Book Marketing 101
© 2009, Charles S. Weinblatt
Congratulations! You have found a publisher well suited to your book. The contract has been signed. You are a published author! What’s next? What will your publisher do? What should you do to enhance the publisher’s efforts?
Authors covet traditional (trade) publishers because those publishers are experts in taking a book from manuscript to retail stores with perfection. No matter how many articles you might have read about the enticement of self-publishing or “vanity” publishers, trade publishers know what must be done, how to accomplish the tasks and they can do it in a timely manner. They have the artists, printers, distribution channels and retail connections that you require. That’s why you should be willing to share some of the profit with trade publishers.
Without a publisher, you would need to be an expert at cover art, graphic design, editing, printing, acquiring distribution channels, web site design, marketing to retail booksellers and all facets of sales. Or, you would need to pay someone to accomplish these tasks. Very few excellent writers are also experts in all of those areas. And, even if you were an expert in all of those fields, would you have the time to accomplish all of those tasks, as well as restock retail stores? In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing retail book market, even trade publishers cannot do everything. So, unless your last name is King or Clancy, you will need to chip in with some time and effort to make your book a smashing retail success.
What can you expect from your publisher?
A trade publisher will edit your book, create cover art, print the books, contract with distributors and then place your book on the Internet sites of Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Target and other major global retailers. Your publisher will market your book globally and arrange for distribution in all relevant countries. The publisher will then process the books to sales outlets and restock them on a regular basis. Your publisher may also promote your book at book fairs, through catalogs, through an e-mail or fax blast, generate media publicity, arrange book tours, create a web site, solicit reviews and arrange book signings. And, despite all of this effort on the part of your publisher, you’ll receive royalties, which a pretty nice feeling.
However, in today’s ever-changing book sales market, a great deal of additional work remains to be done by the author. Much of this requires electronic marketing and social networking. Because of the changing nature of the publishing world and the revolution in electronic book purchasing, someone needs to market your book throughout the Internet world. Because this work is extremely labor-intensive and detail-oriented, few publishers have the time or resources to make it happen. This is where the author must step in, with the motivation to work hard on behalf of his or her book. The bad news is that there is a lot of work for the author to do. The good news is that almost no expertise or money is required to accomplish these vital tasks.
The Internet has turned the publishing world upside down. Even mammoth publishing houses are today petrified with this abrupt change. People can purchase on the Internet, or through a telephone or e-reader, bypassing brick and mortar stores. People today make purchasing decisions based upon what they can see and read on the Internet. For example, Amazon not only allows you to describe your book, display its cover and details; it also has a feature called “Search Inside” that allows prospective buyers to sample many pages of your book before buying. Bookstores and publishers are frightened and losing profit margin. But here is where you can step in and help your publisher.
What should you do to help your publisher? You can contact your local newspapers, magazines and on-line blogs in order to solicit interviews and articles about your book. You can contact local bookstores and arrange for book signings. You can sell books on your own through local organizations. You can try to obtain reviews and interviews about your book everywhere in town. One of the fastest ways to solicit business for your book is through the media. Since you require positive reviews to sell your book, newspapers, magazines and book clubs are a great place to start. When you encounter serious interest, send them a review copy. If your publisher runs out of review copies, send them an e-book preview copy, or ask them to purchase the Kindle version.
But, the world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood. If you want a great many people to read your book, you will need to create a global electronic marketing campaign. Fortunately, almost all of this can be accomplished with your computer. Better yet, except for the video trailer, it won’t cost you a dime.
First, create a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing means many things, including web pages, blogs, social networking, video marketing and all other electronic means of selling your book. It sounds difficult. In reality, it is simple and free. However, it can be time-consuming. Use effective search terms to find places and people related to your book on the Internet. For example, my book is about the Holocaust. I found hundreds of Holocaust museums through Internet searches, each of which could purchase my book. I also discovered Jewish community centers, Jewish schools, public and private schools, universities and colleges, historical societies and organizations dedicated to genocide prevention. I exposed literally thousands of people, places and organizations that might find my book appropriate to their needs and purpose.
Once you uncover these people, places and organizations, all that remains is to contact them with a sales pitch for your book. E-mail marketing is cheap and fast. However, your sales pitch must grab the reader’s interest quickly. You must construct an e-mail cover page that is informative, has embedded links to your trailer and web sites and locations that will sell your book instantly. More about e-mail marketing later in this article.
Video Book Trailer:
A key element in viral marketing is the video book trailer. Just like the trailer for a film, this is a short (1-3 minutes) and sweet video revelation of your book’s enticing content. Using digital images, film, video, art and words, a good trailer designer will be able to capture the hearts and minds of your audience. Designers charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for a video book trailer. Once completed you (or the designer) must upload it to as many places as possible, including You Tube, MySpace, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Metacafe and each and every webv site and blog that you own. If you’re fortunate, your video book trailer will move from site to site, reader to reader and blog to blog. This is viral marketing in action. Mine is here http://tiny.cc/ivdgk. Note that I used a small INternet address for my trailer. Try using sites like “TinyURL” to reduce long or complex addresses into very small and manageable ones.
