Chip MacGregor

November 28, 2011

Thinking about Marketing Your Book


Once again, I'm inviting people to send in questions about writing and publishing, and we'll try to offer a bit of wisdom. Recently Bobbi wrote to me to tell me I've been too hard on marketing types in the past, and to ask, "What sort of marketing would you suggest to an author? And what sort of marketing would you most like to see?"

First, I'd suggest an author decide to take control of marketing for their own book. Put aside that old fashioned notion that the publisher is going to market your book for you, and start learning what you can do to help get the word out. Second, I'd suggest some field research — who is the audience for your book? What's the best way to reach them? (If the answers are "everybody" and "beats me," you're screwed.) Third, I'd start checking out the creative ideas people are using on the web. Internet book sales equaled the sales at brick-and-mortar stores last year for the first time in publishing history at most of the major publishing houses. It's the place to buy books. That means it's probably time you took a fresh look at your web site, your online videos, your blog, and anything else that sounds vaguely connected to Al Gore's invention.

As for what I'd like to see? I can think of dozens, but here's two… Many publishers have forgotten about radio. But it's on all the time in our culture. People don't like noise, so they have their radios on at work, in the car, in the kitchen. And it's FREE to listen. It's also cheap to advertise. I'd like to see more publishers figure out how to effectively promote their books via radio. A second area is one that authors could work harder at: articles. There are newspapers, magazines, and e-zines all over the world, and they're all looking for content. A magazine is a monster that must be fed. Yet I don't see authors taking their work and reshaping it a dozen times, for a dozen different e-zines, in order to get the word out about their book. It's probably the most under-utilized marketing method out there. If you've written a book on "how to be a great mom," you could take your info and craft a couple dozen articles. Each venue gets a unique story to tell, you get great press…and if you're lucky, you'll often get PAID for the effort. Why won't most authors do this? Because it means actualwork, and let's face it…most writers are basically lazy. But there you go — two responses out of twenty I could have tossed out.

Of course, I'd also like to see publishers give away more copies, since I think it seeds the market. I've never understood why this has gone out of vogue. Publishers claim it's too expensive — but that 176 page trade paperback that sells for $10.99 in the stores only cost the publisher $1 to produce. so giving away 200 copies would only cost them $200. Giving away 100 e-books costs them almost nothing. Yet they'll fight over this, arguing that "it will cannibalize sales!" Rot. Publishers see cannibals everywhere. They've been watching too much Tarzan.

Read up on the topic of marketing. Buy some good books and educate yourself. Attend a marketing seminar. Look for unique ways to sell yourself and your books, rather than duplicating what everybody else is doing. You'll find yourself an expert in no time.


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