In Parts 1 and 2 of our series, we talked about how to target your ideal audience and how to connect with the people who want to read your work.
Now comes the part you’ve probably been waiting for—how to get that audience to actually buy your book.
For many folks, this is all they think about when they think “marketing”—how to get someone to pay you money for the thing you do or the product you have.
But this is Part 3 for a reason.
It’s actually the least important bit.
You see, if you’ve done things right in Parts 1 and 2, identifying and connecting with potential fans and followers, you’re already well on your way to having a paying customer base.
Remember what we said in Part 2 about continually providing value to your audience? (No? Go read that post again. I’ll wait.)
Yeah. That. That is the key to generating sales and making an income as an author—or as any sort of creative professional or entrepreneur.
Identify your audience. Provide them with real, legitimate value.
The rest will come.
How? Glad you asked! Let’s take a look.
How to Convert Potential Readers into Buyers
You’ve identified the people who are most likely to want to read your book.
You’ve created an awesome book that solves a problem for them.
You’ve put that book out there, in a way that will resonate with them.
You’ve established yourself as an expert and made yourself available to connect in the places your potential readers hang out.
Now you have to get them to actually buy. To convert from potential readers into real customers.
You do that by understanding a bit of your audience’s psychology.
Wait! Don’t run! This isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t need a graduate degree in psychology to apply these ideas (trust me; I have a graduate degree in psychology and as it turns out, I was using many of these ideas long before I got that set of letters to go with my name).
Let’s take a little trip together on the Buyer’s Journey.
The Buyer’s Journey
Before anyone buys anything, they go on a little road trip mentally:
- Awareness: Wait. I have a problem.
- Consideration: Okay, this right here is my specific problem. What do I do to resolve it? Where can I get help solving it?
- Decision: This thing or person over here can help me solve my problem in a reasonable way, at a reasonable cost to me. Yay!
Your task as an entrepreneur-author is to get in front of your potential reader during this journey and to let them know that you’re ready and waiting to solve their specific problem.
Provide Value and Solve Problems
I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but the way you get involved in a buyer’s journey is to provide value and solve problems.
By connecting with your target reader and providing value in everything you do, you’re going to be at the forefront of their mind when they realize they have a problem.
They’ll come to understand very quickly that you’re standing by with the solution to that problem, because you’ve already established yourself as someone knowledgeable, trustworthy, and ready to help.
You’ve done your research on your intended audience, so you know what problems they’re likely looking to solve. You already have the answers. You’ve already connected with the community and started showing that you are invested in helping them.
See why I said you’ve already done the hard part of converting buyers?
Supplement with Content Marketing
Part of providing value is providing it consistently, so that you’re always on your reader’s mind as someone who’s able to help them.
Your book is your primary product.
But your support for that product is the value you’re producing on a regular basis that keeps you relevant in the community you serve.
If you, like many authors, feel a little queasy at the idea of marketing—selling yourself rather than focusing on your ideas or creativity—try reframing the situation.
Content marketing isn’t about spewing out loads of drivel just to have new blog posts going up every single day.
It’s about providing value to the audience you’ve chosen to serve.
It’s the same as writing your book, only in more bite-sized, digestible format.
By putting out blog posts, infographics, guest articles, videos, podcasts, and whatever other valuable resources you can dream up, you’re adding to the value you provide your audience. You’re keeping yourself tied in to their buyer’s journey by making sure they’re aware you’re a great resource.
And so, when they’re ready to make that decision and spend the money to solve their problem, they’re going to spend that money with you.
How to Create a Sustainable Author Career
But a single sale isn’t enough to create a career as an author.
You need lots of sales, regularly, from an established reader base—and you need to grow that base in a sustainable way.
And the trick there, my friends, all comes down to relationships.
Converting a single buyer one lone time is great.
Establishing an ongoing relationship in which that buyer comes back to you again and again, tells friends about you, and supports you through your career is awesome.
You’ve already laid the groundwork by providing amazing value.
Now it’s time to follow through and cement those relationships for the long haul.
The Keys to Relationship Building
There are a few key elements to building long-term customer (or audience) relationships.
1. Never Stop Learning about Your Audience
You aren’t a static, frozen snapshot, right? You learn, grow, change, and reframe your interests as time goes on.
