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  • Writer's pictureFlorence Osmund

Fundamentals of Marketing

If you thought writing a novel was hard, wait until you see what is

involved in getting people to notice it. Even the best-written book will

not succeed if no one knows it exists and where to purchase it. With

hundreds of thousands of new titles published each year, authors need

to focus on effective marketing and promotion more now than ever. So

remove your writer hat, under which you were allowed to be somewhat

reclusive with your brilliant thoughts, and put on your marketing and

promotion hat to test your public persona and salesmanship skills.

Many of the approaches discussed in the succeeding chapters are

cost-free, except for your time, so try as many as you can. Keep in mind

that it’s difficult to predict which of the strategies will pay off for you—

sometimes book sales happen as a result of a combination of two or more

different strategies. And if you’ve implemented many different strategies

simultaneously, like most of us do, it’s not always obvious which ones

had the most effect. I personally find this to be the most frustrating

aspect of selling books.

I learned in business school about the four elements of marketing:

product, place, price, and promotion. This holds true for us authors.

Product = our books

Place = where our books are available for purchase

Price = that sweet spot where we’ll earn the most profit

Promotion = everything we do to reach prospective readers

I mention this because being an author is like running a business.

You have to produce a quality product, let people know it’s for sale for a

reasonable and competitive price, and promptly deliver it.

While this part of author life may not seem as exciting or creative as

the writing part, it is essential. You can’t succeed without it.

There are five elements most fundamental to a successful book


1. Good-quality product

2. Well-targeted audience

3. Title and cover design that draw attention

4. Back-cover blurb that entices readers to buy the book

5. Competitive pricing

Good-Quality Product

Unlike with traditionally published books, self-published titles have no

quality-control mechanisms in place, and some authors are merely uploading

a Word document to Amazon to get published. That’s unfortunate,

as it puts many poor-quality books out there and gives self-published

authors in general a bad name. Please don’t be one of these authors. The

successful self-published authors I know work hard to write and rewrite

a manuscript until it is as polished as they can make it, and then they

hire professional editors and cover designers.

The traditional publishers expect that only a handful of the titles they

publish each year will be big sellers. They publish a manageable number

of books in the hope that one or two will take off and generate a nice

profit. The situation is similar with self-published titles—only a few will

go on to be best-sellers. A book that is badly written, unconventionally

structured, poorly proofread, and full of technical errors and typos has

little chance becoming a big success and will most likely fail altogether.

I can’t emphasize this enough—all the marketing in the world will not

sell a badly written book. At the very least, I recommend investing in a

professional proofreader. But if you’re serious about writing, you’ll hire

an editor. (See Chapter 21 for more on editors.) Strive to make your

finished product flawless—one you’re proud to call your own.

Target Audience

Knowing your target audience is extremely important. Forget the notion

that you’ve written a book everyone will love—it’s never been done

and never will be. Without a solid grasp of who will read and like your

book, you will waste time, energy, and money promoting your work to

the wrong market. Or worse yet, you will receive negative attention and

reviews from people who had no chance of ever liking it.

Once you have a description of your ideal reader, it becomes easier

to please them—both in your writing and marketing. Start by understanding

genres, as they each appeal to a different set of readers. Even if

your book falls within multiple genres, you can still narrow your target

audience to a more manageable number. If you’re not certain of your

genre, find a comparable book online or in a bookstore to see where it

has been categorized.

There doesn’t appear to be a nice, neat chart of who reads which

genres, but after perusing many articles and opinions on the subject, I

can offer the following compilation of reader demographics I found for

a few of the current most popular genres.

Crime/Thrillers—A fairly even split between male and female

readers with more males reading books written by males with

male protagonists, and females reading books written by females

with female protagonists. Reader age range is typically 15 to 40

years old.

Literary Fiction—Twice as many females as males. 30 to 55

years old.

Fantasy—Slightly more females than males. 15 to 35 years old.

Science Fiction—Slightly more males than females. 15 to 35

years old.

Historical—Twice as many males as females. 18 to 40 years old.

Horror—Twice as many males as females. 18 to 40 years old.

Romance—Primarily females. 30 to 55 years old.

Books in General—Three times as many female readers as males.

18 to 29 years old seems to be the largest group (a surprise to

me—I would have thought older).

