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Episode 11:   Book Marketing (Part 2 of 6)

Learn 23 book marketing tips to bolster author brand-building, knowledge-building, platform-building and distribution.  Part two of the Smart Author podcast's exclusive six part audio serialization of the 2018 edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.    It's best to listen to this 6-part marketing series serially, starting with Episode 10.

Supplemental links (mentioned in this episode):

Jonathan Maberry interview (Smashword Blog)
Subscribe to the Smart Author Podcast at:
Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | iHeartRadio | Google Play Music | SoundCloud | Overcast | YouTube (audio) | Player.fm | Castify | Podbean | Libysn | RSS feed |

Writers organizations mentioned:

California Writers Club (22 branches across California)
Alliance of Indepedent Authors (International)

Smashwords Survey 2017

Original announcement (download full presentation)
Episode 7 of Smart Author (Smashwords Survey is the topic)

Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success by Mark Coker (30+ best practices)
HARO - Help a Reporter Online (Alerts you to journalist interview requests)
Google Alerts (track where conversations and stories are taking place)
MailChimp (free email list management up to 2,000 subscribers)
AWeber (Email list management, free 30-day trial, then paid)
Smashwords Interviews announcement (self-serve Q&A interview publishing)

Transcript:

Welcome to the Smart Author Podcast where you'll learn to publish ebooks with greater pride, professionalism and success. I'm your host Mark Coker. Let's get started.

In this episode, part two of my six-part series on book marketing.

As I mentioned in Part One which was Episode 10 of the Smart Author Podcast, I'm sharing an exclusive sneak peek or shall I say sneak listen of the new 2018 edition of the Smashwords book marketing guide, coming out at the end of January 2018.

In part one, I introduced you to several important book marketing concepts upon which you'll build your book marketing program. Part one concluded with a summary of the free ebook marketing tools you'll find at Smashwords.

Now, in part two, we begin chapter two of the Smashwords book marketing guide where I’ll cover the first 23 of my 65 book marketing tips. We’ll explore author brand building, knowledge building, platform building and distribution. Here we go.

Chapter two

65-book marketing tips

This 2018 edition of the Smashwords book marketing guide offers a checklist of 65 book marketing tips. The tips are organized under two primary sections. Foundation Building and Promotion. Each section and its subsections are logically organized to assist writers at all stages of their publishing journey.

As you'll soon learn, this is no ordinary checklist. I don't just recommend what you should do, I try to explain why you should do it. These tips form a mosaic of interlocking and interdependent complements that work together to take your marketing to the next level.

In this episode of Smart Author, we’ll tackle foundation building first.

Next section.

Foundation Building

All great buildings and all great enterprises are built on strong foundations designed to stand the test of time. Your marketing program requires a strong foundation as well. What are these foundational elements? In this section on foundation building, we’ll look at author brand building, knowledge building, platform building and distribution. To illustrate the importance of foundation building, I'll share some wisdom I learned from my mom many years ago. My mom is a master gardener. When I was growing up, I'd often help her plant her fruit trees. She'd hand me a pick and a shovel and tell me where to dig the holes.

I remember one day I was working through some particularly difficult soil, it was almost as hard as concrete. After a considerable back breaking effort, I finally dug a hole that was big enough to accommodate the roots of her small baby tree. A tree's root system is its foundation. It's what nourishes the tree and prevents it from falling over. With a healthy root system, the tree grows stronger and faster as it grows larger. My mom took one look at my little hole and shook her head. She told me to make the hole bigger. She said, “If you plant a $15 tree in a $5 hole, you get a $5 tree.” That lesson has stuck with me. In other words, without a proper foundation you'll squander your potential. You need to think beyond your current state and visualize how you want to grow in the future.

Most Indie authors launch their first book without giving their foundation proper consideration. This undermines their potential to stand tall and rise above the crowd. A tree is stuck with the hole you give it, luckily book marketing is a little more forgiving. Although it's ideal to get your foundational elements in place before you launch your book, the good news is that it's never too late to reinforce your foundation. Whether you're preparing to launch your first book or your 50th, these foundation building tips will put your marketing on a more solid footing.