Your audience does, too.
Stay in touch with them. Stay on top of what they’re interested in, what they’re experiencing.
Learn about any new problems they’re having, and how you can help.
Think of this as an interactive market research process—you’re preparing to move with your reader into the next phase of their life’s journey, and that, in turn, is helping you write your next book!
For instance, maybe you’re writing books about being a single parent. You can stay abreast of what your readers are going through and develop new books to go with each phase of parenthood: the terrible twos, tweendom, teenage angst, going off to college, identifying with grown kids.
There are other areas to grow, too, for writers in other areas. Help lead your readers along their journey—especially if it’s one you’ve taken yourself. How did you become a successful lawyer? Share the lessons you learned in a series of books.
Are you a fiction writer? Stay interested in what else your readers are reading and consider dipping a toe in those waters. For example, lots of eager readers of YA dystopia have also gotten interested in retellings of classic fairy tales. Give it a shot!
Above all, never lose touch with where your audience is now because you’re too busy concentrating on where they’ve been. Stay engaged. Adapt with them.
2. Create a Way to Bring in New Followers
Just because you’ve built a solid audience base doesn’t mean you can’t grow that platform.
Create a way to bring in new followers by—you guessed it—offering value to them.
As your existing audience spreads the word, sharing how you’ve helped solve their problems, new readers will want to give you a chance.
They’ll probably find you through reviews, referrals, and all that content marketing you’ve been doing, providing value with nothing expected in return.
Set up a way to capture that interest and bring these new potential readers into the fold.
In marketing speak, this is called a sales funnel.
Again, like most things in marketing, it’s not as scary as it sounds, and it doesn’t mean getting your hands dirty with icky schemes and scams.
In reality, it’s just a simple way to record who’s interested in what you have to say so that you can reach out to them later.
Set up a page on your website that offers a great piece of information—say, a free infographic or a short ebook—for free.
But make it so that anyone who wants that great free content has to give you their email address first.
Once someone signs up to receive your free content, make sure you follow up with them. Have a process in place for when and how you’ll reach out—you can either do this manually (tedious and not a good use of your time!) or by scheduling automated email followups with your newsletter service (recommended!).
Just create a quick follow-up note that asks how your new contact is enjoying the content and if there’s anything you can do to help them with the issue the content tackles.
Point them to more valuable resources on your website. Thank them for taking the time to read your stuff!
Do not sell them anything.
This is about building a new relationship and establishing yourself as a trusted expert in your area.
Once again, converting this new potential reader to a paying customer happens after they know, like, and trust you.
Give that reader some time to process what you’ve sent along; personally answer any questions they come to you with; let them explore what you have to offer.
Then and only then can you send them another follow-up email (again, automated through your newsletter service) offering yet more value and, this time, suggesting that they might want to take a look at your book or course or other paid offering.
As always, this whole process is about establishing trust and value. Until you do that, your potential reader has no good reason to think that you’re going to solve their problem, so they have no good reason to give you money.
Give them value first. They’ll give you money later.
3. Own Your Value
In line with always providing value, always own your value.
You don’t need to be desperate to get readers to buy your book. As we’ve established, when you provide great value to readers, they’ll come to you looking to get more insight and expertise, and they’ll be willing to pay for it.
Be excited about what you’re providing, not desperate to hawk it. Enthusiastically share your knowledge and skill with your chosen community. Love what you do. Share your passion.
Don’t try to sell at every turn; that quickly erodes the trust you’ve built and the relationships you’re establishing. It makes you look unsure and unconfident, which makes your readers question whether you really are the right person to help them with their problem.
If, instead, you’re confidently and happily offering up all you do—free and paid alike—you’ll inspire that same confidence and enthusiasm in others.
So what does all this come down to?
Understand your target audience.
Be enthusiastic and giving.
Follow through and build relationships.
Provide yet more value.
Do these, and your audience will come to you.
Good luck, and have fun!
About the Author
Kate Sullivan is a business and consumer psychologist and the managing editor of TCK Publishing, an independent press dedicated to helping writers make the most out of their author careers through partnership publishing deals, podcasts, educational resources, and more.
Contact her at kate AT tckpublishing.com if you have any questions about building your audience, providing incredible value, or getting published—she’d be happy to help!
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