Marketing a Book when you’re an Artist (not a Businessman)

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Talented authors, especially in fiction, naturally excel with the art of writing.

Talented businessman (and women) who publish their writing have a distinct advantage when it comes to generating sales.

If there were only two books in the world, where one was written by a talented writer and the other was written by a talented businessman, if this was all I knew about the books, I would first want to read the book written by the talented writer.

It just seems to be a better fit, doesn’t it?

But when you visit Amazon, there aren’t just two books to choose from. There are tens of millions. And it’s hard to tell which of those may have been written by especially talented authors, and which are appealing more because of the marketing of businesspeople and which are successful mainly because of the merits of the actual writing.

Amazon dazzles you with dozens of brilliant pictures of book covers. You see bestseller lists which make you feel that those books must be selling well for a reason. Indeed, the reason may very well be marketing. You recognize the names of big publishers and popular authors who have succeeded in a very important aspect of marketing: They have branded their names into your brain.

Think for a moment. Can you think of any movies that you feel were so awful they should never have been made in the first place, yet somehow many people you know have actually watched it (and worse, may even talk about it, and not just to complain about it)?

It happens. Too often, it happens.

Of course, it happens with books, too.

The difference is that when you visit a theater, there are about a dozen newly released movies to choose from. When you visit Amazon, there are tens of thousands of books that have been released just in the past 30 days.

There are thousands of talented authors and thousands of wonderful books. Yet there are millions of books to choose from. And those that you would consider the “best” may not be so easy for you to find as a reader.

Such that even if you write a book that may be among the best books that readers in your genre would enjoy…

It’s very challenging for a talented author to get those books to sell.

Unfortunately, it might be better to be a good writer with excellent business skills than to be an amazing writer with absolutely no idea how to market.

But that doesn’t mean that a talented writer who lacks business skills can’t develop marketing skills.

It may grow very slowly. It may take a long time. There may be pitfalls along the way.

But any author can start marketing, and even if you just put a little time into a variety of marketing ideas here and there, you can continually expand your marketing net.


What is marketing? I like to think of it as “helping people in your target audience discover your book.”

I don’t enjoy business. I don’t like selling. But I do like helping people to discover my books. This definition works for me.

Before I had thought of this, marketing had seemed unappealing to me. Now I think of it in such a way that I enjoy the idea.

I don’t like it when salespeople interrupt what I’m doing to try to sell me something.

As an author, I try not to interrupt what people are doing to tell them about my book.

I prefer an indirect approach. There are a variety of ways that you can market your book indirectly.

  • People could hear about your book from someone else (other than you). If your book is worth recommending, you should consider how to get your book into the hands of people who might recommend it. Recommendations and word-of-mouth sales can be quite valuable.
  • People could first discover you, and then discover that you’re an author. One way to go about this is content marketing. For example, if you write nonfiction articles on a blog relating to your book, you could potentially generate daily search engine traffic to your blog, and then on your blog people will notice that you’re also an author. Simply end your article, Your Name, Author of Your Book.
  • People could interact with you, and then discover that you’re an author. You don’t even need to volunteer this. During most conversations, there are opportunities to answer questions like, “What do you do?” or “What have you done lately?”

The problem with marketing is that it isn’t magic.

You’re hoping that you can put forth a minimum of effort and generate hundreds of sales.

But the reality is that most successful long-term marketing takes time and effort.

Another problem is that you’d like to spend more time writing and less time marketing.

A possible solution is to spend a little time each day with marketing. It will add up.

Even if you market effectively, the results will probably come in far slower than you want.

Plan knowing that it may take much time. Be patient. Keep trying new things. Keep building your platform.

Try to keep the costs low (look for free options) unless you’re fortunate enough to earn enough sales that you can afford it without going in the red.


It’s far easier to sell content that is amazing and that seems amazing than it is to sell content that’s just okay.

Step 1. Write content that is amazing. There are thousands of highly talented authors and there are thousands of amazing books. How amazing is your content? Is there some way that you could improve it?

Step 2. Make your content seem as amazing as it really is.

