The marketing of books has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years. Less money is being set aside for marketing, and the bells and whistles are generally saved for the biggest books of the year. For example, these days most authors will never go on a book tour; they're much more likely to go on a blog tour.
Much of the marketing is now focused on the internet, and that's doubly true for ebooks. After all, if your target customer has an e-reader, chances are the internet is where they'll be.
A contract with a major publisher no longer guarantees author marketing support, and authors often end up waging their own guerrilla marketing campaigns. With this in mind, writers are getting the rights back to books that have gone out of print, and they're publishing them as ebooks -- many with great success.
Some established authors are also striking out with new work. New York Times best-selling author Joni Rodgers has chosen to publish her new novel, The Hurricane Lover, as an independent ebook. She says, "Most challenging is separating apocryphal 'success' stories from the real numbers. We hear a lot about the magic of social networking, but no one talks about the money they spent on marketing."
"Most thrilling is that we're no longer limited by shelf space and launch windows," Rodgers continues. "We can mobilize trend-based marketing at the moment people are talking about the topic of the book instead of stirring the same old soup pots that try to target 'readers' -- as if that's some homogeneous entity. Every book club I've ever visited was made up of individuals who think for themselves."
So here is what do-it-yourselfers (or authors whose publishing houses have left them off the marketing department's to-do list) need to know when it comes to book marketing.
There are a lot of ways to spend money, if you really want to, but before you shell out any cash, ask yourself if it's really worth it. Be honest; when was the last time you clicked an ad on a webpage, let alone actually bought something that way? If you're not going to do it, why would your potential audience? When it comes to ebook marketing, money is better spent on things such as editing and a great cover. Having a polished finished product is really the best possible marketing tool there is.
Word-of-mouth has always been one of the biggest drivers of traditional book sales. That hasn't changed. People are still talking about ebooks, but they're talking about them in chat rooms and in book-specific communities such as Goodreads.com. The chatter runs from high praise to heated discussions. The important thing is people are talking, and if your ebook is going to make waves, it needs to be part of that conversation.
Your next stop should be to review sites and blogs. These forums offer a great way to build buzz -- and to get people on those aforementioned book sites talking. Genre titles, such as Romance and Crime Fiction, have respected websites with dedicated readerships. Getting a good review or having an excerpt appear on one of those sites can introduce a new author to a wider audience.
Social networking can be a boon too, but it's a delicate balance. Many new authors make the mistake of forgetting the "social" in social networking. Bursting into a chat room you've never been to before to tell everyone about your great new ebook is a good way to get booted straight out as a spammer. Remember, it's a dialogue. Talk to other authors and readers about your genre and about writing and reading. Become part of the community, not just the ebook equivalent of a used-car salesman.
Once you've got the word out, chances are you'll still have to do more to get the actual sale. Look at the price point of similar ebooks and adjust accordingly. Still not getting much interest? Why not try a few free giveaways? If someone loves a book, he or she will talk about it -- and as we've already established, word-of-mouth is important. Offer free copies in contests on readers' sites, and send free copies to reviewers -- just like you'd do with a print book.
The sea change in book marketing has opened the doors for ebooks from both established authors and absolute beginners. The marketing strategies employed for both, while different, rely on two crucial factors: work and luck. But when luck hits, you have to be ready with the best possible product.