strategic marketing for authors

Strategic Marketing for Authors

strategic marketing for authorsAll authors need to do some form of marketing to get their books out there. But there’s a difference between generic marketing and strategic marketing for authors. Here’s what strategic marketing is, why it’s important, and how authors can put together a strategic marketing plan for their unique needs.

What Is Strategic Marketing and Why Should I Use It?

According to BusinessDictionary.com, strategic marketing is “Identification of one or more sustainable competitive advantages a firm has in the markets it serves (or intends to serve), and allocation of resources to exploit them.”

As its name implies, strategic marketing means marketing with thought and purpose. By mapping out your marketing plans early, and having clear and consistent goals related to it, you can figure out how to allot your time and money appropriately. You can make sure your marketing work is always laddering up to a marketing goal. You can prevent yourself from getting pulled off track on opportunities that come your way but that may be outside your target.

Doing all of this starts by putting together a strategic marketing plan.

What Goes Into a Strategic Marketing Plan?

All types of businesses put together strategic marketing plans. According to TheBalance.com, these are the five steps that go into a strategic marketing plan for any business.

  1. Company Positioning (Where are you now? What hold do you have on your field?)
  2. Goals and Strategies (What would you consider a success? Where do you want to go?)
  3. Market Opportunities (What markets are out there for you to target? Who is already reaching those markets?)
  4. Target Market Defined (What does that market want? How can you differentiate yourself from what else is out there?)
  5. Marketing Budget (How much do you have to invest in your marketing — both in terms of money and manpower?)

How Do We Turn This Strategic Marketing Plan Into Strategic Marketing for Authors?

Let’s translate those five pieces above into author speak. Here are questions for you to ask yourself as you put this plan together.

1. Author Positioning

  • Are you already known by some in your field?
  • Do you have relationships with publishers, agents, booksellers, etc…
  • Do you have a blog that people follow already? An email list?

2. Goals and Strategies

  • Is your primary goal for your first book to be a bestseller?
  • Do you plan to publish future books and build an audience for those?
  • Do you want to build a platform to get yourself out there as an author, speaker, coach, etc…?

3. Market Opportunities

  • Who does your book speak to? What age/race/gender?
  • Are there platforms that already speak to these audiences?
  • Who do you know that can reach them?

4. Target Market Defined

  • What research is out there about your target market and what they’re looking for?
  • How can you meet their needs in a way that no one else currently is?

5. Marketing Budget

  • How much money do you have to spend on marketing?
  • How much time do you have to spend on marketing?
  • What resources are at your disposal to help?

So What Would Strategic Marketing for Authors Look Like?

I’m going to create an example here. Obviously, you would customize this for yourself based on your book.

But for the sake of this exercise, let’s say you’re writing a self-help book for middle-aged people looking to reinvent themselves.  You might put together a strategic marketing plan that has an outline sort of like this.

Target Market: Men and women ages 45-55

Goals:

I want to….

  • Become a successful author, speaker and life coach for this audience
  • Sell 100,000 copies of the first book
  • Build enough of an email list to sell future books and get other work speaking/coaching on the site

Ways to reach that audience:

  • This age bracket spends a lot of time on Facebook, so creating a Facebook presence is essential.
  • A formal author website with a blog is also important for me. Many people are actively searching for information on reinventing themselves, and having an active blog can drive that traffic to my site and lead to book sales and list building.
  • This age group also includes some empty nesters or divorcees who join book clubs and community groups, so I should invest some time in off-line efforts in these areas.
  • This age group is also generally avid readers of publications like HuffPost, so I will reach out to HuffPost and similar organizations about potentially becoming a regular blogger.
  • Many of the women in this age group spend time on GoodReads, so I should create a profile there.

Meeting their needs:
Example:
This book is different from any other services out there that help with reinventing yourself because XYZ. Research shows that people in this situation really want help with X, but everything else that’s out there is only doing Y. I need to brand myself and my book as the only resource that meets this particular need. So I need a tagline on my website that clearly spells out what makes me and my book unique. And that should also be on my business card, and part of my elevator pitch.

