I was recently invited to be a part of the Canadian Authors Association panel discussion on self-published books as the marketing expert. Since I spend a great deal of my time in marketing, PR and the promotion of books and authors, I was thrilled to impart some of my wisdom with the eager audience. As the evening went on, I realized that a large percentage of authors self-publish, yet don’t know how to take it beyond the book stage. So here are some tips I presented at the symposium.
Self-publishing is a great way to showcase your talent, bring your work from the quiet recesses of your mind, to the public where it belongs. However, somewhere along the way most authors fall short of their goals, because once they have created their book, they feel their work is done. Unfortunately, this is where the journey begins.
1. Target Market
Many poets write their poems, put them together in a book, and then try to sell it. This is a backwards approach, and can sometimes fall short of your expected goals. First step before you even start to write your book or if you already have your book, is to decide who do you want to sell it to. Who is your audience? When a screen writer creates, their audience is the studio reader, not the movie goers. That is the job of the filmmaker. So you need to write for your market. If you are creating a book of love poems, although universal, who do you see as purchasing the most copies. Probably women, so tug on their heart strings until they can’t put it down. Be specific, you’re not limiting your sales, you’re starting them.
Don’t just put $5 or $20 because everyone you know sells for that. Price comes from your target market. So, if you are targeting women, do your research. You want your book to be bought. Determine how much women spend on a book your size. Look in the bookstores, research on the internet, conduct a survey with friends, and then select your price. Your friends are a good gauge since they are usually the first to buy it. If your book targets teens, they buy what’s trendy, regardless of cost. Business people, males, retirees, no matter who your audience, they’ll spend a certain amount of money easily, so make sure you are just under their threshold.
3. Distribution Method
This is the means by which your book is made available to the public. So as an example, if you are selling to women, and you’ve priced it at $9.95 after discovering $10 is their discretionary threshold for a book, now how do you reach them?
There are a few methods; bookstore chains, independent bookstores, internet web sites, craft sales, women’s groups, home parties (remember the days of Avon), and whatever other creative method you can think of to get yourself in front of your target market. If it’s kids, go to schools. Think outside of the box for every possible channel, and then try to get in all of them. If you are going for the large chain stores, be ready to give up 50%, and hit the book tour trail, because with a selection as wide as they offer, your book may end up sitting quietly in oblivion.
4. Advertising Methods
You’ve got your book, the target market, price and distribution methods, now is the time to consider advertising. Many authors create a book, and put an ad in a magazine or journal they read. Is this who you are targeting? For example, the audience for The Poetry of Business, is business people, so money may not be well spent in a poetry journal, but better spent in business magazines, internet sites, or industry newsletters. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on advertising, the only replacement for this is to get in front of your audience every chance you can.
5. Getting the sale Okay, you’ve reached your audience, they like the price, and they want to buy it – how do they do that? Go back to your target market, and determine or survey what they would want. For example, women don’t mind sending in a cheque via snail mail if your address is clearly provided. Men on the other hand rarely play with stamps, and want fast, easy, and painless such as on-line purchasing. Make sure you always carry a copy of your book with you, or a few if you are at an event. If your target audience doesn’t use the internet, don’t spend all of your time automating a web site. The best advise is provide as many methods of collecting money and closing the sale as you can. Most people buy on impulse, so if you don’t have a smooth closing mechanism, chances are you’ve lost the sale.