Two weeks ago, we stopped thinking about the many ways we can mess up the marketing process (Marketing Missteps) to thinking about the many ways we can knock this marketing thing out of the park–and so this series, Marketing Master Strokes, was born.  Our first marketing master stroke?  Being all ears.  (Which is to say, listening to the stories of others, and keeping an open mind to actually changing your own approach.)  And our second?  Being willing to reach your readers where they live, which we elaborated upon to explain involves setting aside the ego in order to adapt your outreach methods to best suit your readers.

But what about a third Marketing Master Stroke?  Well, it’s going to be one that rings a few bells, plucks a few strings, or sets off a few sparks of memory–because we write about it a lot here on Self-Publishing Advisor.  We use a lot of different names for it and we come at it from all kinds of different angles, but what we’re here to talk about today is the deceptively simple concept of incentivization–about motivating your potential readers to become actual readers, in point of fact.  How do you make purchasing your book an inviting proposition?  How do you make it an inevitability?

The format of your book makes a big difference.  If you offer both digital (e-book and in many cases, audiobook) and analog (physical paperback or hardcover) copies of your book, I recommend breaking down your approach into separate fronts.  Incentivization by way of promotion and marketing looks so dramatically different between those two categories that it’s almost worth–or rather, probably worth–doing one at a time, so that you can throw the sum total of your energy and concentration into addressing each format separately.

Digital Formats

Whether we’re talking about an e-book or an audiobook, digital formats offer some truly exciting possibilities for incentivization.  Amazon automatically offers the first ten or so pages for free (the so-called “first chapter freebie“) and you can replicate this on your blog and with other online retailers.  Curating your own freebie chapter isn’t an option with Amazon, but it is when you choose the method of delivery via blog or email, and I highly recommend taking the time to edit what makes it in to your freebie–this gives you an edge over the Amazon preview, which often cuts off in the middle of a paragraph.  Make sure the freebie ends with some sort of natural cliffhanger or emotional hook, to keepyour readers coming back!

Perhaps the greatest weapon in your digital arsenal is the option to offer timed discounts and sales.  Because you control the base price as a self-publishing author, you get to shape your own sales!  You can time them to coincide with events of national interest (say, Father’s Day or the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s final fateful voyage–you know, only relevant to you and your work) or you can use the calendar as a guiding star.  Sales tend to find success when they close on the last or first day of a month, holidays, and so on.  Why are sales so important?  Because they create a sense of urgency.  Offering a constant “discounted” price does nothing but soften the impact of your sales pitch, but a timed sale?  Readers often just need that last little bit of motivation to move from “thinking about it” to “take my money!”  Or at least, that’s my experience in bookstore checkout lines.

Physical Formats

We’ve talked a lot about these strategies, and I don’t want to bore you to tears, but don’t forget to work your way through the entire checklist:

  • Book Readings (a great centerpoint for a sale, by the way)
  • Book Fairs (ditto that!)
  • Giveaways & Merch (you don’t want to leverage these as bribes for reviews, but you can certainly use them to incentivize coming to other events where your books are sold, or to encourage the sort of general enthusiasm for your work that will naturally lead to reviews!)
  • Limited Edition Offers & Bundles (comic book authors have created some really good models for bundles that you can use for inspiration, and creating short runs of specialty covers is also a specialty of theirs; don’t hesitate to mix it up to build demand)
  • Insider Access (readers want to feel special for being your fans, and you should reward this impulse; maybe the purchase of a book becomes a ticket to an author interview via Google Hangouts–or maybe it gives them access to a limited-access “behind the scenes”  page on your website? The options are endless!)

comic con booth

Go find your readers!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, 10:00 AM


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