Web site marketing:
Most publishers will create a web page for your book. But never rely on the public finding that one page, or even your publisher’s web site. Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book. Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, Blogspot or Goodreads and begin building your site. There are many other Internet sites where you can build a web site or blog for free. The instructions are simple and fast. The more web pages that you create for your book, on your own, the more chances buyers will discover it. I have dozens of such sites.
For example, I created a free web page that includes many detailed facts about my book (Jacob’s Courage), including review excerpts, historical data and links to my blogs and web sites, as well as my publisher. To keep readers on the site, I added dozens of interesting and useful links about the Holocaust. You can see this free web site here http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/. I created another free web site that includes a syllabus for my book, packed with features and reasons why people should purchase it. You can see that web page here http://tiny.cc/yyf7t. Connect these web pages to each other via links. This is FREE. All it takes is some of your time.
The secret to success with Internet web sites is to make them interesting and to use effective key words. Key words (a.k.a. “tags”) are the way that search engines find web pages. For example, if you Google “Holocaust love story,” you will find many references to my book. Google the title (Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story) and you’ll find dozens of references. Google my name (Charles S. Weinblatt) and dozens more references appear. Select your key words very carefully. The more accurate and appealing your key words, the better the chance that search engines will uncover your book. This is part of your platform.
Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool. Publishers may disagree, or suggest that the author distribute a preview edition. However, if you allow someone to download your e-book, or e-mail it to them, there is a chance that they will enjoy it and tell their friends about it. Since most people do not wish to read a book on their computer, particularly a long book, print sales will increase as a result. Someone recently asked me if I was disappointed that so many people were reading my book from the local library, rather than paying for it at a bookstore. I don’t mind at all. People who enjoy your book will tell friends and family about it. In the end, giving away books judiciously is an effective sales tool.
There is no limit to the number of web pages that you can create. The more times you create a new web page, and the more times you update an existing page, the more times people will discover your book. Continue to perform maintenance on your key words and update your sites with new links. Before you are done, go to this web page http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl. Here you will be able to submit your web sites to Google’s search tool. This step is critical, so that your web sites will appear on all future Google searches.
Blogging about your book, or writing on other Blogs about it can be a powerful tool to increase sales. Anyone can create a Blog for free and use it to promote a book. I blog on two of my own sites (this one and http://cweinblatt.blogspot.com/). Blog about anything of interest to you, or any particular expertise you have acquired. It doesn’t have to be related to your book. Note that you can easily promote your book on blog pages, through links and sidebar widgets. Just be sure to sign off each post as, “Author of …” below your name.
Perhaps more importantly, you can comment on other people’s blogs, vastly increasing your book’s visibility. For example, my book is about the Holocaust. I use a Google search feature to troll the Internet searching for Holocaust key words. When I find Internet newspaper or magazine articles about the Holocaust, I visit the site and write something there about my book. When Google finds other blogs that are Holocaust-related, I comment there about Jacob’s Courage. Always sign off on blogs with the title of your book under your name.
Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions. In most cases, you will need to register. It’s free and the time you put into registering is a small price to pay for the ability to promote your book in all future iterations of that newspaper or magazine. Most Internet news media allow reader comments after an article. When you find an article related to your book, write your comment and then sign your name and, “Author of …” after your name. Be sure to include the title of your book under your name. If possible, add a link to your best web site under the name of your book.
Anyone can write articles and have them published on the Internet. Where is your expertise? In what way can you provide people with valuable information? Writing articles is not simple or swift. You may need to conduct some research. Take your time and write carefully. Your topic need not be connected with your book. For example, my book is about the Holocaust, yet I have had articles published on topics as wide ranging as publishing, psychology, Judaism, life, death and philosophy.
Two of the best places to be published are TRCB (http://www.trcb.com/) and Ezine (http://ezinearticles.com/). There are many more. I had excellent success writing an article about Passover here. My book is about Judaism, but I look for a chance to write articles about it on web sites for all faiths. Again, sign off with your name and the name of your book underneath. If they allow it, add the link to your best web site.
Establish a Goodreads account. Goodreads is a web site for readers and authors. It is a terrific place to see and be seen. There is no more natural place to sell your book’s value to potential readers. Although Goodreads is not a retail site, it offers an opportunity to network with other authors who have similar interests and problems. The same applies to Authors Den, LinkedIn and many more.
Join as many social networking sites as possible. MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Ziggs, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Multiply, Squidoo… They are all valuable ways to make your book known. Use your Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Weinblatt.) At each of these social networking sites, you can create a profile, including a description of your book and information about stores where it is sold. But your work there is not finished. Join groups within the sites that are related to your book, your writing, or anything related to the topic. For example, I was able to promote my Holocaust book through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter by joining groups related to religion, Judaism, history, persecution, genocide, etc. LinkedIn is an excellent place to network with professionals of all types. At LinkedIn, you can create a profile to describe your book that will be seen by countless readers. You can also join groups of interest related to your book, book publishing, writing and marketing. You can reach literally thousands of people within these groups.
