The Basics of Marketing for Self-Publishing

megaphone_249x249.pngAs self-publishing becomes more and more popular, the abundance of chaff to separate from is becoming increasingly important. Marketing is the term that is given to the set of activities which will put you in front of your readers, the rest of it is up to you (or your words). In this blog, I’m going to lay out the basic marketing model, I was taught to call it the 7P’s and here they are relating to self-publishing.

The problem with marketing is that there’s no definitive right or wrong, there’s no set amount of time you should spend on it, and there’s no surefire way to success. All I know is that most of the successful self-published writers are good at it and I’m terrible. So, this blog post is as much for me as it is you.

I’ve taken exams in Marketing, I even used to have a Marketing text book, but I’ve never used the principles in practice. Sales are often lumped together with marketing but they’re very different beasts. When you sell your books, you’re ramming them down people’s throats and persuading them to buy, however marketing is a bit more subtle.

Marketing is about putting your product in front of the type of readers who you think will be most interested. It’s an art form when done well and it’s something I’m incredibly envious of in both my writing and my other business.

The 7P’s

Product

If you write a book which no one wants to read then you’re always going to struggle. Part of being an author is creating a story which people are interested in enough to read. That’s pretty much the bottom line. If they like what they’ve read then they’ll tell others about it. Some savvy authors analyse the genres that sell the most and specifically target them. I’m not too sure about this engineered approach from a creative perspective but if books sales are your primary objective then you can’t argue with the theory.

Price

Books are often priced within the same band so there’s not too much room for manoeuvrability but it’s still mighty important. How many times have you made a judgement call on a book because of its price point? When you set the price you’re allocating a value expectation on the product to the reader. If it’s higher than average for a self-published book then you’re stating that there’s more value to be gained from it, and similarly, if you choose a low price (or even FREE) then you’re providing a perception that its not as valuable.

Your price positions you in the marketplace and goes towards making up your brand. Also, existing readers who are already fans will be less sensitive to price than new readers who you’re trying to attract. Both of these facts need to be taken into account.

Self-published authors used to have an advantage over traditionally published on price but now the publishers have grown more aware. Also, the power of free seems to have been diluted of late due to the Amazon chart algorithms changing.

The price of self-published books is in a constant state of flux. Authors need to make a profit, distributors need to make a margin and readers need to pick up a bargain. The only advice is to compare your work to other similar pieces in the market and look to see how they’re priced.

Place

This is not so important for self-publishers. Although other online distributors are gaining market share in some regions, Amazon remains the leader by a long way. You must have your books on Amazon because that’s where most readers expect to buy ebooks from, iBookstore and Kobo are also rans and then the others are just noise. Always consider the old Pareto Analysis (80/20 rule), spend your efforts tackling 80% of the market and you’ll be alright. Spending time on the remainder is probably not a sensible use of your time.

It might be worthwhile to generate a bit of local interest as well. This can’t do any harm and it may bump up your online sales too. Locally, you can hit libraries, local bookstores, newspapers, book fairs, etc. Experiment with a few and be ruthless if they’re just a waste of time.

Promotion

This is the way you communicate what you do and what you can offer the reader. It might be branding, PR, special offers, advertising, exhibitions etc. As self-publishing becomes more popular there are more routes opening up to lose your money in.

Advertising is the big one. The right advert, in the right pace could be an inspired decision but, in my experience, it’s just a huge waste of money. We’re selling books, right? How do you mainly hear about books? Word of mouth? This is still the biggest influencer for buying books so we need to get readers championing our stories. This is what builds hype and can make a book an overnight success. It’s about getting people talking about it. It’s about standing out.

Reviews on Amazon are a good way to build this hype online and they’re surprisingly hard to collect. Naively I would’ve thought that everyone who knows me would have written a review on Amazon to help me out, but they don’t, not unless you keep reminding them. Rewarding the reviewers could work, perhaps offering something in return for leaving reviews on Goodreads and Amazon might be beneficial.

People

The only person who’s important in your book world is you. You have to behave and come across like the type of person who your perfect reader wants to read. This is pretty subtle in the context of books, but signings, exhibitions, book fairs, anywhere that you’re in public, you need to be conscious of the image you’re providing.

Processes

This isn’t so important when it comes to books.

Physical evidence

This is more important for a service company but it could relate to samples of your books being available or public readings. Any approach that helps the reader to make a more informed decision on what they’re about to buy.

Conclusion

These are the 7P’s and they should help you (and me) to get better at the way we market our books. One last thing to add as an over-riding basic of Marketing is the most important thing – know your market. All of the P’s relate to focussing on your market but if you don’t know it in the first place then you’re just going to end up firing aimlessly.

You have to know your Target Market. Where do they live, what do they do for a living, what are their hobbies, how old are they, do they have children, how much do they read, where do they buy their books, how do they know what to read, how much money do they have, how can you add value to their lives? It’s obvious and we’ve all heard it before but how many have a clear picture of this and use it to their advantage? I think you have to start with this and then build a marketing strategy using the 7P’s.

I hope this long post helps.

Until next time…

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4 responses to “The Basics of Marketing for Self-Publishing

  1. Bookmarked for when I finally have something to market! Disappointed Partying isn’t one of the P’s (and should be based on most of the marketing people I know…)

  2. Great post! My own marketing attempts have fallen off in recent months … gotta get back on the horse 🙂

  3. The key is to be where the potential readers are. If you are selling your book online, you should build up your online presence in niche communities that correspond with the topic of your book.

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