A special Wednesday round-up
A blog about marketing, for authors.
Practical up-to-date advice for book marketers. Got a tip to share? Email me. Materials: Not got author business cards? Check out the free business card offer from Vistaprint (US) and Vistaprint (UK). Beware that Vistaprint free cards come with their advertising on the back. If you want something more professional, business cards are not expensive to get printed by a local printer or other online retailer. Media: Have you considered having a blog, or getting involved in a blog? Setting up your own blog can be free (money – not time-wise!). Most blogs are hosted with providers www.blogspot.com (free) or www.typepad.com (30 day free trial). PR: Don't forget in your marketing planning that getting your books into libraries could be a good thing! Not only in terms of any lending right money it might bring you - UK: Public Lending Right; Canada: Public Lending Right Commission; Australia: Lending Right - but in terms of creating awareness.
Californian Crime novelist Lee Goldberg's latest books are The Man with the Iron-On Badge published by Five Star and Diagnosis Murder: The Past Tense published by Signet. 1. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author? Beyond my website and blog, I do the usual round of booksignings and speaking engagements/luncheons/seminars. I also attend the two major mystery conventions -- Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon. On top of that, I send out a bimontly enewsletter to my mailing list of about 1000 folks and review copies of my books to publications, websites and blogs that my publisher might over look . A few months before a book comes out, I send a personal letter to booksellers and key "opinion makers" in the mystery genre (fans, reviewers, bloggers, authors, etc). 2. What marketing have your publishers done? Next to none, beyond sending out review copies and listing the book in their catalog. 3. What did you learn during your experiences of trying to market your books? Your primary target isn't the reader... it's the bookseller. If you can get them excited about your books, the readers will follow. Another thing I learned is to use my time wisely -- don't accept every booksigning or speaking opportunity. Ask yourself whether you will either a) sell a lot of books or b) accomplish valuable networking with booksellers. Otherwise, it just isn't worthwhile. Often I will go to an event knowing I might not sell lots of books at the time but that the effort will pay off down the road. 4. What's the most successful piece of marketing you've done? Face-to-face meetings with booksellers in their stores and at the mystery conventions. 5. What advice would give for authors starting out with marketing their books? Don't be all about selling your book. Relationships are more important. If you can establish relationships/friendships with sellers, reviewers, and other authors, it will create the all-important word-of-mouth that truly propels sales.
The marketing savvy author accepts all the help they can get. Unless you are superman / woman you are going to need it! Rather than moaning about how little marketing support your publisher may be giving you, take any help they’ll provide. Be proactive and go and meet the publicity manager. One way of lifting yourself from being just a name in the long list is to become one of the authors she personally knows. If it’s difficult to physically meet than build up a relationship over the telephone or email. Remember that successful relationships are two-way streets. Feed back to your publicist what’s worked and what hasn’t. This is valuable information which might help her with other authors. Your friends and family want your book to succeed. They also want to part of your dream. So when they ask you if you need any help, thank them immediately and give them some book promotion to do. And that’s not all. You might find its effective to engage your own publicist. Other authors, especially ones in your genre, may offer you help and advice. And keep your eyes and ears open for that chance meeting at a party, when the person you've just met says that they have a friend who might help you… i.e. network, and don’t forget to return your favours.
The weekly editorial round-up. It was great that Michael Allen aka Grumpy Old Bookman agreed to do a Sunday Interview. I think he's right that nowadays, more than ever, marketing is something integral to book selling. It's a trend I've seen in other industries and it's reflective of the increased volume of media and role of marketing in our society. I'm currently having an interesting exchange of emails with Amazon related to pricing. I'll share it with you here once I can, but in the meantime I'm wondering exactly how pricing fits into the author marketing mix - because it does - and yet it can be something - like the book cover - over which the author can have very little influence. We know that promotional low pricing and multi-buy offers (eg 3 for 2s) can stimulate book buyers to take greater purchasing risks (e.g. try authors they've not tried before). My big question is rather how price elastic are book buyers? Meaning how high a price will book buyers tolerate before a sale is lost due to price. In this 2002 article an executive at a major US publisher is quoted as saying that books are highly inelastic. He's wrong. Yes, devoted fans may buy a book whatever the price and consumers expect to have to more for specialist titles, and so they will. However, as this excellent session paper from the International Publishers Association Congress 2004 rightly points out, general fiction and non-fiction titles have relatively high price elasticity. What is your experience? And what do you think? Publishers have to cover their costs and make a profit, but do you think your books are priced correctly? Have you had experience of changing prices impacting your book sales? Were you able to do anything about it?
