Book launch coach Sue Campbell joins us on the podcast this week to share her best advice for finding your niche as an author and reaching your ideal reader. Sue tells us about the proven framework she uses to build marketing plans, she explains why approaching marketing with a positive mindset can make a huge difference in your marketing success, and she tells us how to find and pitch your work to influencers.
- Sue tells us how she got started in the book marketing industry and how creating marketing plans for her own work as an author helped spark this career
- She explains the foundation and framework authors should use when taking their first steps toward launching their book, how to create your reader persona, and why your email list is your most important marketing tool
- In addition to book marketing, Sue is a children’s book author and she shares specific tips for marketing children’s books, including utilizing the digital version of your children’s book to drive print sales, and she explains why honing in on your target market for children’s books is a more layered task
- Sue discusses the “ideal reader” and how creating and inhabiting this persona can help you reach your intended audience
- She talks to us about influencers, explaining who exactly qualifies as an influencer, and she gives some great advice on how to find the right influencers for your books and how to pitch your work to them
- Sue discusses the difference between her approach when launching a new book versus relaunching a backlist title, and she shares her tips on how to best market titles that fall later in an ongoing series
As founder of Pages & Platforms, Sue Campbell is the mindset and book marketing coach writers look to when they are ready to honor their dreams, address the negative stories they’re telling themselves, and share their work with their ideal readers to maximize the impact of their words.
Sue has helped hundreds of writers, from newbies to bestsellers, transform their inhibitive mindset around marketing and realize their full potential as authors. Her clients have exponentially increased their email lists and book sales, landed articles in prestigious publications such as The New York Times, done guest spots on popular podcasts and more.
Sue understands the world would be a better place if more people lived their creativity.
Transcription provided by Speechpad
Joni: 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 Joni, author engagement specialist at Kobo Writing Life.
Rachel: And I’m Rachel, author engagement coordinator at Kobo Writing Life. On today’s episode, Joni and Shayna spoke to Sue Campbell, who is a book launch coach. Sue helps authors spend their limited time and resources wisely to give their books the best chance they have when they’re released.
Joni: It was a really interesting interview, I learned a lot from this. One of the things that we focused on the most was finding your niche as an author and finding the audience, who you want to sell your book to. So it was super useful, learned a lot. Really excited to share this interview, and we hope you enjoy it.
Joni: So we’re here today with book launch coach, Sue Campbell, who has worked with best-selling and award-winning authors, traditional and independently published. Thank you so much for joining us, Sue.
Sue: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure, Joni, thanks for having me.
Joni: Could you start by telling our audience a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Sue: Sure. So I’m a book launch coach, but I actually usually call myself a book marketing and mindset coach. Because I find that the first thing that we have to tackle when we do our marketing is our own mindset around marketing. A lot of us bring, sort of, our own worst examples to the word ‘marketing’ and we have to unpack a lot of that before we can comfortably move ahead. So I work with authors of all stripes, on all levels, to help them unpack all of that mindset stuff, and then use a proven framework that can actually help them move the needle on book sales and grow their author platform, not just for one book, but for, you know, every other book that you write after this as well.
Shayna: You were talking to us when you sent us an explanation of what you do you talked about influencers and how someone who’s trying to launch a book should focus on influencers. So can you explain what an influencer is? I think a lot of people use this word. You hear the word in the media a lot. But of course, depending on which field you’re talking about, it could be vastly different things. And is an influencer the same as a bookstagramer?
Sue: Oh, okay. So great question. I think a lot of people when they hear the word ‘influencer,’ they just think like millennials, who are selling clothing on Instagram. So influencer, very broadly, is anyone who has access to an audience and can give you access to that audience, period. So, therefore, we can define an influencer that way, and then we can see examples of influencers. Librarian is an influencer. So someone who works at a bookstore is an influencer. Someone who schedules radio interviews for your local station is an influencer. Podcasters are influencers. Other authors are influencers, right. We wanna think outside the box.
A lot of people will get hung up on one definition of who they should be sort of reaching out to, to get in touch with to pitch their book, and it really limits your possibilities. But when you think of it in terms of, all right, who is my ideal reader? And who has already built an audience full of that type of person? Those are the kinds of influencers that you want to find.
