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12 book marketing buzzwords you need to know

Tired of trying to figure out what all the book marketing buzzwords mean? Here are definitions for the 12 you'll see the most.

I don’t like when industry buzzwords and terminology are dropped into conversations with people who don’t work in that field.

You know how it goes . . . social workers never tell anyone anything. They share with them.

Educators don’t work with groups. They’ve got cohorts.

And there are no phrases with words in the military and financial services field — those folks love their acronyms. They’ve got a POV or ARM for everything.

Authors are guilty of using buzzwords, too

Authors do it, too.

How many times have you mentioned to someone who doesn’t write that you’ll add a POD option for your next book or that you’re wondering if you should ditch ARCs this time?

Marketers are no different. They might even be worse!

I get frustrated when I see them using the latest buzzword (or any buzzword) with authors without pausing to explain or define industry expressions.

No matter who does it, it’s a way of setting up boundaries that separate those in the know from those in the dark. I prefer inclusion over exclusion.

Learn these book marketing buzzwords

With that in mind, here are a dozen common book marketing buzzwords you’re likely to come across as you learn how to market your books. The list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start.

1. Call to action — CTA

A call to action, often abbreviated to CTA, tells your reader what you want them to do next.

Authors who are savvy social media users include CTAs in many of their posts. They might say, “If you liked this, please subscribe to my newsletter,” or “What do you think of my new character’s name? Does it work for you? Tell me in a comment.”

All authors should include a “please review this book” CTA at the end of their books.

We need to be told what to do, so please tell us in a CTA.

2. Funnel

This concept describes the journey a reader takes from the first interaction with your book(s) to purchase. It typically moves from awareness to opinion to purchase, as shown in this illustration. (Note that it looks like a funnel.)

Not everybody who becomes aware of your book will go on to purchase it. Those who do move through the complete cycle shown in the illustration and come out the bottom of the funnel as your readers after they purchase your book.

By Steve Simple – Own work, CC BY 3.0

For more on this, read “Curious about book funnels? Here’s (almost) everything you need to know.”

3. Landing page

This is a simple web page with a single purpose.

For authors, that could be encouraging readers to subscribe to your newsletter or buy your book (but not both).

Because a landing page is so focused on just one goal, it is visually simple and has no menu or toolbar with other options to distract visitors.

My landing page offering the “Build Book Buzz Guest Blogging Cheat Sheet” is an example of one that’s designed to get newsletter subscribers.

The landing page for the Build Book Buzz Reader Book Review Forms is a product sales page. Note that there’s no menu or toolbar.

4. Lead magnet

Also referred to as a “reader magnet,” “lead generator,” “opt-in bribe,” or “freebie,” this is an irresistible gift you offer your target audience in exchange for their contact information.

While marketers might encourage you to collect full mailing addresses, don’t.

First, you don’t need that much information — all you need is a name and email address.

Second, people won’t provide it. If you force them to fill in their address to get your lead magnet, they’ll close the window and you’ll lose your chance to start building a relationship with someone in your target audience.

My “Guest Blogging Cheat Sheet” mentioned above is a lead magnet,  as is my “Book Marketing Plan Template” and “9 Places to Look for Readers Who Write Reviews.”

Get nonfiction lead magnet ideas in this article and fiction lead magnet ideas in this one.

author marketing buzzwords 35. Opt in

Opt in is a verb that describes what people do when they add themselves to your email list (often because they want your lead magnet). They opt in.

Best practice for email marketing is a 100 percent opt-in list. Don’t add people to your email list without their permission. They need to decide whether they want to hear from you or not.

Note the example on the right; you’ll also find it on the right sidebar of this page.

For more on this subject, read “3 important email marketing truths you need to know as an author” and “Book review: Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert.”

Don't add people to your email list without their permission.Click to tweet

6. Optimize/Optimization

When you “optimize” something, you make the most of it.

For authors, optimize refers to maximizing the power and impact of your Amazon sales page, Amazon author page, and the text on your website for SEO reasons (see below).

It’s often used in conjunction with search terms people will use to find you and your books.

7. Pixels

Pixels also refers to images but in this case, it’s an advertising term referring to a piece of code that is used to track behavior on a website. It’s often used when talking about the effectiveness of Facebook ads that drive traffic to a website.

8. Re-targeting

Have you ever noticed how a product you looked at on an e-commerce site shows up as an ad on other sites you visit?

That’s re-targeting. It’s designed to encourage you to buy that product. Think of it as a digital reminder.

Here’s an example of re-targeting and really, it’s kind of creepy. After my daughter’s dog had surgery, I asked her via text how she got the pup to take pills. She sent me a picture of this product . . . which showed up on a page I was reading on my phone’s browser this morning.

book marketing buzzwords 49. Plugin

This is software that you add — plug in — to your browser or website that gives it more functionality. You’ll use a plugin to add an email optin form to your website.

Notice the social network icon toolbars at the top and left side of this article that allow you to share it quickly and easily. We added those toolbars here with a plugin.

10. SEO

SEO — search engine optimization — is what you do to your website (see optimize/optimization above) so that it gets found by search engines.

The better your site’s SEO — meaning, the more content you create that fits what your target audience is looking for — the higher your site pages will show up in search engine results.

11. Split testing

Also referred to as A/B testing, this function allows you to test website features such as headlines, text, or images or email subject lines and content, among other things.

You create two versions of what you’re testing — such as a landing page — and show one version to a sample group and the other to a different sample group. Then you track the performance of each version to see which one does better.

book marketing buzzwords 512. Upselling

Upsells are designed to sell more to someone making a purchase. The most recognizable example is “Would you like fries with that?”

When you upsell, you’re either suggesting that the customer buy a better version (with more features or functionality, for example) or encouraging them to add a complementary product to the purchase.

Authors can upsell by offering a discounted price on a companion workbook, providing a volume discount, or selling additional merchandise or services from within the book.

There are many, many more book marketing buzzwords, of course.

Is there a book marketing buzzword you don’t understand? Maybe we can help you. Share it in a comment. 

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2017. It has been updated and expanded.)

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  1. What a great article! I too–a former member of academia–dislike jargon & the assumption that everyone knows what a term means. I do understand the need for shortcuts. But for a new indie author just about to launch my self-help/memoir book, it’s been bewildering!
    Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Gigi. It often feels to me like the jargon builds walls between people. I hope this primer helps!


    1. Thank you, Kim. I’m SO happy that you understand my intention. I don’t want anyone alone in a corner, confused!


  2. Sandy, you’re the best. the info you provide is both needed and inspiring. the only problem is, I wish I had time to follow all of your suggestions. I have a Sandy file that I refer to. Many thanks

    1. It’s a mindset, really, Suzanne — a way of seeing things. And hey, what you would have learned about marketing in college probably wouldn’t have helped anyway!


  3. Excellent article. I must have been paying attention in one of the many courses I’ve taken because I knew them all. However, I can always learn more and fine tune. I plan to share this with my writer’s group. Thanks!

    1. I’m high-fiving you, Jeanne! You’ve invested in your author education, and it shows in so many ways — including this one. And thanks for sharing it, I appreciate that! (PS I edited your comment for you. : ) )


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