Hi there 👋

Welcome back to a new edition of my weekly Reedsy marketing newsletter! The one I wrote last week (while on the plane to go skiing) got a great response — probably because 1. it was the first one I sent about social media, and 2. I basically told you not to force yourself to be on social media if you don’t want to.

Well, this week I’m going to take that advice, and expand it to… all kinds of marketing!

Traction, and the concept of “channels”

One of the first (and only) books I read about startup marketing (with a view to apply its advice to growing Reedsy), was Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth.

It’s a fairly old book now, since it was published in 2015, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it anymore to startup founders. However, it holds one marketing principle that I believe is absolutely crucial to anyone trying to market anything — and, yes, that includes you and your book.

See, the core idea of the book is that there are hundreds of different ways (or “channels”) to market a product. The secret of success is not to do all of them, or even as many as possible. Instead, it’s to find the one or two channels that work for your company, and focus all of your energy and resources on just those.

I find that this concept translates particularly well to book marketing — and you don’t have to take my word for it! A few years ago, I actually interviewed one of the authors of that book who said as much.

Now, in the book realm, our “channels” are: Facebook ads, Amazon ads, BookBub ads, price promotions, email marketing, group promos, newsletter swaps, Amazon SEO, Goodreads promos, guest posting, events, social media, etc.

When you’re starting out, you’re probably going to be tempted to do all those things — simply because you’ve read about them everywhere. But that puts you in the same predicament as wanting to be on every single social media platform: first, you don’t have the time for that, and second, you probably won’t be good at all of those platforms.

Finding the sweet spot

Take me, for example. I love helping authors market their books, and I’ve run ads, built mailing lists, used reader magnets, organized price promotions —  everything under the sun.

I’ve done all of those things, but I know I’m a lot better at some of them than others. When it comes to advertising, for instance, I know I’m much stronger handling Facebook ads than Amazon ads or BookBub ads.

Other authors like David Gaughran are pros at BookBub ads, but hate Amazon ads. And still others have cracked Amazon ads, but don’t even touch the other two platforms.

We all have different sensibilities to different marketing channels — that’s just how we are.

But how we are is just one part of the equation. The other part is how our readers are. You might be a pro at BookBub ads, but if your book is about a niche non-fiction topic, BookBub’s audience for that topic will be pretty limited — and running ads there won’t be effective for long.

While some channels will work for pretty much any genre (e.g. Amazon ads), many others will only really be suited to some genres (or even some particular books).

So how do you find that sweet spot? How do you find a channel that resonates with your readers and is one you're good at?

Well, you test. But the thing is…

You can’t be testing everything

The other core principle of Traction actually intersects with one of the main mistakes I see authors making when it’s time to market their books: they’re trying way too many things at the same time.

It’s natural, after all: if you don’t know what’s going to work, you might as well try 10 different things at once to find the one or two that will stick.

But the problem with that is that you’ll never manage to get a channel to work if you’re not focusing all of your energy on it.

Let’s take an example. You just published your book, but it’s not selling after one week. So you panic (naturally), and perhaps you start googling “book marketing ideas.” That’s when you find all of these things that you “should be doing,” but aren’t. So you:
  • Go change your Amazon keywords
  • Start a mailing list
  • Starting boosting your posts on Facebook
  • Start an Amazon ads campaign with a few obvious keywords
  • Book a bunch of price promotion sites
  • Create a “reader group” on Facebook
  • Start tweeting five times a day
  • Reach out to fifty book bloggers in your genre
  • Etc.
And you know what? None of these channels is going to work, because you’re going to execute all of them badly. Even if you actually execute one well and see that your book is starting to sell, you won’t know which channel was responsible for it!

All of the channels I’ve listed above take time to learn and master. Until you’ve put in that time, you won’t be able to test them properly.

So whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by marketing (or whenever your “to-do” list is getting out of hand), take a breather and re-evaluate: “Do I really need to be doing all this?”

Pick only two things, and spend a month focusing on them. Take courses (we’ve got tons of free ones at Reedsy), ask colleagues, read blog posts, and then put in the time to properly test them.

That’s the only way you’ll find that sweet spot, along with that golden marketing channel that will change your marketing forever.

Until next week!


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