As much as we authors hate to admit it, the marketing of a book is as important, if not more important, than the book itself – at least as far as sales are concerned.
Want proof? Fifty Shades. There’s your proof.
But seriously. Take a look at the top 100 bestselling ebooks of the past year and you’ll notice that the vast majority of them had truly exceptional marketing campaigns.
The marketing of a self published book requires a lot of effort. You need a beautiful cover, a captivating blurb, a sizzling author bio, a burgeoning online presence… Honestly, you’re in for one heck of a challenge when it comes to marketing your self published ebook.
But wait. Don’t hang up the towel just yet. Because I, like some sort of superhero, have decided to singlehandedly save your day.
I’ve gone ahead and created this list of all the ways you can create and market a bestselling ebook.
Just hit the Facebook LIKE button in the sidebar and we’re all even.
Honestly, this article is going to make it so much easier for you to market your ebook. How do I know that? Because I created this article as much for me as for you. I spent hours and hours reading through every book and article I could find about how to market a book. Because of that, I feel quite confident that this list is the ultimate guide to creating a bestseller.
So let’s get to it!
Here’s every way you can create, market, and sell a bestselling self published ebook that will make millions.
I’ve divided the guide into four parts: Pre-Writing, Writing, Getting it on the shelves, and Marketing. Feel free to jump forward to which ever part you need, or to read through the whole article.
How to market a self published ebook, part 1 : Pre-Writing
1: Plan: After you have read this article, go back and create a complete business plan that incorporates all the entries in this list. By planning things out in advance you will save yourself time and money. Your book will probably take hours and hours to write and to market. Having everything planned out in advanced is just good business sense.
2: Genre = Money: Trust me, I know, oftentimes we want to write outside of genre conventions and create something truly original. Being an author means we get to be creative, right? Why bother writing formulaic fiction? The thing is, those formulas sell. They make money. And they’re what people want.
Publishers Weekly maintains sales data for all genres. Their data shows that most book sales come from genre fiction. Specifically, romance, thrillers and fantasy are the bestselling fiction genres, with
This chart shows the breakdown of ebook sales by genre for 2015.
If you want to make money, write genre, if you want to create something more original do it, but just be aware that it might be a lot harder to profit from it.
3: Problems = money: If genre = money in fiction, then problems = money in nonfiction.
This chart shows the sales by genre for non-fiction in 2015.
With the exception of memoirs and People buy non-fiction books because they want to solve a problem. The problems people are trying to solve range from learning to cook to understanding social media to losing weight to finding a husband. But the underlying theory is the same, problems = money.
If you want to create a bestselling non-fiction book, know what problem you’re solving for the reader.
Popular opinion among publishers and authors holds that it’s better to focus one book on one problem. Make your reader a promise: “After you read this book your problem will be gone”. Or in other words, “This book is the solution to your problem”.
What is your book about? Make it one thing; one problem that you’re solving. Then write everything in order to solve that problem.
4: Make your ebook a fully-realised product: I’m going to put my hands up right now and confess that lots of my earlier books were written too haphazardly. I just threw various articles together, articles that I’d already written as blog posts.
People don’t buy articles, they buy products.
A product is a conceptualised and then fully realised item. Make sure that your book is a product, not just a random assortment of articles or ideas thrown together because you felt like it.
PRO TIP: Put the premise of your novel above every page of the book while writing. If it’s fiction write the premise out using this guide. If it’s non-fiction put the problem / solution on every page. This is just while you’re writing so you have a reminder that will keep you focused and on target.
A book like Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People is a fully realised product. It offers something (to be an effective person) and it delivers it.
5: Never, never, never presume that you know what readers want: You might think you have an amazing idea, and you might love to read that idea yourself, but you should never presume that your readers are going to love the idea you have in your head. Don’t use gut instinct, use research.
Many fiction flops are written by authors who think “I know what would make an amazing book…” They write books based on their presumptions and gut instincts, not on facts, figures and research.
Instead of writing the book you think people will enjoy, write the book that your market research tells you to write.
6: How many books are there on the same topic: Your book is unique to you because you wrote it. No doubt your book feels like your baby. It’s a wonderful piece of work of which you’re proud. And that’s great. I love the feeling of having created a book I’m proud of. But your readers won’t feel the same way.
Ask yourself, is your book genuinely unique to your reader? Or, are there a million other similar books out there that they could read? The more competition the harder the sell. Take a look at the shelves and consider who you’re competing against. If there’s too much competition refocus your aim, or create an absolutely amazing premise that will make your book standout even among the crowd.
Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is in a highly competitive niche: relationships. But it has a unique twist. It reveals how to communicate with your husband or wife in a way they will understand. The result is a place in the BYT bestsellers list.
7: Know that your ebook can you make you a millionaire, but not necessarily through sales: There’s more than one way to profit from a quality ebook. Money is just part of it.
Many businesses put out a free ebook to invite their customers into their business. They show their knowledge and skills in the ebook and essentially use their ebook to sell their services.
Some authors have put out ebooks in order to gain recognition as a specialist in their field. They then use that recognition to gain lucrative jobs.
Be aware before writing that monetary reimbursement is just one way in which can profit from a book. Writing a book to be seen as a specialist, for instance, is a different challenge to writing a book to make money.
Consider the many other ways, besides money, in which your ebook might help your career.
8: Niche: There are a lot of people in the world. And a lot of those people have similar problems. Those people with similar problems are essentially a niche market that you can sell your non fiction self published ebook to. Likewise, there are millions of people with similar likes and interests. Those people form a niche market for fiction. For instance, you can lump all the vampire-lovers into one niche, people who love cops and robbers in another, and hey presto you’ve got yourself two niche markets.
By considering people based on their likes and interests (for fiction) and their problems (for non-fiction) you can find yourself a niche market that perhaps has yet to be tapped.
Find your niche market based on problems / interests and then target your book specifically to those people.
You might think “But I want to sell the next Harry Potter. I don’t want a niche market. I want everyone to read my book”. But chill out, cowboy, because those niche markets are bigger than you might think. Even a niche within a niche within a niche can make you money. Some authors actually make money by producing lots of different ebooks on all different subjects. It might not be as glamorous as writing an NYT bestseller, but it can pay the bills, and when you’re starting out as an author, that’s one of the hardest challenges.
Also note that just because you’re targeting a niche doesn’t mean other people won’t read your book. Harry Potter targeted a specific niche: kids who like fantasy and magic. It sold to that niche, but then because it was such an entertaining read it also sold to everyone else too.
Your target niche is your beginning, not your end. It’s the people who will buy your book first. That doesn’t mean others won’t also buy it.
Harry Potter targeted a specific niche (kids who like magic) but went on to sell to billions of other readers too.
9: Organise your blog posts so they become your book: If you’re a blogger you have to write blog content anyway. Ask yourself whether it’s possible for you to make your blog posts and your book the same thing. For instance, let’s say you’re writing a book about social media marketing and you’re also producing a book on that same subject. Is there any reason why you can’t divide the book into logical subjects and make those subjects serve as both the chapters of your book and the pages of your blog? Your readers won’t mind.
If you use this technique you might like to give your readers the option of either reading your book online via your blog (in which case you can make advertising money) or buying the book. Two birds. One rocket launcher.
As mentioned above, however, if you do this, make sure that the chapters of your blog do truly belong together.
10: For non-fiction have a very clear benefit: Make one very, very clear benefit that you’re going to give your reader. If you’re writing a dieting book your aim is obvious: Getting to the ideal weight. Focus all your effort on conveying that benefit and on making the reader believe that they will lose weight when they read your book.
You might think it’s a good idea to discuss other interesting topics like, for instance, toning up at the same time. But if you make your book about toning up and losing weight you’re splitting your audience in two, because half your target audience will just want to lose weight and won’t be interested in toning up. So be sure to focus your book on one (and only one) very clear benefit.
One mistake people make (and I’ve done this myself) is that they try to cram all their blog posts into one book and thereby include too much information on too many different subjects. Focus on the one thing.
You should be able to put the benefit into one line: “This book will make you lose weight”.
Joe Casanova’s Socially Accepted is a fantastic example of a book that’s focused on one clear benefit. Socially Accepted meets three of our marketing criteria right in the title. It has a clear problem (being socially awkward) a niche market (socially awkward people) and a clear benefit (being socially accepted).
11: Be honest with yourself: So you want to write an ebook. And you know what you would like to write an ebook about. But just because you want to write an ebook on a specific subject doesn’t mean people want to buy an ebook on that subject.
Ask yourself: Is this a topic that people would be willing to pay to read about? If so, proceed to the next question: Can I actually be marketable in this niche?
If there are already many famous writers working in your niche and they’re all putting out top quality content, why would readers buy your book? You have to have an answer to that question. You have to have some reason why someone would, for instance, buy your book about spirituality instead of Deepak Chopra’s. And it had better be a good reason.
I personally write about meditation as one of my main subjects. That puts me in direct competition with celebrities like Deepak Chopra. Honestly, can I compete with Chopra? Certainly not on name and recognition. But so long as I recognise that fact I can look for alternative approaches. I can market myself as a different kind of spiritual author, with a different kind of spiritual book. That sets me apart from the competition and gives readers a reason to buy my book rather than Mr Chopra’s.
One thing I recommend is to take a picture of your book and line it up against the competition. This may be a very sobering occasion, but it clarifies the reality of your situation and it also gives you an opportunity to see how you might set yourself apart from the pack.
Here’s my own meditation book as it is right now, lines up against some of the competition (mine is on the far right)
Compare your book to the competition
You are bigger than your book: More often than not, your personality is more important than your book. That’s precisely why so many ghostwriters write books and then slap a celebrity name on them because the personality sells the book and the rest is just words. And yes, you and I love words and are very proud of our writing, but for the average person the personality is more important than their work (trust me, I hate it too).
The more famous and notable you can make yourself the more people will buy your ebook. That’s why some of the bestselling books of the past year have come from Youtube personalities, the majority of which are not truly “authors” but rather are people using books as a means to capitalise on their celebrity.
12: Survey your readers to ask them what they want: Do you already have a good online presence? Do you have a popular blog, an email list, or a popular social media page? Use that to your advantage.
Survey your audience to ask them what book they would like to read. You’ll need to guide them through the survey, giving them different options (“Book A, B, or C?”). You’ll also need to give them some incentive because most people don’t enjoy completing surveys. Perhaps tell them you’ll give them a free copy of your ebook when it’s done provided they complete the survey. The information your readers pass on could well make the difference between a bestseller and a non-seller.
12: As an alternative to the above, run product testing by creating blog posts that are mini-versions of your books and then seeing which one your readers click on the most:
This is one of my personal favourite tips. Because the reality of the matter is this: a lot of people don’t actually know what they want until they see it. To truly test your book ideas, write them up as blog posts. Share those blog posts on your social media profiles and see what sort of a reaction you get. You might find that one idea sparks a lot of engagement. If one idea gains more traction than the rest, go with it even if it’s not the idea you would have chosen. Remember, your instincts aren’t as accurate as your research.
Share your book ideas as posts on Facebook. See which posts get the most clicks, likes, and shares.
13: Research the market before you begin writing your book: Read. Read. Read. If you really want your book to take off you need to know precisely what’s happening in your market. You should read as many books as you can and work out why they do or do not sell. You can also use that research as a way to find popular writing styles and popular design styles and to inspire you to find bigger and better ideas. Knowledge is power.
14: Get over yourself: You think you’re the bee’s knees. And maybe you are. But unless you’re famous, your readers don’t know you and honestly they more than likely don’t care all that much. No offense. That’s just the reality we’re all facing, right? Readers want entertainment (for fiction) or help / advice /facts (for non-fiction). Don’t think that you can simply sell whatever you want to your reader because you’re so darned amazing (even though, let’s face it, you are pretty amazing). Give your readers what they want. If they’re ordering a burger and fries, don’t give them the paella.
