Book Marketing 101 by Bobby Ozuna

Bobby Ozuna is a public speaker,  internet talk show host, co-founder to the READ3Zero foundation for kids, host to blog talk radio’s The Indie Author Show, and the author of Proud Souls. I am pleased that Bobby has allowed me to post this information about book marketing. Bobby says:

By demand and an earnest desire to help the many people who appear lost when it comes to the most effective way to brand or market themselves, I thought I would offer some tips for consideration when working to develop a place for your business, organization or art–outside of the actual product. This is what’s called brand-building.

A vast majority of my work involves authorship, but these tips can be applied to any business venture. If you wish to sale a product, then you have to learn to think beyond the product. It’s not good enough to say (using books as an example) [that] “I wrote a book and now everyone should buy it.” Like any successful business, you have to first consider the consumer. People spend money everyday, on something or many things–some of which are true desires to possess (needs) and others are simply purchases based on a good sale to their desire to own something else (wants).

Here are some things to consider when establishing a brand or marketability within your respective field. I use book publishing or authorship as an example here, but you should truly consider aspects of these examples when working to sell your product, contrary to what that may be.

1. Establishing a Web Presence

What does your website signify and is it created and written (and re-worked on a continual basis) to help search engines (potential customers) find you? How much time do you spend learning about the best ways to optimize (SEO) your website and online presence?

In today’s fast moving society of high-tech gadgetry it isn’t enough for an author to be content with simply “having a book on Amazon” (or any other online retail store). It is not acceptable either for an author to say, “I don’t know how to do this stuff” or worse “I can’t learn it.” Whether you chose to publish independently or had little or no choice to see your work in print, if you plan on making a dent in today’s book buying consumer base, then you will have to learn how to establish (at the very least) a web presence that builds on your credibility of your book(s) subject material. If you aren’t interested in building a website or quite possibly, can’t afford a good web developer/designer, there are many free tools you can utilize. Something after all, is better than nothing at all. Personally, I am a fan of blogs and all their optimization (SEO) functionalities to help you gather customers based on your sites material. Establishing a web presence is easy but maintaining the data and staying current is the hard part, because it requires continual effort. I have listed some points to consider as you design and refine your marketing plan.

Questions you might ask yourself when evaluating your present website and/or blog, including any social networking media you might incorporate.

What does my website signify? What does it say about me as a person or literary professional? Are you utilizing every social networking site for fun, or to help establish your place in relation to your artwork? For instance, many people use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and a blog. (These are are great places to start building your online/web presence…hint, hint.) BUT, if you skim through these sites of your fellow author and publisher (and of course, your own material), you might find they are spending an ample of amount of time discussing the weather or their favorite sports game and rarely, if ever, discussing their book’s subject material. If you have a MySpace, Facebook, etc., you want to incorporate links to your storefront, images of your book cover and of course, summations of every blog post for people to navigate to and read. That leads us to one of the most important aspects of developing your web presence: Becoming the expert!

Becoming the Expert:
A major part of branding and marketing your book publishing business is solidifying your expertise within your book’s genre or field. Article writing is by far the best way to get this done. If you have a blog (if you don’t go get one now!) or website, you want to start working on a plan to contribute at least (at the very least) two articles per week about your book’s subject matter. You can use these articles as a means to discuss or share quotations from your book and also interview other people, share tips & tricks or help develop others. These people you help are potential book buyers! If people trust your information, then they will surely trust your book. The more consistent you are with refining and defining your online presence, the greater chance of exposure and of course, possibilities for selling your business’s product: YOUR BOOK!

Branding Tip:
Most of us wrote a book, then worked to develop our credibility for the information. Pretend instead, you were the subject matter expert already who HAPPENED to write a book. If you approach  marketing from this perspective, it will help shed light on new methods for marketing your businesses credibility (you) and your book’s material (book) and ultimately, give way for people (followers) to trust you enough to purchase your product (sales).

2.  Marketability

How are you trying to sell your work and have you determined your actual market? Trying to sell book products to people who don’t read or (let’s say) other authors who are competing against you? Are you working to establish an online presence that is catchy (building on wants) of those who fall into your customer base?

If I said the word marketing and then listed some random words, such as: soda, car & shoe, it would be relatively easy to guess what words or businesses came to your mind when you heard me say them. For soda, you might have considered Coke or Pepsi. For car you may have thought of Ford or Chevy and lastly, for shoe, the odds are pretty good you thought of Nike or at the very least, the Nike swoosh symbol. This is what’s called Top-Of-Mind marketing and branding. Top-of-Mind, being, the very first word(s) or business models that comes to your mind when a list of words are mentioned. When a business is working to focus its attention on a certain customer base or “corner of the market” it is imperative they understand just who their customers are and work within their niche to build an effective marketing plan to target that audience.

As an example, I work for Texas based children’s author (Melissa M. Williams/Iggy the Iguana) but my own work of fiction (Proud Souls) would never be considered for marketing to the same audience. Why? Well, (if it wasn’t obvious) my material is written for adults NOT children. I don’t even tell children much about my book, apart from saying, I’m a writer too! It sounds like a relatively simple thing to do, but if at the end of the day, the name of the game is sales, then why would I spend my time (or waste my time depending upon how you measure the quality and cost of your time) talking about, sharing or trying to sale a product to a consumer base that won’t purchase my product(s)?

This installment deals with marketability or your ability to market a product effectively to a particular customer base. Take these points into consideration and these suggestions as you work (and rework and rewrite) to develop your marketing strategy.

a.) Know your customers:

If you write for children, then you need to be in front of children. You need to create a product that doesn’t always fit WHAT YOU THINK is the best product for a child (or children) but what they like. Get out there and ask them. Meet with kids, conduct author visits, and school presentations and ask them what they think of your product. They are after all your entire customer base. If your book is niche, or based on events or circumstances for adults, then find the people who will identify with it the most, and get their perspective. You can offer books for free, to generate a buzz, get some reviews, offer free readings, etc. 

b.) Appeal to your audience

You don’t want to create a cover that is too adult for children anymore than you want to create a cover that is too childish for adults. Look at other books in your genre and get a feel for cover styles. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself the next time  you are in a bookstore. If I read this genre and I walk down that genre’s aisle, what books pop out and grab my attention? Is it a bold title on the spine? Is it an image? Is it dark? Light? The cover design should correlate with your book’s theme, that after all is an old trick of playwriters from ages ago.

c.)  Streamline your visual aids

When you think of shoe, you most likely think of Nike. When you think of Nike, you most likely think of the swoosh sign. This isn’t a coincidence but targeted, planned and effective results of good marketing. If you have a profile picture, it should be the SAME one you use on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and your website. If you have a cover design image on the Internet, it should be the same as well, everywhere. Your business logo on your blog or website should match what’s on your book cover, etc. The idea is to brand one cover design, with one business logo and one author profile picture. That way, when someone sees you on Twitter they may recognize you from Facebook. If they find you posting comments on a book blog, they will recognize you from MySpace, etc. Your job is to make sure people know what you look like, what you wrote, and what your book cover looks like…without thinking twice!

d.) Learn to be convincing–and believe it!
Does one shoe make you run faster than another? Does one energy drink truly make you a better athlete? Does one laptop or personal computer help you work any better than the other? No, no and no…but…the sales and marketing staff at each of these organizations will work to make you believe otherwise. That is the power of a good marketing campaign. If your book deals with overcoming loss (non-fiction) and you have been through devastating loss and rejuvination, then YOU ARE THE EXPERT! You after all, have written a book about the subject! Get out there on blogs, guest blogs, radio shows, Facebook, MySpace, support groups, etc. and remind the people how YOUR information and knowlegde helped save your life…and how it can save theirs too! Period.

e.) Become the expert

I can’t stress this point enough. I read once that if you work at anything (consistently) for five years, you become the subject matter expert. Trust me, it may seem like you’re not at times and because of a lack of sales, you may not feel like the expert, but you are! The little things you learned and forgot you learned along the way are the very things someone else is looking for. Why not be the one who feeds them continuous content to help them get where you are? By posting articles, podcasts, interviews, etc., on a continuous (continous) basis, you are allowing people a chance to trust you and with that trust and learning, will come sales–if you have a product–and what better product to sum up your knowledge than a book?

