Eradicate Negativity: Your Marketing Depends on It

Happy Sad

Negative vs. Positive

Reading should be a positive experience, right?

You want to create a positive shopping experience and a positive reading experience.

And writing is a positive experience, right?

(If not, why on earth are you doing it?)

So should publishing and marketing be positive.

But not everything and everyone you come across will seem positive.

And you will definitely encounter people and issues that will challenge you to stay positive.

  • Don’t let ’em bring you down.
  • Don’t let it make you negative.

You want to appear positive when you interact with potential readers. Even with fans.

The best way to appear positive is to be positive.

  • It’s easy to fall into a negative mindset.
  • It’s often not easy to stay positive.

But it’s so worth consciously working toward this. You can do it. 🙂

Author Branding

You’re striving to build a positive image as an author.

A critical review will challenge you to remain positive.

Cynics will challenge you.

Failed authors will challenge you.

Many people and occasions will challenge you to stay positive.

Don’t appear negative on your blog, in person, on social media, or anywhere.

  • What will readers think if they read about you complaining about a review on your blog?
  • What will readers think if they see you behaving negatively on a discussion forum?

You’re in the public eye now. Your image is at stake.

  • What will readers think if they meet you and you appear very positive about your book?
  • What will people think if you always come across as positive, even when you’re dealing with adversity?

Win your battles to stay positive. Build a positive reputation.

Each challenge is an opportunity to shine.

It’s not just your book and image that matter.

  • If authors complain about Kindles and readers hear this, why would they want to buy one?
  • If authors complain about Amazon and readers hear this, does it make them want to shop for books?

Positive Marketing

Staying positive has its rewards:

  • Visualize a positive outcome. It helps motivate you to work toward your goals.
  • When your positive mindset is challenged, think of it as an important battle toward long-term success. Win this battle by staying positive and making positive decisions. Don’t let this battle turn you negative and impede your chances for a bright future.
  • You’re more likely to show confidence when you stay positive.
  • You’re more likely to put your best effort into something when you feel positive about the outcome.
  • When readers see your positivity, it impacts their buying decisions.

But challenged your positive mindset will be.

And in some cases, it won’t be easy. You’re likely to feel, “Come on! Not again! That’s more than enough,” but you just have to be that much more determined.

Think to yourself, “Bring it on. Is that the best you’ve got?” When you get through this battle, things will start going your way.

Negativity definitely has its disadvantages.

Interact with positive people. Add positive authors to your circles. Avoid negativity.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Indies Supporting Indies

Support 2

There was a great blog article on CreateSpace today by Richard Ridley called “Supporting Indie Authors.” Richard has a great take on this; it’s worth a look.

Indie authors have two images to brand:

  1. Your own branding: author name, title, cover, author photo, series, characters.
  2. The image of indies: a more positive indie image helps all indie authors.

Supporting positive successes of other indie authors helps all indie authors through branding. Spreading news about negative issues hurts it. Blind support isn’t good: If you recommend books with serious problems, it has a negative impact. Focus on the positives and share the news about worthy successes, as this helps indies in general.

There are also two strong local impacts to consider:

  1. Similar titles often feed off one another. When one succeeds, similar books tend to sell better also, through Customers Also Bought lists, for example. However, when a foolish author does the opposite of supporting other indie authors, trashing a competitor’s work (which is against Amazon’s review guidelines), it tends to backfire by dragging down the potential help of similar books (and creates negative branding for authors). Customers don’t usually buy the one book they think is best, but over time buy many similar titles, and Amazon often advertises those similar titles to customers.
  2. Among the authors you interact with frequently, a success among one often helps the other authors in the group. People see the authors who frequently converse together. These authors often have much overlap in their followings.

Support comes in a wide variety of forms. I’m not just thinking about sales, reblogs, and blog reviews, but things like providing helpful feedback and suggestions, sharing knowledge and ideas, offering encouragement at a time of need, word-of-mouth referrals when you happen to interact with another author’s target audience, and posts and comments that foster a positive ambiance in the community.

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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Your Blog Branding—Is It Working?

If you’re blogging, you’re branding an image and building a following. You might not be marketing a product or service. If not today, maybe someday. Maybe never. And it doesn’t have to be product or service to be marketed. Anyone can market an idea. It doesn’t have to be an idea to sell—it could be a cause to support or an awareness to spread.

My point is that everyone is branding an image, and everyone has something of value to market.

Is it working?

