Tag: Marketing (Page 1 of 5)

Reason #32: You Have No Idea What It Means to Market a Book

A Marketing Team reason for rejection

In this context I’m using the word “market” synonymously with the word “promote.” Yes, I know that in business school they teach you the supposed “Four Ps of Marketing” (“product, price, place, and promotion”), but for your purposes the primary marketing concern is that last “P”—promotion. So let’s ignore those other Ps and focus on what’s important.

If you want to publish a book, you have to help my Marketing VP succeed in her job of promoting that book. If you don’t know what that means, or if you have an overly simplistic/inaccurate view of what it takes to market a book, then you’ve already set yourself up for failure.

I have a friend who partnered with another friend to create and self-publish a very worthwhile media product. During the time when they were creating that product, they spoke enthusiastically about how they’d set a goal of selling 50,000 copies soon after publication. I was impressed, so I asked them, “How will you market this product?” 

“Well, we’re going to have a website,” one said. 

I nodded, waiting. 

Finally they said, “And we’ll figure out the rest when the time comes.”

That was it. That was their marketing plan. That was how they intended to spread the word to hundreds of thousands of potential buyers. Put up a website. And figure out the rest later. Needless to say, they fell about 49,950 units short of their goal. 

Unfortunately, too many authors think that marketing a book is something for someone else (i.e., the publisher) to worry about. And honestly, it should be—an author ought to just write, right? But in today’s publishing climate, that’s not the way it works. 

When your book comes up for review at publishing board, my marketing VP is going to want to know that you’ll be a real partner in the promotional efforts—not simply dead weight. To my VP, if you have no idea what it takes to market your own book, then you don’t deserve to be published.

What You Can Do About It

1. Study the basics of book promotion. Duh. 

OK, we all know about the “big” promotional vehicles: TV commercials, radio spots, infomercials, magazine ads, newspapers, movies, product placement, and so on. Truth is, your book will get none of that.

In reality, your book will probably get: 

• A spot in the corporate catalog

• A sell-sheet that’s shown to bookstore buyers

• A press release (maybe)

• Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) sent to basic media outlets prior to publication (maybe)

• A certain number of “Influencer Copies”—that is, a certain number of books that you can direct the publisher to mail for free to people you know who are considered “influential”

That’s about it—but honestly, a book can succeed with that as the starting point. So your job is to understand what goes into creating those things and then providing that material in your proposal. 

A helpful resource for you in that effort is Publicize Your Book! by Jacqueline Deval, so be sure to check that out.

2. Learn to speak in terms of benefits. 

As an advertising copywriter myself, this is always what makes the difference between me getting paid quickly or me having to do a rewrite. You see, Marketing VPs got to where they are by being able to tell readers, in clear, compelling language, exactly why they’ll benefit from buying certain books. That’s what it means to “market” a product. So if you want to appeal to a marketer, you’ll need to learn how to speak about your book in terms of its benefits.

We’ll talk about this in more detail in Reason #34, but for now try this: When your manuscript is done, take a good hard look at it and ask, “What specific benefits does this book give a reader?” Make a list, and make it clear and compelling. Then speak in those terms as much as possible when you’re writing up your proposal package. 

Make your benefits obvious and you’ll get a Marketing VP’s attention…but in a good way.

3. Create key marketing phrases to go with your book.

Think about things like: 

• What’s the one-sentence “hook” that’ll make people curious enough to read your book?

• What are the “felt needs” a reader has that’ll prompt him or her to be attracted to your book?

• What are the unique features of your book—and why are they important to your reader?

• What’s an attention-grabbing headline that could be used on the back cover of your book?

Then craft one-sentence, sound-bite style phrases that can be used for each of those questions above. Gauge them for impact, clarity, conciseness, and emotion. Then, when you’ve got something you think could be plugged right into use for the promotion of your book, add a section to your proposal that showcases them for the Marketing VP.