Investment:
I have about $3,000 available to invest in marketing. Based on the information above, I will divide it as follows:

I also only want to spend five hours a week on marketing. With that in mind, I will:

      • Spend one hour a week blogging (both on my site and on other sites that reach my target audience)
      • Spend one hour a week on scheduling Facebook posts and responding to Facebook comments
      • Spend one hour a week on GoodReads (starting conversations, joining groups, etc…)
      • Spend one hour a week reaching out to locals in my community that might have book groups, support groups, etc…
      • Leave my last hour per week for any miscellaneous marketing needs that may come up

The End Goal of Your “Strategic Marketing for Authors” Plan

By mapping out what your needs and goals are, and how you can position yourself to reach your target audience, you can make sure all your time, effort and money are being distributed appropriately. For example, after putting this marketing plan together, you know that Twitter, for example, is not a good place to invest your time and money. Having this mapped out and ready will prevent you from making costly marketing mistakes in the future.

blogging mistakes

6 Blogging Mistakes Authors Often Make

blogging mistakesI’m a big proponent of authors blogging. That’s because a blog is truly the best way for an author to:

  • Keep the site current
  • Build a following or email list
  • Drive traffic to the site via search engines

Many authors hear this. They know they should be blogging. What they don’t know is how to blog, or how to make sure they are not blogging “into thin air” so to speak. With that in mind, I present…

5 Blogging Mistakes Authors Often Make

1. Not blogging often enough. 

Now, authors certainly don’t need to blog every day. Not even every week. But probably more than once a month. And certainly more than once a year. I’ve looked at too many author sites in which the most recent blog was posted over a year ago. That just tells me that not only is the blog not a priority for the author, but the website as a whole is not a priority. It’s almost like a big billboard to a visitor that says, “I’m not spending time here. Why should you?”

2. Not looking at their blog analytics.

Look at your analytics people! Not doing so is kind of like publishing a book and then not paying attention to if anyone is buying it. Setting up a Google Analytics account is free. You can then log into that account any time and see who is visiting your site. You can learn a lot more about how to review and interpret your analytics report, but let’s stick to the basics here. View your report regularly. See how many people actually visited your blog in a given time period. Find out how they got there. Was it via Facebook? Search? Which posts got the most visitors? Is there a trend in posts that seem to resonate? This information is key in helping you figure out what’s working and what’s not working. This will help you avoid future blogging mistakes.

3. Not optimizing for SEO.

This is yet another of the common blogging mistakes. If you’re an author — especially a nonfiction author — your blog is likely the most common entryway into your author website. But in order to do its part, it needs to be optimized for the right keywords. There are a bunch of steps that an author can take to do this, but the basics include:

  • Installing the right plug-in (like Yoast, for example)
  • Researching the right keyword for each post
  • Working that keyword into the blog post title, URL, etc…
  • Ensuring that post is submitted to the search engines

Once all of these pieces are working in tandem with one another, your blog posts can each start serving a purpose in driving traffic.

4. Not having a clear voice or message.

Contrary to what some authors might believe, a blog is not a dumping ground. It’s not where you might stick a short story one day, a personal musing the next and a firm editorial after that. A blog is a place where people come to follow your writings. So you need a consistent voice and message. For example, your blog could be a place where you post a weekly short story. Or it could be the venue through which you write a pointed editorial when an item in the news touches on your subject expertise. Or it could have a daily uplifting message — straight out of your book. There are a million ideas for what a blog can be, but it has to be one thing and people need to know what they’re getting. Otherwise, why would people continue coming back?

