When you first release your book, chances are as a first-time author, you’ll get a few sales. Excited friends and family will generally buy, as will a friend of a friend who trusts their friend’s taste. But unless you’ve actually put some sort of marketing plan into place, sales will soon stop. So … what is the difference between sales and marketing?
Let’s say you’re thinking about buying a new car. You’ve done no research, but you know you want an automatic sedan with four doors. You know roughly what colour and engine size you want, you know what extras you want, and you know roughly how much you’re prepared to spend.
Your purchasing path could work one of two ways …
You go out one Saturday morning and visit a car yard which sells the type of car you know you’re thinking about. The salesperson tells you all about the model you’re looking at, encourages you to take it for a test drive, answers all your questions and then does their best to get you to sign buy it before they let you out of the showroom.
If they succeed, then they’ve sold you a car.
You see an ad on TV for a car which matches the sort of thing you’ve been toying with in your mind. The ‘from’ price is advertised and it’s in your ball-park.
The next day you see an ad for the same car while you’re reading the news online. You click through and read a bit more. As a result of clicking that ad, you see more ads for the car over the following days, and eventually find a review page where you read about the things that other people do and don’t like about the car, all of which help you realise that this is probably the right car for you.
You go out one Saturday morning and visit a car yard which sells the type of car you know you’re thinking about. The salesperson talks to you a bit, but you already know most of what they’re telling you because of what you’ve already seen and read in the media. You take it for a test drive and it works for you, so you tell the salesperson you’re going to take it.
You’ve just bought a car. They didn’t sell you one.
In short …
Sales is the art of selling – it’s getting people to exchange their money for a product or service.
Marketing is the art of raising awareness of a product or service. If enough awareness is raised, then when the ‘prospect’ is in the buying zone (mentally and/or physically) there’s a much better chance of a sale being made.
So what does this mean for my book?
In simple terms, it means, don’t try to sell your book – it’s too much like hard work for too little return, and it won’t necessarily lead to good reviews. You want people to want to buy it. Those who want your book are more likely to leave good reviews which will help others know that your book is likely to be right for them.
Try to focus on marketing, on raising awareness, where those who are likely to be interested might see your book and consider it, and you’ll have a better outcome. This means blog posts relevant to your subject matter, or articles in newspapers or magazines (in print or online) which are relevant to your book, or suitable press, radio or podcast interviews. For example, if you’ve written a book about deep sea fishing techniques, you wouldn’t be looking to get an interview in a haircare magazine, would you?
In other words – think about who your likely buyers are and where you might find them. And then try to get news of your book in front of them.
Author Fred Wilkinson released My Life in the Ragtrade, an account of his many years in leading sales roles during the heyday of Australia’s clothing industry. Although he used email and the internet, Fred didn’t have a website or social media, and so had no way to actively promote his book online. However, what he did know was who his readers were likely to be and where he could find them.
Fred rang up ABC Radio and managed to get himself interviewed by ‘Macca’ (aka Ian McNamara) from ABC Radio’s Sunday morning show, ‘Australia All Over’. Macca interviewed Fred who, as a salesman, knew just the right things to say to push the listeners’ buttons, and when we came into the office on the Monday morning, the phone was already ringing with orders for his book! Eight months later the book was still selling based on the flow-on word of mouth from that one radio interview.
Selling is hard work and doesn’t usually result in many sales.
Marketing takes the long and wide approach, but when done with the potential reader in mind, targets them so that you’re more likely to find buyers.
So flip the coin and don’t be a seller – encourage people to be buyers!