Today’s guest post is an excerpt from the new book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market by Reedsy founder Ricardo Fayet (@RicardoFayet).
One of the first (and only) books I read about startup marketing, with a view to apply its advice to growing Reedsy, was Traction. Published in 2014, it’s a fairly old book now, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it anymore to startup founders. However, one of its central marketing principles remains crucial to anyone trying to market anything—and yes, that includes you and your book. In fact, I interviewed one of the authors of Traction a few years ago, who said as much.
See, the core idea of the book is that there are hundreds of different ways, or “channels,” to market a product or grow a company. The secret of success is not to do all of them, or even as many as possible. Instead, it’s to find the one or two channels that work for your company and focus all your energy and resources on just those.
I find that this concept translates particularly well to book marketing. In the book realm, these “channels” include Facebook ads, Amazon ads, BookBub ads, price promotions, email marketing, group promos, newsletter swaps, Amazon SEO, Goodreads promos, guest posting, events, social media, and more.
When you’re starting out, you’ll probably be tempted to do all those things, because you’ve read about them everywhere. But that presents the same problem as trying to be on all the social media platforms: first, you don’t have the time for that, and second, you probably won’t be good at all of those platforms.
Finding the sweet spot
Take me, for example. I love helping authors market their books, and I’ve run Facebook, Amazon, and BookBub ads; built mailing lists; used reader magnets; organized price promotions; and done everything else under the sun.
So I’ve done all those things, but I know I’m a lot better at some of them than others. When it comes to advertising, for instance, I know I’m much stronger working with Facebook ads than with Amazon ads or BookBub ads.
Other authors, like David Gaughran, are pros at BookBub ads, but hate Amazon ads. And still others have cracked Amazon ads, but don’t even touch the other two platforms.
We all have different sensibilities to different marketing channels—that’s just how we are.
But how we are is just one part of the equation. The other part is how our readers are. You might be a pro at BookBub ads, but if your book is on a niche nonfiction topic, BookBub’s audience for that topic will be pretty limited—and running ads there won’t be effective for long.
While some channels will work for almost any genre (e.g., Amazon ads), many others will only be suited to some genres (or even some particular books).
So how do you find that sweet spot? How do you find a channel you’re good at and that resonates with your readers?
Well, you test. But the thing is …
You can’t test everything at once.
The other core principle of Traction intersects with one of the main mistakes I see authors making when it’s time to market their books: they’re trying way too many things at the same time.
It’s natural, after all: if you don’t know what’s going to work, you might as well try ten different things at once to find the one or two that will work.
But the problem is that you’ll never manage to get a channel to work if you’re not focusing all of your energy on it.
Let’s look at an example. You just published your book, but it’s not selling after one week. So you panic (naturally) and perhaps start googling “book marketing ideas.” That’s when you find all of these things you “should be doing” but aren’t. So you could:
- Change your Amazon keywords
- Start a mailing list
- Start boosting your posts on Facebook
- Start an Amazon ads campaign with a few obvious keywords
- Book a bunch of price promotion sites
- Create a “reader group” on Facebook
- Start tweeting five times a day
- Reach out to fifty book bloggers in your genre
And you know what? None of these channels is going to work, because you’re going to execute all of them badly. Even if you execute one well and see your book’s sales increase, you won’t know which channel was responsible for it!
All the channels I’ve listed above take time to learn and master. Until you’ve put in that time, you won’t be able to test them properly.
So whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by marketing (or whenever your to-do list gets out of hand), take a breather and reevaluate: “Do I really need to do all of this?”
Pick only two things, and spend a month focusing on them. Take courses, ask colleagues, read blog posts, and then put in the time to properly test each channel.
That’s the only way you’ll find that sweet spot—or, in other words, that golden channel that will change your marketing forever.
Note from Jane: if you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Ricardo’s new book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market.
Ricardo Fayet is one of the founders of Reedsy, an online marketplace of top editorial, design and marketing talent. He’s the author of several Reedsy Learning courses, including the course that spurred this blog post: How to Set Up and Grow Your Author Mailing List. Reedsy Learning courses are all free and delivered in your inbox every morning, so give them a try!