Social Proof Can Help You Sell More Books

Smart authors know that social proof is an important marketing tactic that eases the minds of worried customers.

Social proof is defined as the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us (either in real life or online) have on our own behavior.

There are basically five types of social proof:

  1. Expert: When an industry expert or well-known personality recommends your product or services.
  2. Celebrity: When a celebrity people like endorses a product or service.
  3. User: When current users of the product or service praise it.
  4. Crowd: When a large crowd of people are using a product or service as shown through social media or events.
  5. Certification: When a person or product is given a stamp of approval by an authority in the industry, such as winning a book award or obtaining a seal of approval.

Social proof is extremely important when selling books. As humans, we want to know that what we are getting ourselves into will be worthwhile—especially when it comes to buying a product or a service. Buyers want to know what others are saying about the product or service.

Even wise King Solomon understood this concept when he wrote “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2)

The two easiest types of social proof for authors to secure are expert and user. You gain expert social proof by obtaining endorsements. You gain user social proof through reader reviews.

Sadly, few independent authors take the time to secure expert social proof (endorsements). A recent quick survey of books submitted for the Christian Indie Awards showed that only about one-third (one out of every three books submitted) featured any type of endorsement or review on the book’s cover (front or back) or in the front pages of the book.

If you are not securing endorsements, you are losing out on a very important social proof that will help you sell your book.

It’s never too late to secure endorsements. With today’s print-on-demand technology, you can still get endorsements after you have published your book and then adjust your book cover to feature these endorsements.

If you are unsure about how to go about securing endorsements, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) provides our Members help. Members can watch the on-demand seminar Endorsements Help You Sell More Books to learn how to obtain endorsements. The webinar includes a sample template letter to use when requesting an endorsement.

The on-demand seminar is also available to authors who are not Members of CSPA. You can pay a fee to watch it at https://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

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Not Everyone Uses Social Media

She was young, pretty, and a reader. I immediately knew she read a lot because she had three paperback books stuffed into her purse.

I wasn’t snooping. Honest. Her purse was open and the three books were sticking slightly out. They were crammed in spine down, so I could not discern the genre.

As I talked with this Young Adult just starting out on her life’s journey, I discovered that she does not fit the Generation Z mold. She told me that she is not on social media and she does not watch television. It’s not that she’s not tech savvy. She takes online college courses and met her boyfriend online.

Yet, here is a young adult who is not hanging out online—and she reads. Why am I pointing this out? Because it is important to remember.

Not everyone uses social media. Not everyone gets the majority of their information online. I am pointing this out because I want to remind you that a comprehensive book marketing plan includes both digital and physical marketing.

Most likely you don’t have a large marketing budget for your book. As a result, spending time creating content online and posting it on your blog and social media sites, as well as sharing it through email, is where you focus your attention.

That’s a good strategy, but you won’t reach all your potential readers this way. A better strategy is to include some print marketing.

There are still print newspapers, print magazines, and print fliers and postcards. These are all good ways to broaden your marketing reach to those who prefer print.

Expanding your marketing to include print venues does not have to cost you a lot of money or time. Start local. Focus on local newspapers and magazines that reach your target audience. Every community has these.

You can find local newspapers by keeping your eyes open as you go about your community. Often public libraries and grocery stores have a spot for free local newspapers and magazines. You can also use an online newspaper search engine like the one at www.usnpl.com to identify local newspapers.

Magazines and newspapers are always looking for fresh, interesting news. Be creative. Send a press release to your local magazine editors and newspaper journalists featuring you and your book. However, make sure your press release is not just about you writing a book. It needs to have something newsworthy such as a local cause your book is supporting, how your book ties into local history, or even an interesting journey you took to research your book. Tie your press release in with an upcoming local author appearance for better results.

Including traditional marketing with your digital marketing efforts will broaden your reach and help you secure more readers for your books. After all, not everyone uses social media.

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Photo courtesy of Miguel Runa.

Embellishments Help Create an Emotional Connection

As humans, we crave connection. We want to feel connected to our family members, our friends, our community, and God. This sense of connection meets our need for belonging.

Authors can use humanity’s innate need for connection to enhance your marketing efforts. You can use stories and information to help your readers feel a connection with you. You can also use adornments to create a sense of connection and anticipation.

Not too long ago, I ordered a book. The book was mailed to me. It came in an envelope. What caught my eye was the sticker on the back of the envelope. It was an oval gold sticker that helped “seal” the envelope shut. The sticker simply read ENJOY.

This caught my attention. It also served to increase my anticipation of reading the book. A simple sticker embellishing an envelope created a stronger connection to the book for me.

We are emotional creatures. Simple adornments strategically placed can heighten our emotions.

Consider how you might be able to use a similar strategy with your books to increase readers’ connection to you and your books. The ideas are endless. Let your creative juices flow.

Maybe you can use a similar sticker when you send out copies of your book. Maybe you can add a sticker to your book’s cover that creates an emotional response. Even a “Signed by the Author” sticker can help create an emotional connection for readers.

You can find some great sticker ideas on Zazzle or Demco.

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Have You Identified Your Target Audience?

If you aim at nothingyou will hit it every time.” ~Zig Ziglar

Are you aiming at a target audience? Or are you aiming at nothing?

When I consult for indie authors, I ask them to send me a list of their questions prior to the consultation so I can structure the time to best meet the author’s needs.

I have yet to have an author ask that I help her identify or refine her target audience. Most simply jump into questions about marketing. And yet, many have not spent any time distilling who the audience for their book is.

Here is the problem. You cannot develop an effective marketing plan without FIRST identifying your target audience. And, many indie authors fail to do just that.

Many marketing plans often fail for the following reasons:

  • Failure to identify target audience.
  • Failure to plan and execute marketing activities for multiple targets.
  • Failure to balance marketing activities to primary, secondary, and tertiary targets.

Think of your target audience as a target with a bull’s eye and expanding rings. The bull’s eye and each ring of the target represents a segment of your target audience.

A target audience is made up of a primary audience, a secondary audience and a tertiary audience. How does this look in practice?

With the recent growth in religious children’s book sales, let’s take a children’s picture book as an example. Let’s use a Christmas story picture book.

The primary target audience for this book would be children ages four to eight years of age who celebrate Christmas. However, children don’t buy books, so we need to include the parents in the primary target. Here is the breakdown of target audiences for a children’s Christmas picture book.

  • Primary Audience: Parents of children aged four to eight years who celebrate Christmas.
  • Secondary Audience: Grandparents and aunts and uncles of children aged four to eight years who celebrate Christmas who give Christmas-themed gifts.
  • Tertiary Audience: Churches, Christian preschools and elementary schools, and libraries.
  • Quaternary Audience: Collectors of all things Christmas.

Looking at this breakdown of audiences for the sample book, you can see that there are at least four distinct audiences for this book. Each audience requires a different marketing approach and strategy.

Identifying your target audience in this manner lets you prioritize your marketing efforts and expenditures. Of course, you will spend the most time and money on your primary audience. But you do not want to neglect your secondary and tertiary audiences.

Remember, the first step in creating a marketing plan is identifying your target audience. Only after you identify your target audience can you develop specific action steps to reach your audience.

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How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Do you remember these puzzles from your childhood (or maybe your kids’ childhood)? Which one is different?

Standing out from the crowd is important. With over one million self-published books produced every year, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The answer lies is not in drawing attention to yourself by standing out in an odd or strange way as in the above puzzle. Instead, you want to stand out in ways that are attractive and draw people to you and your book.

It’s not just your book that must stand out. Your marketing efforts also need to stand out in the crowd to attract attention.

After you have written a compelling book that is professionally edited and designed, your next step is to ensure that your marketing activities don’t just mimic what others are doing, but stand out from the crowd.

standing out from crowd

You can stand out from the crowd with the following three strategies:

1. Informative and Unique Content

Give away free content that ties into the theme of your book. This free content must also be unique and answer important questions or solve important problems your target audience faces. Share this content on your blog and in your social media posts. Offer some content in downloadable format for interested readers to receive in exchange for their email address. This helps build your email marketing database.

 2. Connect with Your Audience

Connection is about caring. We connect with others when we care about them. Care for your audience. Show up where these people hang out—be that on social media or in person. Talk to them. Rejoice when they rejoice, mourn when they mourn. Support their efforts and cheer them on. Most people crave authentic connection. Your audience will begin to trust you when they see that you are authentic.

3. Be Consistent

Many Indie authors start strong, but soon fizzle out. When results don’t roll in the way these authors expect, they turn their attention elsewhere. It takes at least a year to build a strong, loyal following. To stand out, you must show up consistently and add value to people’s lives.

In marketing and selling books, you want to be noticed in a good way, not because of appearing odd or strange. Show up, connect with your audience, and offer them great content. Stand out for the value you bring to people’s lives.

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Photo courtesy of Anton Belitskiy.