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Book Marketing Client Diary: The First Month

If you read this blog, you know I’m a marketer — specifically, a market researcher and profiler (like the FBI, only not!) Though marketers do a lot of different techniques (like SEO, brand-building, copywriting, etc), everything we do originates from the objective of selling more stuff for our clients.

That’s the starting point, or should be. In my case, I create single fictional characters (market profiles) to help companies really get a handle on exactly who their audience is, and how their products solve problems.

But I don’t work in just any market.
Marketers — especially those with a behavioral science / psych background — tend to specialize by audience. It takes a long time to really understand the reasons and buying habits of a specific segment, and for whatever reason, we just get them and have a passion for helping them. My own “pet audiences” are DIY home & garden (the Home Depot / HGTV people, or armchair varieties of) and the tech job market: programmers, head hunters, and employers.

Why I avoided fiction marketing.
Up until this year, I’d resisted any fiction consulting jobs because I had too many jobs already, but also, because I had no experience in the entertainment audience. While that wouldn’t usually be enough to rule out an audience, I’d always felt like I had a personal blindness with entertainment. I’m such a consumer of it, especially adult fiction, and such a critical reader. I do not have that outsider’s perspective that is so valuable when you have to create a clear, gutsy sales pitch. Basically, it’s too close to home — kind of like hiring your family.

At the same time, I’ve desperately wanted to actually try my ideas in the fiction market. Yes, theoretically, I “know” that business is business — in my experience, and in the experience of every other successful marketer I’ve talked to, foundational principles of business apply, no matter if you’re selling health care to at-home parents, or video game systems to college-age boys.

Now, I get a chance to prove my ideas to myself.

I’ve finally taken on a fiction marketing client — and not just any. Probably, this is one of the most challenging situations I can think of. Not only is it a niche audience, but the readers aren’t in a typical book-buying segment. They’re young (high school and college), they read comic books and play video games, not go to Borders. And even more difficult: the writing is good dramatic storytelling, but the stories don’t fall into any clear-cut genre.
Dark, erotic adventure? Adult speculative mystery? Decadent, semi-romantic science fantasy? Though I can find ways to accurately describe it, it defies standard genre categorization.

But the business does have strong advantages.
The client is very open to doing business stuff and not afraid to try anything. She’s extremely proactive and has sold some books already. Though she claims to be clueless about marketing, she’s got the essential quality: not afraid to sell. Because of this, she’s open to trying anything to get sales, including nontraditional techniques and things that are probably uncomfortable.

Thus far, I’m applying the one system that has always worked for me (and other marketers of my acquaintance.) Free sample -> list -> repeated contact -> sales. I’ll report back on my findings later.

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Interview with a man who’s sold over 2 million books (audio & pdf transcript)

Thanks to this blog, which has gotten a small, but awesome, following, I scored an interview with Bill Quain, a man who has sold over 2 million books, all self-published (since the 80s.)

Here’s the link to the audio:

Here’s the PDF transcription:

Bill was nice enough to give me an interview… which we had to retake a couple times! The first time, not only was I seriously caffeinated, but we kept getting cut off. The second time, we still got cut off, with no idea why. The third time was the charm, and we yielded…

40 minutes of nonstop idea flow.
Bill is obviously the professional at staying on topic, which is loosely “How To Think About Selling Fiction Books.” In this session, we covered:

  • Why fiction writers should be natural geniuses at selling
  • Why writers might be afraid to set attainable, realistic goals
  • Why you’re selling more than just your book, and you can’t escape this fact, so you may as well use it to your advantage
  • How you can fall into endless timesinks with the latest and greatest marketing techniques, and how to avoid this
  • How Bill is very much a traditional man (when it comes to his views of romance novels!)
  • Why you want to annoy people with your marketing
  • How to re-align yourself with the emotional reasons for writing and selling books in the first place
  • Why you should be proud to ask for money

Around 20 minutes, we start talking about personal development stuff — don’t be scared off. It is relevant to selling books, and totally in line with my goals for explaining the potential reasons behind possible success or failure.

Bill is cool.
Bill is a really interesting person, too. He’s approachable, folksy, an experienced interviewee (thank goodness), and completely traditional when it comes to certain topics regarding men and women… but above all, he’s extremely practical. He’s had to be — he’s been legally blind from an eye condition since he was 14!

