Thursday, February 14, 2008

February Article: Understanding the art of Marketing Your Book

Many more emails come in about marketing books than any other subject. Of course, that is understandable. Most people write what they know. But, not all authors are good at understanding the marketing process.

A book, like any other product, must be sold. So many people expect a great book to sell itself. Question: How will anyone know how great it is if someone doesn't tell them? And this is one of the great issues with marketing. If you expect any product to sell itself, then you won't work as hard or give it the attention it deserves, and probably will give up too soon.

The most important thing that any author can understand is that the marketing process begins while you are writing the book. I know it's hard enough to write a good book without thinking about marketing, but you need to keep your eyes open for something you can add to your story that makes it valuable, something that could be put on a sell sheet, something that could be marketed to particular companies or agencies. This is why a great book has to be planned and not just written.

Authors also need to define their own target market. That is not the job of the publisher. In fact, this information should be neatly included in your query. If you can't define a target market in one sentence, then it's likely you need to do more research. For instance, if I wrote a book on financial independence for the stay-at-home mom, my target market would be, of course, stay at home moms. Let's take a harder one. Say I wrote a book about understanding the economy today. Of course, most people should probably read the book. All authors think that, but that does not qualify as a target market. Everyone does not qualify as a target market. I have to make a decision of who I'm going to target the book to. There are many choices, and all of them are good, but I should only have one on my query. I should only have one target market at the top of my marketing plan. That's very important. Some call it primary and secondary targeting!

The last thing we'll point out today: it is unreasonable to think that marketing will always yield overnight results. Some books do poorly out the gate. I'm reminded of the scripture that says 'not the strong or the swift, but those that endure until the end'. But, just because a book is no longer front list does not mean the book has no more hope. Sometimes, it is the backlist titles that supply an author the extra boost of credibility and quality.

Marketing is an ongoing process. It should last for the life of your book. If an author does not want to or know how to market, they start this process at a disadvantage in a business where competition is more than 200,000 strong each year.


elysabeth said...

excellent post - how true that marketing starts before the book is every published. Some authors are stubborn and think the publisher and agent are going to do all the work (after all we are paying them to work for us, or so they think or it seems) but the author has to do his share of the work too. If you don't, you can kiss sales goodbye.

I've recently found out a fellow children's author won't join any forums because she dislikes or doesn't approve of gays or she the group isn't Christian only or there are too many other non-whatevers she has a list of. Unfortunately, she is only hurting herself in the long run. She needs to be involved in every children's forum/group she can; she needs to have a website and market her book. Who cares if the person is gay or they aren't of a Christian faith, if they are going to read the book to the kids, they have the right to buy it regardless. Those prejudices she holds will have her book backlisted before she ever gets a chance to show how good her book really is and they will probably keep her on the backlist until she is out the door.

My philosophy is this - there are many folks from all walks of life who would be interested in reading a children's book to their students, their grandkids, their children, their neighbors, or as a volunteer in the library for story times. Don't exclude them because you don't like their hair color or the fact that they may be gay or they may be non-Christian believing. Get out there and sell, sell, sell. You have to have a web presence in this day and time with all the technological advances out there and you have to be willing to do book tours (you can't limit yourself in the children's book market of who you talk to and who you will "sell" yourself to) and everything you can to have a presence. If someone doesn't know about your book, how are you going to make money or the publisher make money?

I for one will push my stories everywhere I can - I want to be in the public eye and make sure my stories are worthy of being purchased and that there is so much hype that they fly off the shelves and have to have several print runs - lol - and I've already got some really good feedback on my idea and my first story so lookout world - here comes the Junior Geography Detective Squad for your geography adventures - E :)

Great Publishers, Authors and Books said...

I was just telling someone this recently. Good for you, educating the authors. Marketing is one full time job; writing is the other! ROTFL!