The first tips I’m about to share apply to author brand building.

Author Brand Building

Tip one - visualize your author brand.

The number one driver of book sales is when readers seek out the books of authors they know, trust and admire. As the author, you are the brand. Before you start marketing your books, you should visualize what you want your brand to represent. What is your intention? I'm not talking about your intention to sell a lot of books or reach a lot of readers, we all share that intention. I'm talking about something bigger, something more important because your book is important. What mark do you want to leave on the world with your books? What is your legacy?

Next, visualize the experience readers can expect from your books. How do you want readers to think of you? Think of your favorite restaurant, there was a time when you tried it for the first time and because it was enjoyable, you returned to it again, and then you returned again and again. Each time the restaurant met or exceeded your expectations, it earned greater trust and loyalty from you. Now, you take your friends there and you recommend it to everyone you know. Now imagine a restaurant you once loved, but then something changed, and you never returned. Maybe you received rude service or found a hair in your food or you got food poisoning, that restaurant squandered your trust. Now you warn your friends to avoid it.

Author brand operates under the same dynamic. You must fiercely guard and cultivate your author brand. Your author brand can be found at the intersection of who you are and where you want to go. There are two aspects to author brand building. The first is awareness and the second is perception. Your marketing will drive awareness and initial perception building. Your reader’s experience with your books will cement their brand perception. Throughout the course of your marketing, you'll deliver both implicit and explicit messages to prospective readers. These messages convey information to the reader.

Think of these messages as promises. You will make a promise to readers in the form of your book cover, your book title, your book description, your book categorization and every other aspect of your marketing. You must deliver on the promises you make when the reader reads your book. Even if you're already a New York Times or USA Today bestseller, your awareness building and trust building is never complete. There are still millions of readers out there who haven't heard of you and haven't read you. They therefore, don't know you, don't trust you and will not read you. You have to work hard to earn their attention and win them over. At the same time, you must continue to meet or exceed the expectations of loyal readers for whom you've already built awareness and trust. As you work your way through the marketing tips that follow, always ask yourself how you can implement the tip to cultivate greater awareness, greater reader satisfaction and greater trust.

Tip two -  practice ethical marketing.

Ethics and honesty are essential to successful book marketing. If you cut corners, you'll sully your author brand. Without ethics and honesty, it's impossible to build reader trust. We've all seen or read authors who promised one thing but delivered another. We remember those authors for the wrong reasons. We've all heard stories of authors who cut ethical corners like paying shills to give them glowing reviews. We've all heard of horrible authors who have carpet bombed other authors’ books with one star reviews.

Don't be vile, the publishing industry is rife with unsavory authors, publishers and book marketers who want to cut ethical corners or make promises they can't keep or who harm others for personal gain. If a reader reads your book and feels your marketing misled them, the reader will seek their revenge in the form of a scathing review or negative word of mouth. You have the opportunity to be different. Be the author who deserves admiration and trust. In my 30 years in the business world, my personal motto has always been if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you told people.

I hold to this credo like religion and it has served me well. I'm sure they'll be some skeptics out there who think this approach to ethics and truth telling is naïve. They might argue that if others are lying and cheating, they should too. Here's a promise I can make to you, karma will always reap its revenge.

Tip three - act professional.

As a self-published author, you have the choice to act like an amateur or act like a professional, act professional. If your book cover looks homemade or if your book description is rife with typos, you'll project to readers that you're an amateur. Such sloppiness sends a message that you're a clueless newbie, your writing sucks and you don't respect your readers’ time or money. This may sound like common sense or sound like someone else's problem, yet I see these issues all the time. We all make mistakes, it takes a keen sense of self-awareness and open-mindedness to recognize our mistakes. Publish like a pro, promote like a pro.

Tip four - be a nice person.

