A few more thoughts that came out of my conversation with some marketing people at a recent conference…
4. Another step in selling your book, and one that relies almost completely on the author, is that there needs to be a successful and growing internet presence surrounding your title. Right now we’re seeing too many novelists visit the same 30 or 40 blogs, shilling their book (and, in my view, not selling many copies). But in a successful marketing campaign, the discussion of the book grows beyond that same chat-fest of blogs. The author seeks out new groups, who share an interest in her stories or topics, and finds ways to talk about the basic ideas in a wider setting. Let me offer an example: If a crime writer can get law enforcement sites to talk about his book, or can link into some networks where people discuss crime and culture, the book is much more apt to take off, and that allows the marketing people to reach more potential readers. For a nonfiction writer, I would venture a guess that your speaking and media platform is vitally important toward making this piece of the equation work. Again, this is an area that is almost the exclusive domain of the author, since publisher helps in this area have a tendency to be a bit flat. YOU know your book best, so YOU should be doing this. Doing regular work in creating an internet presence will require a significant investment of time and energy.
5. In discussing fiction marketing with this group, they came to the conclusion that space advertisements were an important piece, but ONLY if they reach a targeted audience.Here’s an example: If you’re doing a historical novel set in 17th Century Scotland, getting some ads into the magazines and websites subscribed to by those who love Scotland and its history is crucial. (Okay…I’ll admit that I subscribe to a couple Scottish magazines. Thus the example.) In other words, a general ad in the LA Times might not be as effective as locating a hotbed of people who share an interest in your story or topic and telling them about your book. And there’s a lesson to keep in mind here: your publisher can’t be an expert on everything, so you may have to educate her in terms of the best magazines and websites and blogs to target. If can’t buy an ad in a print magazine, take a look at the cheap prices in an e-zine. And if you can’t buy an ad in an e-zine, try writing articles for print or e-zines in order to get your material in front of their readers.
6. The last thing we put on our list was that your basic story MUST resonate with readers.Sooner or later, the success of most books comes down to a great concept and good writing. For all the talk about what works and what doesn’t with fiction marketing, it still comes down to writing and story. The readers hear about it, and have an immediate positive response. Then they read it, love it, and start telling others about this great book they just read. All of this means your basic story will appeal to a wide readership — either it speaks to an immediate need, or answers an important question, or garners some immediate attention, or follows a very popular format (for example, you’re writing an Amish book). And, of course, this means you must write a good book. I know it can get depressing at times, seeing weak books on the bestseller lists, but the fact is, over time good writing trumps bad writing. Over time, big ideas trump small ideas.
Now… I argued with the people in this discussion group that there is a seventh item I believe is necessary to make a marketing campaign work for a book: Buying space up front at Barnes & Noble. To me, that’s one of the most important steps, though I’ll admit my evidence is more anecdotal than scientific. The marketers didn’t agree with me — they said they could point to dozens of expensive “table buys” that didn’t move copies of the book. I told them that may be so, but given the pace at which stores dump new products, I’d still put this on my list of essential steps. I was out-voted, but wanted you to hear my thoughts. It costs big bucks to have a publisher put your book up front at B&N. In my view, it’s worth the investment.
Just some thoughts to consider as you being to plan your future fiction marketing. I’d love to know what you’ve found to be the essential ingredients to getting your book selling in the marketplace.