icomiccon

Marketing Master Strokes Episode 3: Incentivize!

Two weeks ago, we stopped thinking about the many ways we can mess up the marketing process (Marketing Missteps) to thinking about the many ways we can knock this marketing thing out of the park–and so this series, Marketing Master Strokes, was born.  Our first marketing master stroke?  Being all ears.  (Which is to say, listening to the stories of others, and keeping an open mind to actually changing your own approach.)  And our second?  Being willing to reach your readers where they live, which we elaborated upon to explain involves setting aside the ego in order to adapt your outreach methods to best suit your readers.

But what about a third Marketing Master Stroke?  Well, it’s going to be one that rings a few bells, plucks a few strings, or sets off a few sparks of memory–because we write about it a lot here on Self-Publishing Advisor.  We use a lot of different names for it and we come at it from all kinds of different angles, but what we’re here to talk about today is the deceptively simple concept of incentivization–about motivating your potential readers to become actual readers, in point of fact.  How do you make purchasing your book an inviting proposition?  How do you make it an inevitability?

The format of your book makes a big difference.  If you offer both digital (e-book and in many cases, audiobook) and analog (physical paperback or hardcover) copies of your book, I recommend breaking down your approach into separate fronts.  Incentivization by way of promotion and marketing looks so dramatically different between those two categories that it’s almost worth–or rather, probably worth–doing one at a time, so that you can throw the sum total of your energy and concentration into addressing each format separately.

Digital Formats

Whether we’re talking about an e-book or an audiobook, digital formats offer some truly exciting possibilities for incentivization.  Amazon automatically offers the first ten or so pages for free (the so-called “first chapter freebie“) and you can replicate this on your blog and with other online retailers.  Curating your own freebie chapter isn’t an option with Amazon, but it is when you choose the method of delivery via blog or email, and I highly recommend taking the time to edit what makes it in to your freebie–this gives you an edge over the Amazon preview, which often cuts off in the middle of a paragraph.  Make sure the freebie ends with some sort of natural cliffhanger or emotional hook, to keepyour readers coming back!

Perhaps the greatest weapon in your digital arsenal is the option to offer timed discounts and sales.  Because you control the base price as a self-publishing author, you get to shape your own sales!  You can time them to coincide with events of national interest (say, Father’s Day or the anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s final fateful voyage–you know, only relevant to you and your work) or you can use the calendar as a guiding star.  Sales tend to find success when they close on the last or first day of a month, holidays, and so on.  Why are sales so important?  Because they create a sense of urgency.  Offering a constant “discounted” price does nothing but soften the impact of your sales pitch, but a timed sale?  Readers often just need that last little bit of motivation to move from “thinking about it” to “take my money!”  Or at least, that’s my experience in bookstore checkout lines.

Physical Formats

We’ve talked a lot about these strategies, and I don’t want to bore you to tears, but don’t forget to work your way through the entire checklist:

  • Book Readings (a great centerpoint for a sale, by the way)
  • Book Fairs (ditto that!)
  • Giveaways & Merch (you don’t want to leverage these as bribes for reviews, but you can certainly use them to incentivize coming to other events where your books are sold, or to encourage the sort of general enthusiasm for your work that will naturally lead to reviews!)
  • Limited Edition Offers & Bundles (comic book authors have created some really good models for bundles that you can use for inspiration, and creating short runs of specialty covers is also a specialty of theirs; don’t hesitate to mix it up to build demand)
  • Insider Access (readers want to feel special for being your fans, and you should reward this impulse; maybe the purchase of a book becomes a ticket to an author interview via Google Hangouts–or maybe it gives them access to a limited-access “behind the scenes”  page on your website? The options are endless!)

comic con booth

Go find your readers!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line atselfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM

 

mower

In Your Corner : The Side Benefits to Starting Early

I woke this morning to grey skies and a half-mowed yard.  As I write this, the rain keeps coming down in a steady drizzle, leaving the roads slick with oily puddles and my lawn thick and green and completely wild-looking, with weeds poking up through the grass in some kind of chlorophyll-rich reminder something along the lines of you really should have thought this one through before we got to this point.  It’s not that I haven’t put thought and a little muscle into mowing my yard–I picked up one of those engine-less little reel mowers that require a lot more pushing because I thought it would be a good and simple way to incorporate a little more exercise and a little less carbon exhaust into my routine … but the end result has been I mow a lot less, it takes a lot longer to finish the yard, and the lawn looks like an overgrown mess.  Sometimes a retired neighbor of mine will even take pity on me and use his ride-on lawnmower to take care of my jungle while everyone else is away at work.

mower

You might be thinking, what’s the big deal?  Why the long monologue about your yard, Elizabeth?  How could this possibly relate to self-publishing?  The answer lies in the planning:

Making publishing decisions early will help your end result.

I’m talking about editing and putting together a strong, custom cover design.  These things will make a book far more successful than a book without–and putting them together at the last minute or even in the frenetic rush of the middle of your publication process can hamstring your ability to create a truly high-quality, attractive final product.  But your book’s appearance isn’t the only beneficiary of planning ahead: as others have said before–and no doubt with more panache–you simply can’t wait to start marketing until after you’ve published your book.  I mean, you can wait, but your plan is likely to fall apart under the pressures of the day-to-day realities of working, writing your next book, promoting your current book, and managing all of the other intricacies associated with sales … if you don’t have a sound plan and well-established marketing strategies.

Your marketing plan will help you to determine if your targeted audience is going to want a paperback or a hardcover, for example–and this knowledge creates a feedback loop to how you approach the publishing process which is far easier to exploit if you’ve started your marketing and planning process in advance.  What kind of cover design would appeal to your targeted audience?  You’ll know a lot more about them if you’re already in contact, before your book rolls off of the (digital, sometimes) printing press!

Perhaps this subject is only on my mind because I’m staring out my window at my soggy excuse for a yard, and wishing I’d had the foresight to have a plan for days like today–days where I don’t have the energy to mow a large lot with a little reel push mower, and when the weather exacerbates all of my finest procrastinatory tendencies.  Or perhaps it’s part of a larger whole–a larger set of decisions that I, and every other person working in the self-publishing world, face every day.  We can either let life get ahead of us, or we can feed those parts of ourselves that give us the foresight and energy to get ahead of it!  Some days its harder than others, but I hope you always feel convinced that …

 

You are not alone. ♣︎

 

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.
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Marketing Master Strokes Episode 2: Be willing to reach your readers where they live.

Last week, we pivoted from the back foot (thinking about the many ways we can mess up the marketing process) to the front foot (thinking about the many ways we can knock this marketing thing out of the park).  Our first marketing master stroke?  Being all ears.  (Which is to say, listening to the stories of others, and keeping an open mind to actually changing your own approach.)

In thinking back on what I’d written after the fact, I realized it might strike some readers as strange that I would start a series centering on positivity and proactivity with a piece of advice that, at first glance, serves as a passive act.  Listening.  But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?  We think of listening as passive, and allow others to think the same as a consequence, when really–really listening is the most revolutionary and active thing we can do.  I’ll keep off the soapbox now, but think about it: how much better could our world be if we refused to let listening be passive?

On to today’s master stroke:

Be willing to reach your readers where they live.

http://www.gettyimages.com/license/496460698

[ source ]

This isn’t the same thing as reaching your readers where you think they live–the process of marketing requires meticulous research and a willingness to set aside the authorial ego (“I Have an Important Message and I Know How Best to Share it Best”) in order to put the reader first.  Writing a book may indeed be a selfish process (I’ve heard good arguments both for and against this statement) but marketing has to be a selfless one.  Sure, the premise of making money is necessarily self-serving, but so is the process of shopping.  Right?  Both consumer and seller/marketer can’t be selfish at the same time, or else we’re talking about a complete disjointure.

Step One to making sure you reach your readers is, then, to let go of the assumption that you already know everything you need to know about the people you’re writing for.

Step Two is to research them.  Thoroughly.  What are their demographic details?  How old are they?  Where do they live, geographically speaking?  Are they diverse in terms of ethnicity and gender?  What social media platforms do they use and which have they discarded or never picked up to begin with?  In the case of younger readers, are they old enough to be in command of their own savings–or will purchases be made by parents and caregivers?  (If so, you will have to market to the parents and caregivers as well as the children, which is a very different proposition.)  What subjects occupy their waking thoughts?

Step Three is to actively go out and reach them.  Carefully and effectively.  With precision.  (Time will become your most threadbare resource, I guarantee you.)  Draft a well-thought-out, targeted marketing strategy that pares back on the manifold possibilities open to you … to just the ones that will reach your core readership.  Once you have established a sustainable system in place, you can begin experimenting your way through additional marketing strategies and see what is sustainable.

And there you have it!  Start reasonable, but keep ambition in the wings.

Go find your readers!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line atselfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM
baby foxes

Marketing Master Strokes Episode 1: What do ears, geysers, and self-publishing have in common?

Another Wednesday, another series!  For the last eleven weeks, we have been examining the missteps that can land a self-publishing author in hot water.  And hot water can be dangerous!