  • A book with an amazing cover seems amazing. A book with an okay cover doesn’t have nearly as much appeal. This is your chance to attract the attention of readers. Send the message that your content was worth putting a nice cover on it.
  • A book description that generates interest in your story helps the book seem amazing. (But don’t give the story away or readers won’t need to read the book.)
  • A book that quickly grabs the reader’s interest and holds onto it seems amazing. A book that loses the customer’s interest while the customer is just reading the Look Inside doesn’t sell.
  • A book that readers want to continue reading through the end, and then want to recommend to others really is an amazing book.
  • Typos, writing mistakes, formatting mistakes, etc. make your book seem far less amazing than it might really be. There are too many books on the market for customers to take a chance on mistakes.

Step 3. Get neutral opinions to help you assess the appeal of your cover, description, early chapters, and entire story.

The more appealing your book is from cover to cover, the more dividends marketing can pay.

From the business side of things, for too many books, 1 out of 1000 strangers who see the book’s cover will check it out, and 1 out 100 strangers who check the book out will buy it. For a book like this, you need 100,000 strangers to discover your book every day to sell an average of one copy to a stranger per day. Put another way, if your book is selling about one copy per day to strangers, there is a good chance that 100,000 see your book each day and that your product page is squandering a great deal of potential sales.

For a rare book that really has strong appeal from cover to cover, 1 out 10 strangers who check the book out will buy it, more people who see the book will click on it, and it benefits in other important ways, too:

  • It’s far more likely to generate many more sales from recommendations.
  • It’s far more likely to generate positive reviews from strangers.
  • It’s far more likely to generate sales from customers-also-bought lists.
  • It’s far more likely to generate good visibility on Amazon.

But first it needs to get discovered and get initial sales.

You still need good marketing. But the marketing is more likely to bring long-term rewards.


