Your time is the most valuable thing you have. You can always make more money but you will never make more time. You will live the rest of your life and die and never get back the time you spent promoting your book.
On the other hand, why spend your precious time writing a book that no one will read because they don’t know about it because you didn’t spend the time to market it?
So how can you market your book effectively and spend less time doing it? And what would you do if you had extra time each day?
In this article, you’ll learn how to spend time with your family or write your book while getting better marketing results than you are getting now. These are powerful principles. Please use them for good.
To understand how to work less and get the same results, let’s review Vilfredo Pareto’s discovery.
The Pareto Phenomenon
In the 1800s, the economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 20% of the population made 80% of the money. Once he noticed this 80/20 distribution of income, he started seeing the principle demonstrated in other aspects of society. In agriculture, 20% of the pea plants produced 80% of the peas, and in modern sociology, where 80% of women pursue the top 20% of attractive men.
You’ve probably heard about the 80/20 rule. But did you know the rule also applies to book marketing?
Authors tend to get 80% of their sales from 20% of their marketing efforts. This means 80% of your book promotion activity is, more or less, wasted. Once you understand this 80/20 breakdown, you’ll start saving yourself a lot of time.
Here are five steps to help you spend less time marketing without hurting your sales.
Step 1: Measure
As John Wanamaker said in the 19th century, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” If John Wanamaker had been able to measure his advertising better, he would have been shocked to learn he was probably wasting closer to 80% of his money, and he would have known which 80% it was.
If you can’t measure your marketing, you can’t determine what is working and what is not. Many traditionally published authors are exhausted by marketing because they have no way to know which of their marketing activities worked. Without good data, book marketing myths spread around the author community like a virus.
The lack of data is also the biggest disadvantage of traditional publishing. Traditional publishers don’t share real-time sales data with their authors. Sometimes, they don’t even share it with their internal marketing teams. I spoke with one marketing executive at a major publisher, and he said he received sales data once a week from the sales department across the hall.
In 2020, there is no excuse for the lag in reporting sales and marketing data. Many of the major royalty management solutions offer author dashboards. It is not that the publishers can’t share sales data. They just don’t want their authors to know the marketing is failing. If your marketing is working, you want to be able to show it off to your stakeholders.
While you can’t get sales data from your publisher, there is a workaround to get it yourself with Amazon Associates Tracking IDs. Granted, you’ll only get information about Amazon sales, but accurate data for one marketplace is better than nothing.
Baby Step 1: Sign up for the Amazon Associates Program.
This takes a few minutes, but you only need to do it once. You can sign up here.
Baby Step 2: Create a Tracking ID
Amazon gives you up 100 tracking IDs, and you can create them here.
Baby Step 3: Create Affiliate Tracking Links to Your Book
You can do this in the site stripe Amazon gives you once you sign up for the affiliate program.
Baby Step 4: Use Different Tracking Links for Different Promotion Activities
Use different links for each of the following:
- Blog Tour
If you use tracking links for all your efforts after a book launch, contact me, and we might have you on the show to talk about it.
Baby Step 5: Check Your Amazon Associates Sales Reports
Where Tracking Links Work Best
- Your Website
- Social Media
- Your Blog
- Email Marketing (Amazon prefers you link to a landing page that has your affiliate link rather than putting the affiliate link in the text of the email itself.)
Where Tracking Links Don’t Work (as well)
- Media Interviews on TV, Radio, and Podcasts: You have to send people from the car radio or TV to your website in order for them to click your tracking link.
- Offline promotion on Fliers, Bookmarks, Business Cards: Amazon frowns on this, and people prefer to search for your book title rather than typing in a cryptic URL.
- Influencer Marketing: Influencers use their own affiliate links and tracking IDs because, in addition to data, they receive a commission.
- Word-of-Mouth & Viral Spread: While people might repeat your book landing page web address (yourbooktitle.com), they won’t be able to remember or repeat the characters that make up a tracking URL.
Note: Amazon changes the rules regarding the use of Affiliate links every few months. Always check the current rules so you don’t get hassled by Amazon.
