Would you rather have 100 reviews that you paid for or 100 people talking about your book? I assume the latter. The 100 reviews are not invaluable though. They are what the book Contagious calls “Social Proof” and impact conversion rate very positively.
Paying for book reviews is a necessary component to your marketing strategy. We sell book reviews and so do many others, but to succeed and scale book sales you need more reach. People need to know your book exists and to tell their friends about it. A pragmatic mindset on this will help you with expectations and for better management of that we recommend Predictable Revenue.
From that perspective launching a book is very similar to launching a business. In the book Why Startups Fail, the author defines startups as: underfunded entities that try to turn a profit before running out of resources. If you agree, then you need to be efficient with your marketing budget. We think the strategies in this post will help drive top line revenue, brand lift and get you closer to profit without draining precious resources from your book launch (aka startup).
Keep reading to learn how to cost effectively leverage influencers, drive REAL awareness and get people reading and talking about your book through online word of mouth. You can call these ideas 'hacks' if you want, but we call it a cost effective marketing strategy.
In a recent Instagram story an influencer who has 100,000 followers shared that when she has a sponsored story and is forced to display #AD in the text overlay, her swipe ups (clickthroughs) usually total 25. When she just organically shares something about a product the swipe ups come in closer to 400. That's more than 10x. The cost per click comparison here for a sponsored post is completely disproportionate when you compare product cost to sponsored post cost. In discussions with other influencers, we confirmed that this was not abnormal at all. Under this logic, we recommend adding the following strategy to your book launch.
Secure a large number of influencers or micro influencers (<50,000 followers) and asking them to post about your book by simply sending them a copy of the book is not a new strategy. Companies like ProductWind even offer this kind of launch service exclusively. It's like $25K for 50 influencers. Even paying for a large list of influencers to post at the same time is not uncommon. This is not a bad strategy. Do it, if you can afford it.
However, it can be white noise if done poorly and most importantly there is no guarantee they will even post if you simply send the product. But based on the influencer metrics above, we should just send products and hope for a post (along with those 400 swipe ups).
So how can we break through the white noise, inspire influencers, and fascinate their audience? By gamifying the post!
Imagine for a moment that you are an influencer and receive a book you’ve never read from an author you’ve never heard of. It’s reasonable to need inspiration in order to post about it. Especially if you’re expected to post about this for free!
To create inspiration, our idea is to ship a total of 5 books to an influencer. One unwrapped and 4 packed and sealed ready for to be dropped in the mail. The return address and postage prepaid on each. This way we're setting the influencer up to give 4 copies away to their audience. The only thing they'll need to add is the shipping address. We also include in this shipment a very well branded professionally printed instruction guide for a giveaway. Fingers crossed that they use it, but it makes it easier for the influencer. If they don't want to read your book, they’ll still need to say something about it to their followers, so you’ll want to include a brief about the book in the print out. For affordable design work on this kind of thing go to Fiverr and find a freelancer. Make it branded and high quality.
We hope to see the influencer give these books away for free to their followers. And why wouldn't they, we've made it so easy! This method takes what could have been a potentially uninteresting forgettable gift in the mail and makes it an exciting giveaway where they get to give value to their audience! This kind of reciprocity is what the book Influence discusses and this kind of virality creation is what Jonah Berger talks about in his book Contagious.
Now if you want to make it even better, throw $50 cash in each book. If you agree marketing efficiency for the gifting process rather than paid promotion is better, you'll be way ahead even if you put $100 in each book. $500 in each book and I bet you get an even better cost per click. Either way give the influencer a 50% off code for 7 days for those who enter to win the book but don't.
This idea is actionable, fast to implement, & cost effective. And most importantly, different. You need to create a buzz by getting your book into the hands of readers. Give it a try and watch your online word of mouth grow.
You can turn regular people into influencers through comments. Let me explain… In the book The Long Tail there is an amazing example of what can happen if you piggy back your book on the success of another. When the book Into Thin Air came out it was a smash hit. Sales skyrocketed and as people read it they wanted more books on the same subject, so readers began recommending a relatively unknown book from the past: Touching The Void. Readers were recommending them as a pair. Book stores even began to stock both and place them next to each other! This all started through online word of mouth. You can create this too!
Start by write reviews on a popular comparable book pages on GoodReads or various other book review platforms (like our site 🙂). But early on in the brief review you'll want to mention "another really great book that is comparable." That book is of course, your book. The hope here is that you will become part of the conversation when people talk about your competitor. Just like our example above with Into Thin Air and Touching The Void.
To accomplish this successfully you'll need to identify successful books in your niche and hire several copywriters to leave reviews on review platforms like GoodReads. This kind of turns them into influencers. Let's say you find 3 competitor books and 10 copywriters. If each copy writer leaves a review on the three competitor books mentioning your book, that is 30 reviews mentioning your book. If you do this with 50 copywriters, that's 150 reviews. Best part about this is the paid reviews aren't for your book, they are for another person's book and happen to mention your book, so they will not get scrubbed or discounted. This process is introducing the book to a targeted audience. That must happen to drive sales.
The reason we recommend hiring copywriters is they'll need to draft a coherent review. The suggestion is to have a 200 word review written of the competitor's book. At $.05 per word it should cost you $10. Somewhere in the review you'll want them to add the language: "I also really enjoyed (your book title) too. It's very similar and worth a read if you want more like this." Now when people read the GoodReads review for the main book they were interested in they might also add your book to their list. As mentioned, you're basically turning these UpWork copywriters into influencers. But like any other marketing effort, don't expect to do this and have noticeable results unless you have enough data. You need a significant amount of reviews or support for one review to make an impact.
For more unique marketing ideas like this try reading the book Alchemy.
The best way to ensure that your book is promoted through an influencer is to pay them to promote it. Otherwise you're just shipping out product and crossing your fingers. As mentioned a company called ProductWind has built their business on these kinds of influencer campaigns and we know for a fact they work.
This is not a plug for ProductWind, but if you look at their site you see case study after case study where the brand launches with 50+ influencers posting about the product and BOOM their sales explode. Now these companies need to make money so they charge a premium. What you could get done for maybe $15K on your own, they charge something like $25k. But honestly it's not a bad deal because (as you'll see when we explain how to set these things up) it is a LOT of work to get going.
Simply put, these marketing concepts involve reaching out to micro influencers (<50K followers but more than 5,000) and offering to pay them to post about your book on a specific day in a specific way. The idea is to force the virality and interest in your book. Same thing happened in the Fyre Festival documentary. By the way if you haven't watched that yet, good lord get to it. Pure entertainment.
These kinds of campaigns are incredibly time consuming to put together. First of all every single person you reach out to is not going to be interested in working with you. And you need a lot of influencers to participate in order to make it work, so we're talking about a lot of our reach. For the sake of the conversation let's assume a 50% success rate. Which is high.
So you've reached out to 100 influencers and 50 are willing to work with you. Ok well each one of them will have a unique rate and negotiated fee that must be agreed upon. That means 50 negotiations. 50 people you're going back and forth with 3-5 times. And all of this must be accomplished in a tight timeframe because we need to book everyone to post on the same day and it can't be last minute because creators want time to create. Then we have to approve everything before it goes live. Request revisions, then rereview once submitted for the second time. Once the post goes live you'll need to review all the hashtags and links to make sure they all work. If not, request an update. You're starting to see how the communication pressure and time restraints compound on the stress of putting something like this together.
There are a lot of issues that can arise and yes it is a lot of work. But these campaigns are effective and will drive results, especially early on.
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