Are We Authors or Salespeople?

bookI’ve been in a quandary lately. I’ve been writing for 6½ years on my blog, self-published my first book in 2013, and came out with my best book, Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, through WordServe and BroadStreet Publishing last year. And I’m still not making much income.

Yes, I wholly appreciate the deal my agency made for me, and it was a solid entry into the traditional publishing market. But the truth is, while we’re happy for the Max Lucados and Francine Riverses of the publishing world, the majority of working authors don’t make a huge income.

Other than good timing and a spat of luck (or is it?), what can we do to increase our income?

Thankfully, I have two close friends with marketing backgrounds. Not so thankfully, they recently told me everything they think I’m doing wrong in marketing myself and my books. Okay, I’m actually thankful for that too, but it was tough to hear them chide me for not pushing my product more.

Why have I struggled with effectively advertising my book? With talking up my writing and speaking? With marketing my brand?

Part of it is that I’m by nature not much of a salesperson. I was that introverted kid who, when asked to fund-raise for whatever activity I was involved in, barely made her quota because selling to people was such a painful experience.

Another part is this sense that I’m in ministry, and shouldn’t my primary goal be helping people rather than making a buck? Yet Romans 4:4 says, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Even people in helping professions deserve to be paid. And you and I both know that writing a book isn’t an easy task: You earned a paycheck.

Practically speaking, I need to fund my ministry. I could get a job doing something else that promises a specific and consistent income, but then I wouldn’t be able to keep writing—at least not at my current rate. Some of you are currently working jobs you’d love to quit so that you could focus on your writing and your godly message. Increasing our income means we can pay our bills, build a nest egg, and still write. We don’t need million-dollar mansions, but we do need enough to take care of our families. As 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

One more challenge is that while it can be hard to sell generally, it’s even harder to sell yourself. Sure, we sell our content and our stories, but our name is emblazoned on the book cover. And as Christians, we might wonder if it smacks of pride to be pushing our brand — our brand being ME.

However, I’ve realized that it’s not about me, J. Parker, being a success. Rather, I’m passionate about my message. That message reflects what I believe about God’s design for marriage, and it’s a message I want to get out to as many wives as possible. Spreading a godly message or theme is a worthy goal, one many Christian authors have.

Thus, I’m trying to make a mental shift to talking more about my book, to seeking out advertising opportunities, to promoting my writing and speaking in new formats and forums.

In short, I’m becoming a salesperson.

Because when my book sells, my family benefits from more income, but my reader also benefits from reading my book and God’s message is spread even further. That sale is a win-win-win.

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Three

Three months into this marketing plan, I’ve been able to avoid a nervous breakdown, work on the edits for The Aleppo Code, and Kregel Publications is about to launch its spring marketing for the fall releases. Now is the time to pick up the pace.

SocialMediaI’m still working the basic plan:

Social Media:

  • Twitter – Daily
  • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
  • Blog Posts – Weekly
  • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly

Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month:

(One of my goals for the newsletter as we get closer to the launch is to use contests or other vehicles to tie the three books together as THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series … accelerate the idea of people thinking of them as a series.)

 

March – Contest: Guess two of the main scene locations used in The Aleppo Code. Some of the scenes in the first two books were The Collector’s Club and the Humanities and Social Science Library on Bryant Park, NYC; The Western Wall and Zechariah’s Tomb, Jerusalem; St. Anthony’s Monastery, Egypt; Cairn T, Loughcrew, County Meath, Ireland.

April/May – Tie in with Kregel Back List promotions.

June – Contest: What is The Most Powerful Weapon the world has ever seen?

July/August – Unveil the cover of The Aleppo Code.Aleppo Code Cover

September – Promote the coming E-Book promotion from Kregel.

October – Launch date for The Aleppo Code – create some tie in to ‘Midnight Madness’ … at midnight of launch day, the first 12 people who send me an email get a free autographed copy of The Aleppo Code.

