Carrying a Book’s Theme Too Far?

Imagine that you are shopping for a Halloween book – ghost stories or puzzles with a Halloween theme, for example. You find a book that catches your interest and pull up the blurb. How would you react if the blurb reads with a Halloween theme? For example, the description may include phrases of the sort, “will chill you to the bone,” “great for entertaining vampires,” or “ghosts may or may not be included with purchase.”

When you explore the Look Inside, the copyright statement might include a remark like, “If you copy any portion of this book without the author’s express written consent, you will be cursed for thirteen years.”

Or maybe you’re buying a romantic nonfiction relationship book, where the copyright statement includes a statement like, “If you abide by the terms of this copyright agreement, the author will love and cherish you always and forever.”

An author of a Christmas-related book might include “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” and other holiday remarks on all online posts in the fourth quarter, and wear a Santa hat for personal marketing endeavors.

The end of a humorous book might suggest that if readers leave any reviews, to please consider trying to make their reviews funny. Or if they tell any friends about the book, try to do so in a funny way. That is, the author may even try to carry the theme into the fans. Why not? Look at the Trekkies.

What if a zombie apocalypse novelist uses make-up to look the part at a signing or reading? Or for a vampire book, just imagine the author being wheeled onto the stage, riding in a coffin.

Is this going too far? Does it convey the author’s passion? If an author can make boring statements on the copyright page enjoyable to read, does that bode well for the rest of the book? Are such samples of creativity good?

What do you think?

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Book Marketing: The Power of Perception

Perception is a very powerful marketing tool. Are you using it to your advantage?

Think about a moment where you’ve just heard about a new product. Perhaps a friend told you about it. Maybe you heard about it on the radio. You might have seen it in a store.

You probably didn’t use the product first and then form an opinion of it. Nope. Most likely, you developed an immediate perception about the product. You might investigate the product further before making the purchase, but that first impression is very important. If you had a poor impression, you may not even consider the product again. If it made an excellent impression, you tend to look for things that reinforce this – i.e. you see it in a better light.

Don’t just try to brand the book’s title or your name. Strive to brand a perception about your book.

The first step is to think about how you want your book to be perceived. It must be something that most readers will agree with once they read the book; otherwise, marketing the perception will be ineffective in the long run. In what way is your book distinguished, which will appeal to readers?

Here are some dos:

  • Keep it simple. People can remember a few words; a long sentence will likely be forgotten. One to three words that paint the perception can be branded effectively.
  • The perception should be highly relevant to the target audience. This way, the branding helps to attract the readers who are most likely to want the book.
  • Think about the selling points of your book, but just pick one. What distinguishing feature might appeal to customers?
  • If a popular book helps to paint the perception efficiently, you may be able to do this in a positive, tactful way – e.g. “like Harry Potter in space” (notice that it doesn’t say anything negative about the other book). Only try this if there is another book that’s a great fit to help you quickly paint the proper perception, and if the book is also well-known.

Now for a few don’ts:

  • The perception must be accurate, otherwise it will backfire. You don’t want readers expecting one thing, when in fact they will get another.
  • It can’t be “the best book ever.” This doesn’t say anything specific about the book, so it won’t attract the target audience. It also tends to generate the negative reaction, “Yeah, right!”
  • Don’t try to top popular books or movies, like “better than Star Wars,” or “the best mystery ever.” If the expectations don’t seem reasonable, buyers won’t invest in the book. Definitely, don’t put anyone’s favorite books or movies down. If you try to advertise that your book is better, it will create a mindset among some readers to try to prove you wrong.
  • Limit yourself to one quick phrase. Don’t try to market two or more perceptions. It’s much easier to brand one simple perception.

There are many possibilities: audience specific (a clean romance), a distinguished character (Gollum or Darth Vader), an attractive idea (a children’s series that teaches decision-making skills), a unique feature (like the twist-a-plot idea), a cool concept (imagine what it would be like to…), an improvement (a workbook and textbook integrated into one), or even exceptional preparation (“Judy spent three years doing the research for this book,” or “Bob had three different editors work on the manuscript” – but note that these two examples don’t attract a specific audience)… and the list goes on.

How do you paint the perception?

  • It helps if a glance at the cover reinforces the perception that you’re trying to paint.
  • Similarly, the title, blurb, and Look Inside need to reinforce this perception.
  • Mention it with your title on all of your online and offline marketing materials: end of posts, just after your book link, social media, bookmarks, advertising, press release kit, etc.
  • Use your phrase (it’s a strapline) in your personal marketing endeavors – mention it at readings, signings, interviews, blog tours, conversations, presentations, and whenever you have the opportunity to discuss your book.
  • Strive to paint this perception when trying to generate buzz for an upcoming book.
  • When you enlist others to help with your marketing – e.g. to create buzz or to help spread the word for a promotion – see if this perception can be included.

Perception is a difficult thing for a lone author to judge. External input is valuable for trying to make such predictions. Ask people what they perceive about your book? Run the perception that you’d like to paint by them and see how they react to it.

Some things are beyond your control. This includes reviews, recommendations, and referrals – which can be good or bad. You can get lucky and a complete stranger who enjoys your book may spread the word to many others, and you can get unlucky and someone can strive to paint a negative perception. You can’t control this. But there are a couple of things that you can do:

  • The better your book and the more effective your marketing, the more reviews, referrals, and recommendations you will get. The more you receive, the less effect the negatives will have and the more likely you are to have some helpful advocates among your fans.
  • Be wise, courteous, respectful, and professional in your interactions with readers, blog reviewers, sending out advance review copies, and all of your public relations.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)