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MegaphoneI enjoy following Jane Friedman’s excellent blog with the tagline ‘Writing, Authorship and Publishing in the Digital Age’. Just recently she had a post titled Book Marketing: It’s About Data, Not Promotion which included a link to an article written by Chris McVeigh, consultant to the publishing industry. A few things stood out for me when I read McVeigh’s article.

Scared money never wins” – translated for self-publishing authors, if you’re afraid that your book will never sell more than a few hundred copies, throwing money at it is not the answer.

Marketing builds markets” – marketing is pro-active, it’s data driven and customer driven. If you don’t understand the market for your book, you should do lots of work to develop an understanding and test what sort of campaigns will reach your prospective readers.

Promotion is an amplification tool” – promotion is what you do after you understand the market you’re going after.

What’s a self-published author supposed to do with concepts like this? I’m just thinking this through so bear with me, the following are ideas off the top of my head :-)

  • spending your time tweeting ad infinitum about a book you’ve just released does nothing to help you understand or build the market for your book; tweets are a crapshoot or as my son tells me, tweets are like megaphones in a crowded stadium, no one really hears them. (an example of scared money, in this case time = money)
  • hiring a publicist when you don’t know your target audience is a waste of money. Trust me, I’ve done that. (another example of scared money)
  • try defining potential market segments for your book, find readers in those market segments and deliberately seek their feedback. Based on that feedback, develop a campaign to target similar readers. Run the campaign and see whether sales improve. For example, I’m about to release a novel called LIES TOLD IN SILENCE set in WWI France. Given that this is the centenary of WWI, one possible market segment is book clubs with a desire to know more about the war experience on the home front. In order to run a campaign, I need a way to find book clubs and need to develop a hook to interest them. I would then send an email or some other form of targeted contact and see what sales emerge. I might also add a feedback mechanism so I can contact some readers after executing the campaign.
  • further promotion to book clubs would happen only after I complete the step above AND conclude that the market has potential.

What do you think?

What have you tried that either works or doesn’t work?