ORGANIC BOOK MARKETING
I take a long-term approach to book marketing.
My goal is to generate periodic sales over the course of several years.
I’m more interested in how well the book sells years after its release than how well it says when it makes its debut.
Granted, a book often gets its best traffic in the beginning, so anything you might do to improve that could be a significant boost.
But if you can get the book to sell consistently for years instead of tailing off, time can provide a huge boost of its own.
That’s the potential of organic book marketing, if you can pull it off effectively.
Organic book marketing also doesn’t tend to be depend as strongly on the latest marketing trends.
There are some fundamental marketing strategies that work long-term even in a dynamic market, whereas short-term strategies tend to be trendy.
We’ll consider several aspects of book marketing, and what it might mean to be organic.
As a customer shopping for products at Amazon, if you read customer reviews, would you prefer to read organic reviews? I would.
What makes a review organic?
It can’t get any more organic than this:
- A customer discovers a book.
- The customer takes the initiative to review the book.
- The customer leaves genuine feedback for the book.
Amazon considers a review to be more organic when the customer discovers the book on Amazon.com and the review shows the Verified Purchase label. Amazon’s new machine-learning algorithm, which determines which reviews get more exposure, favors a Verified Purchase.
The machine-learning algorithm looks at more than just whether or not the review is Verified. For example, it also looks at Yes vs. No votes. There are multiple factors. In general, most of these factors favor organic reviews.
Obviously, when a customer discovers a book in a bookstore, reads the book, and leaves a review on Amazon, it’s just as organic. Although it won’t have that Verified Purchase tag, potential customers will see an honest opinion to help them with their purchases.
Even if the customer discovers the book because the author employed effective interpersonal marketing skills, it’s still an organic review if the customer leaves unbiased feedback. In fact, customers are more likely to review a book having interacted with the author.
The problem, of course, is that customer book reviews often come at a very slow rate. It can take 100 to 200 sales, on average, to get a single review. (These numbers may vary considerably, depending on subgenre, for example.) And if the book is selling one copy every few days, that may very well seem like never.
And some book promotion sites, like BookBub, require a minimum number of reviews.
Thus, authors are tempted to look for less organic methods of seeking reviews.
Most customers think they can tell, to some extent, organic reviews from inorganic ones:
- Suppose a book has a sales rank of 1,000,000, was released 30 days ago, and already has 20 reviews. It may seem suspicious.
- Organic reviews tend to show a degree of balanced opinions, and a few tend to be off-the-wall. There is a certain variety of opinions and the expression of them typical of Amazon.
- Checking out what else the reviewer has reviewed can also seem to tell a tale.
Amazon’s SEO can probably tell organic reviews from inorganic ones, to some extent. (Even if it doesn’t do this well now, it probably will in the future.)
If you can find effective ways to generate more sales, that will help to generate more organic reviews.
And then there is always review karma. This philosophy is to post reviews of books you have read, and hope that the universe returns the favor.
But that’s different from swapping reviews with fellow authors, which is not organic (and Amazon may choose not to support).
The idea behind content marketing is to post valuable content for your target audience on a blog, website, or social media.
Organic content of high quality can generate significant traffic long-term, and is less susceptible to the latest trends in SEO.
In fact, SEO trends tend to adapt toward identifying organic content and eventually penalizing any SEO tactics that aim to “fool” search engines.
Also, organic content is more likely to please its target audience, and result in organic followers.
And no followers are better than organic followers.
An organic follower is someone who discovers your content, enjoys it or finds it helpful, follows you, and is actively aware of your future articles over a long period of time.
My free WordPress blog just passed 300,000 views. It generates about 1000 views per day, presently, with most of the visitors discovering articles through search engines. And if you look around, you can find many other sites far more successful than mine.
It takes months to make content marketing work, but if you deliver valuable content to your target audience, there is much potential to get 100+ strangers to organically discover your site every day.
This is what organic book marketing is all about.
When several people you have never met advocate your book on your behalf, organic book marketing can pay big long-term dividends.
But while it can be the best kind of marketing a book can get, it’s extremely hard to generate.
To get valuable word-of-mouth sales, referrals, and recommendations, you have to approach book marketing backwards.
Short-term book marketing says you need a great cover, then you need a blurb that hooks, then a Look Inside that compels the customer to buy the book, and last on the list is the actual content.
Organic book marketing says that the most important part of the book is the content, and everything else revolves around this.
Fiction authors need storytelling talent. Nonfiction authors need compelling information.
All authors need to write in a way that pleases readers.
And the book needs to be well-edited and formatted in order to be worthy of a recommendation. But the content is still foremost.
True, nobody will enjoy the book unless they first discover it, so the Look Inside, blurb, and cover figure into this.
But the approach is to first develop compelling content that will pay long-term dividends, and then build the packaging around that.
Organic book marketing also tends to be favored by Amazon SEO.
For example, many customers search for books by typing keywords into the search field at Amazon.com.
There are several factors involved in determining the order of search results.
Some of these factors specifically favor organic book marketing.
For example, when customers search for books by keyword, click on your book, and then purchase your book, that organic sale establishes relevance for your book with that keyword.
The more organic sales you generate through keyword searches, the more exposure your book gains this way.
That’s why it’s so important to research (by that, I mean type a variety of keywords into Amazon, to see not only what’s popular, but where you have a chance of standing out among the crowd) which keywords have the best potential to give your unique book exposure.
If your keywords also appear organically in the title, subtitle, and book description (especially in bullet points)–though repetition may not help (other than the keyword from your keyword list matching a keyword in your description)–this may help your book compete in keyword searches (but remember, there are other factors too).
A keyword dump in your title or description will backfire. That’s not organic at all, and customers see that something is fishy. If you want to sell books, your title and subtitle need to make sense, and the description needs to read well and hook the reader without giving the story away.
Amazon wants to have satisfied customers. Amazon’s algorithm can tell such things as:
- How well does this book sell when a customer discovers it for the first time on Amazon?
- How satisfied are the customers who buy this book?
- How many customers who buy this book go onto buy more books like this one?
- Maybe it can even differentiate among customers, i.e. which kinds of buying history appears to be a better fit for a given book.
When a customer is searching for a book on Amazon, obviously Amazon would prefer to show customers books that perform well in these areas.
For this, you want to have a good conversion rate, which means the cover > blurb > Look Inside need to correlate well and be quite compelling, but you also need good customer satisfaction, but delivering exceptional content.
An organic approach to book marketing oriented around these points can pay significant long-term dividends.
WHAT WRITERS REALLY WANT
Many authors say things like: “I’d rather spend my time writing than marketing.”
Organic book marketing places more emphasis on the writing.
For marketing, there are ways to go about it that appeal to writers, like preparing content-rich articles relating to the topic of your book or writing content-rich emails for a newsletter (which allows you to send an announcement for your next book when it comes out).
Much of organic book marketing consists of writing your next book and writing content for your site or email newsletter.
Not 100%, though. You also want to widen your marketing net. But you can devote a little time each week to this, while still putting most of your time into writing.
You also need to do a little personal marketing, especially in the beginning, as that personal touch can go a long way toward getting the ball rolling in the beginning.
Organic book marketing can start out very slow, with no guarantee that it will ever pick up.
If sales do start out very slow, it takes strong faith in your writing to keep believing that the content is compelling enough to pay off several months down the road, if only you can weather the storm, keep writing, and drive enough initial sales to eventually get there.
But this approach does let writers focus on what they love to do most: write!
Write happy, be happy. 🙂
Copyright © 2016
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
- 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
- Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)