By David Wogahn
“When it comes to online marketing, most people are overlooking their number-one biggest asset. Social media activity, off-site ads, and all other tricks are a drop in the bucket compared to the power of the email list.”
—Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and online marketing strategist
By my count, authors need four email lists for an effective book launch. Assuming Amazon is your primary marketing partner is probably the worst assumption you can make when launching a book.
Simply put, you need a team, and email is your best friend. Without it, your book will disappear into the virtual back shelves of Amazon. You could get lucky and be discovered. Perhaps have the right topic or story, at the right time. But, more likely, it is like the proverbial noise a tree makes when falling in the woods. If no one notices your book, it won’t sell.
It’s time to make some lists
Begin by making at least these four lists. This is what I recommend:
Look for notable individuals you could ask to read your book and offer a testimonial. For fiction, it might be an author in the same genre. For non-fiction, it might be an expert in the topic you are writing about. Think in terms of your readers and who they would be most influenced by. Aim high—probably not Oprah, but a top-selling author is a good bet. It’s also good marketing for them. Keep in mind that they will want to see the book in some form; the better they know you, the more trusting they’ll be, so maybe a Word doc will suffice. Of course, this is why you created your Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs), right?
Final thought: You can’t have too many blurbs, and you should never stop getting them. You’d be surprised all the ways you can use them. Your website, in the book, on collateral like bookmarks, as part of your book description, and so on.
Have you ever wondered how newly launched books are able to accumulate reviews so quickly? The author, or publisher, has sent an ARC to a select group of people with the expectation that the individual will write a review. This is an age-old practice in the book trade. It’s also completely within Amazon’s terms of service. Goodreads has gone so far as to create a program to encourage it (the Goodreads Giveaway—currently paperback, but they are promising Kindle, soon).
Make a list of key contacts you feel would respond to a request to write a review in exchange for an ARC. Perhaps an even better option is to ask your social media contacts, or mailing list subscribers if they would like to join your “launch team.” Any number is better than none, but I suggest you try to get at least twenty. Beyond that is more a function of the size of your contact list and your time and budget. For many of us, 100 is probably the max.
By the way, the reason I separate the blurber list from the reviewer list is because the blurbers are not expected to visit Amazon and leave a star rating with their review.
These are individuals or outlets that can amplify your message. Book reviewers, book bloggers, the media—anyone that has lots of readers, listeners, viewers, or followers. Begin early to build a relationship well in advance of asking them to help you.
Also, don’t overlook the “B-listers.” They are going to be much more receptive to building relationships than the A-list influencers, whom everyone wants to connect with.
4. Announcement contacts
This would be “everyone else.” This is the list that drives actual sales. It isn’t easy to build a list of people eager to buy your book, but it is the most sure-fire way to make sales happen.
I’m reminded of something Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work, recently said:
“Every writer needs an email list. It’s just that simple. If you aspire to publish a book and actually sell copies someday, you need people paying attention to your work. And the best way to do that is with an email list.”
What I know for sure about Amazon
Amazon’s algorithm promotes books that are selling. If they see that people are buying a specific book, they show that book to more shoppers. If that book has lots of positive reviews, shoppers are more likely to buy.
It’s a virtuous circle: Get reviews, promote your book to people that know/like/trust you, Amazon promotes your book. Rinse and repeat.
It all begins with mailing lists. In my next post, I’ll share my ideas for getting started.
DAVID WOGAHN is president of AuthorImprints, a professional self-publishing services company. Wogahn has helped more than 100 authors and businesses establish their own publishing imprints, resulting in the successful publication of 250 books…and counting. He is the author of Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright and LCCNs, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com course Distributing and Marketing eBooks, and is a speaker for the Independent Book Publisher Association’s (IBPA) Publishing University.
Chris Hayden been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.