The Foundation of Non-Evil Book Promotion.

Non-Evil Book Promotion

Can you have a kick ass book promotion plan without being evil?

The tagline here is “sell a lot, without selling out” because I think that you want to be authentic, and… well, non-evil.  (“Sell a lot without being evil” just doesn’t have the same ring.  Also, I think Google’s mission statement already uses it.)

“If you write it, they will come.”

In one of the comments in my last post, DeeAnna Galbraith mentioned that “if it’s a good book, it will find a solid audience.”

I love the hope in this mentality, and I think that the book must come first, period.  If you don’t focus on improving your craft, there’s no point in promoting, because you either won’t have enough to promote (too busy promoting, not enough writing) or the stuff you write won’t stand up to scrutiny.

Unlike some non-fiction authors, we aren’t able to cruise on our reputations as experts, dining out on speaking tours and partnerships, seminars and licensing. We’re novelists, fiction writers and our books are our livelihoods.

Does cream rise to the top?

Alas, I don’t believe “good books find an audience”  is necessarily true.  I’ve had many friends who have written wonderful books. However, for lack of consistent or effective publishing efforts (on their part or the part of their publishers) they were unable to connect with readers.

Consequently, they didn’t “make their numbers.”

For those in traditional publishing especially, if you don’t sell a certain number of copies (usually sell-through, or a percentage of number printed and distributed vs. number actually sold) then you’re suddenly on a slippery slope.  Bookstores will return you, and when your next title comes up, they will check your name, and see what your last sell-through was.  Low sell through = fewer or no copies of future books.  Publishers also look at this, and when your next contract comes up, they may decide to pass.

What about e-publishing?

Admittedly, with the boom of e-publishing, you no longer have to fight for limited shelf-space.  But with the deluge of offerings, it’s harder and harder for good books to be noticed.  If you aren’t doing something for promotion, then your masterpiece may languish in Amazon limbo, selling two copies a quarter.

So we’re back to push-push-sell-sell?

Yes, you need to promote.You should have a plan to promote.  Yes, you can decide you want to be a huge, screaming, set-the-world-ablaze success.

No, you don’t need to be evil to carry this out.

The whole point of White Hat promo is to think of your reader first.  Consequently, all of your promotional efforts, and the foundation of your whole book promotion plan, is going to focus on your Right Reader.

You need a comprehensive plan to effectively promote your book.  To do that, you’re going to need the following foundation:

1.  Look at your work.  What genre are you in?  What makes you unique?  (In business jargon, they call this your USP, or Unique Selling Point.)

This can be hard to pin down, especially if you’re writing a very popular genre.  Let’s say you’re writing a cozy mystery.  What’s the hook?  Some examples: “crafty” (knitting, scrapbooks, decoupage); foodie (cupcakes, chefs, recipes);  or role (debutante, maid, traveling clown.  Okay, I made that last one up.)

The idea is to drill down in your niche.  It’s not enough to say you write cozy mysteries, or romantic comedy, or horror.  You write cozy mysteries about a pet psychic.  You write romantic comedy like modern day Kate Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movies.  You write gritty, violent horror stories that take place in the Mojave Desert. Why?  because you want to make it as easy as possible for a Right Reader to be intrigued — and a Wrong Reader to go away.

2.  Draw a sketch of your Right Reader.  Remember: this is someone who is desperately searching for what you’re writing, rather than someone who would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.  The clearer you can visualize this reader, the easier it’s going to be to make decisions about how to design your website, and what to write for your newsletter, blog, posts, and tweets.  In every communication, you want to pretend you’re communicating with your Right Reader alone.  One size does not fit all.  Communication that tries to cater to Every Reader tends to be a bland pap that attracts no one.

3.  Go native.  Once you’ve identified your Right Reader, find out where she hangs out.  Go to a book club.  Lurk in some forums.  Read book blogs.  Remember:  this is a recon mission! Right now, you care enough about your Right Reader to be interested in who she is, what she wants, and what has disappointed her in the past.  Read what she’s suggesting.  If you find stuff you love that’s applicable, share it.  Become known as “that person who knows great books/has funny insights/is kind” rather than “that author who makes every comment a way to talk about her book coming out.”

4.  Be consistent.  This means visually, in your copywriting, and in any communication you do. Again, you’re making it easier for your Right Reader to be attracted and find out more.  If you write violent, gritty, modern horror that takes place in the Mojave, then maybe instead of the usual Gothic fonts, graveyards,  and blood splatter on a black background, go for shades of gray and really creepy desert imagery.  If you’re writing Hepburn/Tracy styled rom com, maybe have pictures of a man and a woman, with smirks of challenge, facing each other from either side of your header.  Make the motif match the USP.

