Navigating the World of Literary Marketing
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
This week's blog article is about the wild world of book marketing! Yay! haha, yeah right, eh? (Yes I'm Canadian.)
I'm a new author, long time writer.
I've been writing since I was a little kid playing D&D and creating adventures for my friends to play back in the good ole' 1980s. I graduated to poetry in my teens and moved on to short fiction, essay writing(where I was first published) and eventually, novel writing.
Now I'm a published fantasy author, or will be as of September 30, 2019 when my first novel Legends from the Land of Shaarn Book One: Awakening is released by Dragon Soul Press on Amazon and select U.S. retailers.
That's the first leg of the journey. I wrote, I graduated to novels and then I found a publisher dumb enough to put up with my crap. Now we move on to the real work of being an author and "making it," so to speak. I'll be editing for hours on end and will have to budget my time between working on my books either editing or writing and also marketing myself and my work.
I worked in food service running promotions for major restaurants and fast food chains for years. Since then I've worked for a local advertising firm that has me focused on outdoor advertising. So I've seen, and been a part of creating and managing literally hundreds of ad campaigns over the last 15 years. I've had the chance to see what sells and what doesn't.
I can tell you there's no magic formula for a successful advertising campaign aside from your budget. It's simple math, the more you spend the better your ads and the more frequency of ad appearance you'll receive.
Frequency is the ticket to a successful marketing campaign. I've read several books and been through multiple seminars focused on quality of content and frequency. Specifically, branding frequency is the key to selling any product, even a book.
I'm new to marketing myself as a writer but I'm not new to the concept of marketing in general and I know a lot of writers out there struggle with this aspect of writing as a career. So, I thought it would be worth my while and yours to read a little bit about what I've learned so far and how I'm handling my marketing.
This is by no means the quintessential guide to marketing your novel but I thought it might help some the fledgling authors out there to understand what direction a marketing professional is choosing to market their first book.
The two main points I'll be focusing on are Brand and Frequency.
After that I'll talk about the internet, social media, hiring professionals to help you market and interpersonal sales.
What is branding anyway?
We all have an idea because we watch commercials on TV, we hear ads on the radio, we see ads on the internet on FB, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram outdoors on billboards, LED Ads, posters on bus shelters, ads on buses, on sides of buildings, skywriting The advertising world has proliferated exponentially over the last 20 years, especially with the invention of the internet.
We can't escape advertising. We live in a consumer driven society where literally millions of people want to brand their product to us and garner our hard earned dollars.
The definition of "branding," from the Oxford dictionary says that it's: The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.
Well what the F**k does that mean? I'm a writer not a tub of peanut butter.
I had to decipher what branding means to me as a writer. In order to do that I had to determine what it is exactly that I'm selling. Am I selling me? or am I selling my books or is it both or....?
For my purposes I chose to promote my books first and me second. my "brand," is landofshaarn.com It's easy to remember, it's easy to spell and it makes for a good website name. Within that overarching brand there's me, and there's my books. I'm working on marketing both as a package with individual elements.
My books come first. I've signed a deal for a 5 novel fantasy series so marketing that will be my primary objective.
I then needed to create a brand statement.
"Legends from the Land of Shaarn is a dark, epic fantasy novel series with classic appeal."
Next came a tagline to go with it that I thank my editor for coming up with one night while we brainstormed;
"Blood Magick, Havoc & Lore."
The brand statement focuses on what I'm selling, a series of books that fit the statement above and the tag line focuses on me as a writer and what I write. A strong, conceptualized idea of what you are going to brand is imperative to a successful campaign as it will help to create frequency in the audience's minds over time using familiar words and images to establish trust and build that relationship with my potential customers.
All of this I've learned through my experiences in the wild worlds of sales and marketing. I see it work in every fast food restaurant in North America. You are branded an average of fifteen times each time you visit (Insert name of burger joint here.) The sign outside, the drive thru menu, the cashier has an average of 3 logos on their apparel, everything, right down to the ketchup packets and the wrapper for your straw is covered in brand marketing.
Take a company like McDonalds for example. They do TV, Radio, Internet, Outdoor, Mailers. All of it is to get their brand in your face. A restaurant company considers a flyer drop with coupons a successful ad campaign if they get back 1% of the coupons they deliver.
ONE PERCENT!!!! Why?
Wouldn't they have made more money if they sold more of the burgers or whatever is on the coupons? Shouldn't they be aiming for a rate of return somewhere in the neighborhood of 10%? After all, one in every ten sales pitches ends up in a sale so it only makes sense right? It would if their goal was to sell you those delicious discounted burgers, but its not.