If you or your marketing come across as mean, disrespectful or annoying, you will scare prospective readers away. It's in your selfish best interest to be a nice person. Your success as an author will be largely determined by your ability to earn lucky breaks. Like when someone goes out of their way to open a door for you instead of someone else. People like to help nice people, it takes a village to publish, promote and sell books. Publishing is a people business. If you're new to publishing, the industry might feel as if it's comprised of thousands of faceless nameless participants. I promise you that the longer you're in the business, the more amazing people you'll meet and the smaller the industry will feel.

Your marketing will touch thousands of people who have the power to open doors for you or close them. Who are these powerful people of whom I speak? They’re readers, they’re publishers, retailers, distributors, book marketing firms, literary agencies, bloggers and major media outlets. They’re fellow authors, editors, book designers, formatters and cover designers. Every single one of these people, even if they aren't a target reader for your books has the power to elevate you or harm you. As you put yourself in your books out there, these people will form impressions about you.

Why then is it so common to see foul tempered Indie authors publicly trashing entire swaths of the publishing industry. You've probably seen well-known Indies trash publishers, literary agents, fellow authors, retailers, distributors or the media, don't be stupid. No one likes mean people, no one wants to help mean people. Sure, you can still find success is in the obnoxious SOB, but you'll find more success by showing kindness, humility and respect. Be the person who brings sunshine, rainbows, and happiness to the party. I'm not asking you to be fake, just don't pee in the pool.

Several years ago at the Smashwords blog, we interviewed New York Times best seller Jonathan Maberry, we asked him how Indie authors could best utilize social media to promote their work and their author brand. He shared this amazing advice which I hope you'll take to heart and I quote. “So what do you want to put out there? Think about a party, if there's someone who's bitching and moaning and someone else who's getting folks to laugh and loosen up, which way do you drift? If a kid in the playground is constantly bitching about the quality of the toys, and another kid has turned a cardboard box into a sideshow Funhouse, who's getting more attention? Who's going to be remembered in a positive way? And, if you are a naturally cranky snarky sour tempered pain in the ass, for God's sake, share that with your therapist or priest. When you go online and promote yourself and therefore your products, try not to actually scare people off your lawn.”

Bottom line, if you're nasty online, people might fear you but they won't respect you. I’ll provide a link to the interview in the show notes at Smashwords.com/podcast.

Tip five - give back.

One day, if you work hard and if fate permits, you will become a wildly successful author. Your author brand will be known far and wide and fellow writers will look to you for inspiration. As you climb the ladder of success, I want you to pause, reach behind you and extend a helping hand to your fellow authors. Your success is their success and their success is yours. A journey shared is more enriching than a journey alone. Give back, help your fellow authors succeed. As you learn the secrets to success, share those secrets with your fellow authors. Your fellow authors aren't your competitors, they're your partners in this amazing journey.

If you find the Smashwords book marketing guide helpful to your journey, please don't keep it a secret. Do me a favor and share this book with your fellow writers.

Knowledge Building

Knowledge is power. It's not enough that you have the tools of professional publishing, you must learn how to wield these tools to achieve your strategic goals. Every author needs to learn publishing best practices and every author needs to stay abreast of trends. The challenge is time management. With the rise of self-publishing over the last ten years, we've seen an entire new industry sprout up dedicated to serving the knowledge needs of Indie authors. Many of these experts have great information to share, but at a certain point, you begin to feel like you're spending all your time chasing someone else's tail. That new shiny object that's working this month may not work the month after. Some of these experts have a vested interest in making publishing appear more complicated than it needs to be.

I've always guided authors to focus on evergreen best practices. These are the essential best practices that will work great today and will work great 10 years from now. It doesn't need to be complicated. Authors often give these best practices short shrift as if they’re common sense. Your opportunity isn't just to implement these best practices, it's to constantly iterate and improve your implementation of them.

In the five tips that follow, I’ll recommend free knowledge building resources that will give you the intelligence you need to prosecute your book marketing campaigns more effectively. These resources will help you stay focused on the most important best practices and trends without sucking up all your time.

Tip six - subscribe to the Smart Author Podcast.

In October 2017, I introduced the Smart Author Podcast. A podcast is an audio recording you can access over any computer or mobile device. Think of the Smart Author Podcast as a free masterclass, an ebook publishing. It guides you step by step from the very basics of ebook publishing to more advanced best practices. The podcast focuses on evergreen best practices. It offers practical, no-nonsense advice on how to make your books more discoverable, more desirable and more enjoyable to readers. The Smart Author Podcast is available at Apple Podcasts and everywhere, fine podcasts are found. Visit Smashwords.com/podcast where you can listen over the web, access full text transcripts or view a full listing of all the podcast directories that carry it.

Tip seven - join a local writer's club or critique group.

Authorship at times can feel like a lonely pursuit. For those of us who are natural introverts, sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get out of the house and meet people who share common passions. Join a local writer's club or critique group, it will change your life. Almost every community around the globe has local writers groups. They get together once a month to hear expert guest speakers. You’ll learn about the craft in the business of authorship. There are also many genre specific national and international writers groups that have local chapters. You'll find groups for romance, thrillers, mysteries, nonfiction, Westerns, Christian, horror, sci-fi and fantasy and more.

Whatever your writing interest, you'll find a writing group that's right for you. If you live in California, check out the California writers' club with multiple chapters all around the state. Outside the United States, in other English speaking countries, there are many great groups and clubs. You'll find them in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Just go to Google, type in your country, type in the genre of writing that you're interested in and you'll find these clubs. If you live too far from the nearest writing group and even if you don't, check out the Alliance of Independent Authors, an international group based in the UK that's dedicated to helping self-published authors publish like professionals. They hold several free online conferences each year where you'll hear from expert speakers. I’ll put a link to them in the show notes.

Tip eight - subscribe to the Smashwords blog.

I started the Smashwords blog in 2008, the same year we launched Smashwords. You'll find it at Blog.Smashwords.com. A blog about news trends and best practices of interest to the indie author community. The blog has an option where you can sign up to receive future posts via email so you never have to miss another post. I respect your inbox, when you subscribe I never share your email address with anyone or use it for any other purpose.

Tip nine - read The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

A book by yours truly. Several years ago I published The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success which identifies over 30 best practices of the most successful indie ebook authors. Like all my books on the topic of ebook publishing, it's available for free download at all the major retailers. I’ll put a link on the show notes at Smashwords.com/podcast.

Tip 10 - check out the Smashwords Survey.

Each year I publish the Smashwords Survey, a comprehensive research report that provides authors a treasure trove of data you won't find anywhere else. The 2017 survey shares insights about the top fiction and nonfiction categories and the pricing sweet spots to maximize readership and earnings. You'll also learn data about box sets, series, preorders and the optimal word counts to maximize sales. Episode seven of the Smart Author Podcast explores the 2017 Smashwords Survey.

Platform Building

You've probably heard the term author platform but may not know what it means. Platform is simply your ability to reach your audience. If you have 500 friends on Facebook and a thousand on Twitter, that's platform. If you do a lot of public speaking, that's platform. If you're a television personality with daily viewership of hundreds of thousands of people, that's incredible platform. If you have the ability to earn yourself free press coverage, that's platform too your audience is everywhere. The next eight tips will help you build your platform so you can deliver your marketing message directly to those who want to hear it.

Tip 11 - Join HARO, Help A Reporter Online.

Every day thousands of journalists around the globe are looking to interview experts for their stories. Journalists love to interview authors because authors are credible subject matter experts and they're good communicators. For the author, it's free public city both for their brand and their books. HARO which stands for Help A Reporter Online, is a free service that emails you a thrice daily summary of what reporters are working on now and the types of experts they seek to interview. Subscribe to the service at Helpareporter.com. Later in this book, in the deep dive section, I've devoted an entire section to how to earn free press coverage. Study it before you start contacting reporters.

