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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Effective Book Marketing – Part 3

(5) Strive to generate word-of-mouth sales.

Word-of-mouth sales are among the best sales that your book can get, yet are also the most challenging to achieve. There are a few things that you can do to help garnish these valuable sales.

Try to create buzz for your upcoming book. Don’t simply publish the book and wait to see how little it gets noticed. Instead, strive to get people talking about your book prior to its release:

  • Solicit feedback on your cover, title, and blurb. Post these on your blog and Facebook, requesting comments. Show these in person. Have these with you and show them to people (especially, those in your target audience). You get valuable feedback and might help to create a little buzz at the same time.
  • Don’t keep your book writing a secret. People ask, “What have you been up to lately?” Let them know how your book is coming along. This is more effective when they inquire about your book, and less effective when you volunteer it. You’ll get tuned out if you’re always talking about your book.
  • Join a critique group, see if a book club is interested in your draft (if you’re already a member, this is far more likely), start a focus group, and find people who can read your book (in whole or in part) and offer feedback. The more people who know about your book, the greater the chances that some people will like it and talk about its upcoming release. You want people to be saying, “Did you know that So-n-so wrote a romance novel and it’s coming out this June?” You can’t tell people what to say, but you can create the opportunities.
  • Send out advance review copies. Search for bloggers who have a following among your target audience who occasionally review books and see if they would be interested in reading a free copy of your book for possible review on their blog (if you’ve already been a long-time, active follower, that may help). You can also search for book review websites. Keep in mind that the most popular bloggers and sites will already have numerous requests.
  • Arrange for book readings and signings. Develop a one-sentence strapline that will help generate interest in your book. When you interact with people (in general) or do a book reading, this is the thought that you want to leave them with.
  • Seek local press coverage from the media. Prepare a professional press release package. Local newspapers may have column inches to fill and like to feature local authors. Similarly, local radio shows may have minutes to fill; even try local television stations. Start local, then look for media that specifically relates to your target audience; when they’re trying to catch the same target audience, featuring you may be a good fit. Even if they can’t cover you on the air, they may be willing to post a brief note about you on their major website.

Realize that your book is a marketing tool in itself:

  • An eye-catching cover helps to attract interest in your book.
  • A cover, title, and blurb that send a unified message about the genre and content help to catch members from your target audience.
  • A cover that features one image and a title with two to three words are easy to remember and help with your branding efforts. This also makes your book easier to describe, which helps with buzz and word-of-mouth sales.
  • An effective, well-written blurb and captivating, well-written and well-formatted Look Inside help to sell your book. This is your only salesperson at the point-of-sale online.
  • The quality of the book significantly impacts your prospects for word-of-mouth sales. Editing or formatting mistakes detract from this. Memorable characters and great stories that evoke strong emotions for fiction, and helpful and clear explanations for nonfiction, improve your chances. These things similarly affect customer reviews.

(6) Be diligent, consistent, and persistent in your marketing efforts.

It can take a year of diligent marketing before your marketing efforts are fully realized. Trying for a short period and giving up prematurely is a common mistake. We like to see instant satisfaction, but marketing just doesn’t work that way. There aren’t any shortcuts. You can’t just throw money at it (like paying for advertisements) to reap instant rewards.

Be patient. Branding and discovery take time. People won’t rush out to buy your book the second they hear about it. It may take months until readers from your target audience have come across you and your book enough times for branding to take effect. Then it can take additional weeks before they’re shopping for their next book. It may take months to read your book. So it can easily be a year before they recommend it to others.

If you stop marketing prematurely, your branding effort will be incomplete.

Many marketing strategies actually have indirect benefits. So even if they don’t reap immediate sales, all of your marketing strategies that specifically reach your target audience may have long-term benefits. Don’t give up.

(7) Choose strategies based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Most authors decide which marketing strategies to adopt based on what’s easiest for them to do, what they feel most comfortable doing, what they perceive is popular among other authors, what they’ve heard other authors recommend, and especially what does or doesn’t seem to be providing immediate results.

What you really want to know is which marketing strategies will be most effective for your unique book.

Decide which strategies to employ based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Even if the marketing tool is free, it still costs you time. Therefore, every marketing strategy that you apply has cost, whether in money, time, or both.

Ideally, you want to reap the most rewards with the least cost. For each marketing strategy that you consider, make a list of the probable costs and benefits (and remember, time is money, so the time that you must invest is a cost, too).