Their goal is to get you to the restaurant regularly so they can inundate you with more branding and keep you coming back. Branding works... if you have a clear brand statement and a sellable product that fills a need or a want.
This brings us back to book marketing. Filling a need or a want in the market is what consumerism is based on. High demand? raise the prices even higher and limit production to maximize returns on production costs per unit. Low demand? Drop the price to increase demand. How does this work for books? From what I can see it works exactly the same way except we authors get a few unique tricks to play with to increase the size of our audiences. Lucky for me there's been literally millions of authors to come before me in the digital age so I can glean from their experience what seems to work and what doesn't.
Well here's what I'm doing; I have an author logo created by my publisher that is my brand logo for me as an author and it also subs as my brand logo for my books and website.
Blood Magick, Havoc & Lore!
If you're looking at my website and you see this, with the brand statement;
"Legends from the Land of Shaarn is a dark, epic fantasy novel series with classic appeal," right below it, there's no question about what I'm selling. As I'm selling to a niche market I want to be very specific.
I think I've choked the horse long enough on branding you either get it or need to find a different resource at this point. But it's very important to selling anything in today's marketplace. Book/ Author branding is promoting or marketing yourself and your books through the use of distinctive design elements, (Logo) and a clearly focused brand message in the form of a branding statement with a quick tag line that people will remember.
Frequency in advertising means how many times you can get your ad in the mind of your potential audience over a period of time. I use 1 week as the measure because that's what I learned from all the Roy Williams Wizard of Ads seminars we're forced to sit through with the ad company I work for. The idea is to be in the mind of a potential buyer at least 3 times per week in order to be memorable. Roy says not much more than that or you run the risk of becoming forgettably redundant. I disagree with old Roy on that one and so does every fast food chain in the world. Redundant branding works as well. People may say it annoys them and makes them want to not buy the product but it still brands them to the idea of the product. When you think of fast food who comes to mind first? Mc Dinks of course! Why? Branding! We remember all their jingles from over the years, we remember all the characters they've invented to market to us with for a new and unique experience, we remember all the crazy foods they've tried to sell us. If any company on the planet is guilty of redundant marketing to gain frequency it's Mcdonalds. Ba-da-ba-ba-ba! You just said "I'm lovin' it to yourself didn't you? It's because you've been branded. You are unconsciously part of the McDonald's tribe whether you like it or not. Frequency in their ads did that to you.
Building a, "tribe," is what happens when your branding begins to take hold on your potential audience over time, increased frequency speeds this process up. Your tribe are people who relate in some way to your brand and are your greatest resource as potential customers. You can have tribe members by choice and tribe members by accident. I like both. If someone asked me where I wanted to get a fast food burger from I'd say BK or A&W but I wouldnt turn down Mc Doodles either. I'm branded to them by accident so I'm always willing to try their new products. Incidentally the angus burgers are very good. Best burger they've had since the McDLT (kept the hot side hot and the cool side cool if you remember correctly.) It's been off the market since 1990 thats 29 years and I'm still branded to it!!!!!!!!!!! Redundant ad campaigns work well! Roy says when you're just starting to get sick of seeing or hearing your own ads that's when the general public is just beginning to get to know who the heck you actually are.
Building a tribe as an author isn't very different than building one for a fast food company. But, either way it takes time and a creative ad campaign with the same message repeated over and over but in new and exciting or engaging ways.
Let's talk about the different ways you can advertise as an author.
First and foremost, you need a website. This is where you'll drive your traffic to. At first that traffic might be one new person a month, but remember, branding is an investment in both time and money, fortunately, this doesn't have to cost you a dime. Wix is the company I use but there's also Word Press, Square Space and many others out there who offer free introductory sites for those just getting started.
I highly recommend checking out at least three of these companies and testing their website building platforms for free to see which one you find easiest to use and most versatile for your needs. As I said, for me that was Wix. It's got the easiest interface for building your site, easy follow along instructions, it tells you if something isn't right. There's plenty of stylish, current images to use free from the site, live backgrounds, seamless page transitions, integrated blogging(this blog is just part of the Wix website,) you can do it for free though there'll be a wix ad at the top of every page. I set my page up for free and when I finally got picked up by a publisher Wix happened to be having a 50% off sale and I bought a package that covers me for two years.
