How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Do you remember these puzzles from your childhood (or maybe your kids’ childhood)? Which one is different?

Standing out from the crowd is important. With over one million self-published books produced every year, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The answer lies is not in drawing attention to yourself by standing out in an odd or strange way as in the above puzzle. Instead, you want to stand out in ways that are attractive and draw people to you and your book.

It’s not just your book that must stand out. Your marketing efforts also need to stand out in the crowd to attract attention.

After you have written a compelling book that is professionally edited and designed, your next step is to ensure that your marketing activities don’t just mimic what others are doing, but stand out from the crowd.

standing out from crowd

You can stand out from the crowd with the following three strategies:

1. Informative and Unique Content

Give away free content that ties into the theme of your book. This free content must also be unique and answer important questions or solve important problems your target audience faces. Share this content on your blog and in your social media posts. Offer some content in downloadable format for interested readers to receive in exchange for their email address. This helps build your email marketing database.

 2. Connect with Your Audience

Connection is about caring. We connect with others when we care about them. Care for your audience. Show up where these people hang out—be that on social media or in person. Talk to them. Rejoice when they rejoice, mourn when they mourn. Support their efforts and cheer them on. Most people crave authentic connection. Your audience will begin to trust you when they see that you are authentic.

3. Be Consistent

Many Indie authors start strong, but soon fizzle out. When results don’t roll in the way these authors expect, they turn their attention elsewhere. It takes at least a year to build a strong, loyal following. To stand out, you must show up consistently and add value to people’s lives.

In marketing and selling books, you want to be noticed in a good way, not because of appearing odd or strange. Show up, connect with your audience, and offer them great content. Stand out for the value you bring to people’s lives.

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Photo courtesy of Anton Belitskiy.

Don’t Hobble Your Marketing Efforts

From time to time, I review books that are related to publishing or marketing of books. Sometimes an author requests that I review their book. Other times, I see a book that might benefit Indie authors or small publishers and ask for a review copy.

Every once in a while, I receive book that has been marked “Review Copy: Not for Sale”. I seriously dislike it when I receive a marred book. A book that is stained in such a manner stops with me. When a book is spoiled, I am not able to pass it along to someone else that could be blessed by it.

book marketing efforts

I believe that authors who mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” hobble their own marketing efforts.

1. A book is a form of compensation for the reviewer’s time.

When you ask for people to review your book (e.g., beta readers, launch teams, influencers, and bloggers) and these people agree to do so, they are doing you a favor. Providing these individuals with a clean, unmarred copy of your book is a form of compensation for these reviewers’ time.

This is not a new idea. Way back in 1916, Publishers Weekly published an article titled “Review Copies and the Trade”. The article stated:

“In other words, the reviewer has a definite and valued place in the selling of books…. The reviewing periodicals are seldom financially able to pay the best reviewers what they are really worth; and by long custom of the craft, the latter have taken partial recompense in the review copies of the books being reviewed…. To see that the reviewer has for his own purposes the copy of the book reviewed seems to him no more than natural justice; and whether the reviewer chooses to keep the book himself or to sell it for what he can get for it seems to him his own affair.”

2. Every book sent out into the world is a marketing tool, not wasted money.

Many Indie authors mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” because they don’t want others to profit off their books. In other words, these authors are afraid that their book will end up being sold as a used or new book by the review individual, cutting the author out of a profit. However, this is twisted thinking.

Whether a reviewer keeps the book, gifts the book to someone, or sells the book, the impact for the author is usually positive. Every book that goes out into the world is a marketing tool. Everyone who sees the book, buys the book, or reads the book has the potential to become a spokesperson for that book. If the reader loves the book, she tells her friends and family, leading to more sales.

Seeding the world with a few books to begin the word of mouth process should be part of every author’s marketing budget. This includes review copies given to readers.

3. Christian authors can operate on Kingdom economic principles.

As Christians, we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Yet, so often we forget this and act just like the world. When it comes to your books, remember Kingdom principles. Luke 6:38 records Jesus as saying:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ten, fifty, or a couple hundred books, however many you decide to give out, whether for a review, for marketing to bring awareness to your book, or just to bless someone, remember Kingdom truths. Your free book copies are not wasted in God’s Kingdom economics. It is God who directs the paths and sales of your books. Trust Him.

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Photo courtesy of Manuel Sardo.

Are Your Marketing Messages Sticky?

Can you finish these catchy advertising slogans?

  • Snap! Crackle! … (Rice Krispies)
  • When you care enough to send … (Hallmark)
  • It’s the real … (Coca-Cola)
  • Melts in your mouth, …. (M&Ms)

These messages are sticky. They stick in your mind. That’s why you can complete them. It is not just the sheer repetition that helps you remember, it is also that these slogans are catchy.

Every marketing message competes with thousands of other marketing messages. Having a message that is sticky is necessary to stand out and grab people’s attention.

In their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath present six principles that make a message stick. They are:

  1. The message is simple.
  2. The message is unexpected.
  3. The message is concrete.
  4. The message is credible.
  5. The message is emotional
  6. The message is a good story.

I would add that making your message bold also increases the stickiness factor.

For example, Hallmark’s slogan is “When you care enough to send the very best.” That is a bold statement. They are saying that their cards are the very best!

Some practical types might object. They might say, “DaySpring cards are better.” However, some marketing messages are just an opinion. You can boldly assert your book’s promise or your opinion.

If you want your marketing message to stick, your marketing slogan for your book needs to follow one of the six principles presented in Made to Stick and also be bold.

One of the marketing slogans I use for my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is:

The essential guide for marketing Christian books.

One reviewer recently made the following statement, which is much bolder and more likely to stick:

The Bible of marketing Christian books.

Play around with your marketing messages. Don’t be afraid to make a bold claim. A simple, bold statement is more likely to stick than just a simple or unexpected statement.

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Are You Doing This with Your Website?

Do you know what the top mission of your website is?

If you answered: To sell my books. You are wrong.

The most important duty of your website is to develop trust with your website visitors. First-time visitors make up 60 to 70 percent of traffic every month for the average website. When these new people reach your website, your job is to introduce them to you and your books. But, more importantly, you must build trust with these visitors. Trust is required for a sale to happen.

To develop trust with your website visitors, make sure that you are providing these four things on your website.

1. Relevant Content

If the majority of the daily visitors to your website are brand new, they are most likely unfamiliar with you and your books. Your primary job is to build trust with these people through information. Providing content that answers their questions and informs and educates them helps you build trust. When website visitors scan your information—and they do scan—and find valuable advice that is relevant to their situation, they begin to trust you and your message.

2. Free Samples

Be open with what you provide in your books. Studies show that providing samples improves sales. If people are confident that they will like what they are spending their money on, they are more likely to purchase. In some cases, offering a sample can boost sales by 2,000 percent. A sample raises people’s confidence. Offer one to a few chapters of your books so that people can sample what you have published to increase their trust and confidence in you.

3. Testimonials

Social proof increases consumers’ trust in a brand or product. Social proof is the construct that persuasion of an idea or behavior for an individual is linked with how others are responding to it. In essence, social proof reduces the perception of risk associated with a purchase. Testimonials are one form of social proof. They tell potential customers that others are benefiting from your books, increasing customers’ trust in you and your books.

4. Friendly, Prompt Support

If you sell books directly from your website, provide a way for people to contact you. From time to time, as Director of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA), I receive calls from people who are trying to reach a Member of CSPA. These people tell me that they have tried to purchase a book, or made a purchase, or have an issue with their purchase, yet are unable to get a hold of the publisher or author. They have called me to obtain help in this matter.

One recent study by Corra found that 52.4% of shoppers prefer to communicate through live chat on a website, while 32.8% preferred email for communicating, and 14.5% choose a phone call. If you are not providing live chat on your website, at least make sure that you provide a telephone number and an email. Then, be sure to check your emails and phone messages regularly so that you don’t leave customers or potential customers languishing. Prompt responses help to build trust.

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Persuasion in an Age of Information Overload

We live in an age of information overload. The average person is bombarded with more information than they can retain every day.

Information scientists have found that, in 2011, American’s took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 (think pre- and post-internet). This is equivalent to 174 newspapers. During just leisure time, the average person processes 34 gigabytes or 100,000 words every day.

In order to persuade readers to buy your books, you have to cut through information overload. Getting your book to stand out amidst a sea of competing messages can be daunting. To improve your ability to persuade people to buy your book, focus on these three elements.

1. Message

Your message must stand out and grab attention. For your book, this means the message you are delivering through your book’s title, subtitle, blurbs, and your opening paragraph.

Some studies suggest that about four in every 10 book buyers bought their latest book based on its message. This means that your book’s cover is tremendously important in converting browsers to buyers. It’s not just the design or cover art, its the whole makeup and feel of your cover that is important. It’s the message that your title and cover art combined send.

2. Repetition

Studies show that people need to be exposed to a new product seven to twelve times before they make a purchase decision. The same is true for your book. Repeat exposure is required to convert a browser to a buyer.

Interestingly, the higher the book’s price point, the more exposures are required. Even bargains require repeat exposures. A book priced under $2 through a daily deal discount email campaign needs an average of at least two exposures before a reader will purchase.

With digital marketing, repetition is achievable. Mentions of your book on blogs, social media, and in your email newsletter all help increase your ability to persuade your target audience to buy your book.

3. Availability

In an environment of information overload, we easily forget new information. Research shows that many consumers make near instant purchasing decisions based on their intuition. This means that the reader will attempt to make the purchase as soon as they decide.

If your book is not available where these people shop, they will move on to the next thing. This is why distribution is so important. A book needs to be available in as many outlets and channels as possible (not just on your website and Amazon). Distracted shoppers that cannot get what they want the moment they want it, move on.

The task of being heard amidst the noise of information overload seems daunting. Focus on your message, repetition of your message, and availability. Then watch what God will do.

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