f.) If I like you–I will like your product

Someone told me once that we write because it is our gift and we work hard at it so the world will fall in love with our work. We blog–or utilize any social networking website–so people will fall in love with us. If you want to sale books you must believe in them. If you want to sale books you must be your books biggest and greatest advocate and NOT sit around waiting on someone else to love it or promote it or believe in it more than you! If you want to sale books, then you have to learn to be personable enough that people LIKE you enough to give your art (your work, your product) a chance. Remember who you were when you were just starting out…how much you loved talking about your book…without query letters, sales pitches, guidelines, etc…? That person could inspire the world without any formal effort. Don’t let the formalities destroy the beauty in your heart…to share with the world what is in your soul.

3.  Credibility

Do you write articles, teach classes, offer lectures, that solidify your expertise within your market? Are you available to help others learn how to do what you are (working) to accomplish? To help others with a serving spirit, doesn’t hinder your ability to make money, but rather opens more doors for opportunity by helping others along the way.

4. Consistency

How often are you working online to develop a TOM (top of mind) marketing presence. As an example, when people think car company, do they think Chevy or Ford? When they think (for example) of your product line, art, book genre, etc., do they think of you or your works title? What have you done to help establish that want, based on your businesses product. Your product is not only your item for sale, but YOU!

5. Time

If you are writing a book or trying to sale a book to make money only, people can see right through that. And that, makes you no different than the hundreds of thousands of other authors on the market. What makes you (YOUR BUSINESS) different than the next? What do you offer a community, a market, consumers, etc that truly makes your business worth investing in–and ultimately–buying your product? I read once that anything you do for five years [you] become the expert at. All of this work takes TIME, but if you believe in your product, if you believe in your passion, etc., then time is in your favor, not working against you.

These are a few of the various points to consider when working to write your marketing plan, develop a marketing model and lastly, create your web model (links to) your various websites.

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TK Kenyon Talks About Book Marketing For the Introvert

This is a reprint of an article by TK Kenyon, author of the book Rabid, and is used with her permission. Kenyon writes:

Writing, especially fiction writing, is a tough business to get into and a tougher one to stay in. Generally, neither authors nor publishers make a significant profit until an author’s fifth novel is published. Most of the time, the majority of the meager money that publishers put into publicizing books goes toward review copies and the usually unproductive author tour. How many books do first-time authors sell? Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies. Yikes.

To be in the other 30% of authors, you must seize every promotional advantage you can, especially by using the web and other new media. My first novel, Rabid, sold out of its first print run of 10,000 copies in under two months and is currently chewing through its second print run, which is better than average.

To sell your book, (1) inform people that you and the novel exist, (2) interest readers enough to buy your book, and (3) build a relationship to keep them coming back for more.

For all this, the Internet is the perfect medium.

Inform

To announce your presence to the world, first you blog. Before your book is published, start your own blog or blogs on subjects related to your book, especially controversial themes or subjects that people want to know more about on an easy, free blog host like Blogger/Blogspot, Livejournal, or Xanga. Join blogs. Be a guest blogger. Trade blog posts with other bloggers. Many small blogs and blogger networks, including those that you start or join and co-op blogs, allow you to write one blog post and then cross-post to them all, which means far more bang for your time and typing buck. Some blog networks also feed into search engine news services, which is an added publicity bonus.

Personally, I have a science blog, Science for Non-Majors (general science essays including genetic engineering of food animals, opinions about recent research in autism and Alzheimer’s Disease, and why snot is slimy,) and participate regularly in co-op blogs like Criminal Minds at Work (for authors of crime novels, as Rabid has both a murder and a trial in it,) and The Write Type, plus one at my publisher’s website, and blogger networks Bloggernews.net and Opednews.com.

