Help! I Fell Off the Social Media Craze and Can’t Get Up. Harnessing social media to influence people.

People continually advise authors, along with realtors, inventors, political strategists, and salespeople, to harness the power of social media to reach out to the public. All well and good, but the methods to achieve this are sorely limited, partly by their very numbers and variety and the amount of time required to become skilled at using them. The basics are to create a web page, initiate a blog, tell everyone you know how to get on them, jump on Facebook and Twitter, add a newsletter and other outlets as you’re able. But the strategies to accomplish this successfully are a mystery to me as dark and deep as the methods to build the Egyptian pyramids.

I went online with the publication of my second novel, about 5 years ago. Despite regular postings (all right, perhaps not as regular as they should have been), sign-ups have never shown a dramatic increase, nor have sales of books. I usually feel as if I’m talking to myself, okay in my case, for I mine the postings for nuggets I can use for my syndicated features and other freelance work. I tell myself that someday I’ll pull items together to publish a collection of think pieces. Sure. Just like someday I’ll lose those final 15 excess pounds. Nagging at the back of my mind is a sneaking suspicions I’m wasting my time.

I’ve tried to initiate a social media wave or trend on behalf of other, non-writing activities, to promote a conference or advertise a holiday festival. I’ve posted myself and begged others to do the same. To no impact. Still it’s tempting to think, “If I could reach out to five people, and they could reach out to five, and those could reach out to five, I’d soon reach a mob.” Doesn’t seem to work for me.

I’d still be a skeptic except for the coincidence of my witnessing an actual social media blitz which I initiated without intention. Some time ago I became aware of a great, free, online movie service marketed through libraries. Kanopy offers movies at no charge to library card holders of participating libraries. These aren’t usually brand new, big ticket, glitzy movies. They tend to be “artsy,” foreign and classic movies that appeal to smaller audiences. But they’re great. I’ve caught up on a number of favorites and ordered kids’ movies for my grandson. I’m currently watching Frank and Robot, a near-future fantasy with Frank Langella.

I happened to mention Kanopy to several friends at lunch. One went home and posted a remark on her Facebook account. Overnight several of her contacts talked about how great the service is. Shortly after more people contacted her with raving positive reviews. With one contact, I’d estimate at least ten people reacted initially, and who knows how many have praised and advertised Kanopy since then?

So I witnessed a social media trend right in front of me. Why was the Kanopy item so popular? Ideas: Everyone likes movies of some sort or another. Everyone likes free services. Everyone likes to share information that shows them to be early adapters or in the know.

Now if I could just apply these lessons to selling my books, I might have a chance of building a base for my own writing. I’m still struggling with that. The real challenge.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Special Sales, The Buck Starts Here

(In this guest blog by Brian Jud, learn some marketing tips that apply to many products and services in addition to the book business.)

The term special sales is commonly used to describe sales opportunities outside of bookstores. Also referred to as non-bookstore (or non-traditional) marketing, it can be a profitable source of new revenue.

The best way to exploit this opportunity is to divide it into two segments. One is retail in which you reach buyers using a network of middlemen. The other segment is comprised of direct sales to non-retailers that use books as marketing tools.

1) Selling to retailers. You are already familiar with this sector. You find distributors or wholesalers to get your books into retail outlets where they are sold off the shelf to consumers. Payments are made in two or three months and unsold books are returned.

* Discount stores and warehouse clubs. Books are discounted heavily and do not offer the same margins of some larger-ticket products. Therefore, these retailers limit shelf space to the “brand-name” authors and top-selling books.

* Airport stores. Books on management, investment, economics, business biography, personal finance and health sell well among business travelers. Books for children also tend to do well in these outlets, especially children’s “activity books.” Popular fiction always sells in this environment.

* Supermarkets and pharmacies. Cookbooks, travel books and regional titles move in supermarkets, but health-related topics sell better in drugstores. Children’s titles also seem to do well in supermarkets, but fiction remains the mainstay there.

* Museums, zoos and national parks. Most of these have a gift shop, and to get in them you must demonstrate how your books can educate and entertain their guests.

* Gift shops. This category includes large chains such as Pottery Barn, Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, Pier One and Crate & Barrel, Hallmark Stores and Spencer Gifts. It also includes hotel and hospital gift shops.

