There’s just one more week to buy The Last Treasure Hunt for 99p in the Kindle summer sale, which ends on 31 August – and here’s a recent review that might persuade you to take a chance on it. Amazon’s Kindle deals are a great way for readers to discover unfamiliar authors, and an important promotional tool for booksellers. But what else can you do to get your book noticed among the 20 new titles that are published every hour (not including self-published titles) – particularly if you’re an author without a huge marketing budget behind you?
The truth is that nobody really knows what generates that holy grail, word-of-mouth; and though a marketing team and a budget to cover billboard ads, shelf-space in WH Smith and competition entry fees will help, for most authors that’s far from the reality. So with that caveat, here are five promotional tips I’ve collected recently from authors, agents, publishers and publicists.
1) Make your book easy to talk about
This tip came from Jonah Berger’s book Contagious, recommended by author Viccy Adams. If your story is easy to talk about, it’s easy for people to recommend – in other words, it lends itself to word-of-mouth success. That’s why, although The Last Treasure Hunt is about a lot of things besides celebrity culture (friendship, competition and betrayal; success and failure; our insignificance in the world, and the tension between anonymity and recognition, between living at the centre and on the edges; what it might mean to make the right choices in life, or the wrong ones…) my publisher smartly summed it up as ‘a modern media morality tale’. It’s a memorable tagline, and hopefully intriguing enough that potential readers will want to know more.
2) Make it easy to buy
Newspaper reviews and media coverage will all help build awareness of your book, but for this awareness to translate into sales the action of buying it needs to be made as easy as possible. And while there’s not much you can do if your book isn’t prominently displayed in high street bookstores, you can make sure it’s simple to buy online by including direct links to the major booksellers on each page of your website, and on any ‘guest blog’ posts you write for other websites. Thanks to author Mandy Haggith for passing on this tip, which she picked up from creative entrepreneur Jo Penn – it’s one that seems obvious, and yet I hadn’t included these links on my website until Mandy prompted me to.
3) Use clever pricing
A while back I attended a Scottish Book Trust event for new writers, and one of the interesting things that emerged from a panel discussion was a broad consensus that the usefulness of social media in promoting books is more and more limited, simply because of the difficulty of being heard above the cacophony of marketing messages. Publisher Scott Pack suggested that clever ebook pricing strategies may be a more effective way of reaching readers. For instance, he might sell an author’s first book for 99p to attract new readers, while their subsequent titles are priced at £3.99 or more. Scott has blogged here about strategic pricing. If you’re a self-published author, pricing is something you’re in control of; if you’re traditionally published, you can still use pricing as a sales strategy if you sell signed copies of your books directly to readers through your website – for instance, offering discounts for a limited period to promote your book as a seasonal read or tie in with events like World Book Day.
4) Do everything
Thanks to my agents for this advice – that it’s worth taking any and every opportunity that comes your way. You may feel intimidated by the prospect of a radio interview. You may struggle to fit in an event with work and family commitments. Or you may think that a talk in front of a handful of people or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it slot on local TV is barely worth the trouble. But each of these things can lead to other, bigger opportunities – and it’s impossible to tell when that might be the case. So say yes to everything; at the very least you’ll meet some interesting people, and know you’re giving your book its best chance of success.
5) Be nice
I’ve saved my favourite tip until last, because it’s also the most rewarding. A couple of weeks ago I begged a friendly publicist to tell me the secret of making books sell. There’s no secret, she told me – or if there is, no-one knows what it is. And then she added: Oh I know. Be nice to booksellers. (No surprise that she turned out to be a former bookseller herself.) Booksellers are lovely literary types, of course, so it’s no hardship to follow this suggestion. And if a bookseller loves your book, and likes you too, there’s no better champion to have – except maybe a librarian. So, be nice to them too.