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Most marketing activities are (unfortunately) not directly measurable.
It's widely agreed that the very best marketing is write a quality book, then write some more of them, and each of those books finding an audience will help market the other. I agree with that, but it generally takes a while!
You can buy advertising, which is measurable, or do other specific promotions. But for non-fiction in particular, there is one thing that makes a huge difference to sales, whether you have a platform or not.
Optimize your non-fiction book title for keywords people are actually searching for.
I've blogged before about the importance of keywords for metadata and discoverability, and that post contains the details of how to do the research and choose the right words.
I explained how I changed my book title from ‘How To Enjoy Your Job' to ‘Career Change: How to stop hating your job, discover what you really want to do with your life and start doing it!‘ In this post, I'm going to outline some of the results of that book title change.
I can attribute pretty much everything to the book title alone, because this blog is not a platform for the topic of career change, I don't tweet about it, or speak about it, or in fact, do anything at all to market that book other than have it in my blog header (which subscribers don't even see). But the audience of this blog aren't the target market for the book, so I would say that 90% of sales are due to the title alone.
Here's how it works.
Don't be clever and obtuse with non-fiction book titles. Go with keywords.
Your keyword/s can appear in three places on the book distribution sites:
- Your title and sub-title
- The keywords you enter into the publishing screens of the distributors – if you're self-published, you have control of this. If you have a publisher, ask them to update the field.
- Your sales description
I was able to incorporate my target keyword ‘career change' into all three, which I am pretty sure is why my book ranks #2 on Amazon.com for that search term, and #1 on Amazon.co.uk.
By being easily discoverable to the audience who are looking for this topic on Amazon, I sell ~200 books in Jan and Feb and then throughout the year it's around 20-30 per month. The book sells for $4.99 (when it's not on occasional sale), so that's $4 income per book, without any active marketing.
The book title and cover are also findable on Google, for example, if you search ‘career change book' on image search, you should get my book in the top few lines, as the picture right.
The top ranking image is actually from Goodreads, another good reason to make sure your books are on the site.
Being easily findable for keywords can also lead to media attention, and for this book, it tends to happen around the new year. Here's what has happened in the last few weeks.
National and metropolitan press
On 28 Dec, I was quoted in an article in the Independent on Sunday Money section on ‘New year, new life – is it time for a change of direction in your career?‘ This is a British national newspaper with wide distribution.
On 14 Jan, I was included in a piece on career change in Stylist magazine, which is handed out freely on the London Underground, to millions of commuters. Unfortunately, I missed the piece but I had lots of tweets about it!
Sky TV News Sunrise
On 6 Jan, I appeared on Sky News Sunrise to talk about career change and giving up my consultancy job to become an author. You can watch the video here.
I had tweets from people who saw it live at 6.15am but also emails throughout the day as it was replayed on TV and also on the radio.
The journalist found me online, emailed to set up the interview and I was picked up the following morning at 5am to go to the studios.
All of these media appearances came about because journalists found me on Google with search terms around career change. I didn't pitch any of them. I was however ready for anything when they called!
It's also interesting to note that none of them asked who I was published by, so being self-published is no barrier to media attention as long as your product (and you) are professional.
Does media attention sell books?
Many authors spend a lot of money hiring publicists to get them into this kind of media, but in my experience, it doesn't sell books directly because there is no clickable buy link. It takes a lot of effort to get from glimmer of interest on the TV to going online to buy the book. Sky News even got the book title wrong!
I've seen no spike at all in book sales or website traffic because of these appearances. I've been on TV and in national press before, and there was no spike then either.
So is this type of media worth it?
My friend Polly Courtney, author of ‘Feral Youth,' and other novels, appears regularly on TV and in the print media, and it has led to a lot of opportunities and a fantastic media profile.
But it is more about brand awareness and social proof, as people perceive that this kind of media is important. It can also lead to opportunities that you can't even imagine, and you can ‘upsell' this type of media into getting even more of it.
If you'd like to learn more about traditional media, targeting and pitching journalists, check out this interview with Polly.
Do you have any questions or comments about non-fiction book titles, keywords or marketing through traditional media? Please leave them below.
Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Photomarathon3 Newspapers by Joyce Kaes