Marketing, Writing and Editing

Book Promotion 101, part three

Over the course of the last two posts, I’ve explained the need for all authors, both traditionally and independently published, to promote their books and some of the techniques and outlets we can use to do that promotion. This week, I will put it to practical use by showing you a preliminary promotion schedule I plan to use for my upcoming novel.

But first, a truth that affects the schedule:

Most published books are available at online retailers weeks before copies are available in brick and mortar bookstores. Or before the author receives their copies.

Also, keep in mind that when I refer to “memes” I’m referring to short promotional videos as much as the static images we’re familiar with. In much the same way, “poster” is either a glossy, full color commercially printed piece, or one printed up on my own printer, more like a flier. I use the term for both.

Before the campaign actually begins, I will have some items created, revised, and ready to go when the time comes:

Memes 16
Posters 8
Direct mail letters 2
Press release 2
Ad copy 4
Bookmarks, post cards, etc.

The Campaign

8 weeks before the book goes live
Post meme # 1 web sites and social media
7 weeks
Post poster # 1
6 weeks
Post meme # 2
5 weeks

4 weeks
Post meme # 3
Cover reveal
3 weeks
Post meme # 4
Post poster # 2
2 weeks
Post meme # 5
Promote at Writer’s Conference
1 week
Post meme # 6

Book goes live online
Post meme # 7
Post poster # 3
Issue press release
Issue direct mailings
Begin online ads
Schedule blog tour
2 week
Post meme # 8
3 week
Post meme # 9
4 week

Book goes live on the ground
Post meme # 10
Post poster # 4
Issue press release
Issue direct mailings
Run blog tour
Run print ad in local paper
Continue online ads
2 week
Post meme # 11
Promote at local writer’s/poet’s event
3 week
Consider re-running local print ad
Post meme # 12
4 week
Post meme # 13

5 week
6 week
Post poster # 5
7 week
Post meme # 14
8 week

Continue running new memes approximately every two weeks and new posters every month for six months.

Attend all book fairs and writer’s conferences in the area to promote the work.

Consider running print ad in story’s location local newspapers (weeks 5-8) As opposed to the original ad run in my physical neighborhood.

Notice that the most intense promotion is during the eight weeks immediately after publication. It is then that I hope to take advantage of the word “new” that seems to attract so many people. Not listed, but an integral part of the campaign, will be social media blurbs about good reviews and other campaign highlights, as well as periodic road trips to distribute posters and talk to bookstore managers.

Also, when I say “Post meme # 1” it doesn’t mean that it is the only time I plan on posting it. The notation is merely the first time I plan on introducing it. In other words, I will post a new meme seventeen times. (At this point, I haven’t really decided how many times I will run each.)

Have “elevator pitch” ready for anyone who asks me about the book. Talk about it to everyone.

Finally, find a way to measure the results. The ultimate tool, obviously, is that quarterly royalty check, but there are other ways that don’t involve waiting three months. One of them is “Google alerts” which notify you every time a particular phrase (such as a book title) is used as a search term. Another is Amazon rankings.

That’s it. That’s my current plan for promoting my new novel. We shall see how well it works.

I also reserve the right to change it at any time.

Marketing, Writing and Editing

Book Promotion 101, part two

Last week I examined some of the hard truths about book marketing and promotion. From all these truths, I have come to the following conclusion: we need to promote our books if we want to sell them to anyone other than our friends and family. To do this in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, we need to identify the segment of the reading population most likely to be interested in our work. This is our audience.

In my case, this is women, ages 45-65.

We must aim our promotions at our target audience. Others may see and be influenced by them, but we should concentrate on the target audience. To do otherwise is to largely waste our time and energy.

Our best time to sell and, therefore, promote our book is the first six months after the book is released. But, in order to take full advantage of this six month selling period, we need to begin our promotion campaign six to eight weeks before the release.

So how am I going to use this information and my limited budget to create a promotion campaign featuring my upcoming novel?

First, I need to figure who, exactly, my audience is and where I would be most likely to find them. It will be difficult to get the message in front of them, if I don’t know where they’re looking. I need a profile.

