit for them.

And a lengthy description is too much to give in passing.

What you need is very brief clarification.

But not the genre. That’s not enough.

You say something like, “It’s a mystery.”

No, that’s not enough.

But your description won’t work either. That’s way too long. (Until they finally arrive at your product page.)

I know, every newbie author would be thinking, “I want every mystery lover to read my book.”

Or, more realistically, “I don’t want to lose out on a possible sale from any mystery lovers.”

You don’t want to clarify that it’s set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s because anyone who doesn’t care for Brooklyn or the 1800’s will pass it up.

Newsflash: Once they check out the Look Inside, if they really don’t like Brooklyn or the 1800’s, it’s not going to matter that you got the customer all the way to your product page.

Instead, you’re losing traffic from your specific target audience—those mystery readers (and non-mystery readers) who really would like to read a book set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s.

Those readers hear, “It’s a mystery,” and think to themselves, “So are thousands of other books.”

If instead they hear, “It’s a mystery set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s,” those who would like such a book think, “Hey, that’s a mystery that I might really enjoy.”

Think through the various elements of your book. Talk it out with others who are familiar with your book.

Which aspects of your book may attract specific target audiences?

It could be the theme (a historical novel that takes place in the Civil War), topic (a spy novel about submarines), setting (a city that many people have visited or would like to imagine living in), an era (a time period like the Renaissance), character traits (a protagonist dealing with a particular medical condition), or a number of other qualities.

What can people relate to? What might draw interest in your book? What could serve as a helpful conversation piece?

Check out the following article on Just Publishing, which describes this and nine other common book marketing mistakes:

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Authors: Don’t Be Afraid to Strike Out

Strike Out


Sometimes, the only difference between an author who becomes highly successful and thousands who struggle to get discovered is this:

The author who became highly successful wasn’t afraid to strike out swinging.

Many authors don’t try to find an agent or traditional publisher. They’re afraid to strike out.

Many authors who do try to find an agent or traditional publisher give up after a few rejections. Having struck out a few times, they’d rather not strike out again.

Many authors don’t try to get their books stocked in local bookstores. They might strike out.

Many authors don’t try to get the press to cover their stories. The answer could be NO.

Many authors give up after self-publishing a couple of books. Striking out is no fun.

Many authors are afraid to seek advice from successful authors.

Many authors ignore big opportunities and focus only on the smallest ones.

But you can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t step up to the plate.

Chances are that you will strike out a lot.

But the solution isn’t to give up.

If you don’t like striking out, work on your approach so that the next time you have a better shot.

It may not be as simple as asking.

There is a little more to it than that.

You have to learn to ask the right way.

For example, there are better and worse ways to prepare a press release kit or a query letter.

Keep working on your story idea and pitch until you nail them.

And experience is a big factor.

You have to strike out several times to gain that experience.

Do your research, as that helps much, too.

You can learn much from others who’ve stepped to the plate many times and finally learned how to get on base.

Work hard to improve as an author.

Work hard writing as that hard work can go a long way.

That hard work and experience give you a solid foundation to stand on.

Build connections.

Seek advice.

Start with small things to build confidence, but don’t stop with the small things.

Visualize the successful outcome you wish to achieve and work toward it.

Remind yourself that you CAN do it.

Odds are in your favor when you play the long game.


A little over a year ago, I had this idea for a Black Friday just for books.

I mentioned it on my blog and received much initial support, but it was just an idea and there were only a couple of months to the big event.

I asked for help.

Authors generously helped spread the word and signed up.

I sought help with a press release and publicity and received much support.

I took a few chances, asking for really BIG opportunities for exposure or help.

One of these came through this year.

The simple fact is that if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with hundreds (surely, thousands) of self-published authors.

A surprising number of those I’ve met have achieved some nice levels of success.

Most of the highly successful authors whom I’ve met are not afraid to strike out.

They’ve gone to the plate many times and struck out many times, but finally learned how to make contact.

Don’t be afraid to strike out.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free:

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Authors, What Are You Selling?


The Question

Aren’t you selling more than just a book? much more?

If all you’re selling is a book, that’s a big problem for you: It’s easy to find books. The library has thousands. You can find thousands in bookstores, millions on Amazon, and hundreds at yard sales.

It takes more—much more—than just a book to make it worth reading.

  • What more are you offering than just a book?
  • Who is likely to benefit from what your book offers?

You want to identify the benefits your book offers, the people most likely to appreciate those benefits, and figure out how to match those people (your target audience) with your book.

Well, duh!

But many authors either aren’t doing this, or aren’t taking full advantage of this seemingly simple logic.

Features vs. Benefits

People don’t buy anything.

People don’t buy features.

People may buy benefits (if those benefits are a good fit for them and they perceive the benefits as a good value).

Example: Someone asks you, “Was self-publishing your book easy to do?”

  • Nothing special: “The writing was fun, but the editing and formatting were nightmares.” You missed a golden opportunity here to introduce a benefit.
  • Features: “It was because I really enjoyed the writing, which took two years, and I hired an editor for the tedious part.” This highlights two features: Ample time spent on the writing and having your book edited.
  • Benefits: “I really enjoyed the months that I spent studying swordsmanship and how to describe it in fiction, and I hired an editor to make sure it reads very well.” First, if you’re really into swords and sorcery, this sounds authentic. Second, people don’t care for the editor (that’s a feature), but they may appreciate that it will read well (that’s the benefit).

You might be thinking, “Well, if you mentioned the editor, it should be obvious that the book should read well.” But not necessarily. For one, there are different types of editors. Some customers might interpret mention of the editor to mean that there are no spelling mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that it will read well.

And not everyone will make the connection. Sales people have better success when they describe benefits than when they list features, especially when they describe specific ways that a product will benefit each individual.


  • Nothing special: “This television measures 27 inches diagonally.” Everyone is thinking, “So do many other televisions.”
  • Feature: “This television comes with picture-in-picture.” Many customers are thinking, “Well, I don’t need that. I’d rather save money.”
  • Benefit: “With picture-in-picture built-in, your husband won’t have to change the channel during your soap opera to check the score of the game every few minutes.” Now if this applies to you, you may be starting to consider the benefit that this feature offers. You might not have considered this benefit just from the feature itself. You might have interpreted the feature to mean you could watch two shows at once, which you didn’t intend to do.

