Monday, September 26, 2016

The Marketing Mix that Sells Books

I never tell clients to do anything I am not willing to do. When I encourage my clients to market, market, market and never stop marketing, it's because I don't let my own promotion wane. Whether it's a book you're trying to make a best seller or a product or service that you're trying to sell, you have to continually market it. Few businesses enjoy momentum without pressure. Once in a while a company can't keep up with its growth. They cut down on marketing because they can't keep up with demand. And while that sounds like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it can also cause a slow death. You have to find a middle ground to handle business growth. You have to find a scale-able business model that works when things are growing fast, and it doesn't kill your company if things slow down.
When it comes to independent book publishing I've noticed an interesting business model that seems to work effectively for self-help books. Having been through a divorce and end of a 22-year marriage followed by a couple of botched relationships, I began to read up on how to have a successful relationship. I subscribed to Christian Carters thrice-weekly newsletter. I really admire Carter's business model. He has a catalog of relationship-related books, videos and workshops. I read his newsletter religiously and enjoy it. While I don't always agree with him, I like his "style".
Carter has developed his own cottage industry of relationship books. He also publishes two senior psychologists' book and another one written by a woman named Rori. In either case, he mixes up their newsletters with his own under his brand. The senior writers don't interest me. Rori at times kind of interests me, but overall it's Carter who steals the show. It's his brand. What seems to be working for him are the nonstop articles he posts on his website on relationships, the consistent and outgoing newsletters, and his videos. I personally don't like his videos. They are too infomerical-like.
Carter though has set the standard and created an industry that works for him. I have purchased one of his books. His main strategy is using (much like I do with this newsletter) education-based marketing. He is extremely generous in the information he sends each week. He doesn't give you a skimpy "tease" to lure you into buying his products. He really shares a chunk of information. Because he shares so much, you really learn a lot from him. He takes the point-of-view that I have adopted:
Give away as much information as possible. Lure them in with your expertise. Understand the average person cannot do what you do. They will appreciate and admire your expertise and somewhere down the road invest in you.
Information-based marketing is an excellent brand-building technique. Carter uses it. It's obvious he's been successful doing it. He's not afraid to really share with his audience. More concerned authors would protect their "intellectual capital" and not share so readily. This limited thinking prescribes to the idea that people will just use this information and not do business with you. It's simply not the case, especially in an area that is not someone's expertise. And even if they never invest a nickel in your company, chances are they will refer a friend.
Now for you authors out there, apply this to your fiction or nonfiction books. Many authors (including the guy who wrote The Martian) got their start doing "fan fiction". They published their books first on their blogs, which anyone could read for free. As their "fans" became their followers the book became popular and eventually got published and made into a movie. He initially gave away his book. This giveaway didn't stop people from eventually buying the book. The book 50 Shades of Grey got its start this way too.
Don't be afraid to give away free books or post free chapters. You will build interest - even if you giveaway the entire book, people will still want to actually buy the whole thing.
Now I have to go back to my "slice of bed" and give my beautiful big man some loving and tenderness. Did you know touch is a very important part of healing? Yes, it's true. I cracked up because we were "canoodling" when the nurse came in and turned on the light. I don't know what she thought since we weren't doing anything I wouldn't do in public, but it cracked me up. She literally "giggled," covered her mouth, and said, "Excuse me." LOL Okay...

Monday, September 19, 2016

What Works When it Comes to Book Sales?

What about those blog tours for book promotion? I wonder about those tours and whether or not they lead to any kind of success. The authors I know who have done them have not seen a demonstrative increase in book sales. If you have done one and it helped your sales I would love to hear your story.

The most success I’ve seen when it comes to book sales has been in nationwide exposure. So, let me share what I’ve seen work.

Nationwide exposure in one key media can make a best seller. The word here is key media. I’ve seen books enjoy national exposure in some major media, but if that media outlet doesn’t reflect the right demographic for your book, it will generate only a small handful of sales. A book promoted to the right media that reached the “sweet spot” of your demographic can produce in a single promotion a best seller. So a national spot in and of itself won’t necessarily produce results. It has to be the right media placement to the right audience.

Collective exposure to key media can produce results. The media outlets may not have a huge following, but when combined together and the right, the results can produce a best seller. One key media might produce a nice chunk of sales and then another media exposure right after that one can do the same. Collective exposure tends to produce sustained sales. So your book might start off slowly but with each new exposure then sales will grow on top of each other. This approach in my opinion is the most desirable. You want ongoing, long-term sales rather than a quick spike in sales that goes away. Authors often believe that one key exposure and the remarkable results will last. Then they are confused when it doesn’t last more than a month at best. So, the best approach is to cast a broad net and hope to catch many medium-sized fish.

Friday, September 16, 2016

How do you want your book perceived?

