How to Market Your Nonfiction Book
HOW TO MARKET YOUR NONFICTION BOOK
It used to be that only self-published authors had to promote their books. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Even if you are savvy enough to land a publisher, you will still be expected to do your part to market your book aggressively.
While none of that seems like much fun, we will attempt to take the mystery out of getting those copies flying off the shelves.
In this guide to marketing your book, we take you through the process step-by-step. Along the way, you will receive tips and tricks many seasoned authors have used in the past to sell their books.
1. Pick your target.
Knowing your book’s target audience is crucial for selling your book. It helps tailor marketing strategies to their interests, needs, and preferences.
In addition, understanding your target audience allows you to adjust promotional materials and website content to increase your brand awareness as an author.
But, how do you go about determining who your target audience is? The first step is to create a reader persona—or in other words, a hypothetical person that embodies the characteristics of your target audience.
Creating a “Reader Persona”
A reader persona focuses your marketing message on the right people. It gives you an idea of how to target the type of reader interested in your book.
Start by defining your reader’s demographic characteristics, such as:
Then, add psychographic elements, such as values, attitudes, and lifestyles.
Once you have identified your target audience, you can create your reader persona based on the identifying attributes in this exercise. You can even give them a name!
Knowing your ideal reader will help you tailor your marketing message. Use this persona to develop a marketing plan to reach the right readers and maximize book sales.
Writing to Your Audience
While understanding reader demographics can help market your book when finished, it is also possible to use reader personas to guide you in the writing process.
When you write with a specific audience in mind, you incorporate their interests into each chapter. You also use language and topics that are familiar to them.
So, for those reasons, it is always best to know your reader demographics before you write your book.
2. Set yourself up for marketing success.
As a new author, creating a website and setting up your Author Central Pages on Amazon and Goodreads is a great way to set yourself up for success.
These platforms will allow you to interact with your readers, track your book sales, and analyze how well your book is being received by your target audience.
To create an effective author website, start with a content management system like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix. These platforms offer simple customization for your website, and you can add features like blog editing, email, and social media links.
Your author website should include basic information about you and your book, such as:
- Detailed bio
- Book description
- Book excerpts
- Reader reviews
- Contact page
You should also include a professional profile picture and links to where readers can buy your book.
Author Central Page
Author Central is the most crucial tool for authors on Amazon and is the primary source of information about you as an author. It allows you to track book sales, add editorial reviews, customize book listings, and develop a following.
To set up your Author Central Page, follow these steps:
- Create your account. If you do not have a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account, create one by clicking the “Join Now” button. If you have already published a book using the KDP system, you will use that account.
- Enter your name. You can use your real name or another name you used to identify you as the author of your book.
- Complete your author bio. This section is about you, so turn on the charm. Also, you should note that you cannot link to your website or other external sources. Instead, use this section to give details about yourself, how you became a writer, and why you chose to write about specific topics.
- Choose your author photo. This step is more crucial than many new authors realize, and there is a reason Amazon has such strict guidelines concerning profile pics. Yours needs to show a focused professional headshot that puts you in the most favorable light possible. So, leaving the photos of holiday celebrations on your phone is best.
- Set up a blog feed. The great thing about Author Central is that it allows you to link directly to your blog if you have one. To do so, find the RSS feed on WordPress or whatever platform you use. Next, copy the link, then go back to the Author Central Page. Click “Add Blog,” paste the blog link, then click “Add.”
Goodreads Author Page
Goodreads is a website that provides readers with book recommendations and is the largest of its kind. Established in 2007, the company aims to help people discover and exchange books they enjoy.
When you create an author page on Goodreads, you connect with potential readers, track book reviews, and engage with your fans. In addition, Goodreads offers promotional tools such as giveaways and featured author programs that can help boost visibility.
Setting up your account is similar to what you did for Amazon. The only difference is that you must add your books manually, which is fairly straightforward.
3. Set your book up for marketing success.
Now that you have established your presence as an author, you will want to showcase the highlights of your book.
This can be done through the creation of an eye-catching cover and an engaging book description.
Creating the Book Cover
Unfortunately, readers will judge your book by its cover, so it is best to have one that stands out from the rest in your genre. In other words, it must be memorable.
DIY book covers are not a good idea. Even if you are a graphic designer, you will still lose all objectivity when creating your own.
Instead, it is best to hire a cover designer that you can work with to create the look that best represents your book. While it costs money to do this, it is well worth it to have a book cover that will compete in a crowded market. And as with most major business investments, you get what you pay for.
Writing the Book’s Description
The book description is crucial in book marketing, ranking second only to the title and cover. It is usually placed on the back cover and the top of the Amazon page, just below the price and above the book reviews. Your book description must be compelling to impact a reader’s purchase decision.
Here are some action steps to take:
- Create a hook. A captivating opening line holds the reader’s attention. Start with an intriguing aspect of the book, such as a bold claim or compelling idea, to encourage your audience to read on.
- Find your reader’s pain point. Speak to the struggles, frustrations, and challenges your book attempts to solve. The harder you hit these points, the easier it is to get your reader to accept the solution.
- Offer your book as the solution. If you have done your job in Step 2, Step 3 will be easy. For this step, you must clearly list the benefits of owning the book and what it will do for the reader.
- Establish yourself as an expert. If you are a best-selling author, mention that first. Then list any other books you have authored or any awards you have received. Academic credentials are good, but it’s usually best to only list your highest education level.
- Use a cliffhanger at the end. The last part of your book description should be so compelling that the reader can’t wait to open the first page. It gives the person just enough information to keep them wanting more.
4. Leverage your social media presence.
Social media is a powerful tool to reach a large audience.
With the right strategy, you can engage with readers and make them aware of your book.