The size of your target audience is important, as it is difficult to write

a book with wide appeal. Even very successful authors don’t attempt to

write overly broad books. The old adage that trying to please everyone

leads to pleasing no one is particularly relevant here. With readers having

access to virtually any book at any time, it’s hard enough to make

a single book stand out to people who are interested in your genre, let

alone to the masses. If you write for and create your marketing campaign

toward a targeted group of people, they will purchase enough copies of

your book to make it successful. Anyone else who happens to purchase

your book is a bonus. The goal is to reach people who will become loyal

fans. Write for an audience that is too broad, and you wind up writing

something that is generic and will have to face a lot of competition.

Trying to appeal to the masses instead of understanding the needs,

wants, and desires of readers of a particular genre usually doesn’t work.

Authors tend to do well with a narrow niche audience—one that gives

them a better chance of finding loyal fans and the most effective channels

for reaching them.

Title and Cover Design

I talk more about the creation of title and cover design in Chapter 23.

The front cover is the first impression people have of your book, and so

it’s important to grab their attention quickly. Make sure the cover suits

the genre of your book and stands out from the competition.

Back Cover Blurb

Keep the description tight. Include references to character emotion as

well as story line. Use headlines to catch readers’ attention. (The topic

of creating effective back covers is discussed in detail in Chapter 23.)

Competitive Pricing

Determining the ideal price for your book is an extremely important

aspect of marketing. Price it too low, and you run the risk of readers

associating a low price with low quality. Price it too high, and you can

price it right out of the market. Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula

for pricing. In the end, it boils down to positioning your book to be

competitive, but other contributing factors include your experience as

an author and the market demand for your subject matter.

It is imperative to know where competing books are priced, as they

are vying for the attention of the same audience as yours. This is relatively

easy to do by browsing the bookshelves on Amazon and in local

bookstores. Look at books in the same genre, format (paperback, e-book,

audio, and hardcover), and trim size as yours and that are of similar

length. Pricing your book slightly lower than the others, especially if

you are a new author, may give you a competitive edge.

When establishing the list price for paperback books, factor in

how much it costs to print the book. In print-on-demand scenarios,

the printing cost will be deducted from the retail price before your

royalty is calculated, so you don’t want to price your book so low that

the printing costs cut too far into your profit. You will want to make

sure you’re still making enough money with each book sale to meet

your revenue goals.

If you publish your paperback book on Amazon, their submission

tool helps guide you through the pricing process.

Here is a pricing scenario for one of my books. The cost to print this

book is $3.59, and the royalty is 60%.

If I price this book at $10, my royalty is $2.41.

If I price it at $9, my royalty is $1.81.

If I price it at $8, my royalty is $1.21.

Amazon’s pricing guidelines for printed books will not allow me to

price this book under $5.98 or above $250.00

IngramSpark also provides a pricing tool on its website myaccount. that calculates

how much you will earn from the sale of each copy of your book after

entering your book’s specifications (trim size, interior color and paper

types, binding style, number of pages, list price).

When pricing a book, one of the questions you will probably ask

yourself is whether it will be more profitable to price it low and hope

to sell more copies of it, or price it higher but perhaps sell fewer copies.

Here are some overly simplified scenarios that assume a $4.00 print cost

and 50% royalty.

Price it at $10. If you sell 1,000 copies, your profit will be $3,000.

Price it at $10. If you sell 1,500 copies, your profit will be $4,500.

Price it at $10. If you sell 2,000 copies, your profit will be $6,000.

Price it at $9. If you sell 1,000 copies, your profit will be $2,500.

Price it at $9. If you sell 1,500 copies, your profit will be $3,750.

Price it at $9. If you sell 2,000 copies, your profit will be $5,000.

Price it at $8. If you sell 1,000 copies, your profit will be $2,000.

Price it at $8. If you sell 1,500 copies, your profit will be $3,000.

Price it at $8. If you sell 2,000 copies, your profit will be $4,000.

Similarly, when pricing e-books it’s important to factor in what competitors

are doing. One method to use to get started is to take the price

you set for your paperback and subtract the cost of printing. Round this

number off to the nearest dollar, and then subtract one cent. (Apparently,

it’s been proven that prices ending in odd numbers, especially .99 are

more attractive to retail buyers than prices ending in other numbers.)

Compare this price to that of your competition and adjust accordingly.

If you publish your e-book on Amazon, their royalty program (which

presumably has been designed to optimize sales) may help you in your

pricing decision. Amazon pays authors a 35 percent royalty for e-books

priced between $0.99 and $2.98; a 70 percent royalty for e-books priced

between $2.99 and $9.99; and a 35 percent royalty for e-books priced

$10 and above.

Determining where to price your book is a bit of a crap shoot. My

best advice is to keep current with what is taking place in the industry

to see what is trending, and then go from there.

Once these five requirements have been met, you’re ready to start marketing

your book.

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