If you're on a tight budget you can buy a domain name for your website for $25.00cad a year from godaddy who happened to be having a sale the day I wrote this for just $0.99! That's 96% off the regular price. ) I did NOT get that deal! Dangit!
What does buying a domain name mean exactly? Well, if you use a free site builder, you're going to have a long URL like http://www.myawesomeauthorpage/wix.com. If you buy your domain your website URL will look more like this; http://www.landofshaarn.com You can see that my URL is relatively short and easy to remember.
You see our brains remember a URL in the same way we remember a number. When we recall a phone number our brains need to reference each digit individually. But, when we recall a website, our brain tries to recall the whole URL in the same way it recalls a single digit of a phone number, so, the longer the URL the less likely it is your brain will be able to recall without a high amount of frequency. landofshaarn.com I'm branding you right now. Mua-ha-ha-ha-haaa!
Once you have a basic website set up, you need to begin finding streams to drive traffic to it. For authors, the most common way to do that is through using social media and paid ads.
3. Social Media:
Personally, I don't like it and only have 64 friends on my personal Facebook account. But, for my professional writing pen name account P.D. Dennison I have over 1,800 friend on FB, more than 170 on Instagram and a whopping 3,500 on Twitter, in addition to that I somehow have 113 friends on Goodreads as well which I have done nothing to garner, they all added me. Once my book is finally for sale, I'll also have an Author Page on Amazon. Did you follow all that? You need to have a presence on; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon at the minimum. Yes its alot, welcome to the future where everything we do business-wize needs to be on social media.
These people aren't my close personal friends. Most aren't even acquaintances. They're potential book buyers. Many are fellow authors. Most are fellow authors doing the same thing I'm doing, trying to get their name out there in the literary community so we swap friend requests and FB page likes and we may never speak again, who knows? But, they will see my FB posts and for those who liked my author page they will see my posts there as well if they've liked my page.
How do I build a presence on these social media sites?
Great question, glad you asked. Speak to people. I know this a foreign concept as most writers are weird, mentally ill (me and many of my acquaintances,) socially awkward introverts who can't converse in a normal human way with others of the same species, but we're great with our 27 cats and 3 dogs. Well folks, unfortunately there's no other way to do this than to socialize.
One of the best ways to do this and to meet people who will be interested in your book is to join groups. FB groups are groups of people with a common interest. for me thats Fantasy author groups Sci-Fi/Fantasy Author groups, fantasy book clubs, etc. If there's a group out there for folks who are into softcore bigfoot erotica (and there is), there's a group for you and your novels, trust me.
Create posts about your life and your writing so that people can get to know you. That's the stage I'm at right now. I post funny memes once in awhile for filler but mostly I post about my writing and what's happening with regard to that. If nothing interesting is happening then you need to get on that as people don't want to be in your tribe if you've got nothing of interest for them.
Remember, you're trying to fill a need or a want or both.
I post about how I might be working through some edits that are particularly challenging or about how my website is coming along or about how hard it was for me to kill off a certain character. I've been creating posts about all the goodies I'll be including in my Collector's Edition of my first book such as bookmarks, mini-journals stickers. (all of these goodies cost me money by the way, but you've got to spend it to build a brand.)
Once these folks get these Collector's Editions they'll begin to do some of the branding work for me with their friends and family just by having these products in their homes. Plus, it builds frequency with the reader if every time they open your book they see your tag line on the book mark.
Create social media accounts specifically for your writing, and make sure you're active on them. If you're not you'll start to see your friends list or followers lists slowly begin to decline and you obviously won't gain any new followers if you're not posting anything at all.
So much information on marketing for the fledgling author already... But Wait!
I've read that being a career author is 50/50 being a writer and being your own marketing team. Thank the gods of the good Land of Shaarn I have some marketing experience and have been reading so many articles about how to market my books. For those of you with no marketing background. Start reading! There's an endless number of blog posts out there about marketing your novel, though most won't be as poignant or brilliantly written as this one of course, but I digress.
What about Paid Ads?
Another great question! Personally I have no idea as I'm not at that stage yet. But, I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic and asking questions on social media to get an idea of other people's experiences.
Over all the feedback I've seen says Amazon ads actually help drive sales and FB ads might or might not.
I've been looking at FB ads from other authors and I can see why many don't see an uptick in sales from them. An ad needs to be short, concise and flashy to catch the eye. If you post your entire Amazon blurb in your FB ad you can bet I'll scroll right by it. Post a 1 sentence elevator pitch for your book and couple that with a link to your website where they can get more info along with a link to where they can buy the book. If you've got that and some flashy cover art your ad might just work... if you've bought enough frequency. How do you know if you bought enough? People will start signing up for your boring newsletter and buying your books is how.
But what if my ad is crap?
Ask people what they think of it. Ask like 100 people. This is called market research (1000 is much better but who has that kind of time or reach as a fledgling author?) 100 people is enough to get a sense of whether or not people liked the ad, found it memorable and found it engaging. Try to be objective here. It doesn't matter if you like your ad or not. It matters if the masses like it and remember it. It also doesn't matter if you see your ad or not, what matters is if other people see it. Try to be objective here as well. 1000 people might see it but only one person engages with your ad in a meaningful way such as a like, a share, a comment, or following a link. That doesn't mean you're not garnering accidental branding victims. Remember those 1000 people only need to see that ad two more times this week to be branded for the short term, the more frequency you can build from there the longer you'll remain in their memory.
4.) Professional Assistance:
Should I hire a PA (Personal/Promotional Assistant) or PR(Public Relations) Person to set up my ads for me?
Short answer, maybe.
Here's the long answer; Yes. You should. I have more than fifteen years of marketing experience and majored in english in university and I'm still hiring a PR guy.
Why? Because while I know alot about the generalities of marketing and have a good grasp on outdoor marketing, I don't know much about the specifics of marketing a novel other than what I've been reading, nor do I have the contacts these people do.
I hired a fellow by the name of Michael Evan, just giving him a shameless plug here. His company is called Iron Clad Author Services. What he offers for the price is phenomenal. He also runs a facebook group so if you're at a loss for a group to join and want to see what book promos on FB can look like from a professional check out his facebook group called Fantasy Focus. Join the group and get to know some other writers and readers of fantasy if that's your thing.
There are numerous other paid book promotion services out there, just google "book promotion," and make a list of the ones that appeal to you. I'll warn you, these people are in high demand so you may face some rejections from busy people. Don't be discouraged, that's their loss not yours, keep your chin up and contact more of them until you find one that works for you.
One thing to remember when you are interviewing potential marketing people is to ask what services they offer, for what price and how many days, weeks, months of marketing do you get for that price. Try to get what they say they offer in writing in the form of a contract. That way you can call them to task later if they don't fulfill their end of the bargain.
5.) Direct Sales:
Ahhhh! Salesmen! Nooooooooo! Yep. As an author you will have to become the dreaded salesman. The conman, a flimflam artist... I'm totally joking. Just be you and be honest.
One more aspect of book marketing is direct sales such as at book signings and conventions. I've been in sales for more than fifteen years now, mainly as an Advertising Consultant. I've done lots of face to face selling. The secret is listening. Start the conversation, ask open ended questions so that your customer talks and gives you information about themselves. relate to what they say to you with something from your own life to establish trust and then go for the kill...I mean sale. Ahahaha.
Don't be shy about it tell them what your book is all about and if they seem interested just ask, "So would you like to buy a copy of my book today?" They're going to do one of three things. Say yes in which case you sell a book, say no in which case you don't, remembering that only 1 in 10 sales pitches works on average, or they're going to give you some long convoluted story that leads you away from selling them anything. At which time you just need to end the conversation politely and move on to the next victim.... I mean customer. ahaha
Understanding that you're going to get more no's than sales is half the battle. If you don't know this going in, you feel like a heel at the end of it. If you DO know this going in you can go to the event with another agenda in mind.
You can go to these public events to network with potential readers, other authors, and to see what's happening at your local bookstore or convention. This is the real money shot for these public engagements. Creating real life interpersonal bonds with folks seems to be the best way to sell anything including my childish fantasy novels.
Well I hope I've unmuddied the waters for you with regard to marketing your book to some degree. I can't say my methods are the best as I'm just getting started just like you but I do have a leg up in that I know a thing or two about marketing. I am hopeful that my ideas will work and show me some results when my book is released next month and hopefully I helped a few of you or at least encouraged some of you to dig a little deeper into your marketing.
I see some really good authors floundering for sales because they don't understand the concept of spending money to make it, and I see some really terrible authors with great PR and marketing teams selling buttloads of books because they know how to market and brand. If you can write a quality novel that people want to read AND market it correctly you might just be the next George R.R. Martin or Stephen King.
Best of luck to you all with your writing careers. Feel free to ask me questions. I might not always have the right answer but I'll always respond.
Thanks for Reading!
Find P.D. Dennison on the internet @: