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If your book sales are sluggish or nonexistent, you probably left out one or two Ps. There are four of them in total. The four Ps, also known as the marketing mix, stand for Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.
I used to work in multinational companies, and before we took anything to market, it had to go through the four Ps. Why should a book launch be any different? Think of yourself as the company and of your book as the product.
The first thing you need to look at is that your book both fits in and stands out. What does “fits in” mean? Look at all the Amazon categories and make sure that the book you want to write fits into one of the categories that performs well. Why? Because you want to know that there already is a market for your upcoming book. Think of all the funny inventions that are filed in inventors’ cabinets. Hair in a can, anyone? If looking online gives you a headache, think of what you would tell a librarian as she tries to catalog your book. “Please put it on the [INSERT CATEGORY] shelf.”
When you know that your book fits in, now is the time to make sure it stands out.
Case Study 1
When I wrote my now award-winning guide How I Sold 80,000 Books, it fit into the “Marketing & Sales” category, but it also stood out, because nobody had ever written a book for authors that focuses on the four Ps.
Case Study 2
When I wrote my newest release, Supreme Leadership, it fit into the very popular and lucrative “Leadership” category, but it also stood out because nobody had ever put together a book featuring 34 CEOs who are celebrating their 25th business anniversary in 2018.
Diary of a Snoopy Cat
Case Study 3
You must be thinking, “That’s great for Alinka, but what about others?” Here’s just one example of an author I worked with on positioning. Meet R.F. Kristi. She came to me with a whole series of children’s books. They were not selling. The first thing I noticed was the positioning. They looked like picture books aimed at 3- to 7-year-olds, yet they read like books for 8- to 12-year-olds. I suggested she make a decision. Which group are we targeting? She preferred the older group.
After analyzing the market, I suggested that she turn her book into a graphic novel. Why? Because they sell. It’s a category that can be very lucrative when you do the work right.
So her book fit in, but it also stood out because there were no graphic novels about cats. Thus, the now very successful Diary of a Snoopy Cat was born.
There are several considerations when you think about where to sell your books. I touch upon all of them in How I Sold 80,000 Books (which you can get for free at authorwisdom.com). But here I’d like to focus on a strategy you might not have considered.
Entertain this exercise for a moment: “What if there was no Amazon and you HAD TO make a living off your books?”
Case Study 4
Take my children’s book series Maya & Filippo. It features two children who travel the world on board a cruise ship. They visit various ports of call, have incredible adventures, and appreciate their unique life.
Where would you sell that? If you said “cruise ships,” you’re right. What better souvenir for grandparents who cruise than to bring home a picture book for their grandchildren that shows them where they’d just been and what they’d just seen?
Long story short, bulk sales to cruise ships turned out to be a great strategy for Maya & Filippo.
Brave & Funny Memories of WWII by a P-38 Fighter Pilot
Case Study 5
Again, you’re likely thinking, “Good for Alinka, but what about us?” Well, here’s just one such strategy that I implemented with one of the authors I work with.
Lyndon Shubert’s BRAVE AND FUNNY MEMORIES OF WWII: By a P-38 Fighter Pilot is a book we launched on Veteran’s Day, and, after it received great editorial reviews, Amazon reviews, a seal on the cover, and substantial sales, we reached out to aviation museums so they would add the book to their gift stores.
We didn’t just reach out to one; we reached out to all, and we’re now following up to make sure that it gets into the hands of even more targeted readers.
Pricing is tricky. You need to price your books so you’re both competitive and make a profit. The strategy will be different for paperbacks and for e-books.
Case Study 6
When I priced Maya & Filippo, I needed to make sure I was able to give the cruise ships that bought my books in bulk the standard 55 percent industry discount off the list price. To be able to do that and still be profitable, I had to price my books slightly higher on Amazon. This was a conscious decision. I sacrificed some of my online sales in favor of offline sales.
Case Study 7
When it comes to my book Supreme Leadership, I’m not focusing on bulk sales (although I could). I want to reach the broadest audience on Amazon. That’s why the paperback is priced very competitively.
Case Studies 8 and 9
I’m sure you heard of the “permafree” strategy. You simply make your book permanently free because free books get downloaded 50 to 100 times more often than 99 cent books. You hook the readers and, once they’re hooked, you sell them your other books (works for fiction or nonfiction) or you get them on your email list, engage with them, and offer them your products or services beyond books (works for nonfiction).
I have a permafree book both in my fiction and nonfiction, and I find it to be a very lucrative strategy.
This is the broadest P, and there’s so much to be said, but let’s focus on the most important part of your book promotion: your book launch. You need to launch with a bang so that the Amazon algorithm gets it that your book is a popular one.
Amazon has only one interest in mind, and that’s to make more money. So if the algorithm detects that your book could make them more money, they will give it more love and visibility, and you will get way more sales.
How do you get the algorithm’s attention? You launch big. How do you launch big? It’s all in the preparation.
The first thing you do is create a landing page and give away a free advance review copy to anybody who subscribes to your launch team. I use the template you see at authorwisdom.com for all my landing pages.
For a few months before launch, concentrate all your efforts on getting as many people as possible on your launch team:
Reach out to your existing contacts and invite them to your launch team.
Scout Amazon reviewers who reviewed books similar to yours.
Use Goodreads, LibraryThing, NoiseTrade, and Story Cartel.
Form partnerships and get partners to invite their audiences to join your launch team.
Run Facebook ads to get people on your launch team.
Case Study 10
I’ve done all of the above in my years of launching books but only a few of those for my recent launch of Supreme Leadership. I’d say that my results are not typical, but I got more than 3,000 people on my launch team through these strategies. If you’re just starting out, you can probably expect to get 150 people on your team. However, the fact they agreed to review your book doesn’t mean they will. Unfortunately, experience shows that only one-third will actually leave a review.
Case Study 11
If you get 150 people on your team like we got for Lyndon Shubert, you should expect to launch with 50 reviews—just like his book did.
As soon as people subscribe to your team, engage with them and keep them in the loop. I like to launch by enrolling in KDP Select and using the free days for the launch period. I ask my reviewers to download the book from Amazon and only then write an Amazon review so that it shows as “verified.” Amazon’s algorithm takes books with verified reviews more seriously.
I also use promotional sites and let them know that the book will be free during the launch period. This promotional push allows my books and the books of my clients to climb up the rankings and get the algorithm’s and readers’ attention.
Considering we’ve done an excellent job packaging the book (title, cover, keywords, description, editorial reviews), the book should get a lot of traffic organically.
If you also incentivize purchases and throw some Amazon and Facebook ads in the mix, you should have a well-performing book, just like a multinational company would have a well-performing product on the market.
Alinka Rutkowska is a multi-award-winning and No. 1 international bestselling author; a sought-after coach, and speaker. She’s the founder of LibraryBub, which connects indie authors with 10,000+ librarians. Download Alinka’s free, award-winning guide, How I Sold 80,000 Books, atauthorwisdom.com.