He was in his 50's and his steel-blue eyes could bore a hole through a plate of sheet metal.
“What do you mean I need to launch a $25,000 marketing campaign?” Rod's voice was steady, from years of practice leading teams for technology companies.
“Listen Bryan, I didn't sign up for this – press releases, blog posts, cow towing on social media, butt kissing on talk radio, writing jacket blurbs. I'm not a marketer. The only thing I'm going to write is my story and my ideas will sell themselves.”
I sighed, as I'd heard this story too many times to count. “I'm sure you can see that the work needs to be promoted,” I offered, thumbing the corner of his thick manuscript. The meeting had dragged on longer than I'd expected, and the chic seafood restaurant was now empty of lunchtime traffic.
“You're a promoter and that's what I'm evaluating you for, isn't it?” he quipped.
“Um, actually I'm a publisher,” I retorted. “You see, my job is to move books through distribution channels in order to exponentially expose readers to your writing. “
“Fine. Whatever. You can do that too. I'm just not going to do anything but write my stories. I've been leading teams for 20 years, and I'm not going to change that now.” He took a sip of his ice tea. “I'll leave the marketing up to you to figure out. My game is technology and leadership.”
The man was formidable. If it weren't for the fact that he was referred by a high-profile professional speaker, I would have called for the check and gone to my next meeting.
No, book marketing was definitely not his thing. While he went on with a voice of authority, I mused about how he would come across at a book signing.
But there was something about Rod that made me stay on. Maybe it was the quality of his work; it really was good.
“I'll see what I can do.”
Of Jangled Nerves and Disruption
I'm telling you about Rod because his situation is common among writers. In my work as a publisher, I usually deal with two types: those whose motto is “I breathe, therefore I speak,” and those whose motto is “I write, therefore I don't need to speak.” One is outgoing; the other is not. One is people oriented; the other is well qualified to work in a Forest Service fire watch tower – alone.
In both cases, their medium is words. And in both cases, “sale” is a four-letter word. Sales and marketing are the last things that either of them wants to think about. They just want to work with the words they love.
Unfortunately, a love for words just isn't enough to get a finished book into the hands of readers. In fact, as I've said so often before, writing your book is only 5% of the work involved.
Unfortunately for authors like Rod, writing is all they know. The good news is that I've got a crew of about 30 people who handle the tasks of editing, book design, sales and distribution. So many self-published authors try to take on all of these tasks at once and succeed at only a few – if any. It's just too much for one person to master.
I think young authors are a little less buffeted by the disruptive storms of change and technology than those who are more seasoned. But anyone trying to keep up with a market that has changed as radically as publishing is in for a bad case of jangled nerves – as evidenced by the number of Create Space authors that cross my desk on a daily basis. The average book launched last year only sold 500 copies, which is far below the expectations of people like Rod.
Selling the Sizzle
When my team and I take on a new project, the first thing we ask is, “Who's the audience?” My job is to find authors who want to be published but have made strides towards the enormous task of selling their work to the public. It starts with assessing the playing field and crafting a story that resonates with a hungry audience. How this story gets told is up to each author.
Here are a couple successful book marketing practices to get you started:
- Blog Tours – provide articles to high traffic bloggers
- Radio shows – guest appearances on local or national radio shows
- TV appearances – many New York Times best-selling authors get their start with appearances on Good Morning America
- Social media – this is a great vehicle to build a big audience at a low cost
- Bookstore signings – bookstores and libraries are always a fun place to talk about your book
- Speaking engagements – there is nothing more effective than sharing your ideas with a crowd to generate book orders
- Advertising – it has never been easier than today to purchase advertising to a highly exact audience. We have partnerships with several email newsletter publishers that still get amazingly high response-rates with readers
- Partnerships – professionals in this business build relationship with others who have large audiences, effectively structured deals with the philosophy “I'll scratch you back if you scratch mine”
What I love about my job is that I help get words and ideas into the hands of readers around the world – readers who wouldn't have access to these ideas without easy access to a book.
Whether it's through libraries in Liberty, Kansas or on Kindles in the Amazon jungle, the authors we publish have a reach that wouldn't have been possible for them otherwise. It's great to see them realize their goals, and the quarterly bottom line shows how effective a publisher can be in the distribution food chain.
For authors like Rod, a publishing relationship is a godsend. Now his business philosophies can be enjoyed everywhere, and his book sales show it. That's something any author can sink their teeth into.