Amazon is not only a place to sell your book. It is a place to post a blog. Amazon has a new sponsored link called Filedby that includes an author biography page where you can post a blog and relevant articles. Also within Amazon, each content section has forums in which people start topics or respond to the topics of others. For example, I have posted messages and responded to messages in Amazon forums as wide ranging as history, historical fiction, war, genocide, love stories, religion, literature, etc. Again, each time you write, sign off with your name and the title of your book. Amazon will also allow you to post a direct link to your book there within your post. You will instantly reach thousands of potential buyers.
Another Amazon feature allows anyone with an Amazon account to create a review for any book sold there. Think about every book that you have read. You can locate the book on Amazon and create your own customer review. Just scroll down the Amazon page for any book until you see a button that says, “Create Your Own Customer Review.” Follow the instructions to rate and then review the book. When you are done, be sure to write, “Author of …” after your name. Every time someone reads your review of that book, the name of your book will appear. Since the reader is already on Amazon, they can purchase your book by typing its name at the top of the page. You can review as many books as you wish, each time marketing your own book under your name.
You can personally contact tens of thousands of critical people and organizations with e-mail. Never count on your publisher doing this. They can only dream of having the time and labor to accomplish such a task. All that you need are e-mail addresses, an effective sales letter and some time.
As an example, my Holocaust book could be sold at any Holocaust museum or Jewish center in the English-speaking world. I used a Google search to locate the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO). Each member of the AHO throughout the United States is listed, with an e-mail address. All that was left for me to do was to create an effective e-mail letter and send it to each one electronically.
Since we have already established the danger in using attachments that people fear opening, you must embed links instead. This is very simple and very fast. Below is an example of one of my e-mail marketing letters:
“Greetings. I discovered your web site and I thought that your membership might have a natural interest in my book, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story. This novel has engrossed countless readers with compelling characters and vivid descriptions of love, faith and courage, including Jewish resistance.
Jacob’s Courage (2007, Mazo Publishers) is a tender love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This thrilling novel explores Jewish resistance in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered, including Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Portions of the book are based upon pogroms visited upon my 103-year-old mother and her family in Russia. It is an epic love story that resonates clearly with young adult readers as well as adults. You can read some of the reviews and see the video trailer here: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/. Jacob’s Courage is available with most book retailers in print and as an e-book, as well as from my publisher, Mazo Publishers.
Jacob’s Courage is currently ranked #6 at Amazon for books tagged “Holocaust” and “popularity, ahead of books like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sara’s Key, Maus, Night, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Pianist. It is also ranked #19 at Amazon for books tagged “Romance” and “popularity.”
The novel was requested by The US Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and many other Holocaust centers and museums around the world. Reviews include Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries. It has been required reading for high school students. Read more about it on Facebook here http://www.facebook.com/jacobs.courage.
Please let me know if I may be of assistance. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 419.882.1065.
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage
Notice that I have embedded hyperlinks to several critical web sites. Place your cursor over the word and you will see the Internet address of the link. Click on it and you will be instantly transported through your browser to the correct Internet page. While few of us are brave enough to open an attachment from a stranger, we are almost all willing to open a hyperlink. Within this simple letter (above), the reader can access all of my book’s important web sites, including my publisher’s (Mazo Publishers) web site. Plus, hyperlinks are vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses. Remember to use a Tiny URL to replace long addresses.
Note that my e-mail message is brief and concise – less than one page. No one will bother to read a lengthy dissertation about your book while the rest of his or her daily incoming mail is waiting to be read. Just grab their interest quickly, embed the right web sites and provide contact information. The e-mail is only designed to grab their interest. The embedded web sites will sell your book. At least one of your embedded web sites should allow the reader to instantly purchase the book. In my e-mail message above, the reader can buy the book instantly through the publisher’s site or through Amazon, with only one click required to reach each site.
I created many web sites for my book and I provide a few interesting articles as well. Only a few days were required to create and modify them appropriately. It cost nothing. In fact, some large Internet companies, like Google, will pay you per click if you allow them to advertise on your site. Instead of paying for web site development, create your own site and make money by selling advertising on it. Learn more about the “affiliate program” at Google.com.
Embedding Internet hyperlinks into your e-mail cover page is simple. In many e-mail programs that use Word as an editor, you can right-click on any word and then select “Hyperlink.” Follow the instructions to embed the hyperlink. That word will appear in all future e-mail versions of your letter in blue. When your reader clicks on the blue word (while compressing the “Control” key), your web site will emerge in their browser. Try it with the sample e-mail paragraph above.
The world of book marketing and sales is undergoing considerable, rapid change. People who formerly explored the world of books and purchased them at their local Barnes & Noble increasingly do this now on the Internet. The Internet is filled with web sites and blogs that can be used to attract the public to one’s book and accomplish the sale with a few more mouse clicks. The author can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages, with effective video book trailers and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign, right from their own computer. Since publishers are still required to edit, print, distribute and market in traditional ways, and since they have fewer staff due to lower margins, it falls upon the author to accomplish many new tasks related to electronic marketing and sales.
Marketing your book is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. But do not count on your publisher to accomplish everything, particularly if you are a new author. Be willing to implement your own marketing with web sites, articles, trailers and e-mail. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be.
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”