  • I recognize many bloggers just by their Gravatars. That’s a visual brand that you’ve created, which other people recognize.
  • Sometimes, I also remember what your header, photo, or product looks like. Your visual branding efforts have gone a step further.
  • I also recognize many bloggers by name. In this case, your name (or pseudonym or user id) has been branded.
  • For some, I know what to expect in the way of content when I visit your site. You’ve branded more than just your image and name.
  • For others, I know there is something special that I will find at your site. Your branding is distinguished in some way.
  • There are some sites that I really look forward to visiting when I see a new post (and sometimes, when I see you’ve left a comment). You have me hooked.

I’m not in everyone’s target audience, yet I have experienced the branding that occurs here at WordPress.

WordPress is an amazing community:

  • There is much supportive interaction available here.
  • In some ways, it’s better than a magazine, yet it’s FREE and isn’t packed with all those obtrusive advertisements.
  • The ambiance has been, in my experience, very positive.
  • Blogging has many wonderful benefits, like creative expression, trying something out, finding your voice, meeting and interacting with fascinating people, sharing your passion with others, getting your mind off your problems, developing confidence, and so on.
  • You get your very own personal space in the blogging universe, and a lot of freedom with what you choose to do with it.

Consider this:

  • You are branding an image through your blogging.
  • There are many wonderful benefits of blogging.

This gives you a golden opportunity.

If your branding is working here at WordPress, then what you want is more traffic on your blog from your target audience. You want more than a one-time visitor.

Spread the word about the many benefits of blogging to others. This will help increase the blogging traffic (and those people will enjoy the positive benefits of blogging). If they start blogging because of you, chances are they will follow your blog and interact with you here, too.

Include a link to your blog at the back of your book, on your other sites, and on your marketing materials. More than just a link, include a line that might attract visitors to your blog. When you interact with people, mention what a wonderful place your blog is. Market the benefits of blogging. Encourage others to read blogs, even if they don’t want to start their own blogs.

You don’t have to be a writer, artist, businessman, salesman, photographer, or celebrity to enjoy the benefits of blogging. Anyone can do this. Everyone has something that he or she enjoys—like a hobby, special skill, or sport—that he or she can share.

You don’t even have to make your own posts to benefit from blogging. Reading posts right on my Reader is, in some ways, better than a magazine. When I read a magazine, I loathe having to sort through all the advertisements to find and read an article. And the magazine costs money, whereas a blog is free. (Imagine if we tried to publish books that were so loaded with advertisements.)

I must also say that I enjoy several blogs which are amazingly well-written. Very often, the blogs that I read are edited better than books. The words and ideas tend to flow very well, too. Many bloggers also excel at making their blogs visually quite appealing.

And there is good reason for this. It’s easier to edit one post than it is to edit an entire book (even if you post several times per week). If you are marketing something, you want your blog to be impressive.

The WordPress community isn’t just awesome in terms of interaction and support, there is a good deal of wonderful content here, too.

Not all of the content will suit everyone. But the beauty of the Follow button is that you can easily find content that appeals to you in your Reader.

I contend that, for me anyway, WordPress is better than a magazine. Here is yet another reason why. Imagine that you’re sitting in an office, waiting to be called. You could pick up a magazine that many other hands have touched recently. Or you could get out your e-reader, iPhone, tablet, or laptop, and check out posts from your favorite bloggers.

Market the many wonderful benefits of reading blogs and/or starting a blog. Many people may appreciate this once they really get started. Remember, there is much to gain even for people who don’t make their own posts. It might just help you get a little more out of your own branding efforts.

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)

Have you heard about Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event, but specifically for books.

Goofy Branding

I took my daughter to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, and the experience got me thinking about branding.

My daughter loves Mickey Mouse and Cinderella. These are the big stars, the main brands. How can the small guys compete with the big names? I’ll get to this question if you have some patience.

We saw Mickey Mouse a couple of years ago. We waited in a very long line in Toontown to meet him. It was a great experience; we got good photos and everyone was very nice. But it was such a long line, and once you get your turn it’s time to rush a new group in.

One year, we accidentally entered a line to meet Tinkerbell. After several minutes and scarcely moving forward, we finally realized the long line wasn’t for a ride and got out of it. This year, there was what looked like a reasonable line to meet Cinderella and other Disney princesses. However, in several minutes we hardly moved at all. Fortunately, my daughter decided that her time would be better spent waiting to go on a ride.

On our way to eat lunch, we saw Tiana. There were only a few other girls in line to see her. My daughter got to see her very quickly. I was really impressed that Tiana sat down to get down to my daughter’s level. She spent good time with her, we got great pictures, and my daughter felt very special to get such personal attention from a princess. Tiana moved way up on my daughter’s list of favorite characters (and mine, too).

We got to see several characters during the parade. Goofy came over and patted my daughter on the head during the parade. He scored major points with us from this simple wow-factor.

This reminds me, if you want to see Donald Duck, Goofy, or Pluto in Toontown, you can very often do so with a very short line. You also see them at other parts of the park from time to time, and they are usually very accessible.

What struck me is that the small guys can compete with the big names. Personal attention, little personal touches, a simple wow-factor – these kinds of things can make a huge, lasting impression.

If you’re one of the small guys (like me), striving to brand your own image, personal interaction is something you can use to help stand apart. Branding is about getting people to remember your name (or the name of your product or business), getting recognized, getting associated with some quality, and the potential for word-of-mouth referrals. Personal interactions with members of your target audience can help to achieve this.

Are you just selling a product? Or are you selling an experience?

Have you ever bought a product from someone where without that interaction you never would have bought that product? Maybe you happened to walk by a shop and noticed it. If it had been a vending machine, you never would have put money into it. But after a nice experience with a sales associate, you made the purchase. Not because the salesperson twisted your arm, but you enjoyed the personal interaction. Has this ever happened to you?

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

Challenging How Big the Author’s Name Should Be

Name Pic

The consensus among critics is that the author’s name should be relatively small (compared to the title) unless you’re famous.

Why? There are two popular reasons for this:

  1. The marketing view says that if the author’s name appears too large on the cover, it will distract the shopper’s attention from more important keywords in the title. If you’re famous, then it’s important to throw your name out there because your name has sales value.
  2. The critical view feels that the author’s name should take on a humble role on the cover (i.e. out of the way) if the author doesn’t have name recognition.

But is this correct?

Maybe not.

There are a couple of reasons to reconsider this point:

  1. Do you primarily expect to sell books to family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, social media followers, and people you interact with personally through marketing? If so, then you do have name recognition with your target audience. Make your name larger for their benefit and disregard the potential critics. Why not?
  2. Are you branding your name in your marketing efforts? If you are effective at this, then you want your name to be easily visible (but perhaps not dominating) on the thumbnail image of your cover. Potential customers who recognize your name from your marketing endeavors who see your name in the thumbnail may check out your book.
  3. Part of marketing is about creating a perception. If you’re thinking big, then you want to create a big name for yourself. If you’re going all out to try to make it big, then starting out with a big name on your cover might be a good fit. Make that big name for yourself and prove the cover critics wrong.
  4. If you’re a nonfiction author with a title (Dr., Ph.D., M.D., etc.), you may want your qualifications to be visible in the thumbnail image. However, if you don’t have a relevant title and aren’t well-known in your field, it may be better to place emphasis on a few important keywords instead of your name.

What is your personality? What fits you? A big name? A small name?

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

Amazon, Disneyland, and Branding

 DrMac-Aug2013-disneyland 239

Amazon and Disneyland are two huge, successful businesses that specialize in selling entertainment.

I love them both, but for different reasons.

Amazon has branded itself as a giant, which fits the name of the company. When I go to Amazon, I expect great selection coupled with low prices. I also expect quick shipping. Amazon has also branded itself as being a supporter of the small guy – i.e. small businesses and indie authors.

This last point works multiple ways. Third-party sellers and customer resale help to bring low prices to the customer through competition, and customers have the opportunity to support indie authors and small businesses. Amazon features indie success stories on their homepage.

Indie books and small business products also greatly enhance the selection of books and other products on their website.  Finally, most customers know indie authors (or are indies themselves), so there is inherently much support for this concept.

I love Amazon for giving the small guy such an amazing opportunity.

Disneyland has branded itself as a bringer of happiness, which fits its slogan, “The happiest place on earth.” My daughter doesn’t know the slogan, but she associates Disneyland with happiness: She was bouncing up and down, smiling in the car for a couple of hours on the way there.

The employees who interact with customers at Disneyland are obviously trained to place much emphasis on bringing a happy experience to customers. Another thing that’s very important is also subtle: Disneyland pays incredible attention to detail. There is evidently a high priority on cleanliness on their grounds. The service and ambiance are such a high priority in order to brand the happiness image that these details are vital to their success. Goofy came over and patted my daughter on her head during the parade – that’s a wow-factor.