So:

You’re an indie author who’s recently published a new book, and you’re committed to marketing in the most serious way–doing what you can to ensure your book sales reflect the same hard work that you put into the crafting of your book itself.  What next?  Getting started is often the hardest part, in the same way that staring at a blank page is enough to give me writer’s block on the spot.  We’ve spent time examining the benefits and risks to a couple of false starts, and we’ve discussed the relief that comes with knowing you have permission to make mistakes … and in knowing that every writer, whether midlist or a blockbuster success, has made them.

So:

Mistakes aren’t the end of the story!  This fact is an unassailable truth.  At the same time, it’s important to note that there’s a difference between an honest mistake or a misstep … and deliberately ignoring the reality of a situation.  Remember how I mentioned that hot water can be dangerous?  I’m writing this episode just hours after a man fell into a Yellowstone hot spring in the Norris Geyser Basin–neither the first nor the last fatality to take place in our National Parks this year.  Every year, several people slip over the edge of the Grand Canyon and fall from cliffs in Glacier National Park, despite clearly posted signs stating the dangers these areas have to offer.  What’s the connection to self-publishing?

Paying attention to the signs can save you from disaster.  

You’ll be able to spot the difference between a misstep and regular self-delusion by paying attention to your decision-making process.  Is there a pattern being established?

Today I begin a new series, a mirror image of our last: we’ve looked at ten of the most important marketing missteps to avoid in order to avoid disaster–working with the negative things in life–and now we will examine positive steps–master strokes–that can ensure your success.

The first master stroke?

Be all ears.

baby foxes

By which I mean: Cultivate an attitude of respect towards and listen with sincere interest to the stories of other authors, marketers, and industry professionals.  And most importantly, keep your mind open to what they have to say.  There’s a very real difference between appearing to listen, and actually allowing your own opinions to be modified by the shared experiences of others–and I promise you, your marketing will be MUCH more effective if you internalize the successes and failures that you haven’t encountered yet … but others have.

I think a lot of self-publishing authors are incredibly humble.  I have certainly met dozens upon hundreds upon thousands of authors throughout my decades working with them who are willing and eager to mentor new or struggling authors, and I know for a fact that you can access still more wisdom born from experience just by throwing a couple of keywords into a Google search engine or browsing the archives of any number of self-publishing-centered blogs.  There’s uncountable gigabytes of wisdom at your fingertips, and the first marker of master marketers is the metaphorical size of  their ears.

Get listening!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line atselfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM
golf

Marketing Missteps – Summary Episode

The day has come: we have finished our series of the top ten most common marketing missteps taken by self-publishing authors.

They were : (drumroll please)

But what does this actually mean?  When push comes to shove, shouldn’t we be looking to optimize our strengths, not obsess over our weaknesses and past errors?

Yes.  Absolutely yes.  Which is not to say that this list doesn’t have a place, or recognizing our mistakes an important role to play in upping our game and taking our marketing strategy to the next level.  But mistakes, and avoiding them, only gets us partway to success–just as swerving to avoid a sinkhole has its advantages (no jolts or damaged suspension) but ultimately leaves drivers no further down the road than before.  To push the analogy just a touch further, a serving driver has three probable choices: to swerve onto a sidewalk or ditch, to swerve into a parallel lane, or to swerve into oncoming traffic.  The swerve avoids a definite danger–total vehicular destruction–but the choice of which direction to swerve determines the ultimate fate of the driver (not to mention, pedestrians and other innocent lives).

Sure, the metaphor breaks down in places (no pun intended there), but it serves the point: we need more than just phase one.  We need a phase two.  We need to make active, positive choices to pursue success in addition to active, positive choices to avoid complete disaster.  To this end, over the coming weeks I’ll be launching phase two: a series of what will turn out to be, in essence, the opposite of a misstep.  What’s the opposite of a misstep, a bungle, a slip-up, a blunder, gaff, a faux pas?  Here it is: a triumph, a victory, a gain, a coup de maitre … in other words, the opposite of a misstep is a master stroke.

golf

Bear with me a second.  Marketing your self-published book is not golf.  Nor is it tennis, or one of those fun heist movies from the early 2000s.  But every artist, even a con artist, has his or her trump card–his or her master stroke.  And you’re not a con artist!  You have real art to sell, and you’re master of both your form and your material.  You have something on offer that’s valuable, and worthwhile.  We’re just going to take a closer look at how you can polish a few of your marketing moves, with insights from–you got it!  The masters of self-publishing.

Check in next week as we launch Phase Two!

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line atselfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM