Monday, May 23, 2016

What You're Missing When Your Books Don't Sell

Drake Valley Press instituted a new policy this past year: the author must submit a marketing plan before we will consider publishing their book - even if they've just written a book that deserves to be on every bestseller list.


Because at least half of a book's success depends on marketing. Bestsellers don't get that way on their own; books don't fly off the shelves without someone pushing it, and word-of-mouth has to begin somewhere.

Marketing has changed substantially in the 30-plus years that I've been in this industry. And to see just how dramatic the changes have been, simply look at your own life and the way in which you experience advertisements.

Television doesn't have us rushing home so we don't miss our favorite shows, and gone are the days in which we were captive to television commercials. The older generations record their programming and fast-forward through the commercials; the younger generations watch more YouTube than television.

Newspapers were once the mainstay of the news from local to regional to international. Now advertisers are experiencing far fewer people seeing their print ads, because they're all on the Internet, and most are getting their news through social media.

Magazines are increasingly read online, the printed article now augmented by instant feedback through forums, videos and interactive pages.

You may have noticed a substantial decrease in "junk mail" over the last few years; that's because what used to clog your mail box is now in a mail box of a different kind - online.

The fact is that the Internet is the frontier for all marketing efforts. And if you don't believe me, take a look at your Facebook feed and scroll through those Twitter tweets. Look up your local newspaper online and see if you can escape the advertisements on the virtual page. Run any search and click through to the websites and tell me how many do not contain advertising.

To be a successful author in today's marketplace means you must find out where your fans go and you need to be present there and ready to interact. If you've written a series set against the backdrop of the music industry, where are music fans hanging out? What are they reading online? What sites do they visit? Who are they on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn?

First, the author needs to capture their market's attention. 

Then they need to interact with them. Make their websites more inviting; the same old home page week after week, year after year, is boring. And it won't get people coming back. Blog about subjects that tie into your book, and don't just blog on your own - connect with websites that need bloggers like you.

Don't send out tweets and Facebook posts asking or begging people to read your book. Who does that? Does your local grocery beg you to buy milk at their store? Do you see constant tweets from your pharmacy asking you to buy your prescriptions there? Look at your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Who is begging people to buy their product other than authors? 

Nobody. Why? Because it doesn't work.

I want to read a book because I expect to get something out of it. Maybe it will take me to an exotic location. Maybe it will be a story of survival (I'm particularly fond of those), or it will open my eyes to something in the world I would never otherwise experience.

But I'm not going to read a book because an author is begging me through social media.

To sell your books, you have to think like a consumer. What does your book offer to them? Why should they shell out money to read it? Tell me what third party reviewers have said; tell me something that grips my attention. Give me a reason to give your social media presence a closer look. And then give me a reason to hop over to amazon or go to my friendly book store and buy it.

Think outside the box. Observe your own surfing habits and see where you can find your ideal audience and connect with them.

And one more thing: I don't need for an author to tell me whether they're marketing their books. I can tell with a glance at their book sales.

Stop marketing and your books stop selling. It's as simple as that.

- Don Freeman