When it comes to marketing ideas for nonfiction authors, it seems like the sky is the limit. Marketing is a very creative field and there’s always a way to think outside the box to come up with fresh concepts and new approaches.
Most of the hundreds of possible ideas for book marketing are tactical in nature, from giving workshops in bookstores to guest blogging to answering questions in Quora. But there’s a core group of five marketing ideas that are foundational in nature.
Tactical ideas are like the many branches of a tree. Foundational ideas, on the other hand, make up the tree trunk that holds all the branches together, and as such, they must be implemented first in order to empower all the other ideas.
Foundational Marketing Ideas
For your audience to have the opportunity to read your book, they first need to be able to easily find it and, once found, they need to feel compelled to buy it.
Therefore, your first set of marketing decisions need to be centered on the look and feel of your book (your book cover design), the message it delivers (the book title), the description (the book’s sales copy), industry validation (does it appear on a bestseller list?) and social proof (book reviews from other readers).
Once you nail the following five foundational marketing ideas, any tactical ideas that you implement afterwards will be amplified – when the tree trunk is strong, so are the tree branches.
Let’s get started:
Key Marketing Idea #1: Make a Professional Book Cover
Like it or not, all books are judged by their covers. As consumers, we’re primarily visual beings, and before we make a purchasing decision, the object of our desire must be visually appealing.
We get naturally attracted to beautifully put together, well-executed products, whether we’re buying a book or a car. Things that don’t look inspiring fail to engage our senses, whether they’re well-made or not.
Interestingly, this attraction doesn’t happen at an intellectual level, it happens at a purely emotional level. Therefore, your book cover must be carefully designed in order to create a direct emotional connection with your target audience.
Before you publish your book, it’s imperative that you hire an experienced cover designer who specializes in nonfiction books. Book cover designers are visual artists as well as marketers.
They know what colors to choose in order to elicit a desired response in the reader and they also know how the shape of a font can influence a purchasing decision.
Please don’t take on this task by yourself and don’t farm it out to friends or relatives. This is an important puzzle piece that must fit just right, otherwise you risk making your book look amateurish.
Key Marketing Idea #2: Create a Compelling Book Title
The second most important book marketing idea is the messaging in your title and subtitle.
Once your cover design engages the senses, your book title completes the “hooking” of the reader by providing the right marketing language to engage their intellect in a way that supports the feelings triggered by your book cover.
The information in your title and sub-title must line up with the deepest needs of your audience. It highlights their problem and clearly provide your unique solution.
Your title also has to be clever and intriguing. For example, the blockbuster “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join The New Rich” by Tim Ferris, clearly identifies:
- The pain that its target audience wants to relieve (being in the rat race), and
- It suggests a unique solution out of the pain (the 4-hour workweek)
- Bonus: it also paints the future of financial freedom its audience craves
Interestingly enough, that wasn’t Tim Ferris first title choice. It was “Selling Drugs for Fun and Profit,” a controversial pun on his nutritional supplement business which wouldn’t have resonated as much with his target audience.
Note: for more insights on how to create great book titles, read my companion article: How to Come Up With Killer Book Titles for Your Nonfiction Book.
Key Marketing Idea #3: Craft an Effective Book Description
Your next foundational book marketing idea is to come up with the right “sales copy” for your book. This is the information shown on the back cover of your printed book and also shown in online bookstores as your book’s description.
As engaging and intriguing your book cover and title are, they don’t tell the whole story. They’re just invitations to learn more, and this place of learning is your book’s description.
In fact, this blurb of sales copy is so important for the success of your book that I highly recommend you engage a marketing professional to help you create it. Your book’s description must achieve the following four goals:
1) It must draw your audience in
You need to show your audience the problem your book will solve using a “hook” to draw them in, and then you need to show them the expected end result.
For example, as a hook you could pose questions that the book will answer – e.g. “Do you find yourself ____?,” “Are you feeling ____?,” “Are you stuck in ____?,” etc.
For the expected results you could use language like: “You’ll learn the exact steps you need to follow to experience XYZ in your life.”
2) It must show them your unique solution without revealing the details
You could use statements like: “This book will show you how to _____”.
3) It must show them the benefits they’ll receive
Paint a picture of the reader’s future as vividly as you possibly can – e.g. “Do you want to be stress-free?,” “financially free?,” “healthier bones?,” “a chess expert?,” etc.
4) It must show them social proof
This is where you mention 1-3 testimonials or memorable stories from real people or organizations who’ve already benefited from your unique solution in a measurable way.
Key Marketing Idea #4: Amazon Ranking Domination
Now that you’ve taken care of the visual and marketing-copy aspects of your book, it’s time to turn your attention to how people will find it.
When it comes to selling products, there’s no doubt we live in an online world and the ruler of online bookselling is Amazon. Your 4th foundational book marketing idea is to make sure that you dominate your sub-niches in the Amazon bookstore.
The central idea is that it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond (or many small ponds) than a small fish in a big pond.
Enter Amazon book categories. Amazon has over 3,000 nonfiction categories and sub-categories and each one of them has a bestseller list highlighting the top 100 titles in it.
What defines whether you make it into a list or not is, well, book sales. How many book sales? It depends on the niche.
So, for example, you’ll find highly competitive categories where you have to sell hundreds of books each day in order to stay on the bestseller list. But there are some sub-categories under those main categories where you may only need to sell 5 books a day to become a bestseller.
My recommendation is to enlist the help of a professional nonfiction book marketing company to help you decipher what the best sub-categories will be for your book in order to dominate your ranking in that sub-niche.
Once you get into an Amazon bestseller list, their algorithm will automatically begin to display and recommend your book more prominently on their platform. Plus, you’ll be able to leverage this prestigious status in many other ways.
For example, you’ll be able to more easily get the attention of the media, command higher public speaking fees and even become more sought after for your professional services.
Key Marketing Idea #5: Establish an Amazon Book Review Team
The final piece of the foundational book marketing ideas is to garner as many positive Amazon book reviews as possible. These reviews are the most significant signal to convert book browsers into book buyers.
The entire Amazon ecosystem is designed to reward high sellers, since this increases their commissions. And the best sales conversion mechanism you have at your disposal is book reviews.
Moreover, when your book is brand new in the system, the Amazon ranking algorithm doesn’t have any historical data to go by, so for the next 30-days it switches into “data-acquisition mode.”
It’ll basically observe how your book is doing for a while (i.e. how many positive reviews you’re garnering over 30 days) and then it makes future ranking decisions based on this information.
Here’s where you come in. Several months prior to adding your book to Amazon, you need to circulate advance copies of your book for review to a network of target audience members that you’ll have to assemble first.
Now, there are certain precautions you need to take, because Amazon does not appreciate any gaming of their algorithm, so you have to use a white-hat technique to ensure that you’re “in the clear” of their terms of service.
This team of advance readers will provide you with your initial book reviews in the critical first 30-days from publication so that the algorithm has enough data to improve your product ranking.
These book reviews must be honest and unbiased. To help you do this at scale, I created a companion article that explains how to assemble and operate an advanced Amazon book review team.
It’s entitled: How to Get Reviews on Amazon For Your Nonfiction Book.
Once you’re done implementing this solid foundation of book marketing ideas, you’ll notice how much more you get out of your tactical marketing ideas.
For example, you’ll have a much easier time landing media interviews, getting booked into paid speaking events, being offered to guest post on influential blogs, getting invited to give talks in large chain bookstores, being invited to participate in industry panels, and so on.
Good luck in your marketing endeavors!
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 an award-winning 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.