Thursday, October 29, 2009

Branding is the secret to selling books

If you've ever wondered what motivates people to buy a book, consider this: consumers don't buy a book, they buy a brand or, as a friend of mine says, consumers crave a brand. This is true now more than ever. Why? Because people want consistency (think McDonald's), they want value, and they want to be entertained, enlightened, or educated. A brand, when done properly, can really pull in readers to your site, your message, and your book. Here's how to do it.

Brands, in their traditional form, are the things we think of like Coke, Kleenex, and Advil. These are big, robust brands that are recognizable both in messaging and packaging. The two key components in effective brand strategy are both of these things. If your message and package are different, or fragmented and not uniform, you will confuse your audience.

Regardless of whether you are fiction or non-fiction, a brand is a brand. Think Nora Roberts or Dan Brown, both of these authors are brands. Their messaging is consistent and their packaging uniform. The audience is told in word, color and image exactly what they are going to get and the "brand" does not disappoint. When creating a brand for yourself, here are a few things you should consider:

Understanding the "look" of the market: there is a look and feel to each market. For some markets it will be a consistency in color, messaging, or packaging, and for others, it's just a "feeling." For example, if you're a thriller writer, websites for thrillers tend to be dark and foreboding. There may not be a consistent message but the feel is the same: scary. Getting to know your market is the #1 thing you should do when you're thinking of developing your brand.

Identity crisis: who are you? So who are you, really? This isn't meant to be a psychological exam, but rather an in-depth look at your brand, your market, your current focus, and future goals. There's a saying that goes: "If you don't know what road you're on, any path will do." The same is true for your brand and your career. Define where you want to go and then build to that message.

Brainstorm your brand: if necessary, get some outside help. Branding doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to be thorough. Understanding your brand and your message is important because if you don't control it, your consumer will. I spoke to an author the other day who had been propelled on her journey by her brother's suicide. From that, she learned, grew, and is now working to inspire others to overcome some of the most horrific challenges life can throw at you.

Platform building: building a strong brand is also about platform building. Understand that your platform can be a lot of things: the message and consistency of your blog, any book promotion you do, blogs you have a presence on. All of this is important, you want to get known in your market, and you want to lead with a strong and consistent message.

Consistent marketing materials: by this I mean business cards, letterhead if you have it, bookmarks, folders, etc. Again, don't scatter your efforts by having a hodgepodge of marketing materials that looks cobbled together. Everything is your resume. This is very true with anything you mail out or any "leave behinds," like bookmarks, postcards, and business cards.

Delivering on a promise: whatever you promise, you must deliver. In fact, promise less and deliver more. If you have promised the reader a "thrill ride," don't give them a soft-peddled story. If your message doesn't live up to its promise, you'll lose your reader. Probably forever.

The center of the universe: your website. An author's website is the single most important piece of your brand. Yes, your book is important, but before a reader gets there they will often find your website first. Make sure it's brand-focused and professional. Don't have someone design it who does not understand your market or your work. Make sure your site is professional and follows whatever "theme" you are trying to create.

Building a strong brand is more important than ever. A brand not only shows consistency but it shows you're serious about what you're doing; and if you show you're serious, your readers will take you seriously, too.

Reprinted with permission from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rules have changed in book marketing

Forget what you know about media and marketing, the rules have just changed. Here's the truth: the Internet has changed the way we market in more ways than you could have ever imagined. So much so that marketing to media might not be the best way to get the word out about your book. Now I'm not saying to *never* market to the media, just switch your focus to your real target: the consumer.

Direct to consumer marketing is a hot phrase many marketing people like to throw out. It implies direct access, ease of marketing, and a quicker sale. But accomplishing one or all of these things isn't as easy as it seems. These days, consumers don't want to be sold something, they want to hear about it, they buy buzz and they generally buy this buzz from people they trust.

