This is an information-packed interview. We talk about the 4P’s of Author Success, and we dive deep into how to promote your book offline. There’s also a lot of information on pricing and selling paperback versions of your book.
Alinka Rutkowska is a multi-award-winning, internationally bestselling author and coach. She is also the founder and CEO of LibraryBub, which connects librarians with award-winning and bestselling books from independent authors and publishers.
Alinka published Read Me: I Am Magical; Open Me and I Will Reveal 12 Secrets to Love, Happiness, and Personal Power, As You Leaf through Me and See How Remarkable You Feel in 2010, while she was working at her corporate job. She wrote the book because she felt that she had something to contribute to the world. She then decided to quit her job when the sales of the book were double her corporate salary.
Alinka’s first book was massively successful in part because she crafted a keyword-rich subtitle.
The 4P’s of Author Success
Your product is your book. Alinka divides your book-as-product into two parts: the manuscript itself, and the book packaging.
The packaging includes the cover (whether print or ebook) and the product description.
This is wherever your book is sold. Examples include:
- Barnes & Noble
- iTunes store
- Your local independent bookstore
Pretty self-explanatory: this is the price you charge for your product.
The final “P” is everything you do to let people know that you have a book out.
Each of these elements work together to make a successful book launch. If you neglect any one of these areas, you won’t achieve the success that you want.
The Two Types of Books Authors Write
Broadly speaking, authors write two types of books.
1. A heart book
This is a passion project. Authors write this book because they have a story inside them that needs to get out.
2. A commercial book
This is a book written for a market. Authors write this type of book because they have an audience in mind that they want to please.
Alinka recommends you write a commercial book. Find an audience of readers that want a certain type of product that you can deliver. Write the best book you can, then publish it. This is the fastest way to be a successful author.
The key to writing a successful commercial book is to find a market of books that excite you. If you’re passionate about the material, writing the book will be easier and your passion will come through in the writing.
Book Market Research Advice
The best way to give yourself a chance to be successful is to do market research. If you have an idea of the type of book you want to write:
- Go to Amazon and look for the five titles you aspire to compete with. You could also think of the titles as the titles you would like to see in your “also bought” section on your product page.If those titles are selling well, that’s a good sign that your idea has a chance to do well in the marketplace.
- Next, look at the reviews of these titles. The reviews will give you valuable insight into what the readers of these books liked and didn’t like about them.
Pay special attention to what reviewers said was missing in the books that you’re researching. If you can identify a gap in the market that you can fill, that is one of the quickest ways to become successful.
Creating a Book Readers Want to Read
After you’ve identified the type of book that your readers want to read, it’s time to create and refine that book. Once you’ve written the best first draft you can based on the preferences of your audience, the next step you might want to consider is a critique group.
Critique groups give you valuable feedback because you’re getting input from people who actually read your work. Members of critique groups have a different perspective on your work and they can see things that you, as the creator, are blind to because you’ve been working so closely with your manuscript.
The next stage in Alinka’s creation process is to find a small group of beta readers. Beta readers are just another set of eyes on your material.
If you’re a fiction author, you might want to hire a developmental editor to help you, particularly if the feedback you get from your critique group and beta readers is something you don’t know how to fix.
Both fiction and nonfiction authors need a copy editor to catch typos and grammatical errors, as well as places where your book is unclear.
Set Up a Landing Page before Your Book Is Published
To get ready for your book’s release, you should:
- Set up a landing page before you publish a book.
- Include a place for people to give you their email address.
- Have a link to your landing page in the front and back of your book.
- Give people something when they sign up for your email list.
If you have a second book in the series, that can be a good thing to give away.
A lot of authors have had success writing a short story in the world of the novel they are releasing.
It’s best if the lead magnet you give away for your list is only available to people who sign up for your list. This makes the lead magnet exclusive and gives it value it wouldn’t otherwise have.
A landing page with an opt-in form is a free marketing channel to build your author platform. It’s a way to market passively without having to spend any more money.
Pay Attention to Your Title
You want to have a title with keywords in it. The title of your book is like the domain name of your website; it’s one of the first places Amazon looks for keywords when users type words into the search box.
How to Use Keywords in Your Subtitle to Sell More Books
There are times when it doesn’t make sense to have your title stuffed with keywords. This is where a subtitle comes in handy.
If you are a nonfiction author, your subtitle should describe the benefit your reader will get from reading your book. What problem are you going to help them solve?
Fiction authors should use the subtitle of their book to tell Amazon and their readers what genre the book is. This is especially effective if you’ve written a book that crosses genres, because it tells readers right up front what they can expect.
Where and How to Distribute Your Self-Published Book
There’s tons of places where you can make your book available, even as an indie author. Choosing where to distribute can change how you’ll market and sell your book.
Considerations for ebooks
- Consider the pros and cons of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited
- If at all possible, you should try to sell your book directly on your website. If you sell your book directly to readers, you keep all the sale price.
Considerations for Paperback Books
- You should create a paperback version of your book.
- It’s another way for people to buy something from you, and creating paperback copies of your book doesn’t cost very much with current technology.
