Chip MacGregor

June 11, 2015

Ask the Agent: Can we talk marketing?


I’ve had a number of authors asking marketing questions lately…

I watched an interview on Book TV, and a publisher was asked if a book tour helps sell books. Her response: “Not necessarily.” Would you agree?

I would. There’s nothing magical about a book tour. In fact, if there isn’t some associated media, the author can show up for a tour event and have no readers present… and NOTHING will depress an author more than having an empty room at what should be a party for their book. So no, a book tour doesn’t automatically help sell books. But it can be a fun and important strategy if tied to a push for local media involvement.

Since some authors desire to write a book and then sit back, are there businesses that will do the marketing for them?

Sure there are. Any good marketing or PR firm will take you on as a client and do your marketing for you, for a fee. And that can work for some authors. The upside? Someone else is doing the work, freeing you to write. The downside? It’s expensive, and the people you hire may or may not know how to best market your book. I generally remind people that nobody has as much as stake in a book as the author. Nobody knows the book better, nobody is as passionate about the message, and nobody will win as much as the author, should the book do well. So I think there’s a good reason for authors to be very involved in the marketing of their own work.

I just self published a book, and the company wanted $3900 (reduced to $3200) to send out press releases. I found an independent source willing to arrange blog tours and send out press releases for $1200. Are such options worth it? Or can an author do that for himself/herself?

Spending more than three grand on press releases is a crazy use of money, in my view. Some authors can write their own press releases, but it takes a background in marketing to get it right. If you don’t have that, then talk with some freelance marketing types (or even some marketing graduate students) to help get the wording right. That’s the first step. The second is to know where to send those press releases. You can research that online, talk with other writers, and create a list that makes sense. (This part isn’t rocket science: your local and regional media, organizations that cater to your readers, and any places you think you can best reach your target audience). In general, you can buy some books that will help you formulate a marketing plan, or even take a class at your local community college on the topic. But the core of marketing is simple: find out where your readers are gathering, then go stand in front of them.

You inspired me to do some of my own marketing. Can you tell me how you research an audience?

Sure. First, you figure out who the reader is. Sometimes that will be clear (an Amish romance has a fairly defined audience) and sometimes that will take a bit more work. Think in terms of demographics (age, sex, education, socio-economic status, etc), as well as psychographics (interests, problems, reasons for reading this book). Second, you write up a description of that reader. Third, you explore where those readers go. What are the websites they visit? The TV programs they watch? The magazines/ezines they read? Who are the authors that already attract them, and how do they do so? Where are they going online for answers or to explore or to be entertained? If you were to make a list of the top 100 websites/blogs/e-zines they visit, then determine how to get onto each of those sites, you’d have the great start to a marketing plan.

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1 Comment

  • Iola Goulton says:

    “I just self published a book, and the company wanted … ”
    That sounds more like vanity publishing than true self-publishing … which would explain why they wanted $3,200 to send a few blanket emails with no idea of potential ROI.

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