Can You Identify The Weaknesses In Your Book Marketing Platform? Use This Checklist To Find Out

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Successful authors and publishers know that “hope” is not an effective marketing strategy.  Neither is “write it and they will come” or depending on someone else, like a distributor or retailer, to build awareness,  generate excitement, and, ultimately, to get people to buy your book. To successfully market books in today’s highly competitive market authors and publishers need four key elements. These are:

  • A really good book (I know that seems really obvious and “good” can be in the eye of the beholder, but lots of “less-than-good” books are being put in the market every day)
  • A really clear understanding of the best audience for the book including who they are, what they like to read, how they look for books, how they talk about them and how they prefer to buy them
  • A solid marketing strategy for creating awareness of the book with the target audience, generating demand for the book, converting that to sales of the book and encouraging readers to share their views about the book
  • A marketing platform for cost-effectively executing the marketing strategy

There are many authoritative sources available today to learn more about each of these four key elements. Many of those can be found here on the DBW Expert Publishing Blog.   This article’s focus is to define a “health check” for some of the critical elements of a book marketing platform. Authors and publishers can use this list to evaluate their own platform and identify key opportunities for improvement.

If you review expert sources, you will find different definitions that have been proposed for what makes up an effective book marketing platform.  If you dig deeper and look at what authors and publishers are actually doing, you will find even more “options”. At publishr.cloud, we recently completed research with over one thousand authors and identified five key components that should be part of an author’s or publisher’s book marketing platform.  These are:

  • Website(s)
  • Newsletter(s)
  • Social channels
  • Stores
  • On-ramps

Each of these components needs to be polished, technically sound, and designed to be seamlessly integrated with the other components into an efficient, cost-effective platform to market and sell books. Let’s explore each one and the “health checks” our research indicates authors and publishers should be asking about their platform.

Website(s)

  • Does it have a polished, contemporary look that defines the brand? Do the page layouts, fonts and colors look like today or five years ago? How is media used and displayed?
  • Has it been optimized for both search and social?  Are technical SEO things like titles, descriptions, structured data and sitemaps well implemented? Is the site being correctly indexed on both Google and Bing? If people share a link, are the social sharing elements all correct?
  • Is it fast?  Across all devices?  Is it responsive and adaptive on very small screens and very large screens? Does it look as good on all of them? Is the interface always easy to interact with?
  • Is it safe and secure?  Does the site use HTTPS/SSL and is everything up to date? Does it support HTTP/2? Is user personal information protected?
  • Is the content on the site meaningful to the target audience (does it answer what they want to know versus what the site owner wants to say)?  How dynamic and fresh is the content (what percentage changed in the last  30, 60, 90 days)? How engaging is it (does it prompt responses)?
  • Is the site’s navigation user oriented? Does it make doing what they want to do easy? Are the calls to action obvious and clear?
  • Do emails from the site, authors and other related people come from the brand (from your domain) versus one of the generic mail platforms like Gmail?
  • Are you measuring the site’s authority? Do you have an ongoing plan to monitor and improve?
  • If there is more than one website, does each have a specific purpose and audience?
  • Are you measuring traffic, flows, conversions, and referral sources on a regular basis? Is traffic increasing and are issues being resolved?

Newsletter(s)

  • Is the newsletter managed on a high quality email marketing platform?  Is it configured so the emails are clearly from the brand?  Is user opt-in strictly enforced?
  • Do emails have a look and feel that is consistent with the brand and website (fonts, colors, imagery)?
  • Is the content in the newsletter meaningful to the target audience (does it answer what they want to know versus what you want to say)?  Is it timely?  Do the headlines draw people to read more?
  • Are there calls to action? Are they obvious and clear? What is the click-through rate? Is it improving?
  • Has the newsletter been released on a regular schedule?
  • Is your list growing?  Are there churn issues?
  • Is your list well segmented? Are the segments being used?

Social Channels

  • Do you have a solid business objective for any social channel you are participating on?
  • Is the branding of each social channel, consistent with the  brand and website?  Are you using consistent names and images?
  • Are you using the right structure (i.e. page versus profile) for each channel?
  • Is each channel setup complete, polished, and well organized?
  • Are you active on the social channel?  How often are you posting new content? Are you mixing the content types available on each channel?
  • Are you being responsive to users communicating with you via a each channel?
  • Do you have user-generated content enabled? Do you encourage it? Are you getting it?
  • Are there clear calls to action? Are they converting?
  • Is each channel meeting the business objectives you set for it?  If not, do you have a corrective plan of action?

Stores

  • Are your books for sale in the right places for your audience (your website, publisher site, online stores, brick & mortar stores)?
  • For all stores (especially online), is the information about your book complete, accurate and updated? Is author information complete and current?
  • Are your books tagged correctly?
  • Are you getting user reviews and other user-generated content?
  • Have you tested search strength for your book in each store?

On-ramps

  • How are you using paid on-ramps including search advertising, social advertising, and store advertising?  How do these integrate into your overall strategy?  How much traffic are they driving and how are they converting?
  • If you are considering a new paid on-ramp, have you developed a solid business case for it?
  • Do you have an active, ongoing process for engaging with review sites?  Do you have a qualified list?  Have you built personal relationships?  Are you tracking effectiveness?
  • Do you have a strategy for BookBub and other deal sites?  Do you have a business plan for each? Are you tracking?
  • Are you doing collaborative marketing with other authors?
  • Do you have a strategy for connecting with your audience at other places they participate in online or in the physical world?

So how does the health of your book marketing platform look? Are you missing one of these key components?   Are some in good shape, but others need work?  Do you think these are having an impact on the number of books you sell? Are there any which you think could take your business to the next level? Your answers to these questions do not mean you need to be doing all these things and does not mean there are not others that make sense for your business. There will always be tradeoffs, but to be successful in today’s publishing industry, authors and publishers need to give the same attention and focus to how their books are marketed and sold as they do to how they are created. To do that requires a “healthy”, effective book marketing platform.