Also, have your website match your social media, your newsletter, your business cards, your newsletter.  Be visually consistent.  Also, use the same “voice” across the board.  Don’t write your newsletter as if it’s coming from a company, your bio as if your publicist wrote it, your tweets as if you’re talking to your high school pals, and your blog as if you’re Sybil, complete with multiple personalities.  Consistency is key.

What do you think?  Does this still feel “evil” to you, or does it make sense?  If you wanted to write a non-evil book promotion plan, what else would you want to know?

If this resonates, please re-tweet.  Likewise, please comment or contact me if you have any questions. I love hearing the feedback, and I want to post stuff that helps! 🙂

10 Replies to “The Foundation of Non-Evil Book Promotion.”

  1. Now we’re getting to it, Cathy! Great, substantial stuff here.

    I already use the concept of an ‘Ideal Reader’ while I’m writing (in my case it’s my wife), but I can see that the ‘Right Reader’ will be someone different. Still pondering who she is. I’ve mentioned Jacqueline Carey here. Even though there are many differences between us(first and foremost, she’s awesome, and I’m still learning and growing), but I really admire and respect her audience. I’ve had interactions with several of them, and one woman I met on her FB page even beta-read for me. Of everyone in my genre, I see her stuff coming closest to what I’m trying to achieve. I suppose I should find out where else her fans hang out, and look for ways to delve deeper into who they are, in order to start my sketch (I certainly can’t post spam on JC’s page – that would be evil ;)).

    Having a pretty strong marketing background, I totally agree about consistency, but can never be reminded enough of its importance. The pairing of consistency with frequency (solid, repetitive hits create an impression)is the cornerstone of successful marketing, and something I think a lot of authors, indy or not, are missing in their efforts.

    I highly commend your efforts here. Step by step, you’re building a roadmap – a huge help, and perfectly timed for me. Thanks again!

    1. You realize, of course, that you are first on my list of invited beta reads for the Painless Promotion Plan, right? 😉

    1. You’re doing so fantastically well, Shannon. Besides, all this is small steps, taken every day. We are the queens of consistent small steps, it feels like! (I know you certainly help me stay on the path!)

  2. I appreciate your posts. They make me feel like *take a breath* I can do this. Normally sales related stuff makes me want to bang my head against a wall. No, wait..I’ve already been doing that 🙂

    1. You can do this. I promise, you can do this. You may even — dare I say — get to like it. Because you’re going to be essentially hanging out with people who want you to succeed, and meeting new friends. How cool is that? 😉

  3. As an author of a CAT mystery,(still unpublished) I’ve been working on my social media platform. I’m now being encouraged to start a blog. It is still a mystery to me what to blog about. I can’t forever blog about cats,or cozy mysteries – nor am I expert enough to blog about the writing craft (though learning fast). And that’s not even appropriate for the ‘Right Reader’ of cat mysteries who is not an author. I settled on “mysteries” – things that we live with but don’t often think about how they work or why. http://www.mindcandymysteries. Do you have a magic formula suggestion of what I might blog about that would tie into Cozy mysteries or Cat mysteries?

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I don’t think it’s really necessary for you to blog, actually. Certainly not on a weekly basis, at least. Here’s a question in return: when you say you’re working on your social media platform, who is your right reader, and what is your objective? Are you looking to build an email list — and if so, how many, by when? Are you looking to build up your social media, hoping to connect and only sell during promotional times? Are you trying to develop a blog following in lieu of an email list or, say, Facebook fan page or Twitter followers? Again… how many, by when, with what hopes?

      Not a lot of people ask this, I’ve noticed. But it’s better than the nebulous “I’d like to make a lot of sales at some point by building a social media platform of some sort.” I notice you’ve got a website and a Facebook fan page. I think, since you’re still unpublished, you’re probably better served by hanging out and commenting on book review sites that review your types of mysteries… places where your Right Reader hangs out. Not mentioning your books, at this point — just getting to know the community, and letting them get to know you. When you’re ready, and if you’ve been a contributing member, you can then ask if they’re interested in reviewing. (Which they may not be, but it is still an avenue, and you’ll connect with other readers, as well.)

      Honestly, at this point, I think the best use of your time/energy is writing more and getting published. Self-publishing is a very viable option, especially for small niche… and there is an entire Kindle category of “cat sleuths” that you could probably get some good mileage from, as well as using the inspirational niche.

      There’s never a magic formula, in my opinion. If you do want to blog, I would suggest you look at your Right Reader, again… think about who would be most interested in your books, and then think about what else they’re interested in. Write about what inspired you to write these books. Write about your favorite interactions with cats, or why you read mysteries, or your favorite mystery series and why. Or your favorite cats in movies, or sleuths in movies. I would also strongly suggest taking the dates off your posts. At some point, you’ll fall behind, and you want the content to at least look fresh to new readers who are just discovering your site. Good luck! 🙂

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