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Marketing Books

Marketing is meant to sell books, which is no easy task in a world where there seem to be thousands of new ones on the market every single day. (And, of course, they all seem to be fabulous stories in my genre!) Worse, according to experts marketing entails selling oneself, which is a great deal more uncomfortable for many of us.

How do you encourage people to like you? Especially if you are a typical author who spends much time holed up in an office cubicle writing or editing or researching? Hardly exciting from the point of view of the average non-writer!

And do readers really want to cosy-up to the writer instead of just enjoying the book? If so, why?

Or is readers’ wish to bond with a writer really a fiction the marketing industries have invented to encourage publishers and authors to buy their services and/or products?

Personally, I do not care what degrees a writer has attained or whether he or she went to an institution of higher learning at all. I care not whether an author is attractive or less than photogenic. Nor do I give a hoot if he or she has a family or a pet, a penchant for riding horses or baking cakes, or an interest in butterflies or astrophysics. What concerns me is whether the book before me captures my attention and my imagination. All else is drivel I have no need or desire to know.

Do I choose books based on covers and titles? To some extent, yes. Either one or both might intrigue me. An interesting back-page blurb will certainly clinch the deal.

Do I pick up a novel because the writer’s name is writ large on the cover? Only if my previous experience of that author’s writing was enjoyable.

Do I buy a book based on official reviews, “best-seller” designations, or the opinions of people I know? The first two: never. The opinions of people I know: sometimes.

So how to market books?

Rating a front-page slot on the sites of retailers or a place in store displays is a mysterious process that even gurus have difficulty deciphering and no publisher actually controls. Getting reviews to encourage those who buy on the basis of others’ opinions does not come easily, either, because few readers post a review of what they’ve read. “Best-seller” is a catch-22: by definition, to get that designation requires high sales, but high sales volume may require having that designation in the first place, according to established marketing principles.

Current advice to authors is to build up an audience through social media and e-mail subscriptions. However, these also come with their own caveats: Exposure through social media requires either a large number of followers (and that takes time to acquire) or paid advertising. Either way, it may not translate to sales. And e-mail subscriptions must be voluntary, through a website form, and the website may get little traffic unless the writer already has an audience. Websites only work as a marketing tool if people find them. (SEO is another one of the mysteries of the universe, one that many fraudsters exploit to get the unwary to pay them to “fix.”)

Launches of books are supposed to bring in buyers. But again, the event must be organized and advertised and appeal to a potential audience. Then, people have to actually show up!

What to do?

Announcing new books to those who are already fans helps, whether through social media or direct contact. Launches depend on too many variables to be reliable, but can at least be fun and may, indeed, be successful.

Based on my own habits as a reader, I conclude that cover, title, and back-page blurb count the most in marketing. The rest is guesswork or paid up front.

What makes you choose a book?

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