Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Marketing Takeaways from Ning Discussion

I've been following Ning discussion in their Book Marketing Network entitled "What's the Biggest Challenge with Your Book?" Many excellent ideas have been shared over the last couple of years. I decided to try to consolidate the ideas, which come from authors and book marketing experts and publishers.

1. My book won't sell itself. I, the author, need to alert the world to it's existence and show them a way to purchase it.

2. I need a distribution system (e.g., through Amazon, traditional distributors, etc.). Typically, people won't turn out in droves to buy from my website.

3. Get with a major wholesaler, like Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Bookstores tend to order through them. I need a return policy with the wholesaler, since book stores expect it.

4. Try lots of things to discover what works for me and my book. Every author is different; every book is different. Thus, what flops for one book may fly for another. When I find something that works, keep pursuing it.

5. Expect lots of failures and dead ends. It's part of the business. If one bookstore turns me down, learn from it and proceed to the next store. Ask what distribution channels they use. Ask what kinds of books they like to stock. The next manager might be delighted to take my book. "In 'The Last Lecture', Randy Pausch reminds us that brick walls are made to separate those of us who really want it from those of us who don't want it enough."

6. Reviews sell books. Get lots of them. Sending out books for review is one of the cheapest and most productive ways to promote books. Example: The MidWest Book Review welcomes small publishers and self-published books. Find other reviewers, particularly by finding publications (like trade journals) and columnists who write on my topic.

7. Do five things every day to promote my book. Most of those efforts will come to nothing, but cumulatively, that's 35 initiatives each week, 140 per month, over 1800 per year. With those numbers, people will take notice and channels will open. In a real sense, it's a numbers game, so do the numbers. It's okay to stumble a lot. It's okay to do things that produce absolutely no sales at all. But doing something trumps doing nothing.

8. Have a Website and/or a blog. There needs to be a place for people to come, meet me, hang out, and find out more about my books. When I send press releases, curious media will check my online press kit to find other reviews, interviews, topics for discussion, etc. Over time, I just might build a following. If I provide a way for them to leave me their e-mail address (to get a newsletter, etc.) then I can alert them to my next book.

9. Book signings aren't dead. The ones that work tend to be the ones where I go to talk about a felt need - some authors might talk about how to deal with an alcoholic family member or how to manage their money. Even if I don't sell many books, I'm likely to meet valuable connectors. One person does signings with a group of authors, which makes it easier for people to walk up and start a conversation.

10. Speak at meetings where people are already gathered. Rather than trying to gather a crowd, speak at civic organizations and to university organizations. They do their own advertising and have their regulars who show up every week. If you're terrified to speak before groups, that's pretty normal. Start small, learn from each outing, and see if it works for you. You might surprise yourself and end up enjoying it.

11. Consider doing a "virtual book tour." Get help from someone experienced in these. "You may want to contact Penny Sansevieri at or Chris Anderson (editor of Wired Magazine). Both have companies that help with virtual book tours." - Bill Frank

12. Participate in web-based discussions where people already gather.

  • Go to Google Ad Words Keywords Tool to find many phrases that people search concerning my topic.
  • Sign up for Google Alerts about your topic. Experiment with several of the key words/phrases I discovered. When it alerts me to an interesting article or blog that speaks on my topic, thank the writer for the article and add a comment, signing off with my name, the name of my book, and a link to my book on Amazon.
  • Go to Technorati. Use my key words/phrases to find the top-ranked (most incoming links) blogs about my topic. Lots of people typically read and participate in these blogs. Start interacting and sign off as above. On some popular blogs, I may want to ask the administrators if they'd like a free copy of your book to review. (They may ask for another copy as a give-away.)

13. Think outside of the bookstore. In non-bookstores, I'm not competing with other books. See if they will sell my books on consignment. "Leave fliers or bookmarks in hospital emergency rooms, doctors offices, dentist, etc. Hotels even let you advertise your book."

14. Give yourself time. Some say it takes as much as three years for a book to catch on. If my book isn't selling well after a year, welcome to the club. Am I still doing my five marketing thingies per day? Conversations start and die if not tended. It's my responsibility to keep the word of mouth going.

15. Keep learning! Read books (Bill Frank's recommended list is here.) Participate in these discussion groups. Readers don't choose books simply because they are well-written. If I want my books to sell, I need to study the industry, which means to learn, learn, learn. "Being knowledgeable about the book business is the best way to be successful in the book business. Armed with knowledge, you can determine what is the best way to go for you and your book." - Bill Frank, Aug. 27.

16. Nominate Bill Frank for any appropriate rewards. He's developed the best conversation I've seen about this topic. The content of this discussion is invaluable and should be read by all authors. If he writes a book on book marketing, I want it. He's humble, knowledgeable and patient with our questions. One practical way we can help him is to go to his recommended book list and check it as helpful (Note: "Rate It" in the right column of his Listmania List).

Bill, if you're reading this, we'd like to know any other way we can assist you.

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