5. Not categorizing blog posts.

Blog post categories are a nifty, difty feature that come with every blogging tool. But they’re not utilized often enough; another of the common blogging mistakes. Categorizing blog posts allows you to break up the hundreds (or thousands) of posts you may have into logical groups. So if, for example, you’re a life coach who works with people on career success, financial independence and relationship issues, you may regularly be creating blog posts (in the same message and voice, of course!) that cover all three of those topics. But maybe a site visitor is only interested in financial independence and isn’t really looking for relationship advice right now. Or vice versa. By being able to categorize your blog posts by topic, you can allow visitors to easily sort your posts by topic they’re especially interested in.

6. Not including enough links. 

One thing that you will notice when you study your analytics is something called the “exit rate” on specific pages. This refers to what percentage of people leave your site after reading what’s on this page. Blog posts, in general, tend to have high exit rates. The reason? Not enough links to other things on your site. There are several ways you can fix this common blogging mistake:

  • You can work multiple links into the blog post itself. Those can be to other blog posts, your books, etc…
  • You can promote other elements of your site on the blog page. For example, if you offer a free chapter of a related book, that should clearly be called out.
  • You can use a plug-in that will automatically include links to other blog posts in the same category at the end of the piece. It would look something like, “Read more like this ….” at the bottom of the page, and then send people to related posts.

Fix the six problems above and you’re more likely to not only get more traffic to your blog, but ultimately sell more books as a result. That’s a win-win.

adding a new book to your footer

5 Steps to Adding a New Book to an Author Website

So you built that author website when you published your first book. Now you have a second (or third or fourth) coming out. Do you need to scrap that old site entirely? Probably not. Here are the five steps to updating your author website when you are adding a new book.

Tips for Adding a New Book

1. Consider the domain and design. Was your original site designed for your first book? Or was it more broad, focusing on you as an author? If the answer is the former, you may have some work on your hands. In other words, if the site was named after your first book and uses all the images/photography/colors from that first book cover, you really should consider some rebranding of the site before adding a new book. That might mean changing the domain name, imagery and/or the color scheme. This is why I frequently advise authors that unless this book is the only thing they are ever going to write, they should build a site that can easily encompass future books as well.

2. Reorganize your homepage. Your homepage is probably built to promote your first book. Maybe it includes the book cover, a blurb about the book, a testimonial or two and links to learn more. Now that you have another book out, you may decide that you want to give the homepage a similar treatment, but with more prominence for your new book. Or you may decide that you want a rotating slider on the homepage that features one book at a time but shifts from one to another. A third option is to have the homepage include a blurb about you and what you write about (assuming both books can fall under the same umbrella) and then call out each book as a subset of that larger message. Either way, you want to make sure your newest title gets the prominence it deserves on your homepage.

adding a new book to your footer3. Adjust your book promo/buy the book modules. You probably have a header bar, a right rail or a footer that appears on every page of the site and includes some sort of book call-out. Often it includes the cover, links to learn more about it and/or a “buy the book” link. But now you have two (or more) books to feature. So you may want to consider either adding a new book to that module, or redesigning it so that it can naturally encompass more than one title. In some cases, that means making the first cover smaller and giving the newer title more prominence.

4. Add a new book page.
This one is obvious, but it’s not to be forgotten. Each book you write deserves its own page on the site. Take a look at what you have for your first book and replicate it for the second. Maybe it’s a page that includes a detailed book description, a link to a featured excerpt, testimonials, etc… Aim to populate as much of that content as possible on your new book page as well. You may not have all that information handy yet (testimonials aren’t always readily available pre-pub), but you can always add them later. And if your first book has all of that information divided into multiple pages on the site, you may want to consider combining it all. Now that you’re a multi-book author, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to find all the information for an individual title in one place.

adding a new book to your navigation5. Restructure your navigation. Chances are, when you built the navigation on your site, you didn’t have a page title that matched the first book title. In other words, if your first book was called “Rose Petals” you may not have literally had a page called “Rose Petals.” You may instead have had a page called “About the book” or “Featured excerpts.” Now that you are adding a new book, you will need to clearly retitle each book page so that it matches the book title. You might also want to consider having the tab that’s visible in the navigation be called something more like “Books” and allowing each book that you have to be a subpage that appears when you scroll over the “books” tab (see right). This type of set-up will allow to add even more books in the future with little to no hassle.

