Chip MacGregor

December 5, 2011

Step One in Marketing Your Book



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 had an expectation of his brand (exciting, clean legal thriller). When you see a James Patterson novel, or a Debbie Macomber novel, or a Nicholas Sparks novel, you have a clear sense of what the brand is. The author and publisher have made readers a promise — and each book delivers on the promise. (You could argue that John Grisham got away from his brand when he wrote A Painted House… and that has been his lowest-selling title.) 
So what's your brand? What are you known for? What's your identify as a writer? If you were going to describe your writing and your books, how would you do so? What is your voice? What are the common themes or features or settings or characters or messages that are always in your books? Can you write down some descriptions of your brand? Again, if you don't know yourself, then you can't be very clear in creating a marketing plan. Step one: Know your product. 


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