Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Marketing, Amazon, Your Author Platform, and Other Means

Books don't sell themselves. It takes work and for the self-published author, that means the author does the marketing work. For most of us, this means driving sales to an on-line retailer such as Amazon, B&N or one of the e-book retailers. Some of us sell directly to the customer from our websites or at face-to-face sales opportunities such as speaking engagements.

Given the limited number of hours in a day and the need to maximize effort and be efficient, it is essential to have an organized plan for how books are to be marketed and sold. Much has been made of the idea of creating an author platform, a means to create interest in an author's work amongst potential readers/customers. 

For many their author platform is a website where excerpts from books are available, information about the author, characters or factual information is shared if the author writes non-fiction. Included on the website is some means to purchase books, either directly from the author or the customer is steered to a retail site where the book can be purchased.

In the case of the on-line author platform, the king sites are those providing content. The visitors want content and not much else. Fancy sites can be a distraction for the visitor who wants specific information on the history of American railroading or wants to read the latest adventure of a favorite character.

Amazon is, or should be, a major component of a marketing/sales plan for self-publishers. Amazon is the great equalizer for self-publishers, allowing access to millions of potential customers while offering a means to market books, collect revenue, handle order fulfillment and a host of other tasks. Much has been written about book marketing on Amazon and I recommend you read Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon for the specifics on how to ethically market your book on Amazon.

Is a website and marketing through Amazon enough? I believe it is a great start. One of the frustrating things about marketing is the difficulty of determining what strategy produced the best results. A speaking engagement results in zero sales but a follow-up e-newsletter to the individuals in attendance creates a spike in Amazon sales. Are the sales a delayed reaction from the speaking engagement, a result of a good sales pitch in the e-newsletter or a combination of both?

Branding a product requires multiple contacts with the potential customer and the likelihood of a sale increases with each contact with a potential customer. This requires multiple contacts through multiple means. Repeat business requires continued multiple contacts.

The most effective part of my author's platform is my weekly e-newsletter to the basketball coaches who have subscribed. Within several days of the newsletter being e-mailed, there will be a spike in sales on Amazon (usually). If a specific book is promoted, there is usually a spike in sales for that book.

The key to the success of this approach is content, content, content. In order for the coaches who receive the newsletter to open it, I have to provide content that will be useful immediately. I have two objectives in each  edition of the newsletter; to provide useful information about the profession of coaching for each coach on the list and to build a level of trust between myself and my readers. 

It is this combination of providing needed and useful information and building trust that leads to sales. I have provided information a coach has used successfully three or four times, convincing the coach I know what I am talking about. The coach needs to improve the three-point shooting of his or her team and recalls I have a book dedicated to just that subject. A quick trip to Amazon and the coach purchases the book.

The real point of this blog post is to encourage self-publishing authors to look at ways to effectively build their author platform beyond just a website and working the magic of Amazon. Provide readers with content they want (for free) and build a relationship. In my case, the two best methods have been speaking at clinics and my newsletter. I drive coaches to my website to obtain additional free content AND I have an Amazon store on my site to allow coaches to purchase my book while they are in a "researching" mood.  

Understand it takes multiple approaches to successfully market a book, all of which center round content.