I recently had an email exchange with someone who is making the switch from writing feature articles to blogging for his company. He asked me to read his latest blog post before he published it. I was happy to oblige. After I read it, I had some advice about his writing tone.
Me: “I think you are missing an opportunity to engage your readers more by talking directly to them.”
Blogger: “Well, this is important, so how do I do this?”
He’s right, this is very important. Striking the right tone is an essential part of marketing. It can be the difference between reaching your target audience with your blog and reaching no one at all.
As to his second point — how to engage readers with a blog — I can think of several ways. Continue reading →
In this post, Tom answers that question and many more about what it means to have an expert marketer in your corner.
Do You Really Need a Marketing Expert on Your Team?
By Dr. Thomas M. Caulfield
Do you need a marketing expert on your publishing team? This was a looming question for me as an author. That is, until I began to better understand the multitude of elements that contribute favorably to the book-publishing process. For me, there was a baseline theme, if you will, continuously swirling in my head, and that was this notion of always working with the most competent professionals you can to get your book published.
Always work with the most competent professionals you can.
It seemed that the workshops, seminars, and publication guidebooks were loaded with examples of why not to go with a novice for all the critical aspects of your book. Rather, authors should isolate those distinct pros or an esoteric group that understands this area most completely.
My experience might be unique in that I toiled away for two decades keeping a secret journal chronicling the journey of our only son, who was born profoundly Deaf. Applying the esoteric group selection theory, I immediately sought out a meeting with a friend, the president of a nationally known and highly respected book-publishing company.
I suppose working with a friend was a violation of the esoteric theory in that there was a chance, given our relationship, that he had no choice but to help me. My question was simple, though. Who was the best independent editor he knew of?
My question was simple: Who was the best independent editor he knew of?
What came back was the name of an editor working in the Washington, DC, area: Katherine Pickett. One call to her and a lunch meeting was arranged. The bottom line for me again was clear. It’s probably not a good idea to go with the neighbor down the block who may have been an English major in college with no other credentials, but instead, get with a seasoned professional for sure.
It only took that one lunch meeting for me to learn that the esoteric theory was valid. Katherine had forgotten more than I would ever know about editing – and I graduated from grade 20.
I made an important decision that day to get a critical, unbiased evaluation of the merit of our book. If it weighed in at the “great” level – and it did – then I would be foolish not to match it with the best ongoing service support.
From there I was fortunate to be able to select a Dream Team in the areas of interior design, video presentation, audiobook narration, and website production.
With all those professionals working like a combine going through the Midwest during harvest season, the question of our need for a marketing expert remained. After a thorough literature review, it became clear that these services were not inexpensive. Further, questions remained regarding whether this service would actually be worth the money.
Questions remained regarding whether this service would actually be worth the money.
Given the costs, I elected to research a half dozen reputable groups and then interviewed three. Candidly, I thought I would be the one doing the interviewing, but in reality they were trying to figure out our potential as well. It all seemed like asking someone to the Homecoming dance, as I hoped our top pick would accept.
To be clear, I believe the good author marketing groups really have this concept of a campaign down, with the main goal being quality targeted exposure. The best ones also have the area of pitching to the media figured out as a science.
Who would have thought there were so many levels to pitching?
We had the prepublication pitching to reviewers, bloggers, and the media.
Then there was the local and national media group pitching.
The marketing team also surfaced numerous opportunities for speaking engagements.
Finally, I received thorough guidance regarding advertising with Amazon.
I would have to say it was worth it.
In the end, being fortunate to have an award-winning book on my hands, I would have to say hiring a marketing firm was worth it. I would hate to have not selected a marketing expert and then always look back wondering if we could have done better.
Essentially, it takes me back to all the chatter regarding, do you select the friend down the street to do what really is work in an esoteric domain? It seems easy and definitely less expensive to do just that. But you never want to look back and say, “What if?”
Researching the competition for your next book can be a roller coaster of emotions. First you think your idea is completely new and out of the ordinary. Yay! Then you start to find others like yours. Nooo! Then you see those books are ancient and yours will be fresh and new. Yay! Then you search again and find 5 new releases. Heartbreak!
It can be exhausting going through all of that, and perhaps that is why many writers avoid researching their competition. However, if you plan to market your book to anyone outside of your family and friends, you need to know who you are up against.
Let’s say you are interested in writing a book about US tennis great Serena Williams. A quick Amazon search for Williams brings up 419 items. Sorting by year of publication, we see 12 of those books were slated for publication in 2019 alone. That is a whole lot of competition for a book about Serena Williams!
Looking closer, however, you will also note that very few Serena books were published before 2019. So how do you make your case that your book will have the shelf-life needed to recoup your and your publisher’s investment?
Another search, this time for tennis biographies, illustrates the long life of tennis as a source for biographies: Arthur Ashe, the icon who played in the 1960s, is the subject of a biography set to publish in 2020. Nearly 60 years is a pretty good shelf life.
You need not be discouraged by the competition. All of these books indicate that there is a large population interested in reading about the lives of sports stars.
That said, you might also take this information and decide instead to write about someone else, say, Maria Sharapova, who is ranked number two by ESPN for famous female athletes but has had just a handful of books written about her. Explore a wide-open market like that and you just might land on the bestseller list.
Researching the competition is scary, but it can also lead to inspiration and will almost certainly fuel your success. Keep with it until you know exactly who you are up against.
Defining your mission as a writer is a powerful exercise. It’s not enough to have an idea of what you want to accomplish with your book or other writing. You need to be clear with yourself, and the sooner you can get that clarity, the better.
In the past I have thought the act of writing down a mission statement was needless work. I knew why I plugged away at my editing company. I knew what my business goals were. I knew why I was writing a book. Why should I go to the trouble of writing it down?
But my attitude has changed.
After reading a fellow freelance writer’s argument for why mission statements are so important, I decided to give it a try. I suppose having it come from someone I knew gave it more weight. I wrote up a mission for my editing company and placed it on the home page of my website.
I was blown away by the effects. Writing down my mission forced me to give my company the attention it deserved. In return, it gave me direction I didn’t know I needed. I also began getting clients who were better suited for me.
That was for a business. What about a mission statement for a book?
When it came time to write the proposal for my book Perfect Bound, I thought a mission statement would make a good marketing tool. Agents would love it. It would make my proposal stand out.
Well, I never found out what agents thought of it. What I learned instead was that having a mission statement gave me clarity and direction. I had a concise paragraph stating what I wanted to accomplish and why. That influenced how I wrote my introduction, how I presented myself at public events, how I approached my website, and more.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a mission statement for a book, here is one example:
My mission in writing Perfect Bound, as it has been throughout my career, is to help aspiring authors achieve their dream of publication. Armed with the knowledge contained in this book, authors will be more confident in their approach to book publishing in general and the book production process in particular. Further, they will save time and money when they avoid the common pitfalls every author faces.
Importantly, this mission statement is particular to the book I was writing and is concrete in naming what I really hoped to accomplish. It is outward-facing—that is, I can share it with my readers—yet personal, so that it has meaning for me too. The statement appears on my website, and I have often referred to it when I needed encouragement.
In one of the exercises in my class Choose Your Best Book-Publishing Path, I walk students through the process of crafting a mission statement. I provide a simple formula to get you started, and we generate ideas for how you can make yours meaningful to you.
Ultimately, however, what you put in your mission statement isn’t as important as the act of writing it down. Publishing is a long road. When doubt starts to settle in, a writer’s mission statement is a touchstone that reminds them why their book is worth the struggle.