Voila! These five steps will take your author website from a one-book site to a multi-book site. You may, of course, have additional updates that you want made. After all, each and every site is different. But these basic changes should ensure that once your newest visitors have arrived, they will be able to see that you are a multi-book author … and most importantly, to learn about (and hopefully buy) your newest book.

mass market books

Have E-Books Replaced Mass Market Books?

mass market booksYou probably remember the term “mass market books” or “mass market paperbacks.” But you also probably haven’t heard it in quite a while. There’s a reason for that. And that reason sits primarily in the e-book space.

What Is a Mass Market Book, Anyway?

People often used to confuse the term “mass market book” with “trade book.” So let’s start by defining what each term means.

Both of these types of books are designed for the general consumer. Most could be categorized as romance or mystery. But trade books were intended to be sold primarily through bookstores. Mass market books, on the other hand, were intended to be sold predominantly through “mass” channels beyond traditional bookstores. They often would be available by the register at a drug store, supermarket, etc…

Mass market books were also generally printed on less expensive paper than trade books, making them cheap to produce and cheap to sell.

What Happened to Mass Market Books?

Well, e-books happened. If mass market books were originally intended to be cheap and easy reads … well, what’s cheaper and easier than paying 99 cents to download the book on your Kindle? As more books became available in e-book form, people’s desires to read the same book in paperback (and pay a lot more for it) dwindled.

Now, note that not all genres were sacrificed by e-books. There are still plenty of topics in which people prefer to read a hardcover book — like autobiographies and self-help books. But “light reading” — the types of books that had always been mass market — has not been shown to be one of them.

Experts also say that there’s been a reduction in shelf space on the retail side. But that’s a chicken/egg thing … did that happen because of reduced mass market success? Or vice versa?

So Is Mass Market Dead?

It’s not quite dead, but it’s on life support. Here are a few stats from Publishers Weekly:

  • According to NPD BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, mass market titles accounted for 13% of total print units sold in 2013; that figure dropped to 9% last year.
  • The Association of American Publishers reported that dollar sales of mass market titles fell 30% in 2015 compared to 2012.

So What’s an Aspiring Mass Market Author to Do?

You might have spent many years aspiring to be the next Michael Crichton or John Grisham. And you might be wondering if that’s still a possibility.

Rest assured, there are still new mass market books being printed all the time. In fact, according to PW: “Bricks-and-mortar mass merchants continue to be the outlets where these books are most popular, with Walmart being one of the most important retailers among that group. (Depending on the publisher and the book, though, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Target can be just as, if not more, important.) With exceptions, women remain the top customer group for mass market titles because, in genre fiction, romance is one of the biggest drivers of sales. Mass market books also remain, publishers believe, impulse buys. (All the publishers interviewed for this story said that Amazon is not a significant outlet for mass market books.)”

So there’s hope.

But here’s the rub. Given the changing industry, publishers aren’t actively looking for the next mass market author the same way they are looking for the next great historical fiction writer. Because there’s not a lot of money to be made there. Instead, they are opting to publish books by already-successful authors as mass market.

So here’s what that means for you…

You need to become a successful author BEFORE you find success in mass market. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is by breaking in via e-books. Build an audience through a success author marketing campaign (including an author website, of course). Gain readers and followers. Then approach a publisher as a proven success story and pitch yourself as a mass market author that’s worth the small investment.

Times are a-changin’.

author reads april 2017

April Round-Up: 5 Author Reads Worth Your Time

author reads april 2017April showers bring May flowers. Or, in this case, good author reads from April (will hopefully) bring some additional book sales this month.

