Book Marketing 101 for Authors
Wandering Educators Interview with Jacob’s Courage Author Charles S. Weinblatt
I'd like to share some very important book marketing advice for authors. A frequent contributor to Wandering Educators, Charles S. Weinblatt has written an incredible book, Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story. Look for our review this fall! We asked Chuck to share some of his hard-earned advice about book marketing, for our Wandering Educators. It is a treasure-trove of excellent informationHere's what he had to say...
WE: What is Book Marketing 101?
CW: Book Marketing 101 is an article that I created based upon my experiences as a novice writer, published for the first time for fiction in 2007. I was published for non-fiction in 1986, for a book called, Job Seeking Skills for Students (Kendall-Hunt Publishing). With the certain knowledge that I would use this book repeatedly in my private consulting business, my publisher actually paid an advance, in addition to a generous royalty. But that was 1986, when publishers had money to spend and a large staff. And, that was for a non-fiction book that had an entrapped audience and an author who could build book sales into the price of a seminar.
When it was time to seek a publisher for my Holocaust novel (Jacob’s Courage) in 2007, I discovered that the publishing world had swiftly evolved. None of the major publishing houses would take a chance on a relatively unknown author. During this time, I had an opportunity to learn about inherent dangers in the self-publishing industry. I quickly obtained contract offers from companies that literally had not enough time to read my 524-page book. These companies were pleased to print my book, if only I were to pay for editing, printing, graphic design, catalog display, web site and set-up charges. None of these publishing companies promised to market my book. None of them promised a distribution contact (necessary to place your book on the shelves of stores). None of them promised to promote my book through book fairs, book tours, signings, or placement on the web sites of critical Internet retailers. Yet, they all wanted me to pay for the cost of everything under the sun, including an “evaluation of my writing.” This, I quickly learned, is called fraud.
After several months of searching, I was fortunate to gain approval from a handful of trade (traditional) publishers for my novel. In fact, the publisher that I selected specialized in Jewish and Holocaust books. Had I not been very patient in waiting for the best offer, I would have settled for less. But, I had to contact dozens of publishers before I secured three contacts that were not from swindle-artists.
My publisher (Mazo Publishers) did a tremendous job with all of the heavy lifting. Within just a few weeks, Jacob’s Courage began to appear on the Internet sites of all of the major book retailers. To get books into brick and mortar stores, my publisher arranged for distribution in the United States (Ingram) and Europe (Gardners & Bertrams). Jacob’s Courage was even being sold on web sites in Japan and France. My publisher added the book to their printed catalog, agreed to a major e-mail and fax blast and promoted the book at book fairs in Israel. This kind of marketing would have been nearly impossible for me to accomplish on my own. To that end, I was happy and grateful.
Yet, I soon discovered another world of marketing that required my personal attention. This is the world called viral marketing that is described in detail in my article, Book Marketing 101. Viral marketing includes all forms of electronic sales efforts, including Blogging, posting articles and comments on the Internet, creating web sites, e-mail marketing and video marketing. Very few, if any, publishers have the money, staff and time to perform such detailed and time-consuming viral marketing tasks for each author. If it was up to my publisher to perform the heavy lifting described above, it was now up to me to deliver the “light” lifting of viral marketing.
This was a new world for me, with its own rules, regulations and skills. I had to learn a great deal in order to reach this market. Many of today’s book purchasers learn about and acquire their books on-line. The age of brick and mortar bookstore sales has evolved. That’s not to say people will no longer purchase books from a shelf in a physical store. However, purchasers are steadily moving towards Internet sales, reading devices and electronic downloads. This trend will likely increase over the near future. Therefore, publishers and authors must invariably find a way to market and sell their books electronically. As publishing houses are forced to do more with less staff, and electronic marketing is time-consuming, it falls upon the author to carry an increasingly large burden of the electronic marketing load.
WE: What is your experience in Book Marketing?
