Book Marketing 101. Everything you need to know about author marketing!
Book Marketing 101. Everything you need to know about author marketing!
I have been trade-published and self-published several times. I now have a talented literary agent. Although I have self-published three books, I feel more comfortable publishing fiction with a traditional publisher, especially a large, distinguished publisher. I realize that this is not an author decision. Publishers require talent and a marketable book. If you have both, it can still take months or even years to obtain the best publishing offer. You need to know how to construct a winning publishing proposal and agent query; and you might need to submit well over a hundred proposals to obtain the best publishing contract. It’s true that the top level of publishers will only accept a proposal from a trusted agent. HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Shuster, etc. will not open your submission unless it comes from a well-connected literary agent. The good news is that there are now literally thousands of small, independent publishers. Many of them have learned how to be successful within one or two genres. They might be small, but they often have a talented and motivated staff. Plus they can be well-situated to garner reviews from the most compelling and persuasive sources – just like their full-size publishing kin.
A TP author does not need to worry about hiring the best editor, graphic designer, printer and promotion/marketing specialist. The publisher will do it for you, while they proffer a nice advance. Your publisher will also obtain powerful and compelling reviews from the best organizations in your genre, because they already have deep connections with those reviewers. It’s not likely that a novice author could obtain reviews of that caliber. Nor does the TP author need to worry about distribution, sales, stocking and restocking bookstores. We can devoted that time to producing new books.
I have never felt compelled by my publishers to accept editorial changes. I think that’s a myth – an urban legend. In each case, my publisher’s editing changes made perfect sense and enhanced marketing potential. But the decision to accept those changes has always been mine. My publishers have never told me what to write; nor does my agent.
That being said, there will always be a time and place to self-publish, especially when testing a new market, when you write non-fiction as a subject matter expert and when you have a large fan base to shift to your SP books. However, you can count best-selling self-published fiction authors on your fingers and toes. As of 2-3 years ago, the average SP author spent about $2K and sold a few dozen copies (could never recover expenses with sales), while the average TP author spent nothing and sold several hundred copies. Self-published books are almost never reviewed by the most compelling and persuasive review organizations. Maybe it’s not fair, but as a reviewer for two major review organizations, I know this is true. Nor do SP books appear on many retail store shelves. That is a huge sales market to give up, just to SP your book. Many retail and on-line stores are making money hand over fist with print books, including Walmart, Target, Amazon and B&N.
With an even distribution of my TP and SP books, I have a foot in each market. I’ve discovered that at least for fiction, I’m much happier with a major publisher or a small, independent publisher. I’m happy to let their team of professionals handle all aspects of editing, graphic design, printing, distribution, marketing, sales and stocking retailers and buyers. This gives me more time to write which is, of course, the fun part. For that, my publisher can reap most of the profits and my agent can acquire her 15%. Doing their job in a professional manner allows me to write, rather than publish, distribute and market.
Finally, if you’re serious about earning a living as an author, you’ll need an accomplished and impressive author profile. That means you’ll need to produce several books that have either been trade-published or SP with high sales volume. You will need to write published articles and appear on the best Internet interview sites and blogs. You will need newspaper and magazine articles supportive of your books. And when a publisher decides to Google your name, several pages of professional writing accomplishments must appear. Being trade-published is likely the best anchor for your platform, especially for fiction.
Learn how to promote your book with public speaking, media appearances, bookstore signings and interviews. Use compelling and persuasive reviews to generate sales. Cerate published articles that will deliver readers to your landing page. Generate interest and manage your fan base with blogs, social networking and e-mail marketing.
Use newspaper and magazine articles to generate interest, along with e-mail and fax blasts. Take advantage of important
book fairs, conferences and conventions. Generate a Facebook fan page and use targeted Facebook ads. Connect with readers via LinkedIn and discuss your book in the many varied LinkedIn groups and discussion threads.
Learn how to create a winning web site landing page, with successful tags and key words. Select a web site landing page that offers excellent analytics. Connect it to the world with links to global retailers and instant connection to your video
Create an impressive synopsis web site that will generate interest. Use click-through technology for Internet retailers and brick & mortar bookstores.
This book has everything you’ll need to generate interest with effective marketing techniques. Create and manage your fan base and deliver continual sales increases. Promote your author platform with viral marketing.
By Charles S. Weinblatt, Copyright © 2010
To Publish, or to Self-Publish?
