When it comes to book marketing services for nonfiction, there’s a lot of confusion out there. The reason for this confusion is that marketing is one of those areas where there are hundreds of different possible avenues available to authors.
But like achieving anything in life, it’s not what you know that can kill you (or kill your success) but what you don’t know, so in this article I’d like to clear the waters of book marketing to show you the types of services that can move the needle for you, and the ones that are certain to waste you money.
Services That Work
Book marketing is intricate and yet necessary for your success, so if you’re a first-time author, you can’t be expected to know what works without the assistance of a competent, honest and capable book marketing service.
Below you’ll find a list of the essential services you’ll need to succeed, for which the guidance and assistance of a good book marketing service is necessary:
Marketing Copy: The book industry is a very crowded space, whether your book is sitting on a shelf in a bookstore or buyers are browsing an online bookstore.
The only real estate that your book will be given to make a compelling case to readers is going to be the marketing copy on your back cover for your physical book, or the marketing blurb next to the thumbnail of your book cover in the online bookstore.
This piece of marketing copy has to be done right, and unless you’re a marketing expert in your own right, you’ll need to enlist the help of professionals to help you craft a message that compels people to buy your book.
Keyword Research: With the sale of books shifting from primarily being done offline a few years ago to primarily being done online today, the mechanism to search for and find books has changed dramatically.
Gone are the days of walking around, browsing a bookstore section to see whether something grabs your eye. Nowadays, this behavior has migrated online and people search for books on Amazon using the same search approach they use on Google to find information.
As a result, the vast majority of buyers will only find your book if it comes up on their searches, and for this to happen you’ll need to know what it is that they’re searching for, and what phrases most people use to find a book like yours.
This requires the mastery of a marketing technique called Keyword Research. By accessing certain areas on Amazon, a marketer can identify the most likely keyword phrases that your potential users are typing.
Armed with this information, your marketing consultant can then help you set up your title on Amazon to respond to those keywords, increasing the chances of your book showing up on the first page of results.
Social Media Strategy: Another area you’ll need help with is establishing what social media platform your audience frequents so that you can reach out to them and get their attention.
This is something that requires deep knowledge of how each social media platform works and goes beyond just setting up a new account. It involves knowing what the best avenues are to reach out to users on each platform.
A qualified book marketing consultant will be able to help you identify where your time will be best spent and avoid a using blanket approach – in marketing circles it’s said that if you market to everybody, you’ll sell to nobody.
Public Speaking Strategy: For your book-marketing plan to be effective, you’ll need to connect with your audience offline as well as online.
As such, you’ll need the help of a marketing consultant to help you craft a public speaking strategy that works for your book’s niche audience.
You want to participate in public speaking opportunities where the majority of the attendees are members of your target audience. Speaking for the sake of speaking, without any knowledge of who’s in the audience, is never a good idea.
You might get more experience delivering your talk to the general public, but there’s no real marketing value in it. One important goal of public speaking, in addition of selling books from the back of the room, is to capture email addresses of the people in the audience.
If your book doesn’t resonate with their needs, you’re either going to get a low-quality list or no list at all.
Blogging Strategy: A competent book-marketing strategist will also help you create a blogging strategy that can connect you with more members of your audience in response to their searches on Google.
Also, they’ll help you turn your blog into an email-capture machine that will help you grow your email list cost-effectively with a pipeline of qualified leads.
A good book marketing service will also help you move from marketing readiness to marketing action. There are many areas where you’ll have to take action and you’ll need the help of an experienced marketing consultant to help you navigate the unknown.
For example, you’re going to need help in the following outreach areas:
- Getting Amazon reviews for your book
- Developing relationships with book bloggers and book reviewers
- Helping you land interviews with media outlets
- Helping you become a contributor for influential blogs in your niche
- Helping you get interviewed on podcasts that cater to your audience
- Coaching you on public speaking at libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, networking organizations, schools, non-profits, etc.
Stay Away from Services That Don’t Work
Now, it’s time to talk about those services you should absolutely stay away from. Since book-marketing services are unregulated, there are many predatory outfits that talk a big game to get your ego excited but end up offering no return on investment.
The following are the areas that you should stay away from:
Silver-Bullet Marketing Packages
Each book (and author) is different and requires a customized approach that should be developed between you and a competent book marketing service provider. Any service that sells marketing “packages” (you know, the bronze, silver and gold packages) will waste your money.
Individual Marketing Services to Avoid
On the flip side of one-size-fits-all packages are “individualized” packages. Again, if it’s a package, chances are it won’t work for your book. Here are some examples:
Any outfit pushing paid advertising services on you is one that you should avoid at all cost. Unless you’re famous already, there’s a good chance advertising won’t work for your book.
What will work is for you to develop trust with your audience over time by putting yourself out there, both online and offline, so that people get to know you, trust you and like you – only then will they buy from you.
Here, you’ll be sold the argument that you’ll be saving money by grouping your book with several other titles into a single large print add with an established publication.
Aside from the ego boost of showing your friends how your book appeared on an ad in the New York Times Book Review, your expensive group ad will more than likely result in zero benefit to you.
Radio & TV
Buying radio and TV ads, which are significantly more expensive than print ads, has the same result – if you’re not known to begin with, no one will care about your book by listening to or watching an ad.
People buy from those they trust, and an ad is the least trust-inducing form of communication between a seller and a buyer, unless the buyer has a pre-existing relationship with the seller.
Some services will offer you the chance to purchase paid reviews. To begin with, the most consequential review you can get when it comes to book sales is a positive Amazon review, which is 100% free.
Secondly, paid review sources have next to no credibility in the book industry, simply because they are tainted with money. It’s as if a movie studio paid an established media source to write a positive review of their movie.
This doesn’t happen because it would break the impartiality of the reviewer. Paid reviews don’t work in the movies and they don’t work with book either.
This is a tricky one. There are very talented book publicists out there that have established relationships with mainstream media sources (often they used to work in the media industry before branching out on their own).
The problem is that a) they’re very expensive, b) they’re very picky about the authors they work with, and c) they don’t typically work for book marketing services. Those services that do offer publicity as part of their mix tend to do a poor job.
In the end, the best publicist for your book is you, and you really need to be in the front lines of this activity, guided by a competent marketing consultant.
If somebody tries to sell you the services of an in-house book publicist, take a pass.
Paid Press Release Services
The same applies to press-release services. In nearly 100% of the cases, they don’t work – that is, they result in zero book sales. These mass broadcasts to large mailing lists are part of the “market to everybody, sell to nobody” paradigm.
For book marketing to work you have to be intentional and laser-focused on your outreach efforts, which is the opposite of what a press release blast does.
I hope that this article will act as your early-warning sign when you begin to contact book-marketing services. Remember to always ask for at least three references, that is, three nonfiction authors that you can talk to or email with directly.
If they are reluctant to provide you with this information on the justification of privacy, then use this as a sign to take a pass.
Good luck on your search!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is the author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.