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Category : Marketing and Platforms
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,
OK, nonfiction writers. You’ve heard it before. If you really want to impress an agent or a publisher, make sure you have three things: a great idea, great writing, and a great author platform.
But more and more, platform is becoming THE way to secure a book deal.
This is because while writing can be fixed or edited and the idea can be tweaked, platform has to happen organically.
It can’t happen by chance. It can’t be bought. It’s about hard work over a period of time and it’s something that only the author can bring to the table.
So what do impressive social media stats look like?
Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.
A decent nonfiction author platform has a handful of the following components:
If you have a website or blog your monthly unique visitor count should be at least 30,000
(a unique visitor number of 100,000 is likely to secure a book deal)
If you have a Twitter account your followers should be at least 10,000 (and you should have stats that show considerable growth over the past six months)
If you have a Facebook page you should have at least 8,000 likes (along with Insights that show your past and projected growth)
If you’re a public speaker you should speak at least 30 times a year and you should shoot for a newsletter list of at least 10,000
Publishing Is More Competitive Than Ever
Needless to say, these numbers aren’t easy to achieve, and I’ve seen a number of authors who HAVE these numbers come away without a book deal.
But on the flip side, I’ve seen authors with the bare minimum of the above components land a book deal because they also had great writing and a great idea.
So yes. Platform is HUGE. It’s an absolute must if you write fiction. But never underestimate the power of strong, moving writing and a great,
Now that you know what your brand is, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what goals you’re trying to reach, and who your target market is, you need to make some specific choices. What are the basic strategies you’re going to use to market your book? There are a million things you COULD do. Maybe you’ve picked up a couple of marketing books that offer “101 marketing ideas,” or you’ve attended a seminar and heard other authors talk about a bunch of ideas they’ve tried. You can’t do them all… so what steps will you choose?‘Will you focus on blog tours? Give away a lot of copies? Talk with reading groups? Redesign your website? Do some conference speaking? Distribute press kits? Try to get on a bunch of radio programs? Spend a lot of time placing articles with magazines and e-zines? Develop podcasts? Solicit dozens of reviews? Dig deep into the various Amazon tools? Network with key people? Focus on your blog readership? Use your associations or groups to get the word out? Develop a bunch of give-aways? Focus on broadcast media? Spend a lot of time at libraries? Visit targeted groups around the country? Participate in direct mail? Get involved in trade shows and conventions? Rely on key endorsements and recommendations? Do an author tour? Buy advertisements on the best websites? Try to steer sales to your website?‘You can’t do them all. In fact, you don’t want to do them all, since they wouldn’t all prove effective for your book. So as you think about your target market, what are the basic strategies that make sense? As you think about your strengths and weaknesses, what are the strategies you definitely need to consider? What are the strategies you probably need to forget about? At this step, you’re simply picking the basic areas in which you plan to work.‘And remember, most marketing gurus will
If you were taking a class in marketing, this is the process you’d go through in order to create a marketing plan. So once you “know yourself,” “know your strengths and weaknesses,” and “know your goal,” the fourth step you’ll need to complete is to know your target audience.Who are your readers? What are they like? What is their age? Their sex? What are their interests? What do they like and dislike? What do they find interesting? Where do they hang out? What memberships do they have? What is their socio-economic status? If you could describe your readers, what words would you use? What do they all share in common? What you’re trying to do here is to identify the similarities among those who will be interested in your book. Beginning writers tend to say, “Everyone will like my book! It appeals to young and old, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, religious and nonreligious…” Except marketing has proven that’s not true. Groups of people tend to like a product, while other groups tend to ignore that same product. So who is your group? How would you describe them? As your grandma used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” So… who is your flock?‘And where are they? Geography can have a lot to do with marketing your books. Where do they congregate? If they tend to reside in the South, that dictates where you’ll market. If they tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, that helps you know how best to market your work. If they tend to travel a lot, that says something about where you’ll find them, and how you can reach out to them. So don’t skip this part of the plan — spend time thinking through who your reader is, what he or she is like, and where they tend to go.You want to think through
No matter what publishers may tell you, not everyone needs a blog.
But you all should be on blogs.
