Just because something works for one author doesn’t mean it will work for another, which is why it’s so important to understand your unique audience and measure the impact of your book marketing. If only reader behavior wasn’t so notoriously hard to measure! Retailers restrict access to reader activity, and technology companies have shaken up digital marketing in the past year by granting users more options to opt out of content they don’t want to see, making their online behavior even trickier to track.
This means it’s more important than ever to rely on your own data about your readers. And even if you haven’t yet built a robust author platform or relationships with your readers, there are ways you can get started right now!
Here are some ideas for how to gather data about your audience and how to use it to make smart marketing decisions, whether you are starting with an established audience or haven’t yet built one.
If you’re still building an audience…
1. Run test ad campaigns
Advertising is a valuable means to achieve several book marketing goals, including running tests to discover what attracts your target audience of readers. Test campaigns are a low-risk way to learn what works — for example, which image, copy, or targeting options drive the most clicks.
We’ve written a lot about the benefits of running test campaigns before, and you can find some of our top resources for BookBub Ads tests here:
- How to Test Your BookBub Ads for Better Results
- Why Testing BookBub Ads Targets Pays Off [Case Study]
- How I Boosted Series Sales by A/B Testing Cover Designs
2. Research similar books and authors
Maybe you’re not ready to run ads yet — not to worry! You can analyze other authors’ data instead. Chances are, other authors are already doing well with the audience you’re trying to reach, and you’ll want to study how they’re doing it.
Start by compiling a list of the top books in your genre or subgenre (the more specific, the better!). You can find these titles on retailer sites in a few ways, including browsing bestseller lists of related categories and subcategories, searching for keywords related to your genre, or scanning the “You may also like” section of a similar author’s retailer pages.
Now for the analysis. What do you want to know about how other authors are marketing their books? To get you started, here are a few elements to consider:
- Cover design. You might have noticed the covers in your category look similar, and that’s no accident! The more you can make your book recognizable to readers of your genre, the more likely they are to click. Make notes on colors, fonts, imagery, and size and placement of text.
- Book titles and descriptions. Pick out any keywords that make the book more attractive to you or more discoverable in search. Note any similar trends in the book description formats or content.
- The author’s website. How are they speaking to and attracting their readers?
- The author’s overall online presence. What other channels are they using to promote their books? What discussions are they engaging in? What do they post that gets a lot of attention?
As you collect this information, take note of the authors you want to model or those whose readers are most engaged.
Pro Tip: You can get a general sense of which authors’ marketing is working by using a web analytics tool to check their estimated website traffic. An active website with lots of traffic is worth taking inspiration from! Similarweb is a tool with free and paid tiers designed for marketers at larger companies but can be useful for authors, too. Or you can access publishing category performance data from K-lytics, which develops reports on trending content on Amazon.
3. Study book reviews and recommendations
If you don’t yet have a large enough following to get feedback from your own readers, other authors’ reviews are the next best thing! It certainly doesn’t hurt that reviews are where readers are the most honest: You’re hearing their firsthand experience of what’s effective — or not — about books in your genre. Another benefit of reading reviews on other books is that you can identify any gaps in the market to fill.
Read (or watch — BookTok is full of readers reviewing books!) as many reviews on similar books in your genre as you can. Take notes of any patterns you notice: maybe certain aspects of characters or storylines resonate with a majority of readers, or the same complaints keep cropping up. Pay special attention to recommendations, particularly organic ones (rather than sponsored) — there’s no better way to engage readers in your marketing than by using the actual words they use to recommend the books they love!
If you have an established author platform and audience…
4. Track activity on your website
There’s a wealth of information you can glean from your website. When you track visitors to your website (where they came from, which pages they’re visiting, and where they spend the most time) as well as the actions you want these visitors to take (like subscribing to your newsletter or clicking through to a retailer to buy your book), you can better understand what’s engaging your readers and where you might be missing opportunities to drive sales.
The easiest way to start collecting this information is to connect your site to Google Analytics, a free web analytics service. All of the options for viewing data in Google Analytics can be daunting at first, but you can set it up to focus on the data you care most about. If you’re new to Analytics, check out this beginner’s guide to how it works, and these helpful links on setting up the tracking and reporting you need to see how your website is performing at a glance.
