Grace A. Johnson
Marketing Q&A Pt. 2: Sales Promotion
Y'ALL. I am so ashamed of myself. I meant to have this post done and out, like, at least two weeks ago, but here I finally am now. Maybe this means my advice will come at the time y'all truly need it the most. We'll see.
Today's Q&A post is all about SALES!!! Getting more sales, selling preorder copies, growing interest, the list goes on! My answers this time include more actionable tips and tricks than a full-out case study, so I advise you to do your own research, study the industry, try things yourself! There is SO much more to learn and discover; I'm only scratching the surface!
Even still, I hope this gets your wheels turning, provides you with a basis to work from, and prompts you to start growing your author business and getting more sales for your books!
m.c. kennedy's questions
What are some good ways to run a successful pre-launch campaign?
Well, I’m actually in the process of running a pre-launch (aka, preorder) campaign, so why don’t I share some of the things I’m testing out?
(Keep in mind that this is my first time running a preorder/pre-launch campaign, so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of this. However, I’ve done some research for all this, and I advise y’all to do your own research too! Actually, I may add this to the beginning of the post as a bit of a disclaimer…)
For starters, I wanted to host a ton of epic giveaways for Bound and Determined, so I started planning ahead and bought notebooks with one of the theme verses on them, had a necklace custom-made (which I’m not so sure I want to give away now…*clutches her pretty pearls tight*), and even got character art done for Daisy!!! (Y’all check out my artist, Hadassah Waugh!)
I didn’t go all-out for book swag/merch like I wanted to (because I plan on saving that for my ginormous series re-launch), but I definitely did way more than with my previous books.
Second, I’m doing a preorder campaign, in which I offer all readers who preorder BAD and submit their proof of purchase a bundle full of digital goodies (such as that character art). Not only does this give me an excuse to share about my book more, it also encourages readers to preorder, thereby boosting my sales/ranking on Amazon!
Third, I’m taking advantage of my AH-MAY-ZING street team, who are promoting BAD left and right! Putting together a street team or launch team can help TREMENDOUSLY in getting the word out about your book, growing your platform, and extending your reach!
Also, running a blog tour is fantastic! I’m not doing it for BAD (again, ginormous relaunch), but I did for Daylight (my 9/11 short story), and it was so fun and engaging for both me, my followers/readers, and the blogging community as a whole!
Now, I could go on and on and on about running a campaign (*coughs* currently taking a class on IMC campaigns right now, actually), but we’ll be here all day. So, those are my top tips/suggestions, although there’s a lot more you can learn, try, and put into it!
How early should you start marketing for a new book?
As early as absolutely, humanly possible.
If you are positive that you will publish—or at least make available in some form—your project at some point in time, start marketing.
Now, marketing doesn’t always look like huge, flashy advertisements—most of the time, it’s just talking about your book and informing readers about your story with no ulterior motives. And, in some ways, that’s the best kind of marketing there is.
So, as soon as you know your story has a future, talk about it! Share snippets and character profiles and writing updates. Get your followers/readers invested in your work from the get-go! Not only will that make your job easier when it comes time to actually market, it also gives your readers the motivation they need to go out and buy/read your book!
How can you keep up the hype for an already-published book (without driving all your followers crazy)?
Good question! I’ve got a whole list of ideas and suggestions just for this!
Offer a sneak peek of your novel with the link to purchase it at the end. I do this on my website, where a link to download the sneak peek pops up on the homepage after a few seconds. I also just recently downloaded and read a sneak peek of another author’s book, and I swanny, I came thiiiis close to ordering the book afterwards. It really pulled me in, just as it was meant to.
Always keep the book fresh on their minds. Like with the aforementioned story, the author made sure new readers/followers knew about this book (the first in their main series) before any other…they included the sneak peek at the end of an unrelated short story…and they just offered it for free on Amazon. Your first book—especially if it’s your debut novel as well as the first in a series—needs to be front-and-center everywhere, from on your website to on your social media to what you talk about. Don’t forget about it or push it aside, because if you do, readers will.
On that note, discounting or offering your book for free (for a limited time) is always a fantastic idea. Capitalize on bookish holidays (it was National Read a Book Day earlier this month) or on days that are important to your book itself (publication anniversary, completion date, etc.). Even if you just knock off a couple of dollars for a day or two, not only will the sale give you an excuse to talk about the book, it’ll also be a great incentive for readers to purchase a copy!
Also, sharing your favorite scenes, snippets, and quotes on your blog, in your newsletter, or on social media just for fun can be a great way to remind readers about your book and get them excited to start reading.
It never hurts to share more and more about your story everyday! Behind-the-scenes, the creative process, what inspired it, deleted scenes, all about the characters, Q&As…the list goes on! Try and share new details about your book as often as you can.
Offer review copies (either for a limited time, limited amount, or only certain readers) to keep a steady influx of reviews, boost exposure and sales, and have different voices promoting your book.
