Comparing Book Marketing to Movies

Whether you watch a movie in the theatre or on a DVD player, it always begins with a few previews. If you don’t like these, you can try showing up a few minutes late to the movie or fast forwarding through it. (Ugh! But some of those clever DVD players won’t let you hit the skip button. Who’s in control of your own equipment? How do they get away with forced advertising like that? Do they really want you to be frustrated two hours before you go post your movie review online?).

The preview helps to create buzz for a movie.

You’re not going to put a preview at the beginning of your book, though. That’s the valuable Look Inside that will make or break a deal when potential shoppers check it out; advertisements aren’t going to entice sales. But you can offer a short sample at the end of your book: Readers who enjoy your book enough to finish it might appreciate this, as long as the sample is a tiny percentage of the overall content.

You can also make a video preview of a book and post it on your website, YouTube, fan page, AuthorCentral, etc. The preview can help you create buzz for your books.

Another thing you see at the beginning of a movie is the warning not to copy it, charge fees to let others watch it, distribute it, etc. Movies also indicate the title, star actors and actresses, director, producer, etc. in the beginning, and full credits at the end.

The book’s version of this is the copyright page. Movies put an insane amount of creativity and effort into such front matter. They have a clever way of making the opening credits very entertaining. Traditionally published books have very detailed copyright pages, sometimes with design marks; they look very professional.

No reader is thinking, “Let’s check out the copyright page to see what it looks like.” This is why most indie authors underestimate the importance of this page.

Every reader passes by the copyright page and other front matter on the way to the first chapter. Potential customers see this as they explore the Look Inside. The traditionally published book has a very professional looking copyright page, often with a few professional, simple, relevant design images. This shows the reader that the book is professionally done.

Indie books often just have one line indicating the copyright; several indie eBooks have this information in the back matter in order to increase the amount of content shown in the Look Inside. You can make your book truly stand out by having very professional looking front matter. If you have enough content (i.e. more than a novella), you’ll be able to include the copyright page in the front matter and still have plenty of content to show in the Look Inside.

The cover makes the first impression. The blurb makes the second impression. And the Look Inside is the last impression the buyer gets before deciding whether to Buy It or Skip It. Part of this Look Inside is a great beginning in Chapter 1 and part is the impression that the front matter makes.

Many movies get a lot of great marketing from previews in theatres and on DVD’s, movie posters displayed in theatres, word-of-mouth recommendations from the first wave of moviegoers, numerous movie critics, and advertising.

The big difference between books and movies is that if you go down to the theatre, there might be 10 to 20 new release movies to choose from or a couple hundred new release DVD’s to rent. There are many, many more books to choose from.

It takes a lot more money to produce a movie than to publish a book, and there are many more people involved. There are indie movies just like there are indie books, but there are many, many more indie books than movies.

What does this mean?

Advertising isn’t as cost-effective for books as it is for movies. It’s much more challenging to market a book – especially an indie book – compared to a movie. It’s more difficult to create buzz for a book. It’s not as easy to get book critics with a large following to review your book. You can’t just put up a book poster at the bookstore. You have to help your target audience find your book; it won’t just be among a few to choose from.

You can find reviewers. There are many bloggers doing reviews. Find some who reviews books similar to yours, and plan to wait patiently for what may be a very long turnaround.

You can spread the word about your book. Interact with people in your target audience. Memorable personal interactions where you don’t sound like an advertisement can leave a positive impression with members of your target audience. Figure out where to meet your target audience; the answer is quite valuable to you, so this is well worth contemplating.

A movie premier helps to stimulate interest and reviews. The book’s version of this is the advance review copy.

Don’t you hate it when you go to see a movie and the only good parts you had already seen in the preview? That’s why your book’s blurb shouldn’t give parts of the story away. An effective fiction blurb will create interest, arouse the reader’s curiosity, make the genre and content clear, but won’t reveal what’s going to happen. The blurb isn’t a summary. Wanting to know what’s going to happen can cause readers to buy the book and to keep reading once they’ve started.

Movies sometimes start out slow and build up. They can get away with that in the theatre sometimes. You can walk out if it starts out slow, but you’ve already paid for your ticket.

Books by unknown or little-known authors can’t afford to do this. If the book starts out slow, shoppers checking out the Look Inside are likely to pass on the book. The first chapter should create interest among the target audience right off the bat and run with it. Exactly how to do this depends on the genre and the audience; but if the first chapter doesn’t suit the target audience, they will probably shop for another book.

Other differences between books and movies lie in the content itself. You can do anything you want in a book. In a movie, you’re limited by the capabilities of special effects and a fixed budget. Movies automatically show, and telling can be a challenge (especially, conveying abstract ideas). Most writers naturally tell, but have to work on showing more and telling less. You can see everything that goes on in a book from any angle, but in movies a scene is viewed from a certain perspective, so one object may block another and lighting is a major issue.

What determines whether or not you’ll be discussing a movie with friends and possibly recommending it to others? Think about this when you write your book.

When you watch a movie, do you find yourself wondering how you would have written it as a book? When you write a book, do you find yourself wondering how it would look and sound as a movie?

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Authors: Dealing with the Downs

Adversity Pic

Sales inherently fluctuate. Even if over time sales grow, there will still be some day-to-day fluctuations. There are also seasonal effects – i.e. any given type of book tends to sell better during some months than others. The economy is a factor, too.

As long as there are some sale every week, there will be some periods where sales are slow and some periods where sales are better. There will be both.

When sales are peaking, you’re thinking, “Now that’s more like it.” But they often don’t stay that way. Even if there is long-term growth, there will be a few periods where sales decline. You can count on it.

When sales are in a valley, you’re thinking, “What happened to kill the sales?” Remember, there will be valleys even when nothing has changed. Don’t panic. Exercise patience. Sales may pick up in a few days. If it’s the end of the month, maybe sales will rebound next month. Some months are also better than others. A downturn in sales for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean that sales have stopped dead.

If sales decline and you also notice something else, like a bad review, your first thought is that the review killed your sales. But it could just be coincidence. Many times, a review doesn’t have the effect that we might predict. Be patient. Sales might just rebound in a few days.

Unfortunately, sometimes sales do decline. Sometimes, a book sells frequently for a short period after its release, and then sales decline. Sometimes, reviews do influence sales. Sometimes, there are external factors that we’re not even aware of – like a change in Customer Also Bought associations and other marketing recommendations online. (Sometimes, though, external factors boost sales, like a recommendation posted somewhere online that you weren’t even aware of; and more often than not, Customer Also Bought lists provide a sudden boost.)

But if you panic that sales are dying every time your sales go through a valley, you’re likely to be causing yourself a great deal of unnecessary anxiety. It can take a couple of weeks or more to properly project sales trends.

Similarly, don’t let each review – good or bad – determine your happiness. Try not to let other people govern your emotions. Hopefully, many of the reviews will be good. See if any critical reviews have merit that can help, then try your best to forget them.

Focus on your next book and on marketing. These activities will keep you busy. And these are the best things you can do to improve sales.

When you’re going through the downs, the worst thing you can do is react emotionally in public and ruin your image as an author – that can have a much worse effect than anything you had been worrying about. Avoid posting complaints: You don’t want customers or reviewers to see them and view this as unprofessional, and you don’t really want to bring others down by spreading negativity.

Sure, you want to receive comfort and support. Try to find private (i.e. not your blog or social media) ways to seek this, or strive to find positive ways to reach out. For example, ask for advice in a tactful way that focuses on encouraging suggestions instead of ranting about the issue. If you need to write a rant to help get it out of your system, keep it private (just as you would if writing in a diary).

Remember that all authors experience the ups and downs of sales and reviews (except for the rare author who has the ability to ignore these things).

Enjoy the ups, and ride out the downs. Keep writing and marketing, and these activities may help make the overall trend grow in the long run.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers