Ricardo Fayet, the head of marketing and one of the founders of Reedsy, joins us on the podcast this week to discuss his book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market. Ricardo uses his wealth of marketing experience to give advice and share some best practices for finding your target audience, finding readers on different retailers, and converting page views to book sales.
- Ricardo tells us about his time at Reedsy as the head of marketing, what services Reedsy offers authors, and he tells us about his book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market
- He explains what steps authors can take to confidently release their book into the seemingly crowded market of digital publishing
- Ricardo gives some advice on what fundamental things authors should consider when marketing their book, including narrowing down their target audience and making sure the book’s content and metadata is geared towards this audience
- He talks about the benefits of releasing directly to different retailers and how to optimize your metadata to reach your target audience on different platforms
- Ricardo explains the concept of conversion and what steps authors can take to convert more page views into book sales, and he also gives some advice on marketing your backlist, utilizing box sets, and using different social media platforms to reach readers
- Ricardo gives us his predictions for the future of publishing including the continued growth of the audio and non-English markets, and he tells us how the pandemic has caused growth in the indie publishing industry
Reedsy co-founder by day. By night: book marketing consultant specializing in promoting commercial fiction series through Fb/BB/Amazon ads.
Transcription provided by SpeechPad
Stephanie: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Stephanie.
Joni: And I’m Joni.
Stephanie: So, this week on the podcast we are talking to Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy, about the latest book that he released “How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market.”
Joni: This was a great interview, as Ricardo is an expert on marketing, and not just marketing, not just getting people to look at your book, but also getting those interested readers to follow through and actually purchase your book. So, he talks a lot about conversion, he talks about strategies, and essentially making your book stand out among the huge catalog of digital materials available to readers today.
Stephanie: So, it’s a jam-packed, informative episode, and please keep listening. Thank you, Ricardo, for joining us on the podcast today.
Ricardo: Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Stephanie: So, you’ve been on the podcast before but just as a refresher, can you tell our listeners a bit about yourself and what you do?
Ricardo: Yeah, sure. I don’t know if it’s my first…my second or third time. I’m one of the four founders of Reedsy. Essentially, it’s a marketplace connecting authors with the best publishing talent out there, from editors, proofreaders, cover designers, book marketers, literary translators, people like that. Then I head marketing in Reedsy, so basically I’ve been working closely with a lot of authors over the years to help them release their books, plan the launches. And I’ve had the chance of working one on one as well, in my spare time, with a few authors, mostly commercial fiction series writers. And yeah, this led me to writing the first Reedsy book, kind of, focused on book marketing, because that’s what I had knowledge on. And it’s a collection of newsletters that I’ve been sending out over the years, which was a great way to write a book without having to put time aside to write a book, basically.
Joni: So, the full title of your book is “How to Market a Book and Overperform in a Crowded Market.” That is, I think, really intimidating for new, especially new authors. How does an author get past the idea that there’s so many books out there, that marketing almost feels overwhelming?
Ricardo: Yeah, definitely we wanted to play that angle a little bit, because it’s the fear that we see most prevalent out there, as you pointed out. I think the easiest way to overcome that fear is just to take a look at the kind of books that are out there. If you start, you know, going down the pages, you run a search on Kobo or any retailer and you start going through the pages, you’re gonna see some pretty bad titles on there, in terms of like cover or formatting, etc. So, that’s going to really reassure you that there’s a good 80% of the books out there that are just not necessarily published by authors pursuing a full-time career or pursuing to make a profit out of the writing. The great thing about self-publishing is that it’s enabled a lot of hobby writers, and I think that’s great. And we get a lot of hobby writers at Reedsy and I fully support that. It’s like the passion economy, as we call it. And if you’re in that case, then I don’t know why you’re listening to podcast. Now, if you’re in that case, yeah, that’s great, this book is not necessarily for you. But if you’re trying to make a living out of writing your books, then the book is definitely for you. And I think there are not that many authors out there compared to the big picture, who are trying to do that. So, the competition is already a lot more narrow. And then there are a lot of resources out there, there’s my book, we have free courses on Reedsy Learning, there’s this podcast, Kobo has a ton of resources as well. So, you’ve just got to…if you take the time to dig into book marketing, and you approach it without fear, without seeing it as, like, a horrible thing, like, I’m gonna have to shove my book down the readers’ throats, if you basically change your mindset a little bit and start learning about marketing, then you’re already ahead of 99% of all the writers. So, that’s kind of the message we tried to convey in the book.
Stephanie: So, for an author, what are some of the most fundamental things that they should know about marketing or things they should consider?
Ricardo: Sure. So, I think the first fundamental is knowing your target market, and having what I call a book market fit. You know, there’s this notion in writer marketing of product-market fit, of having the right product for the right market. In the book industry, it can be, you know, just having the right book for the right market. In a lot of cases, I think that’s the number one thing that authors don’t figure out in time, it’s like, who are they going to try to sell this book to. A lot of authors, they write a book because they have this urge to write, they have the story in their head, they have these characters that take their life of their own, this plot that develops, and you can end up with a book that has elements of mystery, and elements of romance, and the characters are teens, so it’s some kind of YA romance mystery. But the problem is that that is not a genre, and that is…YA is a target market, but it’s a huge target market, it’s everyone who’s YA.
So, the first thing you need to do and I think that has to happen, actually, before you start writing or while you’re in early stages of writing, is really figure out, okay, who is this book going to be for? The readers who are going to be interested in this kind of book, what other authors do they read? When they’re on bookstores, what search terms do they use to find books similar to mine? If I’ve written an epic fantasy, that maybe they’re going to search, you know, for epic fantasy, look through the epic fantasy categories, either dragons, maybe they’re going to look like epic fantasy with dragons. So, try to pinpoint a little bit the exact target market. And if you find out that your book has a lot of this and that, then it means you probably need to refocus the writing, the book itself, the plot, towards something that’s a lot more specific. If you’re pitching in your head, the book, as like YA with a bit of romance and mystery, then it’s too big. You need to define what the main conflict of your book is. Is the main conflict driven by the romantic relationship, or is it driven by the mystery elements and the whodunit? And based on that, you really pinpoint your book to your market.
So, first knowing the market and then adopting your book, unless you’ve already started writing it to your market, as you probably should. If you haven’t, then probably reworking or adopting your book, so it fits neatly into a category. And that’s something that a lot of authors don’t want to hear because again, there’s this romantic ideal that you’re going to write the book that you have in you, and it’s just going to appeal to everyone out there, but that’s an ideal, and that’s very bad marketing advice. You should write something for a specific sub-segment of the market, people who are going to love this kind of book and this kind of book, and write it for them. And then if it becomes popular enough with that little segment, then they’re going to tell their friends about it, and it might blow up. You know, Harry Potter, everyone talks about Harry Potter being, you know, read by everyone, one of the most sold books, but at its core, Harry Potter is middle grade fantasy. And it started being read by children in middle grade, who enjoyed fantasy, and then their parents picked it up, and they enjoyed it as well, and it blew up from there. But you need to start with a very small target market in mind, and then write the best book possible for that target market, which probably involves doing a bunch of research and reading books that are aimed at the market.
Joni: How much do you think that authors should be tailoring their marketing towards different retailers? Because I think that readers and purchasers behave differently across all the different retailers. What’s the best way for an author to navigate that?
Ricardo: Yeah, that’s a tough one because at the end of the day, there are quite a few major retailers. And they all operate in a similar way, but it’s true that they attract slightly different crowds, slightly different demographics. So, I mentioned that you have to do a lot of research to write the right book for your genre. And you have to do a lot of research as well of the retailers, unfortunately. There’s a lot of research involved in marketing. It’s actually most of marketing is just research and setting up your metadata correctly. So, I have several chapters in the book dedicated to each of the major retailers. It’s at Barnes & Noble, but I’ll write that one in, in the next edition. And in those chapters, I basically…I give some tips, but I also do sort of a live analysis of the store. And if you’re writing a book and you say, “Okay, I think I want to see how I can make my book more prominent on Kobo,” then the first thing I’d encourage you to do is go on the Kobo websites, your country website, or the Canadian website of Kobo, which is probably where most of your Kobo market is going to be. And start searching for books on there, see how the search works, see how the categories work, see what kind of sections are featured. Kobo has very…has a lot of human curation in it, so you might need to find a way to get your book seen by the editorial team, by the curation team, in which case, you might want to go to conferences, and meet Kobo reps.