  • In the book itself. At the end, encourage readers to follow you on social media, visit your website, or sign up for a newsletter. List your other current and coming books. Offer a free sample (like a short chapter) of another book if it is similar to the current book.
  • Premarketing. For example, do a cover reveal to try to generate interest in your book before you publish it. Get beta readers involved in your book as you develop it.
  • Advance review copies. The idea is to give a free copy of your book, with the hope of obtaining an honest review in return. (Amazon doesn’t allow you to offer any other incentives other than a free copy of your book.) You can run an Amazon Giveaway or a Goodreads giveaway from your product page. An Amazon Giveaway is fairly inexpensive, especially with a small number of prizes. For ebooks, a Goodreads Giveaway is actually cost-effective if you give away 100 books (you don’t have to pay for the cost of the books, too; but for paperbacks you have to also buy author copies and pay to ship them yourself). Aside from giveaways, you can recruit people to send advance review copies to.
  • Start a blog. If you love to write, this is only natural. If you can write about nonfiction topics that relate to your book (even in fiction), short articles can eventually turn into a content-rich website that attracts daily visitors through search engines. Some authors write poetry on their blogs. Some make great photo blogs. There are many ways to engage an audience with a blog. If you interact with both readers and other bloggers, you can build a fairly popular blog.
  • Social media. You should have it (Facebook and Twitter at least). You should do something with it. At the very least, for those readers who enjoy Facebook and Twitter, you should have something for them. If you put the time into the social interaction aspect of it, you can make social media work better, but at least you should have something there.
  • The personal touch. Some authors are reluctant to try it, but the personal interaction (especially, in person, but online is better than nothing) can make a difference for an author who hasn’t yet built a following. Most people haven’t interacted with many authors in person. Even though the number of authors is rapidly going, many aren’t interacting in person. If a person interacts with an author and has a positive experience, the person is more likely to buy the book and also more likely to review the book or recommend it to others (but, of course, only if the content is that good). How can you setup local and regional opportunities to meet people in your target audience? It doesn’t have to be a signing (which may be hard to populate when you’re starting out). Groups of people in your target audience probably already exist: book clubs, senior centers, schools (for children’s books), and countless others. You just need to figure out how to get involved and take the initiative.
  • Bookmarks. I like these better than business cards. If the bookmark looks nice and doesn’t seem like an advertisement, it might actually get used, and then it will be a constant reminder about your book.
  • Promotions. Discounted (and even free) prices used to work more effectively with less effort. There are so many books discounted (or free) these days, it’s not easy to stand above the crowd. It makes it a challenge (like most marketing), but there is still potential. The big question is how to spread the word about your sale price. There are sites that can help, free or low cost, but not all are very helpful. Explore and hope you find a helpful one.
  • Advertising. This is tricky. Too many new authors spend too much and don’t target their advertisements as effectively as they could. When you’re starting out or when you’re not earning much in monthly royalties, you really can’t afford to overspend on advertising. Your ads compete with authors and publishers who sell many copies per month and so can afford to invest significant money on an advertising budget. So you have to be smart about it. Refrain from the temptation to bid high. If your ad isn’t performing well, it’s tempting to raise the bid. But effective ad campaigns often make effective use of keywords or other targeting criteria, plus have a great cover and highly appealing product page (including the Look Inside). Relevance is your best friend when it comes to advertising. With Amazon’s AMS (via KDP), for example, once an ad is deemed to rate high in terms of relevance (by getting a high click-through rate and a high sales frequency), it tends to perform better than other ads. In fact, such an ad can perform better at a lower bid (counterintuitively). If an ad rates low in relevance, it tends to perform poorly, even if the bid is raised high. When you set your keywords or other targeting criteria, you don’t just want popularity; you want strong relevance. It also helps to spend time brainstorming keywords (also worth doing before you publish).
  • Keep writing. Each time you publish a new book, you get renewed visibility with the last 30 days and last 90 days filters at Amazon. Many authors have asked, “What happened to my sales?” both 30 days and 90 days after publishing. Well, if these filters had been helping you (without your knowledge; how would you possibly know?), that could be the answer. Plus, you attract new readers, and slowly build a fan base. Few indie authors publish a single book and have great long-term success. Most effective indie authors have established a platform with several related books. If you can keep writing and publishing, as long as you’re getting some sales with each book, you should keep doing it. Most of us do it because we love writing so much that we just couldn’t stop, sales or not. If you’re not getting the sales, you need to rethink what types of books you should write, how to make the cover, how to write the description, etc. When things aren’t going well, you have to try making changes.
  • What are other indie authors who are having some measure of success doing with their marketing? It’s easy enough to find authors who are selling some books, and it’s really easy to find their blogs and social media. So it’s not hard to see some of the things that work for them.
  • Do you feel creative with your writing? If so, spend some time thinking how you might be creative with your marketing. Maybe a little creativity will attract some readers. Maybe you will think of a marketing strategy that isn’t overused (yet! it will be if it works for you and other authors find out) and be the first to adopt it. You shouldn’t be a one-strategy marketing machine (unless, of course, the first thing you try is a great success, then you should do it until it dries up). You should be exploring a variety of options that can help you widen your marketing net.

Even when marketing works, it often develops very slowly. Just because you don’t get any early results doesn’t mean you should give up.

Another important word is “branding.” You’re creating a brand. When people see marketing, they rarely stop what they’re doing and run to the store.

Rather, months later when they happen to be shopping for a product, people tend to buy a product that they’ve heard of.

You want your author name, or your book title, or your character’s name, or your series name to be something that people have heard of.

You want your cover to be something that people have seen before.

(In a good way.)

When that happens, you’ve succeeded in branding readers.


I know, you’re eager to go market your book.

But first, spread the word about someone else’s book.

Maybe it will give you some good karma. Or maybe you just feel like being a good person.

You’d like a stranger to recommend your book to others.

So take a moment to recommend a stranger’s book to others. This will help you visualize what you want to happen to your own book.

Plus, you get to do a good deed.

I’m recommending The Legends of Windemere series by Charles E. Yallowitz (who has absolutely no idea that I’m mentioning his series today, although I have mentioned him in years past).

I finished the Legends of Windemere series and enjoyed it for the storyline and several of the characters which appealed to me.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Nonstandard Tipping: Tips for Other Professions (Without Paying $$$)

We all know to leave a tip at a restaurant indicative of how much we appreciated the table service.

But if you really enjoy a product or service of other kinds, you can reward the provider with another kind of tip.

No, it’s not another way to spend your hard-earned cash. These other kinds of tips just cost you a moment of your time.

And might have a small impact on your prospects of being able to enjoy similar products or services in the future.