Joni: Oh, I’m glad that you explained that because actually, I hadn’t thought about it in such broad terms. And particularly with regards to librarians. Like, I think that that’s like a field that we forget about, but librarians have so much influence over what people are reading.
Joni: And can you tell us how did you get into this work?
Sue: Well, I have had many careers…or jobs at least, and a couple of careers. I was a business systems analyst for a local government here in Oregon and had this moment where I was like, “How did I get here? I did not intend to do this at all. I always intended to be a writer.” And so I started to pivot very slowly and very carefully and started freelance writing. And from there started content marketing. So I wrote both for magazines and websites, as well as for companies.
And so I got into this content marketing space. And then I was writing my own novel on the side. I have a novel for middle-grade readers it’s called “The Cat, the Cash, the Leap, and the List.” And when that book was finishing up, I was like, “Oh,” just like a lot of authors. “Now I have to think about marketing, right,” not knowing that I should have been thinking about marketing all along while I was writing it. But at a certain point, every author says, “Oh, I really need to be thinking about marketing.”
And I was an avid fan of a podcast called “Story Grid,” and the co-host of the “Story Grid Podcast,” I found out, had a job where he was a book marketer. So I started following his email list and learning about what he did. And I saw all the parallels between the content marketing that I was doing and the type of book marketing that he was advocating and teaching to people. And I thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be so fun to do this content marketing for books, which I love, rather than banks and spectroscopy companies,” right. And I love my clients, but my passion is really books and stories.
So, Tim, his name is Tim Grahl. And he offered training to train other people in what he did as book marketers. So I flew to Nashville, consumed everything he’d ever done, every, you know, course he’d ever made, and then flew to Nashville and trained with him personally. And it’s been, you know, off to the races ever since, I have the best job ever, right? Everything that I do is about books, helping books get out into the world and writing my own books as well.
Shayna: Okay, so why don’t we talk then about what I’m sure the authors want to know, who signed in for this podcast is, how do I launch my book? How do I market my book? As an introduction, you know, like, what are the steps that an author should take or maybe the first steps that they should take? How far in advance should they start? Like all this information.
Sue: Yes. Okay. So great question. And I love that you’re like, what are the steps, right? Because often what happens is, right, we’ll go on Google and we’ll start googling ‘book marketing.’ And we get this sort of vast array of tactics. And we have no idea if anyone has any data behind whether these work or not. And we think that everything we read is something that we absolutely have to do. So what I always encourage writers to do is stop, back up, and let’s look at a framework that we can use that will help you evaluate all the tactics out there.
So my framework…Tim taught me one framework, and it’s sort of evolved over time as I used it myself. And what I always want writers to start with is, let’s please think about your ideal reader. So you can start marketing, as soon as you know what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind of reader would like that story before your book ever comes out. It can be two years lead time, fantastic. As soon as you know exactly what kind of story you’re telling, and the reader who would like that story, you can begin serving those types of readers in certain types of ways that will build your audience so they will be waiting for your book.
Now, that’s not to say if your book comes out next month, you know, you’re up the creek, you’re not at all, but the earlier you can start, the better. Always start focused on your ideal reader. Once we have the ideal reader in place, we need to work on our mindset, right. We’re gonna be doing marketing, so we have to make sure we’re really clear on the value that we’re putting out into the world. If all writers stopped writing, tomorrow, the world would be in great big trouble, right? We can’t come from this shameful place of, “Who’s gonna care about my book? This isn’t important,” right, this closed-off place. By the simple act of writing a book you are doing something virtuous and something that is valuable to the world. And as long as you are offering that to your ideal reader, it can feel really good, right, you can feel really, really good about it.
Marketing starts to feel yucky when you’re pushing something on someone who has no need for it and doesn’t want it, right. I say if you’re writing children’s books, and you’re trying to get this 37-year-old guy who doesn’t have any kids and doesn’t even have any nieces and nephews to buy it, that’s gonna feel bad to both of you, right? But if you find the ideal parent and the ideal kid for that children’s book, and you’re like, “Oh, you like dinosaurs? Oh, my, gosh, I spent three years researching my book and it’s all about dinosaurs,” right. That is such a natural match, you can feel really, really good about it.
