Archive for the 'marketing'

Marketing Lessons My Grandfather Taught Me

@jamesscottbell

My grandfather, Arthur Scott Bell, was born in 1890. He grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was an outstanding high school athlete. 



He won an athletic scholarship to DePauw University, later transferring to the University of Michigan to play football. He joined the Army in World War I, during which time he met my grandmother, Dorothy Fox. One of the treasure troves I have is the box of love letters he wrote to her from Fort Sheridan, Illinois. My grandmother kept them all, bound with ribbons. When my father was little he'd hear his father call his mother Dot, and he combined that with Mama, so ever after my grandmother was known as Mama Dot. Later on, my dad started calling his father Padre.

And that's how all his grandkids knew him.

One of Padre's favorite phrases was, "Go your best." He said that to me a number of times—when I was off to a new school year, or starting Little League. 

During the Great Depression, Padre fed his family as a field salesman for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He was a stellar salesman, rising to become one of the top ten in the entire company.

From what Padre and my dad told me about those days, I gather five lessons that apply to writers (and anyone else) trying to peddle their wares.

1. He believed in his product

Padre loved the Britannica. I have a full set from 1947, passed down to me. [NOTE: if you have one, don't get rid of it. The entries in these volumes are often better and more authoritative than anything you can find today.]

Do you believe in your product? Are you convinced that what you're writing is the best you can make it? Or are you going out there with something less than that––and still expecting good sales?

2. He believed in self improvement  

Padre was a life-long learner. On my shelf I have Padre's dictionary, the Webster's New Collegiate, 2d Edition. In the front of the dictionary, on one of the blank pages, Padre had written himself a note on a new word: psycho-cybernetics. That would place this note around 1960, when the book by Maxwell Maltz first came out. Padre was 70 years old then, but still interested in growing his vocabulary.

He was of the Dale Carnegie school of self-improvement. Another treasure I own is the hardcover copy of How to Win Friends and Influence Peoplethat Padre and Mama Dot gave my dad upon his graduation from Hollywood High School. They each inscribed it. Padre wrote:

To have a friend is to be a friend. I am sure you are getting to be an expert at it. Don't let down!!

And from Mama Dot:

You can do more than strike while the iron is hot. You can make the iron hot by striking.

Are you growing as a writer? Are you spending some part of your week in purposeful study of the craft? Padre and Mama Dot's generation believed anyone could succeed if they studied and worked hard enough.

3. He concentrated on the best prospects

Padre had a definite strategy when he pulled into a new town. He looked up all the lawyers and doctors. These would be the people most likely to have some disposable income during the Depression. Thus, they would be the most likely to buy.

Simple enough. But when it comes to marketing, how many writers out there are trying to cast a wide net in the hope of snagging some random fish? The difference between 100,000 robo-gathered followers, and 10,000 quality followers, is huge. Don't try to be all things to all people, but be a value add-on for those who are most likely to want to sample your work. 

4. He made people feel good

My grandfather was a natural storyteller. He had a deep, resonant voice. I can hear it now. And when he started spinning a tale you sat mesmerized.

I remember one story he told about a football player at Michigan named Molbach. The fellows called him "Molly." He was a fullback, a powerhouse runner who just would not be stopped in short yardage situations. Padre told about one tough game where Molly put his head down and ran so hard he kept going over the sideline and ran right into a horse––and knocked the horse down!

Padre's storytelling made you feel good. Got you into the moment. The legend in the family was that Padre had a story for every occasion.

Does your marketing make people feel good? If someone sees you're tweeting or Facebooking, will they generally be pleased at what you've posted? Or do you depend on a barrage of value-less "buy my book" type messages?

Work at making your social media a pleasure for others to read. "To have a friend is to be a friend."

5. He could laugh at life

Padre was a man "at home in his own skin." He'd been through plenty in his life, the Depression not least among them. But he always came out all right in the end.

He had the greatest laugh in the world. It came from deep in his chest and rumbled out in joyous reverberation.

You need to be able to laugh and not stress over outcomes and expectations. If you follow Padre's lessons, you'll work hard on yourself and your writing. You'll be smart about marketing and refuse to let setbacks stop you. You simply won't worry about the things that are outside your control.

Manage your expectations, don't let them rule you. Concentrate on what you can do, not what is out of your  hands.

Keep working.

Keep writing.

Go your best.

Marketing is Easy, Writing is Hard

It was probably the English actor Edmund Kean (1787 – 1833) who uttered famous last words that have been attributed to others. On his deathbed he was asked by a friend if dying was hard. The thespian replied, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

Thus, we come to the subject of today's post, which is this: Writing is hard. You should know that already. (I should say, writing well is hard, but that doesn't sound as snappy).

But here's the other side: Marketing is easy.

Yes, I said easy. I can hear the sighs, nay, the howls of protest. "If it's so easy, how come my books aren't selling?"

The answer is almost always: Because writing is hard. You've got to have a superior product to sell, and that's not easy. It's not easy for anybusiness to create great products. If it were, everybody would be rolling in dough and tipping fifty bucks at Sizzler. 

Believe me when I say, quoting my own 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws: it takes quality production over time to make a go of indie publishing.

So why am I saying marketing is easy? Because marketing is not the same as that tiresome buzzword, Discoverability. If you remember that, your life will be a lot happier. 

Marketing you control. Discoverability is out of your hands. Don't brood about discovery. Write well, and market easily, and discovery takes care of itself. 

So why do I say marketing is easy? Because the things that work best for fiction writers are pretty much known. After you've written the best book you can, and given it quality design (editing, cover, description, key words), then you proceed to market. In my opinion, these are the top five ways to go:

1. Word of Mouth

This is, has been, and always will be the greatest driver of sales for any novelist. It is "passive marketing," because it is done by others on your behalf.

Beyond the book itself, you really cannot do anything to improve word of mouth. There was an attempt to do so a few years ago, when authors were buying 5-star reviews.But that practice was quickly flamed, and some authors suffered because of it.

So don't stress about this aspect of marketing. However, in the words of Bonnie Raitt, give 'em something to talk about.

2. Your Own Mailing List

I wrote about this here. Growing a list should be an ongoing enterprise. You should have a website with a place for readers to sign up for your updates. You should also learn how to communicate effectively so as not to annoy people. That's the subject of a future post.

3. KDP Select

If you're just starting out, the Select program from Kindle Direct Publishing is one of the best ways to get your work
out to new readers. You list your book exclusively with the Kindle store for ninety days and are allowed to offer your book free for five days within that period. The days can be used singly or in order. I advise doing it in order. Like I'm doing right now with my first Irish Jimmy Gallagher story, Iron Hands. Yes, it's free, so nab it. I'll wait.

Welcome back. Another option in the Select program is the Countdown Deal. Read more about that here. Currently, you cannot run a countdown and a free promo in the same quarter. If you're just starting out, go for the free promos first. Your main task is to get people to your work. 

How you utilize KDP Select with multiple titles is up to you, but I would advise keeping at least some short works with the program.

4. A Subscriber-Based Ad

Services like BookBub, BookGorilla, and Kindle Nation Daily may run an ad for your book. You pay for the privilege. But here is where many writers make a mistake. You should not view this kind of ad as a way to make money or "break even." You may, in fact, not make back your initial investment. This discourages many writers who may not take out another ad. 

But it's still worth it to do so because when you attract new readers a percentage of them will become repeat customers. Thus, the value of a your return is not dollar-for-dollar, but future income based upon the new readers you generate.

5. Some Social Media Presence

It's necessary to have some footprint out there in social media. But don't try to do everything. Pick something you enjoy and which doesn't gobble up too much of your time. Remember, social media is about "social" and not (primarily) about selling. See my notes here. There is a part of social media that's too hard for me to recommend: personal blogging. TKZ is a group blog. Trying to produce content by myself, at least three times a week, takes too much time and effort for too little return. The people who can do this are few, and I'm still not convinced the ROE (Return on Energy) is worth it. Choose wisely where you specialize.

Okay, that takes care of the marketing. If you have any further questions, you should consult Joanna Penn's book.

Now the hard part, writing. Concentrate most of your efforts here. Writing is a craft. It has to be learned, practiced, polished, criticized, revised, and practiced some more. It has to be wild and free on one side, yet disciplined and structured on the other.

Yes, you can write for pure pleasure, that's fine. You don't have to sell in big numbers if you don't want to. But if you're serious about gathering readers in ever increasing numbers, work at the craft.

Beethoven had to work at his music.

Picasso had to work at his painting.

Pete Rose had to work at baseball. He became one of the greatest hitters of all time with less than all-time talent. His problem was that he thought gambling was easy.

So here is your lesson for the day: Work on your writing and don't gamble.


Are you stressed out about marketing? What are you doing to counteract that? How about a writing self-improvement program?

Time to pitch

by: Joelle Charbonneau


I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to pitch my books.  Nope….I’m not just talking about those fun queries letters I had to write in order to land an agent or the editor and agent appointments I used to go to in order to talk up my book in hopes an industry professional would request to see the work.  I’m talking about day to day chat where someone learns that I’m an author and asks what my book is about. 

The one thing you need to keep in mind when pitching a book to your friends or an industry professional is to keep it short.  Come to think of it – short is probably too vague a description.  Instead, I should probably say that when you pitch your book it shouldn’t take you more than a sentence or two to get the point of the story across.  Which is easier said that done.  I mean, you just wrote a 80,000-100,000 word book!  One would think that you should get a little more time to discuss the scope.  Yeah—you would think wrong.  And to be completely honest, an industry professional is used to hearing pitches that last a little longer, so they might cut you some slack and allow you a third or even fourth sentence.  Your friends (who you are hoping will some day be your readers) won’t give you that much.

Think of it this way—people are waiting to be hooked.  They want to be intrigued.  But advertising is quick and punchy.  And your pitch is essentially an advertising tool for your writing.  A quick line like “The Hunger Games meets the ACT’ will give them an idea of what the book is about and hopefully hook them into asking more about the book. 

Since there are lots of conferences coming up in the summer months which allow authors to pitch their books to industry professionals, I thought this might be a great time for people to hone their pitching skills.  So in two (or three at the most) sentences – tell me and the rest of the DSD reading audience about your book.  If it is a book available for us to download or buy in our favorite bookstore – tell us that, too! 

And Happy Memorial Day weekend to you all!