Friday, May 1, 2009

Book Marketing Can Be Weird

What marketing plan will work best for you? Are there any "sure-fire" ways to sell books? Here's what I learned yesterday.

The Potential

I've heard cutting edge book marketers say that one of the biggest keys to sales is collecting e-mail addresses on your site or blog and then sending regular e-mails to give readers useful information and inform them about your books. That tact would seem to work perfectly for me, since I've got two busy websites, one for youth workers and pastors ( ) and one for those who teach character in public schools ( ). About 1,000 people visit these sites each day, and I've collected over 10,000 e-mail addresses.

The Plan

I've thought all along that my biggest opportunity for marketing my book on personal finances is through those sites, by posting links from the sites to my book on Amazon (did this for weeks ago), and mentioning the book in e-mails to the site members. In preparation, a couple of months ago, I found a great company that I can send my e-mails through. ( Vertical Response offers wonderful tools for creating your e-mails, managing your lists, and reporting the results. They'll also allow not-for-profits to send 10,000 e-mails free each month.)

I've spent a lot of time over the past week putting together an e-letter to the members of the youth ministry site and figuring out how to set up and send the e-mail. I have about 6000 e-mail addresses from the youth ministry site and sent out the first 2,000 e-letters yesterday.

The Underwhelming Response

So far, exactly 0 people have bought books from that e-mail! (As of last night, only one had even clicked through the link from the e-mail to look at the book.) I also have reason to believe that I've achieved no sales through people discovering my book on the sites and clicking through to order from there. Go figure.

[May 29 update: I sent an e-zine to my next list - about 3600 people, primarily teachers, who subscribed to my character education site. I offered a copy of the book at 60% off, or free if they're on budget restrictions, to review as a possible text. Two paid and one asked for a free one. If just one of these three decides to use it for a text...if they like it...if they give me a good blurb to use with other teachers...this would be a great payoff for the time and effort. But still, only three request a book out of 3600 educators?!?. Then again, how many of these actually teach a personal finance class?]

The Lesson

Throughout my life, I've occasionally attended seminars by super-successful people, who, with knowing glows about their faces, taught me seminars such as "Five Easy Steps to an Effective Ministry" or "Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Sell Tons of Books." But for me, nothing was ever easy and either I sucked at implementing the "Seven Sure-Fire Ways," or they simply didn't work for me.

Today, I'm more likely to teach a seminar entitled,

"Strategies That Worked for Me, and Just Might Work for You, but No Guarantees."

You can see why I'm not teaching many seminars. Everybody wants the "Sure-Fire" stuff.

The Lesson

I was a bit down last night, due to the "failure" of this effort. But after reflection, I've learned a wonderful thing. I'll go ahead and send out the rest of the e-mails. Perhaps this is the first time they've heard of the book and they'll make a decision later on. Maybe they need to hear about it from several sources. But if I see no real results in the e-letters, then the good news is, I don't have to do e-letters any more! One less thing to do, so that I can concentrate on things that actually work for me and my book.

I believe that successful marketing is finding out what works for my individual personality and gifts, combined with what works for my specific book.

Every book is different. Some can be positioned well on Amazon and do great without any further promotion. My book on church music, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, isn't setting any sales records, but it sells pretty steady, although I've done absolutely no marketing at all for the book in 14 years. Being a niche book, those who struggle with musical style in their churches are likely to find it by searching "Contemporary Christian Music" or "Christian Rock" on Amazon or through Google. This is very different from my financial book. A person searching "personal finance" on Amazon would find thousands of books on the subject and wouldn't likely find mine unless they searched the exact title. The difference in subject matter requires different approaches to marketing. [May 29 update: My financial book is now #3 on a search for "personal money management" on Amazon. I didn't think this could happen. I couldn't be happier to be wrong on this one!]

Every author is different. Some have bubbly personalities that shine on radio and TV and book signings. Others prefer writing articles, sending e-mails and blogging.

There are myriads of ways to sell books and probably no silver bullet that works for everyone.
Beware of what everybody says you have to do. Beware of doing only what makes the most sense. Figure out what works for you and your book, then pursue it with a passion!

The Encouragement

Yesterday evening, Cherie checked our voice mail and discovered that a pastor friend wants to know how to get my financial book by the case. This was totally unrelated to the e-mails I sent out. Go figure. Marketing is weird.

Post by J. Steve Miller, Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It.

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