So we have a reader persona, so far, find your ideal reader. And then we have, work on your mindset, make sure that you’re gonna go out with good energy. When you bring really hesitant reluctant energy to marketing, it doesn’t work very well.
Then we get into the nuts and bolts where your number one goal for your marketing should be building your email list, right? If you’re gonna write more than one book, you need to build an email list. Let’s say, for example, your book completely takes off, just magic happens, right? All the stars align, your first book comes out, and it’s a best seller. If you don’t build an email list, the people who loved your best-selling book are not going to know when your second book comes out that they would also love, right? So we have to think long-term. And we have to build an email list.
And the reason I’m saying email list and not an Instagram following or a Facebook following or Twitter following is because those can be taken away from you. The terms of service can change on any of those websites and you can no longer reach your audience. And social media doesn’t sell books very well at all. When you look at the data, right, the day that your book launches, if you send a tweet, and you send an email to your list, for every one person who actually goes through the process to click-through and buy your book from Twitter, every one book on Twitter that you sell, you’ll sell between five and 20, depending on your particular audience and how you’ve built it, to your email list, right.
Sue: So that is the asset that you want to build right now. And your social media following, you know, there are ways to use it and there is value to it. But too many authors focus on that and sacrifice an email list which is actually far more valuable. So that’s the nuts and bolts, so you have to build the email list and you have to provide content, right? You know, before the pandemic, we had grocery store samples, where you could go to the grocery store, and you could try the blue corn tortilla chip before you put it into your grocery cart. Well, we can’t really do that anymore. But it’s the same concept when you’re offering free content, you need to give readers a taste of who you are and what you do so they can decide if your book is a good fit for them.
So having some ongoing content on your website. Going out to your newsletter is another key piece. But once you have your website up, your newsletter set up, you’re offering them something for free when they sign up for their newsletter that’s valuable to them, then where I want you to be spending 80% to 95% of your time is outreach. So those influencers, contacting those influencers getting in front of audiences that are already built full of people who match your ideal reader profile. That is how you grow your list and that’s how you sell more books.
Writers often make the mistake of, “Oh, I’ve got my website, I’ve got an email list. I’m cranking out blog posts, and nothing’s happening, right? I’m not selling books, my email list is not growing, what am I doing wrong?” Well, you’re waiting for people to stumble into your digital spider web instead of going out and finding your readers and inviting them back to your online home. So outreach is really, really the key, but it does take a little bit of, you know, prep work, prep work to do that sort of outreach.
Joni: I’m curious. So you mentioned that you also write and that you have children’s books. And I know that a lot of authors who write kids’ books really struggle with digital sales for kids. And I think that’s changed a little bit over the pandemic, as people, you know, didn’t have access to bookstores for a while. But I’m curious, do you have any specific tips on marketing children’s books and finding an audience for those, especially in the digital space?
Sue: Sure. Yeah, the digital space is interesting, because from my own data and my own book sales, I do find that probably 95% of my sales are print. So the cleverest thing that I have come up with is sort of using your digital book as an incentive or, you know, a dangling hook to get people to try it. And then they’re probably gonna buy the print book, right. So you can heavily discount your ebook and hope that that leads to print sales because someone can, you know, “I’m gonna try it for 99 cents, I can see if it’s a good fit for my kid. And then if my kid reads pretty much strictly print, I’m gonna buy the print version of that book.” So for children’s book authors in terms of digital strategy, you know, put an ad out on BookBub. It has a nice low price point, and you will see your print sales rise, as well as your eBook sales.
The other thing to keep in mind, if you’re marketing children’s books, is your reader persona is sort of two layers, right? Because you have the person who’s buying the book for the child, and then you have the child themselves. So you’re doing double the work for your reader persona. You’re figuring out, all right, who’s the kind of kid who would like this book? And then, who’s the type of parent who has this kid or the grandparent or the teacher, right, who has access to these kids? And how do I let them know about it? Because we don’t want to, you know, obviously, 13 and under there are, for very good reasons, strict marketing rules about marketing directly to children. You’re basically marketing to the adult, but you wanna make sure that you’re keeping that child in mind as well.