Practical up-to-date advice for book marketers. Got a tip to share? Email me. Direct marketing: Send out details of your book / your next book with your Christmas cards this year. Materials: Good advice on what you might include in your author press kit from Mitchel Whitington. I’ll just add to this, keep it short and put your press kit online. My co-alter ego Jennifer Lindsay’s online press kit is here. Press: Wherever you live, anything you do which is in the slightest bit beyond the ordinary is deemed of potential interest to other local people by your local press. If you only have time to make one press contact, get to know someone at your local newspaper. He could be a reporter or features editor, or another journalist interested in books and authors. If you can, meet them and keep up the relationship by making sure you send them all your press releases, or even your news informally via email. It’s great to know that you can get in your local paper when you need to. e.g. for when you have a local book signing coming up.
An occasional column for when someone asks me an interesting question. Email me your question. Question: Should I get a friend to buy 10 copies of my book to boost my Amazon rankings? From: a non-fiction author It’s a well-known fact that Amazon rankings can be manipulated. Overnight your book can be escalated up the rankings by a few well-timed purchases. If the objective of this exercise to boost your author-ego by making you seem like a more important author because you have a higher Amazon-ranking today than yesterday, then why not? And of course it’s great to have another ten copies on your royalty statement / retail audit data - if your friend is paying. But rankings-chasing really isn’t worth much on its own. What it could be worth doing is encouraging a few friends to buy from Amazon rather than elsewhere to encourage Amazon to keep your book in stock – and therefore have a 24-hour delivery time.
UK booktrade commentator Michael Allen's first novel was published in 1963. His latest book, Grumpy Old Bookman, is a printed version of the first six months of his blog of the same name. 1. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author? Most kinds. My first novel was published in 1963, and in those days no one at the publisher asked me to do anything in the way of marketing or publicity, and I didn't realise that it might help if I did. However, from then on, I did my best to co-operate with whatever the publisher suggested, and to initiate some publicity of my own. I never have written a book on which the publisher was willing to spend any serious money, so usually my involvement has been limited to being interviewed by the local press, with the occasional radio interview. My own initiatives have included asking friends and relations to request copies from their local library (probably not very effective), and giving the publisher lists of possible reviewers. I have also given informal talks and formal lectures. Nowadays I run my own small press and no longer work through big commercial firms. This means that I have to do all the marketing myself. For reasons of cost I usually limit this to concentrating my sales effort on the UK library suppliers, and sending out a limited number of carefully targeted review copies. I also plug my stuff online as hard as I can. 2. What essential things about marketing did you learn that you wish you'd known from the start? The main thing to be said about marketing, in my view, is that modesty is the enemy of talent. My problem is that I don't much like personal publicity. A few years ago I had a play produced in Croydon, and a local newspaper gave me a whole page, with picture. It seemed to me thatthat was quite enough personal publicity for one lifetime. 3. How has marketing changed for authors since you were first published? I began writing in an era when there were very few media outlets in the UK -- there were far more in the US, of course. The whole idea of hype was almost unknown in the 1960s. It has grown exponentially since. Today it's simply not enough to produce a publishable book, or even an outstanding book. You need something else to go with it -- either an established reputation in the arts, sports, politics and so forth, or some sort of exploitable talent. I read recently about a young female crime novelist inthe US: what clinched the sale of her book to a publisher was that fact that she was also a singer/songwriter, and could perform on TV after talking about her book. 4. What did you learn during your experiences of trying to market yourbooks? I learnt that I don't enjoy personal publicity and that about 90% of marketing is a complete waste of time and money. The trouble is, no one knows how to identify the valuable 10% in advance. 5. What's the most successful piece of marketing you've done? The most successful single piece of marketing occurred when I sent a copy of one of my thrillers to a the manager of a bookshop which is part of a big UK chain. It turned out that he was a very keen fan of thrillers, as was a senior executive in the company. They both read mine and placed a substantial order. This was purely the result of chance. 6. What advice would you give for authors starting out with marketing their books? Don't be tempted to spend huge amounts of money. Huge means more than you would spend on a short holiday. It almost certainly will not pay off.
