How to stand out from the crowd?
Unless you’re already Suzanne Collins, J. K. Rowling, or Stephen King, you need readers to find out who you are and what you write, so your books sell.
Your mom can afford just so many copies.
By the same token, although authors are the best ambassadors for their own works, publishers also must market themselves and their books. This is not only how to sell books, but also get more submissions from great authors.
Small to medium presses close every year, not only because they and their authors fail to promote books well, but also for want of overall marketing plans and brand recognition.
For this discussion, we also need to define what a publisher is. Almost any website is a publisher, and so is almost any business with a blog, or who produces other marketing materials.
Even if you, as an author, have a publisher who produces your books, you should be a publisher as well, with a blog, website, and guest posts on other websites.
Standing out means doing something innovative, something different to market yourself and your work. Your books are exciting and entertaining. You produce quality work that is also useful. Here are some ideas to break out of the typical social media or pay-per-click “buy my book” posts.
Data by itself is boring; data visualized, on the other hand, can be stunning, and even fun. How can you do this?
Well, there are a number of different ways to show what you or your book are about than by simply posting your book cover, a banner made with your book cover or a picture of yourself over and over.
Don’t be afraid to use humor in your visuals, even if your book is more on the serious side of things. Some of the most fun authors I know, and those with the best sense of humor, write horror and thriller novels.
Remember, fans of your books also want to be your fans. If you are funny and easygoing in person, don’t be afraid to let that show through in your visual materials.
So what do I mean by unique visuals?
Infographics? Aren’t those usually reserved for business applications, explaining some concept or other? What do infographics have to do with books?
Here’s an example. I am currently writing about serial killers and tend to write character driven stories. This means I study the personality of these individuals, what their personality types are, and how that means they react to different situations.
As part of this study, I look at past serial killers, even famous ones from history. So as a part of the buildup to the release of my novel, I could share a well-done infographic, even one I have created that talks either historically about these killers or analyzes each. I could also create something about the personality types of serial killers.
I could use one that has already been created, like this one compiled by medicalinsurance.org, or I could create my own using a program like Visme, Canva, or even Powerpoint
Does your publisher or do you as an author have a YouTube channel? You should. Setting one up is relatively easy if you follow some simple steps. The video service owned by Alphabet (the Google parent company, in case you did not know) is the second largest search engine on the web.
While traditional book trailers are not your primary marketing tool, there are many innovative ways to use video. Readers what to know you and what you do. A video, even of your hobbies or on subjects related to your books, can be an invaluable tool.
These can be humorous. Even pranks can work as effective marketing, like the T-Mobile Onsie revealed for April Fool’s Day, a spoof accessory of the T-Mobile ONE Plan, and designed to highlight their deals on iPhones and various devices.
The videos you post can also be more serious and include podcasts, free classes, interviews, and video or book reviews.
Although authors are creative, they often struggle with applying that creativity to marketing and other areas. However, video is writing too — creating a script and a very short story, and matching it with images.
Video is not essential. However, if you do it, you need to do it well. It is another tool to get you noticed, and using it in unusual ways can set you apart from the crowd and introduce your work to an entirely different audience.
Business cards are old school, and many times end up thrown away. If you are like me, you have come from a conference and thrown dozens of them in the trash. However, I have kept several that are either actually useful or have something unique about them.
Julie Frost, a sci-fi writer approached me at a writer’s conference with a business card that had a complete short story published on the back. I not only kept it, but I have since seen other writers copy the idea with a poem or another piece of short fiction.
You don’t have to go that far. Infiniti Telecommunications makes business cards useful by printing the phonetic alphabet on the back so that if you have to call 1-800-GET-JUNK to clean out your home office, you don’t have to squint at the tiny numbers on your cell phone or try to remember what number goes with what. Not only did I keep their business card, but it has a spot on my desk calendar for quick reference.
The point is that although business cards can be boring and dull, they can also serve a purpose and be something the person you hand it to wants to keep rather than throw away as soon as you are out of sight.
Not everyone loves maps as much as I do, but a lot of people find them fascinating. There are a number of innovative ways to use them. You can thank your readers and map them, or do the same for your social media followers.
The map above is of my Twitter followers, created using Tweepsmap (I’m @tlambertwrites if you want to be added to the crowd). There are a number of advantages to social media mapping, besides getting a cool visual of your followers.
