Tag Archives: shelf space

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

How will my book get on store shelves?

This is one of the most common questions I receive from authors. Before I answer, I want to bring up another common question: Why should I buy copies of my book?  The reality is that these two questions are closely related.

With the “why” question, the implication–and sometimes the outright statement I get–is that authors think someone else should be trying to sell their books to bookstores (the publisher, publicist, marketing rep, or some other person). But bookstores don’t buy books the way Walmart buys Mac & Cheese or notebooks or bed sheets or TVs. When Walmart buys these things, they pay the vendor and they have them until they sell them. When bookstores buy books, they can send them back whenever they want and get full credit from the publisher. If we sold books to them and there was no one to buy them, we would be left holding a lot of books. Authors don’t get paid for books that aren’t paid for, and publishers can’t make money printing books just to put them in storage. Ultimately this is a question of demand, not supply on shelves. Demand always precedes supply in the book industry.

These days bookstores do not take any chances. They don’t need to. Bookstores carry at most 20,000 titles of the more than 20 million currently in print. On their websites, they carry closer to half of those titles. If you are a Tate Publishing author, thanks to our efforts and relationships, your book is among those they carry online, and most bookstores decide which titles to put on their shelves based on what is selling online.

So how does your book become one of those? When enough people go and buy your book online to put your book in the top 20,000 titles (roughly speaking), stores notice. They go to the distributors we work with and start ordering. How many is “enough people”? There is no way to tell, but it will need to be at least hundreds and possibly tens of thousands.

This is why you need to buy books and resell them. When you do that, you are creating a market for your book. That’s what “marketing” is, in the end: Creating a market for your book. We can do that with you, but we can’t do it for you. This is true of every product in every industry, but given the way books are sold in the 21st century, it’s even more important to grasp.

Bookstores also respond to demand generated in niche markets with target audiences, which is why it is so important to establish a platform away from bookstores. This is the lifeblood of most books, as the demand must build, word of mouth must spread, and you need to get your book in front of people that need to most. As sales in niche markets grow, the online sales can increase, and stores begin to take notice.

This is why we so strongly encourage our authors to take advantage of buying books at your deep author discount to resell them. First, that step makes your book profitable quickly, and second, when you do this, you are creating a market for your book.

Publishers that are interested in helping their authors build an audience make offers of deep discounts and free items to you to help you get this start and make your book successful in multiple markets, starting in the niche market and including bookstores as well. If you are a Tate author, we can always help you explore a variety of markets and make contacts for you in areas outside bookstores to allow you the opportunity to have events in a variety of venues to see what works best for you and your book.

If you’re not a Tate Publishing author, visit TatePublishing.com to see how to become one.

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Filed under bookstores, Reputation building, retail marketing

Amazon’s tools are AMAZING!

You’ve probably heard me say that nearly 70% of books are sold online. And who do you suppose gets the majority of that business? If you said Amazon, you get the prize. If you’ve ever been to Amazon.com, you know that they sell everything. They started with books, but they sell everything that can possibly be sold. How in the world do you make your book stand out among the millions of products they have available?

Fortunately, Amazon has some handy tools that any enterprising author can use to increase the impulse buys that Amazon is so good at promoting.

There are two in particular that will help people looking for books like yours to find yours: customer reviews and tags. Ask everyone you know who has read the book to go to Amazon.com and do these things. All they need is a user account with Amazon, and they can write a customer review of your book. In describing the book, they will naturally use key words that Amazon and other search engines will then associate with your book. You can make sure they naturally use them by identifying some key words and asking them to use those words in their review if they see fit. You’re not writing the review for them, but you’re helping them use key words. Where do you get those key words?

This is the best part. The key words you give people to use in their reviews can come from the tags of other books that are similar to yours. Tags are words that customers associate with your book. Anyone who is logged in can add one or “vote” for an existing one. Look up the books from 2 or 3 authors whose books are like yours and see what tags they have associated with them. (Once you get to the book page, scroll down until you see the section called “Tags Associated with This Book.” It’s below all the reviews.)

In addition to using them for reviews, you can ask people to add and vote for these key words as tags on your book. I recently looked up the most commonly used tag on a popular fantasy novel. It was “epic fantasy” with just 114 votes. Here’s the key question: do you have more than 114 friends willing to tag your book with the most commonly used tag for books similar to yours? If so, then Amazon’s computers will see your book as more strongly associated with that term than that popular book you just looked up.

How does this matter?

Initially, it doesn’t make a huge difference. But have you ever logged in to Amazon.com and seen a welcome screen? It will say, “Based on your recent searches, you might like these items”, and it lists various products Amazon has on their site. How does it make these associations? By comparing the tags on the things you’ve looked at to the tags on other things. The more closely the tags on your book resemble the books you looked up, the more likely your book will show up when people who bought that book (or the movie based on it, or the coffee mug with main character’s face on it or the T-shirt) log in to Amazon. Now people who are VERY interested in your genre will start seeing your book every time they come to Amazon. Then those people will start buying your book through Amazon. That’s when another nice little bit of magic happens.

When people who have bought these other books also buy yours, your book will show up on those pages in the list titled “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. Your name will also show up in the lists called “Customers Also Bought Items By” and “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item”. At first it won’t be at the top of the list and people may have to click a link to find it, but the more people buy your book this way, the more likely it is to rise to the top.

The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost anyone a dime. You can open an account with Amazon without buying anything. (NOTE: Amazon does require you to have made a purchase with them at some point in time in order to post a review.)

Barnesandnoble.com has similar features on their sites, so you might be able to do the same things there. I haven’t done the research on them, so I don’t have any further details. I do know you can at least have people write reviews there.

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