Writing guest articles for newsletters, print, e-magazines, and other blogs is one of the best ways to reach new readers. Articles for big blogs and e-magazines, such as this one or Bookslut, are generally exclusive. Don’t cross-post these, though you can link to the post from your other blogs with a teaser about the article. Query blogs via email with a paragraph about the topic of your article and why you should write it. Find popular places to post by using tools like Technorati or PageRank on the Google Toolbar, which is also an indication of popularity — a higher number is better. Statsaholic and Alexa are other sources for traffic information that you can utilize.

If you have the time to commit to writing several articles per week for only one site, About is competitive but lucrative. Blogcritics is an excellent site, though less remunerative.

Literary journals, especially e-journals, are excellent places to publicize. Excise self-contained nuggets out of your novel and submit them. You can also write stand-alone prequels, sequels, or exquels to your novel. Lists of literary journals, such as this one at Poets & Writers, abound.

Social networking sites are also great places to up your profile ante. Wikipedia has a good but incomplete list.

A page at MySpace.com is the minimum. You can cross-post your blog essays on MySpace blogs, too. Add friends, join groups, and aim for 1000 friends as your first goal, then 5000, then 10,000.

Goodreads is a must-visit social networking site for authors. It’s similar to MySpace except that it’s geared toward bibliophiles — a target-rich audience. Add friends, join groups, and post book reviews.

Gather is a community of writers and is another great place to make friends and turn them into readers by cross-posting your blogs and essays.

Once your book is added to Amazon, enroll in the AmazonConnect authors’ program. You can post blogs, announce book tour dates, and connect with people who have purchased your books in the past. Your posts show up on your book’s page.

Forums and newsgroups are the great underground for authors. Make a list of topics, especially controversial ones, in your novel, and search YahooGroups, GoogleGroups, and search engines for “forum” plus your topic. Post to the introductory thread with details about your book, then respond to other people’s posts, and cross-post any topically related blog posts as thread starters. Include your book’s title in your sig file, but don’t actually advertise your book as that will likely just get you branded as a spammer. As long as your posts are on topic, helpful, thoughtful, and informative, people will visit your signature links. Forums are good places to enjoy yourself while “working.” Caveat: trolls lurk under these cyberbridges, avoid getting involved in any flame wars.

Where to get ideas for blog essays: news items (write an opinion piece, not necessarily contrary, and link back to the source article), forum posts (on a discussion thread, when you write a long answer to a post, copy/paste your answer, tidy it up, and post it on your blogs), your characters (write short stories about them, which you can then submit to literary journals, or do “interviews” with them, which is always an amusing exercise), or questions that people ask you about your book.

Interest

After you inform people that you and your book exists, give them more information. Seventy percent of readers who are thinking of buying a book by a new author search the Internet before they buy.

The first thing you should do when you sign your book contract, if you haven’t already, is buy your name as a web domain address. You might want to buy the dot-net and dot-org versions as well as the dot-com, because if you don’t, someone else will.

So what do you put on your web site? First and foremost and as always, content is king. Readers want to know more about you, your book, subjects in your book, writing your book, excerpts from your novel or other short stories, and your characters. Don’t just slap up a couple sales pages.

For example, my own website, TKKenyon.com, includes a bio about my scientific work (virology and neuroscience) as well as fiction writing, essays on the craft of fiction writing, and about subjects that are themes in my novel, and more about the characters in my first novel, Rabid. Most people want to know more about two of them: Dante the tormented Jesuit Catholic priest, and Leila the wild graduate student.

Republish essays that you hold the e-rights to on your website. Link to others and to your blogs. Include a few pictures of yourself but nothing that will overly interest a stalker. Write content for the site that includes important key words and optimize your pages for search engines, which includes naming pages using commonly searched words that are also subjects of the essay and ensuring that the links between pages work. Add content frequently. Include a way to email you (important for building an email list, see below,) and a way to purchase your book immediately. To do that, join an affiliate program, such as from Amazon.com, BN.com, or Powells.com.

Build

After you’ve found someone and sold them your novel, sell them the next one by building a relationship with them. As any MBA will tell you, the easiest customer is the repeat customer. To do this, build an email list.

