Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Make Yourself an Expert

Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


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I know old-school marketing. I have been working to promote products, people, and services since I was about 15 years old. (And since I am old…)

  • Trade and Consumer campaigns (B2B, B2C)
  • Strategic and tactical planning
  • Design, copywriting, advertising, on- or off-line
  • Collateral material
  • Printing, publishing, distribution
  • Media relations
  • Event planning and management

Talking about any of the above makes no difference at all to sales of my books.

Where it does make a difference is in selling my services as a marketing consultant, business and technical writer/editor, designer, cover artist, and author PA. And, if I were to write a book about marketing—not outside the realm of possibility—my credentials would help sell it.

Because, after 25 years, there are very few promotion situations I haven’t faced. Because I can explain how to sell in plain English. Because when I talk about marketing a product, past results show it is not a bad idea to listen.

Because I am an expert.

As a writer trying to sell books, making yourself an expert is a great way to create brand recognition and a following. (This should go without saying, but I am not suggesting you can tout yourself as an expert with no expertise to back it up.)

Aside from pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing (or Master’s or PhD in another academic discipline), and looking for a university teaching position, there are any number of other options that will make you a person to take seriously about the business or craft of writing, or both.

Given enough experience, you can (like me) become a professional writer/editor. You could teach classes in less formal settings, like trade groups or online. Some people set up workshops or formal critique groups. Still others work in publishing or printing or distribution, lending value in traditional or indie publishing settings.

But beyond expertise in publishing, you can also sell books by becoming an expert in your subject area or genre. Historical fiction authors are great at this, using blogs to write up their research, or writing nonfiction about their time period. But history doesn’t have to be your subject matter.

Chefs sell cookbooks by feeding people great food. Self-help authors sell books by creating workshops that help people. Motivational speakers sell books by pumping people up at appearances.

Everyone seems to sell books by writing blog posts and articles in their subject area.

You can sell books by winning contests, being written up in your local paper, giving lectures at trade shows, or being interviewed on local television.

It takes, they say, 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. By the time you are finished writing a book, are you not an expert in—if nothing else—that book?


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and  www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 1

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mSo you’ve written a book. You’ve done all the right things. You’ve learned your craft. The book has been edited, copyedited, proofread. It has a marvelous cover.

Now all you have to do is stick it up on Amazon, and wait to grow rich?

Right?

If only it were that easy.

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail

You need a good book. You need persistence. You need a healthy dose of luck. Above all, you need a plan.

In this post (and the next) in the Bazillion Book Marketplace series, Mari and I are going to talk about what needs to be in a marketing plan for a book. (You might also want a marketing plan for Brand You, but that’s another post.)

To write a plan, you need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, how much they’re prepared to pay, and where they expect to find it. (In marketing parlance, the 4 Ps–Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.)

This week’s post looks at your reader, your book, and your price. Next week, we’ll talk about where books are sold, where they are promoted, and what marketing materials you might need.

Know your reader

Your marketing plan should start with your reader. Can you describe your typical reader? Do you know how old they are? What sort of education they have? What they do when they’re not reading? What other genres they read?

Do you know what they like about the kind of book you write? What they don’t like? What will make them keep reading and what will cause them to shut the book and hurl it across the room?

What are their hobbies, interests, passions?

Where can you meet them (online or in person or both)?

The better you can describe your typical readers, the better you can put yourself (and your book) in front of them.

Know your book

No one knows your book better than you do, right? But can you capture the essence of your book in a couple of compelling sentences that grab that typical reader by the imagination and drag them to the bookstore?

In your marketing plan, describe what about your book will appeal to your reader, then write your compelling description–your story’s tagline (some call it a logline).

Know your price

What do your readers think they should pay for a book like yours? What are they prepared to pay? Do some research. Also think about the best price points to give you a good return. Pricing e-books is a contentious topic, and a post I wrote on this several weeks ago has been the most viewed and commented on more than any I’ve written since I started this blog.

Should you give one or more of your books away free (permanently or for a short period)? Should you put the book on a special price for a limited time? Will pricing low help you sell more books, or will it make them less valued? How does your genre affect your price? (For instance, novels are most often seen in the $2.99 – 3.99 price range, but self-help averages about $7.99.)