Here's an example of the power of HARO. On December 27th, 2017, a reporter for a magazine called First for Women with a circulation of 3.7 million readers, put out a query that they were looking to interview women who make money with books. Another media outlet was looking to learn the New Year’s resolutions of business owners. Hey self-published authors are business owners. These were just two of 30 queries that arrived in one email. Earlier the same day, HARO sent out a different email looking for experts that could speak about the science of bedtime stories. That would have been a great one for children's book authors. These opportunities have passed but there are new opportunities every day.

Authors can also use HARO for research purposes. If you're writing a nonfiction book, and you need to interview experts, you can post a query to the HARO list. Experts will want to speak with you because if you include them in your book, it's free publicity for them

Tip 12 - Use Google Alerts to discover where the conversations are taking place.

The internet makes it possible to market your book to specific micro targeted audiences. There are numerous opportunities for you to join online conversations and connect with people who can benefit from your passion and subject matter or expertise. By participating in these conversations, you can raise the profile of your author brand among your target audience. By participating in these communities, you can raise the profile of your author brand. Let's say you wrote a book about how to grow prize winning pumpkins. There are probably dozens of gardening websites and online forums that discuss that very subject. You can join the conversation by commenting on message boards, blogs and news stories related to that subject. Share your knowledge.

Maybe wrote a cookbook about gluten-free pastries. There are dozens of online communities frequented by those who suffer from and by those who want to help people with gluten sensitivity. Share your smarts. How do you track where these conversations are taking place? Google makes it easy with their free service Google Alerts. Visit Google.com/alerts. That's A-L-E-R-T-S to sign up for a free account. Tell Google the keywords or phrases you want to track and Google will email you whenever a new conversation or a new story or a blog post appears on that given subject

For the pumpkin example, you might want to track keywords or phrases such as pumpkin growing or prize winning pumpkins or gardening tips. For the gluten-free pastries idea, you track the phrases gluten-free, gluten intolerance, in celiac disease. The goal is to join the conversation and add value with your wisdom and opinions. Don't spam.

Tip 13 - Create a private email list.

One of the most powerful book marketing tools is the author's private opt-in mailing list. By opt-in, I mean that the reader asks to subscribe to your list. As a best practice, never auto subscribe friends, family and others to your mailing list without first requesting their permission. The goal is to create a quality list that is 100% opt-in. Once you have that subscriber, treat them with respect, don't inundate them with emails. Offer them incentives to stay subscribed and to recommend your list to their friends. Compelling incentives might include early notifications of new releases, exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming releases or exclusive Smashwords coupon offers.

You’ll want to use an email list management tool to build, manage and track subscriber sign ups and to create and send professional looking emails. Two of the most popular mailing list tools used by authors are MailChimp and AWeber. MailChimp is at MailChimp.com and AWeber.com. MailChimp offers a free version of their service that allows up to 2,000 subscribers and if your list grows larger, you can upgrade to paid versions that start at $20 a month. AWeber offers a free 30-day trial but then it costs a minimum of $19 per month. I’d recommend you start with MailChimp. Once you have your list configured with one of the above services, each will provide you a sign up hyperlink you can promote to your readers as well as sign up widgets that you can add to your website or blog. Make sure you’re advertising your newsletter on your website home page and in the back matter of all your books, later here in the Smashwords book marketing guide in tip 27, I'll talk more about back matter.

Tip 14 - Update your email signature.

You've probably seen email signatures but may not have recognized them as such. An email signature is a little snippet of text that is automatically appended at the bottom of every email you compose. For example, at the end of every email I send, I include the following signature which tells the recipient who I am and how to connect with me. It reads:

Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/markcoker
Blog:  https://blog.smashwords.com
Smart Author Podcast; https://smashwords.com/ podcast

Most of us send emails to dozens of people each week and each of these people often friends, family, business associates and readers represent potential readers for our books or they can recommend your books to others. By creating an email signature, you're providing email recipients a low key, unobtrusive path to discover purchase or share your book. Every email program and service allows you to create an email signature file that automatically appends at the end of each email. If you open your email program and don't see where or how to create your signature, then google it. For example, my email program that I use is called Thunderbird. So if you're using Thunderbird, you'd type into Google, “How to create an email signature in Thunderbird.” Or if you use Outlook, “How to create an email signature in Outlook.”

