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Q: What Should I Stay Away From in My 2021 Book Marketing?

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PUBLISHED MARCH/APRIL 2021

Compiled by Alexa Schlosser, Managing Editor, IBPA Independent magazine —


Read below for expert advice on book marketing plans.

Hannah Gordon

“Focusing on sales as your goal. Yes, ultimately, you need sales to sustain your business, and that may be why you are marketing anyway, but if your only objective is to sell, then you’ve missed the great opportunity of marketing in this era: building relationships with your audience. Engaging your audience by providing valuable content that doesn’t push them to buy is the key to creating a brand-loyal consumer. If they feel like you’re a helpful friend, they’ll remember you when they want to spend their money. This is especially true because of the hard economic times many have fallen on. B2B clients are closely watching their budgets; B2C clients may be worried about a household bill or necessity that needs to be handled. Be a resource, not a sales pitch.”
—Hannah Gordon, Publications Manager, Elva Resa Publishing


Laurence O’Bryan

“Stay away from giving away free books. Books are valuable objects, which should receive a fair price, based on what its competitors are selling for. And setting a zero price encourages the notion that the book is of zero value and often leads to the book not being read. Advertising is the way to find readers.”
—Laurence O’Bryan, Author & Founder, BooksGoSocial.com


Fauzia Burke

“Even though a widespread vaccine rollout appears to be on the horizon (yay!), I am still advising clients to avoid scheduling in-person events in 2021. Instead, authors should rely on virtual events to reach readers. I think there will still be some reluctance to gathering in large groups for a while, and to avoid the doubling of work with booking and rebooking events, I’d stick to remote events this year.”
—Fauzia Burke, Author, Online Marketing for Busy Authors; Founder and President, FSB Associates; Co-Founder, Pub Site


Ian Lamont Headshot

Ian Lamont

“For Amazon Sponsored Product advertising campaigns, competition for keywords is definitely going up as more publishers and third-party sellers use Amazon Advertising. This was very apparent to me during Prime Day in October last year and Black Friday/Cyber Monday when a lot of my campaigns basically stopped performing as many of my keyword bids were too low to win the electronic auctions.

As time goes on, bid levels will continue to rise, especially for popular genre keywords (e.g., ‘romance novel,’ ‘Korean cooking 2021’) and keywords associated with well-known authors, books, or personalities (e.g., ‘Stephen King,’ ‘Goodnight Moon,’ ‘Oprah Book Club’). This will make it more and more difficult to run profitable campaigns for books with lower margins.

It may be possible to research new keywords that other publishers and sellers aren’t using, and are therefore cheaper to ‘win’ in the automated advertising auctions on Amazon. I would also advise publishers to not use the ‘suggested bid’ or default bids Amazon provides (which are almost always inflated to benefit Amazon), and make sure that your book detail pages are optimized for conversions with professional covers, authentic reviews, short and captivating descriptions, and Prime availability. The best advertising campaign won’t work if it’s paired with a bad detail page.”
— Ian Lamont, Founder, i30 Media Corp.


Bruce Harpham

“Stay away from ‘bright shiny object’ syndrome in your marketing in 2021. As part of my goal-setting process for 2021, I reviewed the marketing methods that produced the greatest results, and I’m continuing to focus on them this year. If you already have an email list or following on a major social media site, keep growing those rather than trying to start something new on a different platform like TikTok.”
—Bruce Harpham, Principal, SaaS Marketing Services, bruceharpham.com


Jim Alkon

“1. Stay away from underestimating the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Publishers should take advantage of any chance they have to get their books into the hands of passionate readers via giveaways, special promotions, or other means. A satisfied reader will only tell others, and so on and so on!

2. Stay away from being taken in by marketers that guarantee book sales. We all hope authors and publishers sell lots of books. But promises of this nature are usually signs to run in the other direction—or brace for much anger and disappointment later.

3. Stay away from mismanaging expectations. The idea of ‘instant gratification’ from book marketing is usually material for a fiction or fantasy novel. Authors have to get known before they can get bought—that’s a big step many like to skip. Think of book marketing as a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Stay away from thinking you don’t have to do any marketing. With no marketing, you pretty much guarantee the only readers will be the authors’ immediate family. ‘Wasn’t it great, Mom? And please pass the potatoes!”
—Jim Alkon, Editorial Director, Book Trib


Do you have a publishing question you’d like one of our industry experts to answer? Email Managing Editor Alexa Schlosser at alexa@ibpa-online.org with your question, and we’ll answer it in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

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