How many authors are out there, right this minute, trying to sell their books? Hundreds? Thousands? More? How scary is that? Whether you’re about to release your first book or your tenth, it’s more than scary, it can be paralyzingly terrifying. Here’s the bigger question: Are you getting the sales results from your marketing that you’re hoping for? I’m guessing the answer is, no. Never fear, there is a simple solution. All you need to do is make better marketing choices. In my experience, authors have a tendency to latch onto a marketing idea then run with it—and a crowd of other authors doing that same strategy—even if the idea doesn’t really work. It’s like Pamplona in July, only these are writers, racing feverishly with their keyboards under their arms, and unknowingly running from success. But hey, they have each other, right? Unfortunately it always ends up the same, and there’s always blood. It’s time for authors to step away from the competition, be more analytical, and make better marketing choices if they want better results. Here are five tips for how to do just that.
HOW POPULAR IS THE IDEA? When writers get together, many of them fall in love the same marketing idea. Take free book giveaways, for example. There are several rationalizations for this extremely ineffective marketing sales strategy. There are the authors interested in getting on the top FREE books list. Most authors want to sell books, so that concept completely escapes me. A free book is not a sold book, and you can’t sell a book to someone who already received it for free. Some authors cling to the idea that if they give away a book, it will hook readers into loving their work and they’ll tell everyone they know to buy the book. The sad part about this concept is that the author has forgotten the biggest, most basic marketing rule of all…the rule of perceived value. How much is a free item worth? There’s a reason people say, “You get what you pay for.” It’s not that your book has little value, it’s that the recipient perceives that it has little value. If you have a great series and perpetually give away the first book in that series, it makes sense because the following books are available to purchase, and the free book is an invitation into the series. In that case, the free book LEADS to sales. Other than a giveaway that LEADS to sales, the only books you should ever give away should go to legitimate reviewers. Beyond the free book giveaway idea are a hundred other silly author strategies which include games, puzzles, blasting twitter messages, guest blogging on other author’s blogs, and author book review swaps. Among the worst ideas is the “Lets authors all get together and do something to bring readers to us!” The problem is that these events seldom actually attract book buyers. They do however attract other authors who want to participate and sadly, authors are not your broadest book buyer base. If you want better book sales, it’s time to STEP AWAY FROM OTHER AUTHORS! If an idea is vastly popular and all your author friends are doing it, that’s a clear sign that you should be doing something else—something that isn’t in the dead center of your shouting competition.
IS THE IDEA WORTH THE EFFORT? COST? TIME? Some authors have deep pockets and they lean toward hiring a service to handle their book marketing. It’s a nice idea, but be careful with your money. Be sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. If a company guarantees that your promotion or advertisement will be seen by thousands of people, find out who those people are. Often companies geared toward book marketing merely pull together a lot of authors, and those other authors are the people most likely to see your ad. Authors are too busy trying to sell their own books to be perusing and considering the purchase of other authors’ books. Ask exactly who will be seeing your promotion or ad and step away, wallet intact, if it looks like other authors are the primary audience. If not and you can afford the service, by all means go for it. Stepping out on your own often means thinking more creatively. Frequently something wonderful comes to town and it can be a huge boon for your particular book, but only if you’re thinking independently and creatively will you recognize these opportunities. For example, if your book is about a circus or has a circus as a major component of the story, look around. Is the circus coming to town? Is the local museum doing an exhibit on circus history? Is there a clown school in your town or city? Local connections are great ways to start testing your marketing ideas. But is this idea worth the time and energy? If the visiting circus has no problem with you selling and signing books at the entry of their venue, you may want to go for it. If you want to set up a speaking engagement at the clown school before or after a public performance, connect with the directors and see how you can make it happen. If the museum will only permit you to set up a speaking/book signing event if you guarantee to bring in 1,000 people for the exhibit…think twice, it may take too much of your time, energy, and advertising dollars. OR…it may help you sell that many more books. The point of all this speculation is that it’s far more effective to strike out on your own, be creative and original, and reach out to people interested in your book’s unique hook—in this case the circus. The question is, is the effort, cost, and time worth it? Only you can determine that. Most times it is. Other times, it may fall short. With good creative efforts and smart time management, it can work really well, expose your book to a new audience, and create more sales than anything you’ve ever done before. Always step back after the event and make sure it brought the results you wanted. If not, decide what you could have done differently or better. If it was successful, schedule the next event with joy and enthusiasm.
