Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Third Hat: Marketing and Sales

As a writer you need two hats. One is for writing, where you should limit your thoughts on such profane things like grammar or the perfect word. Everything you write is good the way it is. The other one is for editing. With that one on, nothing is good enough. It has a built-in adverb-adar. At least that's what I thought so far.

Well, there is a third one which is for marketing and sales. Wait a minute, I hear you say. That's my publisher's and the bookstore's job. You are right and if you feel, you are in good hands and you'd rather focus on writing, you can stop reading now and go writing. However, even if you are with a traditional publisher, marketing and sales will become an increasingly important part of a writer's life. A writer will become more and more an entrepreneur, with all upsides and downsides. So, let's get started with some basics and then climb up the tree to the fruits. 

Marketing vs Sales
In a nutshell, Marketing is the planning side of how to sell your books, sales is the moves and measures to increase the number of sold books. With other words, marketing is strategic, sales is tactical. 

There are several concepts in marketing, from the 4P-model, that evolved into the 7P-model, via AIDA (Attraction-Interest-Desire-Action) to the design school model that largely bases on the SWOT analysis, and you can be sure that this is not the end of the story. Technological and social change continuously impact the different models, but ultimately they still circle around the same fundamentals. 
Following, I'll use the 4-P model (marketing plan) to make my point.

The core of the product is given, will say not depending on marketing. You hear it from all sides - write what you love. Don't write for the market. Next to all the creativity arguments there is a strong marketing argument; due to the identification and production lag your book will hit the market with thousands of others that tried the same. 

However, there are things around product you have to decide and which have an impact on the other P's and vice-versa. Print and e-books have different needs for place and different price tags. The book cover is probably the same for the front, but the spine and the back give you an additional option for print books. 

I can only scratch some dimensions here; there are a lot of decisions to be made, including font and title and I haven't even started with the audiobook angle.

Which are your distribution channels? Amazon/KDP, Kobo or you own webpage? You could also select print on demand and try to get into some local bookstores. Ultimately it all boils down to how easy it will be for a potential customer to buy as soon as he decided to - the link between desire and action in the AIDA-formula.

I already talked about price points and price elasticity in my last blog post and in April I re-blogged a post by David Gaughran about e-book pricing. However, outside the direct impact of pricing on sales, there is a psychological component to it.

A book is a typical experience good. Despite sneak peeks, book covers and reviews, a reader knows its value only after he read it. As a consequence he attributes value through various indicators, including price. In general, an e-book for 2.99 is perceived to provide a higher value than a book for 0.99. 

Last but least, giving away an e-book for free might provide you with an increased e-mail list, but you also have to be aware that free stuff might also transmit the underlying message of no value. One way to get around this could be to label the e-book 1.99 and offer it for free if signing up for a newsletter, but we are already getting into sales here.

Promotion is all about information, i.e. how do my potential customers know about my product. For books, this is the most crucial part of the marketing mix, because it has a direct link to the number of sales. The more people notice your book (attraction), the more will request more information, the more will have the desire to buy it.

In this sense, notice does not only mean see, but also be open for it or expect it. When you are not open for a message, you perceive it as spam (products offered via Facebook, unwanted e-mail offers or buy my book-tweets). On the other side they are open when they expect a message, e.g. in a newsletter or information about the progress of your new book on facebook or twitter. 

In a second step, they should have valuable information available at hand. At best, there is a seamless handover between noticing, information and the ability to purchase and receive the product as fast as possible.

Last but not least, don't forget to track the success of your promotions. Only that way you can improve the success and with the possibility of the digital media it isn't even difficult. A simple way would be to use specific links that allows the tracking of each campaign.


Sales campaigns are temporary adjustments to the marketing mix in order to increase sales. Usually it includes a promotion combined with a price reduction or a value add. You could for example offer your book for a special week with a discount or offer two book at the price of one. In addition, you have to tell the world in one or the other way (newsletter, fellow blogger/podcaster). BookBub is a typical sales campaign. 

Product as well as place might change too, but not necessarily. Offering a signed copy is a change to the product and a sales campaign during a book signing is a change to place.

You have almost limitless options and combinations - some work better, some don't. I'm following The Creative Penn podcast and the Sell more Books podcast and I'm always astonished about their tips and ideas.

Portfolio Management
As soon as you have a second book out, you can start thinking about portfolio management. Again, there is no right or wrong. However, different combinations have different advantages. Spreading your stories over different online channels might reduce the cluster risk, but it also dilutes sales. Offering some stories on KDP and others on Kindle unlimited gives you different type of income streams, you can even think of grandfathering stories on Kindle unlimited or writing a Kindle unlimited series. Again, sky is the limit.

But why do you tell me all this?
Often, when I read blog posts or listen to podcasts, the terms and ideas are mixed up. Promotion is called marketing and then the article is about sales activities, or in another example the place and product are completely ignored and it is all about getting your name out.

Marketing is much more; a strategic way of thinking in order to generate optimal revenues and sales campaigns are tactical ways to boost sales in a given timeframe.

The moment all i's are dotted and all t's are crosed, the details of the market introduction should be defined and the promotion should already have started. However, it should be a well thought-out decision rather than just the way the author always did it. And after it is published, the author has to change the hat and stay on top of it - keep the ball rolling. Then it's time for thought-out sales campaigns.

Happy selling or should I say happy marketing
Your writer in a foreign land

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