Shayna: What advice would you give… So a lot of authors self-publish because they’re having trouble getting published in print because their title straddles genres. So it’ll be a little bit of a mystery and a little bit paranormal and a little bit YA. So I can see someone like that having trouble finding their reader persona, because they’re like, “which one do I choose? How do I know?” What advice would you give for that?
Sue: So a couple of tiers of advice, right? First of all, make sure that your story works, right, that…sometimes straddling genres is innovative and fantastic and really works. And sometimes we just haven’t worked hard enough on story structure to really put together a story that works, and then we don’t know how to talk about it, we don’t know how to sell it. And there are lots of reasons to self-publish. And I’m squarely…I’m a hybrid author, myself, and I’m fully supportive of independent publishing. But we have to carry it out as if we were a publisher and keep all of those benchmarks and metrics of quality in mind.
So number one, make sure that your story does actually work. And then from there, from a marketing perspective, if you’re straddling genres, you can create two ideal reader personas, right? Let’s say that you have…let me think of an example here. So mystery and science fiction, right, was a good example. Science fiction is a setting, right? It’s a backdrop. Mystery is a type of story. And you can come at it from a marketing perspective, from either direction, you’ll have people who solely love science fiction, and that’s all they read. So you have one reader persona for that. And then you can have another reader persona of the, you know, mystery reader who loves mystery and is open to all kinds of settings, fantasy settings, science fiction settings, dystopian settings, whatever that may be.
So you can do two reader personas, but then I want you to work them one at a time. So focus your marketing, pick one to lead with. And then you’re gonna saturate all of your influencer spaces for that first science fiction reader so that every time they turn around they’re like, “Oh, I’m hearing about Shayna’s book again,” right? There’s that book again, there’s that book, again. If we have five different ideal readers, and we’re like hodgepodge pitching influencers all over the place, we’re not giving the book’s message a chance to soak into the audience that we need to hear it. So first, do your science fiction reader persona, then you can switch over to your mystery persona.
And you know, you can switch it up. Your book is not all things to all people, but they need a chance to read it to be sucked into that world. So if you’re talking to an audience, you know, at a conference of science fiction fans, you’re not gonna focus heavily on the mystery side of it, you’re just gonna talk about the cool science fiction pieces of it. And they can enjoy the mystery once they get into the story. So you’re always going to be changing the angle that you talk about the book based on serving that particular audience that’s in front of you.
Joni: So I guess what we’re looking for is you want to find as many different audiences as you can, but always the same audience, if that makes sense. Like, you want to find the mystery readers who will love your book that are on TikTok, or Instagram or in the library or whatever. So you’re reaching the same…the people that are reading the book, but they’re in different places. Is that right?
Sue: Yes. So as you have that ideal reader persona, let’s say you have two of them, you’re going to figure out, for this first ideal reader, where are they online? What podcasts do they already listen to? What social media channels are they likely to be on? Who are the other authors that they read? I have actually a whole free webinar to teach you how to make a reader persona. And you’re gonna go through, and then for that reader persona, sort of, you know, cyberstalk, this imaginary person you’ve created and figure out where they would be so that you can go ahead and get in front of them.
Joni: And how does it work in terms of actually approaching people and say, like, how do you do it? Do you ask people, “Can you talk about my book?” Do you pay for advertising? How does that normally work?
Sue: This is a great question. So finding and pitching influencers, let’s just focus on the pitching for a minute. So really, really important to come at your pitch from looking for the win-win, right? This is not about me coming in and saying, “My book is so amazing, you should just let me come on your podcast and talk about it,” right? Like, you when you’re pitching, in order to make good use of your time and really make it pay off for you, you have to do a good job of your research and figuring out what that audience wants, right?
So when I pitched you guys to come on this podcast, I was like, “Oh, you have an audience full of authors who don’t know enough about marketing, how can I help? I’m gonna teach them how to find and pitch influencers. I’m going to teach them this fundamental framework they should use for their marketing.”
It’s not about me, it’s about the audience. So when you’re pitching, that influencer has an audience because they do activities that serve that audience, right. So it becomes a win-win when you’re coming in and saying, “Hey, I can help you serve that audience.” So you have to do your research. If it’s a podcast, we’ll just use that for a good example, you’re gonna listen to several episodes of the podcast to make sure that you are actually a good fit for that audience. And you’re gonna look at the things that they’ve covered and say, “Oh, they’ve covered this, this and this, but there’s a gap right here that I can fill, right? I can come in and fill that gap.”