CW: As I mentioned earlier, I relied upon my publisher and my consulting business to sell my non-fiction book in 1986. After my Holocaust novel was published, in 2007, I had to learn the new style of book marketing. This I learned from scratch, having had no formal business training. In fact, the new skills of electronic and viral marketing are still unfolding. Most traditional publishers will push-start the book electronically with a fax and e-mail blast. This might hit 2% of your intended market. And, most publishers will create a web site for your book. Of course, this may not be comprehensive, since the must create a web site for dozens of other books. Even a great web site with all the bells and whistles is worth nothing unless you can drive customer traffic to that site. In most cases, it will be up to the author to determine the best ways to drive customers to their web site. And, in most cases, the author will increase sales by creating his or her own web sites for the book. The more web sites you create for your book, the better the chance that your customers will find it.
Many people make book-purchasing decisions based upon what they can rapidly learn on-line. And, they do not limit their queries to on-line retail stores, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. People today visit Blogs and read articles on the Internet. They join list-serves and groups like Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail. Deeper yet, they learn about books through social networking sites, like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Goodreads. It is therefore incumbent upon the author to be in those virtual places 24/7. It’s not enough to join a social networking site, such as Facebook. The author must join all relevant groups within those sites. There, deep within the electronic interface, they can extol the virtues of their book and reach potential buyers.
WE: What are the top mistakes that authors make, in marketing their books?
CW: The most obvious mistake is to rely solely upon your publisher. This can be particularly devastating for self-published, POD or vanity-published books. In the land of self-publishing, the author can expect almost no effective promotion from the publisher. The book might appear on the publisher’s on-line catalog. But, research reveals that very few books are purchased from the web sites of vanity or self-publishing companies. Before you sign a self-publishing contract, the author should ask the company how many best-sellers they have had. Moreover, they should ask how many of the company’s self-published authors sold 1,000 books in the past year. The answers (if they receive a response at all) will likely not be pretty.
Nor will a self-publishing company arrange for book signings, attend book fairs, create more than one web site, generate media publicity, arrange book tours, solicit reviews, or distribute the book to retail stores. And, remember that distribution contracts are necessary in order to place the book on store shelves. In fact, most newspapers and magazines will not review a self-published book. Nor will the self-publishing company engage in fax and e-mail blasts, write articles or arrange for the book to appear on Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble and other critical retailers. Self-published authors who managed to sell 1,000 books or do so because of their own notoriety, or because they were able to add the cost of their book to a seminar, course, public speaking event or service.
The biggest mistake an author can make is to assume that people will automatically find their book, appreciate the cover, understand the content from marketing materials, or assume that their publisher will do whatever is necessary to sell the book. A great deal of constant, hard work is required by the author in order to market and sell the book. And, this hard work will never end. The sooner the author realizes this, the sooner they can begin lifting their share of the load.
Another mistake is to rely solely on your publisher’s web site. You can pay to have a web site created for your book. And, you can rent space and pay to have your site posted on some Internet sites. But, you can just as easily create your own web sites and market them for free. Blogspot and Wordpress are good places to start. So is Goodreads. If you want international recognition, create a site on Ziggs. They have various templates, making it easy to fill in your book’s most important information. Within an hour, you can have a web site for your book that you custom-designed with the information required for the public to read. The author must then find ways to move their site to the top of search engines like Google and Metacrawler. These tricks as well are also mentioned in Book Marketing 101.
WE: How can authors work to promote their book?
CW: As the author, you can contact local newspapers, magazines and on-line Blogs in order to solicit interviews about you and reviews for your book. You can contact local bookstores and arrange for book signings. You can sell books on your own through local organizations. 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 local television stations 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 the e-book as a review copy, or ask them to purchase the Kindle version.
Public speaking is another effective way to sell books. If you have expertise in an area or if your book might be of interest to local organizations, find a way to add yourself as a speaker or attach your speech to an existing event. This will not only create a natural interest in your book, but also allow you to sell them after the event.
