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Thursdays with Dan: 4 Dirty Words of Book Marketing

by Dan Smith, CEO and Founder

Hopefully the headline above caught your attention. That’s what we try to do in book publicity – quickly get the attention of an editor or producer and entice them to read further. If you’re still with me, enticement = accomplished.

I don't literally mean “dirty words,” like the “The 7 Dirty Words” legendary comedian George Carlin famously came up with. You can substitute “controversial” for “dirty.” I think you’ll see why. I’ll give four industry words in this post. Here you go:

1. Guarantee – Why pay hard-earned money when you are guaranteed nothing? It’s a reasonable, logical question to ask. When authors ask for guaranteed results – from book sales to media placements - I respond as follows.

First, it’s a matter of being fair to book publicists. Think about how you might be treating us differently than other professionals who don’t offer guarantees. Does your financial advisor guarantee a 20% return on your investments? Not likely. Does a counselor or psychologist guarantee someone will be happy? Probably not. Does a management consultant guarantee her services will double a company’s business? Unlikely. You pay all of these professionals, and you’re guaranteed nothing. Why are publicists different?

The fact is, we’re not. We’re professionals who stand on a track record of success that should be a good indicator of what you can expect from us in terms of results. One other note: Think carefully before jumping at the services of a publicist who does in fact guarantee results. The devil can be in the details, and you may pay much more for what you get than you would in a non-guarantee situation.

2. Sales – Every author wants their book to sell. Hopefully thousands of copies, maybe a million? Well, the reality is that yes, some authors do sell many books, and it can happen to you. The other side of this reality is that industry averages for book sales, for books published in all manners – are under a 1,000. Some even say 400 or 500 are good sales number.

Before you throw in the towel and determine writing and publishing your book isn't worth it, consider the fact that many first-time authors – even now-famous ones – started with a book that sold dismally. However, they started building their brand. With hard work and marketing, subsequent books sell better, and if an author really sticks with it over the lounger haul, the sales numbers usually go way up.

What if you’re a one-book author? Keep in mind that book sale are not the only benefit of writing a book. In fact, more and more, authors are looking at sales as just one component of why they wrote a book and engage in a book marketing campaign, knowing that you really do have to sell a LOT of books to make any kind of substantial profit. But a book is a marketing tool that san transform promotional plans.  Business authors, for example, who write books showcasing their expertise, use books and publicity they receive to impress potential clients. They get great credibility from a book and publicity. Some of our authors have reported hundreds of thousands of dollars of new business from publicity for their book.

If you’re a fiction writer, broaden your horizons and think about what that novel can do for you, beyond sales. Almost every author incorporates some element of their own life and experiences into a book, and this opens up doors for potential speaking engagements and many other opportunities. Example: An author wrote a novel about the European adventures of a young woman, loosely based on her own life. Part of the novel involved a sexual assault. She used the book as therapy to help overcome this horrific experience. The book – and her story – garnered some great press. Her phone started ringing from groups and associations who wanted her to tell her story, and in some cases, help other victims overcome trauma. Her novel turned her into a recognizable expert, and after a few years, she had a new career as a speaker and consultant.

Think, really, really think about your novel or memoir – in ways you’ve never thought about it before – and you will find opportunities that may be profitable, rewarding, or just plain fun.

3. Results – I’ll keep this one short. Many authors want, and think they deserve to be on national TV and in national magazines. Some times – to be sure, this happens. But it often doesn't, yet authors still have great book PR campaigns because they got coverage in many mid-level outlets, small radio programs, local TV, niche publications – and it worked beautifully. Keep in mind: Being on a national TV show or in national print media does not guarantee big results. A good number of authors, for example, appeared on the old Oprah show and it barely moved the needle in book sales.

4. Shelf – Why the heck is “shelf” a dirty or controversy word in book publicity? Many authors want to get on the shelves of bookstores, but only about 5% ever do. There just aren't as many stores, and there are MANY more books being published. The math just doesn't add up. And, remember that when a book is for sale in a bookstore, middle-men come into play like wholesalers and distributors, who all take a cut.

More dirty words to come in future posts …

Thanks for reading.

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