Just-a-Book Marketing

If all you have to offer is a book, then it should be satisfactory to just:

  • Tell people that you have a book. That should do it, right? Maybe tell the genre, too. But a romance novel is still one of thousands. What makes it special?
  • Keep mentioning the title so that people can remember it. But if they do remember, why should they read it?
  • Show people the cover so they can see it. But if they do see it, why should they care to find out what’s inside it?
  • Advertise that it’s on sale. But people don’t buy prices. They need a reason to want the book before price helps to create value.

Branding is important, and branding does involve getting your target audience to see your cover, your title, and your name multiple times over a long period so that they recognize it.

But branding is more effective when they associate some benefit with your book.

When you hear Sony, do you think high quality? When you hear Costco, do you think large quantities and good savings? When you hear Disneyland, do you think your kids would be happy to go there? When you hear McDonald’s, do you expect fast service and low prices? When you hear Bounty, do you think absorbent?

You want to associate some benefit with your brand. Then, when your target audience is shopping for a book in your genre and remembers your book, they will have some positive quality to associate with it.

They might not buy your book just because they recognize it. But if they recognize it and a benefit comes to mind, this greatly improves your chances for a sale.

But it’s not just about the book. It’s about you, too.

More-than-a-Book Marketing

There are two ways to offer more than just a book:

  • Mention a specific benefit that your book offers.
  • Remember that the author is an important part of the book and marketing.

This second point can make a big impact on marketing effectiveness. We’ll get to this in the next section.

Your product description is a valuable marketing tool. Think about the important benefits that your book offers your target audience. These benefits should be clear from reading your blurb, but fiction is a little tricky because the benefits generally must be implicit.

The author’s biography provides a chance to show how the author is qualified to write the book. For nonfiction, this is often a relevant degree or experience. For fiction, if you have a writing degree, you should play your card, but if not, you may still have relevant experience. Have you traveled to the place where part of your book is set? Have you spent a significant amount of time learning or studying a relevant skill, like forensics for a crime novel?

Instead of trying to brand just your book’s title, you might develop a concise phrase to serve as a hook. Use this to create interest in your book and to associate your book with a positive quality. Anywhere you mention your book’s title, you could include the hook next to it, such as at the end of blog posts, emails, or on business cards. You can even mention it in person, at readings, signings, or anytime you get the opportunity to interact with your target audience and the subject of your book comes up.

Example: Instead of just mentioning the title, A See-Through Relationship, you could also include the hook, “What if you fell in love with a ghost?”

It’s not easy to come up with a clever, appropriate, effective, very short hook, but it can really be worth it if you pull it off. It’s definitely worth spending time thinking about this.

I bet you recognize some company slogans. The hook works for authors much the same way.

When you have the chance to describe your book, online or in person, you want to make the benefits of your book clear. The better you know your target audience’s interests, the better you can show them how your book may benefit each individual.

The Author

It’s challenging to get people interested in your book.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party, but it’s not an ordinary cocktail party. 90% of the people in attendance are sci-fi enthusiasts, and you have a science fiction book.

Suppose you set your book on a table in the center of the room and leave. I bet a few people will pick up the book, if the cover has good appeal, and check it out. But it’s just a book, and people didn’t attend a cocktail party looking for a book. They went to the party to meet people.

If instead you leave your book at home, but this time you stay at the party, there is a good chance that you will meet many people and get people interested in you.

You have a pulse. You move around. You talk. You interact. Unlike your book.

It’s easier to get people interested in you, the author, than it is to get people interested in your book.

Once people become interested in you, let them naturally discover that you’re an author, and their interest in you may translate into interest in your book.

By discover, I mean waiting for, “So what have you done lately?” instead of volunteering, “I just published a new book.” Wait for the prompt.

Use this to your advantage: Interact with your target audience, both in person and online.

You have a personality; your book doesn’t. You can interact with people; your book just sits there.

People in the target audience who personally interact with an author are more likely to check out a book, buy it, and leave a review than some random stranger who happens across it.

Online, a large number of people can come across your book. But to most of them, it’s just a book they see while passing through.

On your product page, your description may help to show the benefits, but first you need them to find your product page.

In person, your interactions can help to get people interested in your book through their interest in you, and then you can show them the benefits personally. Now you’re selling more than just a book.

You can also provide the personal touch online. You can also let people see that you’re more than just a name; you can help them discover the person behind the book.

More Than Just an Author

Chris McMullen, more than just the author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Your Blog Traffic Includes Three Audiences


Target Audience

It’s important to identify your target audience and prepare content for that audience.

It’s also important to realize that your blog has three different audiences:

  • Active bloggers who frequently read your posts and contribute to the comments section.
  • Fans who stop by to check out your blog, who may find helpful content and continue to visit.
  • Potential customers who discover your blog through search engines, links to your website, etc.

Each audience is important in its own way:

  • Fellow bloggers who frequently like your posts and interact in the comments section give your blog life and personality. This activity makes you feel better and creates a great vibe when your other audiences discover your posts. Much of your following consists of other WordPress bloggers, Facebook followers, and Twitter followers.
  • Fans of your current books may discover your blog from the About the Author section of your books. They may be hoping to learn more about you, find additional content on your website, or receive updates about your works in progress.
  • People in your target audience who discover your blog through search engines are prospective customers. They didn’t already know about your book before discovering your blog. If the search terms they used are highly relevant for both the content on your website and in your books, your blog is working to help customers find you (rather than you trying to find customers).

Blog Traffic

It’s easy to get caught up in views, likes, follows, and immediate sales.

When you start out, these numbers can seem quite frustrating, since blogging tends to be very slow in the beginning.

Most of your likes, follows, and initial views are coming from other WordPress bloggers. Most of these bloggers aren’t in your target audience.

Fellow bloggers can provide amazing support, offer helpful advice, help to spread the word about you in the social media world, add to your following, and make your posts look engaging. You can also find wonderful friends among other bloggers.

But remember, most of these—totally awesome—bloggers aren’t in your target audience. Yes, some of your blog pals will support you with sales and word-of-mouth recommendations. But most of your potential customers aren’t to be found in your likes, follows, and initial views.

Your following will consist of some fans once you begin to attract readers. However, fans may represent a very thin slice of your total following. Much of your following may consist of ghosts, i.e. people who clicked the Follow button, but will almost never read your posts. But if you have readers and you direct them to your blog, some of them will show up as fans.

Tip: Don’t just include a link to your blog. Also add a reason to visit your blog. What will they find there that will make the trip worthwhile?

When you do a cover reveal, your fans will help you build buzz for the new release. When you release a new book, fans will help you with early sales and reviews. The larger your fan base, the better the potential of your next book launch.

Fans are people in your target audience who already know about your book. Bloggers mostly already know about your book, but aren’t likely to be in your target audience.

(Exceptions are fantastic, but they are still exceptions. Most of the books I’m reading now were written by WordPress authors that I met here. There are many WordPress bloggers who read books by fellow bloggers. This is all wonderful, but remember that most bloggers are outside of your target audience.)

Your website will be most successful in generating sales when it reaches people in your target audience who don’t already know about your book.

(Sales may not be the best measure of success, nor the best motivation for having a blog. Blog and write to share your passion. But in the interest of helping to share your passion through sales, the question of how to generate more sales may have some importance to you.)

That’s where the search engine can be a valuable tool. Prepare content that is likely to attract people in your target audience to your blog. The material has to be highly relevant both to your audience and to your books. Even if you write fiction, you can make some nonfiction posts that relate to the content of your books.

Test out keywords on Google. The keyword should be relevant to your post, relevant to your audience, searched for with some frequency, but not so popular that your post will be drowned out by many other articles.

When you see views of old posts every day, when your WordPress stats show that you have a large percentage of search engine traffic, and when the keywords searched for are highly relevant for your books, then you know that you’re doing some things right to attract people through a content-rich website.

This can start out very slow. If you write a post hoping to attract people through search engines, you might see dismal results in the beginning. It takes quality content and even then you must persevere through a long slow period.

After six months, if you have dozens of views every day coming from search engines, your blog traffic consists of hundreds of people per month who didn’t previously know about your books. There is incredible potential here, well worth the effort and the patience required to see it through.


On the one hand, you’re trying to establish your own brand, and this comes about from consistency and unity.

But on the other hand, variety helps to attract different parts of your target audience because even people who share some common interests do think much differently. Variety also gives you some flavor for your blogging.

It is possible to show variety while also being unified toward the same brand.

You want to prepare material for all three audiences, and to mix it up. This helps you engage everybody, such that when people stop by, on any given day one of your recent posts is likely to appeal to them.

  • Engage your fellow bloggers and interact with them.
  • Have content that will interest your fans and encourage them to visit your blog periodically.
  • Post content that will attract your target audience through search engines.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Newbie Author Book Marketing Mistakes

Marketing Mistakes


When you first publish, it’s natural to make marketing mistakes. It’s also natural for toddlers to prefer to poop where they are instead of wasting valuable play time by going to the potty. Either way, as you get older, it pays to overcome these natural tendencies:

  • You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the first impression is often a lasting one. Try not to make yours with your tongue sticking out.
  • Some of your online activity leaves a permanent record; not all of your mistakes can be undone. If only life came with an Undo button… “I’m so sorry!” doesn’t always work.
  • An important part of marketing is branding a professional image of yourself. Mistakes aren’t easy to overcome. Think before you act. And do a little research.

(1) Me Me Me Me Me Me Me

Try this. (Not really.) Walk around the block. Stop at every neighbor’s house. If they’re home, spend a few minutes telling them about your book. A few hours later, walk around the block and do this again. Repeat every few hours for a week.

You wouldn’t really do this, would you? (I hope not.)

Some newbie authors repeatedly tell the same audience over and over repeating over and over repeating over and over (in case you don’t get the idea, I could go on…) about their books.

You do need to help people discover your book. But you don’t need to transform into a human-size mosquito to do it:

  • Chances are that people will be more interested in you than in your book. Let people get to know you and get interested in you, then when they learn that you’ve written a book, that interest may translate into your book.
  • Most people don’t like advertisements. Let people discover your book. You can mention it briefly at the bottom of posts on your website, for example. When talking to people, wait for them to ask you what you’ve done lately. Then they discover that you’re an author. That’s better than shoving your book down their throats.
  • Focus on what is likely to interest your target audience, then let your book become visible once they are drawn in. For example, a content-rich website helps to get your target audience to come to you (instead of you hunting them down like a hound dog). If your book is on sale, that’s worth announcing up front occasionally, but otherwise you want valuable content to draw your readers in, then mention your book at the end or off to the side.

(2) Another Place to Mention ME

Have you ever seen a list of hundreds or thousands of books at a discussion forum with a title like, “Self-Promote Your Book Here”?

Who is reading these lists? Other authors who are hoping to promote their books! Why would readers go there? The books aren’t even sorted by genre.

Strive to find ways to reach your specific target audience. And see point (1).

You know what these “Promote Your Book Here” threads are really for? They are detour signs designed to keep mosquitoes out of the park. 🙂

But some mosquitoes venture into the park anyway and blatantly self-promote where it’s strictly forbidden (or strongly discouraged). Get ready to dodge those flyswatters!

(3) Money Go Bye Bye

Don’t understand the marketing beast? That’s okay. Just throw money at it. Money will solve all your problems, right? Not! If it were that easy, everybody would be making big $$$ selling books. (It is possible to become a successful author, but it takes quality content, perseverance, hard work, and a long-term perspective.)

Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and many other websites will be happy to take your money to advertise your book. Even Amazon will take your money to advertise (but there is a $10,000 minimum, which is a lot more money than most newbie authors want to watch burn in a bonfire).

I’m not saying that advertising can’t be effective. Just that advertising isn’t going to solve your problem of why your book isn’t selling. If your book’s not selling, figure out how to get it to sell on its own before you start playing the advertising game. When you do advertise, start small and work your way up, and have the sense to quit when it doesn’t seem to be working. Advertising a special promotion may be more effective than advertising one book. And waiting until you have a dozen similar books before you spend good $$$ to advertise makes more sense than advertising just a few books.

There are a lot of people and businesses who will be happy to take your money, and some will promise things you really want to hear.

Much of the most effective marketing is FREE (yeah, baby!) and it’s work that you have to do yourself. Even if a publicist arranges engagements for you, you’re still the one who has to show up, do the work, make a fantastic impression, and not manage to stick three feet in your mouth while doing it. Personal interactions with your target audience can be highly effective because it’s easier to draw interest in a person than an inanimate book, and this is something you can do for free all by your lonesome self.

Paid advertising for books doesn’t work the same way as it does for most other products, and it’s even worse for newbie authors:

  • People need toilet paper. People can live without books. (Honestly, I don’t understand how it’s possible, but evidently it is.)
  • There are a dozen brands of toilet paper to choose from. Amazon has 30,000,000 different books to choose from.

Last time you drove down the freeway and saw a Victoria’s Secret billboard, did you weave over to the exit from the fast lane and head straight to the mall? That’s not how advertising works. It doesn’t hypnotize the audience to buy the product immediately. Advertising strives to achieve branding. You see or hear a brand today, next month, a few times this year, and hopefully many consumers will recognize the brand several months from now when they’re in the market for that product or service. When you’re buying a new product, if you prefer a brand name you’ve heard of before, advertising has worked its magic on you.

(4) Hop on the Band Wagon

I’ve got a busload full of newbie authors here. We’re driving off a cliff because that worked for one other lucky author who managed to survive the fall and the publicity did wonders for his books. Hop in!

If it worked well for others, shouldn’t it work well for you, too?

  • One size doesn’t fit all. Each book has a unique audience. Each author has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Tailor your marketing plan to your specific book, audience, and to your strengths.
  • Marketing is dynamic. What was hot last year might be a dud this year.

Focus on how to reach your specific target audience, especially people who don’t already know about your book.

Consider what fraction of your marketing may actually reach your specific target audience. For example, much of a social media following may be inactive, whereas visitors who discover a content-rich website through a search engine are more apt to be in your specific target audience. This doesn’t mean that social media can’t be effective, just that you need to find a way to use it effectively to reach your audience in order to make it worthwhile.

(5) Please, please, please review my book. P L E A S E.

Oh, no, your book isn’t selling? Maybe some reviews will do the trick. (More likely, they won’t solve your problem.)

  • Don’t beg for reviews. Don’t ask for reviews. Don’t pay for reviews (this violates review guidelines). Do you want to brand a professional author image? Or would you rather look needy? (Maybe you are needy. You need sales. That’s fine. Be needy. But don’t look needy.)
  • If you “recruit” reviews, your reviews will probably look like they were recruited. Recruited reviews are likely to arouse buyer suspicion. Just glowing remarks, a lot of praise without explanation, a lot of reviews for a newly published book with a high sales rank… these kinds of things are like putting a neon sign on your product page: What’s funny about this picture?
  • The unpredictable assortment of balanced reviews that comes about naturally through sales may be the best reviews you can get. (Now getting a blog review posted on a blog is different. That helps to promote your book without affecting your product page.) It’s tough. Buyers want to see reviews, but they really want to see natural comments from strangers. But you don’t have to stimulate reviews to stimulate sales; you can stimulate sales to get natural reviews. (Psst. It’s called marketing and it’s a big secret. If you have memorable fiction content or helpful nonfiction content and you market effectively, sales and reviews will come naturally.)
  • Another no-no: Don’t thank all your reviewers, and don’t defend your book against bad reviews through comments. At first, thanking reviewers seems to provide a personal touch, but many customers feel strongly that authors should try to avoid this customer space. It’s a risk to leave a comment as that may deter sales. Do thank people on your blog—that’s your turf. Your customer review section is the customers’ turf. Don’t get into a turf war. The reviewer will win the battle every time. How? You leave a comment on the review. You know what will happen next? The reviewer will respond to your comment, asking you a question. Now, you have to answer that question, right? Pretty soon what you intended to be one comment turns into a lengthy discussion. You lose; game over.

Of course, you could also do the logical thing and find beta readers from your target audience, join a writing forum, and get your book edited before publishing. You do need feedback. Get as much as you can before your book goes live.

The newbie authors is praying for reviews. Then a bad review criticizes the book and the newbie author is cursing the whole review system.

Newbie authors really don’t know what they want…

Me Me Me Me Me Me Me (Again, but this time it’s really ME)

Chris McMullen, an author who didn’t mention his books at all until the very end of this post (but if you wanted me to shove a book down your throat earlier, all you had to do was ask—it was highly inconsiderate of me not to offer a snack—well, I did sneak one of my covers into the image for this post…). 🙂

A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

The Critical Book Sales / Marketing Chain


Sales Formula

How many books will you sell? There is a simple formula for this:

SALES = (# of views) X (% of buys)

For example, if 1000 people view your book every day, but only 0.5% of those people purchase your book, you would sell 5 copies per day.

The two ways to maximize sales are to

  1. Maximize the frequency with which people view your book—i.e. increase your book’s exposure.
  2. Improve the percentage of people who purchase your book after viewing it—i.e. improve the buying ratio.

Wasted Effort

If your buying ratio is lousy, any time you spend improving your book’s discoverability is wasted because the buying ratio is inefficient. It would be 20 times more effective to raise your buying ratio from 0.001% to 0.1% (that’s 100x better) than it would be to increase your daily views from 1000 to 5000 (that’s 5x better). (The 20 times more effective compares 100x to 5x.)

Too many authors are focused on increasing the number of views instead of improving the % of buys. The latter may be easier and more effective.

You probably get hundreds or thousands of more initial views than you realize. sells millions of books every day (because the top 200,000 or so sell at least one copy per day, and the top books sell hundreds of books per day, adding up to millions overall). Shoppers view many more books than they buy, so there are probably billions of books seen on Amazon every day. At this stage, I’m saying that the thumbnail has been seen, but the book may not have been clicked on.

Of these billions of views, many shoppers click on one of the Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days links, which helps to find new releases. This filters the search results to help books that are otherwise hard to find get discovered in the first few months of the publication date.

TIP: Don’t enter a publication date at CreateSpace or Kindle. Leave this blank and the publication date will automatically be the date that you click the magic button to publish your book. This maximizes your book’s exposure in the new release categories.

Why should we think that a newly published book buried in Amazon’s haystack may be viewed hundreds or thousands of times more than the sales (or lack thereof) might suggest? (Again, by view, I mean that the thumbnail has been seen, not necessarily the product page.)

Because there are unmarketed books that get discovered and start selling frequently right off the bat. Although this is a rare percentage of books, it does happen, which shows that shoppers are discovering books through the new release filters.

Most books that don’t sell frequently on their own generally suffer more from a poor buying ratio than from poor exposure.

Buying Ratio

The buying ratio depends on this critical marketing chain:

  1. What percentage of people who see the thumbnail click on the book to visit the product page?
  2. What percentage of people who view the product page click to look inside?
  3. What percentage of people who look inside purchase the book?

This gives us another formula:

% of buys = (% of clicks) X (% of look insides) X (% of closes)

where the percentage of closes corresponds to point 3 from the marketing chain.