But, the world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood. If you want many people to read your book, you will need to create a global electronic marketing campaign. Viral marketing means many things, including web pages, Blogs, social networking, video marketing and all other electronic means of selling your book. Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book. Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, Wordpress, Blogspot, Goodreads, or many others and begin building your site. 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 created dozens of such sites, all for free.
Video marketing is the rage today. Anyone with a computer and a webcam or video camera, can create a marketing video and place it on YouTube. If you’re camera-shy, create the script and have someone else speak for you. This takes very little time and has no cost. Your YouTube account is free.
Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool. People who enjoy your book will tell friends and family about it. In the end, giving away books judiciously can be an effective sales tool. Many existing Internet organizations, such as Smashwords, will sell your book on-line as an e-book or allow the public to download it for free. This is likely to be an increasingly large share of the book sales in the future.
Blogging about your book, or writing on other Blogs (or newspapers, magazines and E-zines) can be a powerful tool to increase sales. Anyone can create a Blog for free and use it to promote a book. 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 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. You can even comment on something completely unrelated to your book and sign off with the name of your book underneath your name. Each time the name of your book appears on the Internet, it’s a marketing victory. And, each time you sign your name on the Internet, don’t for get to write, “Author of…” underneath your name. And, below that, write the URL of one of your book’s web sites. You will get web site hits from these comments, even when the topic has nothing to do with 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? Even if the article is unrelated to your book, you can Blog about it and write your book’s name (and the web site URL) under your name. There are dozens of Internet sites specifically designed for people to publish articles, such as “E-Zine” and “TRCB.” Once you have written published articles, be sure to promote them via web sites such as Technorati and Blog Catalog. This will multiply the number of readers of your articles.
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. You site can include a description of your book and a link for where it is sold.
Amazon is not only a place to sell your book. It is a place to post a Blog. The more interesting your Blog is, the more people you will attract. Within Amazon, you can also write on any of dozens of forums, covering almost any topic. Each time you write a comment, you can sign off with your name and the name of your book. On Amazon, you can also review as many books as you wish, each time marketing your own book under your name.
You can contact thousands of people and organizations with e-mail. One of the best ways to sell books is to organizations, who can re-order year after year. All that you need are e-mail addresses, an effective sales letter and some time. Book Marketing 101 shows how to create effective e-mail cover letters and how to embed hyperlinks into them. In this age of dangerous computer viruses and malicious worms, very few people have the courage to open an attachment from a stranger. But, almost all of us will open an Internet link. By embedding such hyperlinks into your e-mail, you can promote a rich and varied endorsement of your book, including the best reviews, author interviews, your own Wikipedia page and your published Internet articles. This is viral marketing hard at work. With only a mouse click inside the e-mail, your reader will be connected to the best reviews of your book, the best author interviews you have given, the best articles you have published and (best of all) how to purchase your book. Hyperlinks make your marketing e-mail a devastating weapon for increased sales.
WE: How important is social media for book marketing?
CW: Social media marketing is critical. Each time that you mention your book on a social networking site, you are likely to attract people to your web site. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, MySpace, Ziggs, Squidoo, Multiply, LinkedIn, Naymz and Filedby are just a few examples. Each social networking site has forums and groups. Some of them will be related to your book. Go there and write about it. Write as often as you can. It’s free and it can only help send visitors to your site. Send these social networking site readers to your web site, or your publisher’s web site (or directly to Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.) where they can purchase your book with one click. Therefore, each web site that you create should have the capacity for visitors to click once, and be sent to a retailer with your book.
WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
CW: 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 and most certainly if you are with a self-publishing company. Be willing to implement your own marketing with web sites, Blogs, comments on social networking sites, by writing articles and sending e-mails and by soliciting reviews and interviews. Speak about your book in public, arrange bookstore signings and book tours. Contact organizations that might have an interest in your book. They can reorder, year after year. Convince magazines, Blogs, social networking sites and newspapers to write about your book. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be.
WE: Thanks so very much, Chuck. Your excellent advice will help many writers, I predict! For more information on Chuck's book, please see:
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”