Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maximize Your Author Marketing Budget in Tough Times

After the economic fallout of the last 18 months, the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery. Yet, plenty of uncertainty still rules the business world. Unemployment is high, and discretionary spending is down.

If you're an author, whether new or established, you face tougher obstacles than ever to meet your publisher's expectations and grow your book sales. Yet, sticking your head in the sand and waiting for the sky to fall won't improve the situation. Nobody will buy your books if you stop marketing your message. Instead, marketing during a recession is more important than ever. But, when your budget gets squeezed, it's crucial to look for ways to do more with less.

Why spend your money on expensive tactics, such as print advertising, outside PR firms, and speakers bureaus, when you can do it yourself? Believe me, I'm not knocking these options. They definitely have their place in the publishing industry. But, they're also three high-priced marketing methods that authors use with questionable results. So, when money is tight, here's another approach to consider:

1. Spend less on outside PR firms. Get more media interviews on your own.

Some authors believe that the secret to success is hiring an outside PR firm to get media interviews for their new book. But, PR firms charge monthly fees from $1,500 - $5,000 with no guarantee of good placements. Avoid this costly expense by learning how to get media interviews on your own.

In addition, most publisher-sponsored book tours only last 90 - 120 days. So, you need a plan to keep the media ball rolling long after your publisher stops promoting your book. Develop your own ability to get interviews so that your book can receive continuous exposure.

For example, I taught an author how to capture media coverage for her new message. Within three weeks, she lined up nine radio interviews and a television appearance. Another client landed six interviews within six weeks, and resurrected interest in two backlist titles.

It's easier to get media interviews than you might think. Media producers aren't opposed to authors submitting show ideas - as long as the ideas are relevant to their audience.

2. Spend less on advertising. Get more article placements.

Advertising options abound for authors, such as print ads, tradeshow promotions, website ad campaigns, etc. But, most of these options are expensive and difficult to tell if they create substantial book sales. For example, a full-page ad in a major magazine or newspaper can cost over $4,000! Yet, most people ignore advertising, because they know they're being sold.

Consider a more effective option. Repackage your book's expertise by turning it into helpful articles for use in magazines, trade publications, and websites. Most people agree that articles are three times more valuable than advertisements, because of the higher credibility factor with readers. People are more likely to take an interest in your book, if you write an article that provides substantial value.

For instance, I taught author, Leslie Vernick, how to create newsletters that highlighted the expertise of her book, "The Emotionally Destructive Relationship." She sent her newsletter to influential editors, and her very first issue created an invitation to be the relationship columnist for a major woman's magazine. This regular feature, in concert with her other marketing efforts, helped Leslie's new book go into a 6th printing in 12 months! The national magazine exposure didn't cost her a dime. Yet, it would have cost thousands to buy high-profile ad space to get similar attention for her book.

3. Spend less on speaker's bureaus. Get more speaking engagements yourself.

One of the best ways to market your book is through public speaking. You get direct contact with your target audience, develop emotional connections with readers, generate back-of-the-room book sales, and capture contact information to grow your author platform.

However, many authors mistakenly believe that hiring a speakers bureau is the best way to get more events. This is usually true for only the top, A-level names. If you're an average author, most bureaus just give you a listing on their website and direct mail catalog. Yet, these organizations take a 15 - 25% commission out of your speaking fee, which is a lot of money for such little marketing help.

Speaker bureaus make sense only a) when you're too busy to handle your own administrative tasks, or.b) you arrange a non-exclusive agreement to get access to an audience you couldn't get by yourself. Otherwise, keep money in your pocket by getting speaking engagements yourself.

Connect with leaders who can book you by sending helpful newsletters, articles, or resources. Don't promote yourself or your books. Emphasize your desire to partner with them to improve their organization. Concentrate on their needs, and show how your book's message (even fiction) can provide beneficial results. Two of my clients recently sold over $1,500 worth of books at separate speaking engagements that they booked on their own. Plus, they received substantial speaking fees, created powerful word-of-mouth, and acquired hundreds of newsletter subscribers.

Word to the wise: Do not take this article as an encouragement to market yourself unprofessionally. "Doing-it-yourself" does not mean sending homemade marketing materials that look cheesy. You must do your homework and spend some money to make money. But, today's home office tools make it easier than ever before for authors to publicize a competent image.

As our economy struggles, you cannot afford to waste any part of your author marketing budget. So, minimize expenditures on expensive methods, such as advertising, PR firms, and speakers bureaus. Redirect your efforts to do more of the book marketing work yourself.

No comments: