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Category : Marketing and Platforms
Once again, I'm inviting people to send in questions about writing and publishing, and we'll try to offer a bit of wisdom. Recently Bobbi wrote to me to tell me I've been too hard on marketing types in the past, and to ask, "What sort of marketing would you suggest to an author? And what sort of marketing would you most like to see?"
First, I'd suggest an author decide to take control of marketing for their own book. Put aside that old fashioned notion that the publisher is going to market your book for you, and start learning what you can do to help get the word out. Second, I'd suggest some field research — who is the audience for your book? What's the best way to reach them? (If the answers are "everybody" and "beats me," you're screwed.) Third, I'd start checking out the creative ideas people are using on the web. Internet book sales equaled the sales at brick-and-mortar stores last year for the first time in publishing history at most of the major publishing houses. It's the place to buy books. That means it's probably time you took a fresh look at your web site, your online videos, your blog, and anything else that sounds vaguely connected to Al Gore's invention.
As for what I'd like to see? I can think of dozens, but here's two… Many publishers have forgotten about radio. But it's on all the time in our culture. People don't like noise, so they have their radios on at work, in the car, in the kitchen. And it's FREE to listen. It's also cheap to advertise. I'd like to see more publishers figure out how to effectively promote their books via radio. A second area is one that authors could work harder at: articles. There are newspapers, magazines, and e-zines all over the world, and they're all looking for content. A magazine
Going Nude: How I Kicked an Addiction, Gained a Dress Size, and Discovered the Real Me
The above title is a fictional example of a writer being too clever for her own good. Sure, it has everything. It’s perfectly-structured, in that the subtitle properly explains what the book is about, while the main title merely suggests at awesomeness. It has wording that makes passersby do a double-take. It’s catchy, relevant and zeroed in on its target audience.
And yet … it’s the very type of title that is exactly what a publisher asks for but not what they want.
Let’s break this down:
1) Shock-value Words. SEX! PORN! DRUGS! SEX AGAIN! This is a serious soap box of mine. I’m sick and tired of writers trying to grab my attention with shock-value words. The worst part is they usually appear just like that … lined up in all caps. The truth of the matter is, yes, publishers want a title that grabs attention. One that’s in your face and, to some degree, shocking. But they’re never interested in titles that are offensive. Or creepy. Or just plain in bad taste. Though GOING NUDE would maybe fly with some publishers, others would simply roll their eyes and toss it aside. Because shock-value words always come across as cheap. Not to mention they tell the publisher that the author’s plan for selling the book has everything to do with a great title and cover. (And in case you haven’t heard Chip’s story, that plan’s already taken… by the publisher).
2) Unintentional negatives. Even though the title clearly indicates that the author’s increased dress size did nothing to damage her confidence, appeal, or looks, readers aren’t going to see it that way. Imagine yourself in a bookstore, desperately looking for the perfect book to give your sister who’s struggling with an addiction. Are you going to choose the title
Steve Henry, a successful businessman with a book idea, came to one of our marketing seminars recently. He left the seminar, completed his book, then began marketing it to his audience. The book has been so successful that I wanted him to be able to share his story with others…
When a skilled professional preaches a consistent message, you’d better pay close attention. On four separate occasions, I heard Chip MacGregor pose this question to his audience of writers: “What are you, the author, going to do to market your book? If you rely on your publisher or their sales team to produce an outrageously sure-fire, best-selling marketing plan when your book hits the street, then you’d better think again.
If you’ve ever attended one of Chip’s teachings, or if you read his blog, you’ve heard him say, “It’s imperative that you, the author, know exactly who your audience is and then go stand in front of them.”
This is when the light flashed for me. I was in the process of writing a business book based on my successful used-car dealership, the $5,000 Car Store, where we use Christian principles as our operating manual. The book’s successful launch and continued success was going to be up to me.
I gave in to this reality, and developed and marketed the roll-out of The Playbook for Small Businesses, my book, which tells the story of how I run my business. Here’s how I did it:
1. I designed a website that generates high traffic. It’s crucial to offer your potential readers an incentive to visit the site and then to complete a purchase. This is a numbers game. I knew that my potential customers were short on capital and could be in need of some great start-up advice, so I hired a company to provide me with contact information for new business owners who filed for business licenses. I sent
Today we're having a guest blog from marketing specialist Rob Eager, President of Wildfire Marketing…
Facebook is great because Facebook is free, right? Same idea with Twitter, YouTube, and a host of other social networks popping up all over the Internet. There’s no cost to join, and you get the ability to communicate with thousands of people all over the world. No wonder so many authors and publishers have jumped onto the social media bandwagon. But, are social networks really “free”? Instead, could using them cost you big-time?
There’s a basic economic principle that affects us everyday called “opportunity cost,” which is the cost of passing up another choice when making a decision. Put another way, it’s the benefits you could have received by choosing a different action. What does this have to do with selling books via social networks?
I’ve watched a lot of authors and publishers become avid social networkers who spend considerable amounts of time reading and maintaining their blogs, FaceBook pages, Twitter feeds, YouTube channels, etc. When you conservatively add up the hours that these people spend surfing and contributing to social sites, the total amount of time can easily reach over 10 hours a week! That’s over one-fourth of an author’s weekly time devoted to social networking activities. (Some people claim they spend only 15 minutes a day. But, they’re shocked when they actually track their hours.) My point is that if you’re going to spend 25% of a 40-hour work week on a specific marketing activity, then that activity ought to contribute at least 25% of your total book sales. Yet, I don’t see that happening.
