It’s almost the new year, which means it’s time to put together that good ol’ list of New Year’s resolutions. You might already have personal resolutions (work out at least three times a week!), but the new year also presents an opportunity to smarten your book marketing strategy.
Instead of bombarding you with a long list of resolutions, here are five high-impact activities that could make your marketing stronger. The goal is to boost book sales without taking on dozens of tasks each day that won’t have a lasting effect on your revenue and author platform. After all, we don’t want to overwhelm you into breaking your resolutions by February!
1. Plan your marketing goals early
Knowing your high-level priorities for the year will help you determine what specific actions you’ll need to take to accomplish those goals, and eliminate activities that won’t help you achieve them. For example, if your top priority for the year is to sell 10,000 units of books in a series, your marketing activities, pricing strategy, etc. would look much different than if you were trying to increase revenue from your most popular standalone book.
Here are some examples of goals you might hope to achieve in the new year. What you set as your goal will depend on the books you’ve published and what you’ll be publishing in the upcoming year.
- Sell [X] copies of [backlist book name] by the end of the year.
- Launch the new book [new release book name] and sell [X] copies.
- Increase revenue from [popular backlist book name] X% year-over-year.
- Increase overall readership of the [series name] series X% year-over-year.
- Hit the [publication] bestseller list. (Choose a specific bestseller list so you know which dates to cluster your promotional activities.)
- Drive exposure internationally by selling [X] copies in the UK and [X] copies in Canada.
Be specific. A broad goal, such as “increase ebook sales” isn’t enough — it’s so vague, it’s hard to know what marketing activities will make the biggest dent. For example, if you’re hoping to increase readership of a series a specific amount, you’ll know which activities you should prioritize: making the first book in the series permafree, promoting the permafree book via a BookBub Featured Deal, or updating the back matter of early books in the series to include excerpts from and links to the subsequent books. Setting specific goals also lets you monitor your progress as the year progresses to see if you’re on track to hit your numeric goal or if you need to ramp up marketing activities for this particular goal.
2. Hone your target audience
Many book marketers target too broad an audience. But in an era where readers have access to virtually any book at any time, it’s incredibly difficult to make a single book stand out. And in the digital age where there’s an overabundance of advertising, the most personalized marketing targeted to someone’s interest is going to win the click. So rather than trying to market every book to every potential reader out there, it’s in your best interest to focus your marketing efforts on a smaller group of targeted readers who have demonstrated interest in the type of book you’re trying to sell.
In the new year, define your target audience and focus on executing marketing campaigns that specifically target that audience and cater to their interests. Here are some resources to help you do this:
- Learn how to identify a target audience and understand their interests here.
- See how to target this niche audience with your marketing here.
A particularly useful exercise is to craft a reader persona that describes your core audience members. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated — just a short paragraph you can refer back to whenever you’re creating an ad, designing a cover, writing a tweet, or want a refresh on what might motivate potential readers to pay attention.
Here’s an example reader persona I created:
Debbie is a 45- to 54-year-old married woman living in the suburbs whose children still live at home, or recently moved out. She’s college educated, works full time, and she loves traveling and lying on the beach with a good book. She’s a loyal contemporary romance reader and reads at least one book a week. Her favorite authors are Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux, and her favorite movies are Titanic and The Notebook. When she’s not reading romance, she peruses People and Us Weekly, and is subscribed to the blog Smart Bitches Trashy Books. She spends most of her time online on Facebook and dabbles with Pinterest. She also does most of her book shopping online, and while she’ll grab a good deal when she sees it, if she loves an author’s work or series or is tempted by what’s trending, she’ll buy a book at full price.
Once you understand your audience and what motivates them at this level, you’ll be able to better target your marketing and focus your efforts where your readers live, browse, and shop each day.
3. Cut marketing activities with a negative return on investment
With so many marketing tactics at your disposal, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So resolve to spend more of your marketing efforts on tactics with a proven positive return on investment (ROI), and nix strategies that are wasting your time or money. This will let you spend your time on the highest-impact marketing activities.
In order to make good on this resolution, you need to know how to calculate your ROI. ROI is expressed as a percentage — the higher your ROI, the better your marketing campaign performed.
- A positive ROI means you made money on your campaign.
- An ROI of 0% means you broke even.
- A negative ROI means you lost money on your campaign.
