Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Marketing: The Priority of Getting Reviews - Part I

The Need to Prioritize

I've read about 15 books on marketing, particularly on marketing books. I've found thousands of ways to market them, some of which will work better for some books than others. One thing I'm trying to narrow down - out of the thousands of things I could be doing to market my book, where should I put most of my time and effort? My time is limited. What's my best bet for actually selling my books? What keeps ringing through, book after book, as a no-brainer for book marketing? Is it:
  • TV?
  • Radio?
  • Develop a popular blog?
  • Collect a killer e-mail list?
  • Do book signings?
  • Interact in social networking settings such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkIn?
  • Send out regular press releases?
The dizzying list could go on and on. And for any given book, just one of these strategies (like radio) might be the key to sparking the word of mouth that results in a major seller.

Why Prioritize Getting Reviews?

But I'm thinking that, especially for nonfiction, getting reviews stands out as one of, if not THE most effective avenue to get the word out and actually sell books. I believe that all of the book marketing literature I read recommends this approach heavily. Here are some quotes:

"There is no question about whether reviews work. We had more than 500 full-price orders for one of our books when a review by a syndicated columnist broke." "Getting a buzz the result you desire. Do it by soliciting advance blurbs, getting reviews everywhere, tenaciously pursuing feature stories off the book pages, giving aways tons of free review and reading copies. A complimentary book is your cheapest and most effective advertising." (Marilyn & Tom Ross, Jump Start Your Book Sales)

"Send out review copies. Send out lots of them. Send out more than you think you should. Hit every major newspaper and magazine which you think might be at all interested in the subject of your book. In most cases this means sending out somewhere between 300 and 500 review copies. Don't be stingy about sending out review copies. For every hundred copies you send out, you'll get perhaps ten reviews. And those ten reviews will bring you anywhere from twenty to one hundred direct sales and many more indirect sales. Even at a conservative estimate, you'll receive 200 orders for every 100 copies you send out. That's cheap advertising." (John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, p. 138)

Why Do Reviews Work so Well?

1) Solomon advised, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." When I tell others about my book on Facebook or Twitter, that's me tooting my own horn. I'm suspect. Of course I think my book's great. Of course I want people to buy it. It's more persuasive when others talk about my book, than when I talk about my book. People perceive the recommendation of others, particularly experts, as more objective and more believable.

2) These experts have followings. Rather than trying to gather a following (e.g., creating a popular blog), go where the people are already gathered. It's generally more effective and easier to get the top thought leaders talking about your book, than trying to become the recognized thought leader in your field and trying to sell your books through that platform.

3) For each field, there are tons of outlets for review. In general, think beyond book review sites. Think of people who write regularly on your topic. In the field of personal finance, for example, there are hundreds of newsletters, hundreds of magazines, hundreds of related blogs and sites, hundreds of related organizations. When you think more broadly, it's not just the publications that target personal finance; Ladies Home Journal runs articles on personal finance. Home school publications recommend books on personal finance. These leads could keep me promoting for years.

I'll follow up this post with posts on finding reviewers and how to approach them.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Writer Insights from Anita Renfroe

Anita Renfroe is a humorist who's been described as "Erma Bombeck meets Carol Burnett, with a bit of Weird Al Yankovic thrown in." As the key note speaker at last week's Georgia Writers Association conference, she kept us laughing as she passed on insights gained from writing seven books. Here are my takeaways (sometimes expounding upon her suggestions):
  • The last five years have turned the publishing industry on its head. The playing field has been leveled. Now it's more "Wild West" out there. More and more, readers and viewers are "voting" their favorite videos and books to greater exposure. Regular people can suddenly catapult to the top. Find ways to take advantage of these tools.

    One day, Anita's children encouraged her to put a video of her "William Tell Mom" presentation on YouTube. People loved it, forwarding it to friends, so that soon, 1.5 million people had viewed it. Then, Good Morning America came knocking, catapulting her to 200 speaking engagements per year.

  • Prior to this, she was primarily in a coccoon, taking care of her family and serving her husband in ministry. Don't worry if you're still in that coccoon stage. It's those real life experiences that give you the writing material for the rest of your life. Relish the stage your in.

  • It took time to realize that she had a talent for humor. She wanted to be a musician, but people kept telling her she was funny. Listen to other people's comments. Sometimes they can see your talents better than you can recognise your own.

  • You don't have to be in love with the writing process. She enjoys "having written," not the writing. While writing for a deadline, she can get excited about doing anything that has nothing to do with her current project. Use "the power of avoidance" to write other stuff for the future.

  • The more you write, the better you get. Her first publisher told her that most artists have to write 1000 bad songs before they write a good one. Keep writing and get those "bad songs" out of your system.

  • Work on your people skills. In the publishing industry, it's all about relationships. Nobody wants to work with a freak. If you put your manuscript into an editor's hand, but you don't come across like a nice person who'd be enjoyable to work with, your manuscript may never get read. Publishers don't want to work with writers who won't work with them on improvements, deliver manuscripts late, won't listen to their suggestions, whine every time they have to rewrite something.

    So, if you go down in your basement to write and pop your head out once a year to relate to other humans, you'll probably find difficulty getting your stuff published.
Thanks Anita, for an insightful, enjoyable presentation!