The publishing industry is changing rapidly, morphing from clear, delineated lines into a morass of options. Self-publishing was once considered somewhat nefarious and referred to as “vanity” publishing. Vanity publishers will appect anyone’s manuscripts, print it and place it inside of a jacket. They will mail it to you. You pay them, typically several hundred to several thousand dollars. Sometimes they offer a menu of other services, including editing and graphic design. You will pay for each of them. The ligitimate vanity publishers stop there. They will not arrange for distribution contracts. They will not market your book. They will obtain no reviews. They wil not represent your book at key international book fairs, conventions and conferences.
The vanity publisher scam artists move surreptitiously from state to state, moments ahead of state prosecution. These organizations may call themselves “self-publishing,” but in reality, vanity publishers are only interested in taking your money. They could care less if no one purchases the book. The “editing and graphic design” services are typically poorly performed. Many of them will tell a novice author to “bone up on their writing skills” and they send the author to another fraud who will steal some more of your money on “courses or services to improve writing skills.” Beware of these services. Use Predators & Editors and Writer Beware to identify scam artists in publishing and literary agents.
Today, there are wide varieties of excellent self-publishing services and distribution organizations delivered by very ethical companies, including names like Lightning Source and CreateSpace. But, understand that this form of self-publishing is a misnomer. They will not be the publisher. You are the publisher. You purchase the ISBN, the editing service, the graphic designer; and you are responsible for distribution and marketing. Self-publishing has transformed from questionable to outstanding. For many authors, for several reasons, self-publishing is a better choice than waiting for a traditional (trade) publlisher.
The traditional publisher is at risk of obsolescence, unless they find a way to successfully market their authors in various print and electronic formats. Your book must not just be in print, it must also be sold as an e-book. It must not just be an e-book; it must be electronically formatted for tomorrow’s e-readers, tablets and smart phones. Plus, the publisher must continue to stock and restock brick and mortar retailers (where almost half of all books are stil sold) and contract with global distributors. As the public changes the way they read, with electronic devices and telephones, publishers must swiftly react, or risk failure.
Underneath all of this change, the author still must decide whether it is best to self-publish, or to wait for a traditional publisher. Non-fiction tends to adapt well to self-publishing, especially if the author can sell large numbers of books on his or her own (as a seminar leader, public speaker, teacher, consultant, trainer, curriculum designer, professor, etc.). Fiction is often better sold via a traditional publisher, where the best editors, graphic designers and marketers reside. Trade publishers also have important global distribution contacts, necessary for large numbers of books to be sold in retail (brick and mortar) stores, where, for the time being, more books are still sold. And trade publishers have deep connections with the best review sources in specific genres. They can also connect the author for translation and movie rights. There are many reasons why an author would want to share profits with a publisher. When the publisher can open large doorways for reviews, at key book fairs and conferences, with translation and movie rights, then the profit spit is a good deal.
Before you begin too seek a publisher, develop an author platform. An author platform is the collection of published books, career accomplishments, events, venues, reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, signings, web sites, pictures, video trailers, media appearances, tours, newspaper and magazine interviews and articles that pertain to you and your book. Intelligent marketers develop brand strategy before the product or service is ready for sale. One you have a book cover, plaster the picture and link all over the Internet. Work with a designer to develop a video book trailer. All of this, and more, constitutes an author platform. Having a significant author platform is more important than you might think. When someone like an agent or publisher decides to Google your name, you want seveal pages of positive data to emerge.
Locating and Contacting Publishers:
There is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you may need to send your manuscript to hundreds of publishers before the best offer arrives. The good news is that there are literally thousands of small, specialty publishers willing to take on novice authors. Many of them specialize in one or two genres. You can submit your proposal electronically, saving time and money. Use the Internet to search for publishers in your genre. On-line services such as Writer Beware and Predators & Editors are worthwhile for leads and for warnings. Writers Net, Publishers Marketplace and Writers Market are also useful sites.
Most publishers prefer that you send a proposal by electronic mail. This makes it much easier and less costly to contact them. However, your proposal must be perfect and that takes time and effort. Also be advised that each publisher prefers their own specific information. That means you must research each publisher carefully on the Internet. Look for “Submission Guidelines.” This will tell you precisely what to send, and how to send it. If they are seeking a genre that is very different from yours, forget them and move along. If your book seems to be a good fit with the publisher’s interests, then create a proposal that will fit their guidelines.
Is My Book Good Enough to be Published?
There are two keys to being published. First is the quality of your writing. Few reputable publishing companies will be interested in a book that is poorly written. If you are concerned about the quality of your writing, it might be useful to pay a professional editor to look it over. Good editors will tell you the truth about your writing without being condescending or insensitive.