People’s perceptions of your business or book for that matter determine whether they will give you enough credibility to work with you or buy your product. When it comes to publishing, realize that people perceive information in a blink of an eye. I think the book Blink addresses this point. I run into authors all of the time who don’t understand why low-rent self-publishing services often don’t serve their success. I know as a consumer I can tell when a book looks cheap and printed by one of those repo-cheapo printers. Little things tell the tale. Stapled binding, flimsy paper, stock graphics – all of these things send a message you may not want people to perceive.

One of the most important things we strive for at 3L Publishing is excellence. As authors we have enough challenges in the marketplace to overcome without adding to it. If your book automatically looks cheap how does that affect sales? I’ll walk you through it.

Book reviewers are deluged with books. Your book needs to immediately stand out to get noticed. It’s human nature to discern quality and “perceive” cheaply done, self-published books as low quality. I’m not saying all self-published books that look cheap don’t have great content. I’m addressing public “perception” of books. Even if a reviewer might not say it, they’ve perceived it. This one handicap alone can stunt interest. Being overlooked by the reviewers for any reason whatsoever is a strike against future sales.

Consumers will question the content’s credibility if the book looks cheap. I know so many authors right now are saying, “Boo”. I get it. Content is supposed to be king. Who cares if my book isn’t sexy and visually appealing? Again, while the argument is valid it doesn’t address human nature. We have automatic reactions and beliefs about certain things. Again, the idea is to not create another barrier to your success.

And to close on a funny point: I once bought a book on Amazon that not only was loaded with editorial mistakes, but the author didn’t even include back cover copy. What a missed opportunity. One of your strongest marketing points is the back-cover copy. Her book’s back cover was blank. I was gob-stopped when I saw it. I wanted so bad to write her a letter offering my editorial services to fix the dozens of editorial mistakes, but also to write some bad-ass copy for the cover. Wow! Who was her publisher? Oh! She self-published … AND another reason to work with a professional who knows what he or she is doing. No smart publisher would EVER leave the back cover blank … I’m just saying.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Book Coaching the Creative Process

I had an interesting conversation with my best friend's teenage daughter about writing. Gena who is exceptionally bright excels especially in math and science. I was urging her to pursue a career in this male-dominated field and make her mark as a remarkable female. I strongly believe we need to push our girls in the math and science areas. My own daughter Cambria loves geology and science, but she's also extremely creative. While we were talking the subject of English vs. math came up. It was interesting how (like many people) Gena saw English as being more open to interpretation and not as "black and white" as math.
I've thought about this a lot since I am an editor and writer. What most people don't realize is that grammar is finite. Once you determine your style rules (AP Style, Chicago Style, Strunk and White), you then have to play by those rules. Grammar though while driven by different styles is precise. I sometimes think people believe the comma is like a wandering object LOL (you can place it anywhere), but that isn't true either. Commas have rules too. If you see a "wandering" comma it's because the person isn't using it correctly or consistently.
What I explained to Gena is the creativity isn't necessarily in the grammar - the creativity comes from the writing process and storytelling (depending whether it's fiction or nonfiction). Your story and ideas are used as part of the creative process. Yet even in narrative and storytelling, it's still a black and white world consisting of structure. What I teach in my workshops is a critical ingredient to structure and being creative with it. I teach two things:
You can't break the rules unless you know the rules. This tip applies to a lot of things, but in writing if you want to break structure and organization, it's important that you understand what exactly you're breaking. If you stumble through your storytelling process then the unorganized array of thoughts and story become apparent to the reader who then doesn't understand your story. For example, if you're going to break the structure of how you write each chapter, you need to know what is the original structure and then knowingly play with it. The no. #1 question to keep in mind is whether it's making sense. So if you're telling a linear story in a particular chapter and decide to switch it back in time, you need to use what I call "sign posts" to let your reader know you're switching to the past or future. Simply switching backward and forward without any indication in the narrative of what you're doing will confuse the reader.
Only those seasoned professionals shall trespass. What do I mean? When I work with new writers and they're trying to be daring with their first book I always warn them to only try what their skills allow. Again, know the rules to break them. Once broken make sure it makes sense. If you're new and you don't know exactly how to bend the rules in a creative way that makes sense, maybe you're first book isn't the place to challenge your talents. Now if a writer can adeptly take the challenge of doing a book in a whole new style - great. I more commonly though see writers who toy with the idea of "messing" with the creation of a unique narrative. When they give me the uncertain look of "how do I do this?" I will redirect them back to traditional narrative until that look goes away. It's very hard to teach a new writer a difficult writing trick. So save the trickier writing for the day when you don't have to ask, "How do I do this?"
All right so you've read this far. Guess what? I am a book coach. All of the information I just shared I provide to my book coaching sessions. This year for regional authors, I now offer one-on-one private coaching sessions as part of the publishing services. The one-on-one coaching is the most enjoyable part of my job. When I see the authors' eyes light up with that a-ha moment, I find it gratifying. If you don't live here I do conference coaching and Facetime too.
If you're interested in working with me as your personal book coach, please contact me at or call 916-300-8012.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Guarantee this One Thing Will Grow Your Sales

Hello First Word Friend-Os. True to the words of Mr. Chris Carter, what a difference a day makes. It also proves my theory that "outflow gets in flow". Just last week I was considering driving Uber to supplement my projects since it had been slow the last month or so. Of course when I told my daughter I was going to drive Uber she objected. "Mom! Someone will kidnap you! You're too pretty!" LOL ... Okay, well I'm fairly certain there are many "pretty" Uber drivers out there who are safe and sound. You have to give it to Cambria for her dramatic flair. I may just drive Uber anyway here and there for fun. Chris said I could write a book of stories about the people I meet. So back to 3L Publishing and books not driving...
So while marketing my little heart out my theory and Chris' sage wisdom all came together. I went from 0-100 in one day. My marketing and promotional efforts paid off. I'm sharing my story to teach you all the reality of business (and life). One day life is working one way and the next a completely different way. All of a sudden I was contacted to bid on a travelogue book loaded with pictures and two booklets. Then I received a call from an orthodontist interested in taking two chapters in the multi-author orthodontist book. By the time my weekend ended and some haggling in-between I had signed the two booklet project and the other projects are pending approval.
Closing these contracts alone will keep me busy through the New Year - and I won't have to "risk life and limb" to drive Uber LOL. So how did I dramatically turn it around just that fast? As I said, outflow gets inflow. The problem is many business people don't understand that the "inflow" part may not be directly connected to the "outflow" part. I always hear people when I'm doing their marketing and PR suggest my work isn't paying off. I will ask, "Is your business growing (or book selling)?" They say "yes" but the sales aren't coming directly from your activities - or so they think.
When you do marketing and PR outreach you're putting communication out into the world about your product or service. This communication goes out. People talk. Most of the time the sales lead will not come directly from the source of the communication. It's rather strange that way, but you can't always connect the dots like you would expect. Yet I always challenge people to stop doing marketing and PR and see what happens... (Now this is an expensive experiment I don't recommend). The answer is, it all stops. If you stop promoting and doing marketing your business growth will stop as fast as it started.
I can't explain this situation like a formula: A + B = C. All I know is from my 25 years of experience doing marketing and PR for various magazines and business divisions, this simple phrase "outflow get inflow" ALWAYS applies. I remember when I was publisher of a regional magazine. We wanted to grow our advertising base. Knowing I needed to increase outreach I added a monthly newsletter that was sent out to the advertisers. Strangely enough that one addition to our marketing program produced instant results - we began to grow. Now my staff poo-pooed it. No one gave that one act much credence, but when we examined what changed that one thing was part of the change.
Sometimes just one increase in your communication to your customers can increase your business.
What did I do to attract overnight business (or seemingly "overnight")? I increased communication!
First Word went to twice weekly. I noticed my readership had dwindled a bit. So, I looked for sweet spots (days when readership was at its peak) and began sending First Word out twice a week targeted toward those days.
I built a new mailing list to increase readership. I had let my mailing list become stale. So I looked for ways to add to my mailing list to do outreach to more people and spread the word about my services.
I increased my social media presence. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on Facebook and the fan page, I used Twitter a little more and added Linked-In to the mix. Of course here is a big tip:
I keep my social media messages on target for the audience. I don't post fun, cute things on Linked-In. I keep it professional. I post fun, cute things on Facebook. And Twitter ... one day I will figure out what makes Twitter audience's react.
I started looking on job sites for contract and project work I could bid on. I needed to get outside of my regular audience and find new people to work with. So, I decided to find steadier contract and project work to grow my business.
The lesson learned overall: stay the course and keep promoting. Don't give up on your goals and dreams because you're facing a few fallow days or weeks. TAKE ACTION! Yes, the sky can fall for a day or a few days or even weeks, but all it takes is one day to turn it all around. If you can remember what I'll call "the-one-day" formula it will boost your spirits. You might feel frustrated, but keep on taking action.
I live this formula! After the year I had, if I had caved in and given up I would be back working for corporate and feeling miserable. It has been very difficult, but I always apply my own lessons. So ... remember, "outflow gets inflow"!
Now go outflow away!

Monday, September 12, 2016

FAQ with New Author Stacey Cotter

What is the Harris Estate about?
Harris Estate is an alluring mystery that takes our protagonist, Leah Murphy, from San Francisco, California to Oakdale, Texas when she inherits a long abandoned ranch estate. A grisly discovery on the property sparks an investigation with local authorities, which opens up Pandora's box and everything Leah knew about her life is changed forever. During the trials and tribulations, her marriage is tested, her desires are amplified, and she has decisions to make that will affect everyone she loves.

