This is the third in a series of articles about self-publishing. This series will cover everything from the technical bits, to self-promotion, to getting books into bookstores.
One of the first things taught in any marketing course are the four Ps: product, place, price and promotion. The four Cs are the updated version, and the two theories work together to create the ‘Marketing Mix’, that is the important factors that should be taken into account when starting a small business, or preparing to sell a product. Each of the four principles bleed into each other, and while it is useful sketch ideas under each heading, don’t be afraid to make linkages between them.
Any author self-publishing their work needs to get into this mindset, and plan their own answer to each of these principles. It is a useful exercise to help you understand the author/reader relationship, and it also gives depth of knowledge to a process that could be arbitrary for a first-time self-publishing author with no experience.
The product is, of course, the book itself. But is not quite as simple as that; there are many things to consider, including the format (print or ebook), the print run, the cover design, the typesetting and fonts used (keeping in mind restrictions by certain ebook providers), the kind of paper and the size of the book, as well as any illustrations, appendices or other additions.
It is also time to consider the consumer. We’ve already covered determining your target audience, but what will they get out of reading your book? Entertainment is, of course, an excellent answer, but will there be any other benefit? Will they find a character to identify with, or understand a subject they may not be familiar with, or be brought to question philosophical ideals? Defining how the reader will benefit from reading the book, and what sets the book apart from others in its genre, will help you in how you market it.
Consider how you will get your book to your consumer. Nowadays, there is so much competing media, and it is all available at the click of a button; making sure that a book is convenient and accessible is crucial in making sure it sells. This is all about making purchasing your work as easy as possible, and removing any resistance keeping your readers from your work.
If you are publishing an ebook, this involves ensuring it is available on the major marketplaces, including Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play Books. As for print, this involves getting into bookstores, both physical and online, and making sure copies of your work are available if you are speaking or teaching at an event. It also involves making sure someone can find you and your work if they Google you, and if you are interested in speaking or teaching opportunities, it also involves being easily contactable.
Of course, this involves choosing the price of the book. This is a good time to do some market research to find out what other books in this genre or niche are selling for. Look at bestsellers, but also look at other works, particularly those by successful debut self-published authors. Keep in mind the amount of time and money you have put into the book when pricing it, but also remember that if it has a lower price tag, you may be able to sell more copies.
However, this also involves considering the cost to the reader. This isn’t just the price of the book, but also the time they will spend reading your work which they could use to be with their families or earn money. Here is where you determine the value you are providing to your reader; someone spending time with your work is a precious gift, and it is important to make sure that it is valued.
This is the bit that people usually associate with marketing: the promotion of your work. But really, it’s simpler than that; you have created a product that will be valued by its readership, and promotion is just letting them know that is there and available for them. If you’ve identified your audience and the way the work will be distributed, now it’s time to figure out how to get the customers in the door.
Ideas for promotion include advertising through social media or print, running events such as a book launch, keeping a blog on topics the target audience might be interested in, giving free books to reviewers or running competitions, attending events in your local literary community and networking with movers and shakers, handselling the book at events or markets, doing interviews and media, and any other form of communication of which you can dream.