But you can use maps in other ways: You can create maps of your stories, and even of the places they occur. Google Maps Pro is now free, and other mapping apps and programs are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
If you are an app creator or can have one made for you, you can even use these maps to lead an interested reader on a journey, whether using virtual reality or a literal map that leads them around the place where your story is set.
Writing and publishing are tough businesses, and if you are going to make a living at it, you need to treat it like one. Every small business, whether you are a publisher or an author, needs to track performance, from cash flow to returns on marketing investments.
One of the ways to make those returns is to be innovative. Do something different and stand out from the crowd. From video to mapping, from innovative visuals to infographics, as an author or a publisher of any size, you improve the discoverability of your brand simply by taking a path less chosen.
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What? Only one comment and that a “reblogged” comment around 12 hours after your post!
First, I am totally in agreement with you about authors having to come up with truly unique ways to market their books. In fact, I used one last night. I was asked to make a presentation about one of my books at the St. Albert Library. Weirdly, I was even offered a Canada Council grant of $250. I normally would have turned this gig down but I have to make a presentation about my book “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” to 300 members of the New York Police Department in a weeks time. So, I decided to use the St. Albert Library presentation as a practice run for the New York gig.
The St. Albert Library suggested that I bring some of my books for sale to the audience. I had some returns come in from my Canadian distributor which I had already written of because other bookstores will not take these returns. These returns were in excellent shape. Nevertheless, instead of offering them at the suggested retail price of $22.95 plus GST (like a lot of greedy, delusional authors would do), I offered them at a price of $10 each. I ended up selling 47 copies. Pretty cool, wouldn’t you say, for an hour’s presentation I earned $250 plus another $47o from book sales. What’s more, this was just a practice run for the New York gig from which I will earn several thousands of dollars plus first-class expenses.
Here is my best advice for self-published authors who want to sell a lot more copies of their books. Don’t do what the majority is doing. Instead, do the opposite of what the majority is doing.
Bob Baker offers some powerful advice about creative book marketing in his blogpost at:
Pay particular attention to:
“Reconsider all of your marketing tactics. One of the biggest promotional mistakes you can make is doing something just because that’s the way it’s always been done before. Just because everyone else pursues book reviews, bookstore distribution, library sales, and media exposure in a certain way (or even Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), that doesn’t mean you have to.”
“Think in terms of opposites. Make a list of all the specific things that major book publishers and mainstream authors do to promote their books. Then imagine what would happen if you did the exact opposite.”
“What if you never did public appearances or book signings? Or made your books available only on USB drives? What if you were mysterious and never displayed your photo and never did interviews?”
This piece of advice has also helped me to be successful at the game of writing and self-publishing to the point that my books have sold over 950,000 copies worldwide.
“It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project.”
— Robert J. Ringer
To repeat, your marketing must be better than good. Your marketing should be such that you pulverize the competition.
For the record, I have come up with 75 to 100 of my own unique marketing techniques that 99 percent of authors and book marketing experts are not creative enough to come up with. I have used similar unique marketing techniques to get over 111 books deals with various foreign publishers around the world. These techniques involve what my competitors are NOT doing — instead of what my competitors are doing.
As you say, “Do something different and stand out from the crowd.”
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 325,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
(Over 300,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
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Thanks for sharing your experience. Very valuable tips!
As a reader, I must say book marketing seems like a lot of noise to ignore. I can’t think of a video or gimmick that has gotten me to buy or read a book.
For the most part I “discover” new books through a few reliable sources: Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, and some Podcasts like Bookworm or London Review Bookshop. Very different from the ideas above (and probably hard to break into for an unknown authors on their own) but they give me more books to read than I’m capable of ever reading – about 80 to 100 per year.
As I see it, authors are writers, and marketing should be done by marketers, with only a few rare overlaps.
Of course, I think most marketing for any kind of product is a bunch of hooey, misdirection, misinformation, and should be ignored. Why should books be different?
I appreciate your comments, but I have learned one thing over the years: people all find books differently. Sure, many of these things are gimmicky, but if they work, that is what matters.
Two things: your sources for books are really hard for new or even mid-list authors to break into. Luckily for those of us in that category, not everyone finds books using only those methods.
Second, we tend as people to project our way of doing things on to others. So we assume that how we find books is the same way many people find books. Sometimes this is accurate, at least in our circles, and others it is not. I simply encourage authors to try new things, find their audiences any way they can, and never assume anything when it comes to discoverability.
Either way, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.