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The Phantom of the Oprah; or, Here’s a Better Way to Sell Books

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The Phantom of the Oprah; or,
Here?s a Better Way to Sell Books

 

by Brian Jud

 

As a book-marketing
consultant, I often encounter people with their marketing plans in hand who ask
how I can help them with implementation. Unfortunately, in many cases the marketing
plans consist entirely of ?Getting on the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Oprah Winfrey Show
.?

 

?Once I?m on <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Oprah
,? they
say dreamily, ?the people in her audience will love my book and I?ll sell
millions of copies.?

 

This kind of fantasy marketing can
cause books to fail. An appearance on the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Oprah Winfrey Show
(or any other show)
does not guarantee sales. If the guest does not engage the audience, the
exposure won?t pay off. And to sell ?millions of books,? you must have printed
them and gotten them onto retailers? shelves before your performance.

 

There is no quick fix when it
comes to selling books. Consumers take their time making decisions about what
they will buy, and they must reach a certain comfort level before they will
part with their money. It is not enough for them to see an author or hear about
a title just one time. They must be exposed to your message again and again.

 

As potential customers hear about
your book more frequently, they will recognize (and buy) it in airport stores,
bookstores, book clubs, mail-order catalogs, or supermarkets where it?s
available. This process takes time to unfold, but a consistent, coordinated
communication program will help speed it up, and your efforts will succeed if
you tell enough people often enough about the book and why they should buy it.

 

Four Keys to Generating
Sales

 

Marketing a book is like being an
archer with four arrows in your quiver. The likelihood of hitting the target is
four times greater than it would be with just one. The four arrows in the
book-marketer?s quiver are publicity, advertising, sales promotion, and
personal selling.

 

Publicity.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Publicity can spread a message quickly and at low
cost. Although most publishers use publicity primarily to get airtime and print
coverage for new titles, you can also use it effectively to reposition a
product, enter a new market, complement promotional activities, repetitively
inform target audiences about the benefits of your titles, create company and
brand identity and loyalty, and publicize events that attract potential customers.

 

Advertising.<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> While running one pricey ad in a general-interest
book medium is almost certainly a waste of money, advertising in tightly
targeted media can reach many appropriate consumers simultaneously with the
same message for a relatively low cost per exposure. It can increase awareness
of your titles and educate people about why they should buy them. In general,
return on advertising expenditure is not immediate. Even an inexpensive ad
usually does not pay for itself, but benefits of a targeted ad campaign accrue
over time as readers are reminded repeatedly about your titles.

 

There are different types of
advertising to consider. Awareness advertising alerts consumers that your title
is available and directs them to places where they can purchase it.
Direct-response advertising gives them a way to buy your books directly.
Cooperative advertising involves splitting costs with someone else, often in a
co-op mailing.

 

Sales
promotion.
Sales-promotion tactics
include providing useful items that serve as constant, favorable reminders of
your titles. Typical examples are bookmarks, key chains, pens, flyers with
useful information, games, point-of-purchase displays, and coupons for
generating awareness and stimulating demand through short-term price campaigns.

 

Personal
selling.
Personal selling means
having one-on-one contact with prospective buyers at trade shows, book
signings, presentations, and association meetings and through online discussion
groups. If you are marketing to nontrade buyers, it can mean selling directly
to people with purchasing power at museums, drugstores, schools, large
companies, and more.

 

You need to determine when and how
to use each of these four marketing tools to optimize sales. For example, a
promotional tour will be more successful if accompanied by an awareness
campaign that might include a blow-up of the book?s cover featured in
bookstores (sales promotion); press releases sent to local media (publicity);
postcards mailed to prospective customers (advertising); and online activity
promoting the occasion (personal selling).

 

Success using this synergistic
approach is more likely if you match your activities to:

 

·      Each
title?s life-cycle stage.

Initially, people need to know the title is available. In the growth stage,
they need to be reminded about why it is in their best interest to purchase it.

·      Each
author?s personality.
For authors
who loathe media appearances, a promotional mix heavy on direct mail,
publicity, and advertising might be optimal. Other authors might thrive on
national exposure and excel in performing on the air and in person.

·      The
nature of your product line.
A
list heavy in fiction lends itself to a mix weighted toward sales promotion and
publicity with low cost per exposure.

·      The
nature of your markets.
A nonfiction
title destined for a tightly defined market niche will profit from personal
communication, perhaps augmented with a targeted campaign of direct mail,
publicity, and advertising.

 

Create the Mix That Fits

 

Many marketing strategies and
actions are at your disposal. They can be manipulated and applied in many
different combinations with varying results. That is the good news. The bad
news is that they can be manipulated and applied in many different combinations
with varying results. There is no one best strategy that works all the time for
everyone.

 

Experiment to determine what works
best for you and your product or product line at a particular time. Evaluate
the results of different approaches and correct course as necessary. As your
efforts pay off, you may sell more books than many of the authors on <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Oprah
manage
to sell.

 

Brian Jud is a
book-marketing consultant and the author of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Beyond the Bookstore
(a Publishers
Weekly book) and The
Marketing Planning CD-ROM
, which describe new ways to sell more
books to special-sales buyers. You can contact him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT
06001; 800/562-4357; brianjud@bookmarketing.com; and www.bookmarketing.com.

 

 

 

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