I think one of the biggest mistakes that authors make with regards to marketing is spending huge amounts of time that will produce very few results. This is usually a byproduct of being excited that a new book has just been released and wanting to get the word out. Here’s a typical scenario:
- Book is launched
- Person does a goodreads giveaway to tell people about book
- Readers go to the goodread page or Amazon page to “check it out”
- They find a page with none (or few) reviews
- They are leery to be “the guinea pig” to try a book that is, in their eyes, “untested.”
The result…a lot of people “saw” your book but few took action (signed up for the giveaway, downloaded a sample, bought the book), because the risk outweighed the benefit.
A goodreads giveaway is just one example. They could just as easily be doing some other form of promotion such as:
- Using Amazon Select free-days
- Launching a facebook ad campaign
- Launching a goodreads ad campaign
- Sending out an email to a large list
- Signing up for BookBlast or BookBub
- A significant price drop for a limited time
Basically you need to make sure that before you drive a bunch of eyeballs to your book, that it will receive a favorable reaction.Essentially you need to make it “ready for prime time.”
So what makes a book ready? Well, for the moment, I’m going to take off the table the basic essentials that every book must have:
- Attractive and professional cover
- Compelling marketing copy
- Appropriate Category selection and Metadata
Each of these should be “a given” and I will discuss them more in other posts. Let’s just say that if you don’t have these BEFORE you launch, then you shouldn’t have launched in the first place.
Number of Reviews
By far the biggest factor to easy people’s minds are reviews. People are more comfortable in a crowd then standing all alone and seeing that dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of people have read and liked a book gives them the warm fuzzies to act rather than just drive by and leave. In general, I say you should have at least:
- Double-digit reviews on Amazon (12 – 15 preferred)
- At least 30 – 40 ratings on goodreads
- At least 5 full goodread reviews.
So the obvious question is, “How do I get reviews, if I don’t market my book?” Well, unlike some things, this is not a chicken and egg situation. It just means that you have to do some pre-release (or soon after release) planning and work.
Likely you have had beta readers that have looked at the book while it was being produced. Once you get the final version you should of course send them a copy and that they checkout how the whole thing turned out. They are likely interested to see if you acted on their advice and are curious as to how much or little the book changed between their read and the “official version.” Ask them to leave a review on goodreads (which can be done at anytime even months before the book is released).
You can also find “early readers” for the book. There are Amazon reviewers that post their contact information because they love getting review copies. You can also reach out on goodreads to people who have shelved books similar to yours and ask them if they would like a free review copy. Offering a free copy for a possibility of a review is a time honored tradition, and is not considered a disreputable practice.
Book bloggers live and die by posting their opinions. Some do so by spending their own money, and they would be thrilled to get a “comp copy.” When looking for bloggers focus on those that mention they post their reviews to multiple sites (typically goodreads, Amazon, & Barnes and Noble) as a single read will result in three postings…it doesn’t matter that they are all the same.
Just getting a book in people’s hands is not enough. Squeaky wheels get the grease and a friendly reminder or message indicating you are “checking in”and “anxious to hear their opinions” will often get your book moved before other ones. Of course you have to do this delicately, if you come off wrong it may mean no review, or worse yet a bad review. So always be respectful and grateful.
It should go without saying that buying reviews or soliciting reviews from people who haven’t actually read the book should not be done. Yes, there are people (some very successful) who have done so, but this is a one-way ticket to loss of reputation, and once destroyed you can never get that back. Also, I’m not a fan of asking friends and relatives who have read the book to post reviews…as they are sure to be biased…but…I would say that if they (not you) feel strongly about it then ask them to put up a disclaimer so that people know all the facts. For instance I’ve had some people in my writer’s group write a review such as. “I first met Michael in my writer’s group and after hearing his critiques decided to check out his books. Other than the group, I don’t know him personally, and would classify myself as an acquaintance.”
While reviews are the number one thing, there are other activities that can make the book appear “professional” and thus lower the perceived risk. Some of these would include:
- Rankings on Bestsellerlists
- Compelling author biographies
- Author testimonials
I’ll get into these more in future posts, but for now you should have plenty to work on just getting your reviews in order.