I love Disneyland for attempting to make many people’s lives happier, even if just temporarily.

Of course, Amazon and Disneyland are huge companies which are geared toward making money. Aren’t all businesses striving to make money? The question is what goods and services they provide for the money, and whether or not it’s a good value.

Amazon supports the small guy in its aim to make money and Disneyland provides happiness in its aim to make money. Provided that the cost is reasonable, these seem like highly respectable ways – in my humble opinion – to go about making money.

These are positive images to brand.

Amazon and Disneyland aren’t perfect. Who is?

Personally, I would like to see Amazon become a little more like Disneyland. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Amazon were, say, “The happiest place online”? At least, a few steps in this direction would make for a nice improvement.

But, alas, in customer reviews, customer comments, and discussion forums, we sometimes see unhappiness. We sometimes see highly spiteful remarks (even though spitefulness is supposed to be a violation of the terms and conditions of use) or even cyberbullying.

This is odd, as it seems to contradict some of Amazon’s branding efforts. When I contact Amazon as a customer or author, they usually provide excellent customer service. If they’re so oriented toward great customer service, why not go all out and provide a great customer ambiance in the review and discussion forums, too? Why provide a rotten ambiance there, but great service by phone or email? It seems totally incongruent. So there is one way in which Amazon could improve, in my estimation.

Even as they are, I still love Amazon and Disneyland.

We can learn from their successful branding:

  • How do you want to be branded? You need this in the planning stages.
  • How do you want your product to be branded? Work toward this.
  • An image that people are likely to support on a wide scale (like supporting the small guy), which fits with your product or service, has much potential.
  • An image that people crave (like happiness), which fits with your product or service, has much potential.
  • Choose a title that fits this image.
  • Mickey Mouse is a simple image, easy to recognize, great for branding. (You can’t copy this image. Duh! But you can learn from the effectiveness of this simplicity.)
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • The product, service, marketing, blog, and even your daily personal interactions matter. Send a unified message that supports your branding.
  • Consistently brand the same image. Avoid changing the main title or picture. Choose these wisely in the beginning.

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

Social Media Checks

Let me start with an employment-related fact and then discuss how this relates to author branding.

More employers are doing social media background checks and are turning down candidates based on what they find.

This doesn’t mean that people should avoid social media all together. Rather, it means that social media must be treated as a sample of professionalism. Companies that specialize in social media background checks actually have access to messages that aren’t made public, comments, and more. Scary; but it is what it is.

When a social media background check reveals unprofessional conduct (e.g. signs of not getting along well with others, negative comments about former employers) or evidence that contradicts the resume, these red flags are likely to deter employers from hiring.

However, when a social media profile looks professional and displays excellent communication skills, this tends to be an asset. Creativity and a touch of personality may help, too.

Readers do various sorts of social media background checks, too.

Many shoppers will glance at the customer book reviews. If they see authors making negative comments about former readers, this falls under the “bad-mouthing former employers” category. It doesn’t look professional.

Potential customers read blogs, tweets, Facebook author pages, etc. A shopper who discovers the book on Amazon probably isn’t going to do an extensive background check, but may explore the reviews and author page. Nobody is likely to read all of an author’s social media messages.

However, many potential customers will discover the book through one of these methods. It might be a blog, could be a tweet, etc. Perceived unprofessional conduct (e.g. bad-mouthing) may deter sales. Professional posts with excellent communication skills that show creativity and a touch of personality are more apt to boost sales.

What a potential customer sees when checking one form of social media and how this customer reacts is not much different from what a prospective employer would look for in a job candidate.

Remember, although readers probably aren’t going out of their way to do background checks on authors, potential readers are discovering authors through their marketing endeavors. What the potential reader sees in this discovery process serves as a “background check.” Is it a red flag that may deter sales, or is it something that is more likely to inspire sales? Think author branding.

References:

1. http://www.worksavelive.com/turned-down-for-a-job-check-your-facebook-profile/

2. http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/04/18/one-in-three-employers-reject-applicants-based-on-facebook-posts/

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

 

Branding Sounds for Authors

Branding Sounds Pic

Authors primarily strive to brand an image (front cover, author photo, or logo) and a few words (short title, author name, or strapline).

It’s important to realize that sounds can be branded, too.

