Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Begin With the End in Mind

You’ve probably heard this saying before: “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a concept that can easily be applied to writing and publishing a book. Everything you do before and during the writing process should be with the aim of fulfilling your end goals of publishing a book. 

Many authors do all their writing first and think that they can wait to work on plans and goals later, when the book is ready to be released. But in doing that, they’re starting out behind. 

Here are five questions to consider before writing and publishing your book.  

1. Why are you writing the book? 
Here are some common reasons to write a book: for fun; to build your business; to enhance your credibility; because you’re an expert in a certain field; or to leave a legacy. If making money is your only goal, you risk being disappointed. Half of all published titles sell less than 250 copies a year. As you write, be sure that your book will fulfill your “why.”  

2. What type of book are you writing? 
Before starting to write, spend some time clearly defining your book. What is your vision or concept for the book? What style will it be written in? How will it be different from, or similar to, other books? Stay focused on your answers to these questions while writing. You should also research similar books to get an idea of the physical look and price, as well as what stores or websites sell these books.  

3. Why would someone read your book? 
Do you promise new information readers can’t get elsewhere? Will you craft a fictional story with a plot readers won’t be able to stop thinking about? Will you teach something people never thought they could do? As you write your book, refer to that “promise” or “hook” and be sure your manuscript delivers.  

4. Who are your ideal readers? 
This is a crucial question to answer before you type the first sentence of your book. Every decision you make from writing to design to the physical attributes of the book to how it will be promoted should be aimed at your readers. For example, if you envision your book being read by women ages 60+ you may not want to use slang like ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing). Writing a book for children who are just learning to read? You’ll want text that is easy to pronounce and to read aloud. You may want to use a larger size font and limit how much text appears on each page.  

5. How can your book be marketed to your readers?
Before writing, consider how you will promote your book to potential readers and get them to buy it. The genre of your book, the audience you want to target, and the “hook” that will make people want to read the book are all factors in what marketing and promotional methods you choose. Writing a book about gardening? Before you start writing, identify area garden clubs. Talk to them about what they might be interested in learning from your book. Offer to send them a galley for their feedback. The key is to start building anticipation before the book is out. Look for landscaping centers that might be willing to sell your book and host a book signing. Call the gardening show host on your local radio station and position yourself as a local expert who has a book coming out soon. Send the host a copy to review. Start local and then build to national efforts. 

The possibilities are endless!  

Angela DeCaires is the Marketing & Communications Manager for BookLogix Publishing Services. She oversees Corporate Communications for BookLogix, and also assists BookLogix’s authors in the publishing process. Angela’s background includes experience in public relations, writing, broadcasting and journalism, having held positions in public relations and working for a number of years as a news writer/TV news producer. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Buyers or Readers: Who's My Audience?

On more than one occasion in 2012 already, I’ve been approached by authors with the question: Who’s my audience, the buyers or the readers? This seems an odd question at the onset. But consider the reality that, for some books, the reader may not necessarily be the buyer. 

There are many topics you could write about that would appeal to a certain reader, who might not be the person to purchase the book. Case in point, a creative author whose “Why Play ...” series explores various musical instruments, and why young people might find learning to play them interesing. The books, written for young adult readers, might likely be purchased by their parents, in which case, the author has a dual challenge of writing for one audience, and marketing to another.

The self-published author of a book about the nation’s escalating health care crisis could face a similar daunting challenge. Should he position his book to the intended reading audience or to those most likely to buy the book? A topic that interests practically all Americans, navigating the health care crisis could be viewed as being most relevant to those in the Baby Boomer generation. So, while one audience – Boomers – might gain the most value from reading the book, another audience – their Gen-X children concerned about caring for aging parents – could be more likely to buy the book and share it with their parents. 

If your book poses this dilemma, don’t fret. Here is where your book plan really comes in handy. When developing your book’s content, think first about your readers. What do they want or need to know? What problem do they have that your book can help solve? What do you want them to think, feel, or do after reading your book? How can your book inform, educate, or inspire your readers? During the writing and content development phase of your book project, address these issues with your ideal reader in mind.

When planning your marketing strategy, consider who will likely purchase your book, either for themselves, as a gift for a loved one, or as an incentive for students, staff, clients, or others. Are your buyers the parents or the children of your ideal readers? Will corporate management or those in a support role be the ones who will buy your book? Will wives buy your book for their husbands or will husbands buy it for their wives? These are important questions to ask because the answers will determine the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your marketing strategy. 

So, for the music book written for young adults, part of the marketing strategy could include distribution at venues where both parents and children frequent: toy stores, sporting goods shops, community fairs and festivals, and amusement parks. For the health care book, perhaps the messaging for the book is that health care impacts everyone at every age, so sharing the content across generations can empower an entire family.

As an independent publisher, you are both author and marketer and, therefore, responsible for determining the content and marketing messages for your book. Most often, your readers and buyers will be one in the same. But when they represent two distinct audiences, take care to address each on their own terms. It can be a challenge, but it can be done. 

Have you identified the ideal reader and buyer for your book? Are they one in the same?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

PULL Marketing Strategies for AUTHORpreneurs

Have you ever had someone try to force you to buy something? You know, maybe like their book or another product or service? I’m sure you know what I mean. The person selling their stuff is certain that it’s good, yet still they think you have to be convinced, cajoled, and coerced to buy it. What’s that about? It really boils down to them pushing their stuff on you. That’s called PUSH marketing. It’s the old way of doing things. Think of the loud-mouthed pitchmen you see on TV selling the Sham (whatever) and Oxy (such and such). 

