Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book Marketing - No Shame in the Game

I had a conversation this week with a dear friend and aspiring writer who’s moving 2,400 miles away to California. The conversation eventually landed around a discussion about my upcoming novel, Issues of the Heart. She told me she’d been telling all her family and friends about my book and they were all excited to read it. This warmed my heart because from what I’ve learned reading various marketing and publicity books, word of mouth is really the best way to create a buzz.

This evening I took the time to look at my circle of friends and associates and divided the wheat from the chaff to determine who would buy my book and who would promote it for me. I estimated the number of books each of these folks could buy and sell. This was pure guess work with no mathematical rhyme or reason, but hey it’s my time and my calculator. Then I got ambitious and decided to guestimate library sales. This was a slightly more accurate calculation. I actually went to and looked at books from my publisher and came up with a strong estimate of the number of books public libraries would buy from a new author like me, using the world cat data from well...a new author like me. Finally, I threw some other numbers in the estimated book sales pot that I’m too ashamed to share the source of and came up with a grand total of about 2,000 book sales. “Hmmm, how am I to sell the other 8,000 books I want to run off the shelves in the first month”. No…really…I’m serious. After all, my goal is to quit my day job in a few years. We won’t even talk about how many books I need to sell to live out that dream. That’s a conversation between me and the Lord Jesus. And while I expect him to make a fish and bread miracle for me by turning 2,000 sales into 10,000, I know I have a part in this plan. It’s called “marketing”.

Jacqueline Deval in her title" Publicize Your Book”, identifies book marketing as, defining and reaching your potential readership, and then coming up with ways to convince them to buy your book. I spent several hours this week on MySpace, Shelfari, Good Reads and Shoutlife, updating my profiles and shelves and hungrily going after “cyber friends” that I’d determined were potentially in my target market. That would be women ages 25-50 who enjoyed reading women’s fiction. I came across the question posted by another author who couldn’t believe she was on MySpace, where she asked “Is this just shameless marketing?” I thought it’s marketing, but is there ever any shame in the game? Should there be?

Literary agent, Chip McGregor blogged a few months ago about the number of books published each year (400,000 last year) and the number that actually generate substantial sales. Substantial ranging from 100,000 to over a million. It was a dismal picture. Made me pray some more. Publishing is a tough business and the shy and "shamed" need not get in the game, because book selling is akin to prostitution. If you don’t push yourself further out on the curb than the next gal, you might not get noticed in the background. The truth is with shelf space shrinking by the year, chances are you won't even have a corner to stand on. "Buzz" sells books or at least gets people thinking about your book. Creating that buzz is about the tireless, relentless pursuit of folks who are trying not to waste $15 on a book they don’t like, especially now that they're paying nearly $4.00 a gallon for gas and food prices have skyrocketed. Let’s face it discretionary spending is down. This economy is eating into book spending dollars.

Big authors like Eric Jerome Dickey, Karen Kingsbury, the Left Behind series guys and the Brenda Jackson’s (congrats on the New York Times list) of the book selling world have their share of the book purchasing dollars. These marquee authors consistently crank out a book a year and some top authors are going to two. The reality is how many new authors does the average reader buy each year? How many can they really afford to take a chance on and still be assured to have a good book to read? My guess is not many. My guess is also the person who gets the sale would be the one that gets out on the corner first and the one who has a friend in every corner of the country telling all her friends and family about the book. So, Margaret, the move to California is not wasted. I appreciate having you creating the "buzz" where I can't.

In closing, here’s a hysterical video I found last week about book marketing. Have a good laugh. I'll make sure to send an email blast out when Oprah calls.

Thanks for stopping by!




Kennisha Hill said...

Thanks for writing this Rhonda. You are absolutely right. I'm learning this is a very challenging business- but- the awesome thing about God is that He directs our paths if we trust in Him completely. :) I'm sure you are going to do well!

God Bless You,

Rhonda McKnight said...

You're so right, Kennisha. I do appreciate resting in the confidence of his perfect will.

Dana said...

This video is too funny! You have to send me the link to this. Hilarious!


Jessica said...

I haven't had a chance to read through this post yet, but it's on my list. Looks very informative!
Thank you!