The second key requirement for being published is having a book that is marketable. No trade publisher will be interested in a book about how to drink a glass of water, even if it were it written by James Michener. You must be able to convince a publisher that thousands of people will covet your book. And, it’s not enough to say that they will love it. You must provide a demographic analysis of your readers, along with a competitive analysis and marketing strategies that will work (and explain why they will work). In other words, you must show the publisher exactly who will purchase your book, where and why. More on this later.
Trade publishers are often the best choice, particularly for fiction. Check the Internet for organizations that uncover scam-artists in the self-publishing world. You can also Google the name of any publishing company. If you see several complaints from ripped-off writers, flee from that publisher. Caveat Emptor!
If you write non-fiction and you can sell many of your own books, then self-publishing might be a better choice. For example, a public speaker or instructor can often include the cost of his or her book in the price of an event. Seminar leaders, teachers, professors, consultants and others who can include their book as required reading might do better financially with a reputable self-publishing company. If you are capable of selling hundreds or thousands of books on your own, why share the profit? Of course, you’ll need to obtain your own compelling reviews, pay for editorial and graphic art services, printing and distribution. You will need to stock and restock retailers. And, you’ll need to perform the marketing services that a publisher would handle. But, with a steady clientele, self-publishing is perfect.
Traditional (“Trade”) publishers will place your book on the web sites of all of the major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Target, etc.) and they will contract to have your book distributed globally, which is the only way for it to be sold on store shelves. Trade publishers will create a web site for your book, arrange for book tours, signings and catalog distribution. Your publisher will attend key international book fairs on your behalf and market your book electronically to a global audience. They will stock and restock your book as necessary and on time. And, most trade publishers perform these tasks without charging a fee. They ask no money from the author and the author receives a royalty for each book sold, although some small publishers are now asking the novice author to share in the cost. Some better-known authors still can expect an advance to “complete” the work. This might not happen to you unless your name is well-recognized.
The author should establish specific goals for the book. For example, some memoirs are meant only for grandchildren. Some novels are meant to become best-sellers. If you only want a nice book with your name on it for your coffee table, then a small self-publisher or POD might be appropriate. For a fee, your progeny will consider you famous. You won’t worry about marketing because you don’t desire sales. It won’t be on the shelf of your local bookstore. But, that’s OK for a family heirloom or a coffee table shrine.
If you want people to read your book and you don’t know how to sell them on your own, you might wish to wait for a trade publisher. If your book is well written and marketable, you will have a good chance to be published by a traditional publisher. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, you’ll need to develop a platform and yes you’ll need to market. You will have to develop a winning book publishing proposal and most likely, you will need to search for small publishers in your genre. It takes effort, dedication and perseverance. But, it most definitely can happen for you. It worked for me.
Where are the Best Chances for a Novice Author?
If you are an unknown author, forget the major publishing houses. Harper-Collins is not likely to glance sideways at your proposal. Instead, focus on smaller publishers that specialize in your genre. I began with historical fiction and then narrowed my search to trade publishers who specialize in Jewish or Holocaust-related books. If it’s a children’s book, search for those publishers. If it’s science fiction, search using that term. You can use the Internet to plan and execute effective publisher searches. Plan to contact hundreds of trade publishers, if necessary. Being published is much like getting a job. The more employers you contact, the sooner you will be successful. You might need to contact twenty publishers to get one good response. And, you might require five good responses before you receive a desired contract offer. Even my deplorable math skills place the total number of publisher contacts at 100. Wait for the BEST offer; don’t lock yourself into a poor contract just because it is your first offer. Be persistent. Try to send at least 20 proposals per week.
The most critical piece of the publishing puzzle is the proposal. We’ll talk about that next. But, more than any other time, obtaining critical reviews is essential. Ask friends and family to read the book and review it. You only need a few honest paragraphs. Having others speak positively about your book is the way to begin marketing. Get as many reviews as you can from the best and most appropriate sources as possible.
Use Your Author Platform
An author platform is a nebulous virtual avatar, representing you as an author and your books (and sometimes the individual characters). Create web sites and blogs at places such as WordPress and BlogSpot about your book. Write articles related to your book and publish them at places such as TRCB and Ezine. Arrange bookstore signings and tours. Submit your book for awards. Seek book reviews from the most influential sources. Obtain television and radio interviews about your book. Save them as digital files and send them as embedded hyperlinks to publishers and agents. Get interviewed by magazines, newspapers and e-magazines. Mention your book and its awards and reviews. Add a link to your Wikipedia page (ex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Weinblatt).
