By Sandy Smith,
President, Smith Publicity
Not every author has a significant budget to invest in book marketing. In working with thousands of authors over twenty years to help them build their author brand, enhance book discoverability and spark sales, we’ve identified a number of initiatives authors with minimal budgets can do to attract new readers.
The key to each of these is understanding your target reader. Your book is not for everyone! And this is a good thing because it allows you to focus your time on the right activities as you build your name as an author and introduce your book to your ideal reader demographic to encourage book sales.
- Make the Most of Your Amazon Listing
Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore and your book listing can either attract interest or immediately turn people away. The biggest mistake authors (and publishers) make is not taking advantage of all the ways to showcase who a book is intended for, what makes it unique, and why the author is qualified to write it. Here is an overview of how to take advantage of your Amazon page:
- Include the full title AND subtitle for your book. This is especially important for non-fiction titles
- Showcase the book cover image and use the “Look Inside” feature to allow readers to sample your book
- In the book description section, bold the first sentence and make this the ONE line you want people to know about your book, and follow this with a line of white space before continuing your text. You have 4,000 characters, so use as many words as possible!
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a riveting story about friendship, survival and finding your voice, perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.
Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling…
- Make sure your book is tagged in the right genres/categories, and sub-categories. Check out successful titles similar to yours for examples.
We worked with a children’s author on a book about helping children grieve. However, her book was only tagged in the “Children’s” category, which means she was competing for attention with almost 1.5 million other titles! To better help people find the book, there are categories perfectly suited for her title that better describe her book and help people find it. See how the sub-categories worked nicely to narrow the competition for a title like this: Children’s (1.5 million titles) > Growing Up & Facts of Life (160,000+ titles), > Difficult Discussions (12,000 titles) > Death and Dying (2,800 titles).
- Include a solid author bio, written in the third person. The bio is your chance to show your personality and why people should care about what you’ve written. Be creative, be real—it helps people connect with you.
- Create a Solid Author Central Page on Amazon
On Amazon, under the book title is the author name, which is a hyperlink to their Author Page. This is the perfect place to give readers an easy place to learn about you in one place, and encourages readers or fan to “follow” you. Think of this as your own website within Amazon!
You are in control of what you want people to know about you, and you can add an even more detailed author bio here. If you have more than one book, you should link them together (especially important if you have a common name) so readers can see all your titles. Share events as well as links to your website, social media channels, blogs, photos, videos (especially if you are a speaker!), etc. You, not the publisher, are in control of this page, and it can be updated by you at any time. Here is a link on how to start: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help
- Build your Author Presence on Goodreads
Goodreads is the world’s largest site for book lovers seeking book recommendations. The Goodreads mission is to help people find and share/review books they love. It’s free for both authors and readers, and a great place to engage readers. Think of Goodreads as a large library where authors and readers can wander and see everyone’s bookshelves, reviews, and ratings of their favorite (or least favorite) books. Once you’ve signed up, here are ways to interact with this vibrant, book-loving community:
- Review and recommend books (and try to keep it positive)!
- Join genre or interest-based groups. Tips from Goodreads: Find groups by going to goodreads.com/group and searching for relevant groups. Results will produce the most recently active. You can also browse by tags. There are groups for every topic, genre and sub-genre!
- Claim your author profile (here’s how) and then encourage readers to interact with you with questions or comments. Goodreads offers authors an “Ask the Author” Q&A platform allowing readers to submit questions. “Ask the Author” doesn’t make questions visible to the public until you choose to answer them, giving you complete control over if, when, and how to respond. Tip from Goodreads: Answer at least four pre-seeded questions. Answer a few of the questions that Goodreads asks every author who turns on the feature, such as “Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?” or “How do you deal with writer’s block?” This indicates to readers that you’re there to engage. You can always edit the answers with updated information down the road.
- Until January of 2018, Goodreads offered authors the chance to participate, for free, in giveaways where interested readers can enter their names to receive a free copy of your book. Good reads now charges fees for this. Giveaways help get books in front of readers interested in your genre, in exchange for potential positive reviews and recommendations. Here is more information on the Goodreads Giveaways and updated fees.
- Find Your Way on Social Media for Book Promotion
While there are volumes written on using social media to promote a book, here is a handy guide to help you begin to build or enhance your presence on social media. Overall social media tips for authors:
- Begin early, ideally even 12 to 18 months before your publication date, but remember, it’s never too late to start!
- Be authentic, be yourself—showcase your personality and interests
- Think positive, support and recommend other authors, especially in your genre
- 80/20 Rule - your posts should not be too promotional; 80 percent content/20 percent about your work
- Post consistently. It’s not helpful to have a platform that hasn’t been updated or consistently used in months.
- Offer Your Book to Targeted Readers Through Places Like BookBub
BookBub is a service that helps readers discover books they’ll love while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Readers sign up and pick the genres they are interested in, and in return, receive outstanding deals on e-books (free to about $2.99) handpicked for them by BookBub’s expert editorial team.
We find this especially exciting for authors who are writing a series by introducing readers to book one when the next book in the series is launching to help get new readers hooked for the entire series. Here is how to get started with BookBub.
There are other services like BookBub that offer low cost e-books to targeted readers. Here is a great database/list gathered by Reedsy.
As an author, if you can’t afford a firm like Smith Publicity, there are many activities you can do—at no or very little expense—to help get your book in front of key audiences. It takes time, but continuing to build your author brand can make a real difference in enhancing discoverability and encouraging book sales.