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November 20, 2017
By Mark Coker
These set-and-forget marketing tricks help make books more discoverable.

Marketing is critically important to a book’s success, yet time spent on marketing means less time for writing. Here, I share 10 set-and-forget tips to put an e-book’s most important marketing on autopilot. These tricks work 24 hours a day to make an author’s books more discoverable to readers.

1. Add These Three Sections to Your Back Matter

These sections drive sales and build an author’s social media following:

About the Author: A short two- or three-sentence bio to humanize the author.

Connect with the Author: Listing social media hyperlinks will make it easier for new fans to start following authors and subscribe to their mailing lists.

Other Books by This Author: The reader just discovered a new favorite author, so help them find their next read!

2. Add a Discussion Guide

It’s great to sell one book to one reader, but if the reader’s a member of a reading group, that could mean even bigger sales. If they see a reading group discussion guide at the end of the book, they’re more likely to recommend the book as for the group’s next read.

3. Add Sample Chapters from Other Books

The reader just finished the book, they loved it, and now they’re ready to read more. Let them jump into other e-books by offering generous samples of other titles.

4. Do a Sample-Chapter Swap with Another Author

"These tricks work 24 hours a day to make an author’s books more discoverable to readers."
Many indie authors have friends who also write in their genres or categories. Offer to swap sample chapters. Each author places the other author’s sample chapter in the back matter of their books. Be selective. Only swap with quality writers who target the same readership.

5. Add Enhanced Navigation to E-books

E-books support a hyperlinked table of contents. If the author adds the enhanced back matter recommended above, they can advertise and link to those sections in the table of contents.

6. Make at Least One Book Free

Free e-books get about 30 times more downloads on average than books that cost money, which means that more readers are exposed to the enhanced back matter. Nothing hooks a reader like a free first book, especially for series. Authors who write standalone books should consider running free promotions of priced titles to help introduce first-time readers to their bodies of work.

7. Editing Turbocharges Word of Mouth

Good books aren’t good enough anymore. An author only gets one chance to wow a new reader with a five-star reading experience. It’s the five-star read that leads to the ultimate form of autopilot marketing: reader word-of-mouth. To maximize reader satisfaction, hire a professional editor, preferably one with experience editing other books that became bestsellers in the same genre or category. There are multiple types of editing: developmental editing, copy editing, and proofing. Each is critically important, and none can be skipped. Developmental editing is the most expensive but will have the biggest impact on reader satisfaction.

8. Work with Beta Readers

Beta readers are test readers. They read the author’s book prior to publication and provide feedback to help guide the final revision. A properly managed beta round could provide feedback similar to that offered by a developmental editor. To learn how to run a beta reader round, check out my December 2016 column, “Making the Most of Beta Readers,” or listen to Episode 5 of the Smart Author Podcast.

9. Occupy Multiple Price Points

Readers harbor pricing bias. One reader’s bias will be different from another’s. Some readers will only try a new author if the book is free, while others will only try the author if the book is priced under $3.99. Other readers will avoid low-cost e-books altogether for fear that lower prices indicate poor quality. By occupying multiple price points, the author can accommodate a wider range of pricing biases so that more readers will give the work a chance. Once the author earns the reader’s trust with one book, price is less of a factor.

10. Always Release with a Preorder

Books released as preorders sell more copies because preorders enable more effective book marketing. Much of this benefit is on autopilot. Indie authors can get their books listed for preorder up to 12 months in advance of release. During this entire preorder period, these upcoming titles are merchandised alongside the author’s other books at retailers. It means more months of selling time.

Mark Coker is founder of Smashwords and the host of the new podcast Smart Author.