I’’m often asked for advice on marketing and promotion. While I’ve studied these areas extensively and I’ve learned a great deal on them, I’m by no means an expert. But I will share what I’ve come to recognize as significant self-imposed rules that authors should adopt and hold dear:
1. Set a budget and stick to it. Most authors consider 10% of their advance or 10% of their anticipated income a reasonable sum.
2. Do not promote the publisher. You well might change publishers, at their discretion or your own. Most readers don’t notice or care which publisher publishes the book (no negativity whatsoever intended against publishers). Readers notice the author, the title, the back cover copy, the color of the cover–but few readers are intent on buying books only by this or that publisher. So your money is better spent–more effectively spent–promoting that which readers do note.
3. Do not promote a book. Too many books have a very short shelf life or are printed in insufficient quantities for any promotion you do to have a positive impact. Example. HER PERFECT LIFE was released in April. The date the book was released, I got an email from a bookseller who was trying to get copies for a signing. This was to be the first signing I would do on the book. Her normal suppliers were already out of stock. If I’d timed promotion to coincide with the book’s release, I’d be promoting the sale of books the reader couldn’t get.
4. Do promote the author. You are spending your money to promote–and you should be spending it to promote you. Authors sell books based on name recognition–regardless of the types of books they write. Many authors write in several genres and most authors “reinvent” themselves three to four times in the span of a career. Often they do so by switching genres. Some readers follow, others don’t. But the more familiar readers are with your name, the greater the odds they will find you and have the opportunity to decide presented to them.
5. Set a specific goal for any promotion campaign. Target a specific group for a specific reason. Example. You’re attempting to build name recognition with independent Booksellers, or in the southeastern US, or in the wholesale market. Create a promotion plan that focuses intently. Scatter-gunning doesn’t pay dividends.
6. Test your plan before you invest to implement it. Often running a small test–selecting one state and running your market there–will offer you the opportunity to see the results of what you’re doing before you expand the project. Test a campaign and check Book Scan and sales for a specific time in specific areas. Publisher’s Alley is a venue as well. You won’t have the total picture, but you’ll have a better picture of what your end-result efforts’ potential.
7. Commit to functional. Non-functional items get glanced at (maybe) and tossed. Functional items are retained (often for years) and used. With each use, you gain the blessing of repetition. So make whatever items you send out functional items.
8. Realistic expectations. Have them. Some say to expect a one in three positive response. Personally, I consider that ratio unrealistically optimistic. While one must see something three times to remember it is a commonly held notion, it isn’t followed by then they’ll buy your book. They might, but they might not. It’s impossible to totally measure the potential of marketing. One never knows what will trigger–or has been triggered–in whomever is exposed to it. What is certain is that if you don’t promote, then you’ve generated zero opportunities and created no new gains that you might have achieved with it. You’ve generated no potential.
9. The best promotion, IMHO, is and always will be a terrific product. Invest mightily in producing the best book you’re capable of producing.
10. Word of mouth is the most potent, powerful promotion of all. Nothing generates interest like a buzz. How do you create one? See #9. Hope that readers talk favorably to booksellers, online in book chats, to other readers. To friends and book-lovers. You can’t control word of mouth, and you can’t generate it for yourself. But you can do it for others when you believe it’s warranted. Don’t neglect the Internet. (It warrants a separate article.)
An example. A few years ago, I judged a writing competition for the Best Paranormal Novel of the Year. I read a book called THE BRIDEFINDER. It was notable, excellent, an outstanding read. I couldn’t say anything about the book until the winners were announced–a rule of judging. But once it had, I hand-sold that book everywhere: in online forums, to booksellers, to other writers, to readers–everywhere. Others did, too. Word of mouth. Priceless promotion.
There are additional articles on promotion in my website writer’s library on vickihinze.com. Scout around. 🙂
© 2005-2010, Vicki Hinze