Beyond the Launch

Consistent Sales and Secondary Products for (Indie) Authors

Launches are so busy it’s hard to find time to market the book…and what do we do all the OTHER times?

When it comes to author marketing, two things are almost always at odds: that we have to market when we have a launch, and that we don’t know what to do when we don’t.

That means that the vast majority of the time authors don’t know what they should be doing with themselves when it comes to marketing. And then, when the time does come, they’re quite often in a panic because they feel unprepared.

Authors need a strategy to avoid this, and it exists in one word: consistency.

Why You Need Consistent Sales

This section might seem so obvious that it’ll be very short.

Of course you need consistent sales!

Next Question!

But that’s not the model that publishing has worked on for pretty much ever. The big splash has always been the launch and the first year after. After that, books are considered “backlist” and often go out of print.

The industry and the audience has often gone on to the next big thing.

But in the current world of ebooks and print on demand, this model is outdated, and if authors can continue to find new readers, their books can remain as relevant years after release as they were the first day they came out.

Authors also need to develop consistent sales if they want to have a sustainable career. Selling backlist and developing new secondary products are more important than ever if you want to make a living selling books.

What’s great is that this is easier than ever too.

Benefits of Long-Tail Sales for Books and Authors

Long-tail sales is a term that gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles. Basically it means that instead of selling a large number of a popular thing all at once (the must-read book of the summer!) you focus on selling a smaller number of a thing—in our case, books—over a longer period of time. The theory goes that you can be more profitable over the long term if you focus on long-tail strategies.

What that can mean for authors is that their marketing efforts can, and should, be done consistently, day in and day out, finding and creating those True Fans who, once they find your books, they’ll buy anything you write—or create.

This method should be much less stressful and much more in line with their experience as authors, since they’re used to a more grinding schedule when it comes to things like writing. If you sit down and do the work every day, the rewards will eventually come.

Using Launches to Supercharge Long-Tail Sales

Of course, to get those rewards you can’t just write one book. And you also have to overcome the natural entropy of lost readers who move on to different interests over time.

One of the key ways to do this is to take the audience you’ve been building with your content marketing and newsletter and social media and bring them to bear when it comes time to launch a new book—or secondary product.

This existing audience—who’s there not because you’re an author but you’re one of them—will help you make a splash during your launch. This is still something you want. You want to be seen by people at launch time. You want to show up in the Amazon algorithm. But your success isn’t based on that. This, itself, is a tool for long-tail, long term, sales.

When you launch, people are talking about you. They’re interested in you. The secret to success now is getting as many of them as you can into your ecosystem who weren’t there before. Then when you start serving them regularly, people who might just have been passively interested before slowly become True Fans.

And all that buzz you get—even if it isn’t huge—can be used as proof that you’re someone worth being interested in. Your books are worth reading. When it comes time to release your next book, you can pull this out and grow your success.

Using launches to amplify your audience building creates a feedback loop so that your next launch is bigger and, therefore, your audience grows by that much more each and every time you do it!

Strategies for Generating Long Term Sales

I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve constantly mentioned launching Secondary Products throughout this article. It’s always books and secondary products. “I’m a writer!” you say, “Can’t I just sell books!”

Sure! How many can you write a year?

What’s easier, honestly, is generating new products based on your books. It’s no different than creating social media content from an article. All you have to know is what your audience is interested in and give them that.

You’ll learn people’s favorite characters from what they say during a launch. Do they have a catch phrase? Put it on a tee shirt or a coffee cup. Sell art posters of your amazing cover art! In fact, design a cover that’s intended to be something people might want to buy as an art object. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I’ve written extensively already about things like content marketing and community building. These are also core, key ways to generate long term sales.

In the end, you’re looking to do two different things:

  1. Bring a few new people into your world (your website, newsletter, social media) every day, week, or month.
  2. Create products so that those people eventually buy one of everything you create.

Identifying Opportunities for Secondary Products

So, now that I’m no longer ahead of myself, it’s time to discuss one of the most asked questions I get from authors when I talk about secondary products: “How do I know what to create?” This is followed closely by, “I don’t know how to do that.”

I’m going to dispense with the last one first so we can get down to business, so to speak. Not knowing how to do something isn’t a reason for not doing it. Once upon a time you didn’t know how to write a book. You didn’t know how to type. There are lots of things you don’t know. How to sell products online might now be one of those things. The great news is that there are no end of people and companies and services out there to make this easier. You can learn it. It’s actually easier than the first question.

The good news with regard to the first question is that you can simply follow your own interests. Sometimes these really are beyond our abilities and we find ourselves dreaming way beyond what’s possible for us right now. But this is a good thing. It means we’re looking.

So the challenge is to look at our books and see what’s in them that you find interesting. Make a list of them. It could be a character, a style, a theme. Anything.

This is where some of those tools come in handy I mentioned earlier. Companies like Printify can make a lot of different products for you. Can you match those up with things you found interesting?

Start simple and go from there. Maybe you start with coffee cups and T-shirts. That’s what we did. Then we branched out to jewelry. Tea. Items mentioned in our stories. And we recently got in custom designed hand bags made in limited editions inspired by a character’s style and unique needs.

In the end, I can’t actually tell you what secondary products you can or should create. But I want to get you thinking about what’s possible and dreaming about what your audience might want.

Setting Long Term Goals and Measuring Success

In the end, consistency is about looking out to the future and knowing what you want to happen months or even years from now.

How many fans I you need to find each month to have a sustainable career within three years?

How many books can I write in that time?

How many products can I create that would be of enough interest to my readers that they’ll buy them?

How many books do I need to sell during a launch to keep things growing? How many new people should be joining my mailing list during that time?

Answering all of these questions starts to create a roadmap for what you need to do to be successful. These answers will tell you if you need to write more articles for your content marketing or if they’re out-preforming your expectations.

Write down your goals and expectations and make sure you’re doing your part to actually deliver the part that depends on you. The rest is up to your audience, so you need to make sure you’re giving them something they want to be a part of over the long term.

Embracing Realism in Your Expectations

The nature of long-tail marketing is that it’s a bit of a slog. It isn’t as shiny or fun as launch time. It has peaks and troughs. This is the natural rhythm of marketing.

Consistency is key to…not ignoring this rhythm, exactly. More like moving through it. Your consistency is what matters, not the ups and downs. If you show up every day for your audience and do the work of serving them, then each peak should be just a little bit higher and each trough not quite as low as the last one.

And there will probably be setbacks where you didn’t do as well as you wanted. This too is natural. Consistency gets you through this too. When you know that doing the work gets you the life you want, nothing gets in the way of doing that work.

And when you’re focused on service above all, those down times are a little less sad and those mountaintop experiences are just a little bit sweeter.

Because your fans are with you.