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Is this all there is? Selling books is a bitch!

Is this all there is? Selling books is a bitch!

I posted this today on the Yahoo Self Publishing group in response to a frustrated author.

Al wrote:

” I wonder if it as simple as perhaps we are not asking people to buy our books? You can get the freebie advertising but it is like throwing chum to fish. You might get their attention but unless you hook them by the lip you are not going to catch any. …[]… Musicians and published authors actually go out and play their music or do book signings. Buddy Holly hated touring (and it killed him) but his record sales needed the public appearances.”

I don’t think asking people to buy your book is simple at all. I don’t think it’s as effective as tantalizing them and persuading them.

Most authors and even most publishers devote very little time and effort into the identification, targeting, messaging, acquisition and activation of buyers for their books. Yet figuring this out is crucial.

Even with the incredible technologies available online, people don’t know how to create the messages and communications that pull people in. Instead, they either do very little (as in, build it and they will come), or they push the product, find out how hard it is, and then give up because so few people buy the book.

You can do a lot with the media and technologies online if you seek to understand how people buy or get engaged with your books, products or services.

1. People discover a need, or want to solve a problem.

2. They begin a search usually online, but it can happen on social media like FB or Twitter or any number of other places (including discussion groups like this one)

3. But they really don’t look very hard. They only pay attention to the first few things they discover or the first few recommendations they get from people they have familiarity with.

4. People also tend to go and hang out where they are invited, accepted, entertained or educated.

Now for every type of book, product or service, there are thus hundreds if not thousands of places to search and become associated with.

But as most people now know, you can’t easily sell product and survive the act of asking. You must provide helpful, non-sales laden information, guidance, education or entertainment with subtle links that lead you back to your site. That’s where the real sales process then begins.

So what do you do?

1. Determine who your audience really is! Identify who your best targeted customers are and then figure out where they hang out. Your goal is to then learn how to be prominent and highly regared wherever they hang out.

2. You need to identify the type of content that will turn them on. Is it action laden excerpts? Is it drama? Is it illustrations, games, videos, or helpful tips?

3. You need to learn how to communicate so that your content works wherever you place it. The post for a blog is not automatically what you place in a tweet. The content and the trail of breadcrumbs has to fit the medium.

4. You need to participate in the communities meaningfully. You answer questions and provide feedback, offer tips, advice, stories, humor, experience and enthusiasm, so that people are inspired and get interested and so that you trigger the action to go to your site to explore your product.

5. You create content that people want to link to, want to share, and want to give to others.

This is what you try to do with media when you do publicity. Only now, EVERYONE is a publisher who is trying to make money off subscriptions and/or advertising.

If you do it reasonably well, you get dozens or articles or posts.

If you do phenomenally well, you go viral.

You don’t just write in a vacuum. You develop, test, deploy, analyze and improve.

My simple acronym for this process is this: CACA

C – Create

A – Ask

C – Create again

A – Ask again

Once you prove the message works in your backyard, only then can and should you use technology to try to repeat the success widely.

Your objective is to keep on placing things before YOUR people so they can decide to participate, play or purchase.

But just realize that this is hard to do. Think about it! When was the last time you read the newspaper, and went and grabbed your credit card.

Yet very often, a single piece of information triggers a desire that brings something to mind that does indeed get you to take action. Then and only then do you search for the contact information, the email, the phone or the order form.

Few authors realize that creating the book is only the beginning. To be successful they have to find satisfaction in connecting with people again and again till they get enough action to pay for their investment in the work they created. It’s not just mechanics and technology.

It’s not just fine art or excellence in creative writing.

There’s persistent, dedicated systematic communication outreach that has to drive people to action.

Success often lives or dies with the close monitoring of the one-to one relationship developed between the author and his or her audience.

That is where the author must determine “what did I do and say that turned you on?”

Learn this and you can use the technologies.

Fail to learn this and nothing happens.