Here’s the difference: keeping up your own blog is a lot of work, and depending on your genre of writing, it may be difficult to write a blog that will naturally attract and retain visitors.
It’s much less work to write posts on blogs that are already up and running. As my agent Chip MacGregor likes to say, “the secret to good marketing is figuring out where people already are and go and stand in front of them.”
Rather than creating your own blog where you try to catch people’s attention, write on someone else’s blog who has already captured that attention. It’s a lot easier!
I write a large blog in the Christian marriage and sex niche, and I have a lot of people guest posting for me. There’s a big difference, though, between the guest posts that actually work for the authors and those that don’t really reap very many benefits for those authors. Here’s how to get the most benefit for all your work crafting a great guest post.
1: Know What Your Aim Is
It’s very difficult to sell a book directly from a guest post, especially if you’re a novelist. Before people buy the book they often have to hear about you several times. That’s why your aim, when you are guest posting, should not be to sell your book. It should be to get more readers onto your newsletter list.
That’s right–you need a newsletter! I have a blog that gets over 40,000 people on it a day, but I can tell you that the vast majority of my book sales come from emails, not from blog posts. It’s the people who get an email from me in their inbox who become loyal followers.
You can have a newsletter without having a blog (perhaps
With all this marketing you’re going to be doing for your book, what are you trying to achieve? And that leads to the third step in marketing your book: Asking yourself, “What’s the goal of your marketing plan?”
My experience is that many authors have a vague goal… sort of a sense that “they want people to hear about my book somehow.”
That won’t cut it. When you create your marketing plan, you should have some specific, measurable goals in mind. What do you want to accomplish? How will you determine success? Don’t just say, “I want to speak at conferences and retreats.” Instead, say something like, “I want to be in front of 100,000 people total over the course of the next year,” then start looking for venues that will add up to that number. Don’t just say, “I’d like to do some radio.” Instead, give yourself a number of interviews you’d like to do, a number of cities you’d like to reach, a number of listeners you’d like to be in front of. With social media, are you trying to simply get in front of people? Increase your engagement? Establish relationships? Are you trying to boost word of mouth?
Look, all marketing is trying to do two things: Try to get noticed, and try to boost sales. I’ve often said that the core of marketing is to figure out where your audience is, then go stand in front of them. So your marketing plan is your way to start working toward that goal. If you create clear expectations, you’ll know what success is. And if you set a firm number on the various activities you plan to involve yourself in, you’ll discover you’ve turned your plan into something measurable, rather than something ethereal.
It’s amazing how a number turns vague ideas into crystal clear plans. What are you trying to achieve through your marketing?
I was talking to an author a couple years ago who said she was going to hire a freelance publicist to help land her a bunch of radio interviews. Knowing she (1) hates talking in public, and (2) has what could charitably be termed a shrill voice, I simply asked her, “Uh… why?” She rolled her eyes. “Because that’s what everyone EXPECTS, Chip. I need to be on the radio, blathering about my book!”
I suggested that was a lousy idea. She’s uncomfortable with the whole thing, it wouldn’t put her in the best light, and I didn’t see how it was going to help her sell her book, which was a traditional romance novel. The author remained unconvinced, so if you were driving down the street and listening to an author blather uncomfortably in a voice that sounds like fingers on a chalkboard, you’ll know who it was….
Why do some people seem to think they must do some marketing activities just because some other author did those marketing activities? Look, once you know what your strengths are (both the strengths of your book as well as the strengths of your marketing abilities), you need to take an honest look at what your weaknesses are. Who does your book NOT appeal to? (You can skip those websites and e-zines.) Who will NOT find your topic fascinating? (No sense trying to get in front of them.) What are you not good at? (Maybe you could focus the bulk of your efforts on areas in which you shine.)
Strategic planning types used to do what they called their “SWOT” analysis — where they would make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Doing this while creating a marketing plan can help you determine what to do, and remember what NOT to do. Where are you strong? Where are you weak? What will you enjoy? Where will you struggle? What
We’ve been asked a bunch of times about marketing your own book, and while Amanda does this amazingly well every Thursday, I thought I’d jump in with a few thoughts of my own. If you were to take a class in marketing, the first thing they’d tell you is that you have to KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. Since you’re writing books, that means you have to know yourself and your manuscripts. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you do a good job with? What comes to mind when people see your book?