And if you’re talking about fiction, right, our job is just to entertain people. So how can you entertain them in a way that relates to the book that you wrote? Can you talk about research that you did or interviews that you did, or, you know, those sort of like DVD extra kind of things and the stories that you can tell about writing your book? But you have to figure out how you can serve that audience so that you can pitch that influencer from a position of having a win-win. And then, yes, you can talk about your book in the course of that interview, and you can have a chance to do a call to action at the end of that interview, right? Where you’re inviting them back to your email list, not just saying, “Hey, come and sign up for my email list.” Saying, “Hey, I have something special for you if you go to my email list and sign up, I’ll send it right to you,” right.
So it’s always about adding value to the world, just like your book adds value to the world, your marketing should add value to the world as well. And your pitches have to be really customized and concrete to that specific influencer. If you’re writing up one pitch, and you’re blanket sending it out to every influencer you can think of, you’re gonna have very few wins because influencers can tell that you don’t know who they are, or what they do, or what they talk about, and you’re gonna just get completely ignored.
Shayna: This is all very interesting. What would you say would be the most obvious mistake that authors make when they’re trying to launch their book, the thing that they do wrong, most often?
Sue: I think they don’t have an underlying strategy so they’re fixating on one specific tactic, right? So maybe it’s, “Oh, it’s social media like I need to be posting a picture of my book and an excerpt from my book, every hour on the hour on social media.” And they think that that is the way to do it, right. It’s just a really limited thinking and lack of an underlying strategy and heavily focused on one type of tactic. And you also…so one mistake I see is just like focusing on one thing without having this underlying strategy.
Another big thing I see is a lot of mindset issues, right. Where we maybe we kind of psych ourselves out or really, like, white-knuckle it and just try to power through on our marketing, because we think we have to, but we’re doing all of these things that actually sabotage our efforts. And then we eventually give up or not even eventually, like, we give up in very short order because of the way we’re approaching it, and we haven’t done the mindset work to get comfortable with the idea of marketing and to believe in what we’re doing in a way that this is actually gonna feel good and be sustainable.
Joni: Yeah, I feel like a lot of authors are a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of selling their book because a lot of people are uncomfortable with sales. And it’s true that people are gonna scroll past if your whole feed is, “Buy my book, buy my book.” Like, nobody likes that.
Sue: Yeah, I have this great story. I was on a call with a potential client. And we both live in Portland, Oregon. And we got down a little bit of a rabbit hole conversation-wise, but I was complaining that no one would go to karaoke with me, right? None of my friends will go to karaoke, it’s horrible. And she is a mid-list author. She’s published like nine or 10 books, she writes middle-grade novels. And she said, “I’m just really uncomfortable with selling, right? None of my books have ever really taken off because I’m really uncomfortable with marketing.”
So I tell her, I can’t get anyone to go to karaoke with me. And she’s like, “Oh, do you know about Low Bar Chorale?” I was like, “What? What is Low Bar Chorale?” She’s like, “Oh, everyone gets together in Revolution Hall.” This was pre-pandemic, mind you. “It’s this bar in Revolution Hall and there’s a live band, and they tell you earlier in the week, what songs you’re gonna do. And everyone gets in the bar, and they just sing their hearts out to these 80 songs.” And she just starts like, so animatedly telling me about Low Bar Chorale. You have to try it. You have to try it, right.
So I had to like, give her the timeout signal and be like, “Melissa, do you know what you’re doing right now?” She said, “What?” I said, “You’re selling me on Low Bar Chorale, right? And why are you comfortable doing that? Because, you know, from talking to me for five minutes, that that would be a value to me, that I would love it, that it would make my life better if I tried it, right. So if you can come to the right reader with that attitude that your book is actually perfect for them, because of who they are, because of what you’ve written, then selling becomes a lot more comfortable.” The caveat to the…the follow-up to that story, which is so beautiful…this is Melissa Wiley, she’s a great author, check her out. But she ended up getting hired to do the social media for Low Bar Chorale.
Joni: No way.
Joni: Oh, that’s awesome. But it’s interesting when you say that kind of thing. And then I think about all of the different ways that I decide to buy or read a book. And it really…it does come from…kind of what you’re saying, it’s word-of-mouth, it’s somebody saying, “Oh, my god, you have to read this book, it’s so good.” Or seeing it on, I don’t know, we get a lot of this at Kobo as well, or hearing people talk about it on a podcast is a big one for me. But I’m curious. So you said that social media is not the best way to throw out like this is my book. What for you do you think is the most effective platform assuming that they’re using it well, like, is there one that works better for you do you think?
Sue: It depends on your ideal reader, right. So if your ideal reader is on TikTok, and you’re pushing things over on Twitter, and that’s where you’re concentrating, that’s not gonna work, right? So I can’t tell you one platform performs better than the other because it really is based on your specific reader. That’s why you have to know who that person is inside and out. Because that’s gonna help you answer so many questions about where to look for influencers, what social platform to be on, and what the copy on your website should be like, right, what the pictures on your website should look like. It’s all geared towards that ideal reader.
Joni: That makes sense, given everything that you’ve said yeah.
Shayna: Is there a different strategy if you’re trying to like relaunch your backlist than if you’re doing, like, a new book?
Sue: Really not so much, you are using all of the same framework and the same method. Too many authors think, “Oh, that book is so old, no one’s gonna care about it anymore.” As readers, most readers…you know, we’re in the industry, so maybe we’re a little more tuned in. Most readers do not check the date something was published when they pick it up. They don’t care. They just want a good book. So I think another mindset hang-up I see is, “Oh, it’s my backlist, it’s too old, people aren’t gonna care about it, I’m only gonna focus on my next launch.”
And that’s really a missed opportunity. So you’re going to use all of the same, you know, strategy and tactics when it comes to promoting your backlist. You’re just going to, you know, treat it as if it’s a launch, right, you can bring that same energy to it. Unless you’re writing something nonfiction that is very pegged to current, you know, social environment that’s a little different. And if you have a backlist where that book is not relevant anymore, then you write that one off, and you start writing something else. But if you have an evergreen backlist that’s still gonna be appealing, you don’t have to make a big differentiation between it.
Shayna: I have a follow-up question that’s better than that one. So like, let’s say an author has a series that’s like seven books long, and the new one is coming out. How do they deal with that? Because like, what if it needs to be read in order, should you be only pushing the first book? But of course, the seventh book is your latest. So how would you advise to deal with it?
Sue: Yeah, so this is another, you know, piece of evidence in favor of building a large email list as large as possible. Because when you have a series like that, and it depends, you know, book seven depends on understanding book 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, your audience for book seven is only based on people who’ve read your previous books, so your email list is the absolute best way to reach them. So almost all authors with a series like that are constantly pushing new people to book one. Maybe they’ve got book one as Permafree, maybe they have book one as heavily discounted, or they’re running frequent promos to heavily discounted or put it down to free.
So, anybody who’s doing a series, I recommend before the launch of the next one, you time it so that a couple of months before you’re getting as many new readers to book one as possible and you have time for a read-through of the other titles to get them excited for the launch of the current book.
Shayna: That’s really interesting.
Joni: Have you ever had a situation where you’re working with an author, and it’s not that the author made a mistake about their audience, but they ended up reaching an audience that they didn’t expect? Like, for example, if we take something like “Harry Potter,” where it was originally like, this is a kid’s book, and then it turned out to be an everyone book. Have you ever had that where you find an audience?
Sue: I’ve heard stories of that. And I had one client in particular who, with his previous book, there was a category of people, and this was nonfiction, who he hadn’t really considered and they ended up loving the book, right? So it was like…it was a book about kids and money, non-fiction. And financial advisors latched on to it because they wanted a book to recommend to their clients so that their clients could have money discussions with their kids, right. So for his next book, he’s like, “I’m not making that mistake, again, I’m gonna cultivate these people, right, I am gonna go after them.” So being flexible, and when an opportunity like that presents, you’re like, “Oh, here’s my ideal reader. And now all of a sudden, this group of readers is going nuts for it.” That’s exactly what you want, right?