Obtain author endorsements/editorial reviews from prominent book bloggers and authors in your genre. (Tip: DON’T use Kirkus Reviews. If you have to pay for a review, don’t do it. Just cold-call some authors in your genre/style and see what happens!)
Work with other bloggers/influencers. Whether it’s a bookstagrammer, interviewer, or someone looking for guest posters, take advantage of social media influencers who are willing to share about your book and bloggers who will feature you on their blog! It also helps to offer or sponsor giveaways on their platforms!
Speaking of giveaways, you can NEVER go wrong with a giveaway! Whether there’s one winner or five, or the prize is big (like a signed copy with merch) or small (like just an e-copy), no one can resist the chance to win, win, win! And capitalizing pn that is easy.
I've noticed that the first book in a series tends to be the most popular. What are ways to continue that interest throughout the remaining books in the series?
Part of carrying interest through the entire series actually starts with the first book. If you can build enough momentum for the first installment and draw in plenty of invested readers, then you’re already halfway toward a successful launch for any future installments—especially if you left Book 1 on a cliffhanger. *winks*
I think, a lot of times, readers either want a standalone book they don’t have to commit much to, or they want an entire series that’s consistently good quality and is readily available. So if your first book reads like a standalone, you’ll have to market the succeeding books as standalones. (Of course, they can be in the same series, but if they don’t focus on the same characters/storyline or tie up loose ends from Book 1, you can market it as a “reads-like-a-standalone” installment, which will probably get you more readers.)
And if your series declines in quality or is inconsistent…or, worse, you make your readers wait 3+ years (*glares at self*) for the next book, you’re bound to lose readers and have a difficult time gaining more.
Case in point, start strong so you can finish stronger. Set yourself up from the very beginning to have a very successful series…
BUT (and here’s the next part), don’t do everything all at once!
I personally did things way out of whack by not being prepared at all when I released my first two novels…however, what Gracie’s lack of patience meant for evil, God used for good, and now, with each book, I get to build on and make every launch better, bigger, and more memorable.
(Granted, I’m not going all out since I plan on re-releasing my current series and throwing a humongous party then, but still. I do do a little more each time.)
So, instead of doing the same old, same old every time you launch a book, shake it up a little! Do something new and different to keep old readers engaged and invite new readers to invest. Maybe you do a group giveaway…maybe you do a blog tour for the first time…or a scavenger hunt…or a preorder campaign…or book merch…or a special edition hardcover…or basically ANYTHING you haven’t already done! And even though most launch/marketing tactics seem time-consuming and outrageously expensive, there are ways to do these cheaply and timely.
For example, give away digital copies instead of physical ones. Run an Instagram tour instead of a blog tour. Do a digital preorder campaign instead of insanely expensive book boxes. Give out free ARC copies to friends instead of working with expensive promoters. Cold-call authors for endorsements instead of entering a ton of awards or paying for something like Kirkus Reviews.
And, lastly, on a non-launch-oriented note, invest your readers. Don’t just publish books out of the blue and expect your readers/followers to jump up and race to snag a copy. Be marketing and promoting from day one by sharing about your book on every platform in every way—from progress updates to aesthetic reels to snippets and sneak peeks. And draw your readers into the story by showing it to them even before the book is finished, and invest them in the process and the characters’ journeys so that they thirst to read it and find out what happens!
It never hurts to run a sale or two either, just to boost your sales on whatever book seems to be hurting for interest.
Maybe that helps? Although Held Captive is definitely my most popular book, I feel like interest grows with every book I put out there, so I don't really have much experience. Mainly because my platform grows as well—which is another great way to increase interest. Start by increasing your platform and following rather than focusing solely on how interested your current readers/followers seem. For one, if they ain’t interested, find someone who is. For two, people will often be more interested and invested than they seem.
So there’s that.
How do I get more sales on Amazon?
Hmm. I’m not sure if I’m the one to ask—I’m not necessarily a bestseller. But, I have tried a few beneficial things before (like Kindle free promos), and I’ve done some research on some other methods!
Acquire and utilize endorsements from other authors that will (1) be featured on your Amazon book page and in/on future books, and (2) can be shared on other platforms to increase credibility and serve a recommendation from that author.
Offer a discount or sale on your book to create a temporary boost in sales.
Make your book free for a limited time. Now, it may seem like a poor choice…but freebies will surge to the top of Amazon’s bestselling lists, your sales with spike dramatically, you’ll gain more readers and potentially more reviews/exposure, AND (in my experience) you’ll gain a few extra paid sales right before and after the free promotion.
Release a special edition or hardcover version.
Keep your manuscript up to date. As an indie author, making necessary edits (like correcting typos, adding glossaries or cast lists, or cutting/adding scenes) is as easy as pie, so don’t hesitate to update your manuscript from time to time if you feel it’s necessary…and, of course, make it known that you have removed the typoes or extended the ending!
