Part 3: The Ultimate Guide to Market Research

Welcome back for Part 3 of the Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing! If you’re just stopping by and want to start from the beginning, you can find the complete series here. Each part stands alone, though, so if you’re just interested in a particular topic, feel free to jump in wherever you see fit.

First, a little refresher on our Ultimate Book Marketing Formula, which forms the backbone of the guide:

In this section, we’ll be examining the first, and most important, component of this formula: market research.

Yes, it sounds boring. But it tends to be enlightening and interesting.

Even if you hate it, market research is mandatory. An hour of time up front can save you hundreds of frustrating hours on the back end. That’s a pretty good deal.

Alas, this critical marketing step is the one that most writers skip. For a first novel, or a third, this is okay: at the beginning, it’s more important to start (and finish) than it is to get things exactly right. But if you want to go full-time, you must deeply understand what your readers want.

Part 1: Key Principles & Business Fundamentals

Welcome to the Ultimate Book Marketing Guide, my multi-part series on how to market your self-published fiction books. This guide distills the most effective current marketing strategies into a complete, step-by-step system. A good system is a blueprint that translates useful information into actionable form, thus providing consistent, reliable results. Instead of remembering what to do—or viewing facts and concepts in disconnected isolation—we can focus on execution.

This system is founded upon thousands of hours (and many dollars) of personal testing that spans 50+ titles, multiple pen names/clients, and a variety of genres. We’ll cover every essential piece of book marketing, complete with action exercises. As you might suspect, that takes awhile; in its entirety, the Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing runs 50,000+ words. It aims to be the most comprehensive book marketing resource in existence—better, even, than high-dollar paid courses. I’ll let you be the final judge of whether I hit that mark.

I have spent many hours trying to make this guide as simple and clear as possible. Do not mistake this simplicity for a lack of sophistication or effectiveness. If you’re anything like I was a few years ago,

Mini Guide: How to Get Legitimate Amazon Reviews for Your Books

Most of us have been there. Acquiring reviews is the bane of the fledgling indie author’s existence. I struggled with it for years; hell, I only cracked the code in 2016, after heading down the review rabbit hole hard.

That’s when I learned a surprising truth.

If your book isn’t selling, reviews are usually not the culprit.

That being said, if you have no reviews, or are staring at two reviews with a 3.5 Amazon rating, you likely don’t believe me. Only the ice-water of harsh experience convinced me otherwise.

But although they’re hardly the skeleton key to success, reviews are still important for a few reasons we’ll discuss below. Thus, I’ve assembled a comprehensive mini guide outlining a number of techniques and services that you can use to get legitimate, unbiased Amazon reviews (no black hat stuff here).

I’ll dive into detail on the three primary methods of getting reviews:

  1. Review services which distribute review copies of your book to their readers
  2. Creating your own ARC (advance review copy) team
  3. Setting your book to free and putting a review request with a direct link to the review form in your book’s back matter.

Mini Guide: How to Hit the USA Today Bestseller List

Ah, yes: bestseller-dom, that elusive stamp of approval from on-high that our books are, indeed, worthy. Jokes about validation aside, becoming a bestseller does open (small) doors, so it can be worth pursuing under the right circumstances. While the New York Times list is out of reach for all but the bestselling indies (those lucky enough not to be curated off, that is), USA Today’s list is very much in reach.

There were two reasons I did this: to use the USA Today Bestseller tag in my marketing materials, and also to make it clear that it’s a realistic goal for a solo mid-list author in 2018. Many authors know you can still readily hit Amazon’s Top 100 and the USA Today list. But if you believed those were hopeless endeavors without outside help, special wizardry, or, in rare (and unfortunate) cases, black hat techniques, good news: the following is an in-depth guide on how I hit the list, with an easy to follow strategy for replicating my run.

I won’t pretend to be the originator of this strategy; that credit goes to the many helpful threads on KBoards (C.

Part 7: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Email List

It’s no secret that most authors struggle to build a mailing list. I know this as well as anyone: at the start of 2016, I had 4 subscribers on my author list, despite having had one for over three years. Organic subscribers came in a rate of 1 or 2 a month, since I wasn’t selling many books. Big promotions rarely produced any new subscribers. I never contacted my list, because I was too tentative. I built my list up to around a hundred names perhaps two, maybe three times, but never contacted them. Each time I’d delete the subscribers and try again.

Meanwhile, I’d tweak my autoresponder and book formatting constantly, trying to optimize when I didn’t have any traffic. The struggle was real.

Finally, I’d had enough. Come hell or high water, I was going to contact my list regularly – even when it was 20 people. And then I was gonna build it up to 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year. I did it, and then some. By April 2017, I had 3,000+ subscribers across my lists.

Fast forward to February 2018.

Part 6: The Ultimate Guide to Book Covers, Blurbs, Categories, Keywords & Pricing (Packaging)

This is a guide on how to optimize your book to maximize visibility and sales. Optimization is just a fancy word for tweaking your book’s presentation: elements like covers, blurbs, pricing and so forth. We want our Amazon page (and other retailer pages, if we’re wide) to look professional and enticing to prospective readers.

This guide will show which controllable factors are critical to your book’s success—and, perhaps more importantly, which are huge wastes of time. I’ll also share personal observations from where I’ve succeeded (and failed).

Revisiting the Ultimate Book Marketing Formula and Internet Marketing Formula

Before we move on, let’s recap what we learned about traffic in Parts 4 & 5, and how it fits into our book marketing formula:

Market research + 3 targeted traffic sources + great covers/blurbs + newsletter + consistent new series novel releases (4+ per year) = full-time author

  • There are an almost infinite number of traffic options; narrow this down to three options that work with your personality, capital and time constraints. PPC and paid newsletter promo sites are recommended for 99% of authors.

Part 5: The Ultimate Guide to Promotion (Visibility + Traffic)

Welcome back for Part 5 of the Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing! If you’re just stopping by and want to start from the beginning, you can find the complete series here. Each part stands alone, though, so if you’re just interested in a particular topic, feel free to jump in wherever you see fit.

First, a little refresher on our Ultimate Book Marketing Formula, which forms the backbone of the guide:

Now it’s time to talk about traffic.

You know, the thing that people think of when the word marketing flashes through their mind.

Visibility.

Eyeballs.

Promotion.

Advertising.

Call it whatever you want; getting potential readers to your book page kicks off our traffic-conversion-profit marketing cycle. Remember, there are only three components of internet marketing: traffic, conversion and determining whether you made a profit. Traffic is  about getting people to the book page; conversion is about convincing these people to buy (and, later, converting them into fans by getting them to sign-up for your email list); turn a profit doing this and you can continue reinvesting in your business.