Mathematically speaking, this is how it’s calculated:
In book speak, this is how it’s calculated:
For example, if you’re running a BookBub Featured Deal, you can determine revenue generated from your retailer dashboards (compared to units sold in the days prior to your BookBub promotion). You’ll also know how much money you spent on your BookBub promotion, so the ROI is easy to calculate. You can find detailed instructions for calculating your book marketing ROI here. Campaigns yielding a positive ROI are usually worth pursuing again, while you might want to nix campaigns resulting in a negative ROI.
It’s worth noting that some marketing activities are harder to measure — they might be branding plays to garner a book or author platform more exposure, which can help lead to sales and loyal readers later, but don’t result in immediate sales. Additionally, some strategies are free, yet time consuming. But your time has value.
Social media is a good example of free marketing that helps expand your author platform. But just because something is hard to measure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. For example, you could measure the amount of engagement you receive on Instagram against the amount of time you put into Instagram book promotion. Continue pursuing marketing tactics that result in engagement reasonably commensurate with the amount of effort you’re putting in.
4. Keep up with new marketing tactics
Keeping up with the newest promotional tools is a great way to catch readers’ attention. In the new year, monitor the marketing landscape for new tactics that become available. Bestselling independent author Michael Siemsen has been able to attract new readers by using this strategy on Twitter:
The second Twitter introduced Cards in promoted tweets, I jumped on it and blasted my latest sci-fi release to everyone in that interest segment (via Twitter Ads), with an eye-catching image of the book cover, because I know it grabs the eye of SF fans. Whenever a new promo tool like that comes out, I jump on it, because:
- It’s still novel to the users so they’re more likely to look at it, click, etc.
- The ad prices are usually super cheap because they’re new, so it’s a safer investment.
That campaign received somewhere around 200,000 impressions, 30,000 ‘engagements,’ and 2,200 link clicks. I sold around 1,500 books over those two days — a huge spike.
A great way to keep up with new marketing tactics is to follow industry blogs, both inside and outside the publishing sphere. Here are some we recommend:
- The BookBub Partners Blog – we know, we’re biased, but we’ll have lots of new exciting tools to help authors promote books this year, so stay tuned!
- Digital Book World – see what the latest marketing trends are in the publishing industry
- Copyblogger – learn how to craft effective marketing copy and run content marketing campaigns
- HubSpot Marketing Blog – while largely for a B2B audience, you can pick up some valuable marketing nuggets and timely updates on new marketing strategies
5. Use productivity tools to keep tasks manageable
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with striking a balance between churning out new books and marketing your existing ones. In the new year, resolve to be more productive and less stressed with the help of some handy tools that can help you manage your time and output. Here are a few we’d recommend:
For time management: Pomodoro
The Pomodoro Technique (which you can read more about here) is a time management method that can help whether you’re focusing on writing or marketing tasks. There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
- Decide on the task you want to complete
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings
- Take a short break (3-5 minutes)
- Take a longer break (15–30 minutes) every four “pomodori” cycles
There are several apps you can use to implement the Pomodoro Technique:
- Pomodoro Timer – iOS – $1.99 (image below)
- Pomodoro Time – iOS – Free
- CherryTomato – Windows or OS X – Free
For task management: Trello
Trello can help you manage your different to-do lists in a visual way. It’s a free time management tool that we use here at BookBub to track everything from blog post ideas and personal to-do lists to development and design sprints. I also set up a personal Trello board to keep track of my writing and personal brand marketing activities all in one view. This not only helps me prioritize my tasks outside my day job, but further gives me a sense of accomplishment when I look at my “Done” column. Here’s what my personal board looks like:
For distraction management: Anti-Social
Anti-Social makes it easy for you to block any distracting websites for a set amount of time (anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours). So if you find yourself checking Twitter or Facebook when you should be using your time more productively, this app can help. When you set your Pomodoro timer, simply set Anti-Social for the same amount of time. It’s $15, but will make a huge difference in your productivity, and it works with both Macs and PCs.
For information management: Feedly
Remember those blogs we recommended reading in the last section? Feedly can help you keep up with the latest content on those blogs and all of your other favorite publications. It’s an RSS aggregator tool that lets you read all of your favorite blogs and online publications in one place. If you’re looking for new content to share with your social media followers, you can quickly scan your list of new posts each morning and choose the best ones to share with them as well.
What are your book marketing New Year’s resolutions? Share yours in the comments below!
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