Notes from Marketing Strategies for Writers

Thinking No Comments »

In an effort to continue to learn and develop more effective marketing strategies, I just finished the book, Marketing Strategies for Writers by Michael Sedge. The book is primarily geared toward those who have or are launching full-time careers as freelance writers, so not all of it was relevant to my situation. Here are some key quotes and thoughts that I pulled from its pages, though:

“The long-term goal of any good business plan is to consistently expand your market share.” p.18

“Concentrate on ‘thinking’ like a marketer. Opportunities are everywhere. The difference between success and failure is often your ability to recognize and take advantage of these situations.” p.24

“The first thing you must do to achieve marketing success is to step into the shoes of your customer, figuratively speaking. Always take the approach of ‘How can I help you?’ rather than ‘How can you help me?’ p.26

Ask, “Who am I? What do I have to offer?” [Sedge recommends making a list of qualifications and experiences that make you uniquely qualified to offer various services, articles, angles, etc.] p. 29

Two keys to keep in mind: 1. Be constantly looking for a need to fill; 2. the importance of networking cannot be underestimated. p.37

“You must never, ever call an editor [insert media rep, agent, bookstore owner, etc. for a self-publisher] with a vague idea or no idea at all.” p.59

“Have the mindset to consistently take initiatives. Never stop…and never, never, never take an initiative without following up.” p. 156

List your five major audiences and the five major ways you plan to reach each one of them (idea from John Kremer’s 5×5 matrix marketing plan). p.216

[Not] Selling Books

Marketing 3 Comments »

Last weekend, I experienced my first out-of-town book-related event for Pajama School. My sister and I traversed to the adjacent state of Colorado where I had secured a booth as a vendor at their annual state homeschool conference. A costly sum was required for a booth, but with approximately 4,000 attendees I was hopeful that I would sell enough books to break even.

The Vendor Hall opened at 5:00 on Thursday evening and remained open until 8:00. In those three hours I didn’t have a single sale, although I did have some wonderful conversations with other vendors and conference-goers. I also utilized this time to closely observe people and make notes for improvement. One thing that was peculiar to me was that many people looked at the back of the booth to see what the sign said (the sign identified the booth name and number), but then passed by without even looking at the display table(s) in the booth. I gleaned from this observation the importance of having an eye-catching banner that would draw people in (which I did not). Since that could not be remedied by the next day, I had to come up with an alternate idea if I hoped to sell any books.

So, Friday morning I arrived first thing at the conference, armed with my new approach: a brief 4-question survey. The idea was that I could collect answers to homeschooling-related questions of interest to me, generate conversations, distribute business cards for the Pajama School website, and hopefully sell books. The first three objectives were met quite nicely, but the fourth…not so much. It took me a little while to work up the nerve to stop people and ask them to take the survey – mainly because I don’t like to feel like I’m imposing on people. There were a few people who declined, but most people were more than willing to answer the questions. This helped build my confidence considerably.

It was curious to me how many people got genuinely excited about my book and exclaimed profusely about the need for it, but then walked off without purchasing it. I think if I was a better salesman, I could have turned some of that interest into sales, but I know how much I react to pushy salespeople, so I didn’t want to come anywhere close to earning that sort of a reputation. Instead, I just did my best to communicate effectively and encourage people, and then prayed that God would impress on their hearts to purchase the book. This resulted in a total of five books sold on Friday.

Saturday morning, it quickly became apparent that most people were in too much of a hurry to participate in the survey, so I adjusted my approach to just handing out business cards and giving a 15-20 second spiel about the book. This captured several people’s interest enough that they came over to the table and looked more intently at the book. Again, though, the interest it generated far exceeded the actual sales. Saturday’s sales total: five books.

Thus ended the conference – we packed up all but 12 of the books that we brought with us (in addition to the 10 sold, we traded 2 for books from 2 other vendors). There is certainly an element of discouragement in such an experience (not to mention a considerable loss of money!), and several of my other marketing strategies have fallen through as well. But I firmly believe, as John Quincy Adams said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” It’s proving to be a lot of hard work to learn how to market and sell my books, but I’ve still got 2,000+ in our garage that have got to go. So, let the work continue!

It’s Just a Person on the Other End

Networking No Comments »

Whether I’m mailing in paperwork, making a phone call, or sending off an e-mail, one important realization to keep in mind is that it’s just another person on the other end. Especially when working with large companies, it’s easy to get lost in the idea that it’s some inanimate organism with no personal element. This perspective may result in sloppy work, stiff conversations, or canned-sounding correspondence.

As a self-publisher, you will have to make a lot of connections with bookstores – both local shops and big chains, distribution companies, news media outlets, niche market bloggers, and more. This can seem overwhelming and intimidating! But if you keep in mind that in every instance it is just a person on the other end, and ultimately it is a person (or a group of people) who will make the decisions regarding your book, it makes it easier to branch out and attempt connections that might otherwise seem impossible.

Whenever communicating with others, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Be professional, but personable.
  • Express appreciation for their time and service.
  • Jot quick handwritten notes of thanks when appropriate.
  • Be prompt and thorough in responses, and take whatever steps of action are recommended.
  • Be respectful, even when you receive negative responses. (i.e. don’t burn any bridges!)
  • If possible, familiarize yourself with the person or organization so that you are more aware of how your book will appeal to them, and how you can add value to what you are offering them.

Tips for Sending Press Releases

Publicizing 3 Comments »

We’ve sent a number of press releases about Pajama School – stories from the life of a homeschool graduate to local media outlets and to national homeschool association leaders, but now I’m keeping my eye open for other opportune connections. For example, USA Today ran an article the end of last week about homeschooling. The story was written by Greg Toppo (the national K-12 education reporter for USA Today), so I began looking for a way to contact him directly. The search proved highly unsuccessful. There is no handy list of editors with contact forms on the USA Today website, and none of the articles include a link to connect directly with the writer. I did find what appears to be his facebook page, but this seems like a highly inappropriate way to go about making the connection. 🙂

In my search, I came across this helpful list of recommendations on How to Send a Press Release. Apparently, it’s akin to spam to send press releases to an editor without making prior contact. There is a drop down menu option of Press Release on this feedback page, but it seems less than professional to copy and paste a press release into that form field. And the probability of it being routed to and read by the appropriate editor seems pretty low since there has been no previous personal contact. So, that’s my dilemma of the day. Any thoughts or advice?

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