Most book discoveries—and many of the sales—take place online these days, but how will people find our books? There are four basic ways.
1. They Google you or your book title and find what they’re looking for.
In this scenario, readers need to be acquainted with you already. They know who/what they’re looking for, and they know when they’ve found it.
While this is a terrific goal, for most of us it simply isn’t reality. If you or I can only sell books to those who currently know our names, our reach is limited. Unless, of course, we’re J. K. Rowling.
2. They see/hear it advertised somewhere.
This could be a newspaper ad, a radio interview, a professional review journal (like Romantic Times or Publishers Weekly), or other method. Untargeted advertising can be very expensive. It can reach a lot of people, but the ad tends to be gone tomorrow, covered by something new. And, frankly, many (most?) of the people who see or hear it aren’t interested.
3. They see others talking about it and become intrigued.
This is where a lot of online book marketing comes in. We do blog tours, Facebook parties, and Goodreads giveaways to broaden the number of readers who know our names and become interested in our books.
What do these three methods have in common? They represent outbound marketing. They involve the author standing on his or her blog, Facebook page, friends’ blogs, newspapers, etc, and shouting OUT about our books.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Many fine books have caught on and become best sellers with an outbound marketing approach. If the story has mass appeal and catches the attention of trusted reviewers, it may go viral. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
- How will readers find you if they don’t know you or your book? click to tweet
- Which is better, outbound marketing or inbound marketing? How do they work? click to tweet
But while outbound marketing is definitely piece of the marketing puzzle, there’s another angle, too. It’s inbound marketing.
Think of outbound marketing as a small sign along a busy multi-lane highway. People are rushing by, hurrying on to wherever they’re going, thinking about what’s for dinner or what happened at work. There’s an arrow pointing to the off-ramp noting “good book over there.” The driver/reader in question may not be looking for a good book at the moment. She may have a Kindle full of good books already. More of them stream by every day, so when she actually does want a new one, there will certainly be some available.
Inbound marketing focuses on what people are looking for right now, where they are (not where you are) and simply being there, in front of them.
To apply the highway metaphor, it’s having a service station right on the interstate where people needing fuel will see it and pull in, rather than in a small town fifty miles down a dirt road, with only a tiny sign pointing to it. Be where people are looking for your kind of fuel.
If you want to market to people who do not currently know your name or your book’s title—but who would be interested in your book if they only knew about it—you need to think about inbound marketing. Which brings me to the fourth way people may find your book.
4. They Google “something” and your title comes up.
In this case, they’re already actively searching for something. Therefore, if you can pair effective search terms with an available domain name, the URL may be worth snapping it up.
This may seem like it would only be effective for nonfiction, but that isn’t necessarily so. I bought http://farmlit.com because farm lit is seen as the next big trend—and because it fits my stories—and because no one else had bought it yet. I didn’t build a full site around it (though I may in the future). I directed the URL to a page on my website where I define farm lit, talk about why my stories fit, and have direct buy links to Amazon for my novel and for other books I feel fit the genre. That’s key, I think. Having a variety of outgoing links helps Google rank a page higher.
This page went up in early August 2013. Under two months later, farmlit.com is on the first page of Google results for “farm lit” (currently in the #6 spot). Another link to my page is also on the first page. I’m getting some passive advertising from it and an occasional sale. People who land here are looking for stories about farms. Until they clicked the link, they had no idea who I was or that I had farm lit titles. Now they’ve seen my book.
I got the idea for this from a small book called Advanced Book Marketing by E. J. Thornton. She owns the website—wait for it!!—advancedbookmarketing.com. She is an author, marketer, and small publisher with years of experience. If you’re interested in studying inbound marketing, I’d recommend picking up this book and then analyzing the application on her website.
Thornton’s advice is, “Stop marketing what you want to sell and start marketing what they are looking for.”
If you’re a fiction author, think about what themes or topics people might Google that could lead them to you. You may not want to build a full website around the topic. Instead, the new URL can be automatically routed to yourname.com/books (for example). This can be a low-cost method for snagging quality leads.
How can YOU use inbound marketing to help your ideal readers find you?
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