Marketing Your Book in Print
After a decade of being a POD publisher and with over 1000 books published in paperback, we find that the overwhelming feedback from those authors we have so far published relates to marketing issues. We, in our endeavours to help our authors expand and grow, have taken this onboard with this section of the website offering tips and advice. Our intent is however to make this as interactive as possible. We want as much input from our authors and potential authors as possible. By publishing both stories that authors have experienced and helpful tips that they feel might be worth trying, we strongly feel that this section could be become an invaluable tool in addressing those issues. In the following article we lay out some basic guidelines, because marketing your book starts earlier than you might think! So if you have anything you consider might be of benefit to your fellow authors please e-mail us using the link below when you have finished reading the rest of this article, and I'll post it straight up in this section. Comments and constructive criticism welcome.
Authors OnLine makes no promises or claims whatsoever about the likely success of your book. We would love to spend six figure sums promoting it and making it the first pile seen as you walk into major bookshops countrywide..... but, meanwhile back on planet Earth, we can't for two very good reasons.
The first and most obvious is our lack of the actual resources to do so. But secondly, and in our opinion more importantly, we, unlike the major publishing houses make our judgment on literary not commercial value. Its not that the big publishing houses don't publish excellent quality material, of course they do, it is just that for every title they choose I suspect that 99 others of equal merit were probably turned down as being less likely to give such a good return on investment. The best written books in the world are by no means the best sellers. In the film world the arthouse and small budget movies are quite often the better quality material, but its the Hollywood blockbuster, with its big production and marketing budgets, that usually makes the money. The same is more often than not the case in the publishing world. We publish your book on its literary assets, not its commercial potential. To actively budget its marketing would mean we would have to judge it commercially and that is not what we are about.
Now, having got the negative out of the way there are lots of positive things that can be done to promote your book and we are active in marketing our brand name and helping out authors where we can. We have produced promotional material and attended book signings so we don't want to just feed you to the wolves, but as my Grandmother used to say, "God helps them that helps themselves."
In the beginning
Marketing is really a fancy word for selling. The English in particular hate to be sold to but 'marketing' paints a broader brush, takes the pressure off the individual buyer and is generally considered much more acceptable. In simplistic terms, marketing creates brand awareness, selling is the face to face business of actually parting with the goods in exchange for hard cash. You the author are likely to have to do both! Its hard work folks, and if you don't like the sound of that, you might be advised to put your pen away, stop reading at this point and take up another interest. But it can also be fun, ask Martin Baum, or Annette Willoughby, or Ken Luckman, and if you succeed you have to go a long way to get a better sense of satisfaction.
So how do you go about marketing your shiny new printed book that has just arrived from Authors OnLine. You are standing in the hallway having torn the packing apart and ponder at your own work in actual print staring at you from the pages of a real live book! (Well that's if you are not on the phone to us complaining about the missing full stop at the end of the third paragraph on page 178!). And as the initial euphoria sinks in you say to yourself, 'What do I do now, how do I start marketing my book?'
Well I am sorry to tell you but that is already some way down the road. Marketing starts when you are writing the book. When you are sitting at your keyboard you need to have a keen idea of who you are aiming at. Who is likely to buy your words of wisdom, or suspense, or action, or information, or humour, or opinion, or whatever? If you have no idea who you are aiming at you will probably won't sell too many copies! Obvious maybe, but often forgotten by many authors! So be realistic, its great to dream of best seller lists, but only a tiny fraction of us will ever be on them (We have however had one or two! See 'A Word from one of our best selling authors' below). Better to have a true idea of its potential. That doesn't mean think small, but if you think big, know your market place and plan its attack carefully.
Non-fiction is usually easier to market. It nearly always has a specific theme about a specific subject and the interest groups that might wish to purchase it are reasonably easy to locate. Fiction is usually a lot harder. It is general non specific with potential mass appeal. Why would anyone buy your novel in preference to the thousands of other available? Not insurmountable but it needs careful thought and planning. Cover design for example would probably be all important here, and perhaps a well thought out catch phrase summing it up. Novels undoubtedly benefit from big marketing budgets to hit mass markets, but even here they can often be target marketed. The late Peter Hughes who wrote 'Closing Time' themed his work about a restless and penniless teenager leaving home for the first time. His father who saw the book through to the paperback edition after Peter's death is target marketed it on a limited budget amongst universities in the North of England. Neat thinking!
So before you start, just think who you are aiming at and where the market place is into which you are likely to sell your book. Here endeth the first and probably the most fundamental rule of marketing.
