When I’m not writing, I work in online marketing so I decided to start a blog series on some basic online marketing principles that can translate to authors. One of the basic principles of social media marketing is soft-selling vs. hard-selling.
Soft-Selling a Book vs. Hard-Selling a Book
When you hard-sell a book you are specifically asking people to buy your book. While this is great on launch day or when pre-orders begin, you want to use hard-selling very sparingly on social media. Think of social media as a place where you talk to friends, not necessarily sell.
To keep your social media followers and earn their trust, you need to care about them. When you plan social media content, you need to be thinking along the lines of what do my followers want to see? Likely their feeds are inundated with authors promoting their books, and they’ll just scroll past yours unless you’ve made a personal connection.
So how do you get their attention? You want to gear content toward their wants. That’s where soft-selling comes in. When you soft-sell your book, you are giving your followers content they want and slipping in information about your book as an aside. The primary goal is to engage and the secondary goal is to sell.
This can be easier in non-fiction. If you have a book about training pets, you’re probably posting tips and tricks about training animals and cute pet pictures. In fiction it can be a bit trickier.
Here are few examples of book marketing soft-selling strategies:
  1. Blog posts. Write engaging posts about the types of things that interest your readers. Maybe that’s reading, or writing, or other topics related to the books you write. At the bottom of your blog posts, don’t be afraid to include a little blurb about yourself and the book you have for sell. The main purpose of a blog is to engage audiences. The secondary purpose is to sell your book.
  2. Giveaways and Contests. People like to win free stuff. You can give away a copy of your book, a query critique, first five pages critique, or an Amazon gift card. Take advantage of these giveaway clicks by taking them to your author website. Website visits unrelated to purchases may not seem like a big deal, but they are when you can use that data to construct a remarketing campaign later on. But that’s for another blog post.
  3. Quizzes. Many of us are guilty of taking online quizzes in our spare time. We like to see how we fit into characters, personalities and places. Create a quiz related to your book. One of my author friends Aften Brook Szymanski created a quiz with lots of research called “What’s Your Hidden Potential?” for her book Killer Potential. Take it and you’ll see what I mean about soft-selling. Her audience gets a fun quiz, and her book’s name is advertised all at the same time. I specifically remember buying the book Divergent, years ago, when quizzes about it were floating around because I wanted to be in the know. Sharable content can be your best advertisement.
  4. Obscure holidays. Can you relate obscure holidays to your book? Is it National Chocolate Day and your book features chocolate? Is it Sibling Day and your book focuses on siblings. Look online for upcoming holidays and schedule social media posts announcing what day it is. Who doesn’t love holidays?
  5. Make memes. Make funny or thought-provoking memes that relate to your book but don’t directly sell your book in them.
  6. Fun facts, quotes, games, and gifs. Share fun facts, quotes, or gifs about reading, writing, and your book. Engage your audience by having them post pictures or gifs related to a topic. Add trivia, anagrams, or puzzles relating to your book. While people are trying to figure out their silly elf names during the holidays by using initials and birthdays, create your own naming game.
  7. Retweet or share when other people talk about your book. Did someone say something great about your book? Go ahead and retweet or share it. Do not however, comment about the post when you share with something like, “So and so gave my book a great review.” That sounds sales-driven. Let the person’s comments speak for themselves by humbly sharing with your audience. It will not only tell people about your book but it will give you credibility.
  8. Get creative. There are so many things you can do to engage your audiences and brand your book without directly trying to sell it. Look to social media trends and topics that are garnering attention and engagement and create your own book-related version.
One of the rules of online marketing is that it takes a person at least 7 engagements with a product or service before they buy. Make those engagements fun, without scaring them away with hard-selling.
Remember, social media is a place to make personal connections. Don’t just post/tweet at them. Engage in conversation. Like their posts. Social media is made to be interactive, so interact. The people you interact with are more likely to buy your book than if you just talk at them.
If you have any online marketing-related questions, feel free to @ me JBarberAuthor on Twitter. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.