A standalone book is like an island — it depends on its own merit to draw crowds, and unlike a series, it may not have a built-in audience at launch. So some marketing strategies, like the highly effective tactic of making one book permafree as a gateway into a series, won’t work for standalones. And yet, standalone books have always had a presence on bestseller lists — remember Gone Girl? So what marketing strategies work best for standalones?
If you love writing standalones or have a few on your backlist that need a boost, this post will outline what can you do to most effectively increase standalone book sales. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of every book marketing tactic available to you, these six techniques can make a big impact when promoting a book.
1. Cross-promote the standalone book in similar titles
Cross-promotion isn’t just for books in a series. Standalone books present just as big of an opportunity to gain loyal fans. If readers fall in love with an author’s writing, or the way they build tension, or the elegance of their descriptions, or the steaminess of their romance scenes, they’ll seek out the author’s other books, whether the characters from this book continue their story or not. In fact, over 60 percent of readers we’ve surveyed said they purchased other books by an author they discovered through an ebook price promotion.
Make it easy for readers to discover a standalone books by promoting it in your other standalones’ back matter. If you have a large backlist, feature books from the same genre or the ones you think fans of that book would enjoy.
Here are some more resources to help you learn how to do this:
- Ideas on how to cross-promote books in the back matter
- How to create the links when your book is on multiple retailers
2. Encourage readers to sign up for your mailing list
Your mailing list will be an essential piece of your marketing puzzle, whether you publish series or standalones or both. Collecting email addresses lets you reach out to fans who have specifically opted in to receive communication from you. Whenever you launch a new book, you can reach out to them and let them know about your imminent release.
You can also use this list to promote your backlist standalones! Just make sure you have a good reason for reaching out, so you don’t seem spammy. For example:
- Let subscribers know about a discount on an older standalone.
- If the book is a romance, email your subscribers about it on Valentine’s Day.
- If you publish funny chick lit, suggest one as a fun summer beach read in June.
- If you’ve published historical fiction about the Tudors, email subscribers asking if they’ve seen the hit new Tudor-related TV show. If so, they might enjoy this book.
- If the book features athletes overcoming great obstacles, email a promotion to subscribers during the Olympics or a relevant sporting event.
In addition to promoting other standalone books, consider also providing a link or instructions for joining your mailing list in the back matter. As you publish more and more books, your mailing list will grow, and you’ll have more people to contact for each book launch. Be sure to make it easy for people to sign up for your mailing list on your author website as well. This way, if readers don’t skim through the back matter but Google you later, they’ll be able to sign up, too.
Here are some reasonably priced email service providers you could use to build your mailing list, create forms for your website, and send email campaigns:
3. Focus on getting reviews early
Reviews are an essential marketing element for any novel, but especially a standalone that can’t piggyback on the success of related titles. Without any previous books to go by, consumers look to reviews to validate their purchasing decision. There are several ways you can get more readers to review a book:
Send advanced reader copies (ARCs).
While users can’t review preorder books on Amazon, they can on Goodreads, so you can start getting reviews before the book even launches. You can use tools like NetGalley to find early reviewers, or run giveaways on your blog or Facebook page to provide ARCs to your most loyal fans.
Send free copies to top Amazon reviewers.
Shortly before the book’s release (when people will be able to post reviews on Amazon), reach out to top Amazon reviewers who have reviewed similar books and offer them a free copy of the book. While you can reach out to any Amazon reviewer, top reviewers have proven themselves to be experienced reviewers — they know what makes a good review, they’re willing to take the time to write a genuinely helpful review, and they probably read fast and will be more likely to have a quick turnaround on reviewing.
The easiest way to find top reviewers is to browse through a dozen books similar to the one you’re promoting and find people who have a “Top Reviewer” badge:
Click through to their Amazon profile page to see what other books they’ve reviewed, and what preferences they have listed. If they seem like a good candidate, see if they have their contact information listed below their profile picture.
If they’ve listed their contact information, it’s fair game to reach out. Send them a short, brief pitch mentioning how you found them, why you think they’d like your book (and even compare yours to a book or two they’ve already reviewed), offer them a free copy, and thank them for their time.
Participate in blog tours.
