I hope you enjoy Part Two of my interview with the wonderful and talented book marketing expert and author, Penny Sansevieri.
As I mentioned last week, I first met Penny when she spoke at the Bay Area Independent Book Publishers Association several years ago. We reconnected last fall when we were both speakers at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. I attended her session and was again amazed at her depth of knowledge, especially about Amazon.
Now, here’s Penny in her own words.
Explain what a publicist does? Do you think every author needs to hire a publicist?
I think that every author should, at the very least, spend some time consulting a professional or someone they trust to give them solid feedback on the marketability of their book, quality of their cover, etc.
But that said, I don’t think that every author needs to hire a publicist. I do think it’s important to know what you’re good at, what you like doing and what you don’t. I’ve met authors over the years who are selling like crazy and don’t need me, and I’m very honest about that. But if you don’t know where to start, aren’t good at marketing, or just don’t have time then yes, you should hire someone.
Publicists, though, vary depending on who you hire. I would encourage you to find someone who works with books and, if you’re self-publishing, make sure they are experienced in that market because it is different (though not as much as it used to be). Some publicists do just media while others do just social media. My recommendation is to find someone who can do both because ideally, you want a blended campaign: part media, part social – and in most cases a large part of that should be online because media is tough to get these days.
What, above all else, helps authors to sell the most books?
So let’s talk about fans, or better: Super Fans because the two aren’t the same and often misunderstood.
Right now, there are about 4,500 books published each day in the US. This means that every day there are over 4,000 new books competing for shelf space, reviewer attention, etc. Even if they have nothing to do with your book, they are still clogging the pipeline. Because of this, it’s becoming increasingly more evident that engaging with readers on a very basic level is not only important to a successful book launch, it’s mandatory. Engagement means cultivating and growing your fans until they become so captivated and so incredibly enthused that they’re doing your marketing for you. Let me give you an example.4,500 books published each day in the US via @bookgalClick To Tweet
We worked with an author for her book release: The Publicist. When the second part to this book came out, we bundled book one and two and did a promo giveaway. We gave away 61,000 copies; from that number she ended up going from 19 reviews to over 200 in less than a week.
She also got in excess of 200 letters from readers on top of the promotion (within the promotion window, which was two days), and these letters have increased as time has gone on.
So more readers are writing. More fans to engage with. She wrote back each one of the fans individually. Yes, one at a time, thanking them for writing, for their review, etc. That was step one in turning them into Super Fans. Then she connected with them on social media, by mailing them character trading cards (which they loved) and doing other promotions around the book that were exclusive to these fans. So she made them feel important. They mattered, and she wanted them to know.
There’s a great book I read that I recommend called The Curve by Nicholas Lovell. In this book, he discusses Super Fans and how they are wildly engaged, huge, huge fans of everything you do. He also cites a study that shows that you only need 1,000 Super Fans to hit a major bestseller list (in the book he says the NYT Bestseller list, but I would imagine it works for USA Today and others, too). Why is this? Because a Super Fan is someone who is not only connected with you, but will tell a dozen or more of their friends about this amazing book. They will help you market, they will review the book, share it on their social media, etc. In other words, Super Fans are crucial to the success of any author.You only need 1,000 Super Fans to hit a major bestseller list via @bookgalClick To Tweet
I think blog tours are an excellent vehicle for raising awareness of an author and a new book. But how effective do you think they are in terms of sales?
I don’t think that a single blog post will generate sales – I mean, not generally anyway, but I think blog tours are fantastic for exposure and getting out in front of your audience. Again, remember that it’s multiple impressions, blogs (the right ones) that can help you do that.Blog tours are fantastic for exposure and getting out in front of your audienceClick To Tweet
When it comes to Amazon, what are your best tips for positioning a book for sales?
Authors need to pay attention to the keywords they are using there as well as their categories. For keywords, think of keyword strings, that’s how your reader is looking for books. They aren’t going to Amazon and popping in the term “mystery.” They are probably typing in mystery and amateur sleuth, or something like that. Keywords can be used in your book description, book title and subtitle (if you’ve written non-fiction) and the Amazon dashboard (where you upload your book). These pieces, in particular, are critical.