Tasks For Me to Tackle:

  • Keep my website and Facebook Author page active and current.
  • Schedule out-of-town speaking engagements for May through December, particularly in those areas where I show higher readership; (This one is a reach, but it’s worth a try.)
  • Engage services of a marketing consultant to increase my standing and visibility as an ‘expert’ speaker on events in the Middle East.
  • In the summer, begin purchasing advertising on Facebook (Goodreads? Other outlets?) and discuss with Kregel and marketing consultant how to get the most impact and best results from these ads.
  • As the launch date gets closer, recreate some of the Guerilla Marketing that I did in New York City prior to the launch of The Sacred Cipher … plaster subways and Metro North trains with The Aleppo Code postcards … when the books show up, visit every B&N in New York City area, hand out post cards, autograph the in-store books, talk to store staff about placement.
  • In September/October schedule local speaking engagements/book signings including local libraries, churches, etc.
  • Arrange in advance for on-line interviews and any other interaction I can have with bloggers, reviewers, podcast producers, etc.
  • Tasks For Kregel to Tackle:
  • Continue to actively market the new series title – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES – in all possible outlets.
  • A place we stumbled during the launch of The Brotherhood Conspiracy is that the reviewers on the blog tour were different than the ones used for The Sacred Cipher. Many of the early reviews started “I wish I had known this was a sequel …” For that reason, setting up an effective blog tour for The Aleppo Code is critical.

(One of the great commitments Kregel has agreed to is to strengthen the blog tour for the Aleppo Code. Under consideration is a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.)

 

  • Implement a Back-List promotion to drive people to book stores.
    • Create E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.

I’ve learned a few things from creating this marketing plan and then trying to implement it. One, this marketing stuff takes a real commitment – and a lot of time. Two, it’s worth it. And, three, the work doesn’t end once the book is launched. Great … when do I get some sleep?

Have you ever developed a marketing strategy like this? What was the most successful thing you did?

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part Two

How to Breathe Life Into A Back-List

MarketingI’ve never been much at the marketing side of this writing business … and I was born in the wrong generation to be adept at social media.

But I knew I had to do something out of my comfort zone. My first book, The Sacred Cipher, is still going strong after five years. Sales for its sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, are disappointing. With the third and last book of the series, The Aleppo Code, due for an October launch, I needed to get to work.

So I proposed a year-long marketing plan to my publisher, Kregel Publications, and asked for their support and participation. This is what I proposed for the first three months:

The Marketing Plan – December thru February:

  • Social Media:
    • Twitter – Daily
    • Facebook Page Posts – Daily
    • Blog Posts – Weekly
    • LinkedIn – Change Profile Monthly
  • Newsletter – Send out at least one Newsletter each month (I currently have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list and cull it after every mailing). A regular newsletter proved to be very valuable in creating buzz for the first book:
    • December – Announce the name of the series – THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES series; Promote the October launch of the third installment; create a giveaway offer for Conspiracy and promote it in Facebook posts and on website.
    • January – Run a contest – What will be the section titles for The Aleppo Code?
      • Put all contests up on my website and on my Facebook Page – blog post and Tweet about them;
    • February – Additional clues for the section titles contest; Promote Kregel’s month-long Book Giveaway promotion on Goodreads.com.

What Was I Willing to Do?

  • Tasks for me to tackle:
    • Look for ways to expand my marketing reach – Connect with other CBA thriller writers to cross-promote … Follow 10 journalists on Twitter … Follow 10 thriller writers on Facebook – friend them and follow them (all in progress).
    • Begin sending personal messages to my 500-plus Facebook “Friends”.
      • Ask them to “Like” my Facebook Author page and be a follower on Twitter.
      • Write 50 posts per month for 10 months leading up to Aleppo Code launch.
      • Get them all done at least 30 days prior to Aleppo launch, if possible.

Authors on Facebook

(As of January 27, I have written personal Facebook messages to 186 of my 507 Facebook “friends”, asking them to click on the link and “Like” my Facebook Author page. My “Likes” have increased from 134 to 209, up 71 in the last week – 545% from the previous week )

 

What Was I Asking Kregel to Do?

  • Tasks for Kregel to tackle:
    • There is no obvious link connecting the first two books into a series. I asked a lot from Kregel to help create that linkage.
      • Redesign the E-Book covers to add THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES to the cover … or add a tag line under my name on the cover, “Author of …”
      • Create “Back Ads” in each book promoting the others … or add thumbnails of the book covers to the bottom of the back cover.