But seriously, here’s a recap of the five author reads you might have missed in April. Now’s your time to catch up.

Can’t Miss Author Reads

1. How to Create a Review Campaign for Your Book Launch
What you need is a system to ensure you’re predictably and steadily bringing in reviews from the moment you hand out your first advance reader copy (ARC). So, let’s get to it.
Book Marketing Tools | April 10, 2017

2. DIY: Book Awards for Self-Published Authors
With hundreds of thousands of self-published books hitting the virtual shelves every year, indie authors need to find ways of standing out.
Publishers Weekly | April 10, 2017

3. Authors: Don’t Make Your Social Media All About You
I get it. In the hyper-competitive world of social media, it seems counter intuitive to use one’s precious bandwidth to promote something other than your own work. But it works, and here’s why.
Joel Pitney | April 11, 2017

4. A Quick Guide to Pricing Your E-Book
There’s one question that we editors hear again and again from self-publishing writers we work wit: How much should I charge for my ebook?
Build Book Buzz | April 19, 2017

5. Author Pages: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One on
Here are five sites you should consider having an author page on – including Amazon and Facebook – and tips on how to maximize each one.
Smart Author Sites | April 24, 2017

If you read any articles recently that you think would be helpful to other start-up authors, share them below in the comments box. You can never have too many!

Happy book selling, and happy May.

facebook author page

Author Page: 5 Sites You Should Consider Having One On

I often hear the term “author page” thrown around by clients as something they should have. I think it’s important that I first define what an author page is — and why it’s not the same thing as an author website.

The term author page refers to one page on the web that is dedicated to an individual author. It generally highlights who they are, what they write about, and why a reader might be interested in becoming a fan. This is not to be confused with an author site, which is generally comprised of many elements.

With that in mind, here are five sites that you should consider having an author page on (and tips on how to maximize each one).

Sites for Your Author Page

1. Your author website. As I alluded to above, an author page is a subset of an author site. Think of it like a thumb being a type of finger. You have five fingers on your hand, one of them is a thumb. You have an author website with many pages, one of them being an author page. Your entire site will likely be comprised of a blog, pages dedicated to your books, a contact page, a media page, etc… And yes, an author page.

Tip: Learn more about how to create a great author bio on your own website.

amazon author page2. Amazon. If you have books for sale on Amazon, you absolutely need an author page on Amazon as well. This will allow your name (wherever it appears on Amazon) to serve as a link to your author page. Once someone arrives there, they can view your photo, your bio, a list of all your books available for sale, and highlights of the reviews your books have gotten on Amazon. It essentially becomes a one-stop shop where people can learn more about you and your writing. And best of all, it’s free. You can start by joining Amazon Author Central.

Tip: In addition to all the basic information, your Amazon author page can also be customized to include a blog feed (pulling in your most recent blog entries), details on upcoming book tours, and any video you’ve created. Plus, on the back end, it allows you to access a book sales tracker and see how your books are doing in real time.

3. GoodReads. Much like Amazon, building an author page on GoodReads is free. All you have to do is join their author program. By creating this page, you are essentially claiming your space on GoodReads. Not only will this mean people learning about your books will also be able to learn about you, but it will also provide you with the official Goodreads Author badge that will appear anywhere you post on the site — like answering reader questions or reviewing other books in your genre. Fans will then also be able to follow you on Goodreads.

Tip: There are various book marketing tools that also become available when you build an author page on GoodReads, like being able to run a book giveaway or advertise your books through the site.

facebook author page4. Facebook. You probably already have a personal profile on Facebook. But what you may not have is an author page. And it’s important that you understand the difference. Unlike a Facebook profile, which is for an individual and allows you to friend people, like posts, etc… a Facebook page is defined as “a business account that represents a company or organization. [It] allows businesses to promote specials and contests to followers who have engaged with their page by ‘liking’ it.” In this case, your business is your authorship, and it needs a page that both friends and fans can follow. Another way to put it is that while your Facebook profile has friends, your Facebook page has followers. This is also free to create.

