When an author writes the proposal for their book, and again, after they finish the manuscript, there is a big focus on the question:
What’s the marketing plan for the book?
This set of activities is an incredibly important component of launching a book and there are many different tactics that one can employ. You can build an author website. You can build an email list and share the news of the launch. The channels of possibilities have only grown with the proliferation of social media. Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest are only a partial list of outlets where you can build audiences. You can hire a publicist to help reach others on these channels or connect with traditional media. Events, online advertising, and “author activities” can also get lumped into a marketing plan. These are all potentially effective means of marketing, but as I said last week, it depends.
I want you all to think about a different question for a moment:
What’s your sales plan for the book?
When we change the query from marketing to sales, we change the outcome that we are focused on. Marketing is about generating awareness, but the connection to selling varies widely depending on the activity and the intention. Sales is very straightforward—I want someone to buy the book.
The big bucket of book marketing gets created and named because most authors are working with a publisher’s marketing department. Those marketers and publicists are working directly with the author to create opportunities to build additional awareness for the book. This is needed work when launching a new book into the world.
For a publisher, the sales department is working on something very different. The sales force is connecting with distribution and retail accounts to get them to order, stock and promote the book. That infrastructure amplifies the reach of every book. Just being available in distribution increases the chances of being ordered by tens of thousands of buyers who work with books, whether that’s libraries, educational institutions, gift cataloguers, museum stores, airport outlets…and the list goes on. Again, this is critical work to create a strong selling book. And the author is rarely if ever involved with this business-to-business style selling. This can leave an author thinking that the publisher will take care of “selling the book.”
Authors need to sell books.
The publisher’s framing and organizational structure of book marketing and book sales can obscure and maybe even distort an author’s view of the work to be done. An author is singularly qualified to generate sales for the book. As said this a couple weeks ago, your publisher can’t get your mom to buy the book. Your name is on the cover. Readers want to connect with you. That interest and activity create sales opportunities, but an author needs to have a sales mindset to engage them.
When I speak to a group of authors, I often ask the question:
“How many of you spoke to an audience in front of an audience in the last thirty days?” (and that can count in person or online in our current pandemic conditions).
Most hands go up.
Then I ask,
“How many people walked out of the room with a copy of your book?”
Most of the hands drop and everyone starts to look away sheepish.
Speaking at events is a marketing activity. It generates awareness for the book. Do as many as you can.
Asking audience members to send you an email, so you can share your slides is a more engaged form of marketing that lets prospects signal their interest and creates the potential to build a longer term connection with them.
Asking a speaking client to order copies of your book for audience members is selling books.
- Bundling books into all your client engagements is selling books.
- Using Bookbub with a pricing promotion is selling books.
- Building a long form sale page to drive all your book promotion traffic to is selling books.
- Writing a multi-email drip campaign that ended with a call to action is selling books.
Authors can confuse things too.
Publishing a book is a huge amplifying event for an author. There is no better time to focus people’s attention on your work and the services you provide clients. Publicity that creates a bylined article in a national magazine or retail placement on the bookshelf in an airport bookstore can generate new business with new clients and all without a single copy being sold. Those wonderful gifts come from the awareness that the book generates.
The trouble is that increased awareness driven by the launch naturally fades. The articles have been written. The next month’s new releases take the premium shelf space. You have to use the opportunities offered during the launch to convert that awareness into sales.
Selling books should be the primary concern, because in the long run, the book is how your work scales and persists. The more books there are in the world, the further your ideas expand beyond what you could do as an individual. And books persist, meaning anyone can pick one up and read their way to a solution to their problem. They also persist through an entire industry of thousands of people who broker the trade of books. More sales means a larger the portion of that infrastructure engaged in your success, because they share in that same success.
So, what’s the sales plan for your book?