Writers of all kinds often say that they love writing but hate marketing. But that's frequently because they confuse marketing and hard selling -- "Buy! Buy! Buy!" In reality, the hard sale is only one small part of marketing and whether you realize it or not you probably market your books every single day.
When you set up your author website you were marketing. Every blog post you write that helps build visibility is marketing. Every comment you leave on this or other blogs with a link back to your website is also marketing. Every case of face-to-face networking or handing out your business card is a part of marketing. Every time you get new Twitter followers or have others RT your links you're marketing. Every time you ask for a referral or get one simply because your work speaks for itself, you're taking advantage of word of mouth marketing.
That last one is often the most important. A combination of word 0f mouth marketing and good PR can not only attract new buyers, but keep previous buyers invested in your work and coming back for more.
Your Readers Are Your Customers
I know I've said this before, but it's important enough to repeat (and probably will be often here): when you're an indie author, you're a business owner. You conduct market research (or you should). You create a product for those prospective buyers. And you bring that product to market.
If you're indie publishing to actually sell copies of your books, and not as a type of vanity publishing simply because you want to see your name in print (or virtually so these days), then you have to be able to think of your readers as more than just readers. You have to be able to think of them as customers.
New vs Repeat Customers
Here's something just about anyone knowledgeable about sales or marketing will tell you:
[box] It's usually easier, and cheaper, to keep old customers coming back than it is to find new customers.[/box]
This is where good PR on the customer side (and relationship marketing like discounts for past buyers or your customer newsletter) comes into play. You have a group of people with an obvious interest in your work, and you already know they value it enough to spend money on it. Those are warm leads. Heck, they're downright hot leads.
The Role of Your Books in Book Marketing
Here's why your books themselves are your best marketing tool:
Once you've done the initial promotion of your first book, you've built a reader base (or maybe you did so online via a blog or newsletter and converted those readers into buyers of your first book). Now your book becomes not only the product you're selling but also a marketing tool that encourages future sales of future products or other books you've already published.
You shouldn't have to work hard to get a buyer of Book A in a series to go out and buy a copy of Book B in that same series. The same applies if you have non-series books that target similar markets. That's because the first book someone buys should practically make the next sale for you.
How do you turn your books into marketing tools? You don't have to make them '"salesy" in any way. You just have to write a book (or e-book) that leaves the reader wanting more. As long as your work continues to do that, you'll have a steady stream of buyers. Better yet, when your work leaves someone wanting more it often means they've enjoyed it enough to talk about it and share it with others who might enjoy it. So by putting out on a non-crap book, you earn not only repeat sales but customer referrals.
What about you? What has your experience been in converting one-time buyers into repeat buyers? How have you kept your past customers aware of new book launches, and what kinds of conversions have you seen? How could you improve your next book to make it an even better marketing tool? Leave your thoughts, stories, and tips in the comments below.