Suppose a new small business opens in your community. You try it out, and you’re highly impressed.

What should you do?

No, you don’t find the owner and leave him a little cash. That’s not appropriate.

Instead, you could spread the word to friends and family, you could return to that business the next time you need a similar product or service, and you could even write a nice review for it (there are places for this online, or you may have a blog with a relevant audience).

Many of us already do this to some extent. Definitely, if we have a good experience with a business, we’ll consider coming back. That’s automatic.

Some of us tell friends and family.

Most of us probably don’t think to rate the business online or leave a review.

Except for certain kinds of products. It’s becoming more and more common to review books and movies, for example.

Spreading the word and leaving reviews helps reward a business for providing useful products and services at reasonable prices.

Such marketing may actually play a role in whether or not the business thrives.

If you discover a new product that you love, but never tell anyone about it, and suddenly the product is no longer available. Well, if you had helped spread the word, maybe the product would still be available.

What if you try out a product or service, and it turns out to be bad?

It’s interesting to draw an analogy with restaurant tipping.

If you receive lousy service at a restaurant, what do you do? Leave a smaller tip. Maybe even no tip at all.

I bet you wouldn’t ask the waiter or waitress to pay you a tip instead!

Normally, poor service results in a lesser tip, great service in a better tip.

So if you receive lousy service, perhaps the right thing to do is simply not to use the same product or service again. Spread the word about other products or services that you like better.

Saying bad things about the product or service is kind of like asking the waiter or waitress to leave you a tip.

But sometimes it’s necessary. When table service is really awful, you might talk to the manager. Similarly, if a product or service is really awful, you don’t want your friends and family to use it either, so you want to warn them.

Although, saying good things about a product or service that you like better has much the same effect as saying bad things about the product or service that you don’t like. You can choose to focus on positive thoughts about a good product or service instead of negative thoughts about a bad one. You’ll probably feel better this way, too.

For example, if I love a book or movie, I will leave a good review for it. If I don’t like it, I just won’t leave any review at all. It would have to seem particularly deceitful for me to consider leaving a bad review – like advertising a novel when it’s really a short story. Even then, someone else will be all too happy to leave the bad review, so I may as well stay positive and not bother with those unhappy thoughts.

Recently, a new restaurant came into town. We love it: Great food, great service, great prices (usually, you only get two out of the three, at best). We go there frequently, spread the word, and I even went on Google to leave a review. That was my tip. 🙂

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

The Secret to Success: Marketing


Whether we like it or not, almost everything comes down to marketing:

  • Resumes and cover letters, interviews, and references distinguish qualified candidates through marketing. Very rarely does a business actually give an interviewee a challenging test to assess mastery of desired skills. Who you know, how you look on paper, what others say about you, and how you handle yourself in person are highly important (provided that you meet the qualifications).
  • What you know doesn’t matter unless you succeed in marketing yourself as knowledgeable. You must have the knowledge to establish this as a long-term perception, but just having the knowledge by itself isn’t enough. The same is true for your skills set and your ability.
  • If you have a degree, experience, or training, you’re just one of many other candidates with a similar background. People like to work with someone they know personally or who has good recommendations, and they like to hire applicants who market themselves the right way.
  • Even diligence, motivation, and passion are marketable. Some people, for example, manage to seem busier than they really are.
  • People brand you by the style of clothing you choose to wear, the cut of your hair, the way you speak, how you smell, and how you accessorize. Everything you say, do, and wear can and will be used to establish your brand.
  • Those who excel at marketing a positive image about their talents, character, diligence, motivation, passion, and performance have a distinct advantage in life, whether they are selling products, offering services, applying for a job, going out on a date, looking for friends, bonding with family, and anything else in life.

You can argue that it shouldn’t be this way. But if you’re not going to change the way things are, then you’re just a philosopher.

You can pretend it isn’t this way. Surely, there are some exceptions to the rule, but you can’t completely avoid it.

Or you can accept what is and make the best of it. You don’t have to sell out to thrive, but you should understand the rules of the game and decide where you want to fit.

And you can understand why marketing is so important. For example, if you’re truly passionate about a job, wouldn’t you market yourself with the best possible resume and cover letter? Wouldn’t you take the time to research what employers expect? Wouldn’t you learn some tips for good interview techniques? Wouldn’t you have put the time and effort into mastering your trade and impressing people on the way?

