"Okay, so you've told me 10,000 ways to market my book. But how can I decide which of those ways are likely to have the best payoff? I know every book's different, but what methods tend to work best and what often doesn't sell books at all?"
To help answer that question, a big part of this blog over the past year has been to track my efforts to sell my book, Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It. I've admitted grand schemes that produced no sales at all and lots of tiny efforts that apparently, taken together as a whole, are now producing significant sales on a regular basis.
So here's my 11 month summary, which I used for a consult with Brian Jud (guru at marketing books "Beyond the Bookstore) and Guy Achtzehn (formerly with Simon & Schuster; current president, The Marketing and Sales Group and The Promotional BookStore. Represents such brands as Black & Decker/DeWalt, Bulova, Coleman, Fuji and Ralph Lauren. Here's information on doing your own $49 consult with them. )
Enjoy Your Money!Bottom Line: Much of the ground work has been laid (glowing reviews, attractive and inviting Amazon presence, useful media page) and the book has proven itself to be a valuable resource (readers like it). I think we’ve arrived at a time that we can leverage these tools to seriously get the word out about this book. The big question: of all the available marketing methods, which will be the most effective to pursue, given limited time?
My literary agent contacted many traditional publishers, all of whom turned it down. She has relationships with many of these, so she asked them why. None of them had a problem with the quality of the book (one asked for a copy, should we get it published!). They felt that I lacked the platform – “financial books won’t sell unless you have a national radio show”. I respectfully disagreed, started my own publishing company and published print on demand through Booksurge (now CreateSpace) in March of 2009.
I sent galleys to all the major reviewers four months before publication, but got no reviews.
I pursued other reviewers and financial columnists, got a publicist who helped me with press releases, etc. Sales have continued to increase as a result (see next section for specifics).
Wholesalers: Available through Baker & Taylor (from March, 2009) and Ingram (by March, 2010), without a return policy. Thus, I don’t expect bookstores to be a main source of sales at this time. I could pay extra to have a return policy with Baker & Taylor, and probably with Ingram, but some advise not to.
Distributors: In December, the Follett Corporation ( http://www.follett.com/about.cfm ), a major player in distribution to young adult libraries (juvenile collections in public libraries, high school libraries), started receiving some orders and they contacted me. We signed a non-exclusive contract for them to distribute. They actually market their books, so I’m hopeful that this will be a solid outlet. I paid Premium Book Company (Through Brian Jud) to search for bulk sale opportunities. Nothing so far, but I know this is a long-term project.
Marketing So Far
What’s Working and What’s Not
What’s Working and What’s Not
#1: Amazon Sales: At first, since there were no big-time reviews, books only sold when I did some initiative: like letting Facebook friends know about it, or a review came out. But by the Fall, sales have begun taking a life of their own, even when I have no specific initiative going on. Apparently, word of mouth is taking over. Prior to December, it was selling a bit less than one per day. In December, it sold about 2 per day; in January, 3 per day. Perhaps we’ve hit a tipping point! Or maybe December and January are just good for financial books. Who knows?
#2: Bulk purchases for gifts: A CPA bought 100 copies (and promises to purchase more) to give away to graduating seniors. A pastor bought 30 copies to give to graduating seniors. A lady bought 30 copies to give as gifts. I have a personal relationship with all three of these, so people who don’t know me already may not be as eager to jump on it. Following up on this, I personally visited several CPA firms in my city and gave them a free copy to look over, in case they wanted to purchase in bulk at $10 each for Christmas gifts for their clients. None followed through, although some secretaries bought copies.
#3: Bulk purchases for speaking: I’ve spoken at two retreats where they bought the books for each of the students at $10 each – about 30 copies per retreat. I relate to students well and enjoy communicating with them. I’ve also spoken to adults in both churches and civic organizations, and can begin seeking out more opportunities if I decide to go this direction.
#4: Sales from Reviews: I found 30 major newspapers that have financial columns, e-mailed the columnists, sent free books to those who requested it. I got only one review, but it was from a syndicated financial columnist from the Oakland Tribune, and I got multiple sales immediately after he published. I don’t know how many direct sales have come from reviews, but I think that, even with no-platform reviewers, the word gets out. So far, I’ve sent out about 320 copies to people for review, to enter contests (I received a “best books” award), let teachers review it, see if a CPA would like to order in bulk, etc. I seldom send it to anyone without contacting them first and getting a request.
Bookstores sales: Two local bookstores haven’t sold any. A bookstore in my home town sells a few copies regularly. A local university bookstore has sold copies and pushes it during graduation. I don’t have a lot of confidence in this book’s ability to sell well in bookstores, if it’s not pushed by the owners. If a media wave hits, then maybe it will send people to the bookstores to buy it.
Stores that aren’t bookstores: Several non-bookstores (a coffee shop, a fitness center, a video rental store, a home office/copy place) have tried to sell it, with only a couple sold. But a Trade & Play Video Game store owner sold some copies saying that the secret is that parents look at it while they’re waiting in line and he recommends it. He seems pretty excited about it. (My theory was to put it in a place where parents bring their kids to buy stuff, and while the parents are wandering around with nothing to do, they’ll pick up the book and look it over.) I think the key here is to find store owners who’ll actually read the book and catch a passion for helping people by recommending it.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out): I’ve contributed to several articles, one of which resulted in a lot of traffic to one of my sites. As Murphy’s Law would have it, this was a few months before my book was published.
I was on two major Atlanta TV stations and sold none. (I bought the rights and put them on youtube, however. Also, I got a link from their site, which could be very important.)
I did one radio interview and sold none.
