How Book Marketing Is Being Turned Upside Down

I just read a great post by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, on rethinking book marketing. It sums up why marketing a book today is completely different from decades ago, and offers tips and advice for updating your marketing strategy to reflect today’s market.

First, he bases his ideas on a survey of ebook readers. What he learned from the survey is that people find books now in a very different manner from how they used to. According to the survey results:

  • 28 percent of survey respondents said they prefer to read books recommended by fellow online readers in message boards and blogs.
  • 27 percent of readers find books by some form of “random discovery.” That could mean that they stumbled upon the book based on a Google search, they saw the cover and it intrigued them, they were impressed by a review of the book, or they were offered a free download.
  • 18 percent of respondents search for books by their favorite authors

If you notice, none of these three “heavyweights” in the survey results have much to do with marketing. Most of these readers didn’t find the book because it had a full-page ad in the NY Times or because the author was doing book signings. In short, many of the traditional methods of marketing just don’t work in today’s world of the ebook.

So what does work? Here are some recommendations from Mark himself…

  1. Target online communities. People are more likely to read a book that was recommended by someone who has similar taste. Luckily, there are groups just perfect for this forming on sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, etc… Join them. Market your book there.
  2. Distribute, distribute, distribute. People buy books now from a whole slew of online stores. So don’t just sell your book yourself. Make it available from as many ebook sources as possible. No one will stumble upon it unless it’s there.
  3. Create a kick-ass book cover. Okay, so Mark didn’t use the phrase “kick-ass,” but I did. Based on his survey, book covers matter. Don’t miss your chance to capture the attention of a possible reader.
  4. Create your brand. Once you have a fan of your writing, you don’t want to lose them. After all, the survey reveals that people are often looking for new books by their favorite writers. So make sure to find a way to stay in touch with people who have read your books. Friend them. Collect their email addresses. And make sure to notify them when your next book is available.
  5. Don’t be afraid of “free.” Some readers might not be willing to pay to download your book … but would be more than willing to sample it for free. Just like a chocolate shop that gives you free samples when you walk in, have enough confidence in your writing to let people read your first book for free. And if you only have one title, offer it for free for a short period of time. Once people download it, read it, and love it, they’ll tell their friends … and their friends will be willing to pay for it.