PART TWO: Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles
Nope, no breaks for you, simply because if you don’t think about these things now, you will be way behind the game when you need them. As I’ve said before (and will probably say a hundred more times), your success is completely pinged on growing the plan as you grow your book. Sounds strange, I’m sure, as many authors are not really positive what their book will be until it’s finished. Genres have split into as many species as arachnids (shiver). Even non-fiction subjects require extremely targeted making, for example, “sales” focuses are based on specific, very pinpointed situations, markets, products or services.
To begin, I’d like to refer you to Author Platform Building lesson 3, “What Makes you so Special?” There’s a creative thinking process (The Six Thinking Hats) there you should try. In that lesson, we touched on how to find unique subject hooks and selling handles. Today we’ll talk about how to implement what you discover.
In Author Platform Building, lesson 3, we explored three different kinds of books, a murder mystery, a nonfiction and a paranormal romance. For today, we’ll take the murder mystery, Tropical Murder, a little further with our exploration.
Tropical Murder represented a novel in need of a platform. Now, after reviewing what we discovered in Author Platform Building lesson 3, we know that it’s a book about a murder in the tropics and that the location and many scenes feature tropical fish, so the author has decided to pitch their hopeful (perhaps even unfinished as yet) book to pet stores that sell beautiful tropical fish. This is a very aggressive idea designed to break a whole new venue for the book. The author has established that people who love tropical fish would enjoy h/her novel, and that the pet stores already sell books, so why not novels. In the lesson, the author moved into creative solutions for making this happen. Here, we’ll break down the project into practical steps.
Getting your book into a pet store may or may not be breaking an untapped market, but it may at least serve as a double bump for your book. After the book is published, maybe the prospective readers has heard about Tropical Murder on twitter, from a friend or on Amazon – but seeing it where they buy their tank supplies (a place they never expected to see it) just may tip the scales. Our goal with creating unique hooks and selling handles is to always seek ways to tip those scales in our favor.
The first step is to put on your walking shoes and go look around. Explore every pet and tropical fish store you can find, independent and chains. Chat with the sales people and even the managers about what books they are carrying, why, and who they get them from. No need to seriously pitch your idea now, in fact, this would be a great time to say something like, “You know, when I sit in front of my tropical fish tank, it’s so relaxing I love to read.” Just let it lie there for now.
Next, you research further. If the pet store is an independent, who owns it? Who makes purchasing decisions? If it’s a chain, how do you contact the decision makers? Would this be a purchasing decision made by each manager or only through headquarters? Emails are as effective as phone calls for learning this information. No need to be cryptic, people are always requesting this kind of information and answers are always given.
If the store in question already carries fiction on their limited bookshelves, ask the decision maker how he/she chooses a book to offer their customers. Some questions you may not even have to ask, once you’ve opened the conversation, the contact my just pour out what you need to know.
If the store or chain does not and has never carried fiction with their books, don’t get afraid or defensive, simply ask why and let them explain. The answer may be as simple as they’ve never tried it before and that’s the perfect in for talking about your book.
Next, now that you’ve made friends with owners, managers and large chain pet store personnel, begin to brainstorm an event. It could be a book launch event complete with press releases naming the particular store. There could be joint advertising themes, like a discount on angelfish for everyone who buys a book or attends the reading/signing book event. Let your imagination run wild. Start thinking about creating connections between your book and the store. Perhaps you can have fish tank skimmers placed inside the book as a free bookmarker. Maybe you can go as far as have some tropical fish food imprinted with the title of the book. Have large posters for the store windows and a banner (which you will need anyway for future events) featuring the book title.
Everything else would fall under the category of creating an effective book event, and we will cover that in another blog lesson. The focus today is to help you understand that no matter how odd or off the wall an idea is, it can be done. Imagine a major book event at the local pet store? The author sells and signs books, does a reading and gets exposure because this will catch the local media’s attention and of course, the author has sent out press releases with details of the event. Imagine the happy pet store owner? He’s gotten more customers into his store on one Saturday afternoon than ever before and his sales staff has a chance to sell more pets and fish. And imagine his competition? Now they’d like the author to come do the same thing for them. Now the pet store business owners and managers are notifying their customers that the author will be there. Now the author has an image connecting Tropical Murder and its subsequent books with an all new venue.
One more thing to imagine … your book is now being ordered by pet and tropical fish stores all over the country. Neat, huh?
New, yes, that’s fantastic, but never forget, everything other author’s do is just as important as the crazy pet store promotions. You still must connect with libraries and bookstores, must seek out reviews, have an active blog and website for your book, be present at writing, authors and book shows with books in trunk to continue to promote, promote, promote … and maybe this particular author should bring the star of the show everywhere he/she goes and have a fish bowl on the signing table with a beautiful tropical fish to greet everyone.
Being successful in this shifting publication and sales landscape isn’t about doing what everyone else does, better than they do. It’s about doing what everyone else does, better than they do … and doing something really interesting above and beyond.
The unique subject hook for Tropical Murder – tropical fish taken to the Nth degree.
The selling handle for Tropical Murder – the only murder/mystery novel tropical fish lovers (a proven large target market you’ve already researched) can buy in their favorite pet store.
Tropical Murder might be just as successful as any other book coming out this year without the added difficulty of finding a new market but hey … we don’t want to be just as successful, we want to stand tall and be more successful.
Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future
Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson
Note: I’ll be teaching a five day seminar on Creating an Effective Book Business Plan for Savvy Authors from May 31 to June 4 (scroll down to register). A lot will be covered there I can’t fit into a blog. Hope to see you!