Next steps

Knowing who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend is a good start. In our next post, we’ll talk about putting that knowledge to good use when deciding where and how to promote your book.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: How to Non-Market

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mI’ve spent a large part of my career as a commercial writer in my own small business. Small business owners are responsible for everything. I was writer, peer reviewer, company book-keeper, chief executive, project manager, strategic planner, stores manager, cleaner of toilets, sales person and, of course, the big ‘M’ word. The one I feared. Marketing. So I learnt how to promote my business by non-marketing; marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. Marketing that an introvert like me could do just by being myself.

It was good preparation for being a self-published writer. Again, I am running my own business. And again, I’m out in the world vigorously non-marketing.

Non-marketing is about being present

The first rule of non-marketing is to spend time with people who might want to read your book. Get to know them. Talk to them about the things that interest you. Find out what interests them. Be present.

In traditional non-marketing, writers joined Toastmasters, and Rotary, and the local bowling club. They went to book fairs and gardening clubs; talked at schools and writers’ workshops; went to dinner with agents and editors and book clubs. And we can still do all of those things.

Today, we can also spend time with people all over the world, using the Internet. You don’t have to be everywhere; choose two or more from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, blogging and all the others. Then go and meet people. Be present.

Non-marketing is about being genuine

If you want a friend, the old saying goes, you have to be a friend. The second rule of non-marketing is to offer others a helping hand. One of the things I really love about the romance writing community is the open-hearted, open-handed and genuine approach to helping others.

This isn’t about reciprocal arrangements: like my page and I’ll like yours, review my book and I’ll review yours. It isn’t about sucking up, either. Being genuine means giving because I can, because I know the answer to your question, or have the contact you need, or have a blog and would love you to be my guest.

The flashy insincere marketers might also be helpful, but always there’s an agenda. Sponsorships are often this kind of marketing. The support comes with strings attached, in the form of opportunities to sell their service or product. Sponsored by [insert name of famous soda drink here].

As non-marketers you’ll be helpful because you are genuinely interested. You want to know about the birth of a friend’s grandchild. You celebrate your friend’s acceptance letter from a publisher because you’re genuinely happy for them. You hunt your research database for an obscure fact someone has asked for. You send you a condolence message because someone’s troubles touch your heart.

Non-marketing is about offering a unique experience

If you’re present in a community who love the kind of books you write, one way you can be genuinely helpful is to offer them your book. Not in a ‘buy, buy, buy; me, me, me’ used car salesman way, but gently, as part of the conversation.

Let’s say people are talking about the kinds of protagonist they prefer. You may, if it fits in the conversation, use a description of your own protagonist to illustrate your point. Keep it short. Make it interesting.

It helps to be very clear about what you do that is different, and to have a few lines you can use. If someone asks what I write, I say ‘historical fiction with strong heroines, heroes who can appreciate them, and complex plots full of mystery and suspense’. It’s a tagline I’m working on, and constantly changing, but it’s getting there. My hero Rede is “a man driven by revenge who needs to move beyond his past before he can have a future”.

And there you have it. I’ve used my work to give two illustrations of my point. And I don’t need to belabour it until you’re bored, or sell you something today. Today, we have more important things to talk about, such as how you can turn a friend into a long-term reader.

Non-marketing is about being good at what you do

Insincere marketers rely on lots of noise to keep driving new customers to their product. Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

So write a good book. No. Cancel that. Write the best book you can. And when you’ve finished, write a better one. Never stop learning; never stop improving. Your best marketing tool is your library of successful publications.

Non-marketing is about building long-term relationships

I don’t want readers. Or, at least, I don’t want just readers. I want to make friends who will stay with me for the journey.

Readers, yes. People who find I offer them a reading experience they can’t get from anyone else, so they wait for my next book and pounce on it as soon as it goes on pre-order. People who will contact me and tell me what they like, discuss my characters, adopt my heroes as book boyfriends and my heroines as BFFs, argue about the motivations of my villains, pick up some of my subtle jokes and codes.

And fellow writers. People who will laugh at the things I laugh at, tell stories about their craft that inspire, amuse, or dismay, help me out and accept my help, understand the journey — its costs and its rewards.

Above all, I want friends who care about books and about story telling, and who are happy to talk about them. And the heart of non-marketing is making friends.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organisations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Newsletter
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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Word-of-Mouth

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-m“Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More…”

I date myself with this reference to The Music Man (and finally publicly admit my long-time love of musical theatre), but I find it inexplicably accurate when discussing word-of-mouth marketing.

Most readers will not tell their friends how great you are. Sadly, your book is not their primary topic of conversation. However, word-of-mouth marketing is the best, and least expensive, tool you have.

Always has been. Always will be.