Getting the media (and everyone else…) to pay attention and get interested

Getting the media (and everyone else...) to pay attention and get interested

One of the participants in the Independent Authors Guild list on Yahoo said:

> There is one question that I think all indi authors have asked themselves. How do the big publishers do it. I understand that authors like Dan
> Brown and Rawling can sell 10 million copies on release day, but before that. I remember years ago stopping in the book isle at Wall-Mart. I
> picked up this book called “Deception Point” by Dan Brown. …[]… But? How did he get his first novel on that Wall-Mart shelf? No one
> had ever heard of Dan Brown before.

I hear the frustration people have in seeking to break even and make a profit writing all the time. Just want to share some experience, perspective and some ideas.

Many years ago, Dan Brown was a poor starving author and an English teacher and his wife Blythe were struggling, seeking to achieve success and sales with his fiction writing. They hired me back in the days when I operated a business called Imediafax (we used to send one page faxes to media) and I worked for them to get publicity for the book Angels & Demons before Dan made it big with The Da Vinci Code. (If you have Angels and Demons on your shelf go and look, you’ll find my name in the acknowledgements).

Then as now, an author must first do his or her best and WRITE A GOOD BOOK. (That’s a separate question. But let’s just say, OK, you’ve written a good book.)

Then they must do their best to let the right people know that they have a good book. They must reach their target audience and entertain and educate them so that they are motivated to buy the book. Many authors don’t do this very well. Yet it’s crucial if you are to be successful. So I’m going to focus on this a little.

People’s needs haven’t really changed. Time and technologies have changed.

I think there are amazing opportunities for success in writing. In the US alone you have over 330 million people all of whom read, watch and listen to newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and all sorts of Internet and electronic media and communications devices. We’re trained from birth and indoctrinated in how to use these technologies.

What’s more is we are biological organisms and have five senses and we respond to stimulation in predictable ways. We laugh at the same jokes, we cry at the same sad stories, and we get turn on by beautiful half naked people. What even more important is that we can be stimulated to buy things. The media and producers have figured out how to do this and you can too.

It’s pretty clear that you have the opportunity to do really well IF you figure out how to turn people on.

The challenge is that you need to learn how to turn YOUR people on.

And once you learn how to do that, THEN you can use all the available technologies to reach people and stimulate them to action.

BUT if you don’t figure out how to turn people on first, then no matter what technologies you use, you really won’t have the effect you seek.

So HOW do you turn people on? HOW do you turn media on? That’s the challenge.

At least in my continuing experience and a publicist, it doesn’t matter whether you write non-fiction or fiction. The media does not really care about the book. They care about what you do to their audience with what you ask them to publish (in an article or a review) or use on a show (in a feature or an interview). It has to be so good that it helps them sell more subscriptions and advertising. This is how they make their income and this is what you have to provide if you want them to use your content.

So if it’s not the book, what is it?

My Answer: It’s about the issues you can talk about! It’s about the emotional engagement and interest you can capture!

As a publicist, I see this again and again. You can see the proof of it day in and day out in the media you want to be in. The question is how do you do it?

You have maximum success turning people on by getting jazzed up and energized and spontaneously raving about the issues you write about. It’s when you and revved up and all fired up that you generate the energy and the intelligence that galvanizes people’s attention. It’s those moments when you are at your best.

That’s what you need to identify for your all promotional efforts. You will be most successful with media, when you offer them a show or an article with you doing what you do best. It need not be very long. It just has to be really good.

So if you’ve written a book and are seeking to get people to buy that book, keep on talking to people about your book and your writing. Pay close attention to what you say and do when you create maximum interest and turn people on. You can also find much of this information in the reviewer comments and testimonials that you receive from people who read your book. They’ll tell you very specifically what you wrote that turns them on.

But remember that you can’t use the description of the book or the feeling as a substitute for the real thing. When you do promotion, you must deliver the communication that actually produce the feelings that trigger the interest and action.