Whether you’re applying to school, applying for a job, selling a product, selling a service, and most other things in life – personal or business – having the passion and motivation to learn how to market yourself and diligently work to do this effectively helps you stand out.

What you’re trying to market needs to be good in order to achieve long-term success, but how you go about marketing it can make a huge difference in perception and results.

Self-promotion doesn’t tend to be effective (but self-demotion may be). If you just walk around saying, “I’m the best there is,” it’s not going to work. Discovery is a better method. Let people find out, in natural ways (including conversations), things that distinguish you. Showing them (naturally) is better than telling them, and interacting in person is more effective than not.

Help to market others whom you know personally to be worthy of it (but don’t market people in ways that they don’t deserve – as this can harm your own reputation).

What people think about you, who you know, how you handle yourself, appearance, possessions, who you choose to interact with, what you do, how you react to adversity, and even the way you prepare things play important roles in branding your image (personal and business). Ideally, you want to emphasize your strengths and show improvement in your weaknesses (which also takes work on your part, not just marketing).

How would you like to be known (or not known)? Think about the things you do (not just your actions, and not just at work) and how they may affect this perception.

  • Jean is such a passionate artist. You should see the expression on his face when he’s painting.
  • Anne is incredibly well organized. She knows where everything is.
  • If it’s broken, send it to Bob.
  • Jennifer has been working on this presentation day and night for the past month.
  • Ted has an amazing way with words. He can articulate anything very precisely.

Beware of possible marketing mistakes than can have long-lasting effects. You don’t want to be branded in negative ways. You don’t want to be known for complaining, cheating, arrogance, being a jerk, whining, being too dependent, arguing, self-promotion, etc. One lousy action or statement can undo months of positive marketing.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volume 2 on book marketing is now available)

$$ The Effect of Attitude on Sales $$

AttitudeAttitude plays a profound role in all aspects of sales, including:

  • The salesman in the store or on the phone. Attitude is most significant for the salesman, who often interacts thoroughly with the customer at the point-of-sale and may also deal with the customer again as a follow-up or regarding complaints.
  • Managers who most often interact with customers who have a complaint. It’s important to resolve the problem efficiently. An irate customer in the store can influence other buyers. An upset customer even has influence online. It can also be the difference between word-of-mouth sales and word-of-mouth negative advertising.
  • The cashier who writes up the sale or checks something on the register. Even when a different salesman has already convinced a customer to make a purchase, the deal isn’t sealed until the cashier completes the paperwork.
  • People like inventors and authors who have a product to sell, but who may not be selling the product directly. They personally interact with many of their potential customers through marketing techniques. These people must also deal with complaints through product reviews much like managers must deal with customer complaints.
  • Even an employee greeting people at the door, for example, can influence sales through attitude.

The ways that a poor attitude can spoil a sale are pretty obvious. Here are a few ways that attitudes can help facilitate sales:

  • Charm. The reality is that people don’t just look at price, value, and the quality of the product. Even though customers may only interact with a representative for a few minutes, while using the product for months or more, people prefer good service. When the customer receives good service at the point-of-sale, that bodes well for good service if the product has problems. When inventors or authors, for example, charms potential customers during personal interactions, the fact that they care about the customer suggests that the same care may have been put into the product. Buyers also tend to be impulsive, for which charm can make the difference.
  • Confidence. Representatives who show confidence sound knowledgeable. A customers is more apt to trust a confident salesperson. Lack of confidence leads to hesitation; doubt causes mistakes. Confidence helps to visualize and attain a positive outcome. The confidence of a representative can carry over to the customer, who wishes to be confident in the purchase decision. Bragging, on the other hand, tends to deter sales. It’s important to show confidence without seeming boastful.
  • Courtesy. People generally respond well to courtesy, and poorly to the lack thereof. Even small things, like holding a door open, can make a significant difference. Put the customer in a good frame of mind. All representatives need to show customers that they want their business. Without the customers, there would be no business.
  • Care. Customers like to feel special. Does it sound like a sales pitch? Was this rehearsed? Was the greeting or compliment mechanical, or did the representative really mean it? Going the extra mile shows the customer that the representative truly cares about the person, not just the sale. Inventors and authors, for example, are more likely to be successful in their interpersonal marketing endeavors when prospective buyers see their passion for the product and gauge that they care about their customers. Look the customer in the eye, address the customer by first name, and smile. Listen to what the customer says.
  • Calm. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Customer service and public relations frequently present new and difficult situations that challenge representatives to remain calm and in control of their emotions. Customers expect representatives to behave professionally. It just takes one individual, even in a minor capacity before or after a sale, with one unprofessional outburst to blow a deal.


Be charming, confident, courteous, caring, and calm. Have a winning attitude. It’s almost like trying to get a date. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volumes 1 and 2)

Stages of Branding

A brand is a name that people in the target audience recognize. It’s not necessarily the name of the product, like Levi’s. Names of people can be branded, too, like Michael Jackson. Even an image can be branded, such as a logo or cover art.

Sometimes, branding the person’s name is more effective than branding the name of the product. This is especially true for singers, writers, and artists of all kinds. For example, it’s much easier to remember Stephen King than it is to remember the titles of all of his books.

Branding occurs when members of the target audience see or hear the name of the product or person or see the image repeatedly over a period of time.

Companies that have money to invest and products or services for which there is a wide target audience may achieve this, in part, through advertisements on television, radio, magazines, billboards, websites, etc.

Advertisements aren’t always effective for all products. For example, a book at first seems to have a wide possible audience because millions of people read. However, there are twenty million books to choose from; even in a specific genre, there are thousands of competitors. Compare this to toilet paper: There are a dozen or so brands of toilet paper in a store, not millions to choose from. Compared to artistic works like books, products like toilet paper have a much large target audience and much less competition.

Fortunately, advertising isn’t the only way to brand a name or image. There are many ways to market a name, product, or image through branding. The goal is to have the name, product, or image seen or heard among the target audience.

For artistic goods and services, such as books, cd’s, editing, and cover art design, getting discovered or providing valuable content is often far more effective than self-promotion. The idea of self-promotion is like shouting, “Here I am! Look at me!” Discovery is about getting noticed through personal interaction. For example, a potential customer may discover that a person is a singer or real estate agent when asking, “What do you do for a living?” The self-promotion equivalent is walking into a room and saying, “I just released a new album.” For online interactions, discovery can occur by posting information in an online profile, whereas self-promotion posts this information clearly out in the open.

How the information is conveyed is also important. It should relate to the target audience and make it clear what the product or service is. It should convey this in a way that the target audience will respond positively. Generally, it should generate interest, convey passion, and sound confident, but should not seem boastful.

Providing valuable content geared toward the target audience, especially for free, is another way to get discovered. Sending a press release package to local media can help with this, too. Creating buzz for a newly released product is another common tactic.

Another way for branding to occur is through reviews, such as in magazines or on websites, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Companies sometimes give away free samples or accessories, hold contests, or mail out advance review copies with the hope that some customers who appreciate the product or service will tell their friends and family members.

These are some ways that a product, name, or image can become branded. Branding occurs in various stages. It can take several months for branding efforts to achieve a full effect. First, people in the target audience must be exposed to the branding efforts. This must occur not just once, but on multiple occasions (but not so frequently that it gets tuned out) over an extended period of time. Once they buy the product or service, it may be a while before it is used, and used enough for them to judge the quality. If they are pleased with it, it takes even more time to recommend it to others.

Branding isn’t about achieving instant sales. It’s about the potential for long-term success. Branding requires patience.

Stage 1: Recognition

When people in the target audience see the name or image, they recognize it. People tend to favor products that they have heard of before.

Stage 2: Awareness

People think of the name of the brand when they consider shopping for that product or service. At this stage, people search for the product or service, rather than simply recognizing it in a store or directory.

Stage 3: Backing

People have heard good things about a product or service. This may have come from a recommendation or a review, for example. At this stage, the prospective customer feels some measure of confidence about the purchase decision.

Stage 4: Association

Potential customers associate the brand with a favorable attribute. For example, Wal-Mart is regarded for low prices and Sony is regarded for high quality. At this stage, customers have a particular expectation for a product or service. In some cases, such as high quality, customers may be willing to pay extra for this distinction.