My transcript started out well, but it gets rushed in punctuation and sentence correction as the interview goes on. I don’t know how transcriptionists do it so quickly! This took me a long time, and I wasn’t expecting it to. So, please excuse the run-ons.

I plan to have a lot more interviews. To know when those go up, just sign up for my mailing list here:

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Before You Self Publish: 5 Vital Things To Do

Warning: this article is very information dense. Don’t be fooled by its short nature and “checklist” form — these five areas are not just important, but imperative to understand for any successful self-publishing venture.

1) Research your market (know your reader.)
If you self publish, you cannot take your book’s positive reception and marketability for granted. Just because you think it’s great or important doesn’t mean that anyone else will buy it. Even if you write in a known and thriving commercial genre, such as romance, you can’t just assume that because people read romance, they’ll want your particular book.

Romance, in fact, is a great example. There are many kinds of romance readers, and even though romance makes up a huge portion of all fiction books sold, you only apply to a small percentage of the buying audience. Just because someone loves Regencies doesn’t mean she loves glitz. Some people will not read any sex scenes at all, whereas some will only read R ratings and above.

You need to know exactly who is likely to buy your book, and why she will purchase it over her other options, including books from traditional publishers or simply not buying any books at all!

Action: Write out exactly why your ideal reader will like your book, and why it is worth buying. Don’t worry about being fancy with wording — this is just for you.

2) Make sure your website feels “professional.”
Your site doesn’t need to be big, extensive, or fancy, but it does need to look like a true website, not just a blog. Essential features are:
– Your own domain name, not just a Livejournal or Blogger account.
– Good, organized design. There are many free and low-cost WordPress templates to choose from.
– A real home page with a big, clear message about your website’s purpose. The default view should not be the most recent blog post. A blog alone does not feel professional enough for a lot of visitors.
– The right information. As your own brand, you have to build trust and rapport with your reader before she buys. Your site needs to have plenty of information about you, your book, your sales and refund policy, and what you stand for. Especially important is to explain why you’re self published, and to present your decision to publish yourself as a positive move for you and your readers.
– Post a sample. Either of the book, or short stories, or a novella… anything! I can’t tell you the number of writer’s websites I’ve visited with no samples of their work. Three chapters of a novel seems to be a good sample length.

3) Figure out how you’re going to reach your (specific segment of the) market.
As your own publisher, you have to make sales, and that means getting your goods in front of the people most likely to buy them. Find out where your audience gathers with the purpose of finding out about books just like yours, and advertise there.

The most obvious and easiest places to advertise are not usually the best. They will be the most competitive and expensive — so, probably out of your budget — but also, they will be the least focused. If you have a romance book to sell, you might think of advertising on major romance review sites, but you’d be better off looking for websites and blogs about your particular romance niche, whether it’s African-American, Regency, gay, or dark fantasy. The audience will be more responsive and less immune to advertising, especially since your ad will be a great match for their specific interests.

4) Figure out how to advertise to them in a way that they’ll respond to.
Pretend that you’re paying $10 per click, even if it’s a banner ad. You can’t afford to be cute, inscrutable, devious, or clever — the best results for novice advertisers is to plainly make an attractive offer. (To know what’s attractive, you need to know your reader — see #1.)

Tell them to go to your site and do something — either buy your book, read your free stories, take a poll, etc. Do not try to trick them into coming; people are wise and have seen much advertising these days, especially online. You can’t afford to have people misinterpret your meaning, especially if you are paying per click. You want visitors, yes, but you want high-quality visitors most likely to buy.

Your ad starts this process, and it can either work for you, or against you. Create your ad with the action you want your visitor to take in mind.

5) Start building an email list.

You can do this even before you release your book… in fact, you should. It’s the first thing I recommend any author do on their own website. There are right ways and wrong ways to do this, but any action is better than none.

When you have an email list, you have much more opportunity to build trust and rapport with your audience. Most people coming to your site will only be interested, but not ready to buy. When you give them the opportunity to sign up for your list, you don’t force them to either buy right now, or leave. There is a way for them to say, “Tell me more, because I may want to buy in the future.”

Building an email list is easy and low cost — there is even a free option, though I really don’t recommend it. The free service lacks critical features that you need to get your emails actually opened and read.

These five steps are exactly what I did with my first book, and I actually made money the first month. There is no reason you can’t do them, too. If you can prove there’s a paying market for your book with direct audience feedback, prove that you can reach them with low-enough cost, and build a list of responsive fans, you have every reason to be confident about getting some book sales!