15: Bubble-Up system: I love this system. It’s another one of the ways in which you can take advantage of an already established online presence.
The bubble-up system let’s you test how different content results in different actions.
Let me clarify.
Let’s say you want to write a book about meditation (a subject I personally write about) but you don’t know how to go about it, what writing style to use, what title, etc.
What you need to do is extensively test every aspect of your book before you begin writing.
To do that you need to take advantage of your online presence. For instance, you can test your title by posting it on Twitter and seeing how many people click the link. Same with your cover image. You can test different promises, for instance, is “Beginners guide to meditation” as good as “How even non-meditators can use Zen to become happy”. I’m just throwing stuff out here. The idea is that you test every aspect of your book using your social media pages and your blog. That way you can get a clear idea of where your book needs to go long before you start writing it.
16: Consider basing books around the keywords your blog gets traffic for: If your blog is getting lots of traffic for a particular keyword, it’s likely a sign of a subject with high demand and low competition. That’s precisely the sort of topic you want to write about, a topic that lots of people want to read about and which few people have written about.
Use your Google Analytics or Webmster Tools account to find out which of your pages are receiving the most traffic. Then take a look at which specific keywords people are using to come to your site. These keywords are words you’re ranking for. These are subjects that have lots of demand and little competition (or, at least, competition that you can compete with online). These are perfect keywords for you to base your book around.
17: Write a traditional book proposal: When you submit non-fiction books for traditional publication, you submit the first three chapters of your book along with the proposal. The proposal provides a formal overview of your book idea, the title, the intended market, a competitive analysis, your author bio, a table of contents, and sample chapters. Of course you don’t need a proposal for a self published book. But it’s still a good idea to do one.
Writing a traditional book proposal will help you to plan your book and to realise what you need to do in order to make your self published book a success.
Jane Friedman has written a fantastic guide to writing a non-fiction book proposal. I recommend it.
18: Conduct extensive competitive analysis: Part of the non-fiction book proposal is a competitive analysis. Personally I like to really go to town on my competitive analysis. I go through the top 100 bestselling books in my niche, read the first 3 chapters and make notes on the style of writing, the title, the premise, the cover design, pretty much everything. This is an exhaustive process but it’s worth it in the long run. By knowing precisely where the market is at you allow yourself to make the right business decisions, decisions that will make your self published ebook a bestseller.
19: Make sure you stand out from the pack somehow: Imagine there are 5 diet books in the world. 4 of those diet books all share the same idea. They give complete nutritional information on all popular foods. The fifth book is different. The fifth book doesn’t include nutrition or even facts, it just discusses the journey the author went through when losing weight.
Which of those diet ebooks do you think will sell the best?
The answer is book 5. The reason is because it’s different. Books 1 to 4 are all going to compete for the very same demographic and they all do the same thing, so books 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all sharing their profit. But book 5 is different. It has its own demographic. And not only does it have its own demographic it also offers something different. Even those people who buy books 1, 2, 3 and 4 might still buy book 5 because it’s a unique read.
The moral of the story is that you should make your book unique somehow.
For instance, let’s return to my meditation books (which I’m currently working on). Let’s say I want to write a complete guide to meditation. But there already are hundreds of those, so I’m drowning in competition. By making my meditation book unique I can a) create a unique demographic, and b) give readers a reason to buy my book even if they’ve already ready the other meditation books.
Finally, a unique idea, or a different twist on an old favourite, can make your book stand out on the shelves, giving it more attention and leading to increased sales.
Here’s a very unique take on the extremely competitive subject of money-making. Even if you’ve many books on the subject, you’d still be intrigued to take a look at this one.
20: Know precisely who will buy your book and why, and build the book around that:
It’s too easy to look at sales as nothing more than numbers. 1 million, for instance. That’s a nice big number. You want to sell one million ebooks. But to sell one million books one million people need to buy your book.
Who are those one million people? Are they male or female? Young or old? Do they have a degree? Are they rich or poor?
The more you know about your demographic the more you can please them.
You should have a precise idea of who your demographic and is why they will want to buy your book. Then you should write that book specifically to appeal to that demographic. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get buyers outside of that demographic, but it does mean that there will be one large group of people who will be very interested in buying.
21: Conduct keyword analysis for Amazon: If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ve probably heard about Keyword research. It’s a little outdated now, but the idea is that you use a tool to discover the “keywords” or terms that people are searching for.
For instance, if you’re writing about happiness you could enter “Happiness” in Google’s Keyword Tool and it would suggest a list of related terms that people are searching for, along with the number of people searching for those terms.
You can do the same thing on Amazon.
When people run a search in Amazon the results page shows products related to that term, based on the number of times the search term appeared in the titles.
You can take advantage of this by writing about the specific keywords that people are searching for on Amazon.
Include keywords in your titles, bios, and book descriptions so that Amazon will place you high in their search engine results pages.
For instance, if you’re writing a book called “How to be happy” put that very term (“how to be happy”) in the title, in the book description, and in your author bio. This will help your bok to place highly in the SERPs.
22: Find a niche with high demand and low competition: As in all business you want to create a product with high demand and little competition. That way you can help yourself to a health piece of commercial pie.
But just how the heck do you find out what niche has high demand and low competition?
There are a few ways.
First off, you can use your own Google Analytics data from your blog. If you’re getting a lot of traffic for a specific keyword, it’s a good sign that people are interested in that subject and also that there’s little competition (because unless your blog is DomainAuthority 8+ you most likely wouldn’t rank highly for a highly competitive term).
So the first thing to do is to hit up your analytics and see which terms you’re getting traffic for. Write about these terms and you’ll give yourself a good chance of writing a self published ebook that will sell well.
Secondly, hit up the SERPs and use MOZbar to determine keywords that other minor website are ranking highly for. MOZbar is a browser extension that will tell you the PA (Page Authority) and DA (Domain Authority) of websites listed in the SERPs. If you find a highly competitive term that low PR / DA sites are ranking for, it’s a good sign that that term has high demand and low competition.
23: Have an amazing book description: I’ll be writing an article about book descriptions soon (join me on Facebook to be notified when I publish that) but for now let’s just say that your book description should be top-notch.
Take a look at the descriptions of bestselling books in your niche. Note the sort of language they use, the personality of the author, the promises they make, the way they describe the book, etc. Use this information to decide how to write your own book description.
There are some websites that will write a book description for you (they’re called “Book Description Generators”). But let’s be totally honest about this. If you’re a skilled author why would you possibly want to automate one of the most important parts of your product?
24: Blog about keywords and topics closely related to your book: The more eyeballs you can get to look at your book the more sells you’re going to make. One great way to get more people to look at your book is to blog about related subjects. If your book’s about cookies, maybe write about chocolate and candy too. If your book’s about holidays to Barcelona, write about Madrid and Seville. Simply create as much content as you can that targets people who will be interested in your book.
25: Keep up with books and authors in your field: To you your book might feel like an exclusive that’s set apart from the pack, but in truth your book is one item on a very long and packed-out shelf. The more you know about the other books on that shelf the better. The more accurately you’re able to position yourself relative to your competition, the more you can control the way your market audience perceives you, leading to more market awareness and better sales.
26: SEO your landing page: Make sure your landing page meets the standard SEO criteria: keyword optimised, low bounce rate, high time-on-page, fast page load speed, etc. The best SEO guide I’ve found has to be MOZ’s beginners guide.
How to market a self published ebook, part 2: Writing
27: Say something shockingly new in the opening of your book: too many books feel like the same old cookie-cutter tripe. Set yourself apart by saying something your readers have never heard before. This will make your voice far more intriguing.
28: Create an emotional high point at the beginning of your book: Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction you want to get your readers hooked the moment they start reading your book. One of the best ways to do that is to create an emotional high. In Divergent, for instance, Tris talks about the decision she’ll have to make, a decision that will change her life and her family forever. In Think And Grow Rich we’re immediately asked whether we want money, fame, or power. There’s no messing around. The authors immediately force us to experience an emotional high. From then on we’re hooked.
Think And Grow Rich doesn’t mess about. It immediately the reader whether they want money, fame, or power.
29: Use the first page to absolutely WOW your readers: You know how the average person thinks about ebooks? They think they suck. That’s because most ebooks do suck. Most self published ebooks are written by authors who would never have achieved traditional publications.
If you want to sell your book you need to prove you’re different. You need to be one of those authors who are good enough to be traditionally published but who chose to self publish an ebook instead. And you need to prove your mantle very early on.
Your first page is the most important page of your book. Make sure it wows readers. Drop names. Use big words. Create an emotional high. Whatever. Just wow them on page one.
30: In the free sample of your ebook, discuss how your readers will feel when they get to the end of the full, paid book: If people make it to the end of the book your mission will be complete. To make that happen, tell your readers all the amazing things that will happen by the time they close the book.
31: Immediately make it obvious that this isn’t just “another one of those ebook-things”: Ebooks have a bad reputation. They’re seen as being cheap. That’s largely because a lot of “authors” who put out “ebooks” are simply awful writers. Honestly, how many times have you seen a hideous spelling mistake on page 1?
You and I might be better writers than that other lot, but our readers don’t know that right away. At the beginning we’re lumped in with the “Pseudo-author-ebook” rout. We have to get away from that immediately. That’s why it’s worth putting a “Holy Sh*t” moment both at the very beginning of the sales page and at the very beginning of the book.
Put one sentence, one fact, one picture, one anything, that is so ridiculously brilliant that it immediately makes the reader think “Wow. This is no ebook. This is a bloody masterpiece!” If you happen to know someone famous then don’t be afraid to drop names. If you happened to have dinner at Steven King’s house last night and you’re selling a horror, then tell people at the very beginning. “The inspiration for this book started when I was dining with my good friend Steven King…” That immediately makes the reader think “Okay. This is for real”.
32: Do NOT confuse your readers about the genre or niche: Let’s say you’re writing a fantasy story but at the beginning of your fantasy story you have a cop investigating a crime. You’re giving the reader completely the wrong impression. You’re saying “This is a mystery / thriller” when it’s actually a fantasy. Make sure your telling your reader what they need to know and not confusing them.
Write to genre and don’t confuse your readers
33: Shock or amaze: Include something in your ebook that will shock or amaze people. Fifty Shades was all about the sex. The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up (bestelling non-fiction title of 2015) doesn’t beat around the bush but quite literally tells you your entire life will change if you tidy up. It might sound like bullshit to you yourself when you write a title like “Change Your Life In 10 Easy Steps” but you know what? People like bullshit. Even when they’re buying a self help book they kinda know that they’re going to get 10% truth 90% hyperbole. History has shown that people like exaggerations and a level of bullshitting. Don’t be afraid to give it to them.
34: Piss someone off royally: You know what some truly clever movie, TV, game and book promoters do? Royally piss someone off, that’s what. Could be a church. Could be a celebrity. Could be anyone so long as they’re well known. Make someone famous complain about your book. The result will be a tidal wave of free publicity (“The book that the church said would lead you all to hell…” Killer marketing, that).
American Psycho was considered extremely offensive and immoral when it was released in 1991. That shock value helped it to become a bestseller.
35: Make people fall in love with YOU (or your character) as much as the writing: If you’re writing fiction you need to make your reader fall in love with your protagonist immediately. If you’re writing non-fiction you need to make your character fall in love with you quickly.
One of the best ways to do this is to show a weakness (“At twenty I was institutionalised due to my severe schizophrenia”). Also talk about your aims and ambitions. Give people a description of who you are. And subtly suggest some of the things that make you awesome. Of the latter, let me just say that you need to avoid sounding egotistical. You need to make yourself sound great without being obvious about it. For instance, “I was fortunate to work with many other amazing people when I was saving people’s lives after the tsunami hit Thailand”
36: Speak to people on an individual level: One of the real buggers of being an author is that everyone thinks their situation is different. For instance let’s consider a book about anxiety. 40% of people suffer from anxiety, but most people believe that their situation is unique. If you say “98% of people who read this book never experience anxiety again”, most readers will think But it won’t work for me, I’m different.
That’s why you need to appeal to people on an individual level. You need to tell people that you understand that their situation is unique but that you have a solution that will work even for their very individual situation.
37: When you finish, read it, read it, and read it again: Even though I’ve been writing for a long time I know for a fact that I miss things. Usually it’s just a little typo. But if that typo goes undetected it makes me look like a total wonka. That’s why I read my books again and again and again (and even then I miss a couple things).
I’m not alone in this. Go grab a bestselling novel that’s been through traditional publishing. Go through it with a fine-tooth comb. I can virtually guarantee you will find at least one minor error with that book.
There will be errors somewhere in your work. The more of them you can correct the better.
Edit. Edit. Edit.
38: Don’t be afraid to stretch the truth: If you’re writing fiction you’re supposed to stretch the truth. If you’re writing non-fiction you’re supposed to stretch the truth.
Honestly, look at any single bestselling non-fiction book. “The Four Hour Workweek.” Yeah, right. “Think And Grow Rich?” Yeah, right. The Secret (which tells you that if you think positive everything in your life will end up just peachy)? Yeah, right. Non-fiction is fiction, it’s just fiction that sort of loosely aims to be truthful-ish.
This is actually a point I struggle with a lot because I believe in honesty. But the facts are the facts. And the fact of the matter is that bestselling non-fiction books are typically 10% truth 90% fiction.
39: Include some designer marks (e.g. icons to close out the chapter) because they add a professional feel and show that you care about the book: Simple. The more professional and beautiful your ebook looks the more people will want it. Add some custom icons to the end of chapters, some custom fonts on the beginning of chapters, etc. Little design elements like this can make a big difference to the way people perceive your ebooks.
Include some symbols, icons, and designer marks that will make your book look more professional.
40: Make it look professional inside: As above, the better it looks the more you’ll sell. If you want a bestselling self published ebook you need to present it every bit as beautifully as a traditional publisher would.
How to market a self published ebook, part 3: Post-Writing
41: Have a professionally designed cover: Or if you have design skills, a cover that is good enough to stand up to the competition.
To test the effectiveness of your ebook cover, line your book up alongside all its competitors. Does it look as good? How about better? Plenty of poorly written books have sold millions simply on the strength of their cover. Imagine what your amazing book will achieve when it’s matched with an amazing cover.
You can make a decent cover without hiring a professional designer. I put together the cover for my book Zen And Now using Photoshop. It took a couple of hours.
You know it’d be great to hear what you think about my cover. Leave me a comment via my Facebook page and Twitter profile and let me know.
42: Have it professionally edited: People will judge your book quickly. Those little typos that you made can really cost you. Because think about it, if you were reading a book and in the first few pages someone used “Your” instead of “You’re”, you wouldn’t continue reading, and you’re readers will adopt the same mentality with you (by the way, the incorrect “You’re” in this sentence is just there for irony’s sake).
The problem is, a lot of “Professional proofreading and editing services” aren’t all they’re stacked up to be. I personally have had the displeasure of having to point out several errors to authors when I’m writing book reviews. Oftentimes the author angrily responds that there “can’t possibly be any typos. I had it professionally edited”. Yet the misspelling or grammatical error remains.
Even if you’ve had your book “Professionally edited” (note the quotation marks), you should still double check it.
43: Choose the right categories: If you’re selling your book through a store like Amazon, make sure you’re putting it in the right categories.
Give yourself some time to get used to the Amazon categories before you even start to write your book. Take a look through each of the categories you’re interested in. See what people have written, how they’ve written it, and how they’ve marketed it. Acquaint yourself with the way in which Amazon organises books, because you’re going to want them to conveniently organise your book into becoming a bestseller.
44: While you’re doing that, also look at the reviews: Read the reviews of bestselling books in your categories. Take particular note of two things: 1) What people loved about the book, and 2) What they found was missing.
Then, when it comes to planning out your book, make sure you include both the things people loved about those other books and the things they found missing. That way you can create an ebook that will give your readers precisely what they want.
45: Make sure your cover immediately tells the reader precisely what they need to know about your book:
Take the words off your book cover. Now ask yourself “Does this cover tell the reader what they need to know?” For instance, if you’re writing the book “How To Sell A Million Indie Books”, ask yourself whether your image has conveyed that message. If it hasn’t, redo it.
Your reader should be able to tell within 3 seconds precisely what your book is about without reading the words. If you’re writing non-fiction take a look at the bestsellers on Amazon. Notice how even the small thumbnail image on those bestsellers is enough to tell you what kind of book it is?
The Four Hour Workweek is a really great example of a cover that clearly conveys the message and promise of the book. The image makes you think of a prosperous and carefree life.
46: Write a great blurb: This point demands an article in itself (follow me on Twitter and Facebook and I’ll tell you when I write that article). But suffice to say your book blurb needs to be excellent. Refer to other bestsellers in your niche, look at their strengths and weaknesses, pen the blurb of your own self published ebook accordingly.
How to market a self published ebook, part 4: Putting it on the shelves
47: Make it really, really easy to buy: You want your reader to be able to buy your book as quickly and easily as possible. If you’re selling your book on your own blog you want to design your blog in such a way that your customers can see, read, and buy your book almost instantaneously.
Obviously this is not relevant if you’re using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). But if you’re selling your book on your own website then you must ensure that your site has a design suitable for eCommerce. The biggest question to ask is: How quickly and easily can someone see and buy my book? If it takes more than 3 clicks to get from your homepage to thepoint of actually buying your book, you’re doing something wrong.
Easy buys = More buys.