That is what you have to place into the communications you use. You must learn what you say and do and then capture and repeat that messages. This is not easy to do, when you realize that each medium of communications you choose to use has its own format requirements.

So focus on identifying what you say and do that turns people on. Capture it! Repeat it several times in various settings and circumstances and make sure that it produces the action that you want to happen (as in people get so interested that they buy your books).

Then you can reformat and use all the technologies you want to repeat that message. Like Dan Poynter says, write it once and sell it forever.

Publicity success story – Self-published author makes the Wall Street Journal

Self-published author makes the Wall Street Journal

Mini brag and congratulations to client Glen R. Sontag, author of Anything Other Than Naked, for being featured in a half page article on Wall Street Journal on Thursday July 14, 2011.

Read the article here: http://snipurl.com/13e54f

He made p. 2 in the Personal Journal section in the On Style column. The print version of the article takes up ½ page and includes 5 books on fashion which are reviewed. His book is the most prominently displayed in the full color photo.

ANYTHING OTHER THAN NAKED
is a small, illustrated 86-page book with separate chapters on how to evaluate, select, and wear each item of clothing—from suits, shirts, ties, and trousers to sweaters, belts, shoes, and outerwear.

The best quote from the article highlights why other men should trust his advice:

“Gentlemen might ask: Why take style advice from Glen R. Sondag, a former financial adviser and U.S. Air Force captain? Well, for one thing, because his mother sewed and he helped her, so he knows his way around wool, cotton and silk. More to the point, Mr. Sondag has been working outside the fashion world for 35 years. His slim volume, “Anything Other Than Naked,” is full of practical, direct advice.”

I love it. He helped his mother sew.

I worked on the project with Jim and Lynda O’Connor. We created a two page problem solving tips article for his outreach effort and made some phone calls. We sent out the news release twice a two week period in March 2011. So the time between news release transmittal and media publication was four months. The custom media list we developed targeted fashion, clothes, men’s interest, and work/life. The WSJ was one of over 80 media requests or review copies acquired as a result of the outreach effort. The WSJ has an audited circulation of 2,117,796.

🙂 Glen’s author website http://anythingotherthannaked.com is worthy of inspection as a masterpiece of simplicity and beautiful design that matches his style and elegance. It is a great example of letting people see and know exactly who you are.

Kudos to Glen.

Seth Godin’s advice on how to be interviewed

Seth Godin's advice on how to be interviewed

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. I have all his books and am still astounded that he can be such an effervescent source of creative original ideas.

This entry is from his blog from May 31, 2011 on:

How to Be Interviewed.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/05/how-to-be-interviewed.html

If you are going to be interviewed by the media, this is very good material to review as you prepare to do your interview.

Guy Kawasaki knows how to make candy – Response to “Launch Any Product Using Social Media”

Analysis of the utilization of social media on the creation of a NY Times best seller

I read Guy Kawasaki’s very interesting article titled on Mashable “Launch Any Product Using Social Media”

Guy’s post describes the social media actions he took to launch a new book titled Enchantment

Here’s the post I placed on Mashable comment in response (Guy’s personal comment is also included at the end):

Guy,

It would be wonderful to learn how many books sold each channel produced. That might be hard to document. It would be nice knowing how many books sold from the effort in total.

I don’t attribute your success to the social media. I attribute your success to the fact that YOU are known to produce candy. You have for many years now produced books and all sorts of information that is remarkable. It is intellectual candy, so that when people get a small taste of a new recipe, they instantly want the whole bag.

You are one of those individuals who will be able to sell anything you offer. You are one of those individuals whose every published word has been worth reading.

The fact that you used these social media technologies is interesting, but if it were anyone else, it wouldn’t necessarily work. You can make great use of these technologies because you’ve got credibility and the people you want to reach are interested in what you have to say.

To really work well, the technologies (any publishing technologies, not just the social media) need a message that produces the feeling of want and desire instantly. It has to offer tremendous news, education, or educational value. It has to come from a trusted source. It has to taste like candy.