Tip: Make sure to take advantage of Facebook Insights, which you get when you set up an author page. It allows you to track how successful your social media efforts are. It also allows you to schedule posts in advance, launch contests, or run Facebook ads (not free).

5. Your publisher’s site Depending on who published your book — and even if you published it yourself — the publisher’s site is likely to have a place where you can create your own author page. This probably won’t be your most heavily-trafficked author page, but there’s no harm in getting it set up. Make sure to ask your publisher or self-publishing company if and how you can go about creating this page on their site.

Tip: Given the fact that you’re unlikely to spend a lot of time working on maintaining this author page, I highly recommend that you work in a link to your author website somewhere on the page. That way, a visitor who wants to stay on top of what you’re doing knows where to go.

Which author page worked best for you? What tips would you give other authors? Share them with us!

author who wants to stop blogging

I Want to Stop Blogging. Now What?

author who wants to stop blogging

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been building websites for authors for over a decade. Many of them were built with blogs. So it’s not surprising that after all this time, I occasionally get the question, “I want to stop blogging. Is that okay? Will it hurt book sales?”

Look, unless you are a professional blogger with a following in the thousands, the chances are that you are not going to be inclined or inspired to continue blogging for more than a few years. Eventually, that fire burns out.

Here are three questions I frequently get when people want to stop blogging, and what you as an author need to know about cutting ties with your blog.

1. Can I just stop blogging cold turkey? Should I notify my followers?

Yes, you absolutely can just quit if you want. There’s nothing stopping you. If you’re done, you’re done.

However, it’s probably a good idea for you to thank your followers by writing a last post that explains why you’re going to “take a break” from blogging. I would refrain from saying that you’re quitting for good — you never know when you might get the urge again. Some followers might be disappointed, but they’ll understand.

2. Should I shut down my blog completely?

If you no longer want to be responsible for maintaining a domain name, site hosting, images, etc… you certainly can. That’s especially true if you’re walking away from writing altogether and get no benefit from eyeballs on your site.

But my strong recommendation is that you leave your blog as it is and simply let your already-created posts continue to live on. Here’s why.

All of your previous blog posts have been submitted to Google, and are likely already showing up on some people’s search results. That’s the result of the work that you put into them. Ditto with any links to your blog posts from other sites, social shares, etc… If you take your blog down completely, you will lose all those placements. If you do nothing and just allow the posts to live on in infamy, you’ll still get traffic to them. And as long as there’s a plug for your book on the pages where those blog posts live, you’ll still potentially generate sales from them.

Now here’s the tricky part: if your blog is a stand-alone entity (i.e. its own domain name), there’s little reason why you should change anything after you stop blogging. Just let it sit. If, however, your blog is a section of a larger author website that you want to maintain, my recommendation is that you keep the blog posts living, but take the links to your blog off the site. In other words, if “blog” was one of the tabs in your navigation, have it removed. You certainly don’t want a user coming to the site, clicking on a “blog” link and seeing that you haven’t updated it in several years. Just removing that link should rid you of the problem.

3. How will it impact traffic to my website and/or book sales if I stop blogging?

I’d be lying if I said there would be no impact at all if you stopped blogging. Just having regularly-published content that is optimized for the search engines drives additional traffic to your site. There’s no question about that. And since traffic = book sales, you may see a small hit there as well.

But the impact might not be quite as huge as you fear. After all, if you keep your old blog posts alive, the equity that those have built over time will still be sending traffic your way. In addition, if you maintain your author website apart from the blog, that will continue to generate some of the traffic you had before — especially if people are searching for your name or your book title.

Just how much your site traffic and book sales are impacted can vary when you stop blogging — depending on how much you relied on your blog for site traffic before. If nothing else, take a short time off of blogging and assess the difference before deciding whether to quit altogether.