Give the book to avid readers willing to offer feedback in the form of reviews. If you need more help, you can pay a service to organize a blog tour. Blog tours can be used to launch new releases or boost backlist titles. For example, bestselling author H.M. Ward has both successfully launched several new books and celebrated major sales milestones through blog tours.
Bloggers often cross-post the reviews from their blog on to Amazon and Goodreads, so you’ll not only reach that bloggers’ audience, but you’ll add to your number of starred reviews elsewhere. If the blogger doesn’t do this on her own, reach out and ask politely if she’d be willing to cross-post at least a portion of her review.
Host a book giveaway.
If you’re comfortable giving away many copies of your book, you can try doing a major mailing (or virtual gifting) of advanced editions to loyal fans. If you want to stick to fewer free copies, you can host a giveaway contest on a site like Goodreads. Only a select few readers will win a copy, but you’ll generate interest from the many who enter.
Reach out to your mailing list.
A regular newsletter can help ensure you have a built-in fan base eagerly awaiting your next release. People who’ve opted in to communication from you will be more likely to put in effort to review the book.
Ask for reviews in your standalone’s back matter.
Include a simple request for a review in the book’s back matter. Better yet, also include a link to the standalone book’s product page. This is an easy and effective way to generate feedback.
4. Run an ebook price promotion
Once you have enough reviews (perhaps 3–6 months after launch), discount the book to $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99 for a limited amount of time and promote that price drop via services like BookBub. Readers are more likely to buy a discounted book than a book at full price from an author they’ve never heard of, as long as the book’s premise sounds interesting. The vast majority of the readers we’ve surveyed said they discovered a new author through an ebook price promotion.
For many authors with one standalone, running a free promotion doesn’t make as much sense as it might for a series because there’s no direct line of revenue. So to run a standalone promotion, try discounting the book for a limited time instead.
Authors featured by BookBub see massive revenue spikes during their promotions. Each of BookBub’s categories has anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of subscribers, and books selected as Featured Deals get sent to these highly engaged email lists. The resulting sales volume could be enough to hit some of the bestseller lists like The New York Times or USA Today, which can be hugely beneficial to the success of a standalone title.
For example, hybrid author Cheryl Kaye Tardif increased sales of her standalone book 130x by discounting the book to $0.99 and running a joint BookBub promotion and Kindle Countdown Deal. The high volume of book sales launched her book into Amazon’s Top 100 overall bestseller list. Sales continued to climb even after the book returned to full price.
5. Promote to a relevant audience on social media
Authors who think it best to promote a book to the widest possible audience would be wasting money. Instead, they should target people who have expressed interest in similar books or genres, or specifically follow authors who write related content. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter let you target ads to a fine-tuned audience. For example, on Facebook you can target each of your ads based on:
- The age range of your target audience (e.g., 14–19 for Young Adult)
- The gender of your target audience (e.g., female for Erotic Romance)
- Language (e.g, if your book is only available in English, choose English)
You can enter anything in the interests section, and this is the most important part! The more specific you can get, the better, because broad terms will make your ad reach a wider audience that may not be interested in reading at all, let alone this book.
- People interested in authors who write similar books
- People interested in similar books
- People who follow Twitter accounts of fictional characters from similar books
- People who’ve indicated they are interested in the book’s genre
Social endorsement is a powerful marketing tool, and sites like Facebook and Twitter let you specifically target people who are friends with your existing fans, or fans of similar authors. If their friends have similar tastes, these are people you’d want to reach, and the ads will specify the social connection.
- Friends of people who like your Facebook page
- People similar to your followers on Twitter
- Followers of similar authors on Twitter
6. Write connected standalones
While some independent authors report greater success with their series titles vs. standalones, there are many out there who simply know their story is complete or firmly don’t want to take away their characters’ happily-ever-after. If you prefer to write or publish standalones, you can create connected standalones instead. There are a few ways you can create a connected standalone:
- Create a spinoff for a secondary character
- Create an entirely new story set in the same world or universe
- Create a new story for a later generation of characters (the same universe in a different time period)
You can even mention the main characters of your original standalone in passing in the dialogue or reflective prose to get readers excited about the connection. Once you create these connected standalones, you can use series marketing strategies to your benefit, such as:
- Create consistent cover designs across these books
- Cross-promote the connected standalones in your back matter
- Create a box set including the connected books
What are some effective strategies you’ve used to market standalone novels? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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