Without that candy, nothing will happen no matter what technology is used. With that candy, every technology you use can be a force multiplier.

The key with everything that you do is that YOU are known to produce candy. And the real lesson to be learned is that if anyone wants to achieve success like you, then they have to produce their own candy first. And it’s not just the product, but it’s also the little and large snippets of communication in all the marcom you offer, that also needs to taste like candy. The messages have to be really good, the content has to be quality and offer tremendous value.

And in your case, the person who is offering it is someone who can be trusted and known to produce worthwhile advice, entertaining insights, and helpful information.

That’s the lesson learned. You do your best and make candy. You help the people you can help the most and you do it with style, energy, and pizzazz. You make it your life’s work.

If all these things happen, then no matter how people learn about it, they will likely conclude it truly worthwhile. They will then feel very much inclined to buy not only the bag of candy you are suggesting we buy, but everything you have for sale.

In a nation with 330 million people trained and indoctrinated in reading and using media and technologies, truly remarkable sales and success are indeed possible. And with 1.3 billion people in China, the world is indeed a remarkable place filled with global opportunities.

You’ve earned it. That’s really what other people have to do, too. Make candy.

———–

Paul,

You made my evening. Thanks so much. I feel like Willy Wonka. 🙂

I don’t know how many each channel sold. It’s very hard to figure this out because so many things pointed to my Amazon affiliate account.

I hope I can continue to make candy that pleases you!

Guy

Being effective when pitching articles

How to be maximally effective when pitching articles

Client was heading to meetings with the National Speakers Association and she asked me if there was anything I wanted to share with them about how to be most effective when pitching articles. Here’s what I suggested:

To be maximally effective with articles:

1. Do your absolute best to help the people they can help the most on the biggest most pressing problem facing them; and

2. Target the right media with exquisite care and realize that you only need to reach the media who can reach YOUR PEOPLE. No other media matters.

3. Deliver the problem solving content in whatever format the media wants it to be delivered so that it can be easily published and utilized.

Have a great time!

Quick advice for experts and professionals on how to maximize publicity and media coverage

Quick advice for experts and professionals on how to maximize publicity and media coverage

You are a natural problem solver filled with good advice.

This is the core approach you need to take when branding and promoting. You simply need to decide to help the people you can help the most, with each and every bit of outreach that you do.

Select the biggest upcoming problem that’s on the horizon and then solve it, offering an article and interviews.

This is what will carry you forward and propel media coverage. It will also carry your books, products and services along with it.

Make sure that the content you offer is like candy. It tastes so good that people want the whole bag.

Bet you can’t eat one!

Media eBook Survey Results – I’ll Give You My Paper Book When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands!

Report and interviews analyzing media use of eBooks for publicity and promotion

I’ll Give You My Paper Book When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands!

I did an email survey to 1767 book reviewers on August 9 and just tallied up the results. It does have some critical business intelligence that publishers can use to understand how far we can go with eBooks at the present time. I was really surprised with the depth of feeling and reluctance to the trend towards eBooks.

Here’s a link to the pdf file of the actual comments and report draft:

I’ll Give You My Paper Book When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hands!
Complete 53 page report – http://www.directcontactpr.com/files/files/mediaebooksurveyreport082410.pdf

At least based on the number of respondents, perhaps half the media say they will review an eBook if offered to them. Even then, it looks to me that less than ten percent of those who say they are willing to look at one will actually conduct a review of an eBook they receive upon request by email. That’s perhaps means that only 1 to 2 out of a hundred will act favorably on the offer. That’s is what we are seeing repeatedly right now when we offer eBooks with emailed news releases along with an invitation to receive a hard review copy of a book shipped by street mail.

My initial observations based on the comments and data received from this survey:

1. Authors and publishers will still best address their goals and objectives for getting publicity and satisfy media needs (to make the best impression and persuade media to give the best coverage) by creating and offering both the hard copy and the eBook, since right now so few media will really be willing to conduct their review of just the ebook version.

