Monthly Archives: March 2013

Marketing the author, not the book

When I began writing fiction, I was reluctant to focus my marketing efforts on me (the author). I didn’t think I had the marketing cache’ to sell my book, The Pirate of Panther Bay. Pirates were cool, but I didn’t see myself as a personality that could make my book successful. Believe me, this wasn’t because I couldn’t talk about the subject; I teach for a leaving, so I am quite comfortable filling space with my voice, even on subjects I don’t know much about! 

Instead, I focused my marketing efforts on the content. I had, and still have, really cool, interesting content: a girl pirate captain who was an ex-slave, fast paced high-seas action, high-stakes plot points; romance, and realism. The problem was at the time that I didn’t have a marketing platform. I didn’t have access to the pirate blogs or communities. I didn’t have a marketing footprint in the genre or in schools where I saw a natural market. The Pirate of Panther Bay was my first novel. So, I focused on the cool characters.
I’m beginning to change my tune, in part because of the insights provided by Sam Henrie, CEO of my publisher. In Wheatmark’s Marketing Letter (March 2013), Sam talks about the “Secrets of Sharks,” a riff on the TV show Shark Tank where venture capitalists seek out and fund new projects. As Sam explains:
“The sharks bet on people over ideas. They consistently pass on product and service ideas they love and believe in because they don’t believe in the business owner’s passion or ability to market and sell–or sometimes simply because they don’t like them. Readers are the same: you’ll have to sell them on the author before you can sell them on the book.”
I think Sam is right on the money. Readers need to connect to the author before they buy the book. The same is true for book buyers at bricks and mortar book stores, and librarians, and teachers. 
I’ve seen this in operation over the past year where I have been coordinated a book sales booth each Saturday for the Tallahassee Writer’s Association at Downtown Marketplace. The authors that sell the most titles, in every case, are the ones that are volunteering in the booth. They are there to connect with potential readers. Many of the titles that are sold without the author in the booth are purchased by readers who know or are familiar with the authors. This is true even though the volunteers are actively selling all the books in the booth, and many of those books have great content. In fact, for the fall 2012 period, one author accounted for 20% of the sales, and that author was the one who consistently manned the booth throughout the fall. The correlation is remarkable. 
Notably, the class adoptions for my books have all come from personal relationships I have built with teachers, not anonymous marketing materials such as flyers or advertisements. 
Thus, my marketing platform ultimately has to be about me, the author. The very personal relationships I build with readers will ultimately determine my success. I’ll have more to say on this soon in the context of my books on bullying and self-defense, A Warrior’s Soul and the award-winning Renegade.
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For book sales: The sum is greater than the parts

So, here’s the question for the hour: Do I really need to publish 10 books to be successful? Yes! No! Maybe! Confused? Most authors are, or shouldn’t be surprised. 

Of course, success depends in part on how you define your goals. If your goal is to put your story on paper so that friends and family can read it, then publishing one book is a success. And, for the record, achieving that goal is a significant success.
If your goal is to be commercially successful, then your going to have to do a lot more work. And multiple books help. In fact, I believe multiple books will be essential for most authors if this is a goal. You may not need ten, but you will need more than one. (I’ve discussed this before here.)

The reality is that more books beget more success. Many of the most commercially successful writers have written a lot of books. Usually, it’s not just one or two or three. They’ve written five, ten or more. The first couple of books may have been commercial successes, but that might mean the book covers it’s publication costs even though the earnings to the author might not cover even a modest vacation.  
But, if your goal is to earn enough money to support yourself as a full-time writer, ten or more books is not that far off. In fact, it may be a necessary condition. I think sci-fi writer Doug Dandridge is a useful case study here. Doug quite his regular job to devote himself to full time writing in 2013. But, Doug couldn’t do this with just a couple of books out. In fact, Doug now has 14 books out and available through amazon.com. 
But, Doug’s success isn’t based on a “shot gun” approach to writing and publishing. He’s focused on a particular genre and writes books that appeal to similar audiences. In fact, Doug’s income does not depend on one book. Or two books. His income is generated from a portfolio of books that creates synergy with his intended readers. While at any given time one book may be selling hundreds of copies (or even dozens), his financial success depends on having a wide range of products that appeal to an increasingly broad reader base in his genre. His satisfied customers can continue to buy other books, leveraging the sales of one book into two or three. Check out some of Doug’s insights into his sales numbers for various books here, here, and here.
I also believe an important part of Doug’s success is that these books are in press. His readers and fans don’t have to wait to buy another book. 
This also explains why publishers like series, and often try to sign talented authors to multi-book deals. The sum is greater than the parts in books sales and marketing. 
So, for authors interested in making money, more is indeed better. 
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