19th July, 2023
6 min read
Marketing print-on-demand books
The Challenges of Marketing Print-on-Demand Books
Marketing your book to readers (and retailers) can be daunting. But for many self-publishers who choose to go down the Print on Demand (POD) route of production and distribution, the fact that physical copies often don’t exist until they have been bought by a reader gives rise to a whole new set of challenges when it comes to marketing. While the advent of POD technology has revolutionised the publishing industry and has made publishing a book a far less costly (and risky) option for self-publishing authors, it's important to understand the obstacles that may be encountered when marketing print-on-demand books.
Discoverability – how to make your book more visible when marketing print-on-demand books.
In the vast sea of published books, standing out and catching the attention of readers can be tricky. Traditional publishing involves printing a stock of books in advance of any sales made and it usually thus comes with built-in marketing support, and a plethora of opportunities to market to bookshops that POD titles rarely have. Most bookshops don’t stock or order POD titles due to low trade discounts the distribution model offers. POD titles don’t exist in a physical form until a reader buys one online – at which point it is printed and shipped to them – your market is online rather than via readers visiting bookshops. Once you understand this, you can start creating a plan for marketing your print-on-demand books that will work for you. Your key questions are: How can you get your book visible to your potential readers? How do you stand out among all those thousands of other titles on online bookshops? Digital marketing platforms, social media and online communities offer a wealth of opportunities for the promotion of POD and digital books. Embrace the power of engaging content, eye-catching visuals and effective targeting to build an online presence and attract potential readers; but before we look at those, let’s make sure that your metadata is set up correctly first.
Metadata. The most powerful tool for book discoverability when marketing print-on-demand books
Metadata – a term that refers to all the unique information about your book and you as an author – is key to ensuring the maximum discoverability for your book. If you are using a POD service such as KDP or Ingram Spark and are uploading the print files yourself, you will need to create and set up that metadata. Do not skimp on this stage. If you are self-publishing with a company like Troubador, however, we manage this for you (and remember, we have had the quality of our metadata recognized with this industry award. As well as title and author name, metadata also includes keywords and phrases that help potential readers to find your book when searching online. If you don’t invest time in building good metadata, you make it even harder for readers to find your book. Learning Point: What keywords and key phrases describe your book and, if used in your description and metadata, will help your book be more easily found online? These are the keywords/phrases someone might use if searching for a book like yours if they do not know the title. Once this has been done, you can go on to look at other ways to market Print on Demand books. Some of this is also work that needs to start before your book is published.
Building Author Credibility
Establishing credibility as a POD author can be challenging due to the perception that self-published works are of lesser quality. Overcoming this bias requires a strategic approach. Invest time and effort in professional editing, cover design and formatting to ensure your book has a polished and professional appearance. Seek endorsements and reviews from reputable sources to enhance your book's credibility. Make sure your book stands out with a striking and professional-looking cover that looks good on screen as a thumbnail image, which is where most people will see it first.
Developing a Strong Brand
In the realm of POD, it's crucial to develop a strong author brand that resonates with your target audience. Consider the themes, tone and style of your writing and align them with your marketing efforts. Create an author website or blog to showcase your work, share updates and connect with readers. Craft a compelling author biography, share your writing journey, and provide a glimpse into your creative process. Remember, readers often connect with authors on a personal level, so let your unique voice shine through in your branding efforts and embrace social media and blogging to reach readers. Additionally, engaging with readers through book clubs, author events or online communities can help you build a loyal fan base and establish yourself as an author to be taken seriously when marketing print-on-demand books.
Reviews and Word-of-Mouth
Reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations play a vital role in attracting readers to your POD book. Encourage readers to leave reviews on social platforms like Goodreads, Amazon or other book review sites. Offer free review copies to book bloggers in your genre (this involves online research to identify relevant bloggers accepting submissions in your genre); seek opportunities for guest posts on popular book-related websites. Learning Point. Encourage anyone you know who enjoys your book to leave genuine and honest review reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Also, explore promotional opportunities on Goodreads – such as giveaways to raise interest in your book.
Engaging with Targeted Marketing
While traditional marketing techniques can be effective, targeted marketing is especially beneficial for POD books. Identify your ideal reader demographic and tailor your marketing efforts to reach them directly. Utilise social media advertising tools to target specific age groups, interests and reading preferences. Facebook Ads is a way of advertising your book to Facebook users by defining specific demographics. There is a cost, but you get to set an ad spend limit and these can be set up via your Facebook account. Engaging in online book clubs and reader communities is another effective way to connect with potential readers and spark interest when marketing print-on-demand books.
The Alternative Approach
For many, Print-on-demand is seen as being synonymous with self-publishing, but in fact, it is just another form of distribution, albeit one that has a lower entry cost – which is why it is popular for authors. But if POD is such a great way of publishing and distributing a book, why don’t commercial publishers do it that way? The simple fact is that most book sales are still made through traditional bricks-and-mortar bookshops, and for that to work you obviously must have copies of your books to get into those shops. That means printing copies in advance of any sales (which is where publishers are taking the risk), having access to physical distribution systems for those books, and having a marketing strategy that gets those books in front of bookshops so that they can decide to order copies, place them on their shelves and thus in front of potential customers’ eyes. All of this has a cost, of course… printing copies in bulk, giving a percentage of your cover price to the distributor and the retailer, and likely some costs with shipping stock and administering it all. For a self-publisher working alone, that looks like a tall order.
However, this traditional way of marketing and distributing books is an option that is available to self-publishers who publish with Troubador. Unique among self-publishing companies, Troubador has a very successful bricks-and-mortar distribution set-up, which includes sales representation, access to wholesale sales, trade marketing to retailers large and small, direct supply to many bookshops, and a dedicated on-site warehouse which distributes books daily across the UK to shops. And because Troubador is distributing thousands of titles on behalf of its authors, the costs to the author are far less than if they tried to do it all on their own. As a result of Troubador’s ‘traditional’ book distribution model for self-publishers, our authors sell, on average, far more copies than POD self-publishers, because their books are far more visible to potential readers and available to bookshops across the UK to buy.
Summary - marketing print-on-demand books
Marketing print-on-demand books requires a blend of creativity, perseverance and adaptability, largely in the online space, and a recognition that by its very definition, the POD model limits your options for retail sale. Understanding those limitations is key to making the right choice of publishing route for your book. Whichever route you opt to take, embrace the opportunities offered by digital platforms and online communities, and make the most of the tools and resources available to you. Remember, building your brand, creating engaging content and fostering connections with readers are crucial elements for success whether publishing ‘On Demand’ or in a more traditional way.