Active marketing falls into several basic categories that are fundamental and need fulfilling as soon as the book is available to buy, and sometimes even before. All marketing activities will be a variation on a theme of one or other of these activities. So before we complicate matters further and disappear in a mass of conflicting ideas and thoughts we will lay out the basic groundwork that all our successful authors have used in common with each other.
Before you do anything you need to prepare a fact sheet for your masterpiece. This should be clear, concise information and should only be one sheet of paper. Spend some time working out an easy to read design. You will be handing out a lot of these when you get going, so getting this right now is important. This is not a 'hype' sheet, its a fact sheet that anybody who need to know about your book should be given as basic information. and should be laid out with care. Its a very important sales tool, but it is factual without being boring. It should include the following details:
2) Genre (Novel, Biography, How to, etc)
4) Recommended Retail Price (RRP)
5) Publishers details
6) Distributors details
7) Extent (Physical description of the book, height, width, length, paperback, No of pages etc)
8) Synopsis ( I suggest this should be the same as the one in the book itself)
9) Your biography.
10) A thumbnail picture of your Jacket
Next you need to let people know that the book is actually available so you might be advised to prepare a "Press release", to send not only to the press but to clubs, associations and organisations that you think might well be interested in its publication. Make the press release sound as exciting and as original as possible. To do this you need to say why your book is different from others on the subject. It will need some kind of catch phrase or hook as its sometimes known. "The definitive book on ......." "Lots of NEW tips on...." "The most exciting book in years on..." "Sexually explicit, uncensored" "For the first time the truth about......".
You can use our Press release service and send unlimited press releases to over 8000 + UK journalists using our Press Releases module (Payable annually) via entertainment4media.com - In conjunction with Entertainment4media.com, Authors OnLine have the availability to send unlimited numbers of press releases, in either full HTML including high resolution pictures, or plain text, to 8000 + British journalists across a wide range of the media from, national and local TV and radio, national and local newspapers, and scores of magazines covering every subject imaginable. If something is relevant to your book you can now tell 'The Press' about it, instantly!
If you have a Value Added Item, such as a famous person who has written the foreword, then shout it from the rooftops. Don't be over the top but at the same time don't hide your light under a bushel.
Go into your local bookshop and look at their best sellers and you will see that they all have one thing in common, a short catch phrase to sum them up and catch the reader's eye. That's what you are trying to do with a press release. Modern English calls them 'sounds bites', but don't knock it - it works!
Next it would be a good idea to get the book reviewed. So again have a think about where your market lies and then find out who writes reviews in that genre. Scour your local paper and find out who their book reviewer is. Local interest is the bread and butter of local papers, so use it. They don't get local authors everyday of the week. Do the same with magazines and national newspapers, they can only say no at worst! So why would a reviewer choose your book from all the others that come across his or her desk? Well back to the hook mentioned in 'Press Release' above. Send the press releases with any other promotional material and anything about the book which makes it different or likely to stand out.
All Authors Online POD books appear on Amazon.co.uk, which has a review section for everyone of them. You can write a review, your friends can write a review and even the publisher (if I get the time!!) can write a review! It gives your book a star rating.
Now you won't necessarily sell hundreds of copies of your latest masterpiece but it is worthwhile putting yourself on the map wherever possible, and local bookshops are generally, but not necessarily receptive to book signings. It creates interest, brings customers into their shop. gives them publicity and, dare I say it, breaks up their routine for a couple of hours. To find out which bookshops do book signings either just go in and ask armed with a copy of your book and fact sheet (Or A. I. - Advanced Information sheet as it is known in the industry), or scour the local press for news stories about other authors who have done it. The shop will almost invariably be mentioned in the article,and if they have done it for another author, why not you?
The big stores have a mixed policy, and varying attitudes from town to town. One famous book chain was very helpful to Annette Willoughby (Innocent In Africa) in Hertfordshire but refused Ken Luckman (Place of Compassion) house room in one of its branches in The West Midlands. Its main rival two doors down, who said yes, later proceeded to sell out of three dozen copies in forty-five minutes. So you never can tell!
Once your local bookshop has said yes, prepare the ground work first. Rent a crowd if necessary! By that I mean inform as many people as possible about the date, place and time. Notice about a book signing of your definitive book on fly fishing should be plastered on the notice board of every angling club in the bookshop's catchment area. Let the press know, preferably try to have them write an article about the signing the week before.
Ken Luckman is a well known retired GP, a lay official of his local church and tireless raiser of funds for charity. He send out over one hundred letters, had an article in the local paper the week before and even used his e-mail! Guess which groups of people turned up? The queue was out of the door. Three dozen copies disappeared in 45 minutes. "Blimey!" said Ken afterwards, "there were people here I hadn't seen in years and quite a few I'd never seen!" Really Ken - how surprising! And that store then stocked his book as a standard shelf stock line for several months! That's not bad for a POD book only made available the week before!
