Marketing for Authors: Interview with Sandra Beckwith
Getting a piece of useful advice helps you build your strategy in both writing and marketing. These tips are especially worthy when you get them from the author and national award-winning former publicist – Sandra Beckwith. You might have seen her on “The Montel Williams Show,” or “CBS This Morning,” or read about her in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Feedspot has ranked her website, Build Book Buzz, as # 7 among thousands of book marketing blogs. It has also been named a top website for authors and writers six other times.
We’ve asked Sandra about her experience, the role of social media in self-publishing, typical author’s mistakes in marketing, and channels for the book promotion.
Sandra, your first book was traditionally published in 1995. What changes have you seen in book marketing since then?
Social media didn’t exist way back in 1995, so we marketed books with publicity, appearances, and advertising. Social media has become a huge game-changer because it allows us to reach our audience directly without an intermediary: magazines, newspapers, talk shows, etc.
Before, audience connection opportunities at book signings or after speaking to a group were fleeting and temporary. Now, we can really get to know our readers by communicating on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Email marketing also lets us connect with our ideal readers today. I send a free weekly newsletter with book marketing tips and advice, and because so many people reply with comments or questions, I feel like I’ve made a lot of friends. These are people I’d be inclined to hug if we met in person at a conference. It’s special!
Then there’s Amazon. It has completely altered how and where people buy books. I’ll still go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore and browse the shelves like I used to – I just did that over the weekend – but wow, has Amazon changed how books are marketed and purchased!
What surprising lessons about book marketing have you learned along the way?
As marketers, we like to think that with the right book elements, such as a professionally designed and genre-appropriate cover, well-written and edited text, and a topic that resonates, we can work our magic to help a book succeed. In reality, though, word-of-mouth is what really sells books. It’s people recommending your book to others.
It might be on Facebook, where many of your connections are raving about the same book, or on Goodreads, where you can see what friends with similar tastes have read, and how they’ve rated the books.
The lesson is the power of the crowd to elevate a good book.
From my perspective, as someone who teaches people how to market their books, it took me a while to figure out that you won’t allow me to teach you what you need to know if you don’t think you need to learn it. That concept translates to your book’s marketability. If there’s no demand for your book, it will be hard to sell no matter how good it is.
What do you think are the three most common book marketing and sales mistakes indie authors make?
Using any publishing model, not just self-publishing, authors typically make all the same mistakes. The first one that is unique to indie authors is failing to recognize the need for a quality product. If you want to sell books, they have to be as competitive as those coming from traditional book publishers. It means using beta readers to get feedback on the content, paying a professional with experience in your category or genre to design the cover, and hiring a professional editor and proofreader. If you have done none of this and your book isn’t selling, you aren’t allowed to complain.
The second mistake is failing to identify your target audience – your ideal reader. Many authors think “everybody” will love their books. Not true. And while it seems counterintuitive, the more specific you are about who will buy your book, and the more you know about that person, the more books you’ll sell. You’ll stop wasting your time marketing to the wrong people while you do a better job of using effective messages with the right people.
Finally, it’s thinking you have to do what every other author you see is doing. Book marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all. What works for my book probably won’t work for yours. Therefore, understanding your ideal reader and where you’ll find them is so important. Once you know who they are, you’ll see if you should market on Facebook or Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest. Only then you can invest time learning how to use those resources effectively, so your marketing time is well-spent.
In your opinion, what are the most effective channels for book marketing if you are a beginning author?
What works for any author – beginning or otherwise – depends on the book, its audience, the author’s strengths, and how much time the author has available for marketing and promotion. For example, public speaking works well for memoir authors, but if you’re a memoirist and you break out in hives at the thought of speaking to a group, then it probably isn’t the best option for you. And that’s okay. You have plenty of other alternatives.
That said, one thing most authors have in common is the need for an excellent Amazon sales page. Most books bought online are bought on Amazon, so it’s essential to use your real estate there wisely and effectively. Marketers call this “optimizing,” but all that really means is making your sales page there as good as it can be. Use the right book categories and keywords, include a compelling and accurate book description with no typos, add any pre-publication editorial reviews in the section reserved for that, and include your relevant author bio.
Once you’ve got that page set up properly and “optimized,” work hard to get honest reader reviews. They’re the “social proof” – evidence – book lovers need and want to see when considering a purchase.
Can you please share with our audience your favorite blogs (or other resources) for authors?
Yes! There’s mine, of course.
We’re beholden to Sandra Beckwith for sharing her expert opinion with our audience. We hope that these tips will make self-publishing much simpler for you.
Do your best and reach your targets!