When you say the words “ee eye ee eye oh” aloud, does the song “Old McDonald Had a Farm” come to mind?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_MacDonald_Had_a_Farm

If you say “fee fie foe fum,” chances are that you will think of the story “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_and_the_Beanstalk

The greeting “na-nu na-nu” was very well branded in the sitcom, Mork & Mindy, featuring Robin Williams as an alien.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy

You may recognize “nyuk nyuk nyuk” from Curly of The Three Stooges.

Those are some sounds from the content. But there are other ways to brand sounds besides coming up with a unique sound that gains wide appeal.

Another way to brand a sound is with a slogan, strapline, title, or subtitle that has a catchy jingle to it.

The books in the Pinkalicious series all end with –icious.

http://amzn.com/0060776390

C I N: “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin. You never come out the way you went in.” is a book with a title that features a catchy jingle.

http://amzn.com/1451539584

A widely popular book title that rhymes is The Cat in the Hat.

http://amzn.com/039480001X

Especially, with children, the word’s might just be silly, but fun to say, as in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

http://amzn.com/B0011EU0NG

Consider the possibility of branding sounds through your characters or in your titles, for example. When branding sounds in the title, you must also consider the target audience; childish noises, for example, probably work better in titles for children’s books than serious adult books.

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

Hem

Comparing Commercial Marketing to Book Marketing: What Can We Learn?

Commercial Marketing Pic

We’re exposed to marketing every day.

So when authors realize that they must market their books to sell them, it’s not like they have no experience with marketing at all.

We all have experience with marketing.

It’s not that marketing is new. It’s just that marketing books is different.

Some of the strategies that we see every day can be applied to books. However, some strategies that work for other products don’t tend to work well for books, or work differently for books.

(1) Advertising.

If you saw a commercial right now advertising a new brand of laundry detergent, would you run to the store immediately and buy it?

  • I’m guessing not. But if your answer is yes, I’d like to pay you some money to watch commercials for half an hour. 🙂

If you saw a commercial right now asking you to run to the store to try a new brand of potato chips, would you do it? What if the commercial asked nicely? Pretty please? What if the commercial tells you instead of asks? Go there now! Or threatens you? Or else you’ll be the only person on earth to never experience this wonderful new taste.

  • People usually don’t like being told what to do, or being asked to do something that seems quite inconvenient for no other reason than to give others profit.

If you saw a commercial right now telling you about a new brand of shoes that’s the best ever, would you believe it? Suppose instead that the commercial describes what makes the shoes better. Would this strategy have a different effect?

  • Just hearing that a product is good doesn’t tell a customer how the product will help him or her. But knowing something specific that the product does might accomplish this.

When you go shopping, what you probably remember is which brand names sound familiar. People are more likely to buy products they’ve heard of before. This is the idea behind branding.

Advertisements help to establish brand recognition.

When you’re shopping, you might also remember something about the brand. For example, you might associate a particular brand name with luxury (like Cadillac) or trust (like Sears when they branded their image of Satisfaction Guaranteed), or you might recall a slogan or logo.

One strong goal of marketing books is developing a brand. The author can be the brand. Or it can be the name of a series (like Dummies) or a distinguished character (like Sherlock Holmes).

Branding occurs through repetition. You can brand a name, an image, a sound (think Jeopardy), and even a smell (with free samples of perfume).

Paid advertisements may not be cost-effective for most books. Although millions of people read books, there are 20 million books to choose from. There aren’t 20 million brands of paper towels, so advertising is cost-effective for large-scale paper towel manufacturers.

But there are many ways to brand an image through free marketing.

The key is to get the target audience to see the same name and image in a positive context a few times. Not so many times that it become annoying (then people think, “Oh, not that book! It drives me crazy!”). Not in a way that it seems intrusive, yet gets noticed by the target audience.

One way is to offer content that attracts your target audience, and allow your book to be discovered by an interested party (rather than shoved in front of their face).

When having conversations with people in your target audience (and natural conversations with anyone, but it’s your target audience who are most likely to buy your book), it’s natural to be asked, “So what have you done lately?” They’re more likely to be interested in your book when they asked you than when you come out and say, “I just published a book last month.”

You can get discovered through your blog, social media, a website for your book, personal interactions, book readings, book signings, attending workshops or conferences, giving presentations, doing community service, and many other ways.

