We’ve been talking through the basics of marketing — what you would explore if you were taking an “introduction to marketing” class in college. Recently we covered the first five steps in the process, and over the next few days we’ll look at the next five. Now that you’ve figured out which basic strategies you’re going to use, you need to select that actual “tools” you’ll use — that is, the actual WORK you will do to help you market your book. For example, if you decided that three of the strategies you were going to use were (1) sending out review copies, (2) writing articles to support your book, and (3) doing blog tours, then in this step you will list…
1. Who you’re sending those review copies to,
2. What articles you’re going to write, and who you’re going to send them to, and
3. The blogs and groups you’re going to reach on your tour.
In other words, you start to create the details of your marketing plan. Remember, every choice you make at this stage reflects your earlier decisions. The core of marketing is to figure out where your audience is, then go stand in front of them, so you want to go back and remind yourself just where, exactly your audience is going to be. If you’re doing a nonfiction book on lowering cholesterol, you do your research to discover where those interested in the topic go to seek information, then you target those magazines, websites, blogs, e-zines, journals, associations, chat rooms, etc. If you’re writing an Amish novel, you do your research to determine where those interested in Amish culture and Amish stories go, then you make those destinations the focus of your marketing.
Fortunately, the world wide web has made this process MUCH easier than it used to be. Instead of having to snail mail things, or go to a marketing research company, or spend your day at the public library (like we all used to do), the information is all available, right there on your screen. It just takes some work to dig it out. Once you’ve figured out the actual details, you can create a spreadsheet that lists the tasks: WHAT needs to be done, WHO is going to do it, and WHEN it will happen. If you print out that spreadsheet, you can stick it to your wall and simply check off each activity as it gets completed — turning your book’s marketing plan into an actual, step-by-step action plan. So choose your tools to hit that target audience, focus on using your words (since that’s probably your best skill as a writer), and don’t be afraid to fail.
A word on the effectiveness of marketing: I’m a baseball fan, and I know that any professional baseball player who can consistently get just three hits out of ten at bats stands a pretty good chance of making it to the Hall of Fame. For every solid single, there’s a ground out. For every double, there’s a strikeout. In fact, for every great hitter there are more than twice as many fly outs than home runs. But if they can be right 30% of the time, they’ll bat .300 and be considered a great ballplayer in anyone’s estimation. I’d say marketing relies on those same percentages. You’ll try something and it will fail. So what? There’s lots of failure in marketing. Nobody succeeds at everything they do. So use some other tools and try again. Eventually you’ll get a couple of hits and a couple strikeouts. If one-third of the things you try work, you’re going to be considered a success.
So at this step, choose your tools. What are the things you’re going to do to market your book?
One last thought: Some authors seem to think that there are “secrets” to marketing — that they just need to uncover the one trick that will help make their book a success. But usually marketing doesn’t work that way. The real key to success isn’t in the tools you choose, in my view. The key is making good choices BEFORE you get to this step, so that you know what you want to say, know who you want to say it to, and know the best way to reach your audience. So if you have an author friend who has tried something crazy that worked (“We sent trivia questions to radio hosts and grabbed all sorts of bookings!”), that’s wonderful… but it doesn’t mean it will work for you, with your audience and message. It’s fine to borrow other authors’ ideas, if you think it will work for you, but don’t assume there’s some magic bullet out there that is the hidden secret to marketing books. The secret is in doing your research, making good choices, and being diligent about the work. The fact is, most authors aren’t doing much, or they’re doing it blindly, without having done their research, or they’re simply trying the same old things and hoping to get a better response. Don’t join them. Go back through these posts, and create a plan that is unique for your book. You’ll stand a much better chance of success.