So, you can draw all these conclusions by reading those chapters of the book and then going on to different stores and analyzing them in the same way. And that can tell you a lot about each store. The issue is, and I found this myself, when you use an aggregator, like, Draft2Digital, you have less control over each bit of the metadata. So, I’d say, if you think that you’re going to get strong sales in one of the stores, then probably go direct. If you definitely want to focus on Kobo, upload direct to Kobo, because you’re gonna have more control over your metadata, you’ll be able to format your word better and metadata plays a vital…is a vital factor in search on the stores.
Stephanie: I feel like metadata is often overlooked by people because they don’t think it’s as important. But we’ve talked to an author in the past who…she didn’t run any ads, and she just changed her metadata for all her books and the sales…did they increase, Joni, or was it…?
Joni: Yeah, her sales skyrocketed, I believe. Which episode was that? We need to add a link.
Stephanie: Gail Carriger.
Stephanie: Yes. So, you talked about conversion in your book, which I thought was an interesting chapter. I’m just wondering if you could kind of explain what conversion is for anyone who isn’t familiar, and then anything that’s kind of surprising, you’ve learned about it? You kind of briefly talked about it in terms of metadata, but if we can just go a little further.
Ricardo: Yeah, for sure. I think conversion is definitely overlooked because a lot of authors when they’re thinking about marketing, they’re thinking about how can I get this book seen by as many people as possible. Because generally, once you publish a book, and a few people start reading it, you’re going to get good feedback about it. Like, most of the feedback you’re going to get about is good unless you have, like, blatant problems with the book. But generally, I’ll have authors come to me and say, “I just need this book to get seen by people because once they see it and they read, they love it.” First, that’s questionable, because again, most of the feedback you’re gonna get about your book is positive. You’re rarely going to have an email telling you how bad your book was, and how much that person hated it. But that’s kind of missing the point of the conversion because getting your book seen by as many people as possible is half the picture of marketing.
One of the basic marketing principles is in order to get a sale, you need a customer to view your product. That’s step one, it’s again what we call traffic. And then step two is once they viewed your product, they’re interested enough to buy it. That’s what we call the conversion, going from seeing the book to buying it. That’s half the picture. And it’s actually more important because you can start running Facebook ads, or BookBub Ads, or do price promotions and book newsletters, and I don’t know, bring 5,000 people to your book on Kobo, if 0 of these people buy it, you just spent a bunch of money for nothing. You could have brought five people to it and you would have had the same result. If you tweak your page, your Kobo page, so that it attracts people a little bit more, maybe you’re just gonna have to bring five people to it to sell a copy. And that will already be a better performance than your previous one. And that’s why for me conversion is a lot more important because first, it’s free. It’s all about optimizing your book page, optimizing your cover, if we get into the details, your title, your blurb, your metadata, as we talked about, the categories you’re in. But I really think cover and blurb, and title for nonfiction, are the most important things. You can also optimize your first few pages of the book, the kind of look inside. But yeah, cover and blurb.
Small changes on the cover, on the blurb, or big changes on the cover and blurb can have massive effects because as I said, if you get 10 people who visit your book every day, and only one of them buys it, you’re getting 30 sales a month. If suddenly 3 people buy your book out of the 10 we see everyday, you’re getting 90 sales a month. So, as soon as you start doing the math, a change in conversion has exponential…has an exponential impact on your sales. And some retailers, I don’t know if it’s the case with Kobo, I haven’t figured this out yet, but other retailers, like Amazon, they place a very strong emphasis on conversion. So, if they see that a book is converting very well, then they’re going to want to show that book more because at the end of the day, what retailers want to do is sell books. They just want to sell books. So, if they see that it takes 100 people to sell 1 copy, they’re not going to want to show that book to people, because it’s just going to be wasted pageviews, basically. If they see that every 10 page views a book has, it sells 1 copy, then they might, you know, want to push that book. And if they see that this book has 30% conversion, which is crazy, obviously, but who knows, like 1 out of 3 people who see the book, they buy it, they just want…gonna want to push that book like crazy because they’re going to get a bunch of sales out of it. So, that’s why conversion is even more important than traffic, and it can actually hurt you to send a bunch of traffic to a retailer and not have it convert because that retailer is just gonna shut down your book and say, “I’m not going to show it to anyone.”
