What Do You Need to Start Building an Audience for Your Book

How do you make a book sound so interesting that strangers will give you their email addresses to get it? And what are the technical steps to getting those strangers onto your email list?
 

What you need

* Catchy description of what the book is about
* Place to direct future readers to find out more (Hi website!) 
* Method for staying connected to these lovely future readers (Hi email list!)

(Psst...if you need help with setting up a website and email list, check this out.)

Figuring out what the book is about

I'm in the early stages of writing my memoir so this is a very big question. I tried three different outline methods. First, I listed out all the possible stories and events that I could put in the book. Second, I did a Story Grid-inspired list of all the possible value shifts I could have over the course of the book and within the beginning hook, middle build, and ending payoff. Finally, I used the mini-outline method from Lisa Cron’s excellent book Wired for Story.  

 
 When it comes to early book marketing, this is not the outline method you are looking for...

When it comes to early book marketing, this is not the outline method you are looking for...

 


Mini-outline method


When it comes to getting the info you need for marketing your book, this is definitely the most useful method I tried. 

On p. 36-41 of Wired for Story, Cron shares a case study on finding the central theme of Gone with the Wind. I used her case study as a model for finding the central theme of my book. Here are her questions and answers for my book.

Q: What is the protagonist’s goal?

A: I want to understand why the world works the way it does so that I can have a "good" 

Q: What’s the protagonist’s issue or fatal flaw that prevents her from achieving her goal? 

A: I was so focused on understanding other people’s behavior that I don’t ever question my own choices or those of the people closest to me. 


Q: What’s the theme or larger message?
A: (here’s my brainstorm list)
How avoiding conflict at all costs, eventually ensures that you’ll run straight into it.

How a search for truth can lead you to question everything, even the family and ideas you’ve always blindly trusted.

How no one else can tell you how to live a life that’s true to you.

Mental illness, professional conflicts, marrying the wrong person, and other life failures can reveal the truth and be the starting point to finding peace


Putting all those together into a central theme.
<u>Getting People to Like Me</u> is about a smart, observant girl, who believes there is a Right and a Wrong way to live life, whose own failures to stay healthy, find a job, and land a husband lead her to doubt the one thing she’s always taken as absolute truth: that love means never asking too many questions.
 

Turning the Outline into Words on Your Website

First, let's talk about where the words are gonna go. The first page that you need for a book is a landing page. A landing page is a single page on a website that is specially designed to get visitors to your site to sign up for your email list. If you ever run a Facebook or a Google Adwords ad, you will send people to your landing page.

Now let’s look at what to write on a landing page. Here are the elements and the lengths I’d shoot for:

  • Headline to capture attention - 15 words max
  • Description of your book - 150 words max
  • Persuasive call to action ~20-40 words
  • Sign up button ~5 words max

Headline

For a memoir that’s mostly not written yet, some options for what to put in the headline are a: question based on the central theme, short snippet of dialogue, counterintuitive insight, or an unusual detail that tells a story. I went with a short snippet of dialogue from a conversation I had with my mom.

 
 Open-ended questions are great for headlines because they make us naturally curious about the answer. And sparking curiosity is the #1 priority for a headline.

Open-ended questions are great for headlines because they make us naturally curious about the answer. And sparking curiosity is the #1 priority for a headline.

 

Description

This is the meat of the page. I started with the central theme from above and tried to expand each element.

 Expanding on the central theme to make the book sound more specific yet also broad enough to be relevant to a wide audience.

Expanding on the central theme to make the book sound more specific yet also broad enough to be relevant to a wide audience.

Call to Action

There are 5 elements in this call to action or CTA. First, I call out the specific next step I want visitors to this page to take. Second, I tell them what they’ll get for signing up. Third, I say how frequently they’ll hear from me. Fourth, I give them a heads up that this is an in-progress manuscript not a finished product. Finally there’s the form where they type in their name and email and click the button.

The Landing Page

Check out the full page.

One technical note, in an ideal world your landing page doesn't have any navigation or menus on it. The reason is to force visitors to make a choice: sign up for this email list or leave? It can be technically challenging to set this up, so I want you to know that it's ok to have the navigation menu. It's more important to have a published page with a good description and strong call to action than a perfect page that never gets published.