When you start to look at directing your campaign to market to the consumer, everything about your marketing strategy will change. First, you'll start to become more aware of topics and keywords that affect your reader/buyer. By doing this you'll be able to zero in on messages, sites, blogs, and hot topics that you can start commenting, blogging, or writing on.

The media is so inundated with pitches that most of them are just white noise. Also, when a media person needs someone to comment on a story they're more likely to go after someone who is an "authority" on the subject, rather than someone who has sent them dozens of press releases. Writing a press release does not make you an authority, your connection to your target community does. That's why a campaign that is less media-focused and more consumer-focused will end up driving more media to your book.

I have always talked about becoming an authority, about becoming an expert. This is the same thing, only you're being more aggressive about it, you're actually marketing to that consumer instead of just adding the label "expert" to your bio.

The new age of media is upon us, it's no longer an issue of when to pitch, who to pitch, and what days of the week are best, it's a matter of positioning yourself to be irresistible in the eyes of the media by making yourself the "go-to" person in your market.

1) Write and issue news releases often, but make them newsworthy. While press releases to the media may get ignored, they have a bigger chance of getting noticed by your customer. Writing direct-to-consumer press releases is a way of "speaking" to your customer through a series of announcements, advice, or trends. When you do this, hone in on keywords that make a difference to them. Don't toss out high-brow, technical terms that are meant to impress unless your market actually speaks that language. Send a release out via the Internet through sites like once a month and then, keep them archived in the newsroom of your website.

2) Forget high-profile media targets, go after plugged-in bloggers, high traffic, relevant content-rich websites: while it would be great to have Oprah call, the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim. Focus instead on where you can make a difference and make the sale. Focus on your customer. Where do they go when they're online and who do they listen to? Those are the people you should be targeting with your story. When you find these folks, offer them tips, helpful advice, story excerpts, whatever is most appropriate for your market/topic.

3) Comment on blog stories the media writes: this is a fantastic way to network with media people. Have you visited a media blog lately? You haven't? Well, start adding them to your list. Just like I recommend commenting on industry blogs (see bullet #4) you'll also want to keep an eye out for media who writes on your topic and also has a presence on the Internet. Did you know that the media will notice someone who's an active commenter on their blog before they notice a news release?

4) Comment on industry blogs: same ideas as #3 but now you're focused on blogs that matter to your reader/consumer. Go after them and start commenting on what they're blogging about. This is a great way to network and introduce yourself to folks who may be part of the "big mouth" market in your industry. (The term "big mouth" is reserved for bloggers who have a lot of clout within a particular arena). Also, while you're at it, get your own blog. If you're going to network with bloggers, become one of them.

5) Content drives action: getting a content-rich website is a must. There's no two ways about it. I don't care what you've written or what market you've written to. It's all about content, content, content. Have a resource section on your site, put a blog up there. Be helpful till it hurts. Put up lots of useful, relevant content and the world will beat a path to your door.

6) Never sell your book to your consumer: the biggest mistake authors make both on and offline is that they sell their book. No one cares that you wrote a book, they only care about what the book can do for them. Sell the benefits, sell what your book can do for your reader but never, ever, ever sell your book.

7) It's not about you: remember as you're developing your direct-to-consumer campaign that it's not about you, it's about your market, and it's about your reader. Knowing what matters to them will help you circumvent a lot of marketing snafus and directions that take you nowhere. Keep in mind the things that matter to your reader and what their hot buttons are. If you can become a channel to direct their issues, challenges, or questions to you and your website, the media will stand up and take notice.

8) Many goals lead to confusion: what's the goal for your website? I mean, seriously, what's the one goal you have for If you don't you should. Having one singular focus will help sharpen your message to your reader. Pick one thing you want your home page to accomplish and build on that. Too many messages will only confuse your reader and send them off to your competitor's website.

Selling a book, product, or business has become less about getting into your favorite newspaper, magazine, or TV show and more about making yourself so irresistible that the media comes to you. Build credibility in your market and consumers will buzz, when consumers buzz the media will surely follow.

Reprinted with permission from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.