Now, think about whether you want to present yourself and your book in the same light. You’re not a pitchman/woman; you’re an author with a great book that supports an even greater platform. The content in your book is exactly what someone is seeking to help solve a problem or provide greater understanding in a particular area. So there’s no need to push; you only have to make people (the ideal people) aware of what you know, what you have, and how it will help them. That’s called PULL marketing. It’s one of the most effective ways of marketing and selling your book.

Pull or attraction marketing isn’t new. Experts, specialists, corporations, and sadly even con-men have used this strategy for years. AUTHORpreneurs – entrepreneurs who are also published authors – are now beginning to apply the techniques that will attract readers to their books, users to their services, and buyers to their other products. Pull marketing strategies can be an AUTHORpreneur’s best friend when properly understood and applied. 

Here are just a few techniques that can yield big results for you:

Find a need (and meet it): Determine how your book helps meet an existing need or solves a problem that your ideal readers or clients have.

Plant a seed (and water it): Give readers or potential clients/customers a small, but useful bit of information to illustrate your knowledge.

Develop a creed (and share it): Make a promise about how your book can help meet the need. Be sure it’s something you can back up with facts, a system or process, proof, testimonials, and/or a guarantee. 

Do the deed (and work it): Get out there in a big way with a message that will attract people to the concepts and content in your book.  

What a great way to market and sell you book without being salesy. Pull marketing is about building awareness, positioning you as an expert, and using your book as a tool for greater knowledge and understanding. 

Join me next Wednesday, April 18th and the following Wednesday, April 25th at 8:00 p.m. EST for my 2-part telecourse, "Pull Marketing Strategies for AUTHORprenerus." You’ll learn all about how to boost your “attractor factor” and sell more books without being pushy. Click here for more information and to register. 

In the meantime, here’s something to consider: What examples of pull or attraction marketing have influenced you as a consumer/customer/client? Did you buy?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

7 Book Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Effective book marketing seems to be an elusive activity for many self-published authors. Sometimes I think that’s true because authors often make marketing their book more difficult than it needs to be. Remember, marketing is everything you do to get the word out about your book. That could include any number of activities, strategies, and tactics, from the most common to the more obscure. 

You’re probably familiar with a few of these strategies to get the word out about your book: social media, advertising, blogs, book fairs, book signings, speaking engagements, media interviews, reviews ... the list can go on and on. So this post is not about the marketing strategies you should employ as an author; it’s about the marketing mistakes you should avoid.

Without a doubt, authors who choose the do-it-yourself route to market their books will make some mistakes along the way. That’s okay; the point is to learn from them. Here are seven mistakes to avoid when marketing your book:

Waiting until your book is done to market it
If you wait until you have your book in hand (or in electronic format), you’ve missed at least two months of marketing opportunities. The months during the editing, graphic design, and formatting phases of your book’s production are a great time to begin marketing your book. Post excerpts on your website. Send emails to your circle of influence or ezine subscribers announcing the release date of your book. Take pre-orders. Post teasers on your social networks.

Selling only to bookstores
Bookstores are a great way to get your book sold, but as a creative author you have to think outside the bookstore. There are dozens of other outlets where your book could be sold. Consider your ideal readers and buyers of your book. Where do they shop? Where do they go? Are they into holistic health? Sell your book at wellness centers. Do they have children? Consider making your book available at toy stores. Are they retirees who love to travel? Get your book into travel stores, travel agencies, and luggage stores. 

One-off sales
I’m all for keeping a supply of books in the trunk of your car, but those one-off sales will barely make a dent in your sales goals. You want to take your book to the masses. Offer it as a gift to attendees at your speaking engagements (have the event producer purchase books for each attendee and include the cost of the book in the registration fee). Bundle your book with other products and services you offer to help increase sales. Sell your book at a reduced rate to non-profit organizations to offer as an incentive for membership renewals. 

Offering discounts early on
Nothing says “I’m desperate” more than offering a huge discount on a brand new product. Selling your book at a discount right off the press only diminishes its value in the long run. Debut your book with confidence. Select a sell price that is competitive and indicative of the value that readers will get from your book.

Basing everything on book sales
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: It’s not all about the book. Massive book sales are what every author dreams of, and I’m all for it. But what you’re doing should be bigger than the book. Get clear on the platform you’re promoting (business, cause, belief, brand, expertise), and let your book leverage that. A solid platform, and a great book to back it up, will yield you a greater return on your investment than book sales alone.

Ignoring PR opportunities 
If relating to the public is something you’d rather not do, you might reconsider your foray into authorship. Part of being an author is talking to people about yourself and your book; it just comes with the territory. So do what you need to do to ready yourself for media interviews, appearances, and speaking opportunities.

Being stingy 
Give, give, give! Sure, you want to make some money by selling your book, but sharing it with buyers only will slow your roll towards success. Giving your book can be a huge boon for your platform. Be sure to give strategically to those with broad audiences that mirror your target readers: celebs, industry experts, reviewers, reporters, bloggers, membership organizations, etc.

There’s no one foolproof strategy to marketing your book. It’s a practice. You plan, strategize, execute, and evaluate. Change or dump what doesn’t work, and do more of what does. Everyone makes mistakes along the marketing journey. Avoid these seven, and you’ll save yourself some time, money, and frustration.

What mistakes have you made in your marketing that could help other authors?