Archive for October, 2007

Nice Plug in Times-Colonist; SFU and returnability

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Great publicity for Book Marketing DeMystified and Agio Publishing House in the Victoria Times-Colonist. See this link:

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/business/story.html?id=276b48c8-d990-436a-a3a4-c161e1c21073&k=43026

Thanks to reporter Carla Wilson and photographer Debra Brash. And to editor Darron Kloster.

It was fun presenting to the Masters in Publishing class at Simon Fraser University yesterday. They sure have a moving target to study with the book industry in so much flux. For example, is it even a “book” industry anymore? I challenged them to think about selling “content” which could be sold as a hardcover book, softcover book, audio book, eBook, articles, presentations … and the “sale” might be a rental or a collaboration with an online site, such as Google, where individual pages are shown to visitors with Google and the publisher spitting the ad revenues.

Are audio books even “books” anymore when they are more like radio plays (podiobooks.com)? What about stories sold and viewed on mobile phones — which is a $90-million-plus business in Japan — are those “book” sales?

The topic of returnable books can up briefly in my presentation and then again in the following presentation by Jim Allen of Raincoast Books. No one seems to particularly LIKE this bizarre practice of “selling” books on a consignment basis, but there is so much inertia within the industry that it may just take a push from some outside forces (such as environmental groups) to tip the balance in favour of change soon. We discussed some ideas for a brighter future after the inevitable change to firm sales, specifically to address the question about how to help new fiction and poetry which is seen by booksellers as quite “risky”. One suggestion was using the Dutch model for having a more attractive (to booksellers) discount rate for a brand new title during its initial release period, and then the standard terms after say two months.

Right now booksellers typically get 40% discount off a new book, on a returnable basis. Perhaps after the industry-wide change to firm-sales-net-60-days basis, the bookstore would get 50% off during the title’s launch period, then 45% off for subsequent purchases. If a bookstore is barely breaking even at 40% discount, the owners should be VERY excited about buying at 50% off, and making a real profit. Or so the thinking goes.

Introduction from BMD: The marketing mix framework — your template for conceptualizing and planning

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

This is an excerpt (the introduction) from Book Marketing DeMystified …

The marketing advice presented in this book will give you a huge boost, whether you have a contract with a mainstream publisher, or are an independent (indie) author publishing all on your own or with the assistance of a publishing service.

Book publishing can be defined as causing a book to be in a printed form and available to the public for purchase. Over the past decade, the first part — getting a book into printed form — has been dramatically simplified because of Print-on-Demand (POD) manufacturing. POD allows authors to avoid paying for a large print run and managing an inventory, yet to still have exactly as many printed books as needed. Pages of a POD book can be in full color or black on white; the binding can be paperback or casebound (hardback) with either a dust jacket or a laminated cover.

The second part of the definition — making books available to the public for purchase — has been a marketing responsibility shared by the publisher and the author. Making available can be thought of as having two components: making potential buyers aware of your book, and ensuring copies are readily accessible for those buyers to purchase.

Depending on your publishing house or service, you will have access to different tools for building the awareness and accessibility. This guide will help you, as a new author, better understand the bookselling environment so you can be most effective with your marketing initiatives at whatever scale and by whatever means you decide to promote your book.

Marketing is not the same as high-pressure selling

Some people are terrified and paralyzed by the irrational notion that marketing is synonymous with personally badgering people, somehow coercing them into buying something they don’t particularly want or need.

Relax! You really don’t need to transform yourself into an obsessive, self-promoting ego-maniac to be successful.

Such common misconceptions can prevent an author from seeing that marketing is actually a creative exercise, an intriguing puzzle-solving process with limitless possibilities. Authors are very creative people and, therefore, well-equipped to find marvelous solutions. All they need is a practical framework for decision-making, plus some basic knowledge of the book trade and the available options.

For the marketing of your book to be sustainable, one needs to find a balance weighing ones home life and other priorities on one hand, with your time and financial commitment to book selling on the other.