So the reason that we focus so heavily on one ideal reader is to get that word-of-mouth. The word-of-mouth is when readers are so excited about it because it’s such a good fit for them that they cannot stop talking about it to everyone they know. And of course, we all have these big networks that interact in ways we didn’t expect. So it catches fire for this person who’s kind of in a different category of person, and they start recommending it to all of their friends. That’s exactly why we concentrate on one ideal reader, so we can get that word-of-mouth and get people really excited. And then they start doing our marketing for us.
Like, another great example “Harry Potter” is a great example. But like “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, like that book was marketed to writers, right. And it’s become a cult classic in all of these other categories, writers, artists, business people, people who are into sports, right. Because it served one audience so well, they could not stop talking about it and buying it for people and passing it around and recommending it. And so then it can spread to these other groups that are just as appropriate. But we have to start somewhere.
Joni: Are there are any platforms that have surprised you by being really effective? We had Jennifer Armentrout on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, and her book went completely nuts on TikTok, which was not something that she had anticipated. So I’m curious…I imagine you must have seen some cases where there’s an unexpected platform out there that everyone’s suddenly on.
Sue: Yes. Well, I think TikTok is that example right now. That’s probably also partly because I’m in Gen X and I…like TikTok is so outside of my wheelhouse, right? So it’s surprising to me, but that’s because of the type of ideal reader category that I fit into, right. So, again, use those opportunities. If you do find energy somewhere, go ahead and, like, jump on it and run with it as quickly as you can. And, you know, be prepared to be surprised. Don’t be so, like, singly focused on something that if an opportunity comes up, you’re like, “No, I’m not doing that, right.”
But TikTok is a really good example, I think, currently. And that’s gonna keep happening, there are gonna keep being platforms that younger people go to because they don’t wanna be on the same platform as their mom and their aunt, right? And they’re gonna go to the next new thing. And something is gonna catch fire there in a way that people didn’t foresee. That’ll definitely keep happening.
Shayna: Yeah, since I’ve run out of the questions that I was gonna ask, I’m gonna give you a little scenario. So let’s say the author has figured out their ideal reader, and the ideal reader is like a teen who’s interested in horror, a female teen interested in horror. So then they wanna figure out what influencers will influence that reader. So they go to Google, and they put in girl teen horror forums, or I don’t know. Like, creepy girl. Like, how do you get started like, where…?
Sue: Yes, this is a great question. So there are five ways that you can do the research to find influencers. So the first one is, use your reader persona, right? And if you’re basing your reader persona on a real person, you can like, interview that real person. Or if you already have an email list full of people who are your ideal readers, even if it’s small, you can send out a survey to everybody who’s on your list now, right with these kinds of questions to get at these kinds of things. So the first way to find influencers is, think about your ideal reader and imagine them into all of these things. And if it’s a real person, you can actually interview them to find out, that’s number one.
The second way is you can look at a comparable author. So someone else who’s written a book in your genre that’s done pretty well, you can go and do some, you know, digital sussing out of, where did they promote their book? What podcasts do they go on? Where did they write guest articles? What conferences did they go to? And you can basically really accelerate your research by piggybacking off of someone else who has already done it well. This is not cheating people. I’ve had clients say, “Isn’t that cheating?” I’m like, “No, this is all publicly available information.” This is a really smart way to figure out what might work for you.
The third way is you can search by theme, right? So like your example of horror and teen right, so start googling teens and horror. And that can lead to pulling the thread and finding out other books and find your comp authors that way and chase it down that way. But some creative googling, but you know, do more than one term. Do different combinations and figure out different ways of saying things so that you can really dig down past those, like, you know, first couple of results on Google.
The fourth way is to tap into your network. So if you need to find influencers, you may be surprised by all of the people in your network and who they may know that you don’t even know they know, right? So wherever your people are, like, for me, it would be I’m sending an email to a tight group of people, or I’m on Facebook, and I’m saying, “Hey, this book is about to launch. Here’s what it is, here’s who it’s for. Do you guys have any ideas or connections that can help me launch this book, that can help me get the word out?” People wanna help, right? And if all it takes is for them, it’s just to make an email introduction. Or you can even say, “Hey, can I just use your name when I send this influencer a pitch?” And they’re like, “Yeah, sure, go ahead.” Right, you can get lots of ideas and lots of warm introductions to influencers through your network.