Click here to view an article on cost-benefit analysis:

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.

Effective Book Marketing – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, you can find it here:

(3) Promote your book indirectly through discovery and branding.

Consider these questions for a moment:

  • When you’re walking down the sidewalk, do you like it when someone stops you to give you a sales pitch?
  • Suppose that an acquaintance tells you that you should come to his shop and buy a product first thing every time that you meet him. Would you appreciate this?
  • Do you believe it when somebody tells you that their product is the best ever?
  • If a stranger tells you out of the blue that you should buy a particular product, will you go to the store and purchase it?
  • Don’t you love it when a televised movie breaks to commercials just before the climax?

Most people have an aversion to advertising and salesmanship. You won’t sell many books through self-promotion and direct advertising of an unknown book by an unknown author with an unknown publisher.

Bragging also tends to be ineffective. It’s important to show confidence and passion for your own work, without coming across as boastful.

If you post online just to promote your new book, most people will ignore it. If you frequently advertise your book, most people will tune you out.

Now consider these questions:

  • When you see people wearing outfits that you like, do you ever ask where they bought them?
  • Suppose that you’re having a conversation with an acquaintance. You ask what he does and learn that he’s a singer who has just released a new CD. Would you be interested in buying a song from someone you’ve actually met?
  • If you’re buying a product in the store, do you ever choose one that you’ve heard of over one that you don’t recognize?
  • Do you enjoy seeing an artist’s passion for her work?

When people discover that you’ve written a book (rather than have you thrust this information upon them) they are much more likely to develop interest in it. If people recognize your book, your cover, your author photo, or your name from your indirect branding efforts (not from direct advertising or salesmanship), they are more likely to buy your book. When people see that you are passionate about your book, but not boastful, this tends to increase their interest in it.

The indirect techniques of discovery and branding tend to be far more effective than self-promotion or direct advertising.

Interact with your target audience in such a way that if they enjoy the interaction, they can discover that you’re an author and inquire about your book. Gear your marketing efforts toward increasing your visibility among your target audience in order to brand your book.

Personal interactions tend to be more effective. People like to read books by authors they’ve actually met. Mingle with your target audience. Let them discover that you’re an author, rather than volunteering this information. If you ask what they do for a living, they might ask the same of you, for example.

Of course, there is a limit to how many people you can interact with in person, so you must also interact with your target audience online. If they enjoy their interaction with you, they may check out your online profile and discover that you’ve written a book.

Where relevant, some authors end their posts with Your Name, Author of Your Book (in an online forum, it’s best if you have a very short title – two to three words). Don’t list several books and services at the bottom of your post, since this will look like your post is mostly about advertising and sales.

Branding entails more than just getting your book and name out there. Your image is at stake. Brand your book or your name in a negative way and it can greatly deter sales. You want to come across as professional, confident (but not boastful), trustworthy, credible as an author in your genre, respectful of others, knowledgeable, and as a model for how authors should behave.

Never behave defensively, avoid complaining, don’t say bad things about any customers or reviewers, refrain from asking for reviews, and so on.

(4) Attract a following by providing valuable content.

Blogging about yourself and tweeting about your book, for example, aren’t likely to attract new readers. You can provide more information about yourself on a fan page, but this just entertains a few of your current fans – it doesn’t gain you new readers. A fan page might help you spread the word of subsequent books. But what you really want to do is attract new customers.

What you want to do is provide valuable content that may attract your target audience. Get valuable content where your target audience is likely to see it.

When you blog, provide helpful nonfiction material that relates to your book (without duplicating the content). Blog because you’re passionate about the subject and wish to share it with others (don’t blog because you’re trying to sell books), and your articles are likely to be more valuable. When you tweet, focus on using the limited space to offer useful information to your target audience – often through a link (that doesn’t go to your own book or websites). Use tags and hashtags to help reach your target audience.

No more than 10% of your posts should be about you or your book. If people appreciate the content that you provide, they may check out your profile and discover that you’ve written a book.

Look for other ways to provide valuable content. Meet bloggers who are a good fit for your target audience: They might feature you on a guest interview (or review your book on their blogs), for example (something you can also do for others). Write an article and try to publish it online (the very large number of websites out there gives you reasonable chances of achieving this in a modest traffic zone), where the website is a good fit for your target audience and your knowledge and expertise. At the bottom of your article, you want it to list Your Name, Author of Your Book.

Passing out flyers generally isn’t effective because they just look like advertisements. Passing out bookmarks is much better because bookmarks serve a function – it has value to the recipient, especially if it doesn’t look like an advertisement for your book (it might feature images from your cover and mention no more than the title and author). Especially, distributing appealing bookmarks among your target audience can be helpful.

In every marketing strategy that you consider, think about the following:

  • Is this mainly reaching my target audience?
  • Does this provide valuable content to my target audience?
  • How will this affect my image as an author?
  • Will people view this as advertising or discovery?
  • Is it helping to establish your brand?

Click here to view part 3:

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.

Effective Book Marketing – Part 1

Thousands of authors are actively promoting their books. A few do this successfully; many do not. A wide variety of marketing tools are available. A few work very well; some are ineffective; and others work well for some books or authors, but not well for others.

How do you know which marketing strategies will be effective for you?

(1) First identify your target audience.

This should be incredibly obvious, yet it’s extremely common to find authors promoting their books in ways that aren’t geared toward their target audience.

Your target audience is NOT anybody with a pair of eyes!

Sure, anybody with eyes can read your book, and you’d love to sell your book to everybody who can read. However, the reality is that the vast majority of people who will read and enjoy your book will be people who frequently read books from the same genre.

Don’t waste your time or money with marketing tools that are likely to yield a tiny percentage of new customers for your book. For example, if you promote a mystery novel in a way that reaches 1000 people, but only 5 of those 1000 people actually read mysteries, 99.5% of your promotion is being wasted.

Identify your specific target audience. A few people outside of your target audience may read your book, but the vast majority of your readers will come from your target audience, so focus on reaching people in your target audience.

People in your target audience are most likely to enjoy the book, give you word-of-mouth sales, and review your book. When you succeed in marketing your book to people outside of your target audience, they are less likely to appreciate and understand the book, spread the word to others, and review your book (and if they do, the audience mismatch might lead to a negative review).

That’s one problem with the KDP Select free promo books: Many people read books outside of their normal genre just because they’re free (and often don’t even read the description, Look Inside, or any reviews to try to learn what the book is about beforehand). When the book doesn’t live up to their (often unrealistic) expectations, this tends to show up in product reviews.

If your book is a romance intended for adults, then your audience is adult romance. Your target audience does not include erotica (otherwise, your audience would be erotic romance, not adult romance), nor does it include teen romance. You might get a few readers from these similar genres, but most readers will be looking specifically for adult romance.

(2) Gear your marketing efforts toward your specific target audience.

Your promotional strategies will be much more effective when your exposure primarily reaches members of your specific target audience. If you have a fantasy novel and leave flyers for your book on the windshields of cars outside of a science fiction convention, you’re wasting your time with a target audience mismatch. Even worse, if you pass flyers out at a mall, only a tiny fraction of the people there will be fantasy readers. (Then there is the issue of solicitation being prohibited at many places.)

Where can you find your target audience? Strive to understand your target audience. Where are they likely to hang out (both online and in person)? What common interests will they have?

You have to be realistic with this question, too. For example, many authors will fall into traps like, “Science fiction readers might play chess.” True, they might. What you really want to know is how many chess players avidly read science fiction? If it’s a small percentage, then it’s not worth your effort to target chess players.

For a science fiction book, you want to find places where you can interact with people both in person and online who are very likely to be science fiction readers. Going to a Star Trek party, attending a science fiction convention, joining a science fiction club, meeting people online at a discussion forum for science fiction, and writing articles about science fiction (and getting them published on blogs or websites with significant science fiction traffic) are examples of how to reach this specific audience.

With enough thought and determination, you can find your target audience. For a self-help book, for example, get involved in community service that relates to the subject. If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas of where to find your target audience, tell people about your book and ask for some suggestions.

Find Part 2 of this article here:

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.

Artists Who Love Marketing – an Oxymoron?

Whether you paint a picture, write a book, or invent a new product, if you did this with the creative passion of an artist, it’s only logical for you to be highly motivated to market your work. Yet most artists express a loathing for marketing.

Why? One reason is that marketing sounds like business and salesmanship. Artists enjoy creating their art, and authors love to write. But business and sales often doesn’t easily arouse their interest.

Let me take a detour and explain that marketing creative products – like paintings and books – isn’t about business and salesmanship. Then I will return to my main point – i.e. why artists should naturally be motivated to market their work.