2. Book reviewers do for the most part recognize and predict that ebooks will play an ever increasing role in the publishing industry and the future of education.

3. However, about half of those who responded express a serious reluctance to the use of the technology. They identify and express a number of common concerns which have been fairly well recognized:

Cost, enjoyment, ease of use, personal preference or dislike of the technology, physical difficulties (eyesight), standardization, limits on how it can be used, note-taking, highlighting, cross utilization, re-utilization, loss of the equipment and stored books.

4. Authors and publishers may be able to save some money getting reviews by offering and asking media if they will look at the ebook before sending the hard copy. Media preference has to be determined individually.

5. Publishing and promoting books in eBook form only is risky if you seek to use and leverage media publicity to jumpstart sales. The media for the most part will simply not play.

I feel that the results of this indicate that we are still very early in the beginning of a 10 to perhaps even 20 year transition.

The comments of the individual reviewers are perhaps far more enlightening than the numbers.

Comments anyone?

Go beyond the book!

What do you place into a news release?

If you want to improve your publicity go beyond the book. You don’t have to just write about the book. You don’t even have to quote from the book.

In fact, to get great publicity you really need to put the book down and simply do what you are best at.

Tell me new stories.

Give me news that I’ve never heard before.

Educate me.

Entertain me.

Make me smile. Make me laugh. Make me hungry. Make me cry. Make me afraid. Make me experience something inside. Make me angry. make me sad.

Help me.

Advise me with superb insight that makes people turn their heads and listen and realize that you are handing them a gift.

Take the mystery out of a new problem that wasn’t on everyone’s radar screen when you wrote the book.

Dazzle me with new material and fresh photos.

Make me want to do something different.

Make me so interested in you I go home and look you up and even try to call you and make an appointment to see you.

Getting More Interviews on Radio and other Media

Advice on how to get more talk show interviews and how to get the maximum ROI from the interviews you do

Start with the end in mind.

The real key to evaluating your media performance is your sales. Radio is an instantaneous communications medium. To evaluate your performance you might want to see if you can figure out whether you can trace book sales to the time and place of your interview.

Many a small radio station or show in the middle of nowhere have captive audiences who are very dedicated. They trust their hosts, and they do what the host advises.

I’ve done five minute interviews on small stations in the middle of the morning that produced thirty to as many as fifty book sales on a toll free number literally while I was talking. This has outperformed 30 minute interviews on big Arbitron rated stations and shows in major cities. This is because of the quality of the audience and the interview.

So when a guest does an interview and really shines, they can sell a lot of books very quickly. But whether this happens really depends on the quality of the performance.

Your success on radio (or any other medium and technology) really is determined by what you communicate to your listening audience. That is why you need to evaluate what you said and identify exactly what happened and when.

In my opinion, it is a mistake to say “My book”. It labels you as a person who is selling a product. It’s a turn off. Experience shows that saying this reduces or diminishes your success. So you want to prepare the host and make sure they have products and information in advance. It’s better to be a galvanizing guest and have people call up to learn more about you than to be seen as a salesperson hawking a product.

You want the host to be the one to mention and talk about your book. You want the host to lavish you and your writing with praise and point the audience to what you have available. You want them to be the ones who do the sales talk for you.

Your job is to be the best guest you can possibly be. You don’t talk about you and your life unless you really know that it is interesting and impresses people. You don’t talk about your book and your writing and your marketing unless you really know it interests and engages people.

What’s the very best galvanizing media publicity you can get that will produce the maximum ROI?

I believe that it’s a three to five minute piece that galvanizes people with you doing what you absolutely do the best.

So if you are a story teller, tell stories. If you are a horror writer, scare and horrify people. If you write sci-fi, then talk about the future. Give people and experience. Engage them and let them experience something that is truly emotionally engaging.

Don’t be boring. Be stimulating. Choose what you say carefully. Plan it out, test it, select and rehearse, like an actor or an actress on stage.