And then the fifth way is just to ask the influencers who you’ve already managed to find, right? Even if someone says no, if you pitch an influencer, and they’re like, “Sorry, this just isn’t right for us.” Trust that they know their audience better than you do. And you can say, “Hey, thanks. I really appreciate that you responded at all. Can you think of any places that would be a good fit for me,” right? Or if you get a yes, once you finish up that interview, you can come back and say, “Hey, I had such a great time. I really wanna help promote this,” right?
Always be so wonderful as a guest and helping promote everything and being as giving, as you are receiving. And then ask them, “Can you think of any other podcasts that I might be a good fit for?” So those are the five ways reader persona, comp authors, searching by theme, tapping into your network, and asking other influencers for ideas.
Shayna: That’s great. Yeah, because like, I feel like this is the stumbling block where people will be like, “But where? How?”
Joni: Especially if it’s not your…like, if you’re writing a book for people who you’re one of the potential audience members, like, you’re writing the book you want to read, like, fine, easy. But if you are targeting a demographic that isn’t you like it is hard, especially if you’re writing for teens, or.
Shayna: Yeah, especially for the younger generation. Yeah. Where do we go? I don’t know.
Joni: So this has been really, really interesting. Can you tell our listeners where they can find your information online?
Sue: Sure, absolutely. So my company is called Pages & Platforms and you can find us at pagesandplatforms.com. And then/kobo, you can sign up for the newsletter on that special page I created for your listeners. And you can get a webinar on how to create a reader persona and a lot of other marketing and writing resources for free from that as well.
Joni: Amazing. Thank you.
Joni: Perfect. We’ll include that link in the show notes. And is that valid? Is that gonna stay up?
Sue: That’ll stay up for you.
Joni: Perfect. Thank you for doing that. And then we’d like to finish off with some rapid-fire book questions about books you’re enjoying. Is that okay?
Joni: Okay. Let’s do it. I’ll kick us off. What’s the most recent book that you’ve enjoyed?
Sue: “The Way of Integrity” by Martha Beck. It’s a fairly new release I think it came out maybe a month or two ago and it’s just fantastic non-fiction.
Shayna: Favorite book of all time?
Sue: “Franny and Zooey” J.D. Salinger. I know he’s not the best guy, but that book meant so much to me and I’ve read it so, so, so many times.
Joni: Love that. And this might be a crossover question then what’s your favorite childhood read?
Sue: Well, you know, the book that actually got me to be a reader, right? There’s always that one book where you’re like, “Yeah, yeah, I can read,” rah, rah, rah. But then there’s that book that you just inhale, and it makes you want more. This is embarrassing, but there’s actually like, you know the movie “Goonies?” They, novelized it and I read the novelized version of “Goonies” and that, like, I was just a reader after that.
Joni: Hey, whatever you enjoy.
Shayna: Am I supposed to ask another one there I don’t know?
Joni: I got one last one. And that is, is there a book or an author that has inspired you the most? Was it “Goonies?”
Sue: It was not “Goonies.” In that case, I would probably go back to Martha Beck, right. When you’re a writer, that’s a hard road, right? You’re going against society in a lot of ways by pursuing this. And Martha Beck is a life coach and a sociologist who really focuses on helping people carve out their ideal life, right. So if you’re an author who’s having a hard time kind of hanging on in the face of societal pressures, highly recommend reading Martha Beck’s “Steering by Starlight, “The Way of Integrity.” It’s really gonna help you swim against the current in a way that you’re gonna make it.
Joni: Great recommendation. Thank you. Well, this has been really good. Thank you so much for doing this.
Sue: Thank you for having me.
Shayna: Thank you so much.
Sue: It was so much fun.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about Sue’s book launching services, we will include links to her website in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. And be sure to follow us on socials. We’re @kobowritinglife on Facebook and Twitter, and at kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Joni: This episode was produced by Rachel Wharton and Joni Di Placido and co-hosted by Shayna Krishnasamy. Editing is by Kelly Rowbotham. Our theme music is composed by Tearjerker. And big thanks to Sue Campbell for being our guest. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today, at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.