But there are three things that you need for this to be effective:

  1. Traffic. (But note that you can interact with a much smaller group in person and have a higher yield than when marketing to a large group online. Personal interactions can have a powerful effect, if you can charm your readers conversationally. To some extent, you can also provide some charm online when interacting with people individually. I’m not saying to flirt with your readers; but maybe make them feel special for a moment – obviously, it’s far better if you really mean it.)
  2. Relevance. If you wrote a mystery and 70% of the traffic reads mysteries on a regular basis, then your marketing is highly relevant to the audience. But if only 2% of the traffic reads mystery, your marketing effort is being wasted.
  3. Value. People don’t like advertisements. If you can brand your image while providing something of value to your target audience, you’re marketing efforts are more likely to be noticed. You can provide nonfiction information that relates to your target audience, or you can provide a nice bookmark that doesn’t just look like an advertisement, or you can provide a service to your community, etc. Ideally, you want to give the reader something he or she is likely to want, where your brand gets recognized unobtrusively.

People aren’t going to remember a paragraph. They might recall a picture that has one central image (this gives covers that have multiple images a disadvantage). They might remember a few key words (so shorter titles without strange names have an advantage). They might remember a logo. The might remember a catchy phrase about the book. But definitely not a long sentence.

(2) Packaging.

Your intuition might tell you that the product is far more important than the packaging. If so, let me try to convince you how wrong this is.

If you thoroughly analyze product A and product B, and determine that product A suits you better than product B, then you would definitely prefer to have product A regardless of the packaging. Unfortunately, shopping isn’t so easy.

It’s often not easy to tell which product is best. Packaging has a very significant impact on buying decisions. We almost always look at the packaging to help determine which product suits us best.

Here is another important point: Nobody will ever know how good your product is if the packaging doesn’t attract their attention.

You can’t buy a product if you don’t discover it first.

Suppose you’re hungry for a candy bar, and one of the candy bars is packaged to look like sticks of gum. Would you even notice the candy that looked like gum? If you were shopping for gum and picked it up, would you buy it when you realized that it was candy?

Packaging helps people find the specific product that they’re looking for. If the packaging doesn’t fit the product, it will be highly ineffective. Good packaging attracts the target audience.

Poor packaging – and even average packaging – sends a message that the product wasn’t good enough to warrant better packaging (alternatively, perhaps they invested as little effort in the product as they did in the packaging).

Effective packaging does three things:

  1. Grabs attention. (In a positive way.)
  2. Attracts the specific target audience. (It should also look appealing and professional.)
  3. From a distance, it sends a short message (not necessarily in words) about what to expect from the product. (There may be more details in print upon closer inspection, but it’s the distant message that determines whether or not the consumer will ever inspect the packaging closely.)

Book packaging includes the cover, title, and blurb.

A good book with a fantastic cover and a killer blurb can make the difference between consistent sales and dwindling to the depths of millions of books.

It’s very important that authors realize this: The cover isn’t just part of the packaging, it’s also a permanent part of the book.

The cover is fashion. Just like clothing.

The reader has to feel comfortable holding the book. It must suit the target audience well. Better yet, it should attract them. If the shopper visualizes himself or herself holding the book in his or her hands and enjoys this feeling, then the buyer will be begging for the blurb and Look Inside to give him or her a reason to click Buy Now.

The cover is that important.

At least, if you’re hoping for many sales to come from people who discover your book. If you plan to sell most of your books in person after presentations or because you’re providing expertise that people will crave, then the cover may not be as important. Although it’s still important for similar reasons then, too (especially, if there are other expert books similar to yours).

The blurb and Look Inside are your only salesmen at the point-of-sale. The blurb has to draw the reader’s interest (without making empty promises, as that will affect reviews and word-of-mouth sales).

The cover, blurb, and Look Inside need to send a unified message. They must make it instantly (shoppers might look at your thumbnail for two seconds to decide whether or not to check the book out) clear what type of book it is. Precisely what type (e.g. contemporary romance, not teen romance; or does the cover look a little naughty, when the romance is light and clean?).

If the book cover doesn’t clearly suit the genre, it’s like packaging candy to look like gum.

Look at the covers and blurbs of top-selling books similar to yours to help get a sense of what readers expect.

(3) Promotions.

Everybody loves a discount.

Not quite true.

Everybody loves a discount on something they want to have.

Getting a discount on something you don’t need isn’t helpful at all.

Just discounting your book probably won’t help sales much. Amazon discounts books, and sales don’t always improve with the discount. People give books away free, and sometimes few are given away and almost none are read.