(A lot of these requests were not practical. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that it would be too confusing to make changes to the covers of the E-Books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble but not be able to make any changes to the printed books already in circulation. But they did agree to create Back Ads (pages inside the books promoting the other books in the series) in The Aleppo Code and – if it goes to another printing – in The Sacred Cipher. – Terry)

 

  • I also asked Kregel to implement an E-Book promotion in February for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy. During an E-Book promotion in January of 2014, Cipher hit #2 and Brotherhood hit #6 in all E-Book sales on Amazon for that week. Wow! Let’s do it again.

(The entire E-Book promotion I asked for in February has been moved back to coincide with the launch of The Aleppo Code. The marketing staff at Kregel explained that there is a law of diminishing returns with E-Book promotions. They did one a year ago for both books and believe postponing the E-Book promotion until the fall will benefit all three books.)

February 6th: Accelerating the Pace Down the Stretch.

Marketing Book #3 in a Series – Part One

When I saw the marketing plan that Terry Brennan had put together for book #3 in his series, I knew others had to give it a long look. This plan has some remarkable forethought to it. It’s aggressive, thorough and … I think it’s going to work to help create awareness of his new book, as well as move copies of his previous book. If you’re a traditional or independently published author who has or will have a trilogy, keep this post handy.

–Greg Johnson, President, WordServe Literary

When a Series Didn’t Start That Way

Sacred Cipher CoverI’ve been fortunate and blessed to have two novels published and a third one on the way. The Sacred Cipher, published in 2009, has done well. It appears the book may soon go to a third printing and today, five years later, people are still picking it up – and posting their reviews on Amazon. The sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, was released in 2013. It got a great review in Publisher’s Weekly and better reviews on Amazon than Cipher. But sales have lagged.

One reason is that I was very ill at the time of Brotherhood’s launch (I’m fine now, thanks). Another is that neither I, nor Kregel Publishing, knew this would be a three-novel series. It just started out as one book. So it wasn’t marketed as a series and Brotherhood hasn’t benefited from the “pull” that Sacred Cipher generated.

Since I have a personal stake in the success of these books, and a lot of years invested in them, I want to do everything I possibly can to promote the increased sales of The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy, particularly in anticipation of the launch of The Aleppo Code in October – the third and last book of the series.

 

How Do I Connect These Books?

Brotherhood ConspiracyI created for myself an aggressive one-year marketing plan starting in December, 2014. The plan includes a month-by-month listing of what I will do to help accelerate the sales of the first two books, including a commitment to create a consistent social media presence, to produce a monthly newsletter (I have over 1,000 active email addresses in my mailing list) and to personally undertake a series of other marketing initiatives over the next year.

I included in that plan some requests for Kregel to join in this marketing effort. The team at Kregel has been wonderful to work with over the past several years and I deeply appreciate all they have done to support and promote my books. It’s been a great partnership and, because of that relationship, I believed it was acceptable to include some requests for additional support from Kregel.

Essentially, the requests of Kregel fell into two buckets:

  1. What can we do to link the books together as a series to create some momentum and expectation in the short-term for The Aleppo Code launch next fall?
  2. And what additional promotional effort is realistic for Kregel to invest in marketing the first two books over the next twelve months?

There’s No Harm in Asking!

I was thrilled when Kregel responded to this marketing plan, and my requests, with four major initiatives they were willing to undertake:

  1. The Jerusalem Prophecies series title has been added to the ONIX data feed that Kregel provides to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. for the book’s online pages and will be used in all promotions.
  2. Kregel will create an E-Book promotion for both The Sacred Cipher and The Brotherhood Conspiracy just prior to the launch of The Aleppo Code.
  3. Kregel will implement a blog-tour for The Aleppo Code launch – but they are also considering a blog tour that provides all three books for the reviewers, so they can follow the story arc of the series.
  4. Kregel will also run a “back-list” sales special for the first two books during the October launch.

I’m told this is an unusual step for a publisher to take to invest promotional resources into back-list titles. Bless them that they did. Now it’s up to me to implement and fulfill the elements of the marketing plan.

Yikes!

February 4th: What the first three months of the plan look like.

Marketing In and Out of the Box for Authors and Speakers

“It’s getting harder to find places to sell books.”