Suppose 1000 people view your book everyday, but:

  • 990 of them don’t click on it because it doesn’t look like it belongs to a genre that they read. In this case, a simple cover mistake may be costing you many sales.
  • 990 of them don’t click on it because the cover doesn’t look like it belongs in the category that it’s listed under. Such a target audience mismatch can greatly deter sales.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page, 495 of those don’t look inside because the blurb describes a different genre than the cover depicted. The cover and blurb must send a unified message.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page, 490 of those don’t look inside because the blurb doesn’t capture their interests.
  • while 500 of those people do click on your book to see the product page and 250 of those go on to look inside, 248 of those don’t make the purchase because the Look Inside doesn’t seal the deal.

More Sales

If you can improve the buying ratio, it will significantly improve your sales frequency.

There are three steps in the chain. Just one problem with these three steps can greatly deter sales even if the other steps are incredible:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of your cover at attracting your target audience. Cover appeal isn’t satisfactory. The most effective covers (A) pull you into them and (B) grab the specific target audience.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of your blurb to engage the interest of and arouse the curiosity of your target audience.
  3. Improve the effectiveness of your Look Inside in convincing your target audience that your book is Mr. Right for them.

A great cover with a lousy blurb = many lost sales.

A great cover and great blurb with a lousy Look Inside = many lost sales.

It’s really hard to make all 3 fantastic. But that’s what it takes to achieve a highly effective buying ratio.

Consider these points when designing your cover:

  • Spend hours researching bestselling covers within your specific subgenre. Find top sellers overall, good sellers with content similar to yours, and the best indie books. These are the kinds of images, font styles, and layouts that attract your target audience. But note that top authors and publishers can get away with a lesser cover due to name recognition.
  • Study cover design tips and mistakes. You can find such lists here at my blog, for example (click the Cover Design tab above).
  • Consider hiring a cover designer. You might think you can’t afford one. It might turn out that you really can’t afford not to have one. If you get a highly effective cover (now that’s a big IF, not guaranteed by hiring a designer, so do your research well) that improves your buying ratio by 10 times, that could make a huge difference over the next few years (especially, when you finally reach the level of having a professional author platform and several books out). On the other hand, if the blurb, Look Inside, or content greatly deter sales, that will put a huge dent in your cover’s potential effectiveness. There are no guarantees.
  • Get feedback, especially from your target audience. Be patient and redesign as needed.

Consider these points when writing your blurb:

  • Spend hours studying the blurbs of top selling books in your specific subgenre. What makes these books seem interesting? Does the writing flow well? Are the easy to read, or do you have to puzzle them out? Do they engage your interest throughout? Do they arouse your curiosity and make you want to click to look inside?
  • Don’t write a summary of your book for your blurb!
  • Ask yourself and your beta readers which elements of your book are most likely to attract interest in your book. Your blurb should use these effectively to draw out the shopper’s curiosity. You don’t want to give out information, but want to plant seeds that will make the reader want to know more.
  • Every sentence of your blurb needs to engage the shopper’s interest. Any sentence that doesn’t can greatly diminish your buying ratio.
  • Any spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes can greatly deter sales. Let’s face it: If you make a mistake in a 100-word blurb, that doesn’t bode well for writing tens of thousands of words well. Get help combing through this carefully.
  • Make sure your blurb reads well, flows well, and will be easy for your target audience to comprehend. Most people are looking for an easy read.
  • Shorter is often more effective for fiction. Anything extra increases the chances of the reader walking away. Come out punching, hook the reader, and make the reader look inside to learn more. For nonfiction, concise may also be good, though there are also benefits of showing expertise, qualifications, and listing selling features. If so, use basic HTML or go to Author Central to separate your paragraphs with blank lines and to use bullets to list features.
  • Get feedback, especially from successful indie authors and your target audience. Be patient and rewrite as many times as it takes to nail it.

Consider these points when preparing the Look Inside:

  • Browse through dozens of professional looking Look Insides of top selling books in your genre and compare them closely to your book. Don’t copy them; rather, learn what makes them highly effective.
  • Good editing and formatting are more important than many authors realize. Books tend to have more mistakes than the author realizes because the author tends to see what he or she meant to write rather than every word exactly as it was written. Get help ironing out your Look Inside. Your Look Inside is the only salesperson at Amazon making the difference between Buy It Now and Walk Away. Yeah, it’s that important.
  • The Look Inside needs to grab the reader’s interest right off the bat, arouse the reader’s curiosity, and seem like the kind of book that the cover and blurb depicted. The cover and blurb create expectations; the Look Inside must deliver on the promise.
  • The Look Inside must read well. The words should flow well. Even little things, like avoiding repetition, varying sentence structure, organizing your ideas well into paragraphs, dialog tags, and consistent style can have a significant impact if everything else is right.
  • This last point is huge. Your book idea has to have a significant audience (or a significant niche audience), and the category, cover, and blurb have to be effective at reaching this audience. The first step really is to research the potential of your book, starting by finding similar books and seeing how well they do, then by receiving ample feedback before, during, and after your book is written.

Putting extra time into perfecting the effectiveness of your cover, blurb, and Look Inside can pay huge dividends over the lifetime of your book. Rushing can cost you big time.

The X Factor

There is another factor that can have a huge impact on your buying ratio besides your cover, blurb, and Look Inside:

The impression that the content of your book has on your audience.

This make a big difference in the way of reviews, recommendations, and word-of-mouth referrals.

If you have a fantastic cover, a killer blurb, and an amazing Look Inside, but the content fails to meet the expectations that the cover, blurb, and Look Inside created, everything can backfire.

Bad reviews that highlight important points (i.e. important to buyers) which shoppers can corroborate with your Look Inside can kill your buying ratio.

So it’s also worth perfecting your content. Perfect your storyline, characterization, editing, formatting, and writing. This can make the difference between favorable recommendations and unfavorable criticism. You can’t completely avoid criticism because not everyone shares the same interests, but you want to do your best to limit it and to encourage positive feedback.

There is an abundance of good content already on the market. Writers who can achieve something extraordinary have an opportunity to stand out with marked word-of-mouth referrals. It’s not easy. Sometimes a story or character is just so memorable. Study stories and characters, especially those in your subgenre, that are exceptionally memorable.