Using The Internet
The Internet is a value added tool to your armoury, allowing instant updating of information on websites about you and your book, giving a notice board that's accessible worldwide, and you access to your readers via e-mail. POD publishing and Internet bookstores are perfect bed fellows- giving the opportunity for your book to compete on equal terms with every other book out there. Your book will be available to be purchased via almost every online bookstore out there, not just Amazon. But you will have to drive traffic to them. Its not so much looking for a needle in a haystack, more a particular piece of straw.
Now lets look at what we do for you to get you started. In addition to making it available in every bookshop and Internet store in the UK, we put your book, with its own synopsis and sample chapter and details about the author, on our website and in own bookstore, and announce on our Home page the birth of your book in print. We also put links from our buying pages to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
Now what can you do? That depends on using a few simple tools.
E-mail is the first and most obvious. Targeted e-mail can be extremely powerful. Most organisations and the vast majority of homes in the western world have it, so the chances are that the heart of your target audience will also have e-mail. But DON'T SPAM, it's now illegal in many countries, very antisocial and ISP's do have a nasty habit of activating the small print in their terms and conditions, by terminating your contract if you persist in doing so.
Other suggestions might include having your own website, which is almost imperitive these days, organising banners to go on other peoples websites, as at least one of our authors has done, or even advertise on the Web. It really up to you and the possibilities are endless. For those with serious knowledge of the Internet you could even have your own affiliate program.
This is now the 'absolute must' thing to do. If you don't have Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts, get them immediately. There are now loads of companies out there offering their services to help you promote products on social networking sites. If Facebook was a country it would be the 3rd largest on the planet, so it has to be an important way to let the world know via your 'Friends' that your book exists and is a must read. For better or for worse, social networking is the new advertising media and here to stay. Its now an industry in its own right!! So get using it - NOW!!
For those who really want to push their book, using video is becoming a must. More and more websites use video to get their message across and we have to admit its a very powerful tool. Camcorders are so cheap these days, that it's a very inexpensive way of promoting your product. Just make a video about your book, post it to YouTube and then we can paste the link into your pages on our website, and you can put it on your own website (without destroying your bandwidth!), and anybody elses who will have it. Amazon have started to go into this big time and its reaping its rewards. And of course there are also many companies offering professional services to do the job for you.
Offline, Traditional Media and alternative approaches.
The sky is the limit on this one and down to how far you wish to go. Local Radio and TV are certainly avenues that several authors have pursued successfully. Remember the media are continually looking for new material and if you can use your 'hook' well enough they might well bite. Start with your local radio station and if you have written on a specific subject find out if the local TV or Radio station is or planning to cover it in some future program. Or you could even have a go at creating the interest for them - just an idea.
On a more modest scale, we can supply posters of your book cover (at a cost I'm afraid.) Your local pub or social club and even your place of work might display them. Take a risk and place a few copies of the book in alternative outlets to bookstores. At least one author has copies in her village Post Office.
Approach your local library, they may lend it out but they have to pay a lending fee, as well as buy the book in the first place. But make sure you are registered to receive payments from any books lent. - See Public lending Rights - it explains what you need to do and provides an online form to apply.
Professional paid help.
We have an associate of ours, Mr Paul Rix, who does do some publicity on behalf of our authors especially with such things as book signings and festivals. He is partically good at opening doors, but again once you are through that door its down to you and the quality of your book.
We do have contacts with independent professional organisations who can offer you marketing help, but at a fee. Authors OnLine does not get involved directly, but we can put you in touch. We believe they do an honest job and will do their best for you. It is probably worth getting in touch before the launch of your book as at least one of our contacts offers pre-launch publicity.
Keeping on track
These are the basics of marketing your book. This section will be added to and continually updated. So now over to you to fill in the gaps. Share your experiences and ideas with us. We'll post it on the site anonymously if you wish.
One of the most successful books we have every had (and we have had a few!) is To Be or Not to Be Innit by Martin Baum. It reached no 20 on Amazon.co.uk's best seller list in Spring 2008 and sold thousands of copies and reached the holy grail of bookselling, becoming a core stock item in Waterstones, Britain's biggest high street book chain. In an article for Writers News / Writing Magazine Martin stated: "I cannot stress enough that the success of my book only came to be because of the work I put in. Had I not got on the phone and made it my business to hit all the local press and radio, then it would not have been picked up by the national network and I would still be a writer with a book that nobody knew about." - Never was a truer word spoken about publicity and the book trade - Ed.