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Reason #33: You Have No Legitimate Platform to Promote a Book

A Marketing Team reason for rejection

What we’re talking about here is commonly referred to as “author platform.” That is, the author’s unique ability to spread the word about his or her upcoming book. 

Best friends with Oprah Winfrey and can promise she’ll mention your book on TV? No problem. You’ll get published. Have your own national radio show on NPR or KIIS FM? My Marketing VP is going to love you. Built a blog readership that pulls in hundreds of thousands of people every month? OK, we can work with that. 

Got none of the above (like most of us in the rest of the world)? Well, you’re going to have a tough time getting published. 

Over the past two decades, the publishing industry has constricted, readership of traditional books has either gone flat or gone into decline. Thousands of bookstores nationwide have shut down, and the rise of the Internet has made it easy to steal entire works with the click of a mouse. (Hey, why spend $25 on a hardcover book when you can just copy the text off an obscure website?) All these factors and more have made it harder for traditional publishers to find the same kinds of success they used to take for granted. The result has been across-the-board cost cutting and only targeted promotion of perceived “higher profile” books. That means today’s book marketing team faces shrinking or nonexistent budgets, tougher markets, and more pressure to perform.

In many marketers’ minds, that situation has been translated to mean that the author must now bear the primary responsibility for promoting his or her book. 

Is that expectation fair? Absolutely not. The author’s responsibility should be solely to create a wonderful book that people will want to read (an extremely time-consuming job all by itself!). And besides, if you honestly have the ability to showcase your book on Oprah or some other widely-known marketing channel, then you don’t need a publisher. You can just self-publish, and let your pal O do the rest for you. 

Ah, but publishing has never claimed to be a “fair” industry. It rewards only the strong, only those who can stay viable in the marketplace. So, even though it’s not fair—and can occasionally be downright harmful for the industry—your book will often be rejected simply because the Marketing VP doesn’t see a legitimate way for you to do the marketing team’s work of promoting your book to the world.

Lack of platform, unfortunately, is by far the second-most common reason why a book is rejected (see Reason #1 for the first). Platform is a must for today’s professional author; ignore this fact to your own peril.

What You Can Do About It

1. Invest time building an author platform.

This is hard for those who have dedicated themselves to a lot of the principles I outlined in the first section of this book. Why? Because instead of spending your time to hone your craft and create works of art on a written page, you’ve now got to split your time between writing and platform-building. (Who knew a writer would be required to become a marketing professional?)

Still, we work within the situations we’ve been given, right? So the best way to build an author platform is to look for opportunities to combine your content writing with platform channels that are a natural expression of your work. For instance, if you write parenting books, you might try to place a parenting column in your local newspaper or in a national magazine. Then you can assume that the writing you do to reach the masses with your column will also be one day usable for a book that compiles those columns. But, of course, getting a newspaper or national magazine column is easier said than done.

At any rate, here are a few platform-building channels you can pursue in your spare time:

  • high-traffic websites (try to become a content provider for some of these);
  • high-traffic blogs;
  • local newspapers;
  • regional and national magazines;
  • local, regional, and national radio programs;
  • local, regional, and national television programs;
  • political affiliations;
  • national association publications;
  • national speaking careers.

Basically, any organization or publication that allows you to tell thousands and thousands of people about your new book will be welcome in the publishing board meeting, so look for opportunities to connect with those kinds of organizations/publications.

2. Network, Network, Network.

The more people you know, the more favors you can call in when your book releases. Hey, if you really do get into Oprah Winfrey’s network of friends and/or colleagues, that makes a difference. If you meet Stephen King at a writer’s conference and you two hit it off to the point of exchanging email addresses, that might turn into a high-profile endorsement for your next novel. Maybe a college student that’s your Facebook friend will start interning for Jimmy Fallon. That connection could evolve into a guest spot on late night TV—you never know.

So be someone who collects business cards, who stays in touch with entertainment industry colleagues, who stays in the good graces of people who know people. That kind of thing extends your platform and promote-ability, so make it a priority in your writing career. 

3. Study DIY Marketing and Publicity Strategies.

Last, but not least, remember that you don’t have to be helpless when it comes to promoting your book. If you know how to reach 85,000 people with your own press release, or if you know how to take advantage of low-investment, high-exposure marketing channels, or even how to start a whisper campaign on the streets of New York City, that means something to a Marketing VP. So hit your local library and carry home a stack of books on do-it-yourself marketing and publicity. Identify the strategies that seem feasible for you, and include a promise to implement them (along with the number of people you expect to reach) in your book proposal. 

If you can market your book successfully through your own author platform, you become a valuable commodity to a Marketing VP—and you get one step closer to getting that VP’s vote during the publishing board meeting.

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Reason #34: You Don’t Understand The Difference Between Features And Benefits

A Marketing Team reason for rejection

Let’s suppose you’ve got a great new book manuscript that features 365 all-new, fun activities for families. Do you know what my Marketing VP is going to say about that?

“So what?” 

And she’s right to ask. Why does your book matter to our readers? So what? This is the “what’s in it for me?” question every book buyer asks before tapping that debit card on the machine. That makes it the highest priority of any good Marketing VP—and should also make it a high priority for you when you’re creating the proposal for your book. 

The big problem is that, while most authors know this is an important part of pitching a book, they don’t understand the difference between “features” and “benefits.” Don’t let yourself be one of those ignorant (or lackadaisical) people! If you can master the art of benefit-speak, you’ll make it very hard for any Marketing VP to ignore you.

At its simplest, a book’s “features” are anything it has. Its “benefits” are anything good it does for the reader. 

Of course there are all kinds of nuances to that, and entire books have been written on this topic by people who are much smarter than I am. But for your purposes, if you can distinguish between what a book has and what it does, you’ll be off to a good start. 

Here’s quick example of what I mean. Take that book we mentioned earlier, the one with fun ideas for families. Here’s what is has (its primary “feature”): 365 fun activity ideas for families. And here’s what it does (its “benefits”): 1) helps parents and kids enjoy being together, 2) builds friendships between siblings, 3) makes happy family memories…and so on. 

You see the difference? 

If not, don’t be surprised when you receive my rejection letter for your next book.

What You Can Do About It

1. Target identifiable benefits in one or more of the four basic categories. 

OK, you should know that just about all benefits for a reader typically fall in one of the four categories below. So, when creating your benefits summary, make sure to target one or more of these areas: 

Personal. These are the things that promise to make a person feel better about himself or herself—promises of beauty, riches, spiritual growth, and so on. For instance, “Reading this book will make you so pretty your poo will smell like sweet perfume!”

Social. These are the things that bring social satisfaction or interpersonal success—promises of fame, better family relationships, improved dating relationships, or anything that generates a positive response from peers. For example, “Read this book and soon you’ll be dating a woman whose poo smells like perfume!”

Professional. These are promises of success at work, career prestige, ability to fast-track up the corporate ladder, improved job performance, and so on. “Read this book and your boss will be working for you tomorrow!”

Noble. These are promises to benefit “the greater good,” or to bring moral and/or practical benefits for humankind or greater societies in general. “Reading this book will save the rainforest and cure cancer!”

2. Practice. 

Sometimes it’s easier to learn how to distinguish features from benefits with products that are not books. So take a look around your living room or kitchen and practice.

That blender on the counter…what are its features? (For instance, durable base, clear plastic pitcher, low- medium- and high-speed settings, and so on.) 

Now, what are its benefits? (It can make me a super-yummy smoothie! It can help me with my mixing experiments! It can make it easy to spatter food chunks on my ceiling!) You get the idea. 

3. Read a beginner’s book about marketing copywriting.

The idea of features and benefits is the basic building block of any advertising copywriter’s career, and as such it’s almost always discussed in detail in any book about marketing copywriting. So if you still feel unsure about your ability to wow a Marketing VP with benefit-speak, go ahead and check out a book that deals with this topic in more depth. There are plenty of these kinds of books to choose from (just search Amazon.com for “marketing copywriting”), but the one I’ve found the most helpful in my own career is Robert Bly’s classic, The Copywriter’s Handbook.

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Reason #35: You Have No PR-Worthy Accomplishments

A Marketing Team reason for rejection

On May 12, 2010, 712 people gathered in the gym at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City to pelt each other with playground balls. As a result of this supersized contest, they set the Guinness World Record for “The Largest Dodgeball Game” in history.

Were you there? And were you one of the last people standing when the Blue Team won the game? 

If so, that’s something I can use to jumpstart Public Relations efforts for you and your book—especially if your book is about sports, or Dodgeball, or simply learning how to “seize the day.” And my marketing VP is going to like hearing about the possibilities of that PR-worthy accomplishment

You see, Marketing VPs hate advertising. Sure, it’s a necessary evil in their jobs, but it also costs a lot of money—and it doesn’t often demonstrate a strong or measureable return on investment. Publicity, on the other hand, is free. It can deliver broad exposure similar to paid advertising, and since it’s presented as part of editorial content, it often avoids the “commercial blindness” habits we consumers have developed toward advertising.

Look at it this way: A half-page, four-color ad in a single issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine costs $104,305. But a half-page review of your book right next to that ad costs…nothing. Which of those two options do you think is going to make my marketing VP’s eyes light up?

Any significant edge you have in garnering publicity attention for your book is going to make a difference to my marketing team. And that’s where your PR-worthy accomplishments come in. If I can tell my marketing team about your unique accomplishments as they relate to publicity opportunities for your book, that might be enough to tip the scales in your favor.

But what if you don’t have any accomplishments worth trumpeting to the press? Well, that makes it harder to overcome the inherent skepticism my marketing team has about your book—and that could mean rejection.

What You Can Do About It

1. Make a list of your PR-worthy accomplishments as they relate to your book’s promotion. 

OK, honestly, you don’t have to be a Dodgeball champion to be PR-worthy. But it certainly helps if there’s something about you or your book that would look good in a newspaper headline. So take time to make a list of things you think are newsworthy about your book and about you. Some typical topics that publicists hype when promoting a book are: 

• Awards 

• Notable recognition (such as being named to a President’s Council or being selected as keynote speaker at the National Happiness Day festivities).

• Notable media exposure (such as being booked for The Tonight Show or featured in an article in US News and World Report)

• Unique milestones (such as winning a Dodgeball championship)

• Connection to notable events (such as being first on scene after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti)

• Anything that would spark interest if transformed into a two-minute spotlight on the local news.

2. Highlight two or three PR-worthy ideas in your proposal. 

Once you’ve identified your newsworthy angles as they relate to your book, go ahead and highlight them in your proposal. Suggest what can fairly be seen as “no-fail” angles that a publicist could use in the preparation of a press release about your book. Use bullet points and be sure to point out what kinds of audiences (magazines, newspapers, radio, etc.) would be likely to respond to those ideas.

3. Brush up on what a press release looks like and what it does.

Most writers are rightly focused on creating a book—not a PR plan. But if you want to win over a marketer, you’re going to have to understand the way a marketer thinks about publicity. So take time to browse a website like PRWeb.com. Learn what goes into a press release. Read a few dozen and analyze them for strengths and weaknesses. Try your hand at writing a press release or two for your book and see how your PR compares to what the pros do. 

Once you get into the publicity mindset of the typical marketer, you’ll be able to tailor your PR ideas toward the Marketing VP—and beef up the appeal of your book proposal as a whole.