When it comes to categories, you want to make sure that you’re picking narrow categories. If you go too broad, you’ll get lost in the ether among the other thousands of books on the site.
Do you think that certain genres automatically will sell more books than other genres?
Well, it depends on the format of the book. Right now, category fiction is selling like crazy on digital, but it goes in waves (when we had all the vampire movies out these books were selling like crazy).
Many authors are purchasing reviews from Kirkus and other sources. Do you think these reviews improve book sales?
If it’s a quality review, it’s great for exposure.
I like them, but keep in mind they are harder and harder to get into – we’ve also used Kindle Nation Daily and Book Gorilla, which we love.
There is quite a bit of debate as to whether or not authors should give their books away for free, at least for a few days each year. What are your feelings about this? And do you feel that while offering books for free might have been worthwhile a few years ago, that free books no longer help authors to expand awareness of their books or to increase subsequent sales?
First, let me share a story of a publisher I met at a recent book event. She told me that she’s no longer going to offer free eBooks because she finds that it drops the sales of all of her books. This sort of surprised me so I decided to dig a bit further. I asked her if she was cross-promoting her books in the freebie blogs. She wasn’t. I asked her what her follow-up plan was with the freebie downloads, and she didn’t have one. Well, if you don’t follow up, you can’t get in touch with those readers, can you?
I had an author who did a freebie last year and gave away 37,000 copies of her book over a 2-day span. The day after the promotion ended, she sold 1,300 books. Now, you may gasp at that 37,000 number, but consider this: the old way of thinking is viewing these as lost sales. The new way is to view this as a conversion number. The higher the number, the better the conversion.
We all know that some people just love downloading freebies. They’ll never read it, and probably never become a fan. Then you have the folks who downloaded it, thinking it was something that it wasn’t. They open the book, thinking it’s X when it’s Y. You don’t want those people, either. But then there’s the core readership. Out of a big number like 37,000, that may only be 1,000 readers. Again you may gasp, but stay with me for a minute because what I’m going to show you will blow away several outdated marketing theories.
You only care about that sliver of readers. The 1,000 who will open the book, read the book and (if you’re lucky) write a review. Why? Because that’s how you start building those Super Fans I mentioned previously. You will never capture 80% of people into your funnel, but you may capture 100 or 1,000. When you do, these are the people that you want to market to. Keeping in mind that out of 100 or 1,000, not all of these people will turn into fans. Some may not like your work, but some will. This is how you start to grow your tribe.
Before you give your book away, you want to create a reason for readers to get in touch with you. For some of you it’ll be an offer, for others it will be a simple letter to readers asking them to get in touch, or just asking for a review.
You’re using free as an engagement tool – as a way to build Super Fans. This goes back to Super Fans and how involved they are. Free only works if you work it.Use free books as an engagement tool – as a way to build Super FansClick To Tweet
Tell me about Author Marketing Experts, Inc. One of the services you provide and how you help authors gain exposure and sell books?
Thanks for asking! We provide a lot of different programs including our Amazon Optimization and our brand new Build Your Own campaigns, which focus on letting authors get what they want at a price that starts at $600. If you just want reviews? We can do that. Just want to really ramp up your Amazon page? We can do that, too. If your book is your business, if it’s bringing in business for you, creating speaking events, etc., then we have a different set of services that are custom-designed and include things like blog tours, interviews, media, etc.
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Penny Sansevieri is the founder of Author Marketing Experts. She is a book marketing and media relations specialist. She coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and marketing plans and instructs a variety of courses on publishing and promotion. Her own book: No More Rejections. Get Published Today! was released in July of 2005 to rave reviews. See all of her books here. To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to: [email protected].
About the Author of this blog: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. You can receive a free copy of her book Twitter Just for Writers by signing up for her newsletter. Connect with Frances on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+
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