——————

So, in short, if you want to stop blogging, here are my key takeaways for you:

  • Don’t take the blog down completely. You don’t want to lose the equity you’ve built over time.
  • Look at it as taking a break from blogging. You can always change your mind later if you’re re-inspired, or if you see that your traffic is significantly impacted.
  • Remove any links to your blog from your author website. You don’t want to drive people to something outdated.
good reads for authors

Good Reads for Authors from January (No Pun Intended)

good reads for authors

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Another month has come and gone. And with that in mind, here’s a list of the good reads (and no, I don’t mean GoodReads) for authors and writers that were published in January. If you missed any of these, now’s the time to go back and make sure you don’t miss them.

January in Review: 5 Good Reads for Authors

1. Memoir Author’s Book Marketing Success Story
Jen Miller leveraged her platform, skills, and experience to turn her memoir launch into abook marketing success story. Here’s how she did it.
BuildBookBuzz, January 4, 2017

2. Building a Platform to Land a Book Deal: Why It Often Fails
If you’re preparing to pitch your nonfiction work to agents or publishers, you’ve probably heard about the necessity of having a platform.
JaneFriedman.com, January 5, 2017

3. 8 Book Marketing Mistakes to Ban in 2017
Avoid the most common book marketing blunders made by self-publishing authors.
Reedsy.com, January 10, 2017

4. 10 Times Book Reviewers Totally Got It Wrong
I love reading book reviews but I always take them with a grain of salt. Thing is, no matter how much of an expert the reviewer is, a review is an opinion, not a fact.
#AmReading, January 24, 21017

5. Author Tip Sheet: The Whys and Hows
You may have heard about an author tip sheet, sometimes called an author sell sheet. But what in the world is it? Let’s answer some of your questions.
SmartAuthorSites.com, January 26, 2017

Happy February, everyone! If you come across other good reads for authors this month, please share them with us.

how do you track book sales

How Do You Track Book Sales?

how do you track book salesSo you have an author website. And you, of course, have links to buy your book through your website (or at least I hope you do!) But how do you track book sales? In other words, how do you know if people are actually clicking on those links? And how do you know how many books are being sold?

There are actually few options for doing this.

How Do You Track Book Sales From Your Site?

Yes, you can track how many people are clicking on each of your “Buy the book” links. You can even track where they are clicking on them (From your blog? The book description page?) and which particular link they are going to (Amazon Kindle? B&N? Your hardcover?)

All of this can be done relatively simply – and for free – through a redirect URL or WordPress plug-in. This means that you can create a custom, hidden URL for each link that then redirects to the actual link. So, in other words, you could create a “page” on your site – let’s call it /buy-amazon-hardcover – that immediately redirects to your hardcover page on Amazon. No user clicking on the link would ever see that “blank” page on your site, because they’re only on it for a millisecond before they’re redirected to Amazon. But your site analytics records that visit, and any time you log in to view your analytics you can find out how many people actually went there — or, in layman’s terms, clicked on that particular Amazon link.

As I mentioned before, there are simple WordPress plugins that can do this work for you as well. The one we’ve used is called Redirection and it automates the process of creating these redirect URLs.

But here’s one thing this free functionality doesn’t do: let you know if people actually went through with the purchase. In other words, it tells you if people clicked on the link from your site that took them to the page on Amazon where they could buy the book. What it doesn’t tell you is if those same people actually followed through with the purchase.

How Do You Track Book Sales in Total?

So now we’ve talked about tracking how many books you’ve sold through your site. But what about tracking book sales in total? You clearly want to know how many books you’re selling, regardless of where the buyers are coming from.

The free option for doing this can be pretty time consuming. Essentially, any site where your book is sold will allow you to view that data. Your Amazon Author Central account will essentially allow you to view how many copies of your book were sold on Amazon – as well as some other partner sites.

