Perhaps because of my business background, even before the book was published, I knew the importance of marketing to create sales. I also know that no amount of marketing will have a lasting impact if the product itself is not what the public wants. We all know that the most effective and least expensive marketing is through word of mouth. When done right, there comes a time when your various marketing activities will hit a critical mass, which takes your book sales to the next level. At that level, EVERYONE is talking about and buying your book. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series is a good example.
As of this writing, my serious marketing activities are about to begin. The key here is, “when done right.” At the core of “when done right” is a book that captivates and/or resonates with people. I believe in my book and the message I wish to convey to the public, both here in America and abroad. I would like the world to know what life in America – where my journey to freedom and independence continues – has meant to me.
The product, my book, is now ready for the public. From here, in terms of effective marketing, I know I will need the support of professionals. Here is a chronology of what I’ve been doing so far to create awareness about my book.
In 2011, during the period before signing up with CreateSpace to self-publish my book, I sent to five individuals the draft of my book. I asked them to please review it and if they would consider writing a recommendation that would be published on the back cover. Three – that knew me well – out of the five did. Their comments are listed on the back cover and on my website. The other two – that did not know me too well but for whom I have a high regard – did not.
If there is to be a sequel to my book, which would invariably focus heavily on investing, I’m determined to obtain these two individuals’ recommendations. I need to work on them so that they’ll get to know me much better between now and then.
A lesson learned: Always ask those who know you well for their recommendations, not just those whom you admire from a distance.
Word of Mouth
As soon as I started writing my book on January 1, 2010, I began mentioning to our colleagues, friends, and family that I was writing this book. When the book finally became available in March 2012 in both paperback and Kindle versions, I sent an announcement e-mail to them. As soon as the announcement was made, sales began. I was so excited that I created an Excel file to keep track of monthly sales figures, including a 3-D graph. What I noticed was that, after the initial spike right after the announcement, the sales trailed. What this tells me is that marketing efforts require some sort of a “booster shot” every so often.
As noted in my inaugural marketing blog, “In the beginning…,” I did not know that blogging could be an effective marketing tool. I’m still not totally convinced, and yet here I am blogging – but only once a month. If and when I become convinced that I can add value to others by increasing the frequency, I may choose to do so at a certain point in the future. Until then I think twelve times per year is plenty. When it comes to certain marketing techniques, I think less is more.
One day, when I was reading a Wall Street Journal article on self-publishing, I learned that a positive review by Kirkus Reviews could be quite effective for increasing sales. So when I signed up with CreateSpace, I also signed up for a Kirkus Review through CreateSpace. As it turned out, a Kirkus Review is slightly less expensive by going through CreateSpace than directly with Kirkus. When you sign up for it, CreateSpace sends a paperback copy to Kirkus immediately following the publication of your book. In my case, the publication of the book was on March 11, 2012. The review was returned to me on April 14, 2012. This was well within the turn-around range of 4-6 weeks for an expedited service.
With Kirkus Reviews, if the review is negative, you don’t need to mention it at all. If the review is positive or even partially positive, on the other hand, you are allowed to use the review comments in part or in its entirety for marketing purposes. You can have the review posted at the Kirkus Reviews’ website if you so choose. In my case, I chose to use a portion of the Kirkus Review on the back cover of my book and post the entire review at Kirkus Reviews’ website. The same Kirkus Reivew content is available at my website as well.
I’m now looking into possibly signing up for Kirkus Marketing. I’ll keep you posted.
David and I are planning to attend several book fairs throughout the year – mostly around the Midwest, to which we can drive.
As a starter, we are attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – as an exhibitor, booth 997 – on April 21-22, 2012. This event attracts around 140,000 people every year. Our booth is one of the least expensive at $1,500. This is the first such book fair that we’ll be attending. As such, we’ll be learning a lot about how everything works.
The whole point of print-on-demand paperback copies is that we don’t need to carry an inventory. So, unless we know, for sure, about how many books can be sold at these events, it makes no sense for us to buy them in advance just to see if we can sell them. Furthermore, because this is an out-of-town event to which we need to fly out, rather than trying to sell physical copies, we chose to simply give out souvenir plastic bags and direct all potential sales to Amazon through my website. This choice also eliminated the need for us to obtain a California Seller’s Permit. We’re having the bags (5 boxes x 25 pounds/box) delivered to our hotel directly from the supplier, 4imprint. Printed on the bags are my website name and a rendition of my book cover. The cost of 2,500 bags, including long-distance shipping and handling cost of $274, is $760. (Based on our experience from attending auto shows, I know people like bags so that they can put all of the trinkets they collect at these types of events.)
Since I just received the Kirkus Review one week prior to this event, David and I decided that we should hand out the copies of the review with the bags. Thank goodness the plastic bags we chose are clear so that the Kirkus Review can be placed in such a way that it will be clearly visible – and somewhat protected from the elements. David looked into getting the Kirkus Review printed at Kinko’s. It would have cost us almost as much as the bags! So, instead, he began printing them on our color printer for a fraction of the cost.
Including the air fare, rental car, lodging, and meal expenses, the total cost of this marketing effort is roughly $4,100. For us, that’s a big chunk of change. That is also our breakeven point for this event. Hopefully, the sales volume as a result of this event will more than offset the cost. I’ll let you know – via the next month’s blog post – how this turns out.
Here is a list of marketing topics – a progress report – that I’ll cover in May 2012:
- Los Angeles Times Festival of Books – marketing effectiveness
- Other book fairs
- Kirkus Marketing
I would welcome your comments.