Mother in the Middle
HarperCollinsPublish and Peddle . . .or Perish: A Sales Guide to Selling your Book. A few years ago Your Business Blogger advised a number of academic authors on the marketing of books. I compared the professors with peddlers:
The copier sales guy drives onto your campus and glides into the reserved vendor parking zone.
He’s got 2/3rds of your IQ points, but makes three times the money, and he’s the one with the assigned parking space.
The university professor published a book. And is really smarter than the copier guy, maybe.
But the guy in a tie has got an expense account and company car.
So what’s the difference?
It is not enough these days to produce and publish, it also needs to be purchased. With your book your CV will be expanded, scholarship advanced, your work cited or your tenure ticket punched.
But to change the world, filthy lucre must change hands.
So how many books have to be sold? A university press will need 800 book sales to barely break even. A civilian publisher, absent the university subsidy, would need higher sales to cover your book advance and their higher cost of capital as well as PR costs.
Work to sell 800 and you will be a hero. A marketing mind set of simple daily behaviors will get you past that 800 and on to 8,000. Pick up a pen . . .get ready to pick up the phone — following are ten action items:
1. Feature your book on your web site and blog.
2. Issue a press release.
3. Include on your syllabus.
4. Write your own copy.
5. Submit your work to your network.
6. To sell 800 books, write 800 words.
7. Rap with the Reps.
8. Schedule a book signing.
9. Memorize your 8 second sound cites.
10. Book hook for bookers and lookers.
credit: Policy Review1. Feature your book on your web site and blog. Marketing consists of reach, frequency and awareness. Your web site can have the greatest reach of your marketing plan. Include the image of your cover, an introduction, perhaps a first chapter and blurbs. Google yourself — now — and register if your site doesn’t appear. Also place and link your book on others’ web sites. Ask your publisher or publicist to load and link with Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
2. Issue a press release. A good press release will tell people how FAB your book is — the features, advantages and benefits. Remember, your book is a commodity; a bar of soap, or a piece of real estate to be packaged, promoted, positioned, priced, and peddled.
Features — what it is, a description
Advantages — what it does
Benefits — answers the “So what?” question. Faster; Better; Cheaper.
The press release will include a description of the intended audience, a short bio of the author, and previous books. Your release should be one page and be newsworthy.
Don’t bury your lead, follow a hierarchy with the most important point first, progressing to least important — when cutting for space, newspaper editors edit from the bottom up.
Be sure to use the quotes of experts commenting on your work that you worked hard to get.
Have your institution send out the press release and get an electronic copy posted to your web site. Then email an alert to your Christmas card list.
A typical Congressman will have 1500 names on his holiday list, you don’t need quite these numbers to compete in a different kind of popularity contest. A good outlook on your Outlook will improve your outreach.
3. Include on your institution’s syllabus. You’ve already done this, of course. But with your book on your syllabus, and all your courses posted on your web site — will help you turn up on search engines. Remember to remind your faculty friends, and enemies, to include your book on the reading lists for other courses.
This is the easiest method of getting to 800 sales without setting up a book table in the grad lounge (although this might be a good idea).
4. Write your own copy. You wrote the book, now write the Cliff Notes. This can be the most challenging item, like writing your own obituary. If you want a good book review, a good blurb, a good softball question, write it yourself and give it away. To whoever owns the ink or the mike.
You do the work, they get the credit. Just like a typical committee meeting. This is the only way your book will be done right.
Your next introduction to the Kiwanis Club will have the Master of Ceremonies holding up your book and reading a glowing two minute introduction of your brilliant accomplishments. . . that you wrote and handed to him under the table.
The MC looks smooth; you sell books. History was very good to Winston Churchill because he wrote it himself.
5. Submit your work to your network. Press or media kits should be assembled and sent with a handwritten cover note to the radio, network and cable outlets. Your kit should include the press release, bio, articles about you, your blurbs and any reviews, publicity photo and the book itself if appropriate.
Use excerpts of your book if your supply is limited. Solicit and include testimonials; what readers are saying about your book. Include frequently asked questions and answers as show prep for interviewers, fact sheet about the book, ISBN, and number of pages.
Also include clip art of your book cover and your web address. All of this info should be on your web site with a high resolution photo. Have a short video clip ready.
After spilling your own barrel of ink, go meet some people. It’s not what you know . . .it’s not who you know . . .it’s who knows you.
