In times of crisis, like the present pandemic, there’s a tendency to assume that everything from buying groceries to getting a publisher interested in your book proposal will be harder.
That people will be too distracted to care about you, or your book.
The reality is very different.
Many authors, self-published and traditionally published, have found that in tough times, they can not only continue promoting their books, but they can promote them more effectively.
It just takes a change of mindset to see the opportunity…
1. Cut Prices
In a crisis, many people adopt a cautious approach to everything, including spending. This makes sense as in times of uncertainty, the economy usually suffers. Also, people may not have the opportunity to spend as they normally do.
The present lockdown is a good example. It simply isn’t possible to shop normally, and as a result, consumer spending has shown its sharpest monthly drop on record.
Does this mean even if you promote your book as normal, you can expect 30% fewer sales?
Not necessarily. The key is not to promote your book ‘as normal’. Abnormal times calls for abnormal promotion!
In times of crisis, readers, like everyone else, are on the lookout for a bargain. By undercutting the competition, you could grab sales and new readers. It’s possible you’d make the same profit as before. Or even turn a greater profit by making up in a number of sales, what you lost in pricing your book lower.
For instance, if your book normally retails for $2.99 and you sell 50 books a month on Amazon Kindle, your profit will be $2.99 x 70% x 50 = $104.
If you reduce your price to $1.99 and sold 75 books, your profit would still be $104. Whereas if you sold 100 books, you would make an extra $35.
If you have several books, you can scale this up and see a real boost in your earnings.
2. Crank up Your Adverts
It seems counterintuitive to spend more money on advertising, but there’s an excellent reason for the saying ‘Fortune Favors the Bold’.
In times of crisis large companies, such as publishers, act cautiously, in much the same way as readers. With such large fixed overheads, they cut back on advertising budgets and book launches and try to ride the situation out.
Again, the current pandemic bears this out. Many corporations have laid off their workforce, but are still paying huge fixed overheads. In a situation like this, they have little choice but to save money wherever they can.
As an individual author, you are not restricted by such onerous overheads (although we all have certain fixed commitments). You also have the advantage that you can move faster than publishing houses who have to approve everything through focus groups and boardroom meetings.
By being bold, you can take advantage of this. For the same money, your ads will now have less competition and therefore should have a greater reach. And greater conversion.
For instance, in normal times if you examine online book clubs, there is often a raft of adverts promoting an author’s latest book. If there are normally 10 adverts in a particular genre, and they reach an audience of 1000, which converts at 10%, then each ad is competing for 100 sales.
Everything being equal, that’s 10 sales each.
Conversely, in troubled times, you may find only 5 ads. However, as the reader usually pays nothing to view those ads, there is still an audience of 1000, which now means each ad is still competing for 100 sakes.
Which means that is now 20 sales each.
Obviously, this is only an example. In reality, each ad wouldn’t get the same number of sales. However, if you combine the advice to crank up your adverts with the advice to cut your prices, you could take advantage of less competition and grab a greater percentage of sales than those ads that don’t offer a discounted price.
3. Concentrate on Ebooks and audiobooks
In the present emergency, ebook sales have seen a tremendous increase. Audiobooks are also on the rise. This makes sense in terms of the coronavirus crisis as people are in lockdown at home, looking for something to do.
But it’s deeper than this.
Not only are they looking for something to keep them occupied, but they’re also looking for something to let them escape the present crisis for a few hours. Something where they can forget the scary outside world, and books are the perfect answer.
But not all books.
Physical book sales have been badly affected, and in most extreme situations, this would be the same pattern. Not only because paperback and hardback books can spread disease, but because they are hard to print, distribute and buy if the country’s infrastructure is in disarray.
In contrast, ebooks are so much easier to produce and distribute. Most crucially, they are easier to buy. There’s no need to go down to your local bookshop or risk a courier turning up with a book that might have been handled by who knows how many people.
Just browse on your favorite ebook store, pay with one click and your new book is downloaded to your e-reader, phone or computer almost instantly.
The other significant advantage of ebooks is that they are not only easier to produce and distribute, but much cheaper. Which means, again, you can afford to cut prices more than with physical books.
4. Create a Community
Whenever there is a nationwide, or worldwide, crisis, people tend to respond by coming together. This is a wonderful human trait and one that, as an author, you can take advantage in a good way to promote your book.
In uncertain situations, people are looking to belong to something bigger than themselves. It gives them a sense of belonging – and security – that’s essential in turbulent times.
As an author, especially if your writing carries an important message, this allows you to grab the attention of people who might, in more normal circumstances, be too busy or distracted to notice.
By creating your own community on social media, for instance, you can create a captive audience to promote your book and its message.
Just remember to be genuine. If you believe in your book and its message, then building a community around it is helping others in difficult times. If you’re looking simply to promote your book without giving anything back to the community you’ve built, then that is unlikely to succeed.
5. Create a Freebie
Remember the first piece of advice in this article? Cut prices? Well, what’s better than discounted?
Even if you cut the price of your book, there will always be people who will hesitate to buy it, especially if times are hard.
If you give your book away for free, however, you will reach readers you’d never otherwise reach and in troublesome times, even more so. The other great advantage of the book being free is that it vastly increases the likelihood of people sharing it (assuming they liked it, of course). How much easier is it to recommend something if it’s free? And to pass it on.
The obvious objection to this strategy is that it might help you promote your book, but it won’t make you any money.
Actually, it can make you a lot of money.
Many successful authors give away their first book for free in a series, because they know, once the reader is hooked, they’ll come back for more – and be willing to pay for it. If you look on Amazon Kindle, you’ll see a lot of books that are permanently free, some from well-known authors. If you read any, you’ll find adverts for the authors other paid books, normally at the end.
But what if you only have one book?
Well, I’d recommend you start writing another Seriously, though, you can still make money by giving away your only book for free. Seth Godin, a famous marketer, actually set up a website and encouraged people to download and share his first book, Unleashing the Idea Virus, for free.
After hundreds of thousands of downloads, Seth Godin had the book traditionally published, and it went on to become a best seller.
In times of crisis, some people still thrive. And that includes writers.
To do that, you need to be creative, because extraordinary times call for extraordinary ideas.
And promoting your book is no different.
Be bold and remember the words of Albert Einstein: ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’
Rachael Cooper is the SEO & Publishing Manager for Jericho Writers, a writers services company based in the UK and US. Rachael has a Masters in eighteenth-century literature, and specialises in female sociability. In her free time she writes articles on her favourite eighteenth-century authors and, if all else fails, you can generally find her reading and drinking tea!