More Ways to Track Your Marketing
There are more ways to track your marketing. Check out the following episodes and their recently updated blog versions to learn more.
- 191 – How to Track Your Book Promotion (Covers marketing dashboards as well as many more ways to track your marketing)
- 212 – How to Use Marketing Data To Sell More Books (Talks about how to bring it all together to supercharge book sales)
Measure Your Time With Rescue Time
What gets measured gets managed. Effective marketing means measuring your strategies, as well as your time. Have you ever sat at your desk all day and wondered at the end of your day where all your time went? That is a bad sign.
How much time did you spend on Facebook last week? How much time on YouTube? If you want to know for sure, you can use an app like RescueTime (Affiliate Link) and get the hard facts about where you’re spending your time.
With RescueTime, you can know exactly how much time you have spent in Scrivener and Microsoft Word as opposed to researching and marketing your book. Nearly every author I have convinced to try RescueTime has been surprised by how little time they actually spend writing. The first step to having more writing time is to see where you currently spend it.
If you don’t want to use Rescue Time, we have a list of alternatives here.
Step 2: Prune
After you start tracking your marketing efforts and time on your computer, you might be stunned to learn how few sales come through social media. It can be very disheartening to see that Facebook following you spent years building only results in a handful of trackable book sales.
You still want to track those sales because you might be the exception. Maybe your social media fans do run out to buy your book as soon as they see a tweet about it. Every author, genre, and book is different. The data you find will be specific to you.
But the 80/20 rule tells us you will find some strategies that underperform and a few that overperform.
The next step is to start pruning the underperforming strategies, and pruning is painful.
Cutting a dead branch from your favorite fruit tree is easy. You know that playing Candy Crush on your phone is a waste of time, and it’s easy to see that the dead branch of mobile games needs to be cut.
But real pruning means cutting branches that are do bear fruit but that don’t bear enough fruit. Cutting these branches gives the tree more nutrients for the healthy branches.
It hurts to cut activities that bring in some sales but not many. Remember, your time on this earth is your most precious resource. Every minute you waste on ineffective strategies is time you can’t spend on more effective strategies. It is also time you can’t spend on writing your next book or visiting with your family.
Another way to think of it is like digging a ditch. Every minute you spend digging with your hands is a minute you are not digging with a shovel or with a backhoe. Just because you are making progress digging with your hands doesn’t mean you couldn’t make better progress doing something else.
Even though it hurts, cut the underperforming marketing efforts, and use the time to do something you know is effective.
Step 3: Invest
Once you cut ineffective activities, you have more time on your hands. Time is money, and we must invest it wisely.
Invest the time you’ve recovered in three powerful tools for growth.
Invest in Education
Ask any author why they don’t take a course, read a craft book, or listen to podcasts, and most of them will say they don’t have time. But now that you have “extra” hours each week spend some time becoming a better writer and author.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start with our course, The Five Year Plan to Becoming a Bestselling Author. This course walks you through exactly what you should be doing in each quarter of the year if you want to become a bestselling novelist.
Invest in Writing
The carpenter doesn’t just build the house. The house builds the carpenter. When you write more books, you become a better writer, especially if you also invest in reading books on craft and take courses to improve as you write.
Many authors simply need more practice to improve their writing. The skill of writing is like playing tennis or golf in that deliberate practice makes all the difference. There is no substitute. Even the best players have coaches to guide their deliberate practice.
If you write fiction, spend a lot of your time writing short stories. If you write nonfiction, practice writing excellent blog posts.
If you need a boost to get you going, start here:
Invest in Rest
The writing life is a marathon. It takes most authors ten or more years to find the success they hope for. The Five Year Plan cuts that marathon in half, but it is still five years of work. Keeping a sustainable pace to success means resting regularly.
Invest in things that recharge your batteries. Allow yourself to rest from writing. I rest from writing by spending time with my kids. I have a toddler and a baby, and they are so fun to play with right now. I always feel recharged after we play or go for a walk.
