In the same issue of Book Business that I referred to last week, Peter Hildick-Smith also gives publishers this tip in his article, Fourteen Tips to Increase E-book Sales:
Earn personal recommendations. A large enough initial group of people have to first read and love a book before there are enough recommenders to make a difference in the book’s later sales. Personal recommendations are earned, not created. Before that can happen, the book has to be discovered, interesting enough to buy, and a strong enough read that the reader will be moved to want to share it and recommend it. Make sure that those who are most likely to respond to a given book’s topic of story have every chance to discover and read it.
When I first received my load of books, I think I was too stingy with them. Sure, I slated some of them for review and giveaway purposes, but in retrospect I don’t think it was nearly enough. Especially as a first-time author, it takes a lot to establish credibility. Since my target is the homeschool market, I should have come up with a list of 200 influential people in the homeschool world who would agree to review my book and publish their review either on-line or in print. Instead, I think my list was closer to 25. We’ve made up for it some over the last year and a half, but there is a certain momentum when a book is first released that is forever lost after several months have passed.
So, if you’re still looking toward a future publication of your book, make that list of a couple hundred influencers in your field and be sure that your budget includes the cost of those books plus shipping. Getting your name out there is a long, grueling process, so the more you can connect with people and build a coalition to help you in this arena, the better!
According to Book Business, “The No. 1 reason people buy a new book is because it’s written by an author they like.” This statement was made in an article of Fourteen Tips to Increase E-book Sales in the latest issue of their bi-monthly magazine. Addressing the question, “Do book browsers convert to book buyers?”, writer Peter Hildick-Smith offers this tip: Play to your author’s strengths.
This is a fascinating insight, equally relevant in print books, because the number one frustration I have experienced in marketing my book – Pajama School – is that people express interest in reading it, but that interest rarely translates into sales. I knew it would be hard to break into the market as a new author, but I had no idea just how hard it would be! That’s probably why the above observation resonates so much with me.
What exactly does this mean for new authors? Apparently, somehow they have to get lots of people to like them. 🙂 How this translates in practice I really don’t know. But if you have any tips or thoughts you’d be willing to share on the subject, I’d love to hear them!
For years I’ve loved studying and discussing business ideas and related issues. (In fact, if you’ve read my book, you know that when my sisters and I were little we eschewed traditional toys in favor of setting up offices and running imaginary businesses! 🙂 ) There are an overwhelming amount of resources related to business topics, but here are a couple that I’ve come across recently and thought I would share:
New Venture Lab – I became acquainted with this company last year when some friends of mine organized a Christian Family Entrepreneurship seminar with the founder, Wade Myers, as the featured speaker. I signed up for a free account at that time to gain access to all the great content on the website. This also adds your name to the e-newsletter list, which is a fabulous collection of success stories, blog posts, business profiles, and more! I enjoy skimming through the newsletter each month and reading the content that grabs my attention.
Pushing Kingdom Business – A guest blog post that was linked to in the New Venture Lab e-newsletter caught my attention because I presented a similarly titled workshop to a music teachers association a couple weeks ago: How to Build Your Brand Through Effective Marketing. The post was written by R.E. Plaskett. His byline was intriguing, so I clicked over to his website. Once there, you can sign up for 10 Must Know Kingdom Lifestyle Business Success Strategies and browse a collection of what appear to be insightful and helpful articles. I haven’t looked over it in depth yet, but at first glance it definitely looks promising!
Sarah Bolme, of the Marketing Christian Books blog, has just recently developed a Book Marketing Expertise Quiz. She will be placing it on her website, but has posted a preview on her blog. Just answer 10 simple questions and then evaluate the results to determine what category you fall into: Veteran, Amateur, or Novice.
I fall into the Amateur category, although several of the items are things I looked into doing but chose not to for various reasons. (Maybe that makes my marketing score even worse! Ack!) One thing that I’m really trying to get a handle on right now is actually drafting a written marketing plan with specific benchmarks and action items. I’m also in the process of organizing all my marketing files and trying to streamline them for better efficiency. I can be somewhat fanatical about developing functional and efficient organizational systems because I don’t function well when things are random and/or in disarray – which is pretty much how I would describe my marketing “plan” so far. 🙂 I keep feeling like surely once I get organized, the marketing efforts will get easier and will return better results. Right?!
One thing that you can never do too much of as a self-publisher is getting the word out about your book via every possible outlet. One of my friends recently told me that part of the success with her book has been the result of hours spent submitting links and book information to every internet directory and listing she could find. What a great idea! That’s something I’m hoping to do in the next couple of months.
It would be incredible if there was a master list somewhere of all the websites where you can post a free listing about your book – anyone know of such a thing? In the meantime, I’m planning to keep track of such websites and post about them here periodically. Para Publishing has a brief form you can fill out that will place a listing of your self-published book on their success story page. I listed my book, Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate, there a couple of months ago but just remembered it today as I was clearing out some old files.
Thanks to the Google Alerts that I have set up so that I can track mentions of various book-related terms, I found out that someone had added my book, Pajama School, to the Goodreads website. I had never heard of it before, but after a brief perusal, I was able to submit a request to be listed as a Goodreads author so that I could edit and add content to my page. Within 24 hours, my request was granted, and I just finished setting up a Goodreads Author Page. This looks like another great way for authors and self-publishers to spread the word about their books! If you have a listing on Goodreads, you should let me know so we can connect!
