In our last post in this series, How to Build a Strong Book Marketing Foundation, we outlined a strategic approach to digital book marketing that begins with some core foundational elements – book metadata, author profiles, and publisher websites – to ensure you have all of the right groundwork in place for successful book marketing campaigns. Now you’re ready to start engaging with readers, building deeper relationships, and growing your online platform.
Smart book marketing starts with understanding your audience – who your likely buyers and readers are, as well as how and where to best reach them. These key tenets of audience development will help you build meaningful publisher and author brands and will ensure that your marketing efforts are relevant and valuable to your target readership.
This can feel hard, and many marketers can get stuck here. “There are so many platforms.” “My audience is all over the place.” “I don’t have enough time.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I tried it and it didn’t work.”
Hopefully this guide will give you a rulebook to get you past your own apprehension should you have any. The key is to get out there, try, and learn.
Understanding Your Book Audience
Core audience research is a critical first step to inform all book marketing activities both online and off. Avoid assumptions about your audience; do the research to find out who is interested in your book (or books like it) and what marketing platforms and tactics are most likely to work.
There are a few questions you want to answer to best define the audience that matters for you:
- WHO are they? (Demographics)
You’ll want some basic demographic information about your potential readers – age, sex and gender, marital/family status, perhaps income or education. While not particularly nuanced, this data can begin to paint a picture of who your readers are and can help guide and direct your efforts. (For instance, if your book appeals primarily to older parents, you probably don’t need to develop a Snapchat presence.)
- WHERE are they? (Geographics)
Where do they live? Work? Travel? Are there specific cities, states, or regions your audience is likely to be? Are they typically rural or suburban? What languages are spoken in their communities? This data can inform geo-targeted ad campaigns, book tour locations, what websites or bookstores you send potential buyers to, and more.
- WHAT do they do? (Behaviors)
Understand what people are doing in their lives and how that connects to your book and brand. What do they need? Where and how do they shop? What are they searching for, reading about, or commenting on? Your audience is full of real people going about their days. You want to have an idea about how your audience is likely to look for, find, and ultimately engage with you, so you have a better chance of being there when they do.
- WHY do they do it? (Psychographics)
To build a richer view of your audience, look to understand their lifestyles, beliefs, and values. If you have an idea of what they care about, then you can better understand why they might want your book and how to engage with them in the right ways.
And remember: you can have multiple audiences. The same book or brand might appeal to different audience groups for different reasons. You’ll want to keep that in mind, as you may want to segment your marketing activity to differentiate your messaging for distinct audiences. For example, a series of health-conscious cookbooks might appeal to dieters, parents looking for healthy family-friendly meals, and fitness buffs for very different reasons.
Doing the Research
Use Soovle to see auto-complete search suggestions across major search engines like Google, Amazon, Walmart, YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, and more. Type a title, author, comparable tiles, and/or related topics and consumer terms into the search box, and you’ll see related search suggestions for a fast look into what consumers across different channels are looking for.
- Conduct searches yourself on Google or other search engines to see more related searches, top search results, and who is advertising for those search terms. Look at top ranking websites for potential influencers and popular platforms among your audience.
- Enter search terms or topics into Google Trends to see relative search volume and popularity, seasonal shifts and trends, regional interest, and more related topics and searches.
- Use deeper keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Keywords Everywhere, Uber suggest, Answer the Public, Keyword Explorer, and more if you’re looking for more extensive keyword ideas or more detailed search volume trends and competition data.
Learn how readers engage with, discuss, and describe books and authors, and understand the competitive landscape.Key questions:
What other books and authors is this audience interested in? What genres and categories do they like? What words and phrases do they use when reviewing, tagging, talking about, and looking for books?
- Look at the Amazon and other retailers like Barnes & Noble and Kobo for your books or comp titles to read buyer reviews; see similar and competitive books and authors (via “Customers who bought…”, “Frequently bought together…”, etc.); and see what categories titles are ranking in. Use Advanced Search to filter by author, keywords, category, pub date, publisher, and more.
- Search for books and authors on LibraryThing to see detailed book data, reviews, and popular reader tags and categories. Use the Tagmash feature to find comparable titles based on similarities in genre, content, tone, and style. (List a few key aspects of a book to find other books with those attributes – rhyming board books about trucks or urban fantasy featuring witches and demons.)
- Look at any book or author on Goodreads to see reader reviews, shelves, and lists; get suggested books and authors; and see Goodreads member engagement. From any Goodreads author page, look for the “Similar authors” link just above the author’s book list to see related authors based on Goodreads likes. Check out detailed history and Stats for any book (found at the top of the right-hand sidebar on any book page, next to the book title and below sharing links).
Understand your audience (and potential audience), and find influencers, brand affinities, hashtags, topics, and more.
Who is interested in my book, author, series, or publishing brand? Who is interested in other comparable/competitive brands? What do those audiences look like? What else do they like (other brands, media, influencers, platforms, topics)? Where and when are they active? How do they engage?
- Get audience sizing, demographics, geography, and related brand affinities and interests (e.g. subjects, celebrities, other books and media) for audiences on Facebook Audience Insights. You can filter by location, age and gender, interest areas, and other market segments and demographic groups. (Facebook page and ad account set-up required. Learn more via Facebook’s help documentation and this walk-through from Hootsuite.)
- Twitter also offers an insights dashboard to let you track engagement and see demographic and interest data about your own followers. Using the Twitter Ad Manager tool (select “Audience Insights” from the Analytics drop-down menu), you can see rich lifestyle and behavioral data about additional audiences based on their interest. (A Twitter ad account is required, though you do not need to run a campaign. Read more about Ad Manager and Audience Insights.)
- Analyze Twitter handles on FollowerWonk (up to 25k followers) to see high-level demographic and location information, when users are active, how they describe themselves, and identify influential accounts they follow. You can opt to analyze either the followers of an account (who is their audience, what do they look like, and how do they behave?) or users a given account follows (look for new potential influencers or accounts to follow yourself). You can also compare up to three accounts to identify overlaps and new potential influencers and audiences.
- Run the CrowdTangle browser extension on any link (your own website, blog posts, retail product pages, or those of your competitors or influencers) to see public Facebook engagement data as well as top referrers from Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. This is great to understand social reach (how much social activity has a link generated?) and identify potential influencers (who were the most influential people or accounts that shared it?).
- Use Right Relevance to identify related topics, popular content and articles, and top influencers for any topic or Twitter user. See what’s trending in your niche and find active topical conversations you might join on Twitter. Explore and filter influencers by type (person or organization), by location (where are influencers in a given topic concentrated?), and by Topic Score (Right Relevance’s author metric for identified topic areas).
- And there are tons of other tools (like SumoRank, BuzzStream Discovery, Klear, BuzzSumo, and Epicbeat just to name a few) to help you see more about how audiences are engaging on social media.
Audience research is the foundation for successful marketing of any kind. Without understanding your audience, you won’t be able to meet their needs, engage with them and ultimately influence their book purchasing decisions.
Putting It in Practice
Now you can use all of this data to better understand who your book audience is, as well as how they talk, what they like, what they look for, and why they want it – all to better position your product and marketing content to find and be found by the right audiences.
- Right audience: Research and understand your audience
- Right message: Develop and share quality content to interest and engage readers
- Right place: Select the right platforms and channels to best reach your audience
- Right time: Engage consistently and authentically with your readers throughout their book buying journey
Ensure the foundation aligns with the audience
Here you’re revisiting the first step to ensure that you are where your audience is and that you’re prepared to provide them with things that they’ll find interesting.
Develop relevant and useful content
Create and/or share relevant content that will interest and engage your audience. Focus on delivering information and entertainment that your readers will find compelling. A key here is to maintain a voice and engagement style that is on-brand, meaning it serves to define and reinforce what your publishing imprint or company, author, website or blog, book series, or even an individual title has on offer and why it is of value.
Quality content has many carry-on benefits:
- Attracts traffic to your site or other channel (quality traffic that is finding you through searches because your content aligns to what they’re looking for)
- Helps increase social sharing (as people find and like your content, they share that with their own networks)
- Improves leading search, social, and retail algorithms' understanding of you (helps establish connections between your presences and the genres, topics, and themes that matter to you)
- Supports and strengthens your online brand authority, including things like your website’s ranking and your social influence (more traffic, more engagement,
When developing content, optimize your content based on the way your audience talks, who they are, and how they behave. In other words, speak their language.
Keeping up with content development can be a challenge. A couple reminders:
- You don’t always have to generate new content from scratch; often, sharing excellent content from others is nearly as helpful and interesting – and takes advantage of the social aspect of the Internet and social media.
- Think “easy” content – sometimes just saying what you’re reading right now and how you feel about it is plenty.
- Don’t forget to periodically market. Mention your books, lists, imprints – especially when you’ve got something of particular interest to say.
- Measure what you’re doing so that you can stop doing those things that aren’t working and use your time wisely.
Choose channels that matter and be flexible
While excellent content can help visitors find you and your products online, the people who will ultimately want to buy your books should not have to work too hard to hunt you down!
Understanding how and where your audience consumes information will help you identify which channels are right for your brand. Not every platform will make sense and that’s OK. Properly managing multiple channels can be time-consuming, so it makes sense to start small and add on as necessary.
And though all audiences are different, there are some channels that tend to matter more than others regardless.
Email can be your most powerful channel. Subscribers have opted in to a direct relationship with you and should be considered GOLD! Treat them accordingly. Offer e-books, promotions, exclusive and original content through your blog and other channels to continue to grow your email list.
- Make opting-in simple. Make opting-out just as simple.Make opting-in attractive. Give subscribers incentives for signing up to hear more from you (think giveaways, excerpts, discounts, exclusive sneak peaks, and more).Review email analytics – open rates, click-through rates, and more – and always be tweaking to improve engagement. Try A/B testing to see what design, images, or subject lines your audience best responds to.
- Don’t email too often and don’t sell your email list. Let subscribers know what to expect (things like frequency and types of content), and most importantly, respect the list!
- Always include at least one Call-to-Action. Basically, ask your audience to do something.
Social Media To-Dos
- Choose platforms that align with what you have and what you’re capable of providing. E.g. A portion of your audience may be on YouTube, but unless you can consistently create engaging videos, you may wish to reach them another way.
- Mix up your content, using images, text, quizzes or polls, charts, videos, and so on to engage people in different ways.
- Use scheduling tools to streamline posting across your social channels. (Good examples of these include Buffer and HootSuite.)
- Do more than just post. ENGAGE by commenting, sharing and liking. It’s called “social” media for a reason.
- Track and respond to mentions of your publishing brand by sharing, liking, and commenting.
- Include publisher or author name in all account bios. For authors, you will also want to include most recent book or series name.
- Use best practices tools for properly sizing images for each network.
- Stay in the loop with your influencers and competitor channels. Notice which posts are working for them.
- Keep all channels in line with your brand standards.
- If you have something you really want to blow out, consider paid social media ads. They’re affordable and effective. (We’ll cover ads more in the next post!)
Website / Blog
Your own site (or sites) should always be acting as a hub for all of the spokes of your online brand.
- Keep your site fresh and up-to-date. Site visitors should know that the site is active and “lived-in.” Develop a schedule for refreshing content that makes sense for you and your audience.
- Create landing pages and blog posts that can help improve search engine optimization and bring new visitors in.
- Include prominent email sign-up throughout the site. If someone is on your site, don’t lose the opportunity to try to convert them to a subscriber.
- Also link to your social channels and invite people to follow or like you there. (And vice versa: share blog posts and other website content on social media and invite those fans to visit your site.)
- Don’t forget to link to retailers who offer your books for sale. Consider if is right for you as well.
Engage and connect with your community
Engagement is key. As you build relationships with readers, try to be consistent. The goal is ongoing relationships that offer mutual value beyond just one interaction/transaction. If you find you’re unable to do that, tell your audience, consider explaining why, and/or deleting the presence.
- Participate in relevant online communities and submit your posts.
- Give your fans an opportunity to contribute– ask them to weigh in on a book cover design, caption an image or ask “what are you reading this weekend?”.
- Note the insights for each platform and when your fans are online. Engage with them in real-time.
- Make yourself available as an expert for new sources.
- Shine the spotlight on others – mention followers or influencers and share their posts.
- To save time, create lists of ready-to-use replies to common questions, or encouraging gifs or emojis to have handy. Stay engaged even when you’re short of time!
- Have a special announcement? Try Facebook live or Instagram stories.
We have covered some important pieces of the book marketing puzzle. It’s all important to a solid foundation, but without a loyal following of brand enthusiasts and engagement, it’s difficult to stand apart from the pack. So, get out there and start building and connecting with your community!