Be deliberate about the design and content of your signature. This starts with you understanding who your target audience is and how you want them to engage with you and how you want them to view your author brand. With my signature that I just shared, I wanted to make it easy for the new people I deal with every day to know my role at Smashwords and how to connect with me. For your purposes, you may want to make it all about your book or provide a hyperlink to the preorder for your work in progress. For example, if I wanted to create a more book-centric signature, my signature might read as follows:

Mark Coker
Author of the Smashwords Guide series
Download my free e-publishing guides at https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/1

And then I would list my social media coordinates for Twitter and my blog and maybe Facebook.

For your email signature, you can add a direct hyperlink to both your Smashwords author profile page or maybe even your own book pages. So it's easy for readers to go straight to your book. To find the address for your Smashwords author page, log into your Smashwords account and click profile. Then look in the address bar of your web browser where you'll see the direct hyperlink that you can share with prospective readers. To find the direct hyperlink to one of your books, click to your Smashwords profile and then click on your book title. That will take your browser to your book page where you can copy and paste the web address directly into your signature

Note that when you compose an email, your email program or service will automatically compose the email either in plain text or HTML. HTML is the language of web pages. If it composes an email in plain text, you can list the hyperlinks in your signature as plain text and most receiving email programs will make that link clickable. This is what you want because a link that isn't clickable is essentially worthless. A clickable link usually appears as blue and underlined. I configure my email program to send emails as text. I think plaintext makes your email more accessible to more email programs, but this is really a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer composing HTML emails.

Be careful though, if your email program composes your email and HTML, it's not always enough to just list the hyperlink. Because it won't be clickable on the other end to the recipient. To ensure it's clickable to the recipient of the HTML email, you should first make sure that the link is clickable in your signature file. If this sounds confusing, study the help files associated with your particular email software or email service. After you compose your signature, send a test email to yourself or to a friend to confirm that the hyperlinks are clickable.

Tip 15 - Sign up for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, if you haven't already.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the three leading social media platforms for authors. In the deep dive section at the end of this book, I offer detailed guidance on how to get the most out of these three social media platforms. Over the years I've met a lot of authors who fear social media. If you're one of these authors definitely check out my deep dives on social media. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how these tools can be integrated into your daily routine with minimal intrusion on your writing time. I use Twitter as my personal news feed and to share publishing news with my followers. I use Facebook for having personal conversations about the stuff I like to talk about with friends. I use LinkedIn for connecting with and making myself discoverable to fellow business professionals. The deep dives on social media will be covered in part six of the Smart Author Podcast series on book marketing.

Tip 16 - Complete a Smashwords Interview.

I first mentioned the Smashwords interviews feature in chapter one. Smashwords interviews presents you with a series of questions you can answer to help readers learn the story behind you the author. You can also modify the questions or create your own. Make your interview unique. Once you create an interview, we promote it across the Smashwords website by linking it to your author profile page and book pages. We also promote the interviews on the Smashwords home page where readers can browse interviews by most recently published, most popular and other filters. The interviews also contain social sharing links so your readers can promote your interview to their friends. You’ll find the Smashwords interviews feature underneath the account tab at Smashwords.

Tip 17 - Start a blog.

You're a writer, you have something to say, you should start a blog. Share news about new releases, sneak peek samples of upcoming works or news about limited time promotions you're running. You'll attract a following of people who respect how you think and write and who enjoy discussing the topics you're writing about. Every post you do becomes a permanent web page on the internet. That page will be indexed by Google and other search engines and will forever serve as a conduit guiding potential readers to your books. With consistency and time, you'll build a following of people who are more inclined to read your books or help you spread the message about your books.