Balance is easiest to sustain if you can select marketing tactics that suit your fancy, so you can enjoy promoting your book, rather than feeling drained or uncomfortable. This book presents many options to consider and true stories of other independent authors experiences. I’ve confidence you can find the time and the commitment to carry out a few high payoff promotional activities. After all, you had the personal discipline to write an entire book, didn’t you?

The purpose of this guide is to help you identify marketing strategies that match your purpose and resources. I will:

  • provide a practical framework for planning your marketing efforts, explain the somewhat bizarre workings of the book industry, and
  • give practical examples that have proven to be effective and fun for other authors.

Before you and I go any further, let’s agree on what marketing means and entails.

Surprisingly, even though one can get an advanced university degree in marketing, there is no consensus in academia nor in the business world about a definition of this word. I know this because I have taught marketing at the college level. Imagine the confusion when I moved on to manage a communications consultancy, and clients would say marketing when they meant in-person selling, or advertising, or setting up distribution networks, or promoting franchises or running contests or just about anything. This was frustrating, at times embarrassing, and always counter-productive … until I devised the definition shown below. This definition is the conceptual framework for the marketing mix you will develop while reading this book. This framework has been used with remarkable success to build tens of millions of dollars of wealth for authors and other business clients.

When you are developing a marketing strategy in any line of business, you will be thinking about how to allocate resources and align your efforts in a number of areas simultaneously, trying to juggle priorities.

The classical marketing mix I once taught to business students asserts there are only four aspects (the 4 Ps) to be considered: product, price, place and promotions. This definition of the marketing mix was created by Jerome McCarthy in his 1960 book called Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. In the real world, the 4 P framework is clearly inadequate. I propose that you use a following more robust definition with 14 Ps when you are plotting how to sell your new book.

Marketing is the process of creating, implementing, monitoring and evolving a strategy for the complete marketing mix, which is:

  • having a needed product (or service) available
  • at a convenient place (and time)
  • for a mutually satisfactory price (value),
  • while ensuring that the correct segments of the public
  • are aware (the promotional mix) and
  • motivated (positioning),
  • all in a manner which takes advantage of strategic partnerships and
  • contributes to the overall purpose (passion).

The promotional mix includes personal sales, publicity & public relations, paid advertising, and sales promotions.

Ideally, this will be done with respect and consideration to financial profits, the planet (our environment) and people (society).

While you digest that mouthful, consider that, as you solve your books marketing mix puzzle, you’ll often be substituting creativity and personal connections for the brute-force, expensive strategies employed by the large publishing houses. Here’s a rather blunt assessment of conventional book marketing by Richard Balkin:

Of all the major industries in the United States, surely book publishing is the most primitive, the most disorganized, and the most haphazard. Consider the following: What other industry would launch a national campaign for an untested product whose life span is usually less than a year and whose chances of recouping its investment are worse than one in three? What other industry would manufacture so many competing products with only the barest notion of which of them might succeed in the marketplace? What other industry would sink a hefty percentage of its capital into a variety of mechanisms designed to stimulate sales, knowing full well that the most effective method — that elusive word of mouth — is totally beyond its control?

In many ways, a publisher acts like a Hopi shaman praying for rain: They both execute a number of rituals designed to convince themselves and their followers that they can control uncontrollable events, and then go home and cross their fingers. If rain doesn’t fall, they blame themselves or their acolytes for not adequately performing some of the rituals, thereby angering the gods and spoiling the magic. Go out and get some really smooth stones this time, they say, and let’s try again.
[from Richard Balkin, A Writers Guide to Book Publishing, pp 199-200, Plume Publishers, 1994, ISBN 0452270219]

That sounds pretty gloomy and Richard didn’t even touch on the financially-suicidal practice of selling books on returnable terms. But, hey, don’t get too discouraged by Richard’s assessment. He was writing about the conventional book industry, not what indie authors are now accomplishing. [His book does have excellent information about the industry.]

Remember: with a little knowledge and clever choices in your 14 P marketing mix, you can be more cost-effective at selling your book than the industry pros. You’ll create a world of possibilities so you won’t need those really smooth stones.

Why did you write your book? The answer is very important — as you will see, we’ll keep coming back throughout this book to your motivation (your purpose or passion).