Pro Tip: If it makes sense for you, consider selling books directly from your website as well as on retailer sites. You’ll not only take away closer to 100% of your earnings from each book sale, but you’ll have full control over the purchase data — the best possible indicator of marketing success! Learn more about when it makes sense to sell direct and how to make the most of this strategy.
5. Survey your newsletter subscribers
Send a survey out in your newsletter to hear directly from your subscribers. You can learn so much simply by asking your audience, and most readers would love to know you value their input! Especially now that Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection obfuscates email open rate data, surveys can help you engage your newsletter audience and go beyond email marketing metrics like opens and clicks.
Plus, you have complete flexibility and control over what data you collect. Survey data can complement website or sales data with more specific details about your audience. By asking questions like what other authors your audience enjoys reading, where they shop and discover books, what formats they read in, and what motivates them to buy, you can start to build a more complete picture of who they are. Here’s a more in-depth look at how to run reader surveys and what information to gather.
6. Monitor social media engagement
Social media isn’t just another place to post about your books — it’s also a way to learn more about your audience and how best to market your work. Different social media platforms have different built-in analytics tools and ways of accessing them — for example, Facebook and Instagram insights are available only for business accounts, and on Twitter you need to turn on Analytics for your account — but at a minimum, you’ll find data on impressions, post reach, and other engagement metrics native to each platform, such as likes or comments. Even these basic metrics can help you understand how well you’re reaching your target readers on each platform. You can also set up a social media dashboard in Google Analytics to connect the dots between your social engagement and website engagement.
If you have large followings on multiple platforms, you can invest in a social media management tool for even deeper insights across platforms — at the post level, on which topics and formats perform well or to identify patterns in what resonates with your audience; and at the platform level, to compare your performance on different social sites to understand where you’re resonating the most and therefore where to invest the most effort.
Pro Tip: Use a tool like Bitly to add shortened tracking URLs to your social media posts and easily see how many times the link was clicked as well as when and where. Watch a quick video on how to get started with Bitly here.
7. Track affiliate conversions
Affiliate programs offer value beyond just monetizing your website. When you add affiliate links to buy buttons on your website, you can track conversions to your own books as well as other purchases a person makes within a certain time frame after clicking your link (known as the “affiliate cookie window”). In other words, you have ample opportunities to track the buying behaviors of your readers. Insights like whether they bought other books instead of or in addition to yours are valuable clues into what works with your audience and which comparable books are selling.
Pro Tip: Use dashboarding tools to make sense of your data across all your marketing campaigns. A few inexpensive or free tools include Book Report, which analyzes all of your sales on Amazon, ScribeCount and BookTrakr, which aggregate your sales from multiple publishing platforms, and Dasheroo or Cyfe, which can connect data from Google Analytics, social media sites, email service providers, accounting tools, and more. These are just a few examples of the many tools out there to track social and marketing activities — we’d encourage you to research the available options to find the tools that will work best for you.
Putting the pieces together
Now the question is: what to do with all this information?
First, ask yourself what questions you want your data to answer: for example, how can you make your website or newsletter more engaging, or why are sales for book 3 in a series so much lower than book 2? Then figure out what data you need to get these answers and the best way to collect it, whether through activity tracking, reader surveys, or market research.
If you’re tracking reader activity on your own website or social platforms, the key is to start collecting data even if you don’t yet know what you’re going to do with it. In this case, more is better!
And remember, every book marketing strategy is different, and so is each approach to tracking and measuring data. Find the methods that are most comfortable or intuitive for you — they’re the ones you’re most likely to stick with. Start with one or two of the above methods and see what you learn! Experimentation takes some time, but it’s key to trimming away what doesn’t sell more books so you can focus on what does.
What other methods or resources do you use to learn about your readers? Share them in the comments!
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Click to tweet: Authors, are you gathering data about your audience to inform your marketing? Some ways to get started:
🎯 Run test ad campaigns
🔎 Research similar books and authors
⭐ Study book reviews and recommendations
More tips: https://bit.ly/3BfhtO9 #pubtip
Click to tweet: Measuring reader behavior is tricky, but not impossible! This post shares tips and tools you need to get started, whether you have an established audience or haven’t yet built one: https://bit.ly/3BfhtO9 #bookmarketing