But I still hear from authors that their sales through Smashwords, etc… are not included in these reports. They find themselves looking at multiple sources to figure out how many copies they’ve sold, and then working to crunch all the numbers into one place. Not fun.

Thankfully, there are several paid services that help you track all your book sales in one place without the legwork.

One is called Shelley Hitz. It allows you to enter your book information from multiple sites that sell it (Amazon, Smashwords, etc…) and it will generate all the data for you. It allows you to try it for free for 14 days and then the cost is anywhere up to $9.99/month (depending on how many books you’re tracking the sales of).

Another similar option is the downloadable Story Box Software. It offers similar features and allows you to run reports, download your data into Excel files, etc…. The difference with this service is that there’s a one-time fee to download it — $89.99 – and then you can use it for as long as you need. It also offers a free trial.

I’m sure there are plenty more websites, apps, etc… that can help with this. These are just the ones I’ve heard of through word of mouth.

So how do you track book sales? Well, there are a variety of options. It all depends on what you want to know, how you want to get that information, and – like everything else in life — how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Group Blogs: The Hows and Whys for Authors

So you know you should blog to promote your book. But you worry it will be a waste of your time and effort. The solution? Group blogs.

Why Authors Should Consider Group Blogs

First, let’s define group blogs. These are individual blogs on specific topics that have multiple authors, each contributing posts.

Group Blogs for Authors -- Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, in other words, you might create a group blog on, say, weight loss. Then you might have five different authors who each have written books on diet, exercise, etc… who regularly contribute to this blog with their own individual posts. People who visit the blog would be able to read all the posts in chronological order, or simply read the ones by the contributor they are most interested in. Each of those posts would also include promotion of the individual titles that each author has written and/or links to their personal site.

The benefits of group blogs for authors like you is numerous, including:

  • You can expose yourself to a new audience. In other words, people following one of the other blog contributors are likely to see your posts as well.
  • The shared responsibility of keeping the blog updated doesn’t sit solely on you; it’s a team that keeps it alive and kicking.
  • More posts = more traffic = more book sales. It’s simple.

Creating or Joining Group Blogs

If group blogs sounds more palatable to you than blogging on your own, how would you go about doing it?

First, see if there are already any group blogs created in your genre. Do some Google searching to identify any that may be out there, and then reach out to those bloggers about becoming a contributor.

If there aren’t any group blogs in your genre, you can start your own if you’re willing to take on the responsibility. Start by setting up a blog for free at WordPress.com. Post one or two entries yourself to set the tone and theme. Then reach out to other authors in your field (if you know them personally, great; if not, a simple search should allow you to find authors promoting themselves) and ask them if they’re interested in being a contributor. Create posts on Facebook and/or LinkedIn pitching group blogging — you can link to this blog post — and asking those who are interested to reach out.

Group Blogging Tips

If you are going lead a group blog, here are some tips and things to keep in mind.

  • You can add authors and contributors easily through WP Admin. Go to Users → Invite New to invite others to join your team to be contributors or authors (more on this distinction below).
  • Decide if you want final authority over everything posted on your group blog. If you give contributors “author” rights, they can post and publish instantaneously. Or you can decide to make them “contributors,” in which case you would be able to review each post before it goes live.
  • Make sure to have each contributor create a user profile and gravatar. This will allow visitors to easily differentiate between each contributor.
  • You can also have each author be his or her own “category” of posts, making it easy for readers to sort posts by contributor.
  • Have all your contributors follow the same guidelines about tagging blog posts, optimizing them for keywords, etc… Consistency is key.
  • Use the super-cool author widgets that WordPress offers. Consider “Author’s Widget” — “an easy, direct way to display your team, as shown on The Smoke-Filled Room. When configuring the widget, you can adjust some settings, from a custom widget title, to the number of posts to show for each author, to the ability to specify avatar size.” Or try “Author Grid,” which brings in the photos of each of your authors/editors.

Have you tried group blogging? What worked for you? What pitfalls did you face? Share them with us!