At Book Expo 2009, John Sargent, the CEO of Macmillan Publishing stated, “Viral marketing doesn’t sell a ton of books.” He mentioned a video based on a Macmillan book that spent time in the # 1 spot on YouTube in the U.K. Yet it wound up only
Now, back into the swing of things and back to your questions…
Dana asked, "You’ve worn nearly every hat in the publishing kingdom and sat on both/all sides of the publishing desk (author, agent, in-house and—dare I say it—“outhouse” editor). How has your vast and varied experience helped you form a 'marketing paradigm' of your own? Can you sum up that paradigm for us?"
Sure. My marketing paradigm looks like this: "YOU, as the author, are in charge of your marketing. You. Not the publisher, not the editor, not the sales team. You.”
This isn't a business where most of us can simply write a book, send it in, and expect others to take care of us (if in fact that world ever existed). It means an author is going to have to create a plan – an actual marketing plan, that dovetails with whatever your publisher is doing. I keep seeing authors talk about marketing, but my experience is that only one in ten actually does much. So be that one in ten – figure out what you can do in order to get the word out about yourself and your book.
To start, become knowledgeable about marketing — how to promote yourself and your work. Read up on marketing. DO NOT settle for saying, "I'm going to say yes to interviews." Having a plan means knowing people, making contacts, staying in touch, looking for opportunities, and figuring out how to maximize yourself.
So when your publisher announces that they're going to take out ads in TCW and toss copies from the balcony of the convention center at CBA, smile and express your appreciation. Then go do your marketing, because anything your publisher does is a bonus.
Jana sent this: "We continually hear that Christian publishers want to be on the cutting edge and that we should 'think outside the box.' How true is that, and what exactly do
Jay asked, "In your view, what are the essential things a novelist has to understand about marketing?"
I talk about marketing a lot, Jay, so let me see if I can simplify it…
Author, YOU are responsible for your marketing. Not the publisher. Not the agent. You. The publisher and agent will both help, and they ought to bring something to the table or they aren't doing their jobs. But the book is yours – nobody else knows it as well as you do. Nobody else is as enthusiastic or as committed to it. Nobody else has as much riding on it. So give up any illusion that the publisher is going to take over your marketing – I'm just not seeing that very much any more. If you don't take charge of your marketing, it won't happen.
Just reading over those words, I realize that, for many authors, this is tough to hear. But I'm serious — I never hear an author say, "Gee, I'm thrilled with the marketing my publisher is doing on my book." Instead, I generally hear authors grousing about the crummy marketing or the little work being done. And my response from now on is going to be to tell the author to change his or her perspective. Start being appreciative of the few things your publicist gets right. Start saying "thanks" more for the fact that your publisher is doing ANYTHING. And then just go do the rest of it yourself.
To do that means you're going to have to educate yourself. Just as you've had to learn the ropes of how to write well, I think most of us are going to have to learn how to market well. You'll have to pick up a couple of marketing books, maybe attend a marketing class or seminar, and do some digging to figure out what makes a good marketing plan.
I've had a bunch of questions on "platforms" recently, so let me try and tackle them…
Richard wrote to ask, "What is an author platform? How would you describe it?"
An author platform is simply who you are and what you're known for. If you have expert credentials, or you speak around the country on a topic, or you're known by the media as a source of information on a specific issue, you have an obvious platform. All of that will help to create buzz for your book, and reaching readers is what good marketing is all about.
I think there are two sides to understand the notion of "platforms." First, who you are in relation to your topic. If you're a recognized expert at your topic, you've got a good platform. Let me offer an example… If Warren Buffett wanted to do a book on How to Invest in Today's Stock Market, publishers would be interested because every investor recognizes Buffett's abilty to make money buying stocks. His expertise with the topic is evident. But that's not the only thing needed — there are plenty of investors who have done well and become fabulously wealthy, even in a bad economy. They know their topic, but that's only half the equation.
The second part of understanding a platform is who you are in relation to your readers. Warren Buffett doesn't just know his material, he is known by his potential readership. Most investors recognize the name from his interviews, his letters to stockholders, his appearances in the media. He is an expert, but he's also known by potential book-buyers as an expert. Both aspects are important for an author to capture the attention of a publisher.
In a related vein, Jim wants to know, "The topic of author platforms concerns me because I don't see myself as having a great platform for launching my book. How much consideration (by agents and
I've had several people write in lately with words to the effect of, "Here's what I most want to know about publishing…"
Tammy wrote and said, "The one thing I would most like to know is how can I make a booksigning successful?"
Booksignings can be terribly depressing experiences. Let's face it — a signing is based on celebrity, not quality of craft. So even if you've written a wonderful book, if nobody knows who you are, they aren't apt to show up and try to meet you. (I once did a signing where a guy came and spent 40 minutes trying to talk me into signing up for Amway. No kidding.) But three people I represent (Ginger Garrett, Kimberly Stuart, and Chris Coppernoll) just had a great booksigning experience in Des Moines, Iowa. After watching these authors (none of whom are a household name…yet) get a hundred people into a store and sell ten or twelve cases of books, I asked them what they'd done to make it work. Here's a summary of some of their wisdom.
Remember that nobody comes to a signing for an author who is unfamiliar to them. And yet the goal is to get people in the door, meet them, and tell them about your book. So think of a signing in three stages…
First, get people in the door. Contact everyone on your mailing and email list. Do so more than once, and be very clear about date, time, and place. Go to libraries, bookstores, reading groups, coffee houses, churches, and any organization that may find your book interesting, and solicit their participation. Don't just tell them about the signing — ask them to help you make it successful. It's numbers that drive a signing more than anything else. If you can afford it, do a mailing with postcards to likely participants — expensive, but effective. Arrange for media the days prior to the signing — a local radio talk show