There are two ways to approach your book marketing. You can leap in now and start looking for opportunities and jump in and try them. Or you can start by writing a plan. The marketing savvy author writes a plan. Why? Because by planning will help you maximise the impact of your marketing activity. You won’t just be reliant on individual bits of marketing and publicity and their direct success or failure, you’ll be able to plan various activities to happen concurrently – and this is where marketing can have its greatest pay-off: the sum can grow to be greater than the individual parts. Open up a new word processing document and type at the top your name and the title of the book you’re about to write your plan for, and then in big, bold letters write “Marketing and Publicity Plan”. It might take you an hour, it might take you twenty, but time invested in planning is not time wasted. It's time invested in sorting the wheat from the chaff and giving your book the best possible chances with the resources you have. Begin by defining your objectives. What do you want to achieve and by when? I suggest you make your objectives as specific and realistic as possible. Then define and profile your audiences (see Rules 3 and 4). Then do what in marketing jargon is known as a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for: Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats. Type each of these as a heading and below each make a list related to you, your book, publisher and external factors. Include here the amount of time and money you expect to be able to invest in your book promotion. By listing your, and your book’s, SWOTs you’ll have a good idea what you have to your advantage, and what potential difficulties you may have to overcome. Now, the final part of the plan, a list of the marketing and promotional activities you are going to pursue. Organise these under headings by type: e.g. Events, Publicity, Direct Marketing. When deciding whether or not to pursue a specific activity, consider whether it’s an effective way to reach your audience and what’s known as the ROI – return on investment, i.e. what you’ll get out of it versus what it will cost you in terms of time and money. Now you’ve done the thinking, you can get on with executing your plan. It’s dosen’t mean you can’t modify your plan as you go along, or take advantage of new opportunities. It’s just gives you some armour to go into marketing and promotions and get out of it what you want.
The weekly editorial round-up. This week has been exciting for me. Firstly checking the site traffic every day and seeing people actually visiting this blog! If they are visiting, hopefully they are reading. And I know some are reading because the other exciting thing is that I've had emails every day, from authors mostly, but also a couple from book publicists. Firstly I'd like to say, thanks for all the positive feedback. Secondly, don't be shy about posting comments here. It's only a blog. Less people read it than the letters page of your local newspaper, and the people reading it are authors like you. I’ve blogged the next 2 installments in the series Rules. The two rules are related. Firstly that marketing savvy authors must define their audience, and secondly that to reach their audience most effectively they need to get to know them. This Sunday's interview was Yvonne Eve Walus who is from New Zealand but published with a small US publisher yet she's been succesfully marketing her novel. I've got some great author interviews lined up for coming Sundays and I'm determined to get interviews from authors around the world and across genres. Keep sending me your feedback.
Practical, up-to-date advice for book marketers. Got a tip to share? Email me. Events: The holiday season is fast approaching so it’s an excellent time of year to try craft or gift fairs. Author Marc Vun Kannon writes, “I decided to try craft and gift fairs about 2 years ago… They have the advantage that you can enter just by paying the fee, in an environment where people are there looking for things to buy.” Inspiration: Author Shauna Singh Baldwin’s new website. Clean, easy to navigate and with the information there to intrigue about her books. Media: Get an article or a short story published, and convention is that you’ll get a short plug for your book at the end. Crime writers: take a look at Shotsmag. A good listing of short story markets internationally at Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau.
The global market research industry is worth around US$ 19,000 million.* And works out per capita to be in the UK is US$34 and in the US US$23. Why are companies investing so much in market research? Because a successful company is one who understands its market and its customers. As a marketing-savvy author, its not enough to define whom you want to target (see Rule 3), you need to get to know your target groups of readers and buyers so you can: a) reach them b) communicate with them A fiction author researches to try and get into the heads of their characters. All authors need to research their readers. The good news is that as an author you’ve natural talent in the fields of communication and you’re already a keen observer of human behaviour. Market researching your readers will not only make your marketing more effective, it’ll be fun! Start by catching up on general reading trends. Some key theories of current trends are in articles at the East Asian Publishing Network and the UK's Literary Trust. Keep up to date from the publishing trade press, newspapers. This kind of information also often gets passed around author email loops. If your readers are likely to come from a certain demographic, research that demographic further. There are articles online and various market research companies and consuktancies produce consumer reports on general trends of particular consumer segments. e.g. the "Grey market". UK company Mintel’s reports are usually available from public libraries. Don’t just think of your readers in terms of their basic demographics, however. Make sure you consider their lifestyles and what else they are likely to be doing when they are not reading your book and books like yours. It’s via their lifestyles which you may find innovative and effective ways to reach them. American Cowboy magazine isn’t immediately obviously historical at first glance, but the media kit states that 81% of their readers enjoy Western history. Magazines produce media kits which profile their readers but you can rely on your common sense. Most people signing-up for a cookery class are going to have an interest in cookery. So invest a little time being a market researcher and profile your readers and buyers. It’ll become a whole lot easier to find out where to find them. *ESOMAR figures, 2003
New Zealand author Yvonne Eve Walus's novel, Murder @ Work, is published by Echelon Press. 1. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author? I don't think there is anything I haven't tried. Public speaking, booksigning, personalised pens advertising my book, business cards with the book's jacket at the back, bookmarks, conference bag goodies, website, bookexpo events. 2. What essential things about marketing did you learn that you wish you'd known from the start? i. Be confident. Don't walk into a bookstore with the mindset that you're asking a favour when you approach them with your book. Imagine you're doing them a favour letting them stock your fantastic work. ii. Take a box of chocolates when you're going to approach a bookstore manager or owner. iii. Go for "value" - minimum cost for maximum impact. A cleverly designed black and white flyer can have as much impact as a colour one, at half thecost. iv. Allow people multiple options of payment, including PayPal and creditcard. 3. Your novel Murder @ Work is published as ebook format. How has this impacted your marketing approach? It hasn't really. Murder @ Work is available in paperback as well as e-format, but I never give it much thought when I market the book. I believe most sales so far have been in paperback. 4. What have you learned from your experiences of trying to market your novel? It's harder that you could possibly imagine. It's harder than doing a doctorate, harder than raising kids. Marketing a book is even harder than writing one. 5. What's the most successful piece of marketing you've done? Told all my friends I would never speak to them again if they didn't buy my book for themselves and all their friends. :-) Seriously though, I believe my most successful bit of marketing is still to come: I'm in the process of organising a murder mystery evening (a public event with tickets and solving a fictional case etc), where I will pitch my book. 6. What advice would you give for authors starting out with marketing their books? If you can afford it, get a public relations officer. If you can't afford one at all, still get one (even if it's your mother or spouse).
A marketing manager in a company gets telephoned several times a day by people trying to sell them something. Why? Because in a company while Sales make money, Marketing spend it, and these callers have marketing products and services to sell, and their key buyer who holds the purse strings is the marketing manager. The first question any marketing manager worth his salt will ask is: Is it worth it? Except they won’t ask this, they’ll ask the following question which is tantamount to the same thing: Will it reach the audience I need? If the answer is no, then the marketing manager is going to put that telephone down straight away. There’s no point even considering it further. If the answer is yes, then it might be worth the marketing manager finding out more information to start evaluating the potential opportunity. Authors marketing their books need to know, for each book, what the audience is they want to reach. Without this, it’s impossible to form a judgement on the potential effectiveness of a marketing activity. After all, how can you aim at something, if you don’t know what it is? Define your audience, or audiences – your potential buyers and readers (who may not be the same people). Write them down in a list with your biggest or best-potential audience as number 1. If you want the greatest returns from your marketing activity, focus most effort on reaching your audiences in order of priority.
The weekly editorial round-up. Marketing for Authors blog has been live less than a week. Every Wednesday I’ll be doing a weekly round-up of what’s been covered so if you’ve only time for a quick visit, you can check the latest Wednesday round-up first. I’ve blogged the first 2 installments in the series Rules which will be running over the next 2-3 months (depending on how fast I can write them up). Firstly that marketing does not have to be expensive, but you do need to invest in it – if not money, then time. Secondly that authors must take responsibility for marketing. It was great that Fenella-Jane Miller agreed to be interviewed before the blog even existed! There will be an author interview here every Sunday. If there is a particular author you’d like to see interviewed, or if you are an author with some unique marketing experiences you’d like to share, email me. Tuesday tips is another weekly column with the objective of sharing up-to-date practical advice. The first column featured links to sites detailing literary festivals, an excellent article on writing author press releases, and some links to book magazines. I very much hope that Marketing for Authors can develop into an enjoyable and informative blog to demystify the marketing process, share practical advice and help authors become marketing managers for their books. If you have any comments or suggestions at any time, post them here or drop me a line.
