Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Promotion: Be a Crab Not a Starfish

When it comes to marketing anything be it a book or a product or service don’t be a starfish, be a crab. A starfish sticks to rocks and stays put. A crab scuttles along and even pinches once in a while. I would rather be a crab than a starfish that goes nowhere. Starfish wait and don’t do much. Some authors mistakenly believe if they wait a swell of readers will instantly not only find their books, but also bring in new swells of readers. The idea is passive – wait and see. A crab scuttles and looks for opportunities to create swells of readers. Crabs don’t sit. In fact crabs can move fast and get places.

Reality in any kind of marketing and promotion is being an active crab – doing things. Now sometimes with luck and fortune a swell will turn into a tidal wave (what we all hope to do). Even then if you want to keep the interest growing you can’t turn into a starfish. The inclination to sit back and watch the wave crash in and then wait for the next wave is passive, too. Even once you’ve attracted an audience you have to keep pushing.

For example, we had an author whose book finally hit big after being released over a year. The author had been promoting for quite sometime, but her big break finally came. The exposure from that one opportunity shot her book to no. #1 on Kindle and Amazon print. Her excitement soon turned her from a crab to a starfish. She sat back and enjoyed the success. Then several months later I got the question: “Why has my book stopped selling?” After some unsavory accusations that maybe I was the culprit behind her lack of sales (meaning they were there but I was taking them … wah, wah, wah as Chris would say), the evidence was revealed.

How did that happen? Well, once persistent promotion stops so does interest. One exposure in the media can indeed create that sudden swell of interest, but without the persistent exposure that one thing only lasts so long. So the lesson learned:

Overall success requires persistent, nonstop promotion. 
Stay a crab!

Now take another marketing technique called “the snowball effect”. You know how a snowball rolls downhill and gathers more snow and grows. I’ve seen many books with cumulative exposure that finally that tiny snowball turns into a massive ball. This works through multiple exposures to multiple media outlets. One big exposure only sometimes produces major results. Sometimes it takes A LOT of different exposure in different media to suddenly go from 0 to 100 seemingly overnight, but not really. This is why I teach authors this important lesson:

Big or small – you want as many stories and reviews about your book as you can get.

Never feel disappointed if you receive several small reviews. Keep going. Those smaller media outlets can ultimately produce the results you’re looking to receive. How come that happens? Brands are imprints on people. People keep seeing this one brand over and over again – maybe on one site and then another site. Suddenly that brand/book starts to sink in what it’s about. Maybe the first time they saw the book they weren’t in the buying frame of mind. Three days or even three months later they see that book again, but this time they’re in the buying state of mind. The overall “imprint” of that brand/book now produces results.

The reason I tell people, “Do the PR” you’ll get results but sometimes it’s hard to measure where the results come from,” is because that “imprint” can come from several sources. Authors often get frustrated when the “big fish” they finally landed doesn’t produce the sales they would have expected. Keep going. Another part of the results comes from targeted audiences where the message is being received by the right demographic.

I saw this happen with the book A Feast at the Beach by William Widmaier. I was astounded when a two-page spread in the San Francisco Book Review resulted in marginal sales. A month later two well-placed reviews in French Today and Culinate and sales were finally ignited. Why did that happen? The promotion finally reached the target audience – people interested in French-related themes.

The bottom line: book promotion is a process of discovery. Now it may not happen every time. Some books just never resonate with the marketplace. I’ve seen some fabulous books receive over 20 reviews and yet no sales follow. Can I explain why? Sometimes it’s wrong book, wrong time, wrong place. Do you give up? No! Not if you believe in your book. You might try different things: change the cover, change the title, change the pitch. Your goal is naturally to create right book, right place, right time.

All right Friend-Os until next week don’t be a starfish! Be a crab – pinch, pinch.

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