Awareness Is Not Enough

“I need distribution for my book right away. I am doing radio and TV shows and bookstores are wanting to order my book.”

This caller’s frantic plea for help is something that I have run into a number of times. It turns out that this author published her book via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). The only place it was for sale was on Amazon.com.

The author had hired a publicist—spending thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the publicist was doing a good job of lining up radio and television interviews. The problem: no distribution.

So, while this author was getting lots and lots of publicity for her book, her book was not positioned for that publicity.

I have seen this happen to a number of independent authors. It is not a publicist’s job to educate her client on book publishing and distribution. After all, the publicist’s specialty is publicity. As a result, many publicists fail to make sure that their clients’ books are in distribution and widely available for sale in numerous outlets before booking media interviews. Sadly, when this happens, much of the publicity achieved goes to waste.

Publicity alone does not sell books. Most book sales are determined by three factors.

1. Awareness

People have to know your book exists to be able to purchase it. This is where publicity is very helpful. The more exposure you have for your book, the more people you make aware of your book.

2. Decision

Decision comes after awareness. Only after readers know about a book can they decide to purchase the book.

3. Availability

Once a reader decides to buy a book, the book must be available in the format and place he or she wants to buy the book. If readers cannot find the book where they usually shop, the sale is easily lost. Not everyone shops on Amazon.

When it comes to selling books, awareness is not enough. Availability (think ease of purchase) is just as important a factor in the buying process. Having your books available for sale in multiple places enhances your ability to sell your book.

Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) offers our Members ease of access to distribution through IngramSpark and Lightning Source. Member publishers and authors of CSPA can use their CSPA membership benefit to upload titles for free with these print-on-demand services that also provide distribution through Ingram—ensuring that their books are widely available for sale.

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Photo courtesy of Pablo García Saldaña.

 

Overcoming Roadblocks to Marketing

The numbers vary, but they are usually small. The average nonfiction book sells around 250 copies per year and around 2,000 copies over its lifetime. The vast majority of indie published books sell far fewer than 200 copies over their lifetime with one large self-publishing house sales averaging 41 copies per title published.

Why the poor sales? I believe there are three main reasons:

1. A glut of books.
No other industry introduces as many new products every year as the book industry. Each year in the United States alone over 750,000 new titles are introduced.

2. Poor quality.
Sadly, many indie published books are inferior in quality—either in writing or design. This hurts sales.

3. Lack of marketing.
Many indie and self-published authors are focused on getting their book to print. Marketing is an afterthought and an activity that many authors despise and don’t understand.

For those indie authors serious about marketing, a number of roadblocks make success difficult. Following are the two biggest obstacles that indie authors face in marketing a book.

1. Scarcity of funds.

Few indie authors have deep pockets. Many sink most of their available money into creating their book through paying for editing and cover design. Few funds then remain to put into marketing.

Enter creative marketing. It is possible to substitute time for dollars in creating a good marketing campaign. There are many no- to low-cost strategies for marketing a book. I outline many in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. Following are two strategies to get you started:

  • Get influencers to talk about your book. Find bloggers to review your book, interview you or host a guest post by you. Seek out interview opportunities on podcasts and internet radio shows that speak to your target audience.
  • Build an email list by offering quality material in exchange for people’s email addresses. An email list is a great marketing tool. It offers a great way to garner sales by offering coupons, discounts, and specials to your subscribers.

2. Stretched too thin.

While you can substitute time for money in creating an effective marketing plan, most indie and self-published authors simply don’t have much time because they are already stretched too thin. Most already have full-time jobs and families, not to mention church responsibilities. In addition, as an indie author, all the tasks involved in bringing a book to production and marketing fall on you. Most authors simply don’t have much time to invest in marketing.

Enter time management. Just as you must decide to dedicate time to writing to be able to actually pen a book, you must also dedicate time to marketing to effectively promote your book. Either set aside a specified amount of time each day that you are going to dedicate to marketing tasks or determine to do a certain number of marketing tasks each day. Unless you make it a priority, it won’t happen.

