If we are going to be writing marketing copy and creating pre-order offers, it can be really helpful to think about our potential customers.
(It can also be helpful when you start developing a book, but we will save that for another day.)
After years of bookselling, agenting, editing, and publishing, I have come to believe that there are four kinds of book buyers. Each group is motivated by the book’s purpose, but in different ways.
Group One – Readers
Readers are the most obvious group. This is the group we most often find ourselves in when we are buying a book.
All of the work we do to make sure the felt need of the book is clear on the cover and in the book description is to serve the reader, because they are buying the book for themselves. Whether for information, advice, motivation, or entertainment, readers are thinking about how close your book will fit with what they need at that moment.
You need a good offer to engage Readers when you launch a book. Those early Readers are often motivated by already being fans of the authors. Or they love reading all the books in the category. Or they have feel the problem and really believe in the solution.
Create an offer that rewards those readers. Maybe it is early access to the book. Maybe it is exclusive access to the authors. You could send them extra material that didn’t make it into the book. The best thing you can do with these readers is create offers that make them feel like they are a special and important part of the launch.
For When Everyone Leads, the team created a set of resources that include author videos and discussion guides that make it easy for early readers to share the book and its concepts with others. Readers who buy a single copy are also invited to the launch party in Wichita.
Group Two – Leaders
Leaders are individuals who are responsible for a group of people, and part of their role is to bring new ideas into their group. The first people you probably think of are managers and leaders, people with those words in their job titles. These folks might buy a set of books for their team to drive thinking for an off-site meeting or new initiative at their organization. These Leaders might live on the marketing and sales side of the company and use books to qualify leads and prospects.
There are many others though. Professors and teachers, in determining the syllabus for the classes they teach, require or recommend texts to their students. Universities are assigning first year experience (FYE) books to freshmen before they arrive on campus. Event planners are constantly making decisions about the speakers they are bringing in. The current leader of a book club recommends the monthly selection to its members. Each of these types of Leaders is a huge driver of book sales.
I always ask authors – is it easier to sell one copy to 100 people or 100 copies to one person?
Every category and genre of books has Leaders who influence larger sales. Do some research. Consider how your book might help Leaders with what they do.
For When Everyone Leads, we built a 20 copy offer with book discussion guides, deeper discounting, and an invitation to a exclusive webinar with the authors. We also created an offer that let people book a speaker from Kansas Leadership Center with a 100 copy purchase and book a speaking engagement with one of the authors with a purchase of 250 copies.
Group Three – Gifters
The third group is those who give books to others as gifts and gift givers can be an equally extensive category to consider.
The children and middle age categories are completely driven by parents or grandparents buying books for children. Cookbooks, travel guides, coloring books—almost any book can fall into the gift category.
Books can a more expensive greeting card. My brother and his sons have birthdays that all fall in the same month of the year. One year, I bought each of them two volumes of a graphic novel series I thought they would enjoy and could read together by share books.
Timing is a big piece of Gifters. It can be useful to think about the events that might trigger giving. The December holidays or spring events for moms and dads are definitely big. In the world of business, promotions can be a great time to offer a new resource (my favorite in that case is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins).
In Iceland, there is a season for book giving called Jolabokaflod, which translates as “the Christmas Book Flood.” In April, Catalans celebrate Saint Jordi’s Day, with men giving roses and women giving books to their sweethearts. In America, we don’t have a holiday that directly ties to books, but thinking about gift givers offers authors an opportunity to think about days, events, or seasons that could be tied well to their book.
After we get past the initial launch, this will be a question that we are thinking about with When Everyone Leads. We might wait until the December holidays for our first gifting campaign.
Group Four – Sellers
Retailers are customers for your book too.
Retailers are always looking for new and interesting products to recommend and sell to their customers. Being on the front lines of demand, they can provide helpful and specific opinions about what will and will not work in their stores. Those opinions can also serve as guidelines for what they will buy and what they will stock. You might think that traditional book retail doesn’t matter much anymore with the rise of Amazon, but you’d miss entire channels that can be helpful during your launch.
- Independent bookstores are passionate about books and have customers that are equally passionate about books. Last week, I talked about our outreach campaign to indies for the launch of When Everyone Leads.
- Airport bookstores are still a key retail partner for the launch of business books.
- One of the growth categories for publishers is non-traditional retail, places like Anthropologie and Lowe’s. I visited a Warby Parker retail store here in Portland and they stocked books that matched the arcade game theme of the story.
- I am going to stretch this last one a little, but libraries can be a great partner during a launch. They buy books to lend and are not a seller. There is lots of data that says titles in library collections go on to help sell more end purchases. Is there a library connection for your book?