48: The eternal question of pricing: This is a big one. How do you price an ebook? Because the truth of the matter is that price isn’t just about selling something for how much it’s genuinely worth. If that were the case a MacDonald’s would cost approximately minus a grand, because it’s less than worthless.
So how do you price your self published ebook?
Start off by asking what the nature of your book is. For instance if you’re writing a book about saving your marriage, people want to spend money on it because they deem the subject to be worthy of expense. But if you’re writing a piece of fluff romance that is intended to just be stupid and fun, you want your price to reflect that carefree attitude, meaning it should be cheap.
In my opinion the question is not “What is this book worth?” it’s “What do I want the perceived value of this book to be”.
That’s the question.
Once you’ve chosen the ideal perceived value, make your book based fairly on that price. If you sell an ebook for $50 because it precisely documents how to create a rocket in which to fly to the moon, then go ahead and sell it for $50 but make sure the end book reflects that cost.
Decide perceived value first, and then make the book reflect that value. Because price, at the end of the day, is not just about money, it’s about psychology.
49: Test different price points:
If you find that people aren’t buying your book at $1 it could very well be because they want something more upmarket. In that case put the price up. And conversely, if you’re $10 novella isn’t selling make it $1. Experiment until you find the right price.
50: Make it available on all major formats: Total no brainer. If you’re selling your book yourself make it available in all formats. Personally I create my books in word, save them as a PDF using Word itself, and then convert it to different file formats using Calibre. Calibre is a great piece of software that is truly helpful for self published authors. I recommend it.
51: Get reviews from your friends for Amazon: Urgghhhh. If you’re bored of every book in the world (even the trash ones) getting 4 or 5 stars on Amazon, trust me I get it. Amazon reviews suck. But they are a part of the puzzle and you need them. Ask your friends and family to review your book so you get some five star reviews to kick things off.
52: Use heat-maps and analytics to determine where people are in the sales process:
If you’re self publishing on your own site you have to be mindful of the design of your site and of the sales process because each individual node in your sales channel is a hurdle that your customers have to get over.
Let’s say, for instance, that you do what I do and you put the ad for your book in your sidebar. You need to know whether people are seeing that ad and then whether they’re clicking on it. If people are making it through to your sales page you then need to know whereabouts they’re getting to on the sales page. Are they reading the description? Are they clicking on the book preview? Are they reading the book preview? It goes on.
The more you understand your own sales process the more sales you’re going to get.
This information can help you to find weak spots in your site design and in your sales process, and then to correct them.
The importance of site design cannot be overlooked when you’re self publishing your book on your blog.
Heatmaps and other data allow you to visualise how your customers are interacting with your site. This helps you to optimise site design and maximise sales.
53: Write out every part of your sales process:
Your book itself is just one tiny part of the sales and marketing process. You need to know as much about your sales process as possible. To begin, write down a complete chart showing every stage in your sales process. For instance, let’s say the user starts on Facebook. In this instance you would write:
Facebook.com > See post > Click posts > Visit Site > Click on book > See sales page > See cover > Read description > Read preview > Click “Buy” > Process the sale.
The sale can stop at any point in this chart and for various reasons. The more clearly you can perceive the sales process the more you can find potential problem areas and then correct them.
54: Remember that price = perceived value: People might be quicker to buy a cheap book, but the price also shapes the audience’s perceived value of the product. If you create a stellar book and sell it for a buck, people will presume it’s only worth a buck. If you put a mediocre book out for $10 people may question it, but they’ll also presume that there must be something of value within the pages (even though this is not always the case).
55: Create a book cover that stands out and that you can readily adapt into a Facebook / Twitter image:
When it comes to marketing your self published book, Facebook and Twitter are your best friends. You want your book to get as many shares, likes, and post clicks as possible.
One of the most important aspects of achieving a high engagement rate on Facebook and Twitter is the post thumbnail, he image that runs alongside the post. This image needs to grab people’s attention and make them click.
Some of the best ways to create / choose a highly clickable image are
- Use an image with high contrast
- Use close-ups
- Show people’s faces
- Two tone images are known to produce good clickthrough rates.
- Show something people want (e.g. money).
- Show something that creates an immediate emotional response (e.g. cute cats).
The more clickable your image is the more traction it will get on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
56: Use KDP promotions: KDP promotions are a great way to get your book discovered. Give your book a promotion and then notify the bigger ebook blogs. This will give you some free publicity. Be sure to tell your social media followers about your promotions too.
57: Make it very obvious that readers can read the book easily and on any device: A lot of people are not tech savy. This is especially true if you’re dealing with an older demographic. You need to make it very clear to your audience that they can buy and read your book easily. Obviously this is irrelevant if you’re on Amazon, but imperative when self publishing on your own blog.
58: Create a high quality ebook landing page: This subject could fill a book all by itself. But suffice to say you need a landing page that truly makes people want to buy your book. Make your book look like the best thing since cinnamon waffles. The packaging is half the product.
How to market a self published ebook, part 5: Marketing
59: Write more books: More important than selling your ebook is selling yourself. You want people to get to know you as an author and to get to know your work (which will hopefully be of high quality). Once people know you and trust your writing ability they’ll buy into you.
The more books you have on the shelf the more chance there is of people discovering one of your books. Once they’ve discovered, read and enjoyed one of your books they’ll be inclined to read another one. This theoretically leads to exponential profit growth.
Jonas Saul is one of the more popular authors on Amazon. He’s put out more than sixteen books so far, some of which are series.
60: Make part of the book free: In ebooks (and even more prominently in video games) free previews have become all the rage. The idea is to give your readers part of your book for free. Then they’ll start reading. Once they’re reading you then want them to get hooked. Finally, once they’re hooked, you can then ask them to purchase the book, which many will gladly do.
Candy Crush did this famously (“Play for free, we won’t charge you for anything… oh wait”). This is a win / win for both you and your readers. Your readers get to test out your work for free, and you get to ingratiate yourself with your readers before asking them to pay for anything.