Practical, up-to-date advice for book marketers. Got a tip to share? Email me. Events: Now is a good time to be pitching for slots for next year’s book festivals. US: Publishers Weekly lists book festivals in its events calendar. UK: The British Council maintains a list of the major literature festivals. NZ: NZ Book Council lists upcoming literary events. Rest of World: list from British Council. Materials: Sound advice on writing author press releases from author Scott Nicholson. Media: You’re going to hunt down those specialist titles that might be interested in you’re book, aren’t you? But don’t forget the generic book media, such as... N America: Pages, Bookmarks (offline); January Magazine, Bookreporter (online). UK: NewBooks (offline).
There’s a fair chance that some authors reading this rule are going to disagree with me from the outset. They are going to shake their heads and say, “but all I wanted to do was write!” Hard luck. You’ve also got to sell – yourself and your books. Actually I was there once, living in that dream-world, one where I simply exist on the thrill of selling a book or two a year to a publisher. I thought that was all the selling I’d need to do. Sell to Reader-Number-One (aka the acquiring editor) and then sit back and get writing the next book. This was before I discovered the economics on which the global publishing industry is currently based. To put it bluntly, there’s not a lot of profit in books. To keep in profits publishers either must create volume sales (i.e. bestsellers) or be niche. Marketing costs money which comes straight off the bottom line (the publisher's profit) and so the maximise the impact of any marketing investment a publisher can make they will concentrate it on a few titles where they can see the best chance of returns. The marketing manager in a publisher thus has a budget that s/he can't spread too thinly yet has many titles to deal with. Most of the list will therefore never have individual marketing plans. Now different authors have different aims and ambitions vis-a-vis their careers but one cold fact can’t be ignored – your sales figures. No matter how much your editor may love your books, no matter what acclaim you might garner, you’re part of a commercial industry and your sales are numbers upon which your merit will be judged. So the smart author takes responsibility for marketing. If your publisher is doing stuff, great. Take all the help you can get. But decide that you are your books’ marketing manager. You can give more time, thought and attention to marketing your books than anyone else.
Fenella-Jane Miller's first novel, The Unconventional Miss Walters, was out with Robert Hale last month. 1. What kinds of marketing have you done as an author? I've set up interviews with Writer's News, Mature Times, Romance Junkies and Essex County Newspapers. I invited 150 people to my book launch using postcards with a picture of the cover and asking all to order from library if they couldn't come. I've been handing out bookmarks to anyone who expressed an interest and I've visited local bookshops and libraries. 2. What marketing has your publisher done? Robert Hale put The Unconventional Miss Walters in their catalogue, provided excellent postcards and bookmarks, and are supplying point of sale stuff. They sent out 7 review copies, to names I gave, and are entering the book in RNA Romance and Sagittarius competitions. 3. What essential things about marketing did you learn that you wish you'd known from the start? Contact publications as soon as you sell book because they work 6 months in advance. Don't contact the press until it's published. 4. What did you learn during your experiences of trying to market your book? People are very interested in authors. They seem more impressed than we are with ourselves. It was only when I got my first positive feedback from a reader, an ex-literature academic, that I felt confident to go out and sell it. 5. What's the most successful piece of marketing you've done? The book launch party where I sold over 40 books as a direct result of this. 6. What advice would you give for authors starting out with marketing their books? See above!
When I set out to market my first novel I decided to try the marketing theory and techniques which I’d learned at college and used in business across the consumer goods, drinks and internet industries. I’ll take the principles of marketing I’ve learned and used, I thought, and see if they work for books. They did. The novel, The Lady Soldier by Jennifer Lindsay, out with independent UK publisher Robert Hale, sold out its first impression within a week of launch. It was only later I started to look into what resources were available to help authors market their books did I realise what a knowledge and resource gap there was. There are authors such as M. J. Rose who know what they are talking about, willing to share how book marketing can work. But a trawl through the Internet shows up a lot of scams – people wanting authors to part with money, in some cases a lot of money, for various marketing services. Ok, so maybe they are not all scams, but I wouldn’t part with any money in this way. Here’s the first rule of marketing for authors. It can very cheap indeed. If you're in any doubt how a marketing service might benefit you and your book(s), don't do it if it costs money. If you are willing to invest time, you don’t need to invest (much) money. And I’d suggest you spend the money where it counts. Perhaps this might be on printing, or website hosting, or wine for your book launch party. So set yourself a strict budget, because you know what – a lack of money will force you to be more creative with your marketing. And creative marketing gets results.