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how to market your memoir

How to Market Your Memoir Through KDP Select

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Writing a memoir can be a pretty arduous task — dredging up old memories, mining complex emotions, and trying to frame your experiences in a way that will engage and provide value to readers. It’s no wonder that most authors, having finished their memoirs, feel like the hard part is over and they can finally […]

Writing a memoir can be a pretty arduous task — dredging up old memories, mining complex emotions, and trying to frame your experiences in a way that will engage and provide value to readers. It’s no wonder that most authors, having finished their memoirs, feel like the hard part is over and they can finally relax. But, no, it’s time to market your memoir!

But if you’re planning to self-publish your memoir on Amazon, don’t get complacent just yet. While traditionally publishing memoirists often have their marketing plans laid out for them, those on the self-publishing track need to put in a little more personal effort. And while there are tons of great resources to help you along, it’s also important to know how to market on Amazon specifically, as it’s by far the largest retailer in the biz.

For those who don’t know, when you self-publish on Amazon, you have the option to enroll in a program called KDP Select. Quite a few authors take part in hopes of capitalizing on its myriad marketing opportunities — but many of them don’t know exactly what the program entails, or how they can best tailor it to their genre.

That’s why I’m here today: to give you these essential tips on how to market your memoir through KDP Select, make a name for yourself on Amazon, and grow your readership to unprecedented proportions. Let’s dive right in with tip #1.

1. Refine your metadata before your launch

Though this tip applies to anyone going through the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, it’s particularly important that KDP Select folks get their metadata right. This is because you want your memoir to be as discoverable as possible when you run your promotions (which I’ll talk more about soon).

Your book needs to distinguish itself from all the other self-published — and indeed, traditionally published — memoirs out there. Polishing your metadata on Amazon is the most efficient way to do this. Book metadata includes obvious features like your title, author bio, and description, but it also includes the keywords and categories that people will use to find your book. Every one of these elements should be honed to perfection before your book launches. Otherwise, it will sink in the rankings before it even has the chance to swim.

So how do you refine your metadata? Start by searching Amazon for the keywords you intend to use. See how similar the results are to your book, and how well those other titles rank in their respective categories. You don’t want your target keywords to be saturated with bestsellers, but you also don’t want these books to be too unpopular — that’s a sign that very few people care about the subject matter. (For context, anything in the top 1,000 is a very good ranking on Amazon, while 10,000 or lower is not-so-good — unless it’s an extremely broad category, like “memoirs” as a whole.)

Once you’ve selected your keywords, pepper them into your book description. You don’t want to be penalized for keyword stuffing, but a couple of relevant ones in a 300-word description can work wonders! Finally, put together an author bio with a personal touch, one that mentions relevant achievements as well as a bit of trivia about you. Having a solid author bio is especially crucial when publishing a memoir — if readers can’t make it through a single autobiographical paragraph, they’re certainly not going to read an entire book about you.

2. Choose the right promotion to market your memoir

Those already familiar with KDP Select will know that the program facilitates two kinds of price promotions: Free Book Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals. The former is pretty self-explanatory: for up to five days during the 90-day KDP Select period, you can make your book available for free (though these days don’t have to be consecutive). Then there’s the Countdown Deal, which allows you to promote your book at a reduced price for up to a week, as long as it’s been enrolled in KDP Select for at least 30 days.

However, note that you cannot run a Free Promotion and a Countdown Deal within the same 90-day period, so you will have to choose which campaign is better for you. You’ll also have to schedule the promotion for the optimal point in your KDP Select enrollment, as well as decide on its length. I’d suggest running it as soon as possible, so you don’t lose too much momentum between your launch and your promotion — for the Free deal, that’s literally ASAP, whereas for the Countdown deal it’s the 30 day-version of ASAP. And try to make the promotion last as long as possible, too; the lengthier it is, the more visibility you’ll get.

As for which one you should choose, it all depends on your following. As a memoir author, you may already have a substantial fan base on your blog or social media, waiting with bated breath to hear your as-yet-untold life story. If that’s the case, you’ll want to go with a Countdown Deal. Your followers will be willing to pay, but you’ll gain brownie points for giving them a discount — especially if you market it as “exclusive” and “limited time” on your various platforms. You might even consider putting a countdown timer in the sidebar of your blog, so that potential readers feel a sense of compulsive urgency to buy your book.

But if you’ve written a memoir and don’t have a pre-existing foundation of followers, you should opt for the Free Promotion. Now, you might be thinking, “Why would I do that if it means giving up five days of royalties?” The answer is, for the publicity. Since you don’t have any followers, your top priority isn’t selling your memoir; it’s getting the word out about it in the first place. Having a Free Promotion in conjunction with other promotional methods is by far the best way to achieve this — and the long-term benefits of recommendations and reviews from your readers far outweigh the minor catch of losing a few days’ royalties.

3. Play up your Kindle Unlimited inclusion as you market your memoir.

The next thing you’ll want to do to market your memoir is to emphasize its availability on Kindle Unlimited. This subscription service is Amazon’s version of “Netflix for books,” allowing millions of subscribers to access a vast pool of reading material for $9.99/month.

When you enroll your memoir in KDP Select, it automatically becomes part of the Kindle Unlimited (KU) library, and you’ll receive a very small portion of the “Kindle Direct Publishing Global Fund” every month. The amount you personally receive hinges on the number of pages your readers get through — so if you’ve written a nice, thick, tell-all memoir, you’re in luck! And even if you haven’t, you should still try to get as many KU readers as possible perusing your work. (Plus, there’s a free 30-day trial, so even non-permanent-subscribers can contribute.)

Though memoirs aren’t as big on KU as, say, romance books and other “easy reads” that people tear through in great quantities, you can use its relative rareness to boost your appeal! For example, you might say that your book is perfect for nonfiction-loving KU subscribers who often find themselves scrounging for decent reads. And you can highlight this not just to your own followers, but to book promotion websites — they might want something to say about your memoir when they announce your Amazon price promotion. Be creative as you market your memoir.

Speaking of which, if you’re running a Countdown promotion for your memoir, you should wait until after it’s over to draw people’s attention to KU — it won’t make a massive difference, but you’ll probably get more royalties from Kindle Countdown sales than from KU readers. That said, if you’re planning to utilize a free promotion, feel free to mention KU at any time.

4. Consider re-enrolling for another 90 days

When marketing a memoir, you’ll need all the help you can get. You’ll be competing against the former FLOTUS, retired rock stars, and David Sedaris (just to name a few)! For this reason, if you’ve self-published your memoir, you may want to re-enroll in KDP Select after the initial 90-day period has ended.

If you choose this path, you’ll be able to run another price promotion, which you can once again advertise on third-party sites. You’ll keep your memoir on Kindle Unlimited and get more readers and royalties, which can really add up over time. Of course, thanks to KDP Select’s exclusivity agreement, you still won’t be able to distribute digital copies of your book outside Amazon But you’re free to give out print copies, and you probably won’t even be thinking about off-site distribution until your second round of marketing anyway.

There are so many ways to take advantage of KDP Select, especially with a memoir, where the story is totally unique to you. Follow these tips and experiment with your own tactics to figure out what works, and you might just find your self-published memoir racing to the top of the charts, Educated-style.

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