Awareness Is Always the First Step

“Have you tried Topgolf?”, my friend asked. I had not even heard of the place until she mentioned it.

It turns out that Topgolf is a popular new game. Players rent a bay in what resembles a driving range to play a golf game. Players score points by hitting micro-chipped golf balls at giant targets in a field. Points are scored based on the distance of the target and how close the ball is to the bulls-eye of the target.

Awareness is the first step

Until someone asked me about it, I was blissfully unaware that Topgolf existed. Now I know. Now I have one more place I can choose to spend my leisure dollars.

Awareness is always the first step in a buyer’s journey. After all, I can’t buy something I don’t know exists.

Eugene Schwartz, an advertising specialist, described five levels of awareness that buyers journey through in his book Breakthrough Advertising. The five levels are:

  1. Unaware: Buyers don’t know your product or service exists, or that they have a need for it.
  2. Problem aware: Buyers are aware they have a problem, but they don’t know the solutions.
  3. Solution aware: Buyers are aware of some solutions to their problem, but are not aware of your specific solution.
  4. Product aware: Buyers have become aware of your product, but they have not bought it yet.
  5. Most aware: Buyers who have purchased and used your product.

I traveled through these five steps with Topgolf.

  1. Unaware: I did not even know that Topgolf existed.
  2. Problem aware: I needed a fun local activity for my son and his friends during Spring break.
  3. Solution aware: I knew of a couple things we could do, but wanted more options.
  4. Product aware: A friend mentioned Topgolf, so I checked it out since my son enjoys golf.
  5. Most aware: We rented a bay at Topgolf over Spring break and played a couple games. It was fun. We may do it again.

This first step in a buyer’s journey is your marketing challenge. Making people aware of your books and how they solve a problem for buyers is the goal of your marketing activities.

Exposure is key. Word-of-mouth is your best tool for raising awareness. Get people talking about your books and people will become aware they exist.

Offering free review copies of your book and giving away your book to key influencers is powerful and drives word-of-mouth. Don’t skimp on this step of your marketing plan. Give books away and watch the Biblical principle of “give and it will be given to you” play out.

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Your Next Big Break

Your big break—that media interview, that stellar endorsement, an influencer willing to work with you, a large book order, that awesome speaking engagement—might be right around the corner. You never know when it will happen… but I can guarantee it won’t happen if you don’t plant seeds.

To harvest fruit, you must first plant seeds. All your marketing efforts—both small and large—are seeds you are planting.

Marketing is planting seeds

I have sent out scores of press releases. Many never get a response. Not too long ago, I sent out another press release to the media. I really wasn’t anticipating much from it. After all, I know that press releases are about planting seeds and watering those seeds.

A few weeks later, I received an email. It said:

I am doing a story on indie publishing in the Christian market. I’ll talk to a number of sources for the story, and would love to include you and the newly named CIPA.

An interview was scheduled. A conversation took place. Then, an article was published. I was quoted in the article.

Not a big break, but a nice one that brought more exposure. You can read the article here.

Too many authors are “one and done”. They try something once. When they don’t get the result they expected, they decide that the marketing technique did not work and don’t try it again.

In marketing, “one and done” will kill your efforts. No farmer plants one seed and expects a good crop. Farmers do not know which seeds will germinate or which seeds will lie fallow or end up getting eaten. So, they plant many, many seeds, sometimes overseeding so they can ensure a crop.

Wise King Solomon knew this principle. He said:

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hand rest, because you don’t know which will succeed, whether one or the other, or if both of them will be equally good.

writing at night

In book marketing language, this statement reads:

In the morning conduct your marketing activities, and at evening don’t think you are done, because you do not know which activity will succeed, whether one or the other, or if all of them will be equally good.

You can’t have a big break unless you are constantly pursuing opportunities. So, keep doing marketing activities like:

  • Sending out those press releases.
  • Pitching for interviews.
  • Asking for those endorsements.
  • Pursuing those speaking engagements.
  • Seeking collaboration with other authors.
  • Showing up day in, day out on social media adding value to other’s lives.

And remember that God is the Lord of the Harvest. Your success rests in his hands. Trust him.

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Photo courtesy of Dương Trí and Bruce Mars.

Bringing Hope, Healing, and Life

On a recent Sunday, my church hosted an international worker (that’s the new fancy term for missionary) from Kosovo. This missionary talked about how she was developing oral Bible stories as part of her ministry outreach.

Books Bring Hope, Healing & Life

I was struck by her talk of “oral stories” since Kosovo is a literate nation. I asked her about this. Her response was that while the people of Kosovo can read, many don’t take the time to do so and are more willing to engage with an auditory or visual story. Interestingly, half the population of Kosovo is under the age of 29.

This trend away from reading for young people is not just in the United States. It appears to happening in other countries also. It saddens me. I believe that reading has great benefits and that books bring hope, healing, and life to people in a way that movies and audio stories cannot touch.