Optimize your keywords/categories on Amazon. Simply putting your book in the right categories (oftentimes the more specific, the better) and switching up your keywords can make a world of difference! Now, keep in mind that keywords are more like key phrases, and they don’t necessarily have to be the generic “fantasy romance.” Try using phrases your potential readers might put in the search bar—like “beauty and the beast retelling,” “slow-burn enemies-to-lovers,” “royal secret identity,” “strong female lead,” etc.
Try running an ad. I used Facebook ads once, but I would never recommend them. However, I have heard fantastic things about Amazon ads and look forward to trying them out in the future. Fortunately, regardless of how effective certain ads may be, trying them out for yourself is the best thing to do and won’t usually cost you an arm and a leg. I only paid $14 for my Facebook ad (which is probably why it didn’t do well, but FB ads don’t have the best rep anyway). So give it a try and see if it’s beneficial!
Keep promoting your book! Just because all your old readers/followers are probably tired of hearing about it, new readers aren’t! They wanna know all they can and want to be invested into the story, so keep sharing about it, talking about it, and putting out fun content that gets readers engaged and interested!
How do I get readers excited for an upcoming release?
As my brother says, TALK ABOUT IT! If you aren’t consistently vocal about your upcoming book…people aren’t going to know about it or remember it, much less care about it!
So, how do you encourage excitement through your talking/posting rather than just throwing out TV commercial-style self-promos?
BE. EXCITED. If you, the author, are not excited about your own book…why are you even publishing it? *raises an eyebrow* Seriously, though, if you can exude genuine enthusiasm about your book, your readers will catch on.
INVEST YOUR READERS. I know this is like the eightieth time I’ve said this, but it is so important! Share things that draw your readers in and make them feel like they’ve put time and effort into your story. Run polls for character names or ask for advice for mock covers—whatever! Just so long as you bring your readers into your story and into the process of putting it out there!
On that note…I know some people think writing has become over-commercialized. I mean, we do title and blurb reveals now. Sometimes, we legitimately do over-hype things, so you have got to find a balance…but you also have to remember that balance doesn’t mean not hyping your book up at all. Plan things like cover reveals, blog tours, Instagram tours, etc. Give out advanced reading copies. Host giveaways. Turn even small things (*coughs* like titles) into celebrations if you feel like the hype is dying down.
Lastly, share as much as you can! Now, I don’t mean sharing as often as you can, although that’s important too. I mean, share excerpts, character collages, character interviews, aesthetic reels, playlists, quote graphics—shoot, even recipes! All of these fun tidbits are some of readers’ favorite things, and they’re a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to hype up your release!
How do I maintain sales after the release?
Well, most of my tips for this are included in my answers for increasing sales and keeping up the hype (see above), so I’ll keep this short and throw in a few extra, outside-the-box ideas too!
Discount your book. Whether that’s knocking a dollar off or making it free for a limited time, try running a sale and see what happens. Now, don’t just change your price and move on—promote it! Send out email campaigns, blow up your social media, share about the sale on your blog, encourage others to tell their friends/followers, etc. This will not only give you a boost during the sale, but also for some time after it.
Get more reviews. I’d try either giving away a limited amount of review copies or offering them for a limited time to gain more reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., to bolster your book’s platform! Reaching out to reviewers—like top reviewers on Amazon, trusted bookstagrammers, or book bloggers—is another great way to get reviews.
Stay in touch with your readers/followers—especially after your book launch. Don’t just throw a party and never contact your attendants again…you have to build relationships and constantly bug them keep your book on the forefront of their minds. Email newsletters are a great way to put your book in front of your potential readers’ faces, so try sending out an email campaign once or twice a month!
Join group giveaways or promotions. Especially the free ones, like the indie author giveaway I’m putting together now! Organizations like JustRead Tours, Celebrate Lit Publicity, and even just lil’ old authors like myself often offer giveaways, blog tours, and other promotional outlets that you can sign up for (sometimes for a small fee, other times free) to have others doing all the heavy lifting in promoting your book!
Capitalize on current events and pop culture. Write sweet Regency romance? Advertise your books as a clean alternative to Bridgerton. Write about superheroes? Promote your stories as something Marvel or DC fans will love. Wrote a Christmas novella? Share about it during Christmas. Story set on a remote island? Advertise it as a beach read. See what I mean?
There are so many other things you can do and ways you can shore up your books so that they generate sales for weeks and months to come, so give yourself freedom to try new things, ask others what has helped them, do your research, and find what works for you!
What do y'all think? Which of these methods would you like to try in the future? What tactics have prompted you to buy books before? What ideas or suggestions would you like to add? Let us know in the comments below!
Have more marketing questions? Drop them in THIS form! Missed my last post? Read it here!
yours in spirit and script,