The first component of a sales and marketing plan is to have in place a sales distribution system – if you don’t have a way to create a sale and get your product in the customer’s hands, all the marketing in the world won’t do it. But even if you have all the relevant distribution channels in place, that is no guarantee of actual sales of one’s books: There’s still the problem of drawing potential buyers to those distribution channels. What came first, the chicken or the egg? well, it’s the chicken, but even so the chicken needs to attract a rooster.
So the second part of any Sales and Marketing Plan is marketing and promotion. (I suppose the third part of a Sales and Marketing Plan is actual sales! Or in the case of the chicken, consummation.)
My Marketing and Promotion strategy was sort of a five pillars plan: (of which prayer is one part but, probably, the least reliable – though if my goal is to find ‘flow’ I should try more prayer):
- Have in place your electronic marcom (AFSPublishing.ca) to attract random surfers and lost explorers
- Promote the Book through Social Media
- Promote the book through Directmail
- Promote the book through traditional media
Pillar 1 – is pretty much in place, as I’ve explained. All my books are described on my website, as well as a flattering picture of the author at his computer.
On the Website, interested buyers can then click on the ‘Buy Now’ button and get redirected to the Lulu.com site. (Lulu.com is itself a mammoth bookstore promoting all its members’ books but I don’t think I’ve had one sale to a random browser on Lulu.com.)
One’s website is like a billboard, or brochure, but you still have to get people to look at it. (Driver: ‘Hey did you see that interesting billboard back there?’ Passenger: ‘what billboard?’) Some people may find it all by themselves, accidentally, but most people need directions. All my emails have a tag in the signature line that takes them to my afspublishing.ca site. Meh, how well does that work? I had a supply of a bookmarks printed featuring the TSB cover on the front and my coordinates on the back bringing them to my site – a sort of calling card. Not sure how that works but people like receiving them:
The marketing fantasy is that people will pass along the bookmark, but since most of the people who have a bookmark also have the book – they tend to keep the bookmark for themselves!
Not only that, I have a blog on my website and I post new posts semi-monthly; these are automatically relayed to my Goodreads Page. The idea here is that visitors to the blog page(s) might slip over to the main page and be tempted by the books listed there. That’s the idea anyway.
Pillar 2 – Promoting the book through Social Media – is also largely in place but this is a shallow claim if there are scarce subscribers and visitors to your SM sites and feeds. And these mechanisms have to be primed, constantly, if anyone is actually going to find their way to them. I have two Twitter Accounts: @Doug_AFSCo and @DJ_Author; the latter include posts suitable for a respectable author, the former my radical outrage account. I have a Facebook account, and even an AFS Publishing Page on Facebook. I have an Instagram account, and a LinkedIn account and a LinkedIn AFS Publishing Page (which, if you have a LinkedIn account you can visit and ‘Follow’). The problem with all of these SM sites is I only have ~50 followers, and most of them are all of you!
This Social Media Pillar is proving to be a lot of work, and not very satisfactory – hardly any hits and clicks. The magic of retweeting and ‘going viral’ takes some sort of secret sauce, but I don’t have the secret. Or maybe I do but I’m reluctant to use it. Turns out the successful SM promoters have collected armies of followers over many years, without discriminating as to who they are. It’s a numbers game. I guess I suffer from false pride and blanche at all those mystery followers. I’m beginning to associate SM with its traditional meaning, sado-masochism.
Pillar 3 – Promoting the Book through broadcast email – I use DirectMail for Mac – and this may have been my most successful channel to date, though success is defined in very modest terms. It’s said by people who apparently know (they are the ones offering all those courses in ‘how to market and sell books’ – and the cynic in me is thinking they are the only ones making money) that email remains the best method to reach prospective customers. Apparently, people still pay attention to email because it lands directly in their inboxes, and this despite the fact that increasingly, people use text messaging on their cell phones. (Maybe I need to try that next – create a list of all my contacts with cell phones and compose a mass text broadcast – that should piss off a lot of people.)
But there are problems with the email strategy too – many problems. First, lots of email gets trapped in firewalls, especially if it is an email from a broadcast list.
Second, most people now look at email on their smart phones or tablets and they can ‘preview’ the email without actually opening it. Talk about a brush-off. All that effort composing a snazzy email with graphics and pictures, and poof, delete.
Third, even if people open the email, and presumably read it, that’s no assurance they will click through to the guts of the matter: my website with the invite to ‘Buy Now’.
Fourth, as in almost all sales and marketing strategies the key is repeat, repeat, repeat. This is the ‘Rule of Seven’ – you need to give the prospect seven chances to say yes! What I’ve discovered though is most people have no trouble saying no, or at least merely ignoring the 5th, 6th and 7th opportunity.
Fifth, you run the risk of annoying people in your email lists or worse, rather than click the intended link they make the effort to click the unsubscribe button instead.
Sixth, (and I’ll stop here – I’m sure there are more downsides) as in the SM strategies you really need a long list of email subscribers; I mean, a really long list. I have about 750 people in my data base and I probably know a couple thousand more people who are not in my database – would that we had kept track of them! Apparently one of the tricks of growing your email list is to include one’s email on the back cover of the book itself and invite people to write you to be added to your email list. Too late now…
Pillar 4 – Promoting my book through traditional media – wow, that’s the scary one, the impenetrable monolithic bastion of the communications world. MSM are interested in celebrities, not neophytes, which is perfectly understandable. But how do you get to be a celebrity? This feels like searching for that first job all over again, and I didn’t much like it the first time.
Traditional media also includes tv & radio, and in this regard, Radio Station CJAI in the personage of Sally Bowen and her program, Sally’s Books, is my first win. Sally is reading a couple of chapters of my book for broadcast in December. But hey, it’s a start. Getting through to CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel or Shelagh Rogers is a horse of a very different colour.
Same with print media: I have a friend who is an ex-sister-in-law to the Books Editor at the Toronto Star. Even so, it’s very hard to get through to him. And I’ve been trying to penetrate fortress Postmedia to try to reach the Kingston Whig Standard about an interview avec moi and discuss my book; my thinking being the local interest angle. We’re still trying, but there is no success in trying, only doing (so says Yoda).
This Sales and Marketing ‘Project’ is proving to be a lot of work, and not very satisfactory – I hardly ever experience ‘flow’ but I am frequently experiencing impotence. I’m giving this project ‘till the end of December, then I’ll get back to my true love, writing. (I guess these blog posts don’t quite cut it.)
Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata Ontario
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