One of the best pieces of advice I received prior to publishing my book, Pajama School, was that I should carry a box of books around in the trunk of my car. I have sold more books this way than almost any other single marketing initiative. Don’t worry, I’m not advocating setting up shop in your car on a street corner with a homemade sign advertising your books – although who knows, maybe that would work, too! The way this has worked for me is that when I’m at a gathering with friends, invariably someone will ask about my book and comment that they’ve been meaning to purchase a copy, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So I mention that I just happen to have some out in the back of my car that are available. The person usually perks up at this and is eager to buy one right away!
I also make a point to say something about the new book I’ve released in any conversation with someone I’ve just met. Often this leads to further questions and conversation, and if they seem interested I’ll grab a copy from the car and show it to them. Sometimes this also results in an unexpected sale. So, I pass on this bit of sage advice to all other self-published authors – always be prepared with a box of books in the trunk of your car!
I almost titled my last post, The ABC’s and F of Marketing, because the number one thing that I have learned on a personal level through this whole process of writing and publishing my book, Pajama School, is the value of Failure. Like most people, I have always had an aversion to failure and would do [or not do] whatever was necessary to avoid experiencing it. In many ways, my self-worth was tied to my success in various endeavors. Well, come to find out, particularly in the marketing stage of things, it is absolutely essential to take risks with a high probability of failure – most on a small scale, but some on a large scale. The only thing worse than failure is failing in a very public way!
Here are just a few of the ways I have experienced failure while working on my book project:
- I failed to receive some of the endorsements that I was hopeful I would receive for my book.
- I failed to persuade a desired distributor to carry my book.
- I failed to garner the participation of a particular blogger to help spread the word about my book.
- I failed to get several catalog companies to carry my book.
- I failed to break even on booth space rental at a convention.
- I failed to sell the number of books I expected through a paid advertisement.
- I failed to interest a local bookstore in stocking copies of my book.
- I failed to secure a local book signing event that I proposed.
- I failed to generate the interest I expected in one of my biggest marketing initiatives.
And I’m sure I could come up with plenty more besides!
Although I have read the writings of numerous business leaders who advocate the benefits of failure, there is nothing quite like experiencing it first-hand. And in a convoluted sort of way, I am actually learning to accept and embrace failure because of the tremendous way it has helped me grow and instilled in me a drive and perseverance that I formerly lacked. It opens up a whole new world of ideas and possibilities if you approach each opportunity with an awareness of the risk, but the mindset that regardless of whether it is successful or not, experience will be gained and lessons learned. And maybe you’ll even sell a few books in the process!
It’s been a little over five months now since my book, Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate, was released. As hard as all the research, writing, designing, printing, etc. were, I would say, without hesitation, that marketing has been the most challenging part of this whole self-publishing business! However, I have learned SO much, and so far I’m still really glad that I chose to go the self-publishing route.
After months of random and eclectic marketing efforts, I’ve finally boiled my personal marketing philosophy into a simple ABC list:
Aggressive – always be on the lookout for new opportunities and approaches. Every time I have a conversation with someone and they recommend a certain connection or idea, I write the information down and try to follow-up on it. This alone has resulted in some excellent connections and successful efforts. Above all, you can’t just wait for sales to come to you; it is essential that you brainstorm new ideas and try them out. Always be learning, connecting, and informing others about your book/product. Seek to increase your visibility in every way possible. You never know when it may be just what someone was looking for!
Blessing – look for ways to provide value for others. Everyone has many things competing for their attention on a daily basis. Rather than just trying to “sell” your book/product to them, ask yourself how you can do something that will integrate into their life and meet a need. Of course, foundationally, you must believe that your book or product itself will do this, but there are also lots of other creative ways to add value to people’s lives. This was the primary impetus behind the Pajama School Promo Video contest that I’m sponsoring.
Consistent – this is the hardest part! One thing that I’m recognizing more and more is the necessity of following-up on various marketing initiatives. Particularly in dealing with other people, it’s not enough to just send information and then sit around waiting for a response. You have to keep track of time tables, make the effort to get back in touch, motivate them to do what you’re asking of them, and then be willing to help see it through to completion. I tend to neglect this step more than any of the others because I don’t want to seem pushy or annoying. But if you haven’t received a negative response or rejection, chances are there is some level of interest and you just have to help translate that interest into action. Develop a good system that will enable you to manage contacts efficiently and see plans and ideas through to completion. [And then once you have this system figured out, contact me and let me know what it is so that I can use it, too! :-D]
Surprisingly, I really am learning to love the challenge of marketing and see it as an opportunity for creativity, personal development, and investing in the lives of others, rather than merely as a necessary evil in order to sell my books. And it’s a good thing, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to keep doing this the rest of my life in order to sell all my books!
Even though things have been kind of quiet around here and I’ve been enjoying some vacation time, I’ve been hard at work behind-the-scenes putting together my biggest Pajama School promotion yet! If you click over to the Pajama School Blog, you can see the Official Contest Page for the Promo Film Contest that I’ve just launched. This has been an exciting project to work on so far, and I hope it really takes off and that lots of people have fun participating.
If you are willing to help me spread the word about the contest, I would really appreciate it! In fact, you can find a list of ways to help spread the word on the Lights, Camera, Action! blog post. And of course, feel free to leave comments over there to enter the drawing for the great giveaway package as well!
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