What’s the most important thing to know about book marketing?
March 12, 2013 | Written by Chip MacGregor
Someone wrote to ask, “What is the most important thing I need to know about marketing my book?”
To me, the most important thing for you to grasp as an author is that you are responsible for marketing your book. Not the publicist. Not the marketing manager. Not even the publishing house. YOU.
Think of it this way: Who has the most at stake with this book, you or the publisher? (You do.) Who is more passionate about it, you or the publisher? (You are.) Who knows the message best, you or the publisher? (You.) I think an author should work with his or her publisher’s marketing department as much as possible. Make yourself available. Say “yes” to everything they ask. Express appreciation every time they do something that helps market your book. But then go do everything as though it all depended on you, because it does. Whatever the publicist does for you is gravy. YOU are responsible for marketing your own book. Don’t leave it to some young college grad who has 17 other projects to market.
Someone else asked, “Since it seems like anyone can get a book published today through self-publishers, how do I make sure my book gets the needed exposure?”
I’m one of those who thinks that many self-published books don’t really seem as if they are really “published.” They post their book on Amazon, then sit and watch it not sell. And most people who actually self-publish (that is, pay to have an ink-and-paper book, rather than just an ebook) lose money because they don’t know how to market and sell their own book. So if you want to really sell some copies, whether you are self-pubbed or published through a regular royalty-paying publisher, you’ve got to understand basic marketing principles. I suggest authors purchase some basic marketing books (such as a textbook from Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, or Frances Brassington and Stephen Pettitt), in order to give them a conceptual framework for what marketing is. Maybe take a class at the local community college, or look for online marketing training. Then you can invest in some of the “how to market your book” titles available at Barnes & Noble. But the most important thing is to put together a planned strategy, so that you aren’t just trying to think up stuff on the fly as your book releases.
The key principle for anybody doing marketing of their own book is simple: Figure out where your potential readers are going, then go get in front of them. If you’re doing a book on lowering cholesterol, research to find out what websites people with high cholesterol are visiting, what blogs they’re reading, what magazines and e-zines they’re checking out, what the most popular sites for information sharing are. That’s the first step. The second is to get yourself involved with those venues. Those are the keys to getting exposure.
I’ve had a few people write to me and say, in essence, “I have a background in a field outside of publishing, and I’m fairly well known. How much does that help me when I seek to market my book? Does having a platform outside of writing help me market my book?”
It does if you write a book that reflects on your platform. For example, let’s say you are really well known among scrapbookers. You’ve written articles in scrapbooking magazines, created new scrapbooking ideas, and been interviewed and profiled. People who are into scrapbooking know who you are. If you write a book on scrapbooking, your platform obviously helps. If you write a book on knitting… not so much. If you write a book on the history of Albania, not at all.
And again, because we have so many novelists as readers of this blog, one of the ignored truths of publishing is that an author can’t really move from nonfiction to fiction and take a readership along. So if you are a world-class scrapbooker, and you do a bestselling book on creating scrapbooks, that’s great. But if you then write a novel about a woman who scrapbooks… it’ll be a tough sell. Nonfiction readers just don’t cross over to read that much fiction. By the same token, fiction readers aren’t that interested in nonfiction books by novelists. (Yeah, yeah… YOU are. But you’re a writer.) It’s really tough for even a bestselling author to cross genres and have success. So no, in general having a platform outside of your writing won’t help all that much. (And here I should point out that numerous readers reminded me that Mike Hyatt, the former president of Thomas Nelson and I guy I really admire, wrote recently that an author’s platform might be overstated in our culture. I don’t know if the people who have worked for him really believe that, but I read his blog at www.michaelhyatt.com, and I wholeheartedly agree with his point that the BEST thing an author can do is to write a fabulous manuscript.)
Finally, one person in Europe asked, “What should I do to help create a platform for myself if I don’t live in the US?”
I’ve noted here before that it’s tough to be successful in the US book market if you don’t live here. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult because you’re not around to be a face on TV shows or to be interviewed live on radio. So I’d suggest you begin to explore social networking and article writing on the web. That’s the most likely channel to help you develop a following in the States.
Got a question about writing and publishing? Bung it along and I’ll try to bring some wisdom to it.