Marketing a creative product is more about discovery and branding an image, and less about business and salesmanship. Books, for example, aren’t sold by persuasion like used cars. In fact, no salesman is even present – this is obvious for eBooks, but even in the store there is usually just a cashier. What bookstore will thrive with a pushy salesman looking over customers’ shoulders in the middle of the aisle?

Similarly, self-promotion doesn’t tend to attract much interest. “Hey, I just wrote a book and it’s the greatest thing ever so you should check it out,” isn’t the way to sell books.

Instead, when you personally interact with people – in person or online – and people “discover” that you are an artist, author, or inventor, for example, they often want to learn more. People like to buy products that were made by people they know – how often do you get such a chance? – provided that they discover it rather than having it thrust upon them.

“What do you do for a living?” “What have you done recently?” “How’s your new book coming along?” There are so many ways for people to learn more about you and discover your work. They could even click on your online profile.

The more people you personally interact with, the more your work may get discovered. This also helps to create “buzz” when you release a new product, which helps to earn early sales and reviews.

Marketing a single artist’s creative product involves branding. Advertising to say, “This is the best thing since sliced bread,” isn’t going to help, and demanding, “You should go buy this product now,” is a waste.

Commercials don’t work because the majority of people do as they’re told or listen to whatever the television tells them. They work because of branding. When people are standing in the grocery store, deciding which product to buy, they don’t remember what the television said was better and they’re not there because the television told them to go shopping – more often than not, they simply recognize a product that they’ve heard before. That is, they remember the brand. People tend to buy products they’ve heard of, and for which they like what the brand symbolizes.

Fortunately, a single artist doesn’t need to pay advertising fees to brand an image. Branding can be done for free. Getting your product, name, and image in front of your target audience helps to establish your brand as an artist or author. The more they see this, the more they are likely to recognize your product, then one day when they are buying a similar product, they may buy yours.

One way to get your target audience to see your brand is to post valuable content online. Posting advertisements about your product, posting content about yourself, and posting links to your other sites won’t likely attract much interest. But posting valuable content for your target audience may attract new customers. If they appreciate the content that you offer, they might click on your profile to learn more about you – and, lo and behold, “discover” your work.

Every time they visit one of your sites, they see your name, your photo, and an image of your product. Someday, when they are buying a similar product, if they recognize and buy your product, the branding was successful.

Where persuasion fails, discovery often works. Where overt (and even paid) advertising is ineffective, free branding is a great help. So don’t think of marketing as business and salesmanship. Think of it as interacting with others on a personal level so that your work can be discovered, and branding an image so that you and your work may be recognized.

Now for my main point: Artists should naturally be motivated to interact with others personally so that their work can be discovered, and should naturally be motivated to attract the attention of their target audience so that they can brand their image (for which, posting valuable content online is just one of many examples).

So why should artists naturally be motivated to market their work?

It’s simple, really: If you have passion for your artwork or book, you should also have the passion to share this work with others. And how do you share your work with others? Marketing! Use your passion for your work to motivate yourself to work diligently to share your work with others through marketing.

Furthermore, when others see the passion that you have for your work firsthand, they are more likely to get interested in your work. (But be careful to show passion and sound confident, but not to be boastful or overconfident.)

Would you rather buy a painting that was made by an artist that was passionate about his/her work, or just kind of threw something together because he/she was bored?

If you meet two artists, and one sounds kind of bored talking about his sculpture, while the other is clearly passionate about his/her work, which sculpture will interest you more?

If you’re passionate about your work and you strongly believe in it, then you should also be passionate about sharing your work with others (not just “getting it out there” – art doesn’t tend to sell itself). If you’re not passionate about marketing your own work, it suggests that you weren’t all that into it or that you feel like something may be wrong with it.

You don’t have to be a salesman to sell your artwork or book. You just have to be passionate about sharing it with others. Marketing through discovery and branding is a natural fit for the artist. It’s just a matter of perspective.

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

Marketing: The 4 R’s of Branding

Repetition, Recognition, Referral, Reliance

These four R’s affect most of us every week when we buy products and services. As authors, we can apply the same branding philosophy in the marketing of our books.

(1) Repetition. Every brand of soda, detergent, television, car, and so on is constantly trying to get us to notice their name, logo, slogan, and image. We see it on television, on billboards, in magazines, and even on hats and t-shirts. The more we see it, the more we’re likely to remember it. This way, we remember brand names for products that we’ve never even tried.