Believe it or not, you can often write more by resting more.
Step 4: Refine Your Time
One powerful time management principle is to make your work count for three pieces of content. For example, you can write a short story to help improve your craft, then use it as a lead magnet to help build your email list, and later publish it in an anthology.
If you write nonfiction, practice writing on your blog, educate your readers with the posts you write, and later compile your blog posts into a book.
My podcasts are turned into blog posts. If I turn those blog posts into a book, I get to triple-dip on the time I spend working on the podcast.
This is another advantage of producing substantive content over social media content. Social media pieces tend to only last for a moment. Like flatulence, they are here for only a moment. But substantive content can be evergreen and repurposed for years to come.
Study Time Management
Around the first of the year, I interview a productivity expert to talk about how best to use your time.
Here is a list of those episodes:
- 221 – New Years Productivity for Authors With Joanna Penn
- 170 – Your Best Year Yet With Susan May Warren
- 152 – How to Write 5000 Words an Hour with Chris Fox
- 117 – How to Plan a Successful New Year with Tracy Higley
We also have some other helpful productivity and time management episodes:
- 067 – How to Keep Your Inbox @ Zero And Have More Time to Write
- 094 – How to Use the Ancient Power of Discipline to Accomplish Your Goals
- 204 – Focus, Pruning and Why Novel Marketing is About to Change
- 233 – How to Build Your Platform During Your Social Distancing
These blog posts will help you with productivity:
- How To Create A Writing Schedule That Works For You
- Quit Wasting Time Now
- We have 50 more posts and episodes about productivity here
Step 5: Enjoy
Now you have implemented the previous four steps to reclaim your time and capitalize on the time you spend. Congratulations! Now you are wasting less time on ineffective marketing, but you’ll get similar, or even better, results.
If you cut the 80% of your time that is resulting in 20% of the results, and then double the amount of time you are spending on the critical 20%, you will increase your total marketing effectiveness by 60% while simultaneously having 60% more time to spend on what really matters.
The willingness to measure, prune, invest, and refine resources will separate successful authors from unsuccessful authors. You can burnout doing everything the hard way, or you can follow these steps and transform your writing career.
When I was a young man, I heard an old man give a sermon about how time was like a wheelbarrow full of gems. He said that when he was young he didn’t value his time, and he threw his gems willy-nilly along the side of the road. Now that he was old, he saw he only had a few left, and he wanted to use them wisely. He didn’t want to waste his few remaining precious stones.
That was the last sermon I ever heard him give. He died a short time later. The reality is, we have no idea how many gems we have left in our wheelbarrow. We could live a good long life, or COVID-19 could come for us soon. Since there is no way to know, all we can do is make the most of every moment. I hope you are better able to do that as you measure, prune, invest, refine, and enjoy your time.
I crafted this plan with bestselling and award-winning author James L. The Five Year Plan is a step-by-step guide for your writing career. Learn what to do in each quarter of the year to avoid the mistakes that hijack success for most authors. Set yourself up for success. Learn more at NovelMarketing.com/courses.
Yura sets out with her son Luke on an epic cross-country quest to win back her husband—and destroy the woman who stole his heart.
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This pandemic has shown me that books can be a powerful tool for good in times of crisis.
We live in Austin, TX, which is currently experiencing a COVID outbreak. Between the current lockdown, the original lockdown, and our fall quarantine with the new baby, my 20-month-old, Mercy, has spent the last seven or eight months in lockdown. She has only played with other toddlers on two or three occasions since Christmas. For one-third of her life, she’s had almost no contact with children her age.
I have noticed that the children’s books she wants me to read to her all have the same theme: friendship. She is a super social little girl, and she wants to have friends. But everyone is staying home right now.
My daughter learns about friendship through books. If she didn’t have all these children’s books, how would she learn about friendship? Hopefully, soon she can experience it in real life, but in the meantime, thank God for children’s books.
What is true about my toddler is true for a lot of adults, too. As people are locked down, the characters in your books may be their closest friends. Make sure you create characters who become friends worth spending time with.