How long should you plan to market your book?
The answer is: you should never stop.
New authors, in particular, often become frustrated when their books don't catapult to the New York Times bestseller list within a week of its release. By the time it's been out a month or two and there aren't lines around the block waiting for the book store to open, they're tempted to throw in the towel.
But in reality, the marketing and promotional campaign should just be getting started.
Marketing and promotion is always trial-and-error, regardless of the product you're selling. I am old enough to remember the first commercials for Coca-Cola products. Why aren't they the same today as they were fifty years ago? Because times change. People change. And what worked last year or last month might not work today. It's why companies employ advertising and marketing professionals who are constantly reassessing their place in the market, running sales figures and tweaking the ways in which they try to reach the consumer.
With books, the author assumes the bulk of marketing and promotion, unless you're already famous and have a built-in audience. And even if you've already been on the New York Times bestseller list, or you have achieved fame and fortune in politics or television or the movies, it's no guarantee that your campaign will roll out flawlessly.
Writers are by nature solitary creatures. In order to be successful in this business (and books are a business) you have to be willing to try different things, assess the effects, critique the campaigns, and adjust accordingly.
Marketing is not a sprint. It's a long-distance marathon.
Some of the ways in which our most successful authors have marketed include:
1. Social networking - connecting with their fans and readers. What works one day may not work the next, so we suggest using several - Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, for example - and ramping up in one area while assessing the sales during that period.
2. Blogging is another way of connecting with fans and readers. Drawing people to your blog can be the challenge, which is where social networking can play a part, or teaming with other authors in a Blog Hop.
3. Virtual Book Tours are online "appearances" that can include author interviews, guest blogs, Q&A's, as well as excerpts from the book the author is promoting, and information about the author himself/herself. It raises the author's profile in areas where potential fans might not yet know of them, and it helps to connect the author with other authors and even the tour operators or blog sites. It can also drive traffic to the author's blog, and through social networking, it can increase the number of followers, readers and fans.
4. Personal appearances can be anything from signing books in a book store to speaking at a library or a book event. The books should always be available for purchase on the spot. But in addition to direct sales, authors can establish valuable relationships with book sellers, librarians and readers who will continue to recommend their books long after the event is over.
5. Traditional media includes television appearances, radio spots, newspapers and magazines. We've seen authors pick up the phone and call their local television stations - or email them - and get valuable air time. Many news outlets will even post the interview online so the author can link to it afterward.
Radio spots are even easier, as there usually is no travel requirement. As long as the author has access to a landline (mobile phones often create distortion on a radio show) they can telephone at a designated time and get anything from a five-minute interview to half an hour or more. Some of the shows are telecast nationwide, and again, many of them are available online afterward.
Authors love to write and a great way to get publicity is to write their own story for the local newspaper or a magazine. The news media then has the option of simply cutting and pasting the story or following up with a more extensive interview and article.
The most successful authors use a combination of all of the above.
Of course, it isn't feasible for an author to remain on the road year-round participating in personal appearances. So they stagger their events and in between, they use the Internet or traditional news media to continue to raise awareness of their book.
And how long should they continue to promote their book?
If they have written only one book, they should continue to promote it until sales have dwindled to less than fifty copies per year. They can always revive them later, particularly if the subject matter becomes a hot news topic.
If they continue to write - which is what we recommend for all our authors - they should promote the current book until the next book is released. As they participate in personal appearances, they should request that their backlisted books be available for sale as well as their most current book. With each book that is released, it provides the author with the opportunity to connect with a larger audience. And once the readers love one book, they'll be looking for other books by the same author.
The worst disservice an author can do to themselves and to their books is to give up too early. By throwing in the towel or becoming frustrated in the first three to six months of a book's release to the point of giving up on the publisher, the book and themselves, they ensure a problematic career - or a career that never manages to get off the ground.
When one thing doesn't seem to be working, the most successful authors are able to step back, detach themselves emotionally, and assess why it isn't working. The main reason is that the author simply is not connecting with their target market. More on that next week, so stay tuned.