Are You Limiting Yourself?

“This book is for men,” the author said to my daughter as she stood at the book display looking at his book.

“This book caught my eye because I like to travel,” my daughter responded.

“But it’s really for men,” the author countered. “It would make a great dad gift. It’s really for men.”

At that point, my daughter, feeling embarrassed for showing interest in a book “for men” walked off.

Later, she related this story to me. She told me that the book was a travel book with maps and a journal written by a male author. She stated that the author was actively discouraging her from reading his book, even though she was showing interest.

Clearly, this author knew his target audience—men who enjoyed travel. However, he was so tuned to his target audience, that he was limiting himself to “men only”.

Maybe he was not aware that women read books geared for men and that men read books geared for women. While this author may not want to spend his marketing efforts and advertising dollars on women, he could sell more books by keeping in mind that some women might be interested in his book. This mindset would help him keep from shutting out females who show an interest in his book.

One author at CBA Unite shared that she had written a book for young adult females ages 13 to 18. She, too, knew her target audience. However, she went on to say that many moms and dads also read the book. She stated that one of her best reviews was from a dad who read the book.

Knowing your target audience is important. It helps you hone your marketing message and efforts. However, don’t limit yourself to your target audience. After all, a target is just a place to aim.

You should encourage anyone showing interest in your book to read it because:

  1. God can speak to anyone he chooses to through your written words.
  2. Stereotypes are generalizations. They don’t apply to everyone.
  3. The person may be considering purchasing the book as a gift for someone.
  4. Even if your message is not for the person reading the book, they might recommend the book to someone they know will enjoy it.

Whatever you do, never discourage interest in your book. Don’t limit yourself. Keep an open mind when considering who might be interested in reading your book.

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Photo courtesy of Oscar Keys

Are You Expecting Fast Results?

I recently read the book Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas. In this book, Eric tells numerous stories of modern-day miracles.

One story in the book is about a woman who suffered from two autoimmune disorders. She was deathly sick and had to live in almost complete isolation because her body reacted violently to any chemical. She could only eat a handful of foods.

After this woman accepted Christ, a group of people began praying for her healing weekly. After a year or so of doing this, they saw a little improvement, but not much. One member of the group thought they should call in a lady who had a prayer ministry. The lady came and prayed for the sick woman.

This lady did not pray for just one day with her, she prayed for five full days with the sick woman. At the end of five days the woman was healed.

This story convicted me. I give up too quickly.

I once fasted and prayed weekly for healing for a neighbor. I felt led by God to do this. However, after a little over two years with no results, I became discouraged and gave up.

Yes, I still prayed for her healing, but not with the same intensity and petitioning as previously. Fortunately, God works in spite of our failings (after all, I did not feel him release me, I just quit from discouragement). A couple years after I quite fasting and praying for her healing, my neighbor was miraculously healed by God after nine years of illness.

It’s our culture. We expect everything fast. We move rapidly and thrive on immediate gratification. This is why:

  • We expect fast answers to prayer.
  • Fast food is so popular and a thriving industry.
  • Fast and Furious is such a popular movie series.
  • 53% of mobile Internet users leave a webpage if it does not load in 3 seconds.
  • You only have eight seconds to hook a reader with your book’s cover.
  • We expect fast answers to prayer.

The problem is that the important things don’t come fast or immediately. Consider:

  1. The prophet Samuel’s mother, Hannah, prayed earnestly for children for years before her petition was granted.
  2. On average, a person hears seven to twelve times about a new product before they act and make a purchase.
  3. It takes nine months of blogging on a regular basis to develop a following.
  4. The average nonfiction book sells 3,000 copies over its lifetime, but only 250 copies in the first year.
  5. According to Mark Schaefer in his book, Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in a Digital Age, it takes 30 months to become “known”. That is two and one-half years of consistently putting yourself and your books in front of your target audience to drive exposure and sales.

What about you? Are you expecting fast results? Do you get easily frustrated when your book promotion results are not what you expect? Remember, marketing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Borges

Are You Looking for a Formula?

As Americans, we love prescriptions and formulas to follow. Just prescribe a program for people to lose weight, get in shape, de-clutter their house, or extend the life of their vehicle, and thousands race to put the formula into practice.

Sadly, there is no formula for marketing a book to make it a best-seller. Many authors who have found the right mix of marketing strategies for their own book will try to sell you their formula, but never does one marketing formula work for all types of books. If one formula did, it would have already been patented.

Since books are sold mostly through bookstores (whether online or physical), authors and publishers rarely have the ability to find out how their readers discovered their books. Hence, it is difficult for authors and publishers to know which of their marketing efforts are providing the best results.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) asks on our membership application how the applicant heard about CSPA. Here are the responses from the most recent eight applications:

  • Word-of-mouth and internet browsing
  • The Christian Writer’s Market Guide
  • Christian Writers Conference
  • CSPA was referenced in various online forums
  • A friend who is an editor for various ministries and small publishing houses
  • Referral from another independent author
  • Email
  • Internet

As you can see, there is no one referral source. Other than word-of-mouth from various places, the ways that these authors and publishers heard about CSPA varied greatly.

The same is most likely true for your books. While surveys of readers reveal that word-of-mouth is the number one way people decide to purchase a book, this word-of-mouth can vary greatly from a friend, relative, coworker, a blog post, a social media post, or from someone who knows the author.

Remember, there is no formula. No two books can be marketed the exact same way and receive the same results. You must experiment to find the sweet mix of marketing activities that reaches your target audience effectively.

I encourage you to heed the advice of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

These words, penned thousands of years ago, are still true. In marketing a book, you do not know which activities will succeed, so sow numerous and diverse efforts for the best results. I believe that it is the mix (not one thing) that provides the best results.

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Is Your Message Distilled?

To distill means to condense or refine.

Distilled water is water that has had most of its impurities removed through the process of distillation. Distillation involves boiling the water and then collecting and condensing the steam into a clean container. The result is water that is pure.

Is your message distilled? Have you condensed and refined your message so that it is pure and clean—free from distractions and extraneous information?

I get to hear a lot of elevator pitches from authors. Sadly, many of these authors have not taken the time to distill their message. A good elevator pitch about your book should be both condensed and refined so that you can give a clear message in three sentences or less.

Your elevator pitch should answer these three questions:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What is their need?
  3. How does your book meet that need?

Answering these three questions in developing a distilled message is a great place to start. First answer these questions and then determine whether you will phrase your elevator message as a problem/solution or as a benefit.

Here is an example of a distilled problem/solution message based on my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace:

“Over 1,200 books are published every day in America. Most new authors are at a loss as to how to make their books stand out from the crowd and get noticed. My award-winning book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, gives Christian authors the information and resources they need to effectively promote their books.”

Here is an example of a distilled benefit message based on what Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) does:

“Christian Small Publishers Association provides small publishers and independent authors information and access to affordable marketing venues so that they can be successful in promoting and selling their Christian books.”

I encourage you to take some time and distill your message about your book. That way, when people ask you about your book, you are ready with a quick answer that grabs their attention and immediately lets them know what problem your book solves or what benefit your book provides.

Remember, you want to keep your message to three sentences or less. Your message should be no longer than 30 seconds, but keeping it shorter, more like 20 seconds or less, may be more effective with most people’s short attention spans.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden

Harnessing the Power of Community

Social media is powerful. A Marketing Think survey showed that 81% of purchase decision makers used online communities to make their choices.

Online communities for book lovers have been around for years. These communities allow readers to keep an online record of the books they have read and those they want to read. They can share these lists and their reviews of books they have read with other readers in the community. Authors can also join these communities to interact with readers and promote their books.

community

Goodreads is by far the largest and most popular of these online book lover communities, but it is not the only one. Others include:

Earlier this year, a new book lover social media community was formed. This new site for book lovers is offering a new twist. Reader’s Legacy is combining an author/reader community with an e-commerce bookstore. Believing that there is an increased consumer demand for experiential online shopping, Reader’s Legacy is a community first and a bookstore second.

Reader’s Legacy has incentivized their site by offering members “Litcoins”. Litcoins are similar to Bitcoins. A Bitcoin is a digital currency with encryption that allows individuals to anonymously purchase goods and services online. Litcoins are also a digital currency, but unlike Bitcoins—which can be widely-used on the Internet—Litcoins can only be used in the Reader’s Legacy store.

Members of the Reader’s Legacy community earn Litcoins for doing various activities on the site. As readers add books to their virtual library, follow friends, become fans of favorite authors, share interesting posts on social media channels, link other social media channels to a ReadersLegacy.com account, and make posts, they are awarded badges of recognition. For every badge earned, readers are given Litcoins. Litcoins can be redeemed for physical books through the Reader’s Legacy store.

Reader’s Legacy offers authors one more place to harness the power of communities. Authors can use online communities to develop an audience and gain more reader’s for your books. One of the benefits of joining Reader’s Legacy is that it also gives you one more place online to sell your books.

Any author can sign up for an account on Reader’s Legacy and offer their book for sale through the site. You can even sign your book up to be part of the Litcoin program. Learn more about selling your book on Reader’s Legacy at https://www.readerslegacy.com/indy-authors.

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