Starting a blog is easy. Google's blogger service at Blogger.com is a good free in simple blog. It's what I use at the Smashwords blog at Blog.Smashwords.com. If you want a more sophisticated blogging platform that gives you more control over the look and feel of your blog, take a look at WordPress at WordPress.com. WordPress is the gold standard in blogging platforms. Many authors and businesses use WordPress to create not just a blog, but also to create websites. Good blogging requires commitment. If you only do a few posts and then forget about it, your blog won't attract a very sizeable readership. It can take years to develop a sizable following and I think the effort is worth it. You'll find that as your subscriber base grows, the growth can fuel even faster growth as readers start sharing your posts with friends on social media. Try to start with at least a couple posts per month.

In tip 24 (Episode 12), I'll talk more about the value of publishing online content such as blog posts that contain hyperlinks guiding readers back to your books. And then later in the section on promotions, I'll share several ideas for how you can build your blog’s traffic and use the blog to build readership and author brand.

Tip 18 - Print business cards.

I realize it may seem ironic for a tree hugging ebook distributor such as myself to recommend printed business cards. But hear me out, our lives are unlikely to ever go 100% digital, and thank goodness for that. We humans still meet face to face in the flesh with our fellow humans at church, conferences, restaurants, bars, walks in the park, sporting events, and the grocery stores. The conversations usually go like this.

“Hi, what do you do?”
“I'm an author.”
“Oh really, that's cool. What kind of books do you write?”
“Murder mysteries.” “Here's my card.”
“Cool, thanks, I'll check it out.”

Print business cards to advertise your authorship. List the genre or category in which you write and list all the ebook retailers that carry your book.

For most indie ebook authors, the list might include something like ebook available at Smashwords Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Amazon and other fine ebook retailers. Pin the cards on local community bulletin boards and hand them out to everyone you meet whenever anyone asks about your job. And if they don't ask about your job, move the conversation in that direction. Many Smashwords authors place Smashwords coupon codes directly on their card so the lucky recipient of the card can go download their first book at a discount or for free.

Tip 19 - Create an online calling card and bio at About.me.

For my fellow tree huggers who want a digital business card, check out About.me. About.me is a free online site that allows you to post an online bio with links to your social media coordinates. I created mine in about 15 minutes. You can check it out it at About.me/MarkCoker. It's a neat service and if it helps even a single reader discover you, it's worth the investment of your time.

Tip 20 - Update your social media profiles and message board signatures.

You're an author, that's your job title, that's your identity. Shout it from the highest rooftops. Update all your social media profiles to mention that you're an author. If you participate in online forums and message boards, update your profiles and signatures there as well. Most message board communities allow you to create a signature that appears at the bottom of every post. Just as with email signatures, message board signatures are a subtle non-intrusive method of telling people more about you. You can often also include one or more cover images of your books in the message board signature. One Smashwords author by adding a single link that read, “Read my writing at …” and then she inserted the hyperlink to her author profile page at Smashwords, drove over 1,200 people to her profile page in the span of only five weeks.

I should point out that in her message board posts, she wasn't even talking about her books. Instead, she made herself such a valuable member of the community that other community members took the initiative to learn more about her and her writing. She let the signature do the talking.

Next subsection.

Distribution

Back in the old days of print publishing, a book sales were closely tied to the number of stores that carried the book. This is because readers go to bookstores to discover and purchase books. Much of book discovery is about serendipity. If your book wasn't in the store, the reader went home with another author's book. When retailers pulled the slower selling books from their shelves to make room for newer books, it could trigger a slow death spiral for the book leading to lower and lower sales, then ultimately causing the publisher to take the book out of print. With ebooks, distribution remains as critical as ever. These next three tips will focus on maximizing your digital shelf presence.

Tip 21 - List every new release on preorder.

Ebooks released as preorders sell significantly more copies than ebooks that are not released as preorders. If you want to sell more books, you need to make preorders central to your book launch strategy. An ebook preorder allows your book to be listed at the major retailer several months in advance of the book's release. Preorders work because they enable more effective advance book marketing. If you're on Facebook, sharing news about your work in progress, you can share a preorder link to capture the reader's order at the moment you have their greatest attention and interest. You can start promoting your book and locking in orders while you're still writing it. You'll gain valuable retail exposure in advance of the release.

