Book marketing can be a complicated beast but it doesn’t have to be. Your author platform is what you use to sell your books. Once you’ve designed (Or paid someone to design) a fantastic cover, and chosen the perfect software for your email list.
What is a hook?
One of the most important pieces of the author platform puzzle is your email list. But how do you get people to sign up? Two things: you write awesome books and you create a compelling hook. The hook is something of value you create to get people to sign up for your list. It can be anything (I’ll throw out some ideas farther down) but many authors use a free book. A first in series or prequel novella does the trick nicely.
Why you need a good hook (the value of a subscriber vs a buyer with the math)
Why would you give away something you worked hard to create instead of selling it? This is the number one complaint when I talk to authors about creating a hook. That’s backwards thinking. When you’re getting an email address and permission to stay in contact and build a relationship with a reader you’re getting so much more than the $2 selling it on Amazon.
Let’s do the math. Say you have a seven book series planned. If someone buys the first book on Amazon for $2.99 you’ll get $2. Now you have no idea who that person is or how to contact them when the second book comes out.
If you give them the first book in exchange for their email address you now have permission to share the subsequent books with them as you launch them. So, if you have seven books coming out you could get $2 from the random buyer or you could get $14 from the person who signed up for your list. $14 might not sound like much but multiply it by 500, or 5000 and you can see how this could change your life. Launching a new series? You can bring your fans along with one email. You can also ask for reviews, ask them to share it with friends, and get feedback if you have the email connection.
($2.99 is a common price point with easy math which is why I used it as an example. You should always experiment with price to see where you make the most money and keep your readers happy.)
The Importance of an Experimental Mindset
When you’re creating something to attract an audience, you need to be ready to experiment. Your mindset as you move forward can make or break your efforts. This is true in all aspects of book marketing, not just in crafting a sign up hook. Some authors use different books as freebies to get readers to take a chance on them. Changing the free book every couple of months. Trying things out and seeing how they convert is the best way to find the best hook for your audience. Don’t worry about wasting energy on what you’re creating. These digital products can have many uses and you’ll find they’re good for more than just hooking new readers.
Thinking outside the box (5 hooks that are not books)
While using prequel stories or the first in series is perfectly acceptable you can also come up with something completely unique and fun to get readers more involved. Write non-fiction? No worries I have you covered too.
Series companion (Backstories of characters, events leading up to the series etc.)
A series companion is not only great for you to look back on as you write forward (I can’t tell you how many times I forgot what clues I dropped or what events/characters I alluded to in the last book!) It’s also a lot of fun for readers. Having a timeline of events and characters that are easy to check back through is something all fans will want.
Character sketches (bio, background, actual artwork of the characters)
Hiring an artist to draw your characters and then writing out their histories for fans is a great hook and an excellent way to get to know your characters.
Video/audio interviews (excellent for non-ficiton and memoir but don’t forget fiction)
Video and audio interviews are perfect for non-fiction books. Get an expert on the topic of your book to chat with you for an hour or so and give the audio away to your fans. Don’t forget to provide links to the expert’s website and/or contact information. They’ll appreciate you spreading the word and so will your fans!
Audio/video can also be a great way to get fans interested in fiction books. I’d host a live Q&A with fans and then offer the recording up as a way for new fans to get to know the books and characters.
Access to your WIP (first few chapters/send book as you write it)
Many authors do this and find success. Sharing their book as they write it or giving away the first three (or so) chapters. This is fun way to get people to sign up for your list while getting feedback on your work! My only recommendation is to make sure you’re willing to stick to a strict schedule if you intend to send out an entire book chapter by chapter. Writing the book and sending it as you edit is a great way to stay motivated during edits and ensure you can keep your promise to your readers.
Courses are a really value packed way to share a piece of what your book has to offer. For example if your book is on how to start a business you might give away an email course on marketing or finding new clients.
If you’re a fiction author, you might say this isn’t for you. But get creative before you throw in the towel. If you’re writing a steamy romance that takes place in a bakery, put together your favorite five to ten cupcake recipes (or cookies whatever you prefer) and do a few how to videos for fans. If you wrote a specific time period you can put together lessons on that. Make sure whatever you choose it fits your target market.
Need some help getting started?
Analyze the other authors in your genre. Look at what they’re doing to get an idea for what your audience expects and see if you can make it better. Wondering how to go about this? Check out Belinda Griffin's blog post for Kindleprenuer.com.
Where to position your hookOnce you’ve created your hook you need to place it where people can find it easily. Below are all the key places you need to make sure to put your hook.
Updating your hook
You may create new hooks throughout your career. The only time you need to update your backlist is when a specific hook is no longer available. This could be because you made it a limited time offer (in which case you shouldn’t put it in your ebooks unless you format them yourself) or you created something new that you believe is better or brings in more sign ups.
Social media and your site are easy enough to update as you create new hooks. Keep the most relevant and newest hooks present in those places.
Different hooks for different series
I create a new hook for every series and subseries. That’s just how I like to do it. You can create one hook and never look back if that’s what you prefer. (as long as it’s converting to new subscribers.)
Should you get rid of a series hook if you’re focusing on a new series?
There are a few things you can do to keep your old series selling as you bring in readers with the new series. You can leave the sign up on your website so visitors who are new to you can give that series a go. You can also include it in your automated emails that welcome new subscribers. As a bonus gift for signing up. One author I sign up with had a special page that you could only see if you have the link where you could choose from a number of free books as a thank you. Old hooks could be used in this way as well.
Scarcity- What is it and when and how you should use it
Scarcity is a great way to sell books. If you want to create something that is only available for a short period of time, I’d recommend giving it to people who pre-order your book. You can ask those people if they want to join your list but that’s on the backburner in this case. For your hook, try and create something long lasting that you don’t mind leaving in the front and back of your previously published books.
Getting email list subscribers is the foundation of an author’s business. And make no mistake, this is a business. Having a simple “Sign up for updates” will not convert. I had no subscribers from my site (despite having plenty of traffic) until I create a hook. On my fiction site I offer a free book (but I have plans for a book of character sketches) and on my non-fiction site, I have a free guide to building your author platform.
Checklist for where it should be
Marketing doesn’t have to be boring or tedious. The sky is literally the limit here. Get creative and have some fun!
Are you looking for help with your platform and book marketing? Marissa is now scheduling free publishing consultations! Click here to learn more.