The book publishing industry is re-inventing itself, and authors have to work hard on their book marketing platforms to keep up.
It’s time for writers and their literary agents to be very smart!
Publishing houses are gobbling up other publishing houses. Suddenly, editors who a few years ago were competitors are now on the same team. Agents have to be increasingly careful not to circulate multiple copies of the same manuscript to members of the same team. If one editor at the same publisher says “yes,” and another says “no,” what happens when the two discover they are at cross purposes? As publishing houses consolidate, their resources, including critical marketing budgets, are shrinking.
Self-publishing and web publishing has exploded, giving impatient writers more access to the title of “author” than ever before. It’s much easier now, but, once the initial excitement wears off, where are the sales? How does the “lone wolf author” survive? Her resources are even more limited than those of the publishing houses.
New technology is revolutionizing the industry. First it was print, then large print, then tapes and discs, then the internet and self-publishing. Soon it will be video-publishing in 3D, virtual publishing… Who knows?
As writers struggle with choosing the right path, one thing is increasingly obvious. Writers must help their agents by becoming marketers, a left-brain strength that few right-brained writers possess. You will learn quickly that publishers may express interest in your manuscript, only to ultimately reject it because its “marketing platform” is not sufficient.
How does the writer approach this daunting task? It may be simpler once you break the problem into smaller, more do-able steps. Here are five “Must-Have” components of your marketing plan:
1. Start with who and what you know best and build your Contact List. It contains your friends, family, fishing buddies, golf partners, in-laws and college classmates. Build an “inner ring” of your “tribe” who know you personally and are most likely to buy your book. Tell them about your book, what you have learned, what they can learn from it, and when it will be available for sale.
2. Build a social media presence to develop an “outer ring” of your tribe. Develop pages and presence on the basic forums, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Find a professional web marketer and learn which sites are best and how to build a following on them. Build a website with search engine optimization so the web crawlers on Google and other search sites will find you. You may have to shell out a few bucks, but nothing like what it would cost to hire a PR agency!
3. Self-promote shamelessly, even if it’s awkward. Stage small parties and sell copies of your book while you ply your pals with wine and cheese. Send them notes to remind them of what a nice gift your book would make for a family member or friend for the holidays. Write emails and letters. Send postcards. Build a new flurry of announcements, events or just plain chatter every two or three weeks. One or two onslaughts aren’t enough. Experts say it takes at least seven “touches” before a marketing message sinks in.
4. Offer yourself and your expertise as media fodder. Promote yourself and your book to local news media, city magazines, TV and radio stations, and local cable programs desperate to fill air time. Give your opinion on your social media outlets and build a presence as a “go to” commentator for local news media.
5. Talk your head off. Hold book-signing events, attend larger book clubs, offer to talk at civic and social organizations and to become a resource for a Speakers’ Bureau. There are hundreds of organizations in every community, and all need programs for their members. Pick two or three favorite charities and donate a percentage of the proceeds of every sale to those organizations (let the buyer choose which one he favors).
If you’re self-publishing, you will have advanced your cause. Even if you’re for sale on Amazon, you have to take personal action to boost sales.
If you’re seeking a mainstream publisher and using a literary agent, your plan becomes another asset in the search for a sale. Every publisher wants to know what the author will do to assist in the promotion effort and whether she has a “marketing platform” that will mesh with the publisher’s plan. It’s simple. If you don’t have one, your book won’t be accepted.
— Carol H. Green