Look at it this way… If I say to you, “Mercedes,” what comes to mind? (Quality? Luxury? Expense?) Now if I say to you, “Toyota,” what comes to mind? (Dependability? Value? Middle-of-the-road-working cars?) And if I say to you, “Yugo,” what comes to mind? (Junk? Breakdowns? El-cheapo?)
You see, each of those auto manufacturers have a brand, and that brand sticks in your head. In fact, you might have solid impressions of those three car brands, even if you’ve never owned any of them. Why? Because the auto manufacturers have spent a lot of time thinking about the brand, how they want to shape it and express it. And you’ve had a number of exposures to those brands through TV commercials, reviews, articles, online discussion groups, and word of mouth from people you trust. With all those inputs, you have some sense of what the “brand” of each car is.
Your books also have a brand. One marketing guru has said that every brand offers a promise – so Mercedes promises luxury, Toyota promises dependability, and Yugo promised the cheapest car on the market. Now put that to work with your writing career… What promise do you offer your readers? What can they expect every time they come into contact with your words? I mean, for years if you saw a John Grisham book, you
I see author after author spend money and time on book trailers and digital shorts and book-specific websites and splash pages and artwork and bookmarks and THINGS.
I see them show off their items proudly, because LOOK HOW PRETTY! THIS CLICKY PEN WILL CERTAINLY GET PEOPLE TO BUY MY BOOK!
But then there the box of pens sits. And sure, they hand out a few pens at conferences and at church or school or work, but they’ve still got a lot of pens. Not to mention that book trailer no one has viewed. That website that no one has gone to. That $0.99 ebook that was sure to entice people to buy the real book.
Why does this happen?
No one knows about the clicky pens. Or the book trailer. Or the website. Or the super cheap ebook.
And the reason no one knows about these things is also the very reason that this person’s book isn’t selling. It’s not because the book is bad or boring or poorly written. It’s because no one knows it exists.
Let’s look at a really specific example …
You have a book. Yay! You hope people buy the book. I mean you’ve told your friends and family, right? That should count for SOMETHING.
But the numbers come back. Sales are bad. You haven’t even cracked 2,000 copies sold. You need to make a change. You start thinking about what it is that could make the book more enticing.
Eureka! You’re a great baker! Why don’t you put some free recipes together that coincide?
You slap the recipes online and sit back and wait just like you did before. Your numbers come from your publisher again. You STILL haven’t broken the 2,000 mark, and in fact, you’re going in the opposite direction because of all those returns!!
Why is this happening?!
You check your recipe downloads. It’s pitiful. Clearly not helping. But how do
In today’s publishing market, there are a handful of things I think every author needs to know about marketing. These are all things you can think through, and though none of this is going to be earth-shattering or terribly “new” to you (my guess is you’ve heard much of this before), sometimes we can think about choosing certain marketing strategies or ideas, then lose track of the bigger picture. Or we assume the publisher is going to take care of things, when in fact they’re busy worrying about the new 50 Shades novel they’ve just released, and they’re waiting for YOU to market your own book. So let me offer a big-picture look at marketing your book in today’s environment…First, you have to know yourself. What are your strengths at marketing? What do you do best? What is your message? How do you define your brand? What are the elements of marketing you love to do? The fact is, if you know your core competencies, know what you do well and what you’re comfortable with, you’re ahead of most authors who are just trying ideas they’ve heard from others. So think back through your history, and make a list of the areas where you were good and comfortable and successful with your marketing. What are the resources you have available to you? Next, make a list of the opportunities you know you’ll have — the people, places, organizations, media, and venues you know you’ll be able to count on.Second, you have to know your weaknesses. What are the typical problems you have with marketing? What are your struggles? What do you NOT enjoy? What are the roadblocks you face? (Hint: often these include lack of money, lack of time, and lack of expertise.) As you think through the problem areas, you’re trying to clarify both the strengths and the weaknesses, the resources and the roadblocks that are