Once a book is launched, there are some actions that will count in making it a success, and some that will be a waste of time.
The ones that are usually a waste of time include:
1. Pasting a direct link to your book all over social media.
This probably sounds like something that you should do, based on the conventional myth that the number of people you can get to look at your book determines how many people will buy it.
But just ask yourself: How many such links from other authors do you have the time to look at? And, even if you do click on them, how many times do you go ahead and buy that book?
The answer is probably less than 1% to the first question, which means the percentage for the second question is infinitesimal.
So what makes you think that other people respond differently?
Spamming social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever, with a simple book link, or a post saying ‘Like this’ is like walking down a crowded street with a placard round your neck saying ‘Kiss me’. The probable result is that people will ignore and avoid you - and if you persist, they will take the time to note who you are and ignore and avoid you more.
It’s annoying and counter-productive to do this - not to mention time-consuming.
2. Pay for ad campaigns on social media.
This is just like doing the above, but on steroids. Yes, you may get one or two sales, but the overall effect will be that thousands of people will either have blocked your ads or come to associate your name with irritating promotional material. And the whole operation has cost you money.
Don’t do it.
So if these things are out of bounds, what the heck are you supposed to do to get a book out there and getting sales?
1. Know your book.
Remove your gaze from the outer world, my young apprentice, and look within.
Look at the book that you have just written.
What is it about?
What makes it special?
What makes it stand out from the crowd of millions of other books?
And what kind of person might be interested in it?
Having some kind of answer to those questions is the key to successful marketing. Why? Because marketing is communication.
If you’re just writing stuff, publishing it, and then spamming it to the world, you’re not actually communicating. To communicate, you have to have some kind of an idea of who is at the other end of the communication.
How do you get to know these other people? They are complete strangers, surely?
Start with the ones you do know.
2. Make a list of ongoing conversations that you have with friends and people whom you know are already interested in the type of thing you write.
Some of these - probably many of them - will be part of communities of like-minded people, fan groups, book clubs, small groups of passionate readers and the like.
3. Engage in conversations with them.
Don’t spam them with your book link.
Start, or continue talking to them about the things that you know that they enjoy. Have conversations about the kinds of things that your book touches upon. Discover which of these people is most reaching for more of the thing they love. Then, and only then, mention that you have written a book.
Then change the subject.
Why change the subject? Why not zoom in and ‘close them for the sale’?
There’s a whole world of reasons why, but the principle one is this: going for sales ‘short circuits’ the overall effect you’re trying to create. As soon as anyone gets a hint that you are trying to sell them something, they will activate their ‘shields’ and withdraw a little. That’s because ‘the sale’ is actually part of a much longer communication and subject of interest to them.
So you change the subject back onto the thing that you both enjoy, the bigger topic.
Your book has worked hard (I hope) to produce an effect upon a reader. That’s been your aim as a writer all along: to create a lasting result upon a reader using words, images, characters, plots and all the rest of the paraphernalia involved in writing fiction. You want them to have that experience that you have crafted for them.
To get that experience, they have to buy the book. But before they can buy the book, they need to ‘buy into’ the experience.
So what should you be talking about?
Engage, communicate, connect, and keep talking about the Big Picture, the thing that your book endeavours to reveal more about. Reaching for that Big Picture, the prospect will buy the book.
If you wanted someone to cross a raging river so that you could show them the wonders of an untouched primal forest on the other side, would you focus their attention on the rushing river and the tiny stepping stone right in front of them, and try to handle their fears about taking that first step one by one? Or would you keep their attention on the opposite bank and the marvels that they were about to see, until their own desire rose so far as to overcome their fears about the stepping stone?
Buying your book is the stepping stone - a tiny step, full of fears born of parting with money, which you cannot normally hope to overcome in one conversation. What your book will show them - the wonders and marvels of a whole new world - is the primal forest.
Keep the prospect’s attention on the wonders and marvels and this magic will occur:
The prospect will themselves overcome their objections and take that first step with you.
By all means, make it as easy as you can for them: have a working link, a functioning delivery system, and a price low enough for them not to balk at, for example. Make the stepping stone itself as appealing and stable as you can, with an appropriately attractive cover and blurb and all the rest of it. But don’t zoom in on the stepping stone - zoom in on the forest beyond.
Conversations take time; they are rich, they wander, they are the stuff of life. Spamming, which just involves you and a computer keyboard, seems quicker and easier.
The trouble is that spamming doesn’t work, while conversations do.
4. Keep on having conversations with people you listed above, with friends, family, connections, members of sensible groups, and so on. Build the affinity.
They will come to know you. They will come to trust you. And they will start buying your book whether you mention it or not.
It will take time. It will take constant communication. But that’s one definition of marketing: communication.
Communication with strangers via a faceless cyberspace link is not really communication at all.
Conversations with real people, known partly by meeting them for real and partly by sharing some of your life through social media is, by definition, real communication.
It’s also real marketing.