Tag Archives: audience

Top 3 Marketing Questions Most Authors Have

Most of the authors I work with are brand new to the worlds of publishing and book selling (and make no mistake: those are two different worlds). Even though these questions are addressed in a lot of websites and blogs, they remain prevalent in the minds of authors who are trying to wrap those minds around an industry that doesn’t work at all like it seems in the movies. So I thought some pointed and concise answers to these 3 questions would be helpful.

1) Who sells books to bookstores?
The quickest answer is no one. That’s because bookstores don’t need to buy books this way anymore. They used to have to try to guess which books were going to succeed the way a mutual fund manager picks stocks. They employed buyers who showed an ability to be right more often than they were wrong, and their profits from when they were right would more than make up for when they are wrong. Now, all a bookstore has to do is look to see what is selling on their website. So they laid off all those buyers. They can carry an infinite number of books on their site and a finite number of books on their shelves. The ones that sell best on their sites make it to their shelves. Your publisher fills orders that bookstores place, but they are not out there trying to convince bookstores to guess when they have no good reason to do so. Buyers for stores now watch trends on their sites and in their stores to determine what to order.

2) Why should I buy copies of my own book?
Simple: To sell them. You don’t have to become a slick salesperson or open your own bookstore to do so. You do need to learn how to connect to the natural audience for your book. Unless you have an audience clamoring for everything you write, you will sell more books this way than any other way, you will make money per book, and you will get it faster. And if you do it right, it is the easiest way to sell books. (Ask any of the millions of authors who have tried to push their way into bookstores.) It’s also a lot of fun because you’re spending your time among like-minded people. The more time you spend among them and the more people read your book, the more you’re seen as a leader. That increases your opportunities and the cycle continues upward to greater and greater success.

3) What should a marketing consultant do for me?
There are three things a good marketing consultant does that you can’t do for yourself:
1) Get your book in distribution – Really, this is what a publisher is for. If your consultant doesn’t work with a publisher, they may still have contacts to help you. This is what makes your book available to bookstores. In all likelihood, your book will start on their website before it is physically in a store, but it can’t rise up the list if it isn’t on their site. Tate Publishing, who I work for, does all that for our authors with every major retailer and distributor.
2) Teach you how to grow your audience – You can do this yourself, but book marketing consultants have the benefit of not only our own experience, but the experience of every author that we’ve worked with. We know the most common potholes and pitfalls to avoid. We know the things that are most likely to produce positive results. Most importantly, we know how to communicate this to you.
3) Publicize your events, your release, and your achievements – Again, you can contact the media yourself, but do you know when are the appropriate times and who are the appropriate contacts to reach? We do. We also have the tools for doing so. Contacting the media and getting interest back are two different things, but you can’t get the latter without the former. If you aren’t getting media coverage, it’s not because our team is bad. It is because you, your book, your message, and your activity are not yet noteworthy enough. That’s a sign that you need to do more or give yourself more time to grow your audience.

Most authors would rather skip all this and just be a household name selling books without much effort. I wish there was a spell or an enchantment I could utter to make that happen, but I’m not a wizard or a genie. The real world doesn’t work that way.

There will be some who will interpret things I’m saying here as blaming the author or trying to escape my responsibility or some other nonsense. It is nonsense, but it is understandable, and I don’t blame you if you feel that way. However, this isn’t a judgment on the quality of your book, your message, or you as a person. It is a reality check to let you know where you stand on the track where you’re trying to run. If you haven’t seen the book sales you want to see — and getting no reports from your publisher means you’ve had no sales — then you are closer to the starting line than the finish line, and it is time to run.

If you are an author not signed to Tate Publishing, contact us and one of our acquisitions editors will be happy to talk to you.

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Filed under bookstores, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, retail marketing

A New Year’s Story for Authors

Perhaps the greatest misconception most new authors have is that once they are done publishing the book,┬áthere is some train they can get on to take them to Successville. Successville is of course populated with adoring throngs who are just dying to buy your book, celebrities who have been holding their breath until they can tweet about it, talk show hosts and reporters who can’t wait to interview you, and bookstores who have been clearing space on their shelves for this fabulous new book.

If you’re like me, this description of Successville sounds a lot like Ralphie’s daydream in A Christmas Story of how his teacher and everyone else would respond to his theme on why a Red Rider BB gun is the best gift for Christmas. If you’re playing the scene in your mind right now, don’t stop. Go right on through to the part where he gets it back with a C+ and a note that says (as every adult from mom to Santa Claus told him in the film), “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Now fast forward to the end. Do you remember what happened? He nearly shot his eye out. (Can you tell I always watch at least 3 or 4 of the 12 times TBS runs this movie every Christmas Eve?)

You could say that my job is to try to keep authors from shooting their eyes out. If, like Ralphie, you live more in a fantasy world than in the real world, you are far more likely to shoot your eye out. Even in the real world, there is always the risk of getting stuck looking like a deranged Easter Bunny! I’m a dad, so I will be the first to tell your mom you look like a pink nightmare.

The bottom line with books is that you need an audience to sell them to. That’s it. No magic, no miracles, no luck; you just need an audience. Easy, right? Well, not really.

Just like it takes a lot of target practice before Ralphie could realistically expect to defend his family from Black Bart and his gang, it takes a lot of work to build an audience. You have to meet people wherever you can. One by one or group by group, you literally need to meet thousands of people if you want to guarantee success for your book. Sometimes all the trappings of Successville come along with it, and sometimes they don’t. What will happen if you work to meet those thousands of people is that some (not all, mind you) will buy your book. And some (again, not all) of those will tell others to do the same. And some (say it with me now, “Not all”) will actually do so. The longer and harder you work at it, the more likely you are to reach success — and possibly Successville.

Some authors hear this and completely get that there is work involved, but their response is one of the following:

“That’s really messed up.”

“I had no idea getting into this that there was this much work.”

“You should have told me I would need to do more than write the book.”

“I thought it was going to be different than this.”

“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”

If you’ve found yourself there, don’t worry. Many have, and it is no sin to think these things. It is only a sin to dwell on them. All of these thoughts and those similar come floating to our brains from Successville. It’s fun for Hollywood, the media and even Amazon to tell the end of the story, where all the great things have happened. But they don’t like to tell the hard work part. At least Amazon’s article hints at it when it points out that the author who has sold millions of eBooks “by himself” had 6 books and 70 short stories published before he ever struck out on his own. For all his talk of “trusting readers to find the stories they’ll like”, he had to have had thousands of followers before placing that trust, and that gave him a leg up.

And good for him. I love to see a good, hard-working author succeed. The point is that he didn’t get there without work. There is nothing magical about Amazon’s plan any more than there is about any publisher’s plan. There are almost 11 million books in print with an average of a million new ones a year over the past 4 years. It stands to reason that the authors who work will rise above those who don’t. Becoming a known author is not much different from becoming a known actor or musician. People have to know your name.

Before you get too far into the new year, sit down and decide how much time you have to invest in building your name. If you have a good marketing rep, they will tell you how best to invest that time so you don’t shoot your eye out. Make sure your marketing rep is part of your planning. If you don’t have a marketing rep, feel free to contact the publisher I work for, Tate Publishing. We’ll see what we can do to help you.

Now go upstairs and take that bunny suit off so you can get outside and practice with your Red Rider.

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Filed under Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements