Finding the Best Way to Sell Your Book: Non-Fiction

Academics, experts, spokespeople, business owners–many of them publish non-fiction books.  To look at these books as one giant group of promotable content packs is to ignore the fact that there is likely a “best way” to sell your book.  There is not a set of “book media” who generically cover anything that is made between paper covers.  And there is no giant pool of people who are awaiting the next “book”.  There is much more to the story.  How the book is structured and what it is about will determine how you sell it.  Some books are idea driven, others are more “how-to” focused.  Some are both.  Do you know which one applies to you?

Selling Ideas

Is it an idea book, a how-to or both?  It is one thing to pitch a mystery novel or a book on weight loss.  It is an entirely different approach if what you want to sell is a new concept or a new spin on something we all know.  Let’s break it down with one of the more difficult “idea” categories using some of my favorite tools from economics class.

Faux Title Study I: Selling The How-to Book

Dominating the Widget Market for Investors”

Let’s say you are publicizing a book about investing in the widget market.  Your book describes the market, it’s history, sample strategies, tips, potential outcomes, etc.  It is a prescriptive book that can help people make money from widgets, and in general help them learn more about the stock market.

You would likely employ a strategy that included:

  • a “top ten strategies/tips” list
  • soliciting radio interviews
  • pitching long lead magazines and soft financial publications for the average investor,
  • trying to get on a morning TV show or other talk show that features self-improvement topics
  • outreach to digital networks about making money in the market

With this book you have a clear direction and advice you can impart.  You are also directing your message to digital and traditional communities that want to know how to improve their financial situations. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Faux Title Study 2: Selling The Big Idea Book

“Dominating the Widget Market in a Changing World”

This book is similar to the first in that the author talks about the market and history of the widget industry.  He will also probably share some case studies of investors both successful and unsuccessful as a way of illustrating the changes.  Theories of the future of widgets and why things are or are not improving will be in the book.  The conclusion may be more gray than black/white and the author will present a picture of what things are going to look like.  He may also suggest ways we might adjust to allow for a more (or less) volatile environment.

What Makes These Books Different?

I’m sure you are getting where I am going with this.  Title 1 is a clearer “how-to” offering whereas Title 2 is based on a hypothesis and theory based on research and/or data.  There may be some takeaways that suggest what to do, but they will be implied rather than listed as “tips”.

Clearly these are simplistic examples, but I run into this all the time.  The thing is, we almost always want to try to promote the theory the same way we would promote the prescriptive, and it just doesn’t work.  First of all, authors who are writing about theory usually have a combination of academic and applied credentials.  They generally don’t want to give people “advice”.  The kind of interview where “tips” are the goal is often awkward for this kind of person.

The other author loves giving workshops and presentations about how to do things better. For her topic, how we got here isn’t as important as what we are going to do about it.

It is challenging to make these distinctions, but it is important.  If you do, you will be much more focused.  You will see your path to selling your ideas and achieving your goals.

Book Marketing 101: Create Visibility for Your Book with These 5 Tips

You’ve written a book and published it — but the sales just aren’t happening. The biggest likely reason for this is that no one knows that you or your book exists, even if it’s been uploaded to Amazon. There are thousands of authors on Amazon vying for people to buy their books. That’s why authors need to create visibility so that they can stick out from the crowd.

It can be really tough to put yourself out there and talk about yourself and your work, but if people don’t know who you are, then they won’t buy your book!

Here are some ideas for authors to create visibility for their books:

  1. Visit your local bookstore, retail stores, or library. Dropping by and leaving a copy of your book for the bookseller or librarian will help them learn who you are as a person and give them the chance to look at your book before deciding to purchase. Many indie authors shy away from selling books on consignment, but sometimes it’s the best that your indie bookstore can do, especially if your book is not available through the proper distribution channels or is unavailable for return.
  2. Have a release party or event. Invite friends and family to celebrate your new book at your house, and have them purchase copies there. Or you can have it at a restaurant where you can incorporate the plate price with the price of the book, so everyone who comes is guaranteed a copy. You can also see if your local bookstore will have an event for you, if you are positive you can get enough attendees to come. (Read more about authors events in this blog post.)
  3. Ask family and friends to review on Amazon or BN.com. Supposedly, those with more reviews on Amazon are more likely to be included in the company’s email newsletters and receive more visibility overall–although to be honest, nobody but Amazon knows how their algorithm works. It’s still worth having friends and family post reviews so that it will generate interest for others to read your book. Books with no reviews whatsoever will likely be passed over by shoppers.
  4. Put yourself out there at festivals and conferences. Start visiting local book festivals and writers conferences and hand out cards or copies of your book. See if any of them will put you on a panel. Many festivals have the option for author signings, although you most likely have to pay for that privilege, at least in the beginning.
  5. Make sure it’s easily accessible for purchase. Even though Amazon is the most popular online outlet to purchase books, readers do have other shopping preferences–whether it’s a local store or a Barnes & Noble. Make sure that your website, blog, and social media pages have links to these sites and to Indiebound, so that your audience can purchase through their favorite indie bookstore.

It’s important to get yourself out there in some way, shape, or form to create visibility–whether it’s by putting yourself out their physically or through online channels. You may not sell hundreds of copies at first, but you’ll be on your way to make yourself known. The readers will come–you just need to put your foot out the door.

If you’re an indie author, do you use any of the above ways to create visibility for your books? Tweet about it to us @McKinneyPR!

Book Publicity 101: 5 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter

I have heard directly from book review editors that they toss the materials that come with review copies.  I have also had a radio producer chastise me for mistakenly not sending a press packet with a book.  Clients have asked me if press releases matter anymore: “I mean does anybody really read those things?”  The short answer is “yes”: there are media, booksellers, librarians, academics, etc. who actually do pay attention to an old fashioned press release, and you have no way of knowing who is going to insist on having one and who isn’t.  So in my opinion, I wouldn’t sacrifice this tool just yet.

Here are five practical reasons why:

  1. The Core Message: Press releases are different from any of the other copy you will use to market your book. Some of the words may be the same as what you have on the back of the jacket, but the release is supposed to achieve a few things including delivering the newsworthy or unique aspects of what you are presenting; giving the reader an idea of why you would be a good interview subject; and a relatively brief synopsis of the best points of the book (or product depending on your industry).  If you want to read some examples you can check out these links on our website:
  2. Press Approved Copy or When Your Words Come Back to Haunt You: This is my favorite.  First of all the copy on your release is assumed to be vetted and usable for the press.  It is likely that one outlet or another will actually lift the synopsis or even the entire release and reprint it online or in the newspaper.  The first time I saw this it was a little weird, but the words on the release, by the very nature of what the document is, are fair game for repurposing.
  3. SEO Optimization: Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s, publishers, etc. gives you more real estate online and can offer more search results. You will notice a search for your book brings up Amazon.com and other big properties first, your publisher, and even our website can appear on the first or near the top of the second page.  It gives you more power online when there are more references to you and your work.
  4. The Pitch Package: So many people interact primarily on email these days, so there is a bit more “room” to present the best aspects of your book. As a standard practice we write pitches according to which people we are sending them, and we paste the press release below so the media contact can choose to learn more.  In the past we would send a cover letter with the press kit which constituted the pitch, and I know that today all of those pages won’t get read in a mailing.  The release is an informational supplement that provides another tool for marketing.  If a contact only wants to read three sentences, fine.  If more is desired, it’s all there in the email.
  5. Standard Practices: More people want to see a release than not, and it’s part of the public relations/media relations process. In addition, your booksellers, event coordinators at higher end venues, librarians—they want to see the meat of what you are selling without having to read the entire book.  Having a press release gives you a more serious, professional persona when you are marketing your book.  It says, you mean business and people should pay attention to you.  Don’t sell yourself short.

The other more esoteric reason for the release is that it is an opportunity for you and your publicist to come to an understanding of what your intention is about your book and its relevance.  You may also discover some things that are unclear about your work, or an interpretation that is not at all what you meant.  It’s important to come to terms with how the book will be presented and what the selling points are.  It’s super competitive out there, as you know, and you want to make sure your work is getting the attention it deserves.

 

Case Studies 3: Accepting the Audience that Wants Your Book and Reaping the Benefits

You have an MFA in Creative Writing from a respected program/university.  You have been carefully crafting your story and verbiage to create the best literary debut you can. Now for promotion and the audience that comes with it—Paris Review?  The New Yorker? Tin House? New York Times Book Review? Not likely.

Whether you are published by a traditional publisher with a lot of muscle, a small independent press, or your own book production venture, no one can count on that kind of coverage for literary novels.  For one thing, there just aren’t enough venues anymore.  The other problem is that there are too many books and too little time, and frankly, if you are not published by Knopf or Simon & Schuster, you just won’t command the kind of attention you need to get into one of those classic publications.

Whatever you do, don’t stop writing and don’t give up hope for promotion!  We need great writing and great books, and while you can’t market a work of serious fiction as a chick lit novel, you can consider what other audiences might be interested in your story.

Recently we worked with an author and a novel.  It was definitely a literary book, but it also had different attributes that gave it potential in some niche audiences that were actually bigger than the more esoteric fiction readers that serious writers like to reach. The author had supported herself in non-traditional ways while working on her writing and had achieved a position as a teacher and founder of a charity that promotes writing for children in underdeveloped countries. She definitely had the credentials of a writer.

Since we specialize in promoting fiction across multiple genres and niches, we maximized our focus to include media that covered fiction, literary fiction, romance, christian fiction, debut novelists, philanthropy, and New York City settings.  We approached bloggers, websites, print, radio, and when warranted, television.

We were pretty happy with the coverage from the general fiction audiences and the publisher secured a review in the top trade, but what really paid off was a review on USAToday.com from a reviewer interested in the romance/womens fiction angle.  This review was not only a good one, but it did a couple of things that benefitted the author in a number of ways.  First of all when it ran there was a spike in sales on Amazon.com.  We were able to use the review and its national print-to-online paper status to secure additional media including a local television station in one of her home markets.  Was she happy about the review?  Well, at first not so enthusiastic because she was concerned that she would be “pigeon holed” as a romance writer.  I say “who cares?” as long as you sell books at this stage of the game.

Now I am also a branding strategist, so I do know that is important to avoid being classified as something that isn’t appropriate for you or your career.  However, one review for a debut novel isn’t going to determine your path.  It is a milestone that needs to be appreciated for what it is and to be used in as many positive ways as possible.

One of the best things she got from the deal? She was able to get a Bookbub promotion on the first try.  If any of you have tried to secure a slot on this infamous discounted book marketing site, you may have tried two or three times and perhaps did not even get accepted in the end.  One of their requirements is that they have legitimate reviews or news coverage of a book, whether traditionally or self-published and USAToday.com definitely can help put you over the top in terms of qualifying.

Her promotion ran, and her Amazon rank went from five figures to the lower threes, somewhere around 300, which is a major leap in ranking.  Sales activity like this will increase her audience; garner more Amazon/Goodreads reviews and ratings; generate additional full price sales; and will help along with the press coverage when she wants to bring out her next book and is searching for a publisher.

A couple of lessons here: Try to find every possible way to promote your fiction even if it doesn’t lead you to the coveted New York Times review.  When you do get a big nod that isn’t exactly what you wanted, revel in it, celebrate, do the ten second dance of joy, take a breath…and get back to work.

Social Media 101: Instagram as an author tool

Instagram LogoIs your New Year’s Resolution to use a different form of social media other than Facebook or Twitter? Instagram is one of the best social media platforms out there, and one of the most popular among 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds, according to Social Media Week. If those age groups are your main audience, then utilizing Instagram is an app you should seriously consider. It’s fun, easy to use, and unless you’re Justin Bieber, less likely to be spammed or “trolled” than outlets like Twitter.

For those who aren’t familiar, Instagram is an app that allows you to post photos and graphics with (or without) a caption. It’s different from sites like Facebook and Twitter because you can only post to it if you have a picture to upload.

If you’re an author, how can you use Instagram to your maximum potential?

Use those hashtags. Like Twitter, Instagram allows you to use hashtags so you can search for terms like #ThrowbackThursday with ease. Participate in trending hashtags to insert yourself into the conversation.

Show us what you’re reading. Why not show your audience what books you enjoy or are currently reading? The hashtag #bookstagram is popular, and if you have a bookshelf that’s as grand as the one in Beauty and the Beast, you can even get involved in the #bookshelfporn tag.

Give us a glimpse of your life. Your readers may love your books, but we want to know who you are, too. If there’s anything going on in your life you’d like to share, like showing off your new lightsaber while in line for the new Star Wars movie, your audience will love you the more for it.

Cats, cats, cats! Since the dawn of time, photos of pets are proven to receive the most likes, hearts, and favorites across all social media. It’s okay to upload a photo of your kitty making an angry face worthy of Grumpy Cat, or your dog trying to lick peanut butter off his nose.

Quote your own stuff. Do you have some lines in your new book that you seriously love? Post them on Instagram as a pretty graphic! You never know who will find your book quote inspirational enough to repost.

What social media platform do you find is the best to use as an author? Tweet us your thoughts @mckinneypr!