Marketing isn’t just about selling books

taken from Sheila’s talk in May 2014

Why should we care about marketing?

Quite a few people wanted a talk on marketing, but I’m guessing the rest of you might think, I don’t want to sell stuff, I’m just writing for me. Why do I care about marketing? But marketing isn’t just getting your book into stores and selling lots of copies. It’s also what you’re doing when:

  1. You tell your grandkids, “You should care about this; it’s your family history”
  2. You tell your spouse, “No, I’m not wasting my time”
  3. You tell yourself, “I know what I’m doing and I’m going to get this thing written.”

A marketing exercise for everyone

Since we all have some connection with writing, we should all be able to fill in the blanks in the following sentence. We began our exercise by writing it down, on the principal that writing implies some kind of commitment:

  1. My name is_____, and I’m working/have worked/will work on_____, a _____.

Underneath your sentence, continue as follows:

  1. Three reasons you are a good person to write this piece
  2. Three people or groups of people you want to read this piece
  3. Pick one of those people or groups and circle it
  4. From the three reasons you’re the person to write, circle the one most relevant to them
  5. What are three places/times/situations you might interact with this person/group
  6. Pick the situation you feel most comfortable with, and circle it
  7. Three things you might do/say so they recognize this fact about you or your writing
  8. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with, and circle it

Do you still believe you’re the person to write this piece?

  1. If the answer’s yes, you’re on a roll; no writers’ block, no hurdles, you can write.
  2. If the answer’s no, you need to market your writing to yourself.
  3. And then you market it to others.

Examples of Writers’ Mill marketing

  1. Becky wrote about zoo animals, went around zoos, and sold her book.
  2. I wrote Bible stories for Christmas, went around churches, and didn’t sell my book.
  3. I went around Christian bookstores and was told they don’t take self-published books.
  4. I sold on consignment to one store—60/40 (I get 60%)split means I lose on every book I sell.
  5. Jay wrote history, published through a relevant, connected source, and sold some books.
  6. Helen wrote a memoir, joined organizations related to the issue, and sold some books.

So what can we do if we want our books to be read?

  1. Online sales turn out to be important, not just because writers make more profit from them.
    1. Where did you buy your last book?
    2. How did you find it? Why did you choose it?
    3. Majority of booksales are online.
    4. Ebooks are all online
  2. But to get online sales, we need an online presence.
    1. What about getting real sales? To get better than 60/40 split in the store, I have to persuade store I’m saleable; I have to have sales, and, by default, they’re going to be online.
    2. How can we be seen online
      1. Blog
      2. Facebook
      3. Twitter
      4. Linkedin
      5. Goodreads
      6. Pinterest…
    3. What can we do to be seen online?
      1. Review books (Goodreads is a GREAT place to do this)
        1. Makes people see our names
        2. Gets us known in our genre
        3. Gets us known to publishers
        4. Makes friends who might help us be better known
      2.  Write articles (Blogs are a GREAT place to do this)
        1. About something we’re interested in?
        2. Or about things that we wrote down at the start.
        3. Or for the people we wrote down at the start.
      3. Make friends (Facebook is a GREAT place to do this)
        1. Met Judy on Facebook.
        2. Need to meet people we don’t know too.
        3. Be helpful—review their books, tweet for them
        4. Be friendly—write fun stuff, take part, congratulate, encourage.
  3. How do we use online presence to sell books? What might we ask people for, once we know them well enough to ask for help?
    1. Get reviews
    2. Get endorsements
    3. Get feedback
    4. Change the cover if you need to
    5. Do a blog tour—persuade people to host you—perhaps you’ll host them first
    6. Be seen as an interesting person first, so your “readers” aren’t all other authors looking for exactly the same thing!

Why can’t we just get our books into stores and sell them there?

  1. Do you have an ISBN?
    1. The barcode allows the store to stock your book.
    2. It also allows them to look it up online. If it’s not already selling, why would they stock it?
  2. Do you have a distributor?
    1. If not, the store will have to buy from you on consignment.
    2. What does a distributor do?
      1. Traditionally, the store buys from a distributor, and returns unsold books (with covers torn off) for a full refund. Typical royalties statement includes books sold and books returned. Books returned cost.
      2. All distributors are not equal: Have you looked up books on Powells and seen “Remote Warehouse”? Does anyone know what that means?
      3. Print on demand distributor may not accept returns. If stores can’t return for refund, they don’t want to stock, and they don’t want to sell without including postage.
    3. The espresso machine has a limited market, but it’s a really good print on demand distributor. However, lacking a machine instore or a traditional distributor, you’re looking at
    4. consignment.” You will probably be stuck with the 60/40 split, but you’ll still make money (as long as your book is cheap to print—general print is cover price + 2 cents per page; color is cover price + 20 cents per page—all pages, not just the color ones).
  1. How do you get a store to take your book?
    1. Visit them. Sound and look confident.
    2. Have a great book
      1. Have a great cover (one that catches the eye, displays the words clearly, and can still be recognized when turned into a thumbnail on Amazon).
      2. Have a well-designed interior—don’t cut corners to save paper
      3. Have some endorsements and reviews to show them
    3. Have your advertising materials ready to show or leave with them—they’re not going to make a snap decision. (Vistaprint is a GREAT place to buy this stuff.)
      1. Business cards
      2. Flyers
      3.  Postcards
      4. Information sheets
    4. Be ready to defend yourself—they’ll probably try to give you a standard form to fill in and assume you’re a nobody. Prove you’re somebody. Don’t just fill in the form.
    5. Tell them about your ISBN, your sales, your distribution plans. That proves you’ve thought about it.
    6. Tell them what you can do for them.
      1. It’s an ebook too and I’m really pushing it online
      2. I’ve talked to groups of teens about this and I’d love to give a talk at your store
      3. There’s a festival coming and I’m the keynote speaker
      4. What else?
    7. Be ready to come back later. And have stuff to leave with them when you go. They’re going to want to check up on ISBNs, distribution, etc before they commit.

How to make your internet presence work for you.

  1. Have a blog.
    1. Post something regularly, maybe once or twice a week
    2. Be consistent, in timing, quality, quantity and content of your posts
    3. What to blog about?
    4. Remember those people who might like your writing? Blog about stuff they’re interested in
    5. Remember what made you the right person to write your book? Prove it.
    6. Try to brand yourself—I call myself a “mongrel Christian mathematician” but I’m not sure that really tells people about my writing. It does invite questions though.
    7. If you want to attract readers, you must first serve readers
  1. Connect your blog to a website.
    1. This can be easy—lots of blogsites (blogger, wordpress etc) allow you to have pages, and a “landing page” becomes your website.
    2. But you should probably pay to have a real website name. Around $10 a year. Costs more if you want proper hosting:
      1. Real hosting lets your posts be labeled as opposed to
      2. Real hosting gives you more control—blogger could kick me off if google hated me and I’d lose everything
  1. Be on Facebook/Twitter etc
    1. But remember, you have minimal control there.
    2. Create a catchy picture and they’ll change the size
    3. Offend them and you can’t find your account
    4. Find something that works and they’ll change the rules so your pageviews suddenly drop to zero.
    5. And everyone wants you to pay for advertising.
  1. Better than Facebook is an email marketing list (Mailchimp for example), but first you have to create the list
    1. Use facebook and your blog to invite people to your list
    2. Mailchimp offers free hosting up to 2,000 members, but
    3. Email marketing can accidentally break lots of rules:
      1. You have to give away a mailing address: do you have a PO Box?
      2. You have to provide a way to unsubscribe
      3. You have to tell people where you got their address from
  1. Connect everything:
    1. Make your blog post to your facebook.
    2. Make facebook post to twitter
    3. Probably don’t make twitter post back to facebook
  2. Make everything visual
    1. Lots of pictures
    2. Book covers
    3. You—how will you get a publicity photo? Does it have to cost $100? A lot depends on where you’re going to use it—the facebook thumbnail doesn’t have to be great, but it does have to be uncluttered.
  3. Make everything consistent
    1. Use the same banner across lots of pages
    2. And on bookmarks, business cards, giveaways
  4. Be responsive
    1. Don’t respond to reviews—don’t complain or you get in a very visible argument; don’t compliment, or you’ll forget to compliment someone important who’ll then complain about you.
    2. Do respond to people. But
  5. Most of all, be authentic.

Sites you should be using:

  1. Facebook: Have a business page as well as a personal one, and know which is which
  2. Twitter: Use hashtags everywhere, and use them consistently
  3. Google+: This helps you get a better google search ranking
  4. Youtube: Have an account (to please Google) even if you’re not posting videos
  5. LinkedIn: Good place to store your digital resume. Include ALL your publications. People WILL look
  6. Pinterest: Lots of traffic. Good for referrals. Link pictures to your site. But 80% of users are women. Everything’s visual. Are they your audience? If not, leave it alone.
  7. Goodreads: Don’t respond to reviews. Use this to network with other authors, get reviews, etc.
  8. Picmonkey helps you get free images
  9. Canva helps you create shareable facebook graphics
  10. Buffer (Twuffer and others) help you schedule posts
  11. Evernote helps you store info and ideas

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