Five low/no cost marketing ideas worth considering


Let’s talk Audiences: Cold, Warm, Hot…
And five low/no cost marketing ideas worth considering

Now that Romance Your Brand is out in the wild, it’s time for me to start polishing Romance Your Plan, which will come out in June 2020. This is the rough outline of a chapter on audiences and what authors should know about them before they tackle a marketing plan.

  • Cold audiences: new to you in every way.
  • Warm audiences: aware of you, possibly interested in your product.
  • Hot audiences: they’ve already pre-ordered, but need love and attention. (see also: fandom, and the work that Jennifer Lynn Barnes does on this)

When you start out, everyone is a cold audience, and getting over that hump is one of the hardest things any writer will ever do. Then you sell a few books, and your warm audience is your best friend, your Uncle Matt, and a couple of people who randomly happen to find your books in the magical way we want a LOT of people to find out books (but that usually doesn’t happen). It’s very normal to have a warm audience of five.

First myth to bust here: If you have a warm audience of five, if you have a newsletter of sixty people, if you put a book up for pre-order and…crickets…you’re some kind of failure. You’re not. You’re me, in fact! Hey, buddy, I’ve been there.

Second myth: Once you sell a lot of books (I’ve done that! More than once!), you’ve got a “big audience” and they buy all your books. LOL. I wish. (To my readers: I LOVE YOU. I love you just as much if you’ve only bought one of my books, and aren’t sure about the others.)

One big takeaway I wish I could teach other authors is that “your audience”—your mailing list, your FB page, your Twitter followers —is full of people who have not read all of your books. Or even most of them. That’s normal, too. Fandoms are often specific to a single series. There are many, many points in a career where we need to start over for a lot of different reasons. At that point, our previously hot audience might be warm or even cool.

So we have a writer. Often an introvert, often lost in their stories, who from time to time lifts up their head and goes–oh shit, I should market my books. So they:

  • send a newsletter
  • books a promo blast
  • discounts a title (or their publisher does it, maybe taking them by surprise)

These are three good things to do for a new release! Or to push a backlist title. But they’re better if you do them with intention, as part of a larger plan, with an understanding of which audience you’re targeting and why.

Most marketing things we do, we do because other people tell us to do them. Few of us are marketing experts. Try FB ads, they say. Get a BookBub featured deal, Zoe says. (I do, it’s true, but it’s more complicated than that!!!!)

What they don’t say is, know who you’re targeting. And how. And why.

Side note on FB ads: I don’t do them as often as others. I boosted a post the other day. It’s for a permafree I wrote seven years ago, a pretty known quantity for me to promote, and I still screwed up the ad copy. FB ads are an art. I am not that artist. That’s normal!

But let’s stay with FB ads for a moment. They can be used to target cold audiences, or warm audiences. The campaigns would look quite different.

Know what your goal is, and work back from there.

Or pick something else that achieves the same goal.

But if you’re going to do that kind of ad campaign, to a cold audience, to find new-to-you readers, you want ad copy that is about the customer, not you. Not even your books. Why this book is what they need, for their reasons. And the book? Either free or full-price. Never 99c.

Does anyone know why?

The math doesn’t work on a 99 cent book. There is almost no way to make a 99 cent product that you earn maybe 35 cents on (or less if you’re with a publisher) profitable using a cost-per-click ad model.

The people who do it are making the money elsewhere.

Sure, some people can get that CPC down to a glorious <10 cents, but then one out of every three clicks must convert to a sale to break even, and that’s not great odds. The ROI is dodgy as heck.

And sometimes the success of an ad campaign like that is less about cold audiences, and more about name recognition. (Not always! But sometimes).

So if you’re starting something new: a new name, a new series —that’s not the time to be betting the farm on a cold audience appeal.

Let’s loop back to the baby author with a fanbase of five people, or the one with a newsletter of sixty subscribers. What are the best marketing strategies for them?

1. write more books.

Write more books in that series. WRITE A LONG SERIES. And start a new series. Start over, but don’t drift far. Write YOUR THING, again.

Those five people will turn into ten, then twenty, then fifty. I know. Fifty fans do not pay the bills. But don’t abandon them, and their numbers will grow. That’s step 1. That’s not all.

2. Find people who write similar things to you. Do some things together.

Like what?

a. Write a short story or a novella each, and bundle them together for a limited time anthology that would appeal to all of your readers.

b. Offer each others’ first books to your core readers.

Oh, a quick note on this. CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT GOALS MATTER. If everyone involved isn’t interested in sharing their audiences, then they aren’t the people for this kind of action.

3. Once you have a bunch of books out, especially in a series, make the first one free.

MAKE. THE. FIRST. ONE. FREE. Yes, we’re looping back to this again. It’s my favourite f-word. If you are making nothing on a series right now, if you have one and it’s dead–make the first book free. What’s the worst that could happen?

4. Get systematic in how you think about your product lineup.

I’ve got a set of podcast episodes about this on The Sistercast (look for the Marketing Breakout Sessions).

5. When you find new readers through a new release, a cross promotion, a sale: introduce them to your backlist.

Options here:

* cycle your backlist through your social media in an appropriate way

* mailing list on boarding sequences

* backmatter in your books

I can’t harp enough on the fact that our newsletters are full of people who don’t own all our books

There you go: five things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money, that find new readers, and expose them to your backlist. Putting these things on your marketing to-do list is an excellent way to gain data about the warm audiences you have access to, to practice your ad copy writing, and to figure out if what you are writing is what you want to be writing more of, what you want to invest actual $$$$ in for next level marketing. Don’t rush to spend money until you’re absolutely sure of your product line.