Book Marketing Rule #1: Don’t Talk About Your Book

Dont Talk About BookHave you ever been to a Christmas Party and found yourself cornered by a buzzed and slightly narcissistic fellow guest?

You know the kind, the one that just goes on and on and on about their own life and their own problems? To the point where all you here is “me, me, me, me”?

If so, think back to that conversation and try to remember how it went for you. How did talking with that person make you feel?

Chances are, you didn’t like it all that much. Not saying it was chew your arm off to get away bad, but I’m betting that after a little while, you were looking to someone to get you outta there.

In marketing speak, that’s called “Negative Engagement” and it is as bad as it sounds.

Negative engagement is when you have managed to interact with a potential customer which resulted in an experience that they don’t want to repeat. You’ll see this a lot with customer service, but it happens all over for a lot of different reasons. A few common ones for authors would be excessive grammatical errors in your book (poor quality), or a story that didn’t reflect the cover art (false promise), or perhaps a bad personal encounter at a writers conference.

It can also happen with social media — especially your website and blog.

One of the biggest offenders that authors constantly make? Writing only about your book.

The Data Speaks for Itself

A couple of months ago, one of our users, Michael Bunker, was seeing a decrease in traffic. He had been writing a slew of posts centered on a single book — and page views were taking a dip. Less than a quarter his normal for blog posts.

Looking to pick up his traffic, be broke away from pure book promotion and wrote “When Fiction Informs Us” — and it took off, generating 5x his normal traffic, and 10x his running average that month. All in that single post. Seeing the results in our traffic analysis, I mentioned he should do that more often, which he did with “Living Beyond Off-Grid as a Sci-Fi Writer” — which did even better.

We noticed the difference in traffic results and asked if we could write about this to show other authors, to which he generously agreed.

Let’s look at some numbers.

The first entry on the left is the landing page for Michael’s new release that he has been heavily promoting everywhere, Brother, Frankenstein. It’s gotten 648 page views at the time of this writing. The next three are recent blog posts — that are not about his books — and you can see the increase in traffic. The last four entries are the blog posts Michael had written about Brother, Frankenstein, and you can see they didn’t do all that great in terms of page views.

Why The Difference?

The data in the above graph is as clear an example as I can provide – not only about how blogging works, but about what readers like and share.

I see a lot of authors use their blog as little more than a poster board for press releases. They either announce their book, talk about their book, show their new book cover, or talk about “the business” of writing. While there is a place for these topics (you should definitely announce a book release, for example), they are, by and large, not that interesting to the larger public.

Every author has a new book — what’s so interesting or newsworthy about that? It’s just not that engaging.

However, well written articles about a topic your readers are interested in DOES generate traffic, and that traffic generates both interest and, if you do it right, sales.

Yes, I said sales. More in that in a minute.

As I was saying, when your blog reads like little more than a series of press releases and production updates, it gets pretty boring and it starts to have a negative impact on your traffic. No one shares it, and fewer people come back to read what you’ve got. And, if they do find something of interest, they most likely won’t stick around to read much else.

“Press release” posts, quite frankly, have very low reader engagement. Their target audience is, almost exclusively, ardent fans. And, even then, they’ll quickly get the hint: “Your book is coming out soon. Great, let me know the day and I’ll be there.” Unless you can spin them into something really innovative and cool, don’t expect those type of posts to perform very well.

About Those Sales…

As they are friends, Nick Cole and Michael Bunker collaborate on stuff. When Michael told Nick his traffic jumped, Nick said “Hey, I want to try that, too!” Noticing that one particular website directed a lot of traffic to Michael’s site, Nick wrote a post he thought they might be interested in about how to find water.

Guess what? They sent a ton of traffic his way.

Now, this is a great time to talk about blog post topics, so we’ll take a quick segue before hitting the numbers…

Nick Cole wrote a best selling book called “The Old Man And The Wasteland”, a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction about, you guessed it, an old man struggling to survive. As part of writing that book, Nick did a bunch of research into survival tactics. He took an article of that research, how to find water, and wrote a blog post about it (follow the link to read it).

Writing about your book, in particular, is really boring and doesn’t do well. Writing about something you learned while writing your book could be really interesting. And, it serves as a great way to gather in new potential readers. Which is exactly what happened with Nick Cole.

Nick’s post about finding water in the desert generated 851 uniques that single day, and 1,452 page views so far — about 10x what his blog posts had been doing previously. Here’s his traffic:
Cole Traffic
See that big spike in the middle? Hmmm… Wonder what that post was…?

Okay, okay, so he wrote a post and got some traffic. Big Deal! What did it do for him?

Great question!

As soon as I asked Nick that, he sent me this screenshot of the clicks to purchase “Old Man and the Wasteland” at that moment:
That blog post sold 20 copies — full price — in that single day. It improved the Amazon sales ranking for Old Man by 80,000. And, for a little icing on the cake, he got a bunch of newsletter signups as well.

For those running numbers, that’s a conversation rate of 2.5% — about on par with a search ad, 3 times better than facebook ads, and 5 times the average of a display ad. In even more comparison, BookBub ads have a click through rate of only a tenth of a percent.

If his blog post had been a paid ad, it would have been a very successful one — but, it wasn’t a paid ad, it was a free blog post on his website. And, the more of them he writes, the more traffic they’ll bring in.

Those purchases were made possible because 1) new readers were brought to his site by a topic that genuinely interested them, and 2) the book related to that topic was embedded in the bottom of the post, allowing for an impulse buy.

When people ask how a blog sells books — that’s how. You draw them in with interesting content and you make sure your book is available to purchase when they’re done reading. That’s it.

What YOU Can Write About

You can write about anything in your blog — seriously, it’s all yours and anything that shows your interests and personality are good. However, statistically, the trend we’re seeing is that posts somehow related to your books do better for converting sales.

How to find water in the desert to promote a post apocalyptic novel. Living off-grid to promote Amish sci-fi. That kind of thing.

The concept is to write about a topic relevant to your book that your audience, both new and existing, may find interesting. And, of course, you tie that topic to your book and make sure your book is available for purchase.

Here’s a few example topics:

1. Hard Sci-Fi: “Did the Death Star Have it’s Own Gravity?” – a treatise on the impact and use of artificial gravity in sci-fi
2. Romance: “Jane Austen’s Top 5 Most Romantic Men” – a top five list of Jane’s leading men
3. Fantasy: “Where Can a Hobbit Get a Drink? The Best Taverns in Middle Earth” – where does a thirsty traveler go on the road to Mordor?
4. Dystopian: “Packing the Perfect Survival Kit” – what to have in your ready bag in case the apocalypse comes tonight.
5. Legal Thriller: “DNA vs Fingerprints, Which is REALLY More Accurate?” – an in depth look at modern forensics and their effectiveness in a jury trial.
There is a definite trend these days for authors to market via paid advertising, which is fine and has it’s place. But, the best asset a writer has is their ability to write.

Your Words Have Power

Ad agencies pay bloggers pretty decent money to write about their products in interesting ways. It is a billion dollar business at this point, and top bloggers are coveted by top brands. Not so they can say “buy this watch!” but so they can use their skill to bring attention to that product — usually by not talking directly about the product.

Authors can do the same thing for free — not only to sell their books, but to build their brand as well.

You can see from the data above, that a good blog post will outperform an ad every time. Next time, try writing your way to success, instead of relying on an ad.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine — a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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