Your platform is the combined newspaper articles, author interviews, critical reviews, virtual book tours, video trailers, web sites, blogs, book signings, author interviews, speaking engagements and the digital recording of every piece of information related to you as an author. When a prospective publisher or agent decides to Google your name, it would help immensely to have several pages of positive references. This is also the most important time to find opportunities to be interviewed. Contact local newspapers, TV stations, educational institutions, churches, etc. Radio is a good opportunity. Become a local “media expert.” If you’ve mastered something, tell the world as an expert. It will enhance your platform. There is also no substitute for compelling reviews from the most persuasive sources.
The Book Publishing Proposal:
Proposals must include very specific information in a very precise format. Fail to do this and you will likely be rejected immediately. At a minimum, your proposal must include: a table of contents, sales attributes, author biography, synopsis, chapter titles, market analysis, competitive analysis, and marketing strategies. Some publishers require additional information. Read their submission guidelines very carefully. Each portion of this proposal is critical. Take your time and try to use at least one page for each content topic. Use the multitude of referenced articles available on an Internet search.
Each time you edit your proposal, it will become more concise and persuasive. The synopsis might require several pages. Sometimes the publisher will request several chapters, or the first three chapters. Read their submission requirements very carefully. Publishers receive hundreds of proposals daily and they will gladly delete yours if you fail to follow directions carefully, or fail to provide all of the information required in their guidelines.
Acquire lists of prospective publishers with Internet searches; then contact them via e-mail submission. You can also purchase mailing lists for publishers. I discovered them easily on my own. Your book must be a good fit with the publisher’s genre and you must be assured that your publisher is viable and appropriate. Use Internet searches (Writer Beware and Predators & Editors, etc.) to check them for fraudulent activities. Try to connect with existing authors of that publisher. Sometimes you can reach them by e-mail or telephone and conduct an interview. Ask them about the quality of their publisher. Research book publishing contracts, so that you’ll know what to expect in a contract.
Have an attorney experienced in publishing review your contract. Be willing to negotiate with the publisher. It’s a give and take experience. My publisher wanted some graphic portions of my novel removed. I wanted to add some specific marketing requirements for my novel inserted in the contract. We easily reached an agreement that deleted graphic content, which actually made the book easier to sell; and they added my desired publisher marketing responsibilities into the contract. Many publishers will be willing to negotiate with you. Be clear about what you are willing to accept (in editing and cover design) and request any necessary additions. Then make the best decision based upon your guess for sales and royalties. You and your publisher must be a good match, with common goals and values.
The Cover Page:
Once you have created a terrific book-publishing proposal, it’s time to create a cover page for your e-mail submissions. The “Subject” line of your e-mail page should typically say, “Submission,” followed by the title of your book. Begin with a generic salutation. Instead of, “Dear Sir or Madam,” you can use something like “Greetings.” If research produces the name of the publishing agent, even better.
The balance of your e-mail cover page must get the reader (publisher) hooked on your book. This cannot be a lengthy narrative. Publishers receive dozens or even hundreds of submissions constantly. If your cover letter will take five minutes to read, it will be discarded. Focus on three to four paragraphs at most. Explain why the publisher is a good fit with your book (yes, you will have to research the publisher in order to do this). This is a great place to include embedded links your most positive reviews.
The e-mail cover letter is also a good place to list (via hyperlink) interviews about your book and all relevant media files. For example, I embedded a hyperlink to an interview that I gave with Jewish Literary Review. Embed your video book trailer, pictures, your Wikipedia page, recorded speaking, radio or television exposure. Simply create a hyperlink to whatever platform content you have placed on the Internet. Just highlight any particular word, such as “review,” and then follow instructions for “hyperlink.” Whatever positive information you can push into a few paragraphs the better. Don’t forget to include your contact information. If requested, attach your proposal. If the publisher will not accept attachments, then you’ll need to use the e-mail cover page for all of it.
Many publishers accept e-mail proposals, but not always with attachments. Let’s face it, all of us will open a hyperlink or e-mail address sent to us by a stranger. But, no one wants to risk a virus or worse by open a stranger’s attachment. You can create web pages and blogs for your book for free (G-Mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Blogspot, WordPress, etc.). Create a one-page synopsis of your book, packed with features and reasons why people will purchase it. Then, embed the link for that web site into your e-mail cover letter. Here are some examples:
Recent Articles & Interviews: Jewish Literary Review Interview: http://tiny.cc/mnxga, Toledo Blade: http://toledoblade.com/article/20101113/NEWS10/11120358/-1/NEWS, Toledo Free Press: http://www.toledofreepress.com/2010/10/22/local-author-to-discuss-holocaust/, Mike Angley: http://childfinder.us/?p=2567, Joey Pinkney: http://h1t.it/boB8Bk,
Remember, you only need to customize the e-mail cover letter. The publishing proposal can remain the essentially same, boilerplated with typical publisher submission requirements.
