In the last thirty days, there were over 140,000 new releases on Amazon. Currently there are over three million books ebooks and 30 million paperbacks for sale on Amazon.com.
A recent Authors Guild report in Publisher’s Weekly noted that 56% of authors who responded to the extensive 2015 survey made less than $11,670 (U.S. poverty level) in the last year. Part-time writers have seen a median income drop of 37% since 2009. The proliferation of ebooks has not created a proliferation of income. What’s an author to do?
Indie Authors Are Business People
Every day I hear from authors who hate marketing. They just want to write. I can’t blame them. When you start out to write a book, you probably don’t even think about how you’re going to sell the book. After all, marketing is not an innate skill. Indie authors today are faced with a cold, hard truth: unless you are a prolific bestselling author, you are going to have to hustle to sell your own books.
Marketing can be a confusing world of buzz words and case studies. Everybody is hawking a winning formula for selling a boatload of books online. Advice comes in all shapes and sizes. And many even claim that you can do whatever you like or nothing at all because, after all, marketing is just a crap shoot. But marketing is not guesswork. And it isn’t about finding a magic formula. It’s about learning how to build a sustainable plan to sell your books using goal-centered proven strategies with the tools at hand. It’s about building a business around writing your books.
Social Media: It’s Not Personal, It’s Business
Social media is the only modern marketing platform we have that can be used for both business and personal reasons. People don’t buy TV ads or run radio spots to recommend babysitters or ask what refrigerator to buy. They don’t put up a billboard to announce a yard party on Saturday. Up until 2006, there were clear lines drawn between business media and personal media. People wrote letters, sent email, or called friends on the telephone. Today, we post something on Facebook, or tweet with friends watching the same TV programs, or post our vacation photos on Instagram. And when indie authors turn to social media to try and sell their books, the only method they know is personal. But the key to success on social media is not using it in the same everyday method we use to communicate with our friends. We need to draw a distinction between using social media as a person and using it for business.
Business social media has a different methodology than personal social media. If we want to use social media for business, we need to learn a different set of skills. We need to approach it as a function of our business.
The Problem Isn’t Social Media
The real problem facing authors is not how to use social media, it’s how to market books. When we make an effort to educate ourselves about the basics of selling and developing loyal customers, the business use of social media becomes clear. We have to draw a line between the personal use of social media and business use by understanding the basic principles of marketing first. That should be your first goal. Here are a few examples of basic marketing skills authors should concentrate on learning to draw that distinction:
- Learn the basics of selling: find out what triggers people to buy, which social media channels work the best for selling, and what the sales process looks like from discovery to the actual sale.
- Learn how to write good sales copy. There is an art to selling and leading people to a call-to-action to buy a product that is the same in every sector whether you are buying a book or a refrigerator.
- Learn how to flesh out a basic marketing plan that is based on goals-objectives-strategies-tactics. It isn’t an elaborate process. It just helps solidify the idea that marketing is not a herky-jerky process of throwing something against the wall to see if it sticks. It is a strategic process that will elevate your marketing efforts into a whole new world. It will also take the guess work out of where to go next.
- Learn how to write engaging social media content based on proven formulas that are research-based. There is an accessible body of research out there on how to put together engaging social media content. Again—remove the guesswork from the process.
- Learn how to identify and target your audience. There are simple (and free) research tips you can implement to zoom in on your own audience and not waste time marketing to people who will never buy your books.
- Learn how to sell less and interact more. Social media isn’t about yelling “buy my book.” It’s about building a community where you help more than you hype.
- Separate the two time-wise by scheduling a specific time to work on social media for business apart from time to communicate with friends.
Resources For Learning
To speed the marketing learning curve, I recommend you gather information from reputable sources—people that have a background in marketing and have proven success helping authors at all platform levels. Don’t take my word for it—teach yourself. Here are some books, blogs, and classes to help:
Youtility by Jay Baer: This is the current bible on how to market to our current culture. It’s about producing content that adds value first and sells second.
Content Code by Mark Schaefer: This takes Baer’s book to the next stage. Where Baer’s book is bedrock, this book is practical.
Business for Authors & How to Make a Living From Your Writing, both by Joanna Penn. Penn is the perfect example of an author entrepreneur doing it the right way.
Build Book Buzz (Sandra Beckwith)
Writer Beware (the latest scams authors should avoid)
Online Marketing Classes
Turn Your Social Media Pages Into Shopping Channels (my basic selling class)
Selling for Authors with Bryan Cohen (limited enrollment periods-get on email list for next class dates)
Jump Start Your Facebook Marketing by Amy Porterfield
Can you sell books on social media? Definitely. Can you sell books without social media? Definitely. But if you want to use all the tools in the tool box to accomplish your goal of selling more books and building loyal fans, you will want to learn how to use social media as a business marketing tool and not just a way to chat back and forth with all your friends.
I have a free weekly newsletter that will help you understand how to implement social media into a successful marketing plan. I’d love to have you along. You can subscribe here.
If you’d like to start a conversation or leave your thoughts, you can find me on Twitter @cksyme.