The world of book marketing is moving and shaking. Part of my job is to make sure to I keep my finger on the pulse of what’s working well, what’s transforming, and what book promotion tactics will soon go the way of the dodo bird. So what changes can indie authors expect in 2017? Although these predictions are educated guesses, I think you’ll find many of these things evolving this year.
- Collaborative marketing: While not a new trend, I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more of this as the year progresses. In the past, we’ve seen authors do combo book bundles, so this means more books bundled together from a variety of authors. This encourages enhanced promotion, because more than one author is involved with the book. In addition to that though, I think we’re going to see authors collaborating on promotional efforts such as bundled freebies, samplers and collaborative ads. There is power in numbers and this year, more than ever, we’re going to start seeing that this is no longer an option, but a necessity.
- Book covers: Although, throughout all my years in publishing, I’ve always said that book covers are key, now, book covers are more important than ever to your book’s success. And, in fact, book covers that look good on mobile browsers are now a must. When was the last time you looked at your cover on your phone? If you have to pinch and pull it to be able to even see what it looks like or how it reads, you may be in trouble. Most new readers won’t take that step, they’ll just move on.
- Less social media: Most people are becoming weary of too much social media and I know several authors who have completely closed several of their social accounts. I think in 2017, more and more authors are going to get away from being everywhere. We have one author, for example, who went from being on six platforms to only two – and instead of doing a public Facebook account, she has a members-only VIP group.
- Publish often: I’ve said this before, but it’s becoming increasingly true. You can’t publish one book and wait to see what happens, you need to plan for a consistent publishing schedule that delivers a book to your readers a few times a year. Why? Because the more books you have, the more real estate you own on Amazon. But, there’s a caveat. Quality needs to prevail, so don’t crank out bad books just to hit your numbers.
- Seasonal romances: I love the Hallmark Channel for their marketing focus. If you follow them, or have ever seen a Hallmark Christmas movie (it’s ok to admit that you have), you’ll notice that nearly all of their movies are now tied to a season. This trend began in television, and has now extended to books; I’m seeing more and more romances with seasonal angles. So New Years themed books, summer holidays like Memorial Day and July 4th, then follow Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the trend starts all over again. And while I focused on romances here, I would expect this genre to have a wider reach into genre fiction, too.
- Direct to reader: I’ve said this before, in numerous blog posts, but you’ve got to work on getting direct to your reader. Yes, eBook promotions are great, ads on Facebook can work well, but it should all lead you to building a mailing list of avid fans who you can connect to directly. This change, though it started at the tail end of 2015, built up steam last year and we’ll see this increasingly over the coming year.
- More interaction with eBooks: It’s time to think of your eBook as a living, breathing, thing instead of a static product. So links that lead to external content like videos to enhance the learning, or book trailers to take readers to the next level of your story will be a fun new way to engage, entertain, and educate readers.
- Print books pick up steam again (but not for fiction): Interesting to note that so much of what’s being sold in fiction is not in print, meaning that eBooks are killing it in genre fiction. Dataguy from Digital Book World talks about this in his report: http://digitalbookworldconference.com/index.php/whitepaper. He notes that 70% of adult fiction sales were from eBooks. (mic drop) And, in fact, several major publishing houses have set up digital-only divisions for this very reason. But for non-fiction I’m seeing a totally different side. Print is actually still a strong staple of the non-fiction market. If you’ve released a book in eBook only, maybe now is a good time to put it out in print, too – a new edition can give you some new promotional opportunities.
- Consider your backlist: A lot of authors I speak to have older books that wound up being their “training wheels.” It’s where they learned the ropes, and learned from the mistakes they made they made with that book (or books, depending on your learning curve). I often hear authors say: “I wish I had known then what I do now.” Well, now that you know, why not re-release these? If the content needs updating, then by all means, do that, but if the book is fiction, you probably don’t need to change anything beyond the cover. Spoiler alert: in most cases the cover needs to be changed.
- Mobile: Do it or die (or at least your books may). You need a site that is designed for mobile, even if it’s just adding a WordPress plug in. Mobile can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, but if you don’t get this handled in 2017, you’re going to lose a lot (a lot) of potential traffic and new readers.
- Glitzy Publishers: It used to be that publishers could heap on a lot of benefits to get you to publish with them and many times it actually worked. Now though I’m finding that glamorous offerings from publishers are passé. Author want the basics, they get that publishers are there to help them facilitate publishing, not throw them a parade – which is why bare bones publishers like Createspace are doing so well. But don’t let the term “bare bones” fool you, they can do cover and interior work, they just don’t try to sell you a ton of stuff you don’t need.
- Review services will go away: While blog tours, reader reviews, top Amazon reviewers and blogger reviews will always be a staple of book promotion, companies that offer just review services will start to dwindle because of Amazon’s complicated review policy.
- Limited Edition Books: So part of the fun of promotion is doing things that pique a reader’s interest, like limited edition, exclusive excerpts, deleted scenes, and even alternative endings. Some authors I know are using print books to drive exclusivity, but they aren’t listing them on Amazon, they’re offering them, signed, from their website or as promo gifts. Neat idea, huh?
- The Long Haul: We love viral, I mean who doesn’t? That thing that just goes crazy and gets everyone talking, like the Gilmore Girls reunion It’s on every social media feed everywhere. The only thing is this: with so many books being put out daily, this kind of “magic” is not really something that we’re going to see a lot of anymore. This doesn’t mean that books won’t sell well, but it’s much more about the long haul (which I know sounds like a horrible amount of work) that’s going to get your reader excited. So now that I’ve gone all buzzkill on you, let me explain what I mean by “long haul.” It’s time to prepare for the “after the honeymoon” phase, post 90-day mark when you’d normally expect to see things take off. That’s just not realistic anymore. More and more in my firm, I see authors spending their budget dollars very wisely. They know they shouldn’t just blow it all in the first week of promotion, and they pace themselves and their budget. Be sure to plan for the long-term because short, power bursts just aren’t getting the kind of traction they used to. In fact, I’m seeing this a lot in the way of eBook promotions. Remember when you used to be able to do one eBook price discount and see a flood of sales? Now I’m seeing authors do two and three of these to hit the same numbers. It’s all about saturation and if you stick with it, your book will hit its stride. Bottom line: Prepare for the long term and don’t give up.
- Big movie/TV tie ins: We see this already, but you’re going to see more of it. Much like the seasonal romances, there is a coattail effect here. So tying into big movies – or movie themes – and TV shows will be even bigger this year. All of this, of course, will help you stand out from the crowd.
- New genres: We’re seeing lots of new genres so while I used to say: stick with existing genres, this is becoming less true and many genres, like Chicklit, are seeing a huge revival. We’ll be seeing lots more of these and, in fact, I would expect that seasonal romances will eventually fold into some catchy, genre title like Chicklit did.
- The Netflix effect: Some years ago I talked about how Netflix was going to start reinvigorating old shows. We see this with a number of 90s hit shows that have made recent comebacks, but what Netflix has also done is create “binge watching” an often-used term. This has turned serialized content on its head with sites like Wattpad really pulling in the views. As authors, we should be doing something in serialization. And due to the growth of audio books, I think the next level of this might be serialized audio content. So, a chapter a week or a day, dumped into a subscriber feed (sort of like a podcast) to help you build listeners and maybe entice them to buy the full audio book version, or your print book. Be aware that while doing this could be a lot of fun, you’d better have a good reading voice to pull it off.