Joni: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Do you have any tips for authors who are looking to market backlist titles?
Ricardo: Yeah, backlist is always tougher. Backlist can be sold…first, backlist can be sold through frontlist, you know, making sure that you have all your links at the end of your books, that you update your books regularly. With the backlist, you update your email autoresponders with the backlist in there. You make sure you have it in your website. So, all these kind of passive, organic, free options are generally the best way to get a trickle or sales to your backlist by actively marketing your frontlist, which is what you should spend most of your marketing time on. Now, I’ve worked with quite a few authors to revive their backlist, and generally, we’ve done that through Facebook ads, sent at various retailers. Amazon and Kobo were generally pretty well for that. And there, it always depends on conversion. With some backlists, we’re able…if the books convert well, on the ads, then we just keep the ads going, and those books sell maybe 100, 200 copies every month, with positive ROI on the ad. So, there you go, a backlist that’s alive and brings people into your readership, and hopefully discovers your frontlist as well. In some cases, it’s harder to get the conversion, so you spend a bunch of…on ads, you get good clicks and good cost per click, but people don’t necessarily buy those backlist titles.
In that case, you might want to revisit again, cover, blurb. Cover trends tend to change every 5, 10 years, so you might want to get new covers done. That’s a great way to revive the backlist as well. You can also announce the covers to your readership saying, “Hey, I got new covers, what do you think?” And if those in your mailing list who didn’t know about these books, might want to buy them. But the most powerful thing I’ve done is grouping books into box sets. So, for a backlist series, putting the first 3 books in a box set and putting that box at $0.99. And when everything else fails, that tends to work really well. And if you’ve got good read-through in that series, then it’s golden. You’re not going to make your money back on that box set sale, though in some cases, we managed to do that but with read-through, you definitely make that money back. So, yeah, try that. Try just running some Facebook ads to backlists. If it doesn’t work, reoptimize the metadata, cover, blurb. And if that doesn’t work, try the box set trick and see how that goes.
Joni: I feel like this is a good time to mention because we didn’t talk about in this episode when you did another episode that was all about Reedsy. But for anyone listening that’s unfamiliar with Reedsy, you offer a lot of those services through Reedsy. Would you mind giving us a quick recap of everything that Reedsy helps authors with?
Ricardo: Yeah, absolutely. Always happy to do that. So, on Reedsy, you can basically find any professional, any publishing professional that you might need at any point, in your career. So, editors, developmental editors, proofreaders, cover designers. Talking about conversion, if you need a new cover designer or you want to try a new cover design, then go to Reedsy, we’ve got a bunch of vetted cover designers. If you want someone to run your ads, we have a few ad specialists on Reedsy as well. They tend to be booked long in advance and generally not be that available but try your luck. You never know. And because it’s really hard to find people who are good at this kind of things and want to do them. I mean, the main specificity of Reedsy is that we don’t just allow anyone on our marketplace. We’re very, very selective, and we accept less than 3% of profiles who apply to be on there, whether it’s editors, designers, marketers, literary translators, people like that. So, you’re sure you’re going to get good quality people. They’re not gonna necessarily going to be cheap, and sometimes they’re going to be super busy because…and not available because they are good freelancers. But again, try your luck. Finding someone to run your ads for you or do your marketing is the hardest thing but there are some options on Reedsy. For covers, it’s super easy. For blurbs, we have that in the marketing section as well. We’ve got quite a few blurb copywriters as well. So, these are all services that you can basically find on there.
Stephanie: I’ve noticed over the past couple months that I’ve seen book ads on TikTok and Instagram, which is something I hadn’t really seen before. And I’m wondering, are those platforms you’ve explored before? Is that something that’s kind of new and you haven’t really looked into? Or if you have an opinion on them?