Anyone who emails you, write them back and add them to your emailing list. When you start out, you can do mass emailings to your friends, but as you get bigger you should have an opt-in email list. You can collect email addresses from people at bookstore signings if you buy a little $2 bag of truffles and have a drawing, no purchase required. (Note: if you require the purchase of your book to enter the raffle, your contest falls under state lottery and gambling laws, and you don’t want that.) Send out at least a couple newsletters each year and make sure there is a way for people to remove themselves from the newsletter so you are in compliance with anti-spam laws. Definitely make use of your email distribution list to announce the pre-sale and sale of your next book.

AmazonConnect, mentioned above, is a great way to contact people who have bought your book from Amazon.com. In addition, AmazonShorts is a program where you can post short stories about your novel’s characters, or other short stories, 2000-10,000 words in length, and sell them on the cheap. While it will not provide retirement income, it is another way to introduce new people to your writing or update them on the further adventures of your charaters.

On your website, add an address where your readers can send you snail mail (like a PO Box, not your street address) and send you a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Then, send them a personalized, signed bookplate to stick in their book. Use large, 2″x3″ or larger, printer-label stickers, and write a quick note and sign them.

So that’s how to use the Internet to rise above the fray: find readers, give them information, and build relationships with them. In-store book signings sell only a few books and publishers may or may not allocate much in the way of publicity funds and manpower to first-time authors. Your own efforts on the Internet can make a dramatic difference in whether or not your novel succeeds.

Blogging — Creating a Community for Your Book

The following article is reprinted with permission from Dog Ear Publishing:

The business world is convinced it’s found a “revolutionary” way to reach customers and create “buzz” for their products… and they have, sort of…

The best part is, it’s really simple and something that you as an author already know how to do – WRITE!

The revolutionary marketing method? That odd little word called “blogs”.

You’ve heard the term “blog” before, I’m sure.

Here’s the revolutionary part though…

Have you done anything about it?

Do you understand the power that a blog can have?

Have you thought about using a blog to build a community of interested readers for your book, build your book sales, create awareness of you as an author and take your marketing efforts to the next level?

You may be asking “How do I start blogging?” Now is the perfect time to start… and I want to help you get started… NOW!

What does it meant to you? What is the meaning of blogging? Probably, it evokes images of a glorified internet “diary” where geeks, computer nerds, and lonely teenagers rant and rave in the ether of cyber space. Thats the way most define blogging.

But wait, blogs are quietly revolutionizing the way customers interact with companies (and even each other) about everything from existing products to new ideas and improvements in customer service. And very few people realize this fact.

Even fewer realize the importance to authors and their readers (and potential readers). Or, that you can earn money by blogging (by generating sales for your book).

What does this mean? It means blogs have come of age and anyone who wants to create a community of interested customers better sit up and take notice fast!

When they first came on the scene (and many times still today) blogs were simply a diary of your thoughts that was posted on the internet; but today’s blogs are evolving into vibrant websites that even the most computer-phobic of us can use and update instantly without knowing a single piece of arcane programming code.

An blog creates an interested and interactive community for you and your book – with you (and your book) as the central focus and the readers driving the content of the blog that provides rich feedback to the author.

Your blog also allows readers to respond your posts, provide additional information, links, expanded opinions, and more. Specifically, it builds interest in your book.

You can make immediate updates from a computer anywhere with only a Web browser and Internet connection.

And – different from the typical “static” web pages where content is difficult to change (so rarely does…), a “dynamic” blog is in a constant state of renewal and evolution.

Smart businesses are beginning to understand the huge impact of a concept that “mom and pop” businesses have understood for years: to truly be successful, you must know your customers and be completely in tune with their wants, needs, and desires.

Large publishers throw millions of dollars down a dark scary black hole every year trying to identify (really “guess”…) what people want to read. (In the corporate world of publishing it’s called the “Marketing Department.”)

However, in the self publishing world, we don’t have those kinds of dollars to throw away – so we have to be smarter. We need to understand our readers, our markets, and the ways that we can build interest for the topics we publish (and find NEW ones).