- There are a lot of places that you can sell your paperback book that people don’t usually think of. Alinka has had great success selling her paperbacks in bulk.
- If you produce a paperback, it’s much easier to sell foreign rights. Sometimes a book is better received worldwide than where it was published.
- Think outside the box: Alinka has a book series about children on a cruise ship. She has had a lot of luck selling that book directly to cruise lines and bookstores in cruise destination cities. The cruise ships and bookstores sell the book to passengers on the ship as a souvenir.
Nontraditional Places to Sell Your Paperback
Consider the subject of your book. Where would readers interested in that type of material be likely to show up?
If you’ve written a book on health topics, consider talking to doctors’ offices.
If you’ve written a self-improvement book, you might consider talking to psychologists to see if they’d be interested in buying your book for their waiting room.
Use your personal network to sell your book. Everybody knows somebody. Alinka wrote a series about cruise ships because she travels on cruise ships a lot.
If you can’t think of a community of people you belong to, it can be helpful to ask your family and friends.
Consider your passions, your social network and your professional network before you write your book. Positioning your book before you write is much easier than trying to find a spot for it in the market after it’s written.
If you live in a small town, consider writing a book about that town and selling it through the historical society or local bookshops.
The Biggest Pricing Mistake People Make
Pricing a low-quality book at $9.99 is the biggest pricing mistake people make. You should always make the best quality book you can. And you should price the book according to what the market expects.
Go to Amazon.com and look at your category. Study the books in your category and look at their price. You should price within market expectations to the best of your ability.
The Permafree Marketing Strategy
Of course, you don’t have to charge for your book at all; you can make your book permanently free. It seems a little strange, but this can actually help you build a full-time author income in the end.
You don’t have to use an Amazon deal or Kindle exclusive to do this, either!
You can offer your book for free by distributing it in multiple online bookstores for free. Then you put it on Amazon and give it a price.
As soon as your book goes live on Amazon, you email Amazon customer support and ask them to price-match your book. As long as your book is free everywhere, Amazon will continue to distribute your book for free.
A free book will be downloaded about 100 times more often than the book that costs $0.99.
This is a great way to build an audience, especially if your free book has a link to a landing page where people can sign up for your mailing list for another free gift.
If you’re going to use the Permafree strategy, it’s important to have links to other offers that you can sell people via your Permafree book.
Fiction authors should sell other books and merchandise related to their stories. Nonfiction authors should sell courses, consulting, and more detailed information related to their message.
The Permafree strategy can be used to build a massive audience. When you have a massive audience, it’s much easier to make money. Think of the Permafree book as a massive marketing campaign!
How to Price Your Self-Published Paperback Book
If you sell your paperback in bulk, understand that the distributor is going to want a 55% to 60% discount off your cover price. So take that into consideration when setting the price for your print book.
If you’re only interested in selling your paperback on Amazon and other online bookstores, you can afford to set your price a little bit lower.
Consider your goals and do the math before you set a paperback list price.
How to Promote Your Book in 2017
There are several different ways to promote your book in 2017. A good way to make the promotion manageable is to consider two variables: where you’re promoting your book, and when you’re promoting your book.
Three Places to Promote Your Books
Inside the Book
If you can get an award sticker on the book, it can really help sell copies, especially if you’re looking at selling bulk to offline distributors. So submit your book for awards whenever you can.
One award is all you need to convey to the world that your book is valuable.
If you are publishing a series, when you publish your second book, you can say “part of the award-winning series.”
Have a link to a landing page where people can sign up for your mailing list.
If your book is part of a series, have links to other books in the series. Also include links to other books you’ve written, especially in the same genre.
Have a professional picture and an exciting bio, because people want to know who their new favorite author is.
You need an author website that has links to all of your books and where people can buy them.
You should always have an opt-in page related to your current project where people can sign up for your mailing list and find out when that book will be published.
Another very powerful way to promote your book is through guest posting. This is where you post on someone else’s blog. It’s a way for you to tap into an audience that has already formed. As a new author, it sometimes works best to approach smaller blogs and use those guest blog posts to get larger opportunities.
There are many opportunities to market offline, because everyone is focused on marketing to online communities.
Have a professional business card always handy to give out. You never know when you’re going to strike up a conversation with somebody who might become a fan or help you sell your books somewhere else.
You can also do book signings or readings. And you don’t have to limit yourself to libraries and bookstores for these sorts of things.
You can do a book signing or reading anywhere, not just at the local library or bookstore. Alinka has even done a book signing event at her hairdresser’s!
If you can show business owners that you can bring traffic to their venue, they will usually agree to let you have a book signing/reading.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
Read Me: I Am Magical; Open Me and I Will Reveal 12 Secrets to Love, Happiness and Personal Power, As You Leaf through Me and See How Remarkable You Feel — Alinka’s first self-published book. Notice the long, keyword-rich subtitle.
http://librarybub.com/ — A free service that helps thousands of librarians discover bestselling and award-winning indie and small press books
Authorremake.com/book — Sign up for Alinka’s email list and get a free copy of her book, How I Sold 80,000 Books, which goes into even greater detail about her book marketing strategies than we did in the interview.
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.