I love learning, and the Editing Goes Global conference was a great opportunity to pick up all sorts of useful knowledge. Last week, I shared some tips from editor Arlene Prunkl on how to write good comments. Today, I want to pass along some nuggets of wisdom I learned from Beth Kallman Werner in her session “The Many Ps of Book Marketing.”
Ms. Werner has worked as the Director of Sales and Marketing at Kirkus and is the founder of Author Connections. She has over twenty years of experience in editing and marketing, and it definitely showed in her presentation. I was scribbling notes like mad. I couldn’t possibly include all of her thoughts here, but I thought I’d share some of the highlights.
Her session focused on the four Ps of marketing (product, position, price, and promotion) and how they relate specifically to book marketing.
Werner started off by discussing some of the misconceptions about marketing, including the idea that marketing is disconnected from other parts of the publishing process. Marketing doesn’t begin after the book is finished — it needs to be considered right from the beginning.
If you want people to invest their time and money in your book, then you need to start with a quality product that will engage your audience. This seems like an obvious point, but part of creating quality is thinking about your potential readers as you are writing the book. Who is your target audience? You want to know this from the beginning. Engage with your audience in advance of writing, so you know who you are writing for and what they need.
How can you position your book so that it is appealing to your audience? Readers look for different things when deciding whether or not to pick up a book.
Here are some things to think about.
- Will the cover get their attention?
- Is the blurb appealing? Many readers will buy a book on the basis of the blurb alone.
- Does your book have reviews of your work on the cover (or elsewhere)?
- Is your book about a timely topic?
One interesting tidbit that Werner shared is that readers generally don’t care about who has published the book. So being self-published is not a strike against you. The exception to this is certain areas of non-fiction, where having a recognized name behind you (like a university press) can go a long way.
Even if you position your book well, it may still take some time before you see a substantial readership. Werner mentioned that it is not uncommon for this to take 18-24 months.
The number one consideration here is whether your target audience can afford your book. Sometimes it makes sense to release an e-book first and see how it makes out before investing in the costs of printing. You don’t need to take on everything at once.
If you have a global audience, then you may need different prices for different regions, based on what is considered reasonable.
During the session, someone asked whether it made sense to have free giveaways of your book. Werner mentioned that there are four reasons for considering a giveaway:
- To launch a product or a brand (and you are a brand)
- To generate leads and sales (for example, if your main income is not from books, you could give away a book at a speaking engagement to generate other business)
- To maintain your brand (if you have been away for a while)
- To perform damage control (when something has gone wrong)
A lot of discussion took place in the session on various aspects of promotion. There are so many ways to promote your book: blogging, SEO, social media, direct mail, readings and signings, events, print advertising, online advertising, etc. You can’t possibly do them all. Think about what you are comfortable doing and then determine which of those tactics will be effective for your book.
If you decide to go ahead with an event, for example, think about whether your target audience will be at that event. Where will you be branding yourself best?
Don’t forget about your budget. Will you be getting a return on your investment?
As a blogger, I definitely sat up when Werner started talking about blogging. She said that lots of people tell authors they need to have a blog, but this isn’t always true. Books have a 100% attrition rate — no one is going to buy your book twice. So if you have a blog with 200 followers, how many books are you going to sell directly through that blog?
Werner believes that blogs are beneficial for non-fiction writers to show their expertise. They are also good if you have something new and compelling to say. Otherwise, they are a huge time commitment, and you may be better off focusing on writing your book.
If you are going to blog, make sure you get things to people when they are the most receptive to reading (based on time zone).
The bottom line: Will your blog help you sell books?
I could go on and on, but I’ll have mercy on my readers and stop here. As a final note, I thought I’d share one of Werner’s other myths about marketing: Marketing is an unbearable chore. As she puts it, marketing is to “take on the fun of sharing what you’ve done.” You can tell she really loves her work!
For those of you who are writers, do you have marketing tips to share? Do you agree or disagree with Werner’s position on having a blog? For readers, what do you look for when deciding whether or not to buy a book?
Image © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar/ CC-BY-SA-3.0
© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015