Questions about Marketing
October 12, 2009 | Written by admin
I've got a backlog of publishing questions that have been sent in (currently more than a hundred — yikes!), so I'm going to try and squeeze a bunch in this month. Today is a batch of marketing questions…
Diane wrote and asked, "In publishing, which comes first — the chicken or the egg? Do we need to have a book published before we start building a platform? Or do we start building a platform before we have a book to push?"
If the platform is the chicken, it's definitely the chicken that comes first. Look, if I walk into a publisher's office with your nonfiction book, the FIRST question he or she will ask is, "What's her platform?" I can sell good writing and a good idea from an author with a great platform. But it's tough to sell even great nonfiction writing that comes from an author with no platform. So that's easy — start building your platform NOW.
Irene wants to know, "In laymen's terms, can you tell me what a marketing platform is?"
Sure. Your platform is a number. In simplest terms, your platform is the number of people you can influence to buy your book — and these days your publisher is going to expect the author to be responsible for about half the overall number of copies sold of your nonfiction book. So add up the people you can influence — the number of people you speak to at conferences, the number who read your blog, the number who get your newspaper column, the number of people in your organization, the number who listen to you on the radio or watch you on TV. All those media contacts you have can be turned into a number — and that's the number the publisher will look to when they think about selling your book. If it's a smaller house, they might be hoping to sell four-to-eight-thousand books. (That means you'd have to sell between two-and-four-thousand copies — which is a lot of books.) If it's a medium sized publisher, they're looking to sell twelve-to-twenty. If it's a large publisher, they may only be interested in titles that will sell twenty-five-thousand copies. But you've got to sell half… and that means your marketing platform needs a big number.
Jill wrote to say this: "I've been asked to speak at a couple places, but it's the same month my book comes out. Should I say 'yes,' and use that as an opportunity to promote my book? Or should I say 'no,' and spend my time doing other marketing? I don't want to jump at every speaking engagement that comes up."
If it were me, I'd probably say "yes." When your book is releasing, you want as many promotional opportunities as you can get. Say yes to everything. Go speak. Write for people. Get out there and be seen. Work yourself hard, because you'll soon be working on another book, and that means sitting by yourself, in a room, with your keyboard… and no crowds to clap for you and tell you what a great job you're doing. Given a chance to promote a book, an author usually has a limited window. Do everything you can to maximize that window.
John noted, "I have a popular blog, and I'm curious what you think about having links on it. Do they help? Should I include them?"
Yeah, you should. They'll bring in traffic, and they're part of what makes the blogosphere a social network. I happen to think Mike Hyatt's blog is great, Jenny B Jones' blog is a riot, and Rachelle Gardner's blog is insightful. So I include links so others can visit them. Maybe they return the favor (maybe not — doesn't matter to me), but it gets people visiting other sites and that brings readers to my own site. That's the essence of social marketing.
I had four people ask this: "Will you be doing the 'fiction marketing' seminar in the Pacific Northwest? And will you be putting any of them onto DVD's?"
Okay, prepare yourself for a mini-commercial… I'm working with Jim Rubart, a longtime marketing guru from Seattle, and together we're putting on a two-day seminar called "Marketing Your Fiction." The goal is that novelists who attend will walk away with an actual marketing plan for their upcoming novel. Rather than waiting for the publisher, they'll take charge of their own fiction marketing. We're planning to do it Nov 20-21 in Dallas, then again Dec 4-5 in Indianapolis. If those go well, we're planning to do it a couple more times next year. Should be fun — and as far as I know, there's nothing else like it. You can read all about it at this link:
www.themasterseminars.com . Look into it and see if you might find it helpful.
Last question is from Jerry: "I've heard some publishers are requiring their authors to include not just Amazon but the B&N.com sales button on their website. Is that true? Why would publishers do that?"
It's true, and it's troublesome. Publishers are putting the squeeze on authors to include B&N.com on their websites, even though B&N doesn't pay an author to link to them (Amazon does). It's no doubt happening because someone at B&N is suggesting to publishers that they're more apt to carry the books of authors who include them on author websites. Maybe that's just business, but it's worrisome any time you have retailers trying to control author content. (Think of when Amazon forced social networking site LibraryThing to remove buttons and links to other booksellers. The argument at the time was, "If you're going to use our materials, you can't list any of our competitors.") You know where this will lead? Borders won't carry your books unless you have a Borders link on your site. B&N will be checking author websites for their link. Amazon will insist everybody keep an Amazon link on their site. As I said… troublesome. What if a retailer announces that they don't like your cover, and won't stock your book unless the publisher changes it? Of they don't like your title and demand a change? Hmmm…