A Cup of Coffee?
By Pandora Poikilos
There have been several discussions on the importance of marketing and promotions for self-published authors. How much is too much? If you do not promote your book, will your book still sell? Yes, loads of questions so before we get to that how about you and I sit down for a cup of coffee? But first, let's choose where we get it from shall we?
We have Cafe A. Its windows are dirty, one has a slight crack and the furniture appears old. Its sign is so faded, you have to strain to read it.
Opposite the street, there's Cafe B. It’s the same size as Cafe A but its windows are clean. The signboard is also clean. Not brand new, just clean. Inside, there is a fresh aroma and the assorted furniture appears colourful and comfortable.
This is what any book cover should look like. Easy to read with a clear picture that closely depicts your title or story.
Then, there's the coffee itself. Cafe A serves you lukewarm coffee in a stained mug, the milk appears lumpy and the coffee tastes bitter. No extra sugar is given even when you ask. The staff appear distracted and uninterested.
For the same price, the coffee in Cafe B is creamy. The milk is frothy and extra sugar is provided even before you ask. Plus, each cup of coffee is served with a little cream on top and two thin slices of almond biscotti. The staff are jovial, they ask about your day and appear ready to serve you.
Welcome to the world of editing and formatting. See, just like a coffee machine, almond biscotti and all the other additions that cost extra money, a good editor and a good formatter will cost you more than a few pennies but the difference they make in the long run is money well-spent. It may take you months to break even but do you really want to ruin a reader's experience with your book?
Cafe A appears to have customers so it can’t be all that bad. There is one customer sitting in a corner, sleeping. Another appears engrossed on his laptop. However, neither are drinking or eating anything.
Café B isn’t crowded, there are at least ten or more people. But each customer is having a drink and some are enjoying snacks.
These are your customers. In the publishing world, they are also your reviewers. Whether they purchase a book for $1 or $10, a customer expects to be entertained, touched and connected to the story in some way. Occasionally, you will have a tea drinker who gulps down hot coffee and he/she will be grumpy. These are your 1star reviews which however hard you try to ignore, will sting a little anyway. But if you’ve given it your best - this is your story, your ideas and threads of your life are weaved into it so don’t change it because a handful of people tell you it’s not their cup of tea.
Café A’s menu is limited. There are three types of coffee, two types of tea and a cake of day. All items are made by the café’s staff.
Café B has at least 20 different varieties of coffee and tea. Their snack list varies from biscuits, cakes and even pies. They haven’t made every single item on the menu but the customers enjoy the variety.
This is a writer’s backlist. Yes, a backlist doesn’t magically appear overnight but it must be there to ensure you have return customers (readers). Additionally, if one book doesn’t appeal to a reader, he/she can support you by purchasing another from your list. How do you achieve a backlist? Write, everyday or as much as you can. Some writers churn out a new book once every three months, others take longer. There isn’t a fixed amount of time but in the long run, it is necessary to keep it coming.
You can also work with other writers on anthologies, series and non-fiction titles. You do not have to achieve a backlist all by yourself.
A customer who orders takeaway from Café A receives a white Styrofoam cup.
Café B packs their takeaway in customized thick paper cups which has an imprint of their logo. Customers can choose to include paper napkins and when leaving, each customer is given a small brochure which has details like phone number, address and opening hours.
This is your advertising, marketing and promotions. Again, some of these will cost you money. But you cannot make money without first spending it. Organise a book tour at book stores or an online tour, purchase advertising from relevant sites, do joint ventures with other bloggers. You will need more than one campaign and you will need to ensure you and your book stay in focus at least once every three months. If luck had her way, you can sell tons of books in just one campaign. But don’t depend on luck, she tends to show up unexpectedly so keep going till she pops in for a visit. There are tons of ways you can sell your book without telling people, “please buy my book.” And not all of these methods will cost you an arm and a leg.
I have worked in public relations for more than 15 years. I’ve worked on selling hotel rooms, beauty magazines, gifts and now, books. The one thing any segment of public relations has in common is details. To others, it may come across as pedantic, unnecessary and sometimes expensive but the little chocolate on your hotel pillow, the colourful brochure that makes you want to shop and the book cover that has you wanting to know more makes the difference to the end user. How people feel, not what they say or don’t say, that is the key. As writers, look into as many details as you can. You won’t figure it out in one go but books are forever, and you’ll have the chance to keep improving yourself in your next book, and the next and so on.
When I started working on Orangeberry Book Tours in October 2011, it was challenging to balance what writers needed, bloggers requested and what readers wanted. But after a lot tweaking, we’re almost there and I am pretty sure we’ll grow even more in months to come. Orangeberry is my way of giving back to the writing community. When I first started self-publishing, I was clueless and wished I had more info on what to do and how to do it. I learned the hard way and look forward to sharing my lessons with other writers who are starting their journeys.
Now, how about that cup of coffee?
About the author
International best-selling author, Pandora Poikilos has been writing for more than 10 years for various media which include newspapers, radio, television and various websites.
Diagnosed in 2003 with a rare neurological disorder, Benign Intracrannial Hypertension, she has since undergone brain surgery to have a VP Shunt fitted in her brain. Her debut novel – Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out was written when recovering from this surgery.
She is also the founder of Orangeberry Book Tours, a marketing and public relations site for authors and reaches out to readers of all genres. A social media enthusiast who is passionate about blogging and finding her way around the virtual world, she wills away time in the real world by reading, writing and people watching.