Age-Old Marketing Wisdom for Authors

Wise King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. His advice is still relevant today, and so are these eight common English proverbs. Let each one give you wisdom for your book marketing journey.

1.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Anything that takes a long time to finish begins with one step. Marketing a book can be overwhelming. The number of tasks can be daunting. Instead of looking at the whole picture, look at one step at a time. Ask yourself: What is my next step? When that one is done, then ask again and repeat the process.

2.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

An image not only tells a story, it draws people in. This is especially true on the Internet with social media. Use images to convey your marketing messages. Studies show that people engage more with social media posts that contain images. In fact one study showed that social media posts with pictures are 40 times more likely to be shared than those posts that don’t feature a picture.

3.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What is “beautiful” is different for each person. That means that not everyone will like your book. Not everyone will find your story beautiful. Don’t take it personally. Know that your book is not meant for everyone and seek the people who will find the beauty in your book.

4.  Better late than never.

Promoting your book should start about a year before you publish it. If you failed to promote your book before you brought it to fruition, take heart. It is better to start marketing your book late than to never market it at all. If you have stopped marketing, it’s not too late to pick it back up again and remind people that your book exists and meets a need for them.

5.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

In marketing, it is a little of this and a little of that makes the most impact. No one marketing channel or task will ensure your book sells well. Don’t just use social media. Don’t just advertise online. You have numerous options for promoting your book. Use as many as you can.

6.  Fortune favors the bold.

Those who are willing to take risks tend to be more successful than those who play it safe. Take some risks with your marketing endeavors. Some will fail, but some will pay off.

7.  Honesty is the best policy.

It is always better to tell the truth than a lie. Make sure that your marketing messages are truthful and that you can fulfill your promise to your reader.

8.  There is no time like the present.

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait. Do it now. Yes, it may be uncomfortable. But, if you don’t try, you can’t succeed. Start doing whatever marketing tasks you have been putting off today. Write that press release. Email that influencer. Call that radio producer. Schedule that book signing.

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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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Start with Why, Not What

A professional artist recently shared the following statement on Facebook:

“People who are good at selling stuff tell me I need a story. That people buy the story, not the art. Well, here’s my story: I’m a guy who likes to paint. The end.”

He’s right. Marketing experts are pushing “the story” when it comes to selling things. While this artist isn’t ready to give his story, he does have one. He even has a separate story for each painting. His story can be as simple as what inspired him to paint a certain picture.

You, too, as an author have a story. It is why you wrote your book. This story should be part of your marketing pitch.

Most people selling a product—including authors selling books—start with the What. They tell people what they are selling. Marketing experts think that instead of starting with the What, you should start with the Why. Why did you create what you are selling?

Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” shares that Dell and Microsoft market their products starting with What. “We make computers. Our computers have Intel processors. Buy one.” On the other hand, Apple markets its products starting with the Why. “Everything we do challenges the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. Our products are beautifully designed and user-friendly.”

Simon goes on to say that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
This statement is true for authors as well. You will hook more people into buying and reading your book if you start with your story—why you wrote the book.

Telling potential readers that they should read your book on forgiveness because it will help them be able to finally forgive and let go of the bitterness they have been holding is a good message. But, it is not as powerful as telling them that you held onto unforgiveness toward a parent for years until you suffered a heart attack. This was the wake up call you needed to learn to forgive. You are now sharing the six steps to forgiveness that you learned with others.

Notice that the Why does not exclude the What. In other words, in telling the Why, you will incorporate the What. People will know what you are offering, but now they will also understand why, which tugs at their emotions.

I wrote Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace because I wanted other new small publishers and authors to have the information I wished was available to me when I started out on my independent publishing journey. That’s my Why. What’s yours?

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Photo courtesy of Suhyeon Choi

Impacting Lives

Why do you write and publish? Most authors write and publish to impact people’s lives. If you write nonfiction, you want to help improve an area of someone’s life. If you write fiction, you probably don’t want to just entertain, but also inspire people to live better lives. For Christians, our writing is also aimed at bringing people into a closer relationship or understanding of God.

As an author, I want to impact people’s lives. My book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is a handbook that is designed to help Christian authors and publishers effectively promote their books to reach people. I love to hear feedback from my readers—especially feedback that tells me that my book has made a difference to them in their book marketing journey.

Here is a video testimony from one of the readers of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. I recently met Lee Ann Mancini, the author and publisher of the Adventures of the Sea Kids series, at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS). After she told me how much my book had helped her in her journey, I asked her to share it with others. Here is what Lee Ann had to say about Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

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