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Reason #36: You Are Not Able To Run A Grassroots Publicity Campaign For Yourself

A Marketing Team reason for rejection

In the movie, Bowfinger, Heather Graham plays Daisy, a girl from Ohio who moves to California in order to make it in the movie business. When she steps off the bus in Hollywood, she looks around expectantly and asks no one in particular, “Where do I go to be an actress?”

Too many aspiring authors demonstrate Daisy’s misguided optimism, thinking all they have to do is show up and a publisher will take care of the rest of the details required to make them a star. Unfortunately, in today’s publishing climate the author is generally expected to contribute significantly to the star-making efforts for his or her book. This is especially the case with newer, or first-time, authors. 

What that means is that every editor nowadays is being asked by the Marketing VP, “What’s this author going to do to help us promote his or her book?” And your editor is going to expect you do to answer that question with a clear, definitive plan.

Since most authors don’t have easy access to a large Public Relations firm or the services of an independent marketing company on retainer, the best answer to that question is an opportunistic, grassroots publicity plan. If you can’t provide that, my Marketing VP is going to frown and start shaking his head.

From your perspective, this is an issue of both desire and skill. First, you have to want to create publicity for your book on a grassroots level, exploiting your areas of influence and unique opportunities to get the word out. Second, you must know how to do that effectively and affordably. 

Remember the good old days when being a professional writer was only about, um, writing? Well, the good old days are gone. Now you’re expected to be both a master of language who can write a phenomenal book, and a savvy guerilla marketer who can start a grassroots firestorm of publicity about said book.

It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.

What You Can Do About It

1. Learn how to create a press kit. 

OK, I’m not talking about a full-on, four-color notebook with pages of info and maybe a book-themed toy included (though I did very much enjoy a press kit once that came with Disney-themed cookies inside). You don’t need that kind of publicity overkill. And, when you send your proposal, you don’t even need to actually create a press kit—you just need to demonstrate that you can.

Most often nowadays, press materials are simply printed off a computer, folded in half, and stuffed inside the front cover of your book. So what you’ll want to know is how to create that front-cover-stuffing.

There’s not room here to go into detail about each individual part of the press packet, but generally speaking you’d want to include: 

• a press release announcing your book

• a pitch letter with specific story ideas related to your book (to send to media outlets when you request coverage)

• your bio

• suggested interview questions (these should be engaging, interesting, and something that would make it easy for you to be interviewed live)

• endorsements page (optional)

• your picture (optional)

2. Compile a personal database of local media and book retail outlets. 

These are what would be considered “promotional outlets” or “media outlets.” They’re the places within your reach where your book might actually gain media coverage or gain a promotional event opportunity. For instance, local newspapers, regional magazines, local association newsletters and/or events, local bookstores (both national chains and independents), local grocery stores, regional radio stations, and so on.

Basically, anyplace that might tell others about your book should go into your database. Include contact names (such as the store manager, or editor of the “Lifestyle” section of your newspaper) as well as full contact information for the outlet. If you can put together a database with 50 or more promotional outlet opportunities available in your grassroots network, that’s something a Marketing VP will be happy to hear.

3. Put together a formal Publicity Plan to include in your proposal.

Again, I’m not suggesting that you must create a formal press kit before you pitch your book to a publisher, but I am recommending that you tell an editor (so the editor can tell the Marketing VP) about your unique plan for starting a grassroots effort on behalf of your book. One place you might want to visit to get help with ideas for grassroots PR ideas is the website, PublicityHound.com. 

Then, when you write your proposal, go ahead and include a section that talks about your future PR plans. Indicate that, in support of the book’s release, you’ll send a full press kit (tell what’ll be in that kit) to your own mailing list of promotional outlets. If you can guarantee a book signing or two at your local Costco or Barnes & Noble bookstore, throw that in too. List your plans in bullet-point format, and make sure you give the impression that you have both the desire and the skill to pull off a small-scale PR effort on behalf of your book. If you can do that, you’ve made the Marketing VP’s job easier—and that may be enough to make her take a chance on your new book.

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