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Websites, newsletters, Amazon, and social media

Good cooks know you can make good desserts using only a few essential ingredients. Promoting an indie book is a little like that.


My grandmother often made a scrumptious yellow cake from scratch using only some basic ingredients: flour, whole eggs, butter, milk, sugar, baking soda, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. My wife makes a delicious dessert with a recipe from celebrity chef Osvaldo Gross that uses only eggs, butter, sugar, and chocolate.


Likewise, for promoting indie books online, many book marketing professionals stress the importance of mastering basic marketing mechanisms: a website, an email newsletter, and Amazon. The pros say those basics are especially important for new authors without a lot of readers and social media followers.


The online universe is crowded with people offering to help authors launch and market books for a fee. I’ve never hired any of them, but my iPad has more than 30 books I’ve read about promoting books online. My five favorite books with professional advice about launching and marketing books online are listed on my website on the “Resources” page.


All five books recommend starting with a dynamic website you can control and easily update and where Google searches can find information about you and your books. You can develop a built-in blog and try to make the website more visible in Google searches to attract people to your site. If you choose, you could sell books on the site and collect the money directly.


All five books say that using a website as a primary author site is better than relying on a Facebook author page. That’s partly because Facebook may block you from using your author page if the FB bots detect suspicious activity on your page. It happened to two authors I follow—one with more than 5,000 FB followers and another with almost 30,000 followers. One author lost access permanently and the other one has spent six months trying to find someone inside the Facebook corporate offices to help restore access.


The five books also emphasize that launching an email newsletter is the best way to connect with people and attract faithful fans. You can use the newsletter to update information about your activities, invite people to special events like Zoom discussions or autographing books at personal appearances, and alert them to new books or price promotions.


Note: One reason book marketing pros say an email newsletter can be more effective than free posts on Facebook is that the reach of organic (free) posts on FB has decreased to about 1 percent. By comparison, industry stats show that almost 17 percent of email newsletter subscribers open the emails. That means a newsletter with only 300 subscribers will probably reach as many people as a FB post to 5,000 followers. A second reason is that the newsletter stats will let you know precisely who opened the email newsletter and which links they clicked. FB doesn’t do that.


To maximize the potential for online sales from Amazon, book marketing professionals stress that authors need to carefully choose keywords and niche categories, develop a strong book description, and create and maintain an attractive Amazon Author Page.


Many indie authors also use social media such as Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, much like cooks add flavors and decorate desserts to make them more appealing. Some also use YouTube videos and podcasts. And a few buy ads on Facebook and Amazon and use paid book promo sites to promote books.

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Personal perspectives: Authors with newsletters and paid ads usually track results. But very few authors track and analyze results from posts on social media to correlate the likes and comments and shares with actual downloads from Amazon. And I don’t know any authors who divulge the correlation between their Amazon downloads and their posts on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. Some say the posts increased downloads, but they are reluctant to share screenshots with actual numbers.


I want to research and test book promotion techniques and to share what I learn, and that’s why I started my website in the summer of 2021. It’s targeted to new authors, especially indie authors, but some content might help established authors. The blog posts contain information from book marketing professionals and authors I follow, plus some personal perspectives from me. I’m using Wix so I can compare it with WordPress that I use for a website and a blog to promote a history book to the education community.


To test newsletter reach and responses, I decided to use MailerLite for my newsletter because two of the book marketing pros I follow recommended it. The monthly newsletter has links to my blog posts during the month plus some additional insights. Beyond a dozen author friends to test the newsletter signup mechanism, I didn’t push people to sign up for the newsletter. Now, I’m starting to solicit newsletter subscribers by using techniques from some of the book marketing pros. My initial outreach produced a new subscriber from Europe whom I did not know, but I don’t expect to hit the MailerLite ceiling of free subscribers anytime soon.


To test social media marketing mechanisms, I also launched a FB page linked to the website and created a Twitter account linked to the website. During the coming weeks, I plan to test social media posts to reach potential readers and to analyze engagement rates from free Facebook posts and tweets. To begin, I’ll use the posts and tweets to promote some books where I control the publication rights.


I also created a Facebook business account to test paid ads, but the cost per click on my first newbie Facebook ad was far too high. I plan to test some more paid ads after I figure out how to use Facebook ads successfully based on advice from the pros. Maybe I’ll also spend a little money on paid promo sites, and even try to learn how to use Amazon ads.


As a retired management analyst, I sometimes obsess about data. For testing how to promote books, I plan to use Bit.ly shortened links to collect demographic data, referral sources, and click-through rates for the following metrics:

· How many people visit my website.

· How many people view the blog posts, click to like them, leave comments, and click on the links.

· How many people subscribe to the email newsletter, open it, and click on the links.

· How many people follow the FB page, how many give likes and comments, how many share the FB posts, and how many click the link to see the book on Amazon.

· How many people see the tweets, click to like them, and retweet them.

· How many people do paid ads reach and how many of them click the link to see the book on Amazon.


The money that indie authors spend on promoting books is always a consideration. I’m more interested in learning how many potential readers I reach with each mechanism, how many download the Kindle titles, and how many pages they read. As discussed in my blog post last week, the number of readers is the most important of the 3 Rs for indie authors. Reviews and royalties are second and third.


I’m eager to see the results of my testing, partly because I think that adding paid ads and paid promo sites to the basic ingredients in my marketing mix will attract more readers to the books I promote.


After all, I liked it a lot when my grandmother put a little icing on her cakes.


I’ll share what I learn on my blog, and you can use the signup box at the top of the blog page to receive posts as soon as I publish them. And you can use the newsletter signup at the bottom of any website page to receive the monthly newsletter without waiting for me to post it on the newsletter page of the website.


Let’s get connected!

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