I recently sent out a survey to my writer friends about the kind of information they wanted. More than anything, they wanted to know more about marketing. That’s the big question. How does a writer get their work in front of readers? How does a writer sell more books?To start addressing this question, I decided to interview one of my favorite marketing gurus – Sandra Beckwith, owner of BuildBookBuzz.com. Her work was the inspiration for Fiction Friday character posts and has been instrumental in changing my perspective on book promotion. If amplifying your message is a pain point for you, I know you’ll find Sandra’s wisdom valuable!Interview with Sandra Beckwith

Sandra, give us an overview of your book promotion expertise.

I teach authors how to save thousands of dollars in outside fees by learning how to do their own book marketing. I offer free tips and advice through my Build Book Buzz newsletter and blog, I create training programs on important topics ranging from how to use Goodreads to how to snag influential cover blurbs, I coach one-on-one, and I lead workshops at writers conferences online and all over the country.  

How did you become such an expert in this area?

With a dual degree in journalism and public relations, I eventually became a national award-winning publicist (PR people need good writing skills, too). I eventually burned out, and shifted to freelance writing, which was around the time that my first book was published by Kensington, It was a humor book that took a lighthearted look at male behavior, published pre-social media. Because of my publicity experience, I was able to generate a lot of media attention for it. It sold books and attracted meeting planners, who hired me to talk about the lighter side of gender differences. It was a ton of fun!

The book followed a subscription newsletter I created on the same topic — in fact, I got the book contract when agents and publishers saw the national publicity for the newsletter. Between the two of them, I was interviewed by Bernie Goldberg, then the top investigative reporter for CBS, for Eye to Eye with Connie Chung; sat next to John Gray (Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus) for The Vicki! Show with Vicki Lawrence; and chatted up actor George Segal on Home & Family. I had been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, just about every major U.S. daily along with hundreds of morning drive time radio programs. 

After writing a second book, this one for Adams Media on small business publicity, I had an opportunity to collaborate on creating and teaching a book publicity course. The other instructor opted out after one session, but I continued with it. That online course set me on my current path, which is a combination of freelance writing and training and coaching authors on book marketing. 

What is the number one problem you find with authors’ promotion strategies?

Can I pick two?

First, they aren’t clear on their target audience — they don’t really know who will love their book.

Second, they wait until the book is published to think about marketing. Ideally, the more subtle, indirect marketing starts at least six months before the pub date

If you could only recommend one tool for authors to improve their reach, what would it be?

Great question!

It starts with a great book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. 

After that, I’d recommend an email list. There’s so much that a list and a good newsletter can do for an author. Many are intimidated by the prospect of building the list and staying in touch with the people on it, so I’m noodling around ways I can help them. More on that another time! 

Many indie authors have a history of mistakes from past book launches. Do you have any advice about relaunches?

Pay for a professionally designed cover and test it with your target audience. I’m the first one to make decisions based on personal taste, but my taste isn’t what matters — what matters is what resonates with my readers. 

Also, learn from earlier negative reviews. I don’t mean the ones that say, “I was supposed to get it in 2 days and it took a week! This sucks!” I mean the ones that point out flaws. Fix those flaws before the relaunch. 

Do more of what worked the first time and don’t do any of what didn’t work.

Where can we connect with you for more marketing wisdom?

Thank you! I would love it if people would subscribe to my free weekly newsletter at http://buildbookbuzz.com. They’ll also get a copy of my “5 Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources.” I share on my Facebook page here and have a lively book marketing group which you can join here.

Going Forward

If you don’t already get Sandy’s newsletter, I really recommend you sign up because she sends actionable promotion advice on a regular basis that is really easy to implement (I’ve done it, so you ABSOLUTELY can!).

I need to second Sandy’s advice about email lists generally. If you want to know more about my experience implementing and improving my email list, you can read my post, “Create Newsletters to Serve Readers” here.

I will openly raise my hand as one of those indie authors who have bungled launches in the past. I’ve stumbled through marketing mishaps and made so many changes to my efforts because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I had the wrong frame of mind.

Ultimately, marketing isn’t about selling. It’s about building relationship with readers. If you believe in your message, if you want to impact the world, you need to get that message in front of readers. You need to figure out all the ways you can connect with your audience. That will mean different things for different writers because the niches are different.

Moving forward, how can the above tips help you? How might you implement them? Leave a comment below!

Sandy's Book Marketing Scoop
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