Women, 45-65
Probably married, or have been married
Financial secure (more than a younger woman)
Settled in career; planning for retirement
Children, if any, are either grown or in high school
Owns own home
Eats out more often, but still in charge of household shopping

Conclusion: they will not be watching Nickelodeon or Disney channel all day like when they had young children. Nor will they be looking for deals on diapers, children’s clothing or cases of macaroni and cheese. They now have more spending money and the ability to spend it on things that interest them: gardening, the arts, and travel. However, they still do most of the grocery shopping.

Second, I need to figure out which of the available media would be the most effective method of reaching the audience.

Traditional media:

Display—billboards and the like


Internet website
Social media
Search engine

Guerrilla posters/fliers
Book fairs
Writing conferences

So, keeping in mind the rule that a prospective reader will need to be reminded of my book between five and seven times before buying it, how do I plan to use my money the most effectively to promote my book?

Television and radio advertising are too expensive for the possible returns. Television works if you can place your spot during the programs the target audience is most likely to watch. Unfortunately, running a spot just one time would cost me my entire budget. I can’t afford that, not at this point in my career. And radio doesn’t reach the target audience I’m aiming for very well. Now, if I was targeting teens and young adults…

Magazine and large daily newspapers are also too expensive for my purposes. A popular national magazine sells a quarter-page ad in one issue for several thousand dollars. While they are very good at targeting the proper audience, it’s too expensive to get the number of exposures I want. The large dailies offer much the same problem. They are just too.

Local weekly papers, on the other hand, are much more reasonably priced and specifically target a community or two. Often, several weeklies in adjacent communities are owned by the same company and allow the placement of a single ad in several papers for one price. In addition, the local weeklies are where folks go to find grocery specials and local events, especially my target audience. (They can also be interested in local-interest features. More about this later.)

Display advertising (the commercial variety anyway) is also too expensive and generic for my budget. A bill board over a freeway might be seen by thousands of people over its life span, but only a fraction of them will be my target audience. The rest is wasted and I can’t afford to waste anything.

In conclusion, the only traditional media I will consider using to advertise is the local, weekly newspaper. But I will only do that when there is another, regional tie to my book, such as the home town effect around my residence and a similar effect for the communities around the story’s location.

Online outlets. The internet goes just about everywhere and what is published there is there forever. Most internet advertising also has the added benefits of specifically targeting an audience and you don’t pay anything unless the customer “clicks” on the ad. This is much more cost-effective than traditional method of placing your ad and hoping someone sees it.

Most of my paid advertising will be on social media and another site that specializes in books and readers.

Another online promotion I will use is a blog or virtual tour. For a fee, a company will schedule a number of blogs to review your book or interview you over the course of a month. You could do the same on your own, making friends with bloggers and schedule your own tour, but I would rather do other things with my time. Either way, it will get people taking about my book, generate Amazon reviews and heighten interest. It’s well worth the fee.

Memes. Short, inexpensive displays of select quotes from the book. I will have multiple versions to post various places online and on social media to generate curiosity and interest.

Ground promotions. Most of these involve little or smaller expense than the usual advertising methods, can be just as effective. The primary drawback is that they can be very labor intensive (which means many hours of your precious time) and are geographically limited. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m probably not going to be handing out bookmarks in London much.

Giveaways. Bookmarks, postcard, business cards, anything with the book’s title, cover art and ordering information that a prospective customer will see every time they use it.

Posters, fliers. Hang them on public bulletin boards, particularly in places your target audience is likely to go: grocery stores, libraries, gyms. Just make sure you have permission.

Bookstore displays. Especially when coupled with local ground promotions. Small, local bookstores often welcome free publicity of having their name on the promotions. (“Buy it at Acme Books”)

Local news stories. Often local, weekly newspapers (and to a lesser extent radio stations) will be interested in carrying a feature about a local author, or a book about a local event or landmark. I will send them press releases. Make myself available for interviews.

Book/author fairs. A great place to present myself and my book to the public. A great place to spread some giveaways. I have a schedule for several within easy traveling distance.

Writer’s Conferences. Similar to book fairs.

Direct mail. This is touchy because many people instantly dislike any unsolicited offer coming through mail or email, but it is a tried and true way of getting the word out on your novel. Just keep in mind that marketing experts only expect a four percent success rate on direct mail, that’s four sales in a hundred mailings. To make it work, you have to send out a lot. (Or couple it with other promotions.) In my case, I will only send direct mailings to bookstores and libraries in my region and couch them more as informational than sales.

Since this post is already running long, I will leave it here. Next time, I will show you a schedule of how I plan to use the media to promote my book, each piece at its precise time. Until then, good writing to you.


Book Promotion 101, part one

As I prepare to publish and release my new novel, (which I might have mentioned before) I have immersed myself navel-deep in the art and science of book publicity/promotion and the theory thereof. Along the way, I’ve learned some interesting facts and principles. Some I’ve learned through research and reading; others, I’ve discovered through the experience (sometimes painful) of trying to market my first three novels.

Now I’m going to share what I’ve learned.

The time for deciding how and where to promote your novel is before it’s published, not after.
As with any product, time is of the essence. Though your novel could very well sell copies for the next twenty years or more, the real make-or-break sales period is when it first hits the market. Therefore it is important that whatever marketing devices you choose to promote your novel are in place and ready to go when the book launches.

Whether we authors want to admit it or not, selling our books is a business.
We are entrepreneurs. Our books are our product and our readers, customers. We are no different than someone selling cars, or insurance, or hemorrhoid crème. We need to approach our business with the same mindset as any other person in sales. We have to know our product, know the market, and know our customers.

I’m assuming we all know our products, since we created them, so I will move on to the market. So let’s look at some facts.

Fact #1: There are about 430 million English speakers on this planet. Of those, 319 million live in the United States and 64 million live in the United Kingdom. But many of those English speakers are children and others who are not in charge of purchasing. The adult population of the United States is more like 200 million. So, in theory, there are 200 million possible customers for your book in the U.S. But that isn’t quite accurate.

Fact #2: Unfortunately, approximately half of all adult Americans have not read a book outside of work or school and have no intention of doing so in the future. This is important because it makes no sense to waste limited marketing resources on people who simply aren’t interested in the product. That leaves about 100 million Americans who might be interested in your book. A sizable bunch of people, right?

Fact #3: About 480,000 books are published in English every year. Of those, about 292,000 are published in the U.S. and 150,000 in the U.K. That’s about a book for every 342 people in the U.S. That’s not a whole lot in sales, is it? And that’s an optimistic estimate because it doesn’t take into account that a few of those published books will be written by people named Stephen King, James Patterson, or J.K. Rowling who will sell thousands of copies.

Fact #4: Most independent and self-published books sell fewer than 150 copies. Most others sell fewer than 2000. Why? Largely, because many (or most) authors, myself included, have their books published and then just put them out there in the market, hoping for the best. That is not good business.

As authors who wish to sell more than 150 copies of this novel we’ve worked so long and hard on, we need to honestly ask ourselves a few important questions that lie at the heart of marketing and promotion:

How do we attract the attention of all those possible readers? How do we get them to notice our book out of the 292,000 published every year? (In the United States.)

How do we convince the potential reader to give up their hard-earned money and buy one of our books?

How do we do both on a reasonable budget? (If you’re a multimillionaire, just hire a publicist and be done with it.)

The answer to these questions is targeted promotion.

It’s the same thing we do when an acquaintance approaches us at the grocer’s and asks what’s new. “I’ve written a book,” you say. “What’s it about?” And you tell them. Promotion is the same thing, but on a larger scale. We are getting the attention of a prospective reader, telling them why they would like the work, and where they can find it. Simple, right?

Well, in theory, yes, it is pretty simple. Simple, that is, if money is no object. (See my comment about multi-millionaires, above, and add an advertising agency along with the publicist). Unfortunately, for most of us, finances are a factor. We have a promotional budget and need to both stick to that budget and get the most benefit we can from every dollar (pound, whatever) we spend on promotion.

So how do we do that? Again, we have to gather some facts first.

Fact #5: No matter how good our novel is, it is unlikely that all the 100 million readers in the United States will want to read it. People, even the most voracious readers, tend to prefer to read one or two favorite genres and don’t wander much. The man who loves his western novels is highly unlikely to read a bodice-ripper romance. The woman who reads every mystery she can get her hands on, is unlikely to buy a sci-fi novel. There are exceptions, but for promotional purposes, we need to concentrate on the majority.

We need to identify the segment of the reading population most likely to be interested in our work and concentrate our promotions on them.

In my particular case, my novel is going to be a thriller (with strong mystery overtones) and some research on the web tells me that my particular audience is primarily women aged 45-65. They are the readers most likely to be interested in reading my novel, so I will spend my promotion money targeting them.

