Marketing was a bit more straightforward in the previous century: you had newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV. Maybe billboards if you were feeling extravagant. Today, to get your message, product, or service in front of the people you expect to buy it, you have a lot more options: email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, paid web ads, and other channels. After a discussion last week with a friend familiar with online marketing, I realized I have yet another steep learning curve ahead of me as I try to market my book.
What Do You Really Want to Do?
My marketing friend Rhonda asked a good question to start off our conversation: “What do you really want to achieve? Are you looking to find new customers, build your brand, or just sell books?” Not that there’s anything wrong with selling books; it’s just that a book can do more than that: it can be a starting point or resume that leads you to greater things. And honestly, if I were selling a work of fiction, my goal would just be to sell more books. However, I’m in the nonfiction realm, and life can get complicated.
As I noted a while back in a post about social media writing, your goal determines the form of your online presence. Do you want people to join a cause? Do you want them to buy a product? Do you want them to hire a service? Do you want them to hire you as a consultant? Each of those outcomes has a different focus and requires a different set of web tools.
- If you want people to join a cause, you need to make it easier for people to lobby their elected officials or send to support the cause.
- If you want them them buy a product, you need to provide an online catalog and easy-to-use shopping/shipping application.
- If you want them to hire you to do a job, give a presentation, or become a consultant, you need to provide a form that shares your rates, describes the types of services you perform, and allows them to contact you easily with the nature of the task.
If I were to go the consultant route, I would function better in the space industry than as a general-purpose communications consultant. Knowing that, it probably makes sense for me to market to space people. The book isn’t exactly about space (though there are a lot of references to the business in the book and an appendix that offers suggestions for English majors aspiring to work in the industry). It’s more of a thick business card, which shows that I’m familiar with the business.
Reaching Your Audience
But first, you have to reach people. So who is your audience?
Rhonda’s contacts are primarily in the space industry…and quite frankly that’s where I’d prefer to hang my hat. I have only sporadic contact with the technical writing community (STC), mostly because I’m interested in a particular flavor of content: human spaceflight.
The next things we discussed were outreach channels; and again, there are a lot of them, from Facebook Ads to LinkedIn to Instagram. There are also email lists and newsletters, which are surprisingly effective if they include buttons or links that allow your potential customers to buy a product.
Another big thing out there is YouTube. Being somewhat camera-averse, this doesn’t strike me as a good time. Podcasts are also a popular mechanism for getting your message out there. Either YouTube or podcasts would require a regular output of content demonstrating my expertise in a particular field or task. Plus they require a lot of talking, which I find exhausting, so I’ll need to think those over.
What’s the Cost?
Once you settle on a specific market and set of marketing channels, you need to start coughing up some money. Email services such as MailChimp or Klaviyo can cost $100 a month. Facebook ad campaigns can cost $500-1,000. All of this requires some thought because a) you don’t want to waste money (I’m already $2,200 in the hole for book production costs) and b) you want there to be some sort of return on investment. Traffic on the website is nice, cash is better.
So I have some thinking to do. My own, grass-roots efforts will only get me so far. After that, I need to start taking advice from and spending money on the ideas I get from professionals like Rhonda. Otherwise, my book will languish on the Amazon sales list, down there with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Macrame. Obviously I’d prefer that my book sell well. I’d like to retire some day, and every little bit helps. But as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. The question becomes: what is a good way to spend that money? Marketing is an adventure in learning, like anything else.