Anita Brooks Conference Speaker

Find an Audience and Speak to their Needs

Public speaking is still the most effective sales tool for book authors according to many professionals. But with conference attendances lowering, and some closing down, the opportunities are dwindling.

And without a strong marketing plan, you often can’t get a publisher to bite on a proposal anyway.

So what’s an author to do?

You’ve probably heard “think outside the box” when it comes to marketing, but what does that mean?

Don’t lose hope, there are still effective things you can do to strengthen your marketing strategy through speaking. For instance, re-slant your messages to fit groups you might not normally speak to, or have never thought of speaking to.

Conference Speaker

Every Celebration & Educational Event Needs a Speaker

  • If you speak on marriage, have you targeted business groups and associations where couples may work together, or have employees who do?
  • If parenting is your theme, have you contacted day-care centers who often spend more waking hours with children than parents?
  • If grief or trauma is your message, what about speaking to Chambers of Commerce, or association conferences about how their members can help the hurting, promote good will, and further their mission as a result?
  • Is there an awards banquet you can connect a presentation to?

When contacting churches and ministry organizations, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are the biggest problems I see in society today?
  • What are my greatest pet peeves?
  • What do I hear people complain about most often?
  • What do people say they are lacking?

Those are the areas you can target to reach audiences in a relevant way. Many ministries are looking for speakers who can address concerns of a younger crowd growing more jaded, more “accepting,” and more in need of spiritual wisdom than ever. But wrapped in practical twenty-first century applications.

The Whole Earth Needs Hope

People All Over the Earth Need Hope

The fact is, human beings all over the planet are drawn to messages of hope and encouragement, and like-minded people flock together. The key is to develop a strategic marketing plan, do your homework, study potential audiences, make consistent contacts, and follow up on a regular basis. Over time you will begin to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Set goals and stick to them.

To help you get started, here’s a link that offers info on associations of all kinds.

Finally, I must mention the most important thing of all. Partnering with God through prayer, trust, AND practical action.

Here’s my real secret to any marketing success. Based on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, I ask God who the bankers are that He wants me to invest my talents with, and then I look and listen. I’m often surprised at the opportunities available; it simply takes looking at things through fresh eyes. Sometimes in the box, and sometimes by stepping out.

Have you discovered any unique ways to market books or sign more speaking events?

Traditional Marketing Versus Relational Marketing

This is how traditional marketing worked. 

  • Introduce a new or improved product
  • Explain all of its cool features
  • Show a brief overview highlighting how to use it
  • Tell the consumer why they shouldn’t live without it
  • Communicate a desired call to action

But twenty-first century consumers are more savvy, and demanding. They respond to relational marketing, whereas they are turned off by techniques that proved effective in our not so distant past. Here’s the difference:

  • Tell a short story about the new or improved product instead of simply introducing it, or even better, show something shocking, dramatic, and/or totally unrelated to get their attention
  • Explain how it will benefit the consumer — be clear in communicating what’s in it for them
  • Paint a picture of a personal connection between the product and the everyday consumer
  • Tell the consumer why their life will be better because they have the product, especially if you can make them believe the product will help them fulfill their dreams
  • Leave them hanging with just a hint of how they can find out more, or end with a subliminal reminder of the product, but never use in-your-face advertising methods

This is how relational marketing differs.

When marketing our books, we must remember how the consumer has been trained over the last few years. Gone are the days where you could push through advertising. The buying market expects you to ask permission before sending them special offers. Bombarding them with notices about your book or other products mostly ticks them off.

Instead, find a way to connect your message to them personally, and leave the final decision up to them, versus pressuring for a quick decision. Especially effective is making them feel like insiders, and showing them a way they can help. It feeds the human intrinsic motivator to assist others. And psychologically, it establishes a bond — a relationship.

Relational marketing is here to stay. Find a way to establish a relationship with your buying public, create and maintain mutually beneficial reasons to stay connected, and watch your sales rise.

But make your efforts real and genuine. Strive to give them something that truly will make their lives better, because if you try to fake it, your marketing efforts will fall flat. Some things never go out of style. Honesty. Authenticity. Vulnerability. Humility. Keep those at your core, and relational marketing will require no more effort than being who you really are.