61: Make use of ebook blogs and other blogs relevant to your book: Everyday people contact me asking me to review their books for free. I have to say no a lot of the time simply because I can’t fit the reviews into my schedule. But some of those writers do get reviewed by me, and they get posted on my blogs. That’s a free review and free publicity. You’d be mad not to take advantage of that. So go ahead and contact every blog owner that’s relevant to you and ask them to review your book, interview you, and share your work. The worst they can do is say no. The best they can do is give you a good review and a share of their large readership.
62: SEO Sales Page: This point requires is a book all in itself. But I’ll make it short. Make sure your sales page is SEO optimised, that it includes keywords, and that it gets good metrics in Google Analytics. That way you’ll be given a high position in the SERPs and your book will get more exposure.
Some of the questions to consider when performing SEO on your landing page include:
- How fast the page loads (should be under 2 seconds)
- Is the keyword in the title?
- Keyword in the description?
- Keyword and variants thereof in the text?
- Does it have an image with the keyword used for the ALT text?
- Does it allow for a good time on page (people should be on the page for a minimum of 2 minutes)
- Good bounce rate (less than 50%). For more on bounce rate read Google’s official documentation.
63: Use a Tab on Facebook: A Facebook tab is a separate page that you can add to your primary Facebook page. The tab can contain a variety of different media, like giveaways, raffles, and competitions. You can use your Facebook tab to promote your ebook in a variety of ways. I recommend familiarising yourself with the use of Facebook tabs and finding a fun way to make your tab promote your book. SocialMediaExaminer has a fantastic guide to using tabs to improve your marketing.
64: In your blurb, include one killer benefit that your book offers that no other book does: Ideally your book will have at least one thing that absolutely no other book offers. For instance, maybe your self help book that discusses popularity and socialising completely flips things on its head. Maybe you call it “A**holes: A Theory” and discuss what makes someone an a**hole. The same idea holds true for fiction: there should be one mouth-wateringly exciting element that makes your fiction unique.
Brene Brown’s The Gift Of Imperfection sets itself apart with one killer benefit: realism. Most books in this genre promise perfect lives. Brown does the opposite, writing about how to live life as your true imperfect self.
65: Test different social media posts to see what creates action:
Social media really is a rubik’s cube. Honestly, that Facebook like button is enough to discombobulate anyone. It takes a real genius to know precisely what will and won’t work on social media. But thankfully you don’t have to get your social media efforts right the first time.
Test out different posts. Try advertising your book via images, quotes, by sharing testimonials… try everything and determine what works. Once you find the right approach to social media marketing, use it.
66: Once you find a social media post that will generate clickthroughs and sales, pay for advertising (but not before): So you finally find precisely the right post with which to advertise your book on Facebook and Twitter. Now’s the time to pay for advertisements. Twitter and Facebook ads can help you to reach a huge audience. Be willing to pay for that extra exposure, but only once you’re confident of the right kind of post to use for the ad.
67: Include a “Look Inside” like on Amazon: This speaks for itself. People like to know what they’re getting. Show them.
If you’re publishing your ebook on Amazon or similar sites the preview will be taken care of for you. But if you’re selling your ebook via your own blog you will need to create your own preview system. I recommend embedding your book as a PDF on your site and (importantly) allowing people to preview your book without leaving your site. You want people to stay on your site, not leave, and you also don’t want them to have to download anything pre-purchase simply because most people don’t trust downloads (due to the prevalence of malicious code).
So, create your preview and make sure the preview takes place on your site and ideally on the same page that the book itself is on. If you’re using WordPress you might like to try out the plug-in PDF Embedder.
68: Create a book trailer for Youtube and Facebook: A great ebook trailer can advertise your book in a way that words and images cannot. A good ebook trailer will make your self published book come to life. For example, take a look at this trailer for Valerie Alexander’s Happiness: A Second Language.
Using Youtube successfully is a gargantuan subject demanding an article all of its own (join me on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll let you know when I inevitably write that article). But ultimately what works on Youtube is personality. Find your screen personality and sell it.
69: Create congruence across the board: You want your ebook, your marketing, your trailer, your description, your landing page, and everything else to share the same personality. If you mix personalities you risk confusing your readers. By having one loud and clear personality you give your readers a clear idea of what they’re getting. That personality is also a marketing force in itself. So, choose a personality and make sure that personality is communicated in every aspect of your product and its marketing.
70: Include share buttons at the end of every chapter of your book: Did you know that you can include share buttons inside your ebook? The trick is to use HTML-only share buttons.
I’ve gone ahead and made this really easy for you (you can thank me by following me on Twitter and Facebook).
Simply follow these instructions to put share buttons in your ebooks.
- Find images of share buttons.
- Copy and paste them into word (or whatever software you’re using)
- You’re going to create hyperlinks to use for the share buttons. So first click on your Facebook button.
- In Word, go to Insert > Hyperlink
- For Address, put “http://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=<URL>” . The URL is the page you want to be shared (e.g. Amazon.com/YOUR_BOOK)
- Repeat with the Twitter button. But on the Twitter button put “http://twitter.com/share?url=<URL>&text=<TEXT>via=<USERNAME>” in which <TEXT> = the tweet you want, and <USERNAME> = your @name.
Now people can share your book from inside the book itself!
71: Also embed share buttons in your sample PDF
72: Run giveaways and give a copy of your ebook to some of your fans. I’ve created a complete guide to using Facebook to get shares and likes. That article includes detailed information on using giveaways. So head over and read this article: How To Increase Facebook Engagement Rate.
73: Use Analytics and Insights to discover what works: You might not know what works for you audience. That’s okay. You can test and you can find out. If you’ve been running a blog and a Facebook page for a while now you already have a lot of information about what creates clicks (and clicks = interest). Go through both your Facebook Insights and your Google Analytics and ask yourself what anchor-text created clicks? What images led to engagement? What promises, what wording, what style, what personality has created user engagement? Use that information to learn about your audience and about who they are, what they want, and what they respond to.
