PUBLISHED NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020
by Bruce Harpham
, Marketing Consultant, BooksGoSocial --
Marketing Consultant Bruce Harpham walks through the actions authors should take in order to build an audience of readers and contacts who can help them sell their books.
Selling books requires a consistent marketing effort by the author. You’ve probably heard that claim before. The challenge is in the execution. After all, you already put effort into daily writing. In my experience and conversations with authors, many struggle to carry out the actions required to build an audience of readers and contacts who can help them sell their books.
The Barriers to Consistent Book Marketing You Need to Overcome
The barriers to effective book marketing ultimately boil down to a few reasons. First, some authors feel that book marketing is somebody else’s responsibility, such as their publisher. Other authors do not do marketing because they assume it requires a large budget to spend on Facebook advertising and similar media. Finally, some authors do manage to market their books occasionally when they have a speaking engagement. However, sporadic marketing efforts tend to yield occasional sales.
Why It Makes Sense to Take a Habit Approach
As an author, you probably have limited time and resources to put into book marketing. Aside from obsessively checking Amazon for reviews, and your sales rank, your daily engagement with book marketing is probably limited. Therefore, you need a simple and repeatable process—also known as a habit—that you can consistently execute to keep selling copies of your books.
The solution to this barrier lies in adopting a book marketing habit. With a habit, you are stacking bricks over time to build results. One or two days of marketing efforts will not produce much progress. However, if you keep up your effort for 30, 60, or 90 days, you will see results.
Book Marketing Habit #1: Achieve a Critical Mass of Online Reviews
A book without reviews will generally not sell well. For example, consider Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells
by Chris Fox. It was published on Feb. 9, 2016, and it has over 300 reviews. At the time of this writing in July 2020, the book has an Amazon bestseller rank of 35,939, so it is likely still selling several copies per day.
1. To practice the book review habit, use the following steps each day.
Review your email and social media contacts for people who are ideal readers.
Note that it is vital to find ideal readers. For example, if you sell fantasy novels, then you want most of your fans to be fantasy authors. Why? In this case, your book will show up in the “Also bought” section on other fantasy books on Amazon. As a result, it is better to find one or two relevant readers per day to read the book than 10 people who have a passing interest in your genre.
2. Find one person who might be interested in your book and one specific reason why that one person may like your book.
In your outreach message, give the person one particular reason why they might like the book. Author Tim Ferriss used this technique when he marketed his first book The 4 Hour Workweek
at conferences. He would call out specific chapters to potential readers.
3. Send a message to them asking them to review the book.
If the person shows an interest in your book, aim to provide them a free review copy (or a heavily discounted copy). After approximately two weeks, follow up once or twice to encourage them to leave a review. Keep using this habit until you reach a minimum of 10 reviews. However, if you like this marketing habit, keep on going. Authentic, high-quality reviews are one of the best ways to promote your book.
Book Marketing Habit 2: Promote Your Books Through Podcast Interviews
Hal Elrod, the author of the best-selling book The Miracle Morning, appeared on more than 100 podcasts to promote his book. His determination to speak about his book continually is a significant reason why the book is successful.
To pursue this book marketing habit in 20 minutes per day, perform two actions over and over. First, search Google for podcasts that interview authors. Second, check the podcast website for information on how to suggest yourself as a guest. Your goal is to write one short outreach email to a podcast host each day. Over a month, you will have contacted 20-30 podcast hosts.
Tip: You can shortcut the process further by researching podcast appearances by an author in the same genre as you. If you have published a personal development book (also known as self-help) like Hal Elrod, then do a Google search for “Hal Elrod podcast interview” and create a list.
Book Marketing Habit 3: Build Your Relationships by Giving First
Networking is a powerful strategy if you take the right approach to it. Unlike some strategies, networking can feel nebulous and challenging to quantify. Therefore, using a banking analogy can be helpful here. Think of relationships like a bank account. Before you can make a withdrawal, you need to make a deposit (ideally, several deposits). In the same way, before you ask for a favor from somebody else, do what you can to support them.
This habit is an excellent way to supercharge the results of habit one where you are asking people for reviews. By using this strategy first, you will probably find that more people are willing to help you out. This sequence of steps requires a habit approach because relationships are best developed over time through a series of interactions.
1. Review people you know who have already done something helpful for you and offer to help them.
Almost all of us have already benefited in life from the support of other people. Therefore, take a few minutes to thank somebody who has helped you. For extra credit, propose one specific way you can help the other person.
2. Monitor social media for requests for assistance.
For example, I noticed that author and entrepreneur Nathan Latka recently launched a new social media show called “Deal or Bust Show.” To promote it further, he put it up on Product Hunt. I upvoted the project and wished him well with it.
If you pay attention to your social media feeds for 10-15 minutes per day, you will probably notice somebody directly or indirectly asking for help. When those requests come up, do what you can to offer support.
3. Ask for a relevant favor to support the book.
With the previous two steps, you will have made a few deposits into the relationship bank. Now, you can make a thoughtful request. Since there are many ways to do favors for other people, this habit is quite flexible. You can achieve plenty for a connection in five minutes.
Your Next Move
Choose one of the three book marketing habits from this article and add a reminder to do it every day. You could create a recurring reminder in Google calendar or use a habit-tracking app like Streaks.
Book Marketing Barriers to Overcome
- Marketing responsibility
- False budget beliefs
- Sporadic marketing efforts
How to Build a Daily Book Review Habit
- Review your email and social media contacts for people who are ideal readers.
- Find one person who might be interested in your book and one specific reason why that one person may like your book.
- Send a message to your desired reviewer asking them to review the book.
How to Build Relationships Through Support
- Review people you know who have already done something helpful for you and offer to help them.
- Monitor social media for requests for assistance.
- Ask for a relevant favor to support your book.
Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant to BooksGoSocial, based in Canada. He is the author of
Project Managers at Work and
The Marketing Blueprint.