* Specialty stores. You could sell your “expert” books in home-improvement centers, pet shops, auto-supply stores, camera shops, toy stores or business-supply stores – retailers that serve identifiable groups of people with a common interest in your content.

2) Non-retail sales. Corporations, associations, schools and the armed services buy books directly from publishers. You sell directly to buyers in these organizations. Sales are typically made in large quantities, returns are rare and payment is received more quickly.

* Businesses. Call on product or brand mangers who may use your books to introduce new products, to reward buyers for making a purchase or as a gift to customers.

* Associations. There are over 135,000 nonprofit membership organizations worldwide. Consider donating a percentage of each sale to a charitable, non-profit organization to help finance their cause.

* Schools. The academic marketplace is an opportune segment for publishers, one using books as a foundation for its existence. It impacts people of all ages, from pre-school through graduate school and adult education courses.

* Military. You can sell books domestically or overseas, to military exchanges and libraries, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, onboard ships, to retired military personnel and to the families of military personnel.

Special-sales marketing is not a separate way of doing business. It is not even a new way of doing business. It is an integral part of overall marketing strategy. Simply divide non-bookstore marketing into its two component parts and you may find hundreds, if not thousands of prospective customers for your titles.

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Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – http://www.bookapss.org – formerly SPAN) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at brianjud@bookmarketing.com or http://www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing

 

 

Do TWO Things a Day and Succeed

How many times have I read an article or seen a program online that inspires me to start marketing my book with fresh enthusiasm? And then, HOW MANY times do I see that enthusiasm drop off a few days or weeks later? Marketing and sales activities are exhausting and even marketing experts find themselves moving in waves… fits and starts… it is natural and human. Large amounts of energy can only be expended for limited amounts of time. How do we overcome our human natures and our natural instincts? How do we sell and market our books consistently over time when it is so hard and takes so much time and energy?

 

The secret is to DO TWO. Do two things a day to promote yourself and your book. No more, no less. It is far better to spend fifteen minutes a day every day on a task than to spend four hours a day once a week. Why? Consistency comes from daily activity. Staying on course is easier with small adjustments and activities each day than one big push each week. It is also easier to skip a week’s tasks when tired or busy. It is not as easy to convince yourself that you don’t have time to do something that only takes a few minutes.

Let’s look at my FORMER typical marketing and sales activity list:
  • Find all of the Top Amazon reviewers for my type of book
  • Send my book to prepublication and professional book reviewers
  • Pitch myself for interviews at book blogs
  • Send books to newspapers and magazines for inclusion in gift giving guides and new release columns
  • Send magazines and newspapers article ideas that I can write or for which I can be interviewed
  • Send bloggers information about my book
  • Contact bookstores and ask them to order my book
  • Contact libraries and ask them to order my book
  • Find buyer names and contact information for the major chains
  • Ask friends to write reviews on line
  • Contact famous people and ask them to give an endorsement or opinion on my book
I am exhausted just READING that list! Now, let’s look at my NEW to do list:
Monday: Find two top Amazon reviewers from https://www.amazon.com/reviews/top-reviewers and notify them about my book and ask if they would like a review copy.
Tuesday: Find two book review sites from http://www.midwestbookreview.com/links/othr_rev.htm, and send them a packet with a cover letter, copy of my book, one blurb sheet, and marketing sheet.
Wednesday: Find two websites, newspapers or magazines whose readers are the same as those who read my book. Reach out to them (JUST TWO) and suggest an article idea that I can write for them or about which I can be interviewed.
Thursday: Find two bookstores and get the name of who buys for them. Email them asking if I can send the information about my book so that they can consider stocking it.
Friday: Find two people (that I know or don’t) and ask them if they are interested in reading my book and giving me their opinion. (Oh, I must send them the book.)
Saturday: Follow up via email with all ten contacts I made in the previous week, just asking if they need any further information or if I can be of service.
Sunday: Rest. And rest again. After all, I need to DO TWO!

 

Honest to goodness…. This may SOUND like a little or a lot; and you are right. It is both. Spending your time, a little at a time, in these activities will yield a great deal of fruit over time. Small investments in time and energy will grow and build upon themselves until you have a huge wave of successes.

Amy Collins, publishing expert, Author of THE WRITE WAY.
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