HAVE YOU CONSIDERED TRYING THE OPPOSITE? If all the runners are running to the right and all the bulls are following them…run left. If every author is shouting at genre lover book clubs, look for the opposite way to reach lovers of that genre. Book marketing is such an abstract concept to authors that they tend to think BOOKS and only BOOKS. But what you should be thinking about is not books, not readers of books, not genre lovers…but lovers of the unique concepts, ideas, and events inside your book. ALWAYS REMEMBER—you are not marketing books, you are marketing A PRODUCT TO PEOPLE. Those people like things. Things like the circus, motorcycles, dogs, wine, gardening, or whatever interesting unique hook is already written inside your book. Marketing is all about creating awareness of your product and making a connection with people who will love your product. Limiting your marketing strategies to just book buyers, genre lovers, and book clubs is like choosing to talk to only the guests staying in one room of a thousand-room hotel. The opposite of what most authors do is to think about the broader target buyer for your product. If your book is a love story between a small town girl and a Harley riding loner and you just market to romance lovers and romance book clubs, you’ve just missed a huge marketing opportunity! Search motorcycles, Harley Davidson motorcycles, bikers, and motorcycle culture on twitter, Facebook, and Yahoo Groups and marvel at the massive audience who love that unique hook. The women who love motorcycles also read and buy books. Connect with them and you’ve just multiplied your marketing audience by thousands. The best part of all this is that there are no other authors trying to get your audience’s attention. Do the opposite. It will always pay off.
IDENTIFY NEW AUDIENCES FOR A BOOST IN SALES We touched on this a bit already. Your unique story hooks will lead you to broader audiences in a marketing strategy that will only work for your book and no one else’s. But think about this for a moment. I guarantee that there is more than one unique hook within your book. There were two in the story between a small town girl and a Harley riding loner. The first one was motorcycles, plus leather, motor cycle culture, biker boots, etc. The second one is small town living, plus gardening, diners, cooking, and coffee. If you think about it, you’ve already written several unique hooks right in your book. Locating the audiences for these hooks is just as creative a process as writing your book, mind you. Search small town living on twitter, Facebook and Yahoo Groups. You’ll discover large groups of people talking about small town life. Connecting with these groups gives you the opportunity to talk about the small town lifestyle in your book. If there’s a gardener or a short order diner cook in your book, search online and located groups of people talking about those subjects. If a hook is biker boots or leather jackets, search out Facebook pages owned by businesses that sell those products and communicate with the followers. Connection is the key to effective marketing. That means talking with lovers of your unique hooks about the topic, NOT begging them to buy your book. Make friends, and never forget to have your book noted clearly in your bio and/or on your email tag for yahoo groups.
TEST YOUR RESULTS The best thing about identifying and using your unique hooks to locate and connect with prospective book buyers is bigger than just stepping away from your competition for best results. It’s a great way to grow sales steadily between your current release and the next release. So many authors reach for the stars, have a great release and big sales, then suddenly their sales fall off drastically. This is the time to reach out to a new unique hook audience. Gain more sales, watch to make sure the audience was responsive enough then move on to the next unique hook. Writing a book is a solitary creative effort. Marketing a book is a performance art. Testing to see which audiences and efforts bring the best results will help you to continue to make better marketing choices. Better choices lead to better sales. My final thought for you: if you want to run with the bulls, plan a trip, buy a plane ticket and run with the bulls, not with your fellow authors. Pamplona is far less dangerous. Go and be successful! Questions? I’m happy to answer!
WRITE BRAIN/LEFT BRAIN: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN CREATIVE WRITER AND MARKETING AUTHOR