by Peter Bowerman
I saw a great series of billboards recently.
It was for Apartments. com, an online clearinghouse
for apartments that allows you to search for exactly what
you want in any state. The first billboard had just one
short sentence (their tag line, actually) across the middle: " You
want what you want ." Then, simply their logo and
the Apartments.com name; a thing of simplicity and beauty.
In one five-word sentence, they nailed THE hot button for
their audience: personal taste and choice in an apartment.
But, say "marketing" or "sales" to a roomful of right-brained
author types and watch the sweat beads pop. But, getting
comfortable with the whole sales and marketing thing really
is easier than you think...
It's ALL About the Customer
In the course of promoting your masterpiece, you'll be
crafting a pretty steady stream of promotional materials:
press releases, marketing proposals to wholesalers, distributors,
and booksellers, email pitches to book review targets,
queries to publications to submit articles, notes to groups
soliciting invitations to speak ( and accompanying
promo materials, and much more. As such, it's good to understand
what's important in this process (your audiences and what
they want) and what's not (you and your book).
Here are the three fundamental principles of sales and
marketing - principles that, incidentally, are already
a part of your frame of reference as a consumer:
1) "Audience" - Always understand who
your audience is and what language will best get through
2) The Features/Benefits Equation - Focus
on driving home what you know is important to your audience, not just
talking about you and your book.
3) The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) - Figure
out what sets your book apart in the marketplace and drive
that difference home - early and often.
Sales = Making it Easy
Developing a marketing mindset means always looking at
things through the eyes of your target audience. For example:
You want someone to post an Amazon review
(after they gushed on about your book in an email), so
you send them the actual Amazon link to your book.
When sending out review copies (and the heads-up
emails), you include a prominent link to your "Media Resources" section,
which includes everything a potential reviewer might need
to put a review together.
You want some "key influencer" to promote
an upcoming event of yours, so you send an actual ready-to-go
promo blurb, as if written by them, so that it's just a
simple cut-'n-paste to get it handled.
You contact a journalist to get some publicity,
and you include a link to "News Pegs" in your Media
In all these cases, you're thinking about their reality
and that you're not a high priority in their world.
As such, you need to make it as easy as humanly possible
for them to do what you're asking them to do. Let's explore
each of the three in a bit more depth...
"Who's the Audience?"
This is absolutely THE first question you need to ask
yourself whenever you're about to put together any promotional
copy. When you buy a product you heard about through some
form of advertising, it's because something spoke to you .
Someone knew what to say to make you sit up and
take notice - which is exactly what will happen when a
message is well crafted. What's amazing - and tragic - is
how much marketing material, put together by authors and prestigious
publishing houses, is poorly written and doesn't consider
the intended audience. If you can get it right, you'll
set yourself apart.
The Features/Benefits Equation
Some time back, I was contacted by an author who wanted
me to review a press release for their new book. It was
full of superlative adjectives about the book, hyperbolic
gushing-on about the author, and other unforgivable self-indulgences.
In short, tailor-made for a quick trip to the circular
file. So common. So unnecessary.
The Features/Benefits Equation is an absolute cornerstone
of sales and marketing and a concept with which we're already
In the publishing context, features are all about
a book and its author. Benefits are about your
target audiences - what's important to them, and how your
book addresses those issues. Always begin with benefits,
follow with features. The more you make it about you and
your book, the more likely your intended audience will
A Book Example
Okay, using my first book as an example, you think people
care that Peter Bowerman leveraged a sales and marketing
career into a new career in the lucrative field of commercial
writing and then wrote a book about it? That the book covers
X, Y and Z subjects? Yawwwwwwwwn. That's all about me and
If you were a prospect for my book, I'd wager good money
that you'd care far more about the fact that there's this
lucrative field called commercial writing, where you fulfill
your dream of making a good living (i.e., $50-125
an hour) as a writer. A field that can provide a great
income while letting you work from your home, have more
time for life, loved ones, and leisure. Sound better? Course
it does. Because that's all about you - your favorite thing
in the whole world! Then, once I get your attention with
things I know mean something to you, I can tell
you more about me.
Just remember, if you're an unknown author, journalists
couldn't care less that you've written a book. A release
about a book and its author is... features. That
reporter wants benefits: " Tell me why that book is
important to my readers/viewers." Not the book,
but the angle represented by the book. Those are
USP - The Unique Selling Proposition
Every book is unique in some way. Once you determine the
audience for your book, zero in on its Unique Selling
Proposition (USP) - THE thing that sets that book
apart in a marketplace full of competitors (more important
with non-fiction than fiction). What does it do that others
don't? Once you determine your book's USPs, make sure they
show up in your back cover copy and in most everything
else you send out. Drive the message home.
Getting comfortable with sales and marketing doesn't have
to be painful. And when you make these concepts your friends,
and they become second nature, you set the stage for some
serious promotional success.
Want to get published, and make a living
from it? Check out a free report " How to Turn One
Book into a Full-Time Living" at www.wellfedsp.com ,
home of author Peter Bowerman's August 2006 release, The
Well-Fed Self-Publisher (and powerful companion marketing
guide, The Well-Fed SP Biz-in-a-Box). Bowerman
is the self-published author of The Well-Fed Writer titles ( www.wellfedwriter.com ),
multiple-award winning selections of Book-of-the-Month
Club and others, and acclaimed "standards" in the
field of lucrative commercial freelancing. Over 50,000
copies of his first two books in print have earned him
a full-time living for over five years.
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