Why did you write the book?
In January, my grandmother passed away at the age of 96. We celebrated her life and the love that she gave to all of us.  Like many people after losing someone special, I found myself analyzing my life, past, present and future. A week after the service, I was on a several-days-long road trip for work when I drove past an abandoned farmhouse.  My mind and imagination went into overdrive as I was curious what had taken place there over the past decades.  By the time I finished work and was checked into my hotel, I had a blank Word document in front of me begging for words. That night I wrote the first chapter of Harris Estate and had the entire novel written within just a few weeks. The story and words just poured out of me, sometimes faster than I could fathom.  Writing a novel was something that I had always wanted to do, but there was always an excuse or reason not to do it.

Who is your favorite character in the Harris Estate and why?
The story is centered around our lead character, Leah Murphy, who I would deem as my favorite character in Harris Estate.  Being a wife, mother and associate of a family-run IT Firm makes Leah a very busy, yet relatable character.  So many of us are constantly juggling various activities in our daily life, I felt that it was vital for our main character to be someone that we could all relate to. 

What theme in the book do you hope readers understand and take away from it?
I’m in hopes that the reader enjoys taking a wild ride that makes them question what they might do in the various scenarios that our characters are thrown into. My goal is for them to experience the same range of emotions:  shock, fear, humor, passion and vengeance. Harris Estate, is the type of book that allows you to escape the day-to-day stresses of life, and take you into another person’s life of challenges and personal strife.

This book is your first novel. What are your plans for the future?
Writing Harris Estate has opened up a door that I had always kept securely closed.  Taking the risk and finally jumping in with both feet, has freed my imagination and put it into overdrive.  Since the decision was made to publish, I have gone ahead and written several more stories.  Harris Estate, The Aftermath, is the sequel and the conclusion to Harris Estate.  That novel has already been written and it is in the final editing phase. Closure, a heart-wrenching novel of mystery and revenge, has been written and I am optimistic for release in 2017.   Finally, The Faithful One, is an in-depth philosophical novel that takes symbolism to another level and offers the reader a way to analyze their lives and how they live it.  That is currently in the works and more are coming to mind each and every day.

Where can readers buy a copy of the book?
It releases nationwide November 1 on Amazon in the print edition for $18.95. The eBook edition will be available in Kindle, Nook and iBook. Readers can also go to the 3L Publishing website at to get a copy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Don't Make this Mistake When It Comes to Promoting Your Book

When it comes to public relations and promotion, the key to ongoing success is persistence. Don't let the newness and excitement of a new product or service wane after the shine has worn off. The most successful people whether business people or authors are the ones who don't stop promoting and networking and pushing. The shelf life of any product once it gets past the new promotion and launch is dependent upon the ongoing effort to keep it in front of the public and promote interest.
The no. #1 mistake I see almost every author I have ever worked with is this:
Losing interest in their own product and moving on to something new and exciting again.
I would say that at least 80 percent of the people I work with lose interest in their product/book after about six months. Interest is especially lost once the initial sales finish and the book must now stand on its promotional and marketing efforts to continue to sell. One of the key problems is something I will call "instant gratification syndrome". How does that work?
I've mentioned this before in previous issues. Sometimes in publicity efforts one review can do one of three things: 1. Trigger a sudden avalanche of sales if the review hits the target audience 2. Spark a small handful of sales or 3. Spark no interest at all. Here is my advice:
Don't stand vigil on Amazon and wait for your Amazon rankings to suddenly soar off one review. I promise you it can be disappointing.
When I first began this journey I used to do that very thing - stand vigil over my book's progress on Amazon. The shocker with the book Second Bloom is that despite a truckload of press, it never sold well via Amazon. The book had to find its way, meaning it sold well when I did speaking engagements and workshops.
I'm not suggesting you ignore your sales progress. You do need to be aware. Go about each book review, each interview, and every media exposure with the thought that it's great press. Don't get caught up in the often-disappointing cycle of watching Amazon like you would watch TV. Keep a casual eye on it. The nugget here is:
Try every possible avenue to promote your book/product and see which one catches on. Don't give up!
If I've learned nothing else about sales and marketing it's this: sometimes it won't catch on, but the opportunities it gives you are the real return on investment. If it does catch on, don't stop! You shouldn't stop until you've achieved market saturation. If you know anything about the product life cycle it goes like this: early adopters, second adopters and then market saturation. The goal is to keep it at the second adopters and maintain it. When you've achieved market saturation then you can sail on with a smile. All products run this life cycle, and that's why you see upgrades and new features introduced. The companies now want to take that same product back through a market life cycle.
So Friend-Os I hope you sail on through your product life cycle!