Wise King Solomon said, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22) King Solomon is referring to written words when he states “Let them not depart from thine eyes.”

A friend of mine enlightened me about a program that the United States government operated for soldiers in World War II. Keeping up morale for American soldiers was a national concern. The Library Section of the U.S. War Department partnered with over 70 book companies to create and print pocket sized paperback books. Over 123 million copies of a total of 1,322 books were printed and distributed to service members for free. These included Westerns, mysteries, comics, humor, biographies, anthologies of poetry, and classic and contemporary fiction.

A Tree Grows in BrooklynOne of the books selected for the program was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Smith received a flood of mail from soldiers telling her how her book had helped them get through the dark days and horrors of war. One GI expressed in his letter to Smith after reading her book, “I can’t explain the emotional reaction that took place in this dead heart of mine. . . . I only know that it happened. A surge of confidence has swept through me and I feel that maybe a fellow has a fighting chance in this world after all.

Let’s now forget that books are powerful. They bring hope, healing, and renewed life to people. As an author, you are ministering to your readers. Don’t get discouraged. Someone today is in need of a touch from your words.

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Photo courtesy of Nacho Juárez.

Don’t Pull a Bait and Switch

Over lunch, my friend related a recent experience she had with a book. This friend told me that she had taken her daughter to a local bookstore to shop for new books to read.

While browsing, she picked up a nonfiction book whose title caught her attention. She read the back cover. Then she turned to the beginning of the book and read the first few pages.

Don't Pull a Bait and Switch

My friend shared that the story at the beginning of the book drew her in and had her intrigued. She was excited to read the rest of the book.

As her daughter continued to browse, my friend carried the book around the store with her. Just before checking out, she thought that maybe she should read something halfway through the book just to make sure she was spending her money wisely.

My friend reported that, to her horror, the rest of the book was not like the opening. The opening had been a lovely story that drew her in. She had thought that the book would contain more stories like this. Instead it turned out to be a long succession of dry writing about the historical event the book covered. Needless to say, my friend put the book back on the shelf.

My friend shared this story because she had been sorely disappointed with her experience. The opening pages of the book promised something that the rest of the book did not deliver. In essence, she experienced a bait and switch.

The first few pages of your book are extremely important. You must draw the reader in right from the start. But, be careful that you don’t create a bait and switch. In other words, your book’s opening needs to be engaging, but it also needs to reflect what can be found in the remainder of the book.

Draw the Reader in

By the way, the process my friend went through in selecting the book she thought she wanted to buy is the same process most people use when looking at books. When choosing a book, studies show that readers consider in order:

  1. The Title
  2. The Cover
  3. The Back Cover
  4. The Table of Contents
  5. The First Few Paragraphs of a Book’s Content
  6. The Price

Each phase of this process either encourages the reader on to the next step and closer to a purchase, or turns them off and sends them on to the next book.

Delivering on your book’s promise is essential. Readers that don’t receive what is promised in a book will not recommend it to their family and friends. Remember, word-of-mouth recommendation is the most powerful driving force in book sales.

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Two Strategies for Creating Effective Marketing Messages

Most authors love words. We love to string words together to make powerful and memorable statements. Words create emotions in people and can move them to action.

Many authors are intimidated by the idea of marketing. Yet, marketing is simply using words to draw people to your books. Good marketing is about finding the right words and phrases to hook people to action—either finding out more or buying the product.

Create Effective Marketing Messages

Words, of course, are not enough. Which words you choose and how you present these words are both important.

1. Choosing Marketing Words

There are many websites that provide marketing phrases that have worked successfully for marketing campaigns. You can use the information gleaned from studies and experts to help you craft marketing messages that draw readers in.

Some of the most effective marketing words and phrases include:

  • Sale
  • Best Seller
  • New
  • Guaranteed
  • Hassle-Free
  • Value
  • Proven
  • Act Now
  • For a Limited Time
  • You Deserve

2. Presentation of Marketing Words

Words are not enough. Your presentation of these words matters when it comes to creating marketing messages. The places you use marketing messages include:

  • Your book’s back cover
  • Your book’s online description
  • Your book’s website
  • Your blog posts
  • Your online and print ads
  • Your other marketing materials
  • Your social media posts

All these messages should contain words that draw potential readers in, but they also need to be easily read and easy to skim. In other words, dense paragraphs and long descriptions are best left for your books.

A study out of San Jose State University found that the new normal in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. The study found that many readers use an F or Z pattern when reading. With these patterns, readers sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text.

Your marketing text must be easy to skim so that skim readers will comprehend what you are saying. When we skim read, we don’t grasp complex issues. Therefore, it is important to keep your marketing messages short and simple. Include headlines and bullet points to allow for easy comprehension for skim readers.

Remember, your marketing messages are supposed to entice people to want to learn more about your book. So, present your marketing words and text layout in a manner that will engage your potential readers.

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