It’s not whose business cards you have, but who has yours. Go insert your card into some one else’s rolodex.
1. Make yourself able, available and willing as a speaker to any church group.
2. Give talks to specialized associations and civic organizations.
3. If your book is really controversial, hold a press conference.
4. Alert your professional associations and alumni organizations.
5. Lecture at the “.org’s,” on-line education entities and for profit companies.
6. To sell 800 books, write 800 words. No one has time to write a short letter. But a short opinion editorial with your byline as author with your book title is a good leveraged hit. A guideline in advertising tells us that a buyer needs seven exposures to a product before making a purchase decision.
There is help in getting this marketing frequency. Start with the people who will make money off you. . .the sales reps.
7. Rap with the Reps. While you’re schmoozing with the big dogs reviewing strategy and marketing, be sure to remember tactics and sales. Meet the publisher’s sales manager and her sales reps.
These are the guys with the feet on the street who do the wholesale selling to the bookstores and major accounts. “Your” sales team will recommend your title(s) if they know that you are working as hard as they do.
And they will know you are working because you will tell them about the events you are scheduling.
8. Schedule a book signing. The fastest and best endorsement is the personal recommendation through word of mouth. Call your favorite bookstore and offer to speak. About your book.
We live in an information age, run on a service economy where books are bought on line.
But for something really important like, say, graduation ceremonies, real people show up.
There is a greater chance that books will be sold In Real Life in a face-to-face close.
And sign every book possible. These count as sales; they might be sold, they might end up in the remainder bin, but such “altered” books are not sent back to the publisher.
Work with your bookstore host; attention to detail will sell. For example, smart bookstores would arrange for child care when attending a book-signing about motherhood. Collaborate with the book store on alerting the local media and the .edu’s and student newspapers in town.
This is leg work that your publicist might do — a big outfit like Planned Television Arts, a division of Ruder Fin, would need $15K to get started, and some $3K/city to haul you around. More likely, it will have to be you.
Well, even with their help, it still has to be you. As good a job as they do, your publisher will expect you to do most of the PR yourself. Much like your dean.
The real value of booking signings is that this shows your publisher that you are serious about selling. The publisher will push books into the stores; you will pull them out — or sign them out.
Your signature can telegraph an added value in addition to being a coveted autograph. In this new age of electronic mail messages the handwritten note and envelope is nearly unknown.
Be sure to thank the bookstore. With stye. Your untyped thank you note, fountain pen on fine paper, will be rare, appreciated and suitable for framing, an artifact from a more civilized era: an author who does the little things.
And can say things little — in 8 seconds . . .
9. Memorize your 8 second sound cites. Big books should be broken down into sound bites made simple and memorable for citations. The broader the audience, the simpler the message.
When FLOTUS Nancy Reagan was speaking to 8 million potheads, she used three words: “Just say no.”
When speaking to the 800,000 elite readers of the Wall Street Journal use 800 words.
When talking to the four million viewers of Politically Incorrect, use 8 seconds.
And when speaking to a large, large audience — just like a survey class — cartoons illustrate your theme. 800 pound gorillas write in 800 word articles and speak in 8 second sound bites.
10. Book hook for bookers and lookers. Every show producer has a box to fill for a segment.
When a print reporter contacts you about a story he’s working on, he’s got a box to fill.
You’ve got a (simple) hook to grab them. You fit in the box. They already have the story written. You fit in the box. Your byline on the printed page or the small screen: “author of…”
Remember: your audience has an eighth-grade education. It’s got to be fast. And easy.
Your visual hook will be your book cover. It should be designed to be seen at a distance by browsers in bookstores. A cover gets eight seconds before a customer will pick up the book or pass. A well-designed cover is easily seen on a TV monitor. Make sure your publisher has run your book jacket by the sales team. People really do judge a book by its cover.
Numbers count. This is your report card. Every day pick one of the action behavior items listed and pick up the phone; pick up a pen and get started. Do this and your work will make a difference, even if you don’t get a reserved parking space.
Persistence every day will pay.
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Thank you (foot)notes:
See media calendar selling Charmaine’s book on extended entry.
Planned Television Arts, PTA, a division of Ruder Finn, one of the top publicity firms in the world, is where Tom Peters and Charmaine go for PR.
Not all good books come out of the academy. See Brian Gongol’s 10 Big Answers You Won’t Get From Politicians.
Don Surber has best Saturday posts.
Robin Good has more for on-line publishing.