Every author faces roadblocks. Your challenge is not to let these obstacles detour you, but to rise above and persevere. Then you will continually move toward your goal of selling your books.

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The Rule of Seven

I recently watched the movie The Founder. This movie tells story of how the fast-food chain McDonald’s grew to be an impressive success. While the man who grew the restaurant chain to be an American sensation—Ray Kroc—was not an outstanding example of Christian character, we can still take a lesson from his life.

In the movie, Ray listens to a motivational album in his hotel room. The album recites something that Calvin Coolidge is known for saying:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Later in his life, Ray attributes his persistence as the largest contributing factor of McDonald’s success.

This notion of persistence is not new. After all, Jesus spoke about the success of persistence in his parables. One parable Jesus tells about the benefits of persistence is recorded in the book of Luke. In this parable about the Persistent Friend, Jesus says, “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

Jesus follows this up by saying, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10).

I think many independent authors give up too easily. They forget that it requires persistence to have doors opened.

Rick Frishman, one of the authors of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, has what he calls the “Rule of Seven”. Rick has found that it takes an average of seven contacts to acquire bookings for an author. This might be a booking for an author signing event, an author speaking event, or a radio or television interview.

Rick says that the most important part of promotion is follow up. Without it, you can take away the pro and just have motion.

Persistence is required for successful book promotion. Keep the Rule of Seven in mind when you seek promotional opportunities. Remember that you have to ask more than once, and that pleasant, persistent follow up is required for success.

Persistence pays off. So, I encourage you to keep knocking; keep asking.

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Four Creative Ways to Sell Your Books this Season

Books make great gifts. They are affordable, easy to wrap, and cover subjects to suit everyone’s interest. Books are the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.

Historically, about 25% of books sales are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This means that people do buy books as gifts. So, don’t miss out on this great opportunity to promote your books as gifts this holiday season and increase your sales.

Here are four creative ways to market your books as gifts this year.

1. Offer a Coupon or Holiday Special.

Send a special holiday coupon for dollars off the purchase of your books to your email list. Post the coupon on all your social media sites and your website to entice people to buy your books this season. Or offer a holiday special pricing such as Buy One Get One or even Buy Two Get One free for your books. Simply offering a limited time special encourages people to buy.

2. Offer a Gift Bundle.

Offer a prepackaged gift bundle to make shopping easy for your readers. Bundle a gift card or a box of chocolates with the purchase of your book. For example, you could offer a $10 Starbucks gift card with your book as a great gift bundle.If you have a devotional or bible study, offer a journal and special pen with the book as a bundle. The ideas are endless; just use your imagination.

Another great gift bundle can be a boxed set. Either create a boxed set of some of your own books, or better yet, partner with two or three other authors to offer a multiple book boxed set with a similar theme. For example, if you have a Christian romance book, then find a few other Christian romance authors and offer your books together as a boxed set for the season. Not only will you sell more books, you will enlarge your audience as each author will promote the set to their fans.

3. Offer a Subscription.

Do you have a book series? If so, instead of selling the entire series to be given at once, offer a subscription. Readers can buy the first book with a subscription to have an additional book in the series shipped each month. Just mail the first book with a subscription certificate. That way, the gift-giver can give a gift that really keeps on giving. This idea works especially well for children’s book series.

4. Exhibit at a Christmas Bazaar or Holiday Event in Your Community.

Many local community centers, libraries, and churches host holiday bazaars and other holiday events. Often you can rent a table for a reasonable fee at these events. Then set up shop and offer your book and book gift bundles to shoppers. If the event is already booked, find out if you can hand out flyers to attendees with information on how to purchase your books. The more exposure your books have, the more sales will follow.

Get creative this year with your holiday book promotions. If you have another idea for creatively selling books during the holidays, I would love to hear about it. Just leave a comment.

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Photo courtesy of Visual Hunt.

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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