Think of it as more selling days on the shelf. On the day your book officially goes on sale, the reader's credit card is charged and the book appears on their e-reading device. Readers love ebook preorders because preorders help them be the first to read new books from their favorite authors. Preorders work well for new and established authors alike. Ebook preorders will give every author an incremental sales advantage. Apple iBooks, the world's second largest seller of ebooks does more than any other retailer to support and promote preorders. At iBooks, all your accumulated preorders credit toward your first day of sales rank when your book officially releases. Since retailer best seller lists are determined by unit sales over a short period of time, it causes your book to spike in the iBooks best seller lists.

And since readers use best seller list to discover their next read, placement in a genre or store-wide best seller list increases your book’s visibility, desirability and sales. At Smashwords, you can establish your preorder listing up to 12 months before the book goes on sale, even before the book is finished. We’ll then distribute the listing to the major retailers we serve such as iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. If you want to learn how to use preorders to sell more books, listen to episode four of the Smart Author Podcast which is dedicated to preorder strategy. Also check out episode seven of Smart Author which covers the 2017 Smashwords survey. In the 2017 Smashwords survey, we shared mind blowing data on the effectiveness of preorders. We found that although only 12% of Indie authors were using preorders, those authors books were dominating all of our bestseller lists.

Tip 22 - Distribute to all ebook retailers.

With rare exception such as with certain taboo erotic literature, every global retailer wants to carry every self-published ebook. Many authors make the mistake of concentrating their distribution and their marketing on a single retailer, Amazon and miss out on the opportunity to reach millions of other readers that prefer shopping at other stores. Every author should be at Amazon but they should also distribute everywhere else. With one upload to Smashwords and another upload to Amazon, you'll have the world's most important retail sales outlets covered. If you do upload your ebook to Amazon, avoid their KDP select option because that requires exclusivity. Instead use their regular KDP option so you can distribute everywhere.

Tip 23 - Distribute your ebook to public libraries.

Public libraries represent a large potential market for your ebook, not just in terms of ebook sales to libraries but also as a discovery platform that can help you raise awareness of your author brand and sell more books at retail. Public libraries serve hundreds of millions of readers each year. A Pew Research survey from 2012 found that 41% of people who check out library ebooks purchased their most recently read ebook. This statistic, although it's dated underscores how library readers are also avid buyers of books at retail. If a new reader discovers your ebook at their library and loves it, there's a good chance they'll go online and purchase some of your other books at retail.

According to a library Journal survey published in 2015, 93% of US libraries offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72% in 2010. To make your ebook purchasable by public libraries, you first need to understand how libraries select, purchase and manage their ebook collections. Library subscribe to ebook check out platforms to purchase and manage their ebook collections. The major checkout platform providers are Overdrive, Gardeners, Baker and Taylor Axis 360, Odio, and Bibliotheca cloud library. These platforms serve libraries throughout North America, South America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.

In total, these library platforms reach over 30,000 public libraries around the world. Smashwords supplies ebooks to each of these platforms which means once your book is distributed via Smashwords, most public libraries will have the ability to purchase it. To learn more about marketing your ebook to libraries, check out episode six of the Smart Author Podcast.

That concludes episode 11, which was part two of my six-part series on book marketing. You just learned 23 tips to strengthen your marketing foundation.

Now you're ready to start building on that foundation. Next up in part three, which will be episode 12 of the Smart Author Podcast, we’ll turn our attention to promotion and specifically autopilot marketing. You’ll learn how to put your books most important marketing on autopilot. These tips will work like magnets 24 hours a day to make your book more discoverable and more desirable to your target readers.

If you're enjoying the Smart Author Podcast, please tell a friend.

Visit our official Facebook page at Facebook.com/Smart Author Podcast where you'll find a listing for this episode. If you're enjoying the series on marketing, please give it a like and a share and help us spread the word. As always, you'll find a complete transcript of this episode along with supplemental links over at Smashwords.com/podcast.

I really appreciate you taking the time to join me here. Until next time, keep writing. I'm Mark Coker.