Each authors reasons for writing are unique. Some want to change the behavior of others (possibly by teaching the reader about health or religion or politics). The simple desire to entertain is the motivating force for some writers, while many others feel compelled to record memories of a time and place they cherish. A book can be an essential tool to build a consulting or public speaking career. It could be the proud unveiling of a lifelong compulsion to create poetry or invent a sci-fi series. Some people use the independent (self-) publishing process as a market test, hoping to attract the attention of a film producer or impress the acquisitions editor at a major publishing house. Your motives may have some urgency, or may have the long-term time frame of introducing a romance trilogy or series of thrillers. A few writers blatantly proclaim their quest for fame and fortune, while others value their privacy and time too much to thrust themselves 100 percent into promotional efforts. All are valid reasons, none better than others.

Before you read the next chapters, please take a moment to write out a few sentences about your purpose. It need not be eloquent.

Planning the marketing mix

At its most basic, your marketing plan can be as simple as answering the questions at the start of each chapter (also found in the marketing mix template at the end of this book). If you accomplish this, you’ll be way ahead of most other self-promoting authors and many industry pros because you’ll have a clear overview and can focus on those factors you’ve decided to emphasize. As important, you’ll have decided, and are comfortable with the decision, on what not to do.

As mentioned previously, this guide is organized into chapters for each of these 14 P factors. We’ll describe the business situation and provide examples of what other authors have done. As we go along, you can be thinking about your book and jotting down ideas for your marketing plan.

Ready? Allons-y! Here’s a delicious story to illustrate how to concoct a great marketing mix.

The great taste of Marketing success!

Back in 1981, Joan Bidinosti and Marilyn Wearring, two women living in rural Ontario, decided to create and market the best book we could.

“We did a lot of research and really thought things out,” Joan told me. “We wanted to make a book that we liked. We wanted to be proud of it, then hoped other people would like it. Making money really didn’t enter into it.”

They ignored conventional wisdom in the publishing trade and created a book on a single theme: muffins. Muffins: A Cookbook [ISBN 0969134509] didn’t have photographs (another no-no), nor a hard cover. Instead they created a quite small, handy, coil-bound book. They tested every recipe thoroughly, had only one recipe per page and the page number clearly visible in large type. Directions were numbered and simply explained.

The oven temperature and baking time were at the top.

Baking tips were printed on a colored sheet of paper inserted at the book’s center — this helped cooks navigate by remembering if a favorite recipe was before or after the middle. Joan’s daughter, Susan, created whimsical drawings for the cover and insides.

They knew the ideal gift price: $4.95, and found a printer who could work within their budget. One thousand copies were printed, a few letters sent to the local media, and the two authors took the first copies to a gift store and a book store. Marilyn sold copies to her friends at the curling rink and exercise class, who came back to buy more copies for their friends. Within a week, the local TV news program ran a short item, which prompted the newspaper to run a full-page story.

From that point on, the two authors had a tiger by the tail. During the next decade, they sold over 200,000 copies of Muffins: A Cookbook, plus 60,000 copies of a sequel called Salads: A Cookbook.

Looking back, Joan can reminisce about dozens of successful marketing initiatives. The authors made hundreds of personal sales appearances in department stores, bookstores, gift shops, trade shows — always passing out delicious samples and always selling large quantities of books.

“There was a sheet on the last page of the book, providing an address for ordering more copies, with a discount for ordering 5 or more. It was word-of-mouth through friends who liked everything about it that sold our book,” Joan believes. “We’d get lovely letters with the mail orders.”

What was Joan and Marilyn’s marketing mix? They had a clear purpose which led them to create — often at odds with expert advice — a remarkably useful and likeable product at an ideal price point. With that solid foundation, any and all promotions worked well.

“Luck follows hard work,” says Joan about the research they did in advance.

By careful attention to the purpose, product and price factors in their marketing mix, these authors had a winning recipe, and achieved spectacular results.

Read on to learn how others have found marketing mix solutions, so you too can mix those Ps and solve the puzzle!

The next excerpt will be about the first P in the marketing mix. Chapter One — Purpose (aka passion)