There are too many “good enough” books published by unknown authors every year for one to stand out and become a bona fide hit without adequate marketing. The world does not care that you wrote and published a book. Making yours stand above the crowd so people take notice can take years of consistent, strategic marketing. Fortunately, there are 10 marketing functions that, if followed, can significantly decrease the length of time it takes to reach the tipping point.
Why did you decide to write your book? It could be for commercial success, to leave a legacy, to help others succeed in some way, or to tell a story. There are many reasons, but knowing your “why” defines your purpose, something to keep you going when you experience rejection, returns, and temporary failure. In addition, when you clarify your motivation, your expectations become more realistic, focused, and manageable. Once you know where you are going, your path to success will become clearer. Know your “why,” and the “how” will come to you.
You cannot market to everybody. Narrow down your list of potential buyers so you know who the people are who will benefit most from your content. These are the people to whom you will sell. Know and define your target readers using the Five W’s technique: Who are they? What is the form in which they want your content delivered? Where do they shop? When do they buy? Why do they need your content? Their “why” is as important to your prospective customers as your “why” is to you. Their “why” defines the problem they want to solve, which, in turn, defines your content, competition, and where, when, and how you will communicate with them.
Now that you know what problem your target readers want to solve, find out who else offers a solution similar to yours. How is your information different from or better than that which exists? Go to a bookstore or search Amazon for competitive titles. What are their prices, sizes, and content? To have a good chance of success, a new product should have at least three recognizable advantages over its competition.
Most authors feel their book is unique. However, every book has competition and not only from other books on your topic. In retail sales, you have competition for shelf space, media placement, airtime, readers’ wallets, reviewers’ time, etc. In non-retail sales you are competing against budget money and sales promotional products such as coffee mugs. Know the value of your competition to your prospective buyers and how your content compares.
You are not writing a book, but communicating new and useful information that meets readers’ needs better than other options. Before you begin writing, define three reasons why someone would prefer your content. What benefits does it provide? What does it promise? What problem(s) does it solve and how does it do so? Your text must communicate your answers to those questions so your target readers quickly understand how it will help them.
A unique perspective on your topic is a necessary but not sufficient attribute for success. Your copy must be well written and professionally edited. Study the craft of writing and follow the appropriate guidelines.
You can have the most unique and well-written content on your topic, but if people do not know about it you will not reach your Why. Promotion is critical for communicating with your target readers, but the quantity of promotion is not as important as its quality. Engage your target buyers. Get them involved with your message so they understand the benefits your information provides. Connect with them via the media with which they are most comfortable. Implement an assorted promotion mix using publicity (press releases, media appearances, social media), advertising in niche media, sales promotion (coffee mugs, pens, pads, business cards, etc. with your book’s cover on them) and personal selling (personal presentations, in-store events, tradeshow displays, etc.), both off- and online.
One danger of promoting with an assorted promotion mix is communicating different, perhaps conflicting messages, causing confusion among the recipients. If one vehicle proclaims the lowest cost and another the highest quality, the target reader may not believe that is possible. Define one unique value proposition for your content and deliver that regularly to your audiences.
That value proposition may vary according to the target segment. There is no “one size fits all” in marketing communication. A message should be different for each market. A retail buyer seeks products that deliver the maximum profit per square foot and inventory turns. That would not influence librarians wanting to help their patrons. Television producers want to good show for their audiences. Promotion should communicate different benefits appropriate for each audience, but consistent within each segment.
Refer to the Where in your Five Ws and have your books available where your target readers shop. This could be through bookstores (bricks and clicks) or other retail outlets such as airport stores, supermarkets, gift shops and discount stores. Consider selling to non-retail buyers (corporations, associations, schools, military, libraries), too.
Combine retail and non-retail segments to create a dual-distribution plan. For example, if you have a children’s book, try selling it in non-bookstore segments such as daycare centers, children's libraries, children's museums, home-schooling groups, PTAs, Collective Goods, government agencies, military schools, mom's organizations, work-at-home moms, toy stores, airport stores, supermarkets, discount stores, etc. Make your book available where your target readers are.
The price you choose for your books will determine your sales, profits and opportunities for long-term growth. Unfortunately, publishers price books based on their expenses or what competitors are charging. However, that concept of pricing ignores your buyers’ perspective. Your potential customers do not care how much it cost to produce your book. They perceive the value of the money they spend as a cost to them. If your price is too low, people may perceive your content as not capable of providing the value they need. If it is too high it may be perceived as not worth the money you are asking for it, especially if there are similar competitive books from which to choose. Price shopping is an easy task online or when the available alternatives are next to each other on a bookshelf. Demonstrate that their perceived cost is well worth the value they will receive from your content.
Your marketing plan creates the context for your marketing actions. The benefits of planning increase if you view the word plan as a verb, a process, regularly adjusting your checklist to exploit opportunities as they arise.
Planning is like laying track for a railroad -- it establishes a solid foundation, provides a path to your destination and controls deviation. But just as the track does not propel you forward, neither does your plan. Your passion, persistence and productive action provide the fuel for the engine taking you on your journey to success.
Planning also makes budgeting more precise as you get a good feel for the cost of each action, and thus help you determine if you are making money. Consider potential revenue and expenses and run the numbers to determine what it will take to be profitable. Then decide if are you willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
What have you done well lately? Where have you made progress? What have you accomplished? What needs to be changed or improved? How do you know? A simple two-step process can help make your publishing business everything you want it to be, and everything it could be. First, measure the results of your efforts, such as the change in sales, revenue and profits. Second, evaluate the actions that caused the results. Then eliminate or change what did not work and continue doing more of what did work.
Manipulating the 10 Cs of marketing is like looking into a kaleidoscope. There are a finite number of pieces, but you can create an infinite number of combinations simply by rearranging them. With each turn of the device you reorient the existing material into a new image (context). Manipulate your marketing programs until you feel comfortable with the revised plan and then take action. Each turn of your marketing kaleidoscope will give you additional actions, bringing you closer to your ultimate Why.