Marketing is the planning and preparation done to make sure the book is available at the place where the target audience is likely to look for it as well as to make sure everything about the look of the book and sales elements are likely to appeal to this particular audience. It also includes finding out where the audience goes to get information and making sure information about the book appears at those places. Most people think that bookstores are the main place to buy books, but this is less and less true. Only about 45% of all trade books sold are sold in bookstores.
The rest are sold online, at author speaking engagements, in large volumes to big organizations and companies who give them away, and at other retail stores like specialty and gift stores. Another misconception is that if an established commercial publisher has published the author’s book, then the publisher will do most of the marketing and selling. Unfortunately, whether the book is self-published or published by a large publisher, it will still be the author’s responsibility to market and sell the book.
The Role of the Author in Selling the Book
The author who wants to successfully sell a book has many important decisions to make that will determine whether this book sells well or not. Now that the book is written and published, the author must shift his or her focus to how and where to make the book available so it can be found and purchased by the target audience. With the millions of books marketed to readers each year, how can the author make sure that the people who want to buy this book know it exists and know where to buy it? Putting together a good marketing plan will help ensure the author is using his or her money and time wisely. As a part of that plan, there are things to do way before the book is published and at the time of publication.
Marketing and selling a book will continue for the life of the book or at least for as long as the author would like the book to keep selling. Most people assume that books automatically appear in bookstores, but that is not true. Selling in bookstores requires publishers to be willing to discount them up to 70% off of the retail price and be in a position to accept unlimited book returns indefinitely, which is not really possible for most self-publishers.
Internet marketing is the most cost-effective type of marketing for most book authors. So the author has to take full advantage of his or her own web site and other online opportunities like Amazon. Before the book is published, the author can work on the marketing copy, the carefully chosen words and visuals to be used to sell the book. There are some important printed materials the author might want to produce, such as a poster for book events, bookmarks, and a one-sheet flyer and order form. But these collateral materials can get expensive, so the author has to be careful not to get carried away ordering all these fun extras.
Another marketing opportunity is to take advantage of public relations, no cost ways to get the book known to its audience. Journalists write for newspapers, magazines and look for stories for the radio or television, as well as write for online news sources and communities. They are always looking for compelling content to find new angles on the news stories of the day. That author should always be thinking about how his or her expertise and the subject of the book are relevant to the important news stories currently occupying the public interest.
One of the things that authors discover is that writing and publishing a book is not publicly interesting news. But having a fresh approach to a story that is news may give the author an opportunity to become part of the news. On or around the publication date, the date that the book is officially available to the public for the first time, the author has an opportunity for some special attention. People love things that are new, so it is prime time for authors to host live and virtual book launch events and do email sales campaigns.
Because books are relatively low in price compared to many other things, the author must sell a lot of books in order to pay for the publishing and marketing of the book. But books are generally sold only one at a time, so the marketing and selling challenge is daunting. The good news is that many books are still relevant years after they were written, so the author has a lot of time to keep selling the book. There are many books that are decades old and still sell many copies each year.
The key for the author is to get the most exposure for the least money. While many of the same marketing opportunities that work for other products work for books, there are some unique opportunities just for books. The more the author can use the Internet to send out articles, press releases, work with journalists, do blogs, podcasts, launch events and email campaigns, the more cost effective the marketing effort can be.
Marketing and selling a book is a big job. Luckily for the author, there is one person who can help him or her coordinate all the activities involved, find others to help as well and do some of the specific tasks involved. That person is you – the virtual author’s assistant.
The Role of the Author’s Assistant in the Marketing Process
The author’s assistant has some very specific tasks in the marketing and selling part of the process to assist the author.
When the author finishes writing and publishing and is ready to start the marketing process, the first task facing him or her is to learn all the steps involved, decide who to turn to for expert help, and determine how much time and money the process should reasonably take. The author’s assistant can answer many of these questions for the author and help coordinate the book marketing activities from about two months before the publication date to months and even years afterwards.
The author may need the professional services of a marketing consultant, web designer, publicist and copywriter to get the sales success he or she desires. In preparing to sell the book while the publishing process is ongoing, the author’s assistant can help the author coordinate the information to be on the author’s web site whether that is a new site just for the book or a part of a larger web site the author has already created for a business or other purpose. Most authors are new to social media, blogging, book trailers and other ways of keeping in touch with their target readers and you can be essential to getting accounts set up and keeping them focused in these efforts. An important and unique part of the book marketing process is getting book reviews in major consumer and industry publications. With so many books coming out each year, if a positive book review appears in a major newspaper or magazine or in a review publication read by bookstores and librarians, this can guarantee early volume sales.
To make sure reviewers know about the book, the author’s assistant can send out early copies of the book for the purpose of getting these early reviews and follow up to make sure any great reviews get onto the author’s web site and sales materials. It will be important to help the author understand what the critical elements are of the media kit that will help journalists write their stories and prepare their interviews. Once the author begins to get media attention, you can make sure these audio, video and print clips get up on his or her web site. In addition, you can assist the author with article marketing, including pitching articles to journalists and getting articles into article databases.
Although a number of printers now get an author’s book listed on Amazon, this listing will only have minimal information. Amazon has many opportunities for the author to create compelling material for that book’s page, virtually all of it free to the author, including an author blog, places for reader testimonials, the ability for a reader to see “inside the book” as if he or she were browsing in a bookstore and much more. The author’s assistant can make sure the book is listed on Amazon and help the author make the most of that listing by adding all sorts of content and getting readers to participate in reviewing the book and posting those reviews on Amazon.
One of the most exciting and fun opportunities for an author’s assistant is to create a virtual book launch and book tour for the author’s new book. This is a very cost-effective way for the author to announce the book and do a book tour through radio and podcast audio interviews and blog and other web online interviews, and perhaps including the author’s own teleclasses, contests or other elements. The author may also want the author’s assistant’s help in organizing live book events at local bookstores or retailers or traveling to book fairs or exhibiting at trade shows and conferences.
Another way to sell books is with an email sales campaign, particularly in launching an Amazon bestseller campaign.
The Amazon bestseller campaign is focused on helping the author’s book become a “best seller” by selling enough copies in a single day through an email campaign, to hit a spot in the top 10 of the Amazon Bestseller list. In the years after the book is initially published, the author will want to find new opportunities to bring renewed interest to the book. One of the ways to do this is to be a finalist or winner in one of the prestigious book award competitions. The author’s assistant can help the author by doing the research and legwork to enter the author’s book in a book awards competition that is right for that book.
As you can see, the author’s assistant plays a critical role in the book marketing and selling process. After you have completed the sessions, we encourage you to practice what you have learned by trying out the author services challenge exercises available on the VAA Online Headquarters.
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