You want people to remember your book and the name of the author – even if they haven’t read it yet. The more often people see your cover, read the title, hear your strapline, and see your author photo, the more likely they are to remember it. You can’t afford to invest millions of dollars in advertisements and commercials, but you can afford free. Your blog, your website, social media, articles that you write, local newspapers and television, every place your book is available for sale, every edition of your book (paperback, eBook, etc.), every book review, every person you interact with and mention your book or writing hobby – anything you do online that includes your cover, title, strapline, and/or author photo (including every little Like and Follow), improves your visibility. The more often people see and read these things, they more likely they will remember them.

Strapline – a single, short sentence used to create interest in your book (kind of like a slogan).

Your title and strapline should be short and easy to remember. Bestselling books often have three words or less for this very reason. Coke. Pepsi. Sony. Levis. The Shining. Wool. The Scarlet Letter. Short, easy to remember, easy to spell. Ideally, the author name should also be short and easy to remember and spell. Your cover and author imagery should also be easy to remember. A very busy cover, or one that doesn’t have one central image, or one that doesn’t use three main colors, or one where the title doesn’t stand out, or one that doesn’t present a unifying theme and signify the genre – such a cover isn’t as easy to remember. The title, author name, and cover are actually important marketing tools.

(2) Recognition. When we shop for a printer, golf club, or laundry detergent, we often prefer a brand that we recognize to one that we’ve never heard of – even if we’ve never used any of the products before. We may recognize the brand name, the logo, or even a catchy slogan.

The same principle applies to books. People often buy a book that they remember seeing, hearing about, or reading about, or has an author they recognize. This is why visibility of the brand of both the book and author is so important – people recognize what they remember.

Don’t change the title, cover, author name, or author image. If you use a much different cover for the paperback and eBook edition, or use a different photo for your FaceBook author page and AuthorCentral, for example, this inhibits recognition. Let all of your online activities reinforce one another with a unified approach.

Create “buzz” for your book prior to and during its release. Get people talking about your book – in person and online – and this will help them recognize it when it becomes available. In the months prior to publication, ask people for input on your cover, title, and blurb – in person and online. Spread the word about your upcoming book. Highlight positive things that will create interest in your book – like spending a year doing research or working on your third revision with an editor. Don’t be a salesman, just naturally get this into conversations. “So, what have you been up to recently?”

Interact with people personally. People recognize authors they’ve actually met. They just need to naturally discover that you’re an author, then remember your face and name plus the title and strapline for your book. Short and easy to remember and spell.

(3) Referral. If a friend or acquaintance recommends a product or service, we’re much more likely to try it. The product or service must be pretty good for it to be recommended by someone who doesn’t have a financial interest in the sales.

This applies to books, too. Word-of-mouth referrals can have a major impact on sales. For this, the book has to be very good. An amazing plot, a memorable character. Great storyline and characterization helps. It also needs to meet standards for editing and formatting; people won’t recommend a product that has obvious problems.

They’re much more apt to refer your book correctly if the title is short, easy to remember, and easy to spell; or the author if the name is easy to remember and spell; or to describe a book that has a simple, memorable cover.

(4) Reliance. People believe that Sony makes great televisions. Sony has established credibility and trust, and because of this, many people prefer to buy Sony electronics.

Readers are similarly more likely to buy products from authors who establish credibility and trust. Part of this comes from creating a highly professional cover, blurb, Look Inside, and author page. Behave professionally online; misbehaving certainly loses credibility. Your author photo, biography, and behavior should give the appearance of a knowledgeable, competent, trustworthy, and credible author. Do you look and sound like someone who would write a book in this genre?

Write content for your blog, website, newspapers, or magazines (in print or online) that demonstrates your expertise. Useful information may even attract newcomers, in addition to helping build your credibility.


At the bottom of your blog (and many other online activities), you can include your name and the title of one to three books. If your titles are very short, you can squeeze three into this space. As you can see below, sadly, I broke my own rule with a very long title. If you have expertise, just imagine how it would look to have your name and title show up at the bottom of an article in a high-traffic area in a magazine, newspaper, or online. Prepare an article relevant for your book and strive to get it published. You may be able to publish it locally or at a lesser traffic site, at least. It won’t go to waste because in the worst-case scenario, you can always add it to your blog.

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