Do not be discouraged. Being published is a numbers game. You might need to send out 100 proposals to get one terrific contract offer. I had four publishing offers for Jacob’s Courage before I was satisfied that I had the best offer. You will want a publishing company well suited to your book and with the right financial arrangements.
Within a month, Jacob’s Courage was up on Amazon. It also rapidly appeared at other global retailers, as distant as Africa, France and Japan. My publisher also swiftly arranged for global distribution with Ingram in the US and Gardners and Bertrams to distribute Jacob’s Courage in the United Kingdom. If you have no distributor, your book will not appear on the shelves of bookstores (where about 50% of books are still sold) and it will not appear on the Internet web sites of popular stores unless you can arrange for it.
Do I Need an Agent?
Some authors prefer to use a literary agent to find their publisher. A good literary agent may connect you with publishers that were out of your reach. Agents can vastly increase sales, via enhanced marketing opportunities; and they can offer connections for foreign and translation rights, improved distribution, screenplay, film and documentary leads and much more. However, literary agents don’t often take a chance on an unknown author, even if your book is already in print. Beware of spending too much time trying to find an agent, instead of a publisher. You could end up waiting years in an unsuccessful search for an agent. During that time you might have become successful with your own publishing contract, or with self-publishing. Many of us search for publishers and agents simultaneously. Once published, you can always search for an agent.
What are the Author’s Marketing Responsibilities?
After you have obtained a publishing contract, be prepared to help market the book. That means contacting local bookstores and other retail outlets where your book can be sold. Request book signings at local retailers. Organize a book tour. Obtain local and regional newspaper and magazine articles about your book. Conduct public speaking events. Blog and write on others’ blogs. Write articles and publish them on the Internet. Publish your interviews, video trailers and book reviews everywhere on the Internet. Write opinion or editorial letters to newspapers and magazines. Each time, sign off with your name, the book’s title and your desired Internet landing page. This can be any specific retailer, such as Amazon. However, my landing page is a blog page on WordPress. That is because I can offer my own specific review samples, the trailer, dozens of useful links, comments and a variety of retailers for the book that are just one click away from purchase. My landing page is here.
Develop and distribute a video book trailer. Market it through appropriate groups in places such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You can reach tens of thousands of people with this effort. Put up a Wikipedia page. Create web pages for your book at sites such as Goodreads, MySpace, Zing, Author’s Den, Bookbuzzr, WeRead, Scribid, Ning and many others. Tweet about your book daily on Twitter. Post about it at Facebook. Create your book’s own page at Facebook.
Marketing is time consuming and often frustrating. But do not count on your publisher to do everything, particularly if you are a new author. Expect your publisher to contract with distributors, obtain reviews and place your book on Internet retailers, such as Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Powells and Buy.com. But, unless your name is Stephen King, you’ll be expected to do a lot of your own marketing and sales work. Be willing to conduct viral, electronic and web page marketing on your own. Use social networking groups. The harder your effort, the larger your author platform will be (and higher royalty checks will likely follow).
If you self-publish, consider selling your book via Internet retailers and distributors, such as Smashwords and Lebrary. These entrepreneurs will take your formatted manuscript, cover and your marketing words out to the e-reading public. Smashwords recently revealed an agreement allowing their Premium members to have their books sold on the new iPad, iPhone, Nook, Kobo, Diesel, Sony Reader and much more (via ePub, mobi, LRF, PDB, PDF, RTF and plain text) for leading edge reading devices. Thousands of downloads of your book can result in unexpected royalties.
Trade publishers also today are beginning to sell many of their print books as e-books. My Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, was one of the first e-books offered by my publisher and it was one of the first Holocaust Kindle books. As the reading public swiftly changes their mode of reading, you will want your publisher to have electronic sales opportunities available, in addition to the print version. If you self-publish, you will need to create these new formats on your own. Remember that each new version of your book (such as an e-book, an e-Pub, mobi, LRF, PDF, plain text, etc.) requires its own unique ISBN number. Your publisher will likely purchase it. If you self-publish, you’ll need to buy your own ISBN numbers for the new formats.
No matter which publishing format you select, I wish you the very best of luck. Being published is not simple or easy. But, if you have talent and your book is marketable, you can be published and sell many books. Developing the best proposal and then contacting dozens or hundreds of publishers is not enjoyable. But, it is necessary. I hope that this blog helps you with the intricacies of being published. Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
All my best,
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage
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”