Fact #6: The make-or-break period for most books, the period when it either establishes itself
as a success or not, is the first six months after its release. Granted there will still be sales later, but the work will lose the luster of being “new.” Most sales will occur in the first six months.

Fact #7: Marketing experts report that it takes on average of 5-7 exposures to a promotional message for a customer to actually purchase the product. Think about it. How many times have you purchased something the first time you saw it advertised? Odds are not often. It takes a few reminders. Either you don’t need it right away, you can’t afford it at the moment, or other pieces of your life distract you. Sometimes you just need to be reminded. And I intend to remind you about my novel.

Fact #8: Marketing experts also recommend that the promotion campaign for a “new product” (which is what our novels are after all) begin 6-8 weeks before the actual product launch. Think of a Hollywood motion picture. When does the studio begin running trailers on television? About six weeks before the movie opens. They are trying to build up “buzz” for the new film. Apple does the same thing whenever it’s going to launch a new phone. We need to do the same for our books.

To review: we need to promote our books if we want to sell them to anyone other than our friends and family. To do this in the most efficient and cost-effective way, we need to identify the segment of the reading population that would be most interested in reading our work. This is our target audience. We aim our promotions at them. Our best time to sell our book and therefore the most important time to actively promote them is the first six months after the book is released. But, in order to build up some “buzz” or enthusiasm for the book’s release, we should begin our promotion six to eight weeks before the release.

Now that I’ve determined what I need to do, I have to figure out how I’m going to do it.

The campaign I’m designing will be the subject of the next post.


The Problem With Promotion

Currently, I am about halfway through the latest (is it the 7th? Or 8th?), and probably one of the last, edits of my newest novel. At least until my editor gets through with it. Now, as actual publication nears, my attention my turn to what I need to do before, during, and after publication. Namely, marketing and promoting the book.

And I absolutely hate it.

I know, I know, marketing is necessary if I’d like to sell some books to someone besides my family and friends, but it simply isn’t my thing. I see it as something like changing the oil in my car. I understand it needs to be done; I’d just rather be doing something else.

So why do I dislike it so much? I’ve come up with three primary reasons.

I was raised to believe the old-fashioned concept that nice people do not brag about themselves or their accomplishments. Nice people were modest and let their actions or achievements speak for themselves. If the achievements were truly good enough, they would attract praise without any assistance from us. Indeed, if someone else praised us, we were taught to politely say “Thanks” and then move the conversation to something else.

Marketing and promotion feels like the exact opposite of what I was taught. It’s driving principle seems to involve me approaching strangers (through various media) and shouting: “Look what I did! It’s really, really good!”

I am not a salesman. I don’t like it and I’m not good at it. I don’t have the right personality for it. I am an introvert. In certain situations, I could even be considered shy. Groups of strangers make me anxious. Asking other people to do favors for me stresses me out. There’s a reason I have spent most of my life either reading a book, or sitting at a word processor trying to figure out how to write my own, not working the room at a cocktail party. It’s where I’m most comfortable. When I do go to parties, I’m the guy who sits to the side, sipping his drink, simply watching everyone else. I’m also the guy who makes an excuse and leaves early.

This makes persuading people to buy my new novel very, very difficult. The same goes for networking. For those of us who are introverts, it’s just very hard.

I have spent the majority of my adult life writing, reading, and learning how to write. I am a writer. I am not a marketing expert. I am not an advertising expert. I am a writer. When it comes to marketing and promoting my book, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I look through dozens of web sites offering promotional advice and most of it makes some sense, I’m still somewhat at a loss. Part of the problem is that I don’t live in a metropolitan area. I live in a very rural, very isolated part of the Southwest coast of Oregon. It’s incredibly beautiful, but there aren’t many people around, so any serious marketing either involves a lot of travel, or is limited to mail and the internet.

The obvious solution is to hire someone to do the marketing for me and I have looked into it. It is prohibitively expensive. Way out of my price range.

So what am I going to do? What I always do, (at least with my previous novels). I will research various promotional tools, figure out how much I can afford to spend, create a budget and a marketing plan. It will probably not be the most extravagant, probably not the most effective, but, with a little luck, effective enough. Most of all, I will push myself as hard as I can to leave my comfort zone and try to be as much of that salesman as I can possibly be.