A.J. Cosmo is the best-selling author and illustrator of over thirty children's books. I first met him at a book sale at Encino Elementary School. I sat next to him ans was impressed by his style of presentation. The first book of his I read was The Monster That Ate My Socks. Loved it.
Check out his work at ajcosmo.com that is, if you like monsters, imagination, or heart.
I do! A.J not only has a great website, he has a free picture book for following him. I signed up to test it out and Pretty Please? Princess Polly is delightful
The Simple Ideas Behind Promotion for Writers
Everyone wants to promote, or should I say, they
need to promote. For some reason authors tend to shy away from sales. We tell people that it's about the passion, or the craft, or the love of just doing it, which is true, but it would be disingenuous to say that money isn't a factor.
So how do we sell books? Well, why do people buy books? There are three reasons why a person purchases a book:
The book appeals to them for the sake of passing time, making them feel better, or making them think about something new.
If your book relies on entertainment alone, make sure that you understand what it is about your work that people enjoy. Be sure and ask your readers because the answer may surprise you. Once you understand that, make sure that all of your sales material points to it.
The book appeals to readers because it contains something they want to know or teach.
This applies well to non-fiction but can also apply to fiction. Some books for children may secretly teach language and shapes while some grown-up books may take place in a historically accurate or otherwise well researched setting. Make sure that your advertising tells readers what they will gain from investing in your book.
The book represents more than the sum of its pages. It represents an ideal, movement, or a group of people that the reader wishes to be a part of.
How many of you have gone to a speaker, loved what they said, bought their book, and then never read a single page? Don't feel guilty. You weren't buying their book, you were demonstrating your appreciation of that person and your agreement with their views.
If you can score school appearances, events, or conferences to sell your books, good for you! If you can't though, you can still attach your book to a cause. Wonder by Raquel Jaramillo marvelously tied itself with the relationship between othering and bullying while Harry Potter has become synonymous with perseverance.
Hopefully your book can sell to at least two of these ideas. After all, the best textbooks are also entertaining while wonderfully written narratives can unite entire groups of people (think of John Green.) Spend some time considering how you would sell these features of your book and to whom those features would most appeal.
Basic marketing is nothing more than informing people of something they might like. Inform the right group of people in the correct way and you won't even be called a marketer. Tell the wrong people in an offensive way and you will be thrown out as a shyster.
If we turn all of this into a process you get something that looks like this:
- Determine what you have.
- Determine who would want it.
- Test how best to describe what you have.
- Find where these people gather.
- Present what you have to them in an appropriate manner (as dictated by the customs of the group.)
Notice how I haven't once mentioned a traditional ad- that's intentional. Ads are like rain; most people ignore it, some avoid it, others get upset by it, but very few people enjoy standing in the middle of it. What you need is something more focused.
If you have a romance book, you would start your promotion by finding groups of romance readers. The more specifically the group matches your product, the better. If your book is about creating romance, you would look for an audience of lonely people to show the work to. If your book is a revolutionary love story about an oppressed minority, you could speak at a convention hosted by said minority.
What you don't do is blow $500 on shotgun Facebook ads, spam Twitter with "buy my book" tweets, or guilt trip your friends and family into making a purchase. All of that will only end in poor sales and tears.
Human beings naturally promote to each other, it's in our DNA. As a species, it's beneficial to share where delicious fruit trees are. Yet, we are also distrustful of those outside our tribe. If your brother tells you of good food, you will go at once to retrieve it, however, if a stranger tells you the exact same thing, your first thought may be of a trap.
That's why finding your audience, your tribe, is so important. Before you can find that tribe though, you first have to understand exactly what kind of fruit you have and who specifically has the taste for it.