You Must Sow to Reap

One day the phone rang. I picked it up and Ross Perot was on the line. He said, ‘I love your book.‘”

I was talking with a writer who was telling me about a book she published in the 1990s. It was a politically conservative title. She wanted to get the word out about her book, so she mailed copies to a large number of conservative politicians including Ross Perot.

Ross Perot paid attention to this unsolicited book that he received. He read it, liked it, and contacted the author. He then helped this author get additional media coverage for her message.

This author talked about the new book she was hoping to get published and then commented, “Now you have to do your marketing online.

I quickly laid that myth to rest. While there is much talk about author platforms and using social media to promote books, the Internet is not the only marketing strategy an author has at her fingertips.

Much like cold calling, cold mailing is an acceptable marketing practice. Mailing copies of your books to appropriate influencers can pay off.

When my anger management book for teenagers was published, I mailed copies of the book to middle school and junior high school counselors to help spur sales. I also sent copies to counseling center directors. These influencers all worked with the target audience for my book.

I looked at mailing these copies of my books as sowing seeds. The goal was to raise awareness for my book. Farmers know that without sowing seeds, there is no harvest. Seeds grow into plants, and plants produce fruit.

2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of righteousness.” I figured that my job was to sow the seeds, and God’s job was to make those seeds grow.

I believe that when we publish books that bring Glory to God, that He does cause the seeds we sow to grow into a harvest. Sow seeds with your books. Mail copies to influencers and reviewers who can help spread the word about your book.

The Biblical principle that “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6) applies to all areas of life. So, sow your marketing seeds generously.

To seed your marketing efforts, I encourage you to make a list of influencers in your target audience you can give copies of your book to. Then mail some books and trust God to bring a harvest.

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Photo courtesy of skeeze.

Book Marketing Bingo

Eight out of every ten products launched in the United Sates are destined to fail.

I recently read this statistic in the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. He went on to say:

Roughly 21,000 new brands are introduced worldwide per year, yet history tell us that all but a few of them have vanished from the shelf a year later. In consumer products alone, 52 percent of all new brands, and 75 percent of individual products fail.

That’s a whole lot of products that don’t stand the test of time. In other words, they don’t sell enough for their makers to keep producing them.

Authors, you have the same uphill battle for your books. The average traditionally-published book sells less than 500 copies and the vast majority of indie published books sell less than 200 copies.

There are many factors that help books sell. However, just as a cake won’t rise without baking soda, your book won’t sell without some marketing.

I love this Marketing Bingo board that John Kremer developed. Check it out. Have you done enough marketing to win a bingo on the board?

Marketing Bingo Card

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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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Don’t Get Taken by a Salesman

“You’re a good salesman, if you make people buy product they don’t need.” —Toba Beta

I am not a sales person. I know how to market, but hand-selling through persuasion is not my strong point. A good salesperson knows how to play on your FOMO (fear of missing out). He or she will convince you that if you don’t buy what they are selling that you will miss out.

An independent author of a specialty book recently asked me for recommendations of who he should talk to in the publishing industry for furthering his distribution and sales. I gave him a list of a few companies and he set off to a trade show.

After the trade show, this author called and told me that the companies I told him to meet with did not impress him much. He then relayed that he had met a gentleman who had a publishing house that really impressed him. He stated that the man was interested in publishing his book and wondered if he should take him up on his offer.

With a little more questioning, I discovered that the “impressive” gentleman was the owner of a subsidy (sometimes called vanity or custom) publishing house. This gentleman was willing to take the author’s money to republish his book and place it into distribution.

I explained this to the author and told him that this publishing house would redesign and republish his book and place it in distribution, but they would not “sell” his book for him. This would still be his job.

It appears this author had been taken in by a salesman. The subsidy publisher knew his stuff and was able to “sell” his business well. The other companies I had suggested the author meet with were not about “sales”.  These companies don’t take money upfront like a vanity press. Rather, they make money on how they perform (when they actually move product).

The companies that make money on their performance don’t need to sell anything. Instead, they want to make sure you, the author or publisher, has a product they think they can sell and sell well. They were not “selling” anything to this author, so they had no need to be impressive.

Later in our conversation, the independent author reported that the salesman who he had been so impressed with had admitted that the best way to make money on selling books is for authors to sell them direct to consumers.

Bingo! Mixed into his great sales pitch was the hard truth.

Few publishers—whether traditional or vanity—have a robust program to sell books directly to consumers. Selling directly to consumers is usually left to the author.

I explained to this author that the best marketing plan is a well-rounded plan that includes a variety of sales channels including:

  1. Distribution for bookstore and library sales.
  2. Marketing to bookstores and libraries.
  3. Direct to consumer marketing through a website, blog, social media, email marketing, and print media, as well as speaking engagements.
  4. Pursuing bulk sales via catalogs and organizations.

Don’t be taken by a smooth-talking salesman. Selling books is hard work. Anyone who tells you that they will take a large chunk of your money to sell your books will do just that—take your money. Remember, the vast majority of authors and many publishers struggle to sell enough books to make a profit.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to educate small publishers and independent authors on cost-effective ways to market books. All our marketing programs are cooperative and low-cost because we understand that return on investment when promoting books is slow and difficult. If you are looking for information and resources to help you develop a robust marketing plan, join the association today!

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Photos courtesy of Mohamed Hassan.

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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