There are two more ratios that are worth considering as they also impact your net sales:

  • Your return ratio: How often a customer is dissatisfied with your book.
  • Your referral ratio: How often a satisfied customer helps you reach a new customer.


The higher your buying ratio:

  • The more books you will sell without marketing.
  • The more effective any marketing that you do will be.

For a given buying ratio, there are two ways that marketing can help sales:

  • Marketing can help you improve your book’s exposure. More views among your target audience means more sales.
  • Marketing can help you improve your buying ratio. Personal interactions can help stimulate sales even if the cover, blurb, and Look Inside are lacking to some extent.

Marketing is most effective when your efforts reach many people in your specific target audience who don’t already know about your book.

For example, spending a little time every week over the course of several months to prepare content toward developing a content-rich website that will attract hundreds of people from your target audience through search engines every day can give you amazing long-term exposure. 100 people per day equates to 36,500 people learning about you and your book every year. It’s an activity that can start out very slowly at first, but if done right can be highly effective after a year or more.

Long-Term Success

However many copies you sell, whether it’s a few a month or several per day, imagine if you could multiply this number by 2, 5, or 10. Going from 3 per month to 6 per month may not seem like much, but your book won’t be available for just a month. What if your book continues to sell for years? After a decade or lifetime of sales, multiplying all those sales by 2, 5, 10, or more could turn out to be huge.

This is especially true if you’re not trying to be a one-hit wonder. Most new authors’ books struggle. It’s not easy to get discovered. But there is a lot of potential for good writers with good ideas who persevere.

Focus on long-term success. Imagine having several similar books on the market. Now every book that you sell has the prospect of helping to market your other books. Anything you can do to improve your buying ratio can pay added dividends by helping to sell your other books.

Work toward having a professional author platform in the long run. Do a little here and there with this long-term goal in mind. Do marketing that is likely to reap long-term rewards.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What Can Authors Learn about WordPress Stats?

Stats Search

WordPress Stats

WordPress provides a variety of statistics for your blog, individual posts and pages, views, likes, followers, comments, geographic data, and more.

Authors can learn something valuable from these stats.

The challenge is to extract useful information from the numbers without becoming a stat junkie.

Look Beyond Views, Likes, and Follows

When you post an article, you’re hoping for a positive response. Those early likes feel redeeming. A few follows create the perception that you blog is growing.

Although views, likes, and follows are important—that’s where your support and active following are—there is more to be found beyond these numbers.

Views, likes, and follows tend to grow very slowly when a blog is starting out. If you blog as an author and hope for your blog to be a valuable part of your marketing strategy, these stats can seem very discouraging. As slowly as the numbers grow, it’s even more discouraging to realize that much of your active following doesn’t consist of readers from your target audience and only a small percentage of your total following actively reads your posts.

However, a blog has much marketing potential beyond the likes and follows. Look at the search engine stats for signs of hope.

Search Engines

Your active followers probably already know about your book—they probably know too well about it. Do they see your book with every post? And how many posts do they read each month? A couple of new bloggers do visit your blog periodically, but for the most part, all your posts are being read by pretty much the same group of (totally awesome!) people.

The support that your active following shows is invaluable, but you already know that. Let’s look beyond your following.

WordPress’s search engine stats can help you gauge your blog’s potential to reach members of your target audience who don’t already know about your book.

Check the WordPress stats for your blog. Monitor the traffic that your blog receives courtesy of search engines. Look at the search engine terms—even though most will be encrypted, those that aren’t reveal valuable information.

Next, study the list of posts viewed each day. Look for posts that aren’t recent posts, which likely correspond to views generated by search terms.

If the search terms are highly relevant for the target audience of your book and your website is getting regular traffic through search engines, your blog is on the right track—it may grow into a potentially effective marketing tool known as a content-rich website.

Content-Rich Website

Suppose that you write a dozen nonfiction articles for which you have expertise and which will highly interest your target audience. This is the basis for developing a content-rich website. The idea is for the content to attract your audience to your website.

If you start out trying to do this, you could get discouraged very quickly. You know what will happen: Starting out, you get just a few views, likes, and follows with each post. You think about the effort you put into preparing the content versus the lack of turnout, and quickly lose the motivation to continue.

Let’s imagine that you keep up the effort regardless… the result might be better than the initial numbers suggest.

You might write dozens of content-rich articles over the course of a few months. Your views, likes, and follows will grow so that you do have some activity with each post, though even after a few months the likes and follows may still seem insignificant compared to your hopes and dreams.

Something nice may actually be brewing after a few months of preparing a content-rich website. The activity might just be visible in your WordPress stats.

You could have a dozen or more views each day of older posts, with the traffic coming from search engines. At first, you’re thinking, “Another mere dozen—a dozen views, a dozen likes, a dozen follows, now a dozen people coming from search engines. What’s another dozen?”

The difference is that if you have a dozen people liking each post, it’s usually the same dozen people who already know about your book. If you have a dozen people coming to your older posts via search engines, it’s probably a dozen different people each day.

This means you get to multiply that dozen by 365—that’s 4,380 people visiting your blog each year. If the search terms and content are highly relevant to your target audience, that’s 4000 people who may actually have interest in your book.

And what starts out as a dozen a day can grow. When you get 50 visitors from beyond your active following to visit your website each day, that’s 18,250 people per year. You see where this is headed..?

If you can prepare content that attracts your target audience and is relevant to your book, a content-rich website can be a highly effective marketing tool.

Don’t worry about the initial results. Look at:

  • whether you’re getting any traffic from search engines
  • whether the search terms are relevant to your target audience
  • how many older posts are getting regular visitors
  • whether, on average, the number of search engine views is increasing

If your search engine traffic is rising, on average, things are headed in the right direction. Time is on your side.

Of course, there will be some visitors who click on your page in the search results, then immediately click the back button because that wasn’t quite what they wanted. Plus, you shouldn’t think about instant sales, but should also consider the long-term process of branding—someone who learns about your book today but doesn’t buy it today might still buy your book several months from now. You’ve planted the seed.

Dust Your Attic!

Don’t ignore your older posts, especially those with content relevant to your target audience. These may be the most valuable marketing assets on your blog.

Look at your older posts. Make sure that your most viewed posts provide a link to your book at Amazon at the end of the post. If not, go back and add this. Don’t turn your post into an advertisement. Just offer a simple mention of and path to your book to any kind strangers who might happen to visit the post.

If you see traffic dwindling to a previously popular post (not day-to-day, which can fluctuate highly, but over a couple of weeks) or if you have a helpful post that seems to be neglected, try updating the post. You can add an image, change an image, add an introduction, strengthen the conclusion, add some content, revise the keywords, etc.

Once you have several content-rich articles on your blog, you need to create an index or table of contents or some means of making it easy for people to find your posts. Someone who finds one post through a search engine might want to check out your other posts, for example. Make this easy to do.

Nice Example

Check out One Cool Site:

This website (pretty cool, just like its name) is very content-rich; the articles serve as excellent examples for how to provide valuable content through a blog.

I didn’t cite this as an example of a website that’s effectively marketing a product or service, but as an example of a content-rich website that can pull an audience effectively. In this case, the audience is bloggers, so you might be interested in the content. There many excellent articles on One Cool Site regarding how to improve your blogging. I’ve been following this blog for some time now and highly recommend the content there (I discovered it from the WordPress help forums).

Some sites come across as businesses. I see business sites and instantly think sales or advertising.

Some blogs are highly personal. That’s not as likely to draw in readers from your target audience.

One Cool Site looks professional, yet when you look at the comments, you see it also receives personal attention and when you read the articles, you see the personal element and style.

As opposed to just making a content-rich website, what you really want is a content-rich blog with that personal element. The personal touches show that you’re human; plus, you’re branding your image as an author and demonstrating your character, not just branding the image for your book. The content is what can attract external readers, but the personal element is important, too.

My Website

This blog started out just as a humble blog (and it still is!), just like everyone else. I didn’t set out to create a content-rich website. I started blogging actively with the hope that I could help other authors on their publishing journeys, to share my interest and experiments with marketing, and to provide an example of how authors might use their blogs as a marketing tool.

My blog started out very slowly, with just a handful of views, likes, and follows here and there, but after more than a year of active blogging I get more than 100 views most days even if I don’t post any new content. Most of this is coming from search engines. I have one post from almost a year ago that usually gets 10-20 views per day (even though it wasn’t nearly so popular when it first came out) and several posts that usually get some daily activity.

Every blogger has this potential, and more. There are other bloggers getting much more traffic than my blog gets.

Don’t be discouraged by early results. Think about what content you can write that’s likely to attract your target audience. Focus on creating valuable content. If indeed the content is valuable, in the long run you should generate traffic. Look for signs of search engine activity and continual growth of these numbers. If you see it, this is very encouraging (focus on this, and not immediate likes and follows from recent posts). If you don’t see it, you may need to reevaluate your content, website, keyword choices, images, post titles, etc.; some feedback might be handy.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Marketing with a Blog



This blog is relatively new: I’ve been blogging actively here only for a little over a year.

Things started out very slowly. In the beginning, the numbers could easily have discouraged me, but I didn’t let them. We see many new bloggers show up, write a few posts, and vanish, which shows that many do get discouraged. But there is hope.

In my case, I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers recently. Over the course of the first month or even the first few months, there was no reason to expect that I’d reach these numbers in a little over a year. Things can improve. There are reasons to expect improvement, which I will describe later in this post.

About Marketing

I don’t blog to market. I blog because I love writing, I’m thrilled to be part of a revolutionary time in the publishing industry that offers much more freedom, and I see thousands of authors taking the indie approach.

At first I strongly loathed the concept of marketing. But I became increasingly curious about it as I realized that it’s not really about advertising or salesmanship. I discovered that this crazy concept we call marketing can be a means of sharing your passion with others.

I’ve become passionate about this perspective of marketing. I enjoy studying ways that marketing can help you share ideas that you have a passion for without seeming like advertising or sales. Traditional textbooks approach marketing like a business. Many people in the marketing world who are most qualified to discuss the underlying principles also view marketing with regard to business.

But I’m a writer who, like thousands of indie authors, doesn’t view writing as a business, but as an art. Sometimes it’s handy to think about the business side, but when I write, I want to feel like an artist. I can motivate myself to write when I feel this way. Similarly, I can’t motivate myself to market thinking of it in a business sense. But I can put time, effort, and thought into marketing when I view it as an art.

Marketing can be viewed as an art. You can be creative with it. You can market to share ideas that you’re passionate about, rather than market to stimulate sales. The end goal might be the same, but how you feel about what you’re doing is different in each case, and the distinction matters. It affects your motivation, your confidence, the passion you show in interactions, how easily you give up, and more.

Again, I don’t blog to market my books. I blog because I love to write and blogging lets me do that. I blog to connect with other writers, and have made some good blogging friends and connections this way. I blog because I see thousands of other indie authors who I feel might benefit from my perspective on marketing. It’s easy to get discouraged in the publishing world. I hope a few of my posts provide a little encouragement.

In the Beginning

My first trip to WordPress was somewhat embarrassing. I actually joined WordPress in May of 2011. I signed up, did one quick post called “A New Kind of Word Puzzle,” and vanished into thin air. The post consists of one paragraph describing puzzle books that I coauthored. It’s nothing more than self-promotion and doesn’t read well.

It had 3 views the entire month of May, zero likes, and zero comments.

I could delete this post, but I leave it there as a reminder. That’s my experience with trying this the wrong way.

From May, 2011 thru November, 2012 (that’s 1.5 years), I didn’t make a single new post.

In December, 2012, I tried a second time. I posted “Customer Book Reviews – Can’t Live With ’em, Can’t Live Without ’em.” As of this morning, this post still has only 5 likes and zero comments. If you’re one of the 5 and reading this post over a year later… wow, you deserve an award. 🙂 There were 6 views of this post in December, 2012, and it’s now been viewed a whopping 7 times.

This post was, I felt, a huge improvement over my Hello, World post on word puzzles. It relates to writing and publishing, the same theme as I adopt today.

My next two posts didn’t fair much better, but I finally received a couple of comments. I started to get a few followers. It was very slow: a few views, a few likes, a few follows. By few, I mean like 3 to 5. Few. It can be really tough starting out. I felt like my posts were helpful.

I felt, as many writers can relate, that it was easier to sell a book on Amazon than it was to get discovered on WordPress. In fact, it took several months of active blogging before my average daily views finally exceeded my average daily sales. The author who starts blogging with the intention of marketing a book could get really discouraged by this observation. Fortunately, I wasn’t blogging to market my books, so this never concerned me.

On January 5, 2013, I had the inspiration for one of my favorite posts of mine, “Reading & Writing with Passion.” Some other bloggers apparently liked this post, too, as it received some comments, a reblog, and a couple of pingbacks. This post had 39 views that month. That was huge for one of my first handful of posts.

Meanwhile, you check out your Reader or Freshly Pressed and discover blogs with hundreds of thousands of views and posts with hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. The grass isn’t just greener on the other side—it’s made out of 24-karat gold.

It Should Start Slowly

Wouldn’t it be great to achieve instant success? (Nope. It would be easy, but not great. You wouldn’t appreciate it at all. You wouldn’t feel like you earned it.)

Whether you would like it to take off instantly or not, a blog is a seed that you plant, nurture, and grow. It starts out buried in the mud. After several weeks, you might see a tendril poke through the surface. If you watch closely for several days, it might seem to get a fraction of an inch taller. Months later, when you see the first sign of a leaf, you jump for joy. Many blogs get planted, watered for a short while, and abandoned.

And that’s the way it should be, to an extent.

Your blog is new. You don’t have a preexisting fan base to find your blog in the Reader or get your post by email. You’re struggling to get discovered.

You’re discovering other blogs. You’re interacting with other bloggers. You’re hoping to get discovered. But many of those bloggers have hundreds of followers. Some are waiting to see if you’ll be a regular, or just one of the many passing followers hoping for nothing more than a reciprocal follow. Those who do visit your blog see that you’re brand spanking new: They’re waiting to see more content, to see if you’ll be here for the long-haul, and to see if you have enough posts that will interest them. They already have a very full Reader, so they’re selective about adding new followers.

The numbers game doesn’t help. You start thinking things like… I’m posting 3 times per week… Blogging 1 hour per day… Typing 3000 words per week in addition to my book… Getting 2 new followers per week… Getting 6 views per day… Getting 4 likes per post. At 2 followers per week, it will take a year to reach a mere 100 followers. At 6 views per day, active blogging for a whole year will give you a mere 2000 views.

But while blogging starts out slowly, there is much potential for improvement. I started out with very slow numbers.  Yet I just passed 20,000 views and 2,000 followers after about 14 months of active blogging.

Blogging Potential

Everyone is different, but for most bloggers stats do improve significantly over long periods of time.

Your numbers probably won’t be identical to mine, but if you’re starting out, the growth of my numbers and those of many other bloggers may offer hope.

In January, 2013, I was getting just a handful of views and likes per post and follows per week. Slowly, over the course of months, this turned into dozens and then dozens more. Now, I have more than 100 views on my blog almost every day, even if I don’t post anything new. I usually get a couple dozen or more likes of my posts within the first couple of days. I get several new followers each week. Let me take a moment to shout THANK YOU to everyone who has been even a small part of this.

That’s a huge improvement, but I’ve only been actively blogging for a year and I’m still a small fish in a big pool. There are many bloggers getting hundreds of views per day, hundreds of likes per post, and who have over a hundred thousand followers. No matter how well you do, you can always find someone else who seems to be doing much better.

But I don’t blog for the numbers. If I did, I probably would have been one of the many bloggers who give up quickly and never return. I’m just sharing my numbers to possibly give some newbies a little hope.

One of the coolest things that happened to me was receiving an email from WordPress that one of my posts, “Once Upon a Time,” a poem made exclusively out of clichés, was being Freshly Pressed. Wow, they picked little ol’ me. They said I would be getting a lot more traffic at my blog, and they weren’t kidding. As of now, this single post has been viewed 1659 times. It has 167 comments (mostly clichés; these are among my favorite comments to read), 342 likes, and dozens of reblogs. I had my record number of views for a single day, 432, and received hundreds of followers during this period.

A blog can grow significantly over a long period of time, even if it might seem to do so very slowly. Several factors may help your blog grow:

  • A gradual increase in your following means a few more people reading your blog in the Reader or by email. Some followers are just hoping for a follow-back, and some followers are outside of your target audience. But as your following grows, your real following grows with it.
  • Discovery takes time. As you regularly interact with fellow bloggers and establish new connections, your blog will get discovered more. Not everyone will like your blog. Some will offer support, but won’t be in your target audience. But as your blog gets discovered more, your blog will grow. If you post a link to your blog from your books and other parts of your online platform, this will aid in discoverability.
  • It takes time to build relevant content and for the content to get discovered. If you post content that interests your target audience, it may eventually start to attract your target audience. Some posts get discovered through keyword searches through search engines. If you succeed in writing a few posts that get discovered a few times externally every day, this brings new people from your target audience outside of your blog-world to your blog. This is the idea behind a content-rich website. What starts out as a simple blog can grow into a content-rich website with material that will interest your target audience. This helps you share your passion with others. Your “target audience” is a wonderful group of people who share your passion.
  • The more you read other blogs and interact with other bloggers, the more you learn. You get ideas for how you might make your effective use of your blog. Your posts tend to improve over time. The appearance of your blog changes. You start to explore new features on WordPress. You have more content (i.e. all those posts you’ve written) to attract interest when your blog is discovered. Your most recent posts may be better than your old posts, helping you attract more interest.
  • You may expand, feeding your WordPress posts into Facebook and Twitter (but don’t cross-feed between Facebook and Twitter or you’ll get double or triple posts). Even if you don’t plan to make much use of Twitter or Facebook, this offers potential followers another way of following you. Some people prefer other forms of social media to WordPress. Let them follow you via their favorite platforms. If you do make use of other forms of social media, some of the people you reach over there will discover your blog that way.
  • The more posts you write, the better your chances of writing a magical post that goes viral. It can happen to you.

More than Just a Blog

Blogging isn’t about marketing.

There is so much here at WordPress:

  • There are many wonderful bloggers to interact with. Many of us feel that the interactions are the best part of the blogging experience.
  • There is so much wonderful material to read. Browsing through your Reader or Freshly Pressed is better than any magazine, in my opinion, and it’s free.
  • The WordPress community can be very supportive. This can be part of your support network.
  • WordPress abounds in creativity. It’s fun and inspiring.

In addition, your blog can be more than just a blog. It can also function as a content-rich website. This is the latest trend in marketing. The hope is to attract people from your target audience beyond your blog by posting relevant content. But I don’t think of this in a business sense. I see it as a means to share your passion with others. I see designing and growing your website as an art form. I don’t think of it as marketing in the usual sense of the word.

Visualize what your blog can be and work toward that. Enjoy it. Don’t focus on the stats, which can deceive and discourage you. Think positively.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.