74: Realise that ebooks offer more value than just money: Ebooks aren’t just about the cash. They can also be about the sign-up. If you’re running a blog or Facebook page you can use your ebook as an incentive to get people to sign-up to your email newsletter, or on Twitter or Facebook. Even better, you can cut your book into two parts, give out the first part as the giveaway so you get subscribers and fans, and then put a “Continue Reading” link at the end of part 1, asking your reader to pay to download part 2.
This is a complete win / win.
If you also include some Facebook share buttons in the free part of your book, your readers may very well share your book telling their friends that it’s free, their friends will then start reading the free part, which naturally leads to them buying the second part.
75: Put a link to your Facebook page, Twitter profile, and Email sign-up page in your Amazon preview: Even if people don’t buy your book you can still make use of Amazon’s massive audience. Just put links to your social media profiles and email sign-up page in your preview. Hey presto, free followers.
76: Base price on value not on pages: Just because a book is 5000 pages long doesn’t mean it’s valuable. And just because a book is 10 pages long doesn’t mean it’s worthless. If your ebook is short but genuinely offers a lot of value (for instance by solving an important problem for your reader) do not be afraid to make your book expensive. Conversely, just because your book is long doesn’t mean you should necessarily make it pricey.
77: Your book must be of obvious higher value than the average Google page: I’m willing to bet that whatever you’re writing about (in non-fiction) people can Google search the same information for free. So if you want them to part with their money you’re going to have to make it clear that your information (or the manner in which you convey that information) is of higher value than the content they can get for free online.
78: Realise that half your job is writing and the other half is selling: You can be the best author in the world (well, you can’t, because that’s me), but if you can’t sell… well, you can’t sell. Selling your book is half your job. So if you’re not a natural salesman you might want to invest some time into learning the art.
79: Frequently check your product page: If you’re selling your book on your own site, be sure to run frequent testing. Codes change, plug-ins go out of date, you might find areas to improve, and you might spot the odd hiccough that is interfering with sales.
80: If you’re selling a book via your own blog, make sure your traffic is directly relevant to the book. You might have a great blog and you might have a great book, but if your book and your blog aren’t closely related you won’t get people buying your ebook. Make sure you’re blogging about subjects related to your ebook. The tighter the bond between blog and book, the better.
81: Leverage social media: Your book will need a helping hand in terms of marketing. Social media is that helping hand. Do everything you can to make sure people share your book on Facebook and Twitter. Oh look, here’s a free guide that tells you precisely how to do that.
82: If you’re selling your book on your own blog build trust first: It’s a big deal asking someone to buy something online, what with the amount of fraud and scamming taking place. You need to build trust. There are a lot of ways to do this:
-mentioning websites that link to you
-putting your number and address on your sales page
-using a well known payment service like Paypal….
The importance of trust cannot be underestimated.
You can create the best book in the world but if people don’t trust your site they won’t buy it. Bear in mind that some people don’t even like to click a link on a website they don’t know. They worry that clicking a link will make them download a malware-laden file. To get around this you’ll have to build trust by having a great site design, being transparent, showing your face, giving people a contact number, and doing anything else you can to tell people “Hey, I’m for real, you can trust me”.
83: Write excellent and entertaining blog articles: Use your blog articles as a way to make people fall head over heels in love with your writing. Then they’ll naturally want to purchase your book. But I guess this point goes without saying.
84: Use email marketing: Start collecting emails on your blog and then use them for marketing.
Many internet marketing specialists believe that collecting emails is one of the most valuable things you can do. Emails allow for repeated communications, an unlike Facebook they aren’t at the mercy of Edgerank. Collect emails and then use them to tell your readers about your books.
85: Do a virtual book tour: (but actually check how many visitor the other sites get first): Some book sites are so small that there’s little benefit to you sharing your book with them, well, except to get in contact with the lovely people who run those sites, many of whom are just awesome folk.
Other blogs receive many thousands of hits.
Visit book blogs and use Alexa to get an estimate of their traffic. Also consider the amount of Facebook and Twitter followers they have. If they seem to offer value, reach out and ask for a review / interview / mention.
Alexa is one place where you can find out the traffic and analytics of websites. You might also like to try Quantcast.com.
86: Give your book away free for a limited time: If your book isn’t selling particularly well, use a free giveaway as an opportunity to breathe life back into your book.
87: Throw an ebook social media party: Make a big deal about your ebook on release day on social media. Give your book away. Run contests for signed copies. Tell other authors about your book. Most people will find this silly, and it is because, really, who throws a social media party for a book? But silliness is part and parcel of the point. Take a look at the most popular Facebook pages and you’ll find that most of them are also silly. Silliness can be serious money.
Make your ebook party silly and fun, then people will get involved just for a laugh. That laugh, however, is enough to make people share your book, which leads to free exposure.
88: Make use of all the tips contained in this guide to improving Facebook engagement rate.
89: If your book really is taking off, use Google ads: If you find a social media post that blows up and leads to sales, hit up Google Adwords and purchase some advertising.
90: Be a Youtube personality: Right now, two Youtube personalities are sitting pretty on the New York Times bestsellers list. Felicia Day a self-proclaimed nerd whose book You’re Never Weird On The Internet is currently at number 5 on the non-fiction list. Meanwhile, Colleen Ballinger Evans capitalised on the success of her Youtube personality Miranda Sings by writing Selp Helf, which currently sits at number 4 on the Advice and How To list.
Becoming a Youtube personality is far from easy, given the amount of competition. It’s a subject I’ll be tackling in a future “Ultimate Guide To…”. Join me on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll let you guys know when I’ve written it.
But should you succeed on Youtube you will be met with hundreds of thousands of fans, many of whom will gladly purchase your book.
90: Use word of mouth: Finally, the oldie is still the goldie. Talk to people about your book. You’ll be surprised how far some word of mouth advertising can go.
And there we have it, 91 ways to sell and market your self published ebook. Join me on Facebook and Twitter for more.