You create relationships with potential readers when you leverage your social media presence.
Be sure to post interesting content related to the topics covered in your book and answer questions about it.
- Facebook. Create a dedicated author page on Facebook. Include a list of books you’ve written with publication dates and a brief description of each. Use the page to offer discounts and promotions and to display targeted ads promoting your book.
- Twitter. Tweet about your book regularly and create a hashtag for it. Share quotes from your book, use polls to get public opinions on key topics, and share photos of you working behind the scenes.
- LinkedIn. Utilize your network to get the word out about your book release. Join discussions about your topic and develop relationships with key influencers. Also, remember to build a winning author profile while you’re at it.
5. Give parts of your book away.
Creating a blog is one of the best ways to promote your book online. Use various chapters or sections of your book to write each post.
Start by creating an editorial calendar so you can stay on track. Then, write outlines to include all topics and highlights you want to cover.
Start by creating an editorial calendar so you can stay on track. Then, write outlines to include all topics and highlights you want to cover.
Before publishing, give yourself a by-line for each article or post. For example:
“Bob Smith is the owner of Smith Automotive Group in Springfield, Ohio, and is the author of “How To Live The Luxury Life.”
In this example, Bob’s readers who desire to earn more from their businesses will want to buy his book. Those who are only curious may want to buy it as well. The key to using this technique is to focus on your target reader like you did for your book.
6. Collaborate with podcasters and bloggers.
Collaborating with podcasters, bloggers, and influencers is another great way to gain exposure and get people talking about your book.
It also helps you build an audience that is interested in what you are writing.
Forbes contributor Dr. Ruth Gotian recently interviewed a handful of best-selling authors and asked them their secret to marketing their books. Overwhelmingly, the most common method was being interviewed on a podcast.
But how do you do that?
Dorie Clark, author of “The Long Game,” says to follow these steps:
- Start by finding excerpts within your book. Read your text to find nuggets of information you can discuss on a podcast. According to Clark, your goal is to have 10 to 20 topics and then narrow them down.
- Find podcasts that align with your book topic. Your chosen podcaster should be someone who has written a book within the past year. Also, they should be ahead of you regarding marketing. In other words, avoid beginners.
- Pitch directly to the podcaster. Let them know you have written a book on a similar topic to their podcast. Then ask them if they would like to explore it further in detail. Use the excerpts from the book you selected in Step 1.
Guest blogging is another way to get people thinking about you and your book. You want to pitch it in the same way you did for podcasting.
Start by setting aside some topics that resonate with the blog’s readers. Then, ask the owner if you could write a few guest blogs for them.
While some bloggers will pay you for your efforts, most will not. So instead, negotiate a deal where you can post an image of your book with a link to your author page. Or, at a minimum, you should be able to mention your book along with your bio at the end of the article or post.
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7. Offer discounts in exchange for Amazon reviews.
Getting reviews for your book on Amazon is like receiving pure gold. Without reviews, you could struggle to get readers to buy it. Why? Because today’s book buyers want to know if the information in your book is trustworthy, and the only way to do that is to see what others say about it.
Amazon’s algorithms will only take your book seriously if you already have reviews. And even if you’re convinced that it’s the best book ever, people will hesitate to buy it without having several reviews to read first.
The easiest way to start is by discounting your book to 20 people in exchange for written reviews. While 20 is an optimal number to start, you may only get a few participants at the outset. Still, this is better than nothing and will give you the confidence to ask for more reviews later.
8. Take advantage of discount promotions.
While it may seem counterintuitive to discount your book—after all, the reason for selling it is to make money—promotional offers net positive results.
For one, even the slightest change in your book's price will trigger Amazon's algorithms to spike your book's rating. That alone is worth the cost of discounting your book for a short while.
You may even want to give your book away in some cases.
Goodreads giveaways are an excellent example. These aggressive promotions allow you and your book to gain exposure in an otherwise saturated market.
You can always end your discount event whenever you like.
However, plan on doing at least one promo each quarter to maximize your book's exposure.
9. Hire a book promotion service.
Even if you do all the right things to promote your book, you may not be successful right out of the gate. You may need some outside help to get started.
Book promotion services are marketing agencies that specialize in selling books. And while they cost money, the investment is often worth it if you choose the right one.
Try to find a company specializing in the type of books you write: for example, non-fiction. In this case, a promoter that markets primarily fiction books would not work well for you.
Also, choose a book promoter with creative marketing tools you often won’t have the connections to set up independently. For example:
- Media outreach
- Expos and trade shows
- Book signings
- Video promotions
- Author branding
10. Invest in paid advertising.
Spending money to advertise is typically reserved as a last resort for most beginning authors. Still, as with discount promotions, paid advertising can be worth it, but you must choose the right ones.
Of course, start by advertising on your author website, which is free. Next, advertise on other people's blogs or websites targeting your topic and reader demographics.
The final frontier for book advertising is printed trade publications. While the cost is prohibitive for most new authors, your book will gain considerable exposure with this marketing vehicle.
Final Thoughts on Marketing Your Book
While it may seem like a lot of work to market your book, it’s best to start with the simplest tasks first and work outward from there. Use this blueprint:
- Choose your topic based on the readers you want to reach before typing the first word. Then, write to your target audience.
- Create an author page. Many readers will only buy books from authors they like and trust.
- Once you finish your book, create a compelling book description and cover.
- Introduce your book on your author site.
- Talk about your book on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
- Write about your book on your blog using key topics.
- Offer your book at a discount in exchange for Amazon reviews.
- Take advantage of discount promotions.
- Become a guest blogger.
- Get interviewed on a podcast.
- Hire a book promotion company if you need help.
- Invest in paid advertising only if you can afford it.
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