A blog allows you to avoid guessing what’s on your readers’ minds and provides an active and up-to-the-minute means for them to tell you exactly what they do and don’t like about your book, writing, and practically any other topic you might feel is important.

Having this sort of immediate access to your readers minds makes it possible for self published authors to build huge market share.

There are two ways you can build your blog: you can use one of the “hosted” solutions (like Blogger or LiveJournal) or stand-alone applications (really only meant for the nerdiest of us). Hosted blogging solutions are extremely easy set up, often in just a couple of minutes.

I’ll assume you already know how to type… so you can create a blog. Point your web browser to Blogger.com and you will find you can set up a blog free of charge and be posting within just a couple minutes.

The best part? Blogger.com is owned by search giant Google and will host your blog on their servers.

For the stand-alone products, one of the most popular is Moveable Type (from moveabletype.org ) and is a very versatile and powerful suite of tools for creating a full-featured blog (if your desires are to create a blog that competes with those of the largest companies in the world).

No matter what you choose, understand that your blog can be a critically important part of marketing plan for building reader awareness for your book.

A tremendously important feature of blogs (and one that makes them heads above more traditional email newsletters) is that your readers have the ability to get your updates without having to receive an email. With the wonders of RSS (real simple syndication), subscribers are notified of your updates to the blog through their news reader.

What’s the big deal? Publishing your blog with RSS feeds (that your readers then subscribe to) means your content NEVER EVER gets caught by SPAM filters.

If you like this information (and found it helpful) and please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at www.dogearpublishing.net

May you have success in your creative efforts!

Ray

What Blogging Platform Should You Use?

When I decided to start a blog, I researched different blog platforms and chose WordPress, mostly because it was the only one I could understand. The WordPress home page showed me articles that had recently been posted, and the tags showed me others. I liked that people could browse through articles and read the ones they wanted.

Those first weeks when I had only a few views a day, I had fun checking the stats, seeing how people found my blog, and coming up with titles that might entice a casual viewer. I still am not a major blogger, but I do get 1,000 hits a month, which isn’t bad for someone who never advertised and never wrote about popular or controversial subjects. I am still a neophyte, but in a writer’s group I belong to, I have become somewhat of a blogging guru. (Mostly because I’m the only one who blogs on a regular basis.)

I am a bit more knowledgeable about the blogosphere than I was a year ago, so I test marketed other blog sites, to give the writing group an idea of what they are up against. And I still don’t get those other sites. Blogger.com seems to be one of the most popular, but unless I advertise, no will find the blog. Eventually, search engines might send people to the blog, (if I ever submit it to search engines) but as of now, I have zero hits. Or at least I think I do. There’s no hit counter on the blog (except for profile hits), and I don’t want to add one — some are reputable, but others dump spyware on the unwary who stop to read. And if I want to play with stats, I’d have to sign up with another site that will track them for me. With Blogger, I could put ads on the site and get paid to blog, which I can’t do with WordPress, but so far I have not found another benefit. If any Blogger bloggers have a different opinion, I would appreciate your input.

I also signed up for LiveJournal. Don’t get that site either. It seems to be a cross between a social networking site like Gather where you post your blogs to groups, comment on each other’s work, and collect friends. The free version is pared down; many features are available only with a paid subscription. The way I figure it, even if the cost is nominal, why should I pay to post articles? And there are no stats to play with. And there are distracting ads on my home page. If any Livejournal bloggers have a different opinion, I would like to hear it. With the millions on the site, it must have some features people like!

Other blogging platforms I tried:

Microsoft Live Spaces: it’s easy to use and is accessible from the email account, but in the last six months I have not had a single profile hit. (Live Spaces, like Blogger, tracks profile hits but nothing else.)

MySpace: no stats. I did get one comment from a friend, but that’s it.

So what blogging platform should you use? If you don’t want to pay for it, if you don’t want annoying ads on your site when you view it, if you don’t want to spend all your time advertising it, if you like knowing what articles get the most hits and where you’re getting your readers, it seems as if WordPress is the way to go.

Besides, your blog will look great.