In today's guest post I'm delighted to welcome back book marketing expert Jan Bear to talk about what we can all learn from the stunning success of novelist Amanda Hocking, who sold nearly a million Kindle books on her own before signing with a major publisher.
7 Tactics of Master Book Marketer Amanda Hocking
by Jan Bear
When the world noticed that then-26-year-old Amanda Hocking had made nearly a million dollars in a year selling self-published ebooks, there was quite a media stir. They asked about her new house, about her friends, about how she was dealing with fame. But there wasn't enough coverage of the valuable lessons she can teach any author about how to successfully market fiction. Here are seven important marketing tactics that helped create her success as a novelist:
1. Write Good Stories
Amanda Hocking's "overnight success" was years in the making. She wrote many novels before she published the first one and spent years polishing her craft. She focused on writing a great story. Her fans read one book after another and tell their friends about them.
2. Write in a Popular Genre
She did choose a genre, YA paranormal romance, with avid fans. It wasn't a matter of saying, "Trolls are hot now," but studying trends, researching the market and writing what she enjoyed that fit into those trends. There's a fine line between smart marketing and following the "next big thing." Unless you write really fast, the next big thing could be yesterday's news by the time the book is finished. But if you choose a target audience and write to people, your great idea may be the next big thing.
3. Build Up Your Backlist
When a reader finishes one of Amanda Hocking's books, there's another one waiting to be read. Independent publishing advocate Joe Konrath observes that if you're a fiction writer, your books are the best marketing tool for your books. Amanda Hocking blazes through the writing. She finished her second vampire novel in 15 days. If you're thinking of going independent, it's a good idea to be a lightning-fast writer or have a backlist on hand before you start to market your books.
4. Price to Sell
With an ebook, all of your production costs happen before the book is published: editing, cover and book design, formatting for e-readers. No paper, no printing, no storage. You can sell the book for at any price. The pricing model differs between fiction and nonfiction and even from genre to genre within fiction. But some people have found that although a $.99 price tag takes more sales to cover the initial costs, it can make more money for the author overall. Amanda Hocking prices the first book in her series at $.99, and the next books at $2.99. The $.99 is a throwaway, less than a cup of coffee, and people in her audience don't mind taking a $.99 risk on a book they may not like. If they do like it, well, $2.99 for the next one is still an easily manageable price. That pricing model won't work for every book, but it's worth taking a look at.
5. Have Conversations with Your Readers
Amanda Hocking's fans feel that they know her as a person, someone they like, someone who likes them. She maintains an active blog and uses Twitter and Facebook avidly. The price of this engagement -- one that Amanda acknowledges herself -- is that she has less time for writing. But it's undeniable that it's had an effect on building her fan base.
6. Connect with Book Bloggers
In a February 2011 blog post, Amanda Hocking talks about how much book bloggers did to promote her books in the early days when she was still a relative unknown. She sent out advance review copies to the bloggers who were a good fit, and the bloggers reviewed and sold her books.
7. Use the Opportunities on Goodreads
If you search on Goodreads, you'll find events that Amanda Hocking is participating in, from Q&A sessions to panel discussions on self-publishing to announcements of the next book release. Be an active participant on reader forums that appeal to your target audience.
What Works for You?
Amanda Hocking herself is the first to point out that there is an element of the inscrutable about being a novelist who sells a million ebooks. In fact, she said so last March in a blog post that talks about some of the things she's learned as a successful book marketer. But the fact remains that she did her homework, produced books her readers love, and did a good job of marketing them. Are there any strategies here you can adapt for your books? Tell us in the comments which would be a good fit for you.
About the Author
Jan Bear helps authors rule the age of digital publishing. New media, new ways of communicating, and new marketing methods make it possible to get your book into the hands of your ideal audience. At MarketYourBookBlog.com she explores authors' strategies and opportunities in the wake of the digital publishing revolution.
Are you a novelist? Learn more about promoting fiction.