Stage 5: Experience

Customers have used the product or service and they enjoyed it. At this stage, they are likely to invest in the same brand in the future.

Stage 6: Charm

A personal interaction with an artist, agent, or representative, for example, made the customer feel special. The personal touch can go a long way beyond just the product or service.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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Cost-Benefit Analysis for Marketing Books

When trying to decide if a book marketing strategy is worth doing, consider this in terms of a cost-benefit analysis. What you hope to determine is whether the costs are worth the prospective benefits.

Even if the marketing technique is free, it still costs time. Time is money. You don’t want to spend several hours per week doing marketing work that yields very little in return. So you must factor both money and time into the costs.

Benefits very often aren’t measured in immediate sales. Marketing that helps new members of your target audience discover your book or which improves or furthers your branding efforts has value, too. Some sales from continued branding efforts may not come for months.

There are also other possible costs (besides money and time) and benefits (besides sales, discovery, and branding).

For example, a marketing strategy that places books into the hands of people outside of your target audience might be more likely to draw negative reviews, since these readers may not really appreciate and understand the genre. Similarly, giving your book away for free might draw a negative review from a customer who didn’t take time to read the description and therefore didn’t get what was expected. A few negative reviews help to provide balance and sometimes have a positive effect on sales, but too many negative reviews can deter sales.

On the other hand, some marketing strategies may be likely to result in positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. The more customers who read your book and like it, the more good reviews and word-of-mouth sales you may receive. When the readers are in your target audience or are bloggers who frequently review books in your genre on their blogs, for example, this improves these prospects.

Another thing to factor into cost-benefit analysis is the quality of the product and packaging. The packaging includes the title, blurb, Look Inside, and customer reviews. The better the packaging looks, the more this will help to magnify the benefits of effective marketing; the worse the packaging looks, the fewer benefits any marketing will reap. Similarly, a better book is more likely to receive good reviews and recommendations, while a poor book that receives many low-star reviews will inhibit sales.

Even a seemingly small thing like the title can impact this. A title that’s short and easy to remember is more likely to earn word-of-mouth sales. Just imagine this: “Oh, that reminds me of a great book that I read once. Oh, too bad I can’t remember the title of it.”

Realize that some marketing strategies may be reaching the same members of your target audience. Very often this is okay because it takes repetition for branding to become effective, but it’s still something to consider.

When you’re thinking about costs, you should be thinking:

  • How much money will you need to spend on this marketing strategy?
  • How much time will you need to spend doing this marketing?
    • What impact will this have on your author image? Anything you might do to brand yourself with a negative image can be a hefty cost.
    • Might this cause people to buy the book without realizing what they’re getting? For a free book promotion, for example, this could be the case. If so, these customers are more likely to express frustration if the book doesn’t meet their (sometimes unreasonable) expectations.
    • Is there any reason for customers to feel that the book is unprofessional? Poor editing, formatting, or storyline, for example, may result in bad reviews.

For benefits, you can’t calculate how many sales you will derive. Many of the sales may not be realized for several months. Instead, you should be thinking:

  • How many new members of my target audience will this reach? Don’t waste your time with marketing efforts that aren’t geared toward your target audience.
  • Will the interaction be personal or impersonal? Will it be engaging, or momentary? Personal, engaging interactions make a much stronger, lasting impression. Impersonal and momentary interactions are only worthwhile in very large numbers.
  • Does this come across as self-promotion, advertising, or salesmanship, or does this work like discovery and branding? Most people have an aversion to the former, but respond well to the latter.
  • Is this likely to generate thoughtful reviews from members of your target audience or bloggers in your genre?
  • Are you putting the book in the hands of highly social people in your target audience who may, if they like the book, spread the word in person or on Facebook or Twitter?
  • How strongly do you believe in your book? The better your book is cover to cover, the more it enhances these benefits through possible reviews and recommendations.
  • Have you written a series where the book is good enough to induce purchases in subsequent volumes? If so, prospective sales of the later volumes can significantly enhance the benefits.

Example 1. Should you invest in professional cover design?

Costs: How much will you pay for the service? Divide the financial cost by the per-book royalty to see how many copies you must sell just to break even. How much time will you invest looking for a designer and then interacting with the designer throughout the process?

Benefits: How much will the cover improve over what you could do yourself? Will you sell most of your books in person or at Amazon? Your cover is far more important at Amazon. Will the cover attract your target audience? How well will the cover stand out among other thumbnails in your genre? Are the blurb and Look Inside effective enough to seal the deal? Will the book live up to the expectations? Is there a large market for your book idea? You can search for other books similar to yours and see how well they are selling.

Example 2. Should you invest in bookmarks?

Costs: How much will you pay for the bookmarks? How much time will you invest looking for a company to make them, developing a design, and distributing them?

Benefits: Will they be appealing enough for people to use them? If they look like advertisements, no; if they only mention your title and name, but mostly have appealing images, yes. Will they be distributed primarily among new members of your target audience? Seeking feedback on the bookmark design may be helpful.

Example 3. Should you give your book away for free?

Costs: Every book that you give away is a royalty that you won’t earn. If you give away paperbacks, it also costs you money to print the books.

Benefits: Are most of the recipients in your target audience? What are your prospects for word-of-mouth sales? Do you have other books that may interest the customers if they enjoy your book? Giving away the first book of a series may help to sell subsequent books in the series, provided that the first book is very good.

Example 4. Should you write an article that relates to the content of your book?

Costs: How much time will it take to research magazines, newspapers, and websites that are a good fit for your target audience? How long will it take to write the article? How much time will you spend on submissions? What are the prospects for having your article accepted? If you have relevant expertise and experience with the subject matter, this greatly improves your chances. Also, there are very many websites online. Finally, in the worst-case scenario, you can always post the article on your own blog or other website.

Benefits: What is the circulation of the magazine or newspaper, or the frequency of site views of the website? What percentage of this audience is a good fit for your book? Will your name and the title of your book be visible at the bottom of your article? This helps with discovery and branding.

* * *

For each marketing strategy that you consider, make two lists – one for costs and another for benefits. Is this geared mainly toward your target audience? That should be one of your main questions. Remember that discovery and branding among your target audience are very helpful long-term benefits. Another main question is: Will this seem more like advertising or discovery? A marketing strategy is worth adopting when benefits outweigh the costs (and not just slightly).

Let me mention one more important benefit. For many authors, this may outweigh many of the other benefits. It’s not just about sales, is it? Many of us write for other reasons besides money. Even if we didn’t write for money, we still appreciate those royalty checks. (You might ask, if you’re not in it for the money, why not give it away for free? Maybe we want our work to be valued. If we give it away for free, many people who may have read our books might feel that if it’s free, it isn’t worth reading.)

If money isn’t your only motivation, there are some other benefits to consider. There is the benefit of sharing your work with others, telling your story, having your work appreciated, spreading knowledge, etc. But if you think about it, these really amount to the same thing as sales: The more books you sell, the more your work is shared with others, the more knowledge you spread, etc.

What I had in mind is a benefit that doesn’t correlate with sales. That’s the benefit of the marketing endeavor itself. For example, blogging is something that all writers should do even if a cost-benefit analysis says that it’s not worth doing. As writers, blogging is a useful creative outlet. We can explore new techniques, try a different voice, develop a new character, receive feedback, reduce stress by getting stuff off our chests (but beware that what you say could negatively impact your author branding), etc. There are many positive benefits of blogging that make it worthwhile even if this effort doesn’t result in a single new sale.

Another example is performing community service. If you write a self-help book, you may be able to get discovered by members of your target audience through your involvement in related community service. Even if this doesn’t make sense from a cost-benefit analysis in terms of sales, though, there are many other benefits of community service that may make it worthwhile.

For other marketing strategies, you might also consider if there are valuable benefits other than just sales that may make it outweigh the costs.

Don’t market for the sales. Be passionate about your writing and market to share your passion. Don’t market just to share your passion. Be passionate about the marketing strategy itself – e.g. be passionate about blogging, writing an article, or doing a book reading. When others indirectly see your passion, it has a positive impact on sales (but don’t be boastful, overconfident, or talk about your book too frequently, as these things deter sales).

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

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