So if you offer a temporary discount, make the first book of your series free to help hook an audience, give away free bookmarks, or offer any other type of promotion, you have to realize that the promotion itself probably isn’t enough.

People don’t buy prices. People buy products. A discount is only effective if the target audience discovers the product and realizes the value of the discount.

So you have to market your promotion. A sale isn’t a substitute for marketing. A promotion can help your marketing efforts, but won’t work in place of them.

If sales are too frequent, word will get around and people will wait for the sales. This means that your sales rank might climb considerably in between sales.

Stores can put the same products on sale at the same time every year (like Black Friday). And some people will wait for the sale, but many won’t. But stores sell many products. And often you can’t wait for Black Friday. And not everyone likes to shop on the busiest days.

But books are different. You only buy the same book once, unlike many products that you need to buy every week, month, or few years. Many books, you can wait for if you know they will go on sale in the coming weeks.

(4) Mailing list.

Businesses strive to get customers to sign up for catalogs, email notifications, focus groups, etc.

Authors can have fan mail, book websites with supplemental material, preview readers, etc.

If you primarily use such things to send out advertisements, they probably won’t be effective. But if you provide significant content (like supplemental material), they can be effective. Content helps to attract your target audience. Then you can occasionally (10% or less of the time) announce a promotion, give a cover reveal, solicit input on a title, etc. (The cover reveal and asking for input on a title are ways that you can help to build buzz for an upcoming book.)

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Think about the different forms of marketing that you’re exposed to every day. Consider what is and isn’t effective with you. For those things that are effective, see if you can find a way to achieve a similar effect with your book marketing.

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

Marketing: Why Should People Buy Your Book?

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Before you can expect to sell books, you must answer two important questions:

  1. Why should people buy your book?
  2. How are people going to learn why they should buy your book?

If you can’t sell the book to yourself, it’s not reasonable to expect to sell it to others.

(A) Because your book is good? Lousy answer.

Why? Because that answer won’t help you sell your books. It’s too general. You need something more specific to work with.

If you hope to advertise that your book is the best thing since ____ (fill in the blank with something fantastic), then most people won’t buy your book because it sounds unbelievable and those who do buy your book may be frustrated if it doesn’t live up to those lofty expectations (which can deter word-of-mouth sales, for example).

More importantly, hearing that your book is good doesn’t attract a specific audience. People are more likely to become interested in your book if they learn something specific about it that appeals to them.

If you offer nothing specific, there is a good chance you won’t be attracting any attention at all. When you do offer something specific, some people will think it’s not for them, but that’s okay because if they aren’t the target audience, they aren’t likely to buy it no matter what (and they are less likely to appreciate it). But if they are the target audience, the specific information will help to attract their interest.

(B) Because there is something unique that will appeal to them.

What distinguishes your book from others like it?

You want this distinction to be conveyed through your marketing efforts.

But don’t make the mistake of saying what’s great about your book while at the same time saying what’s bad about other books.

There is a good chance that people in your target audience love those other books. So if you say anything bad about those other books, this is likely to deter sales.

You’re not trying to show that your book is better. You’re trying to show that your book is different and how. This distinction will be appealing to some people in your target audience.

That distinction might be a clean romance, a protagonist who doesn’t fit the genre’s stereotypes, a plot that will help teens deal with difficult situations, a sci-fi novel specifically for computer geeks, or a textbook with a built-in workbook.

(C) Because you were able to interact with your target audience and show them what makes your book special.

Nobody knows your book better than you do. And that’s the problem! You want others to learn what makes your book special.

So what makes your book special? And how will you get the word out to your target audience?

Identify your target audience. Find your target audience. And when you market, you don’t just want people to discover that you wrote a book. You want them to see what makes your book special. This distinction needs to stand out in your marketing.

(D) Because people who enjoyed your book are telling others what makes it special.

Word-of-mouth sales are invaluable, especially when people don’t just mention that a book is good, but take a moment to explain why it’s good.

The first step is to make your book very good, with some aspect that sets it apart. It has to be worthy of a recommendation by a complete stranger.

The second step is to get your book read. You need to market your book effectively to your target audience.

There are a few things you can do to try to encourage word-of-mouth sales. You can search for bloggers who occasionally review books similar to yours and politely request a book review or interview on their blog (and then wait very patiently). You can contact a small local paper with a press release kit. You can let people discover you’re writing a book and what the special feature will be, do cover reveals, etc.

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