1. The book itself. People like it, but it doesn’t sell itself (I’m neither Donald Trump nor Dave Ramsey.)
2. My presence on Amazon (all 19 reviews are five-star!) and my Media Pages. All include great reviews:
Main Media Page: http://wisdomcreekpress.com/press_kits.html
Media Page Targeting Educators: http://wisdomcreekpress.com/personal_finance_text.html
Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Enjoy-Your-Money-Make-Invest/dp/098187567X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237211789&sr=8-2
3. Work ethic: I don’t have lots of time, but I can do something each day. I can set long term goals and execute.
4. Flexibility: If I find that something works better than what I planned, I change course.
5. Patience. I excel at plodding. I’m fully willing to do things for months that might produce multiple sales years from now. I see marketing this book as a life-long effort, so I’m willing to set decade-long goals.
6. I’m a voracious learner. If I don’t understand it the first time, I’ll get it on the 30th time. If you tell me that I need to read certain books to understand certain aspects of marketing, I can do that.
7. Speaking: Although I’m not a world-class speaker, young people and adults enjoy my presentations and give me great reviews. People ask me back. But I can’t get out a lot, due to family responsibilities (seven boys and caring for 104-year-old granny.)
8. Articles: This book lends itself to limitless articles. Lots of material, tons of research, lots of interesting angles.
9. Royalties: I get 35% of the retail price on each Amazon sale. At this point, this is my main avenue for sales. Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, there are no costs to me for this transaction (no mailing to Amazon, no yearly fees, etc.) To sell it myself, the book costs me about $4.60 to purchase it in bulk, including shipping to me. So I can still offer it at a 55% discount to wholesalers/distributors (if they pay postage, which Follett does), and make a profit.
10. My Websites and Newsletters: My not-for-profit, Legacy Educational Resources, encompasses two websites that I have full control over: www.character-education.info and www.youth-ministry.info . Together, these sites get about 900 unique visitors per day. My quarterly e-zine goes out to about 8,000 people who’ve signed up on these sites. Unfortunately, although many of these are educators, a relatively small amount would be actually teaching person finance, so links from these sites and mentions in the e-zines have produced insignificant sales.
11. Rights: I own the rights to the book, so that if I can publish booklets, excerpts, e-books, or whatever I please. If a company or book club wanted to order in bulk, I could price out an offset run and even personalize it for the company.
12. Social Media Savvy: I have three blogs, a twitter account (@enjoyyourmoney), am on Facebook, LinkedIn, and participate in several marketing forums. I don’t put a lot of time into these, but at least have a presence. In general, for me, I’m finding more value in “going where the people are already gathered,” rather than trying to gather people around me.
13. Website: www.enjoyyourmoney.org Open to input here.
Limited Marketing Budget. I’m small time. But since the book’s making money, I can devote that money to marketing.
Limited Time: I run a not-for-profit, am raising 7 boys, and care for my 104-year-old granny. I can do something every day to market my book, but I can’t devote full time.
Small Platform: I have no strong platform (radio show, syndicated column, etc.) except for the platform I’m building (leveraging bigger blurbs from smaller blurbs, etc.).
Geographically, I’m physically constrained. I can’t get physically far from home very often at this point in life. I can’t be a full-time travelling speaker, nor do I desire that life. I can speak once a month or so.
(Do you agree? Which of these would you prioritize? What do you specifically recommend for me to do?)
This is where I really need your input. There are so many ways to market this book, and I could devote a solid year to several of them. Which do you think would be the most effective to pursue (if any of them.) At present, this looks like a good way to prioritize. What do you think? And with the avenues you’d pursue, how specifically would you pursue them?
#1 – Shoot for multiple sales to schools, including home schoolers. How, specifically, would you do this?
• Try to get some initial classes to use it, so that these teachers could recommend it. Haven’t succeeded so far. (I give myself a “D” for poor follow-up.)
• Follett has a division that works with textbooks. Perhaps I can cultivate this relationship.
• Continue to develop my free, online resources to accompany the book at www.enjoyyourmoney.org .
• Find the most popular home school blogs and sites and newsletters and offer them a free book for review.
• Find where traditional educators go for advice on texts and try to get in there.
#2 – Offer the book to well traveled blogs/newsletters/sites/magazines on topics like personal finance, success, raising teens, etc. Not only does the word get out to their audiences, but many of these people are influential in other realms besides their newsletter (like recommending texts to their local schools). Ulrich’s and Gale’s Directories give me hundreds of these. I can also use Technorati, Google Blogs, etc.
#3 – Radio. So I’ve got this southern accent working against me, but I think I come across natural and enjoyable in the media. Since radio people are always wanting a new angle on personal finance (particularly during the recession), should I get in the Radio-TV Interview Report (RTIR)? I think that’s where Kiyosaki (Rich Dad/ Poor Dad) made his big break.
#4 – Speaking at Universities? There are all kinds of clubs and organizations there.
#5 – Offer it to not-for-profits and prison ministries and poverty stricken schools at my cost? Hey, I wrote the book to help people. And I get the feeling that the more I can get it out there, the more word of mouth will take over and the more people will actually pay for it.
#6 – Contact those who’ve written “So You Want To…” and “Listmania” Amazon lists on personal finance or personal success, offering them a free book if they’ll add it to their list, if they deem it worthy.
#7 – Military, including military families, military returning home, etc. Find the newsletters, blogs and sites they frequent. Many of these have had their finances done for them, their room and board provided. How can I help them make their transition back home? Do you have ideas here?
Again, I see hundreds of things I could do to market this book. But how do I narrow down the best use of my limited time and limited budget?