What you do is you talk about the ideas and concepts in your book and how it affects others. People are really only interested in things that have value to their own lives or others that they care about. That is what you must offer. I have a little poetic like formula which I wrote which describes what you need to do which goes like this:

Tell me a story
give me a local news angle (my audience!)
touch my heart (make me laugh or cry)
teach me something new
astound or amaze me,
make my stomach churn with horror or fear,
hit me in my pocketbook
or turn me on.

And do this as many times as you can in two to three minutes.

That is what you have to do when you are interview on radio.

The goal is to have a meaningful communication with the right real people on the receiving end. The message is matters, the medium matters, and the effect matters. The real value to the recipient is what determines whether they in fact are affected to the point of action.

So, did you turn people on to the point where they were motivated to take the action you wanted?

Do you know how to turn people on? Were you galvanizing? Were you funny? We your education or entertaining? Did you entrance people with your story telling? Did you plan and communicate your very best talking points? Were you boring or were you memorable?

You have to decide in advance what your goal is and then carry it off without a hitch. Then you have to evaluate whether you achieved your goal.

This is the key thing you are out to learn and to achieve. If you goal is to sell books, then ask yourself honestly, did you sell books? If not, then maybe you need to revise your script and your strategy until it does do what you want it to do.

Technically, you need to be on a single land line when you do your interview simply to achieve the best sound quality. Cell phones, Skype, even portable phone are all at risk for interference and reduced sound performance. You also must turn off all intrusions, such as other phones, door bells, cell phones, and call waiting. You need to be where you can conduct your interview quietly without anything distracting your attention or introducing unwanted sounds. Close all windows, close the doors, tell the kids and any other people that you need quiet and no interruptions while you are on the air or taping. Make sure no one in the house picks up another phone on the line you are using to make a call while you are using the phone.

BTW, I’ll go out on a limb here and offer up a point of some controversy. I’m not a big fan of blog radio simply because to date, my clients don’t sell a lot of books using the technology, or at least it is rare. It can be done. Some blog radio shows have developed some pretty nice dedicated audiences. Blog radio interviews also tend to be saved online in audio file formats that can be readily played on people’s computers (MP3, MP4, etc). So the potential is there for people to discover and play your interview again and again.

But does it compare to regular radio? There are over 6500 radio stations and shows out there in the US and Canada. When me and my clients do campaigns, it’s not unusual for a single news release and phone campaign to net us dozens of interviews. Some radio stations and shows have tremendous geographic reach. There are 10,000 to 50,000 watt stations in the Midwest that can be heard from Mexico all the way into Canada. There are radio network shows and syndicated radio shows that can result in a single interview being played in dozens to hundreds of affiliate stations. This is what you can do when you hire a publicist who has the ability to create custom media lists for you and help you pitch to hundreds and thousands of media.

The proof of whether it works for you or not is what you need to zero in on and document. The technology is not as important as whether you created and communicated a message that got the people you want to reach and influence to take the action you want them to take.

So, the bottom line is that you evaluate your talk show experience by whether you sold product. Were you successful?

If it works (and you sell product) then you are achieving success. If your interview sold books, then do more interviews just like it. If not, then study your message. Don’t conclude that the technology is at fault.

Your success with radio is just one of the many ways you can learn to be successful promoting your writing.

Learn what you can say to turn people on in your own backyard anywhere. This is how you’ll get the most effective publicity you’ve ever experienced. Once you create and prove this little script and once you really get it down and prove to yourself that it’s repeatable, you can use it again and again everywhere you go.

We’ve got a country of 330 million media indoctrinated people. They react to media messages in predictable ways. You can learn what it takes to get people to get interested in you. You can even learn what to say to get people to buy something.

And once you learn how to galvanize them in your back yard, you can use technology to repeat the message and reproduce the response again and again. Whether it’s radio or print or online it won’t matter. That’s the miracle of the microcosm in America.