Ricardo: Yeah, I haven’t looked into TikTok at all. I think it’s a very specific demographic, so you’d have to make sure your books will appeal to that demographic. Instagram is a lot broader. I think there might be some blog posts still out there saying that Instagram, you know, is for YA, or…but really, I think it’s a much older demographic now, Instagram. Case in point being that I use Instagram on a daily basis. So, yeah, I’m definitely not YA. So, yeah, Instagram, definitely, mostly because you run those ads through Facebook. So, Facebook Ads Manager. So every time I set up ads on Facebook, I include Instagram as well, and I see which of the two platforms works best. I generally leave ads running on both because you had slightly different demographics, slightly different people, and you basically get more reach. For your ads, and if you leave Facebook to auto-optimize, which is what I always recommend, then they’re very quickly going to figure out which platform works best. If it’s Facebook, they’re just going to spend 99% of your budget on Facebook.
So, yeah, definitely Instagram. TikTok, no experience. I recently joined Clubhouse, and I think… Yeah, any new social media that seems interesting to you, is a great opportunity for you to get kind of organic visibility on it. I see some authors who are the first ones to join Clubhouse, and they host, you know, rooms, or clubs, or whatever they’re called on that topic, on the topic of their book, and they get a few people in there. And generally, when social media platforms are new, there’s a much higher level of trust, for some reason, probably because there are less trolls in there. So, people are more open to bring you on stage, interacting with you. So, any new platform is always a good opportunity. But, of course, you need to have the will and to go on there and also feel comfortable. If it makes you want to crawl back into your skin, the idea of going live on Clubhouse, then definitely don’t do it because you’re not going to come across as, you know, personable, or approachable, or anything like that. I always say for social media and kind of organic marketing, so non-advertising, you should really only do what you feel comfortable in because that’s probably going to bring in the best results.
Joni: So, we will not see Reedsy on TikTok?
Ricardo: No, I mean, there’s a larger Reedsy team, you never know. But you will not see me on TikTok.
Stephanie: So, we have the tough question of where do you see publishing in the next 5 to 10 years or what do you hope to see maybe?
Ricardo: Yeah, I think probably a lot of people say this, but I see audio growing, mostly because it’s been growing a lot in the past few years. And I don’t think it’s going to stop, especially post-pandemic, hopefully. If such a time ever comes, people are going to go back to, you know, driving more, commuting, etc. So, audiobooks are going to rise even more again. The great thing was audio is one, though, and the reason why I hope it keeps growing is that it’s a much more balanced market, you know, there’s not one player dominating it. As there is for ebooks, a lot of great initiatives coming from Google, from Apple, from wide retailers, subscription services in Europe. So, yeah, as I said, much more varied, a lot more options, a great way…like Findaway to co-production and distribution and a bit of marketing. So, I definitely see audio growing, both as a whole and as an opportunity for authors to build a sustainable career and diversify their income streams.
Joni: I’m interested. I don’t know whether you’d have this knowledge off the top of your head, but one year into the pandemic, I just wonder if you’ve noticed an increase of authors coming to you for services? Like, have there been a noticeable increase of people that maybe spent this time writing?
Ricardo: Yeah, huge. I mean, Reedsy is a bit earlier in the fall in that you’re going to hire an editor before you go publish in Kobo, right?
Ricardo: We saw a huge increase in May and June. And I attribute that to, you know, the passion economy. People are stuck at home, they’ve got this book that that sits in a drawer, I might as well take it out of the drawer and send it to an editor and see what happens. You know, maybe they’ll like it, maybe they don’t. If I get good feedback, I can rework it, and hopefully, you know, I can send it to an agent, or I can self-publish it afterwards. So, there was this first wave of people who already had this book started, and they thought, “Okay, now I have the time to really commit to self-publishing.” There are also quite a few people we saw who were looking to make a career out of writing, you know. They don’t necessarily have a job anymore, and they thought, “Hey, I like writing, so I’m going to try to make a living self-publishing.” It’s definitely not the easiest way to make a living, that’s what I tell everyone who comes to me saying, “I want to make a living self-publishing,” but if you have this passion to write, then it’s a great way to use that passion to make a living. It’s definitely not impossible, it’s just not an easy way, let’s say. And now we’re seeing even more growth probably coming from the people who wrote the book during the first lockdown.
So, we’re seeing a lot of growth on Reedsy, a lot more…a lot more books coming to the market, which might seem like a negative thing for authors trying to get visibility out there, but at the same time, there’s been growth in sales all over the globe, and especially in international markets, which was going to be my next point, in terms of like, where I see the industry a few years from now. There’s been crazy growth, and I think Kobo can probably talk more about that, in France, Spain, Germany, all these countries have reported higher eBook sales, because again, people were inside, couldn’t go to their favorite bookstores. And these are very traditional countries where people when they want to buy a book, they go to the bookstore. So, if they can’t do that, then they start looking into e-reading devices, or they even dig up that old e-reader device that their friends gave them on Christmas, three years ago, and that they get out, you know, out of their wardrobe, and they open it up and they say, “Ah, actually I can read on this thing,” and they start buying some books. I’ve had some cases like that in my family. So, definitely a big growth in international markets, great opportunity for translation because as these people go digital, these readers go digital, then you can reach them. When they were only buying from the bookstores, it’s much harder to reach them as a self-published, self-trans…not self-translated, but as a translated self-published author. But if they buy from Kobo or from other e-retailers, then it becomes a lot easier to reach them. So, yeah, great opportunity for translation and for global markets.
Joni: That’s great to know. I was interested in how this was going to change the industry because like you’ve said, the pandemic did lead people to read a lot more, and we’ve been wondering when we’ll start seeing all of those pandemic manuscripts coming out. So, yeah, that’s exciting. And then we always like to finish with our favorite question, which is what have you been loving lately? It can be a book, a TV show, a podcast, anything you’ve been enjoying?
Ricardo: Yeah, I’ve been reading “The Wheel of Time,” and I enjoy that. But I decided to read it in German to keep my German fresh and that makes it less enjoyable especially because they’re very long books. So, I’m not going to say that. No, I recently watched “Westworld.” I’d watched the first two seasons on HBO before and I really liked the first one. I think it was a big sensation when the first one came out. A lot of people watched it. Then the second one was kind of a little bit too complicated for my liking. And I was really pleasantly surprised by the third one. I’d given up on the show and I…maybe I’m the only one but, yeah, I think if you were a bit disappointed by the second one and haven’t watched the third one, give it a try. Completely…it’s still the same concept, obviously, but very different setting and world, so worth a watch.
Stephanie: I was debating because I heard all the negative feedback for Season 2, So, I was like, whatever, I’ll skip it, but now that three is good, maybe I need to reconsider my thought process.
Ricardo: Yeah. You can sit through Season 2. It’s not terrible, it’s just that, yeah, there are some points, where you’re like, “Oh, come on, another plot twist.”
Stephanie: All right. Okay, I’ll put it on my list again, I’ll move it back up. And then our final question is, where can listeners pick up your book?
Ricardo: Any e-retailer over the world, just search for “How to Market a Book” on there. And thanks to my super powerful metadata and search engine optimization, you should find the book, and if you don’t, then I didn’t do my job correctly, and you shouldn’t buy the book. But yeah, “How to Market a Book” by Ricardo Fayet, just search that on any e-retailer and you’ll find it.
Joni: Perfect. Thank you.
Stephanie: If people want to contact you, where can they find you? If they can go to the Reedsy website, or do you have social media they can contact you directly at?
Ricardo: Yeah, you can search Ricardo Fayet on social media, either on Twitter or Facebook. Go to the Reedsy website, reedsy.com. And my email address is very simple to guess. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. So, feel free to use that whenever you want with questions about marketing, about your books, about “Westworld,” anything you want, always happy to answer.
Stephanie: Perfect. Thank you for talking to us today.
Ricardo: Thanks for having me.
Joni: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in getting Ricardo’s book, it is available for free on Kobo, and we will include the link in our show notes.
Stephanie: This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath and Joni Di Placido. This episode was edited by Kelly Robotham, music was provided by Tearjerker, production assistance provided by Rachel Wharton, and special thanks to Ricardo for being a guest on our episode.
Joni: If you’re ready to start your publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife.
Stephanie: Until next time, happy writing.