Further, this is the way people make buying decisions now—recommendations from friends and respected experts—which is why social media campaigns sell. Static advertising is no longer effective. (Let me say that again: Advertising no longer works.)

Now, the most effective forms of promotion involve conversation. This means review sites, blogs, co- and cross-promotion with other authors, book clubs, signings, and most important, two concepts with more meaning than you think: “Buzz” and “viral” marketing.

Buzz Marketing, as the name implies, is about people talking about your product. However, its specific meaning in the marketing world moves beyond organic discussion. In marketing parlance, buzz is generated by designing the conversations you want people to have. A great example is drug commercials: “talk to your doctor about [insert medication].” If you think lovers of Gone with the Wind will buy your book, tell them why your hero is like Rhett Butler. If they agree, they will tell friends who also love Southern historical fiction. (If they don’t agree, the strategy will backfire, so design your conversations carefully.)

Viral Marketing, like a cat video shared ten million times on YouTube, is created by giving someone an item to pass along. This might be a video trailer or coupon or a sample book or a rack card, but should always be designed to bring people back to your product. A bookmark is lovely, but without an easy link to a buy site (not just your website), its usefulness is limited. Likewise, a pass-along no one passes along is irrelevant.

To achieve these all-but-magical forms of promotion, back to my third-favorite musical of all time (before you ask, Camelot and My Fair Lady).

Pick a Little

Loglines, elevator speeches, and blurbs aren’t just for the back cover (or pitching an agent) anymore. Today, you are pitching everyone who might be interested, including people you will never meet.

Identify thought leaders: Since customers take their advice from friends and experts, pick your targets carefully. Street teams work because their friends probably have similar tastes and are more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than yours. Similarly, if a noted authority (like a bestselling author or well-known reviewer) supports your product, buyers will listen.

Keep it short: Loglines work better than blurbs for verbal and social media exchange. “[Book Title] is about [if you have to take a breath, your conversation is too long].”

Start smart: Choose a limited number of outlets and messages until you know what works, and track your results. Indiscriminate efforts are wasted. Begin small and only escalate what sells.

Create Meaningful Messages: Make much of milestones, like bestseller lists, publication anniversaries, or selling a certain number of copies, because these tidbits are easily shared by loyal fans. Promote great reviews, especially ones by thought leaders.

Talk a Little

Begin with human interaction, not calculated conversation starters. Get to know your audience—and let them get to know you—by joining and participating in:

  • Writers’ groups. While the “author water cooler” is, in some ways, counter-intuitive, authors help each other and classes in craft will never hurt your chances of success. To make this most effective, remember that turnabout is fair play; giving back to the community is imperative, not optional.
  • Social groups related to your interest, online and otherwise, for instance, online research-sharing groups, a gardening society, or a historical reenactment troupe.
  • Relevant associations, like historical preservation societies, religious study groups, or scientific research consortiums.

When you have found a niche or two where you feel comfortable, attend meetings, volunteer, speak up in online forums, and generally make yourself known, not just as an author, but as a contributor. The chance to talk about your book will occur naturally, and your audience will be more receptive.

Cheep (or Rather, Cheap)

Word-of-mouth is the least expensive marketing option. When it begins to move on its own, it costs you nothing, and before it does, most of your outlay is in time, not cash. A couple of ideas to stimulate buzz and viral messaging:

Cheap

Giveaways: Sending an e-copy of your book to a potential reader is a great investment. That said, give away the book or directly related items, not “anything someone might want,” and don’t spend more than your sale is worth. Also, target your giveaway. It makes no sense to give a novel to someone who only reads nonfiction. Copies to reviewers are great, but don’t send a historical romance novel to Suspense Magazine.

Cheap

Sales: Judiciously lowering the price on your book is great way to get word-of mouth moving. If you watch social media, you will see that “This book I loved is only 99ȼ!” is shared far more often than, “I loved this book.” If you combine sales with similar authors, so much the better, because then you are sharing a larger pool of readers interested in your genre.

Talk a Lot

Once you know which conversations to have and with whom, spread them around! Every sentence can’t start with, “My book,” or the pass-along will be “boring and self-centered.” But as you find the balance between normal interaction and sales, you will naturally find opportunities for both.

Pick a Little More

As time goes on, expand your conversation starters, extend your reach to new thought leaders, and find new outlets for your message. But always—always—make sure the words you are putting in other people’s mouths are ones you want repeated.


Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

Websites: www.MariChristie.info and  www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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