6: Marketing your book: why it matters and when to start
In Episode 6 of The Right Book Project podcast, we’re joined by book marketing expert Paul East
Learn from Paul’s extensive experience as we discuss how to find the right readers for your book and when you need to start looking. Discover the best time to start marketing, why your platform and network will be vital to your book’s success, the key marketing tasks you need to nail and why a successful book for your business is about so much more than simply being number one on Amazon.
with thanks to Dave Harries of CommunicateTV: www.communicatetv.co.uk
Dave Harries: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Right Book Project, a Right Book Company radio production. My name is Dave Harries. I’m here with my co-presenter, Sue Richardson, to explore the whys and wherefores of book publishing and how writing a book can enhance your business and personal profile. Sue is a publishing expert, who has been in the book business for many years and has written her own book – The Authority Guide to Publishing your Business Book. She’s the director of SRA books and The Right Book Company, and has helped hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, experts and thought leaders boost their businesses and profile with game-changing books. Remember, this podcast is all about you and your journey to writing a book, so, please get involved by joining our Facebook group, The Right Book Project, or tweet @therightbookco. You’ll find notes, links, recordings and transcripts of these podcasts on therightbookcompany.com. We’re very excited today, because we’ve got a special guest in the studio with Sue and me, and it is Paul East. Paul is a book marketing consultant and Paul actually works with The Right Book Company, as well as many other clients. He’s been in the book trade for over 30 years, and he’s been working very closely with authors for 12 years. Paul, welcome.
Paul East: [00:01:07] Thank you.
Dave Harries: [00:01:08] How are you?
Paul East: [00:01:09] I’m very well, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Dave Harries: [00:01:11] Fantastic and we’re so excited to have you here. Before we get in to some of the whys and wherefores of marketing of books, and that sort of thing, talk to me a little bit about your philosophy, your personal approach to marketing and what you feel matters in marketing books.
Paul East: [00:01:25] Yeah, sure. Well, I mean I’ve worked with a lot of authors over quite a long time, both in my previous life as a trade publisher, a big academic publisher and also with my work with Sue and my other clients, and I see a lot of authors that get very hung up and very concerned and focused, I think initially, about their book being a best seller; about you know being up the Amazon rankings; about being number one in their category; number one in their niche and establishing their author credentials in that way. You know, marketing your book is about so much more than just becoming an Amazon best seller. And I think that in a previous podcast you had Bryony with you.
Dave Harries: [00:02:07] Bryony Thomas.
Paul East: [00:02:09] She said something very pertinent about something she was told which is about how good books don’t date, they put down roots. And that’s really my philosophy to marketing really. I’m here, I think to try and help authors find the long-term success out of their book rather than just that initial, short-term flash in the pan, bestseller status. I’m not very interested in the kind of gimmicks and the so-called powerful techniques that a lot of people market on the Internet to try and get your book to number one as quickly as possible. I’m more interested in kind of real world, long term, proven techniques that can actually work to help establish your book as part of your business and to also grow your business and your own personal profile as part of that.
Dave Harries: [00:02:53] Sue, can I bring you in here because obviously, you work with Paul, so I’m assuming that you agree with his philosophy then?
Sue Richardson: [00:03:00] One hundred percent. I would say that that is The Right Book philosophy, there in a nutshell. I think a lot of people get distracted by these kinds of shiny, nice new shiny things; the offers to get you to number one in a particular character on Amazon. All very tempting. In actual fact I think that Paul’s approach, and the way we view marketing books, it needs to go a lot deeper and wider than that, and that the actual process of getting behind your book and really marketing it; really thinking deeply about the best way of reaching the right readers, will actually help you hugely in your business. Not only will it help you in terms of actually getting the book to the right people, but it will also help you think through how to really integrate the book within your business. The book is not just a product that you are selling. The book is much, much more effective than that. Or can be, has the potential to be. And I know that Paul’s approach really chimes with The Right Book Company philosophy, and indeed we work together on this, because that’s where we’re both going; is looking at how reaching the readers can help you to really create a massive difference in your own personal and business profile.
Dave Harries: [00:04:31] We’re going to get into some of the detail of marketing and explore that with Paul, which is very interesting. But before we do that Paul, I wonder if you could comment on the sort of ‘when’ of marketing, if you see what I mean. At what point should an author start thinking about marketing? I mean, is it when they’ve written the book or is it before they start or is it you know after they’ve got a publisher? When does that stuff start to, do you need to address that?
Paul East: [00:04:54] Well, in my opinion, as early as possible. I think ideally, you’d have probably started thinking about marketing before you started writing the book. Talking about books in this context particularly as a means to grow your business and be part of your business. You can’t write a good book if you haven’t thought about the readers that are going to read it and how you’re going to get that book to them. So, the authors that I’ve seen that have had the best success are the ones that have thought about the marketing of their book before they’ve even started writing it and probably before they’ve ever gone to a publisher or anywhere near a publisher with it. Having said that, you know, it’s never too late to do it. It’s just that the best time to do it is definitely early on in the process as you possibly can.
Dave Harries: [00:05:37] And Sue, when you’re working with an author, is that the advice you would give them? You know they come to you and say: I’ve got this great idea for a book, is that something that you would say: Well, have you thought about how you’re going to market it, before you’ve even written it?
Paul East: [00:05:48] I think right from the very start our process involves, right at the very beginning of working with an author, The Right Book strategy session. And in that session, probably one of the most important questions is ‘who’. So, we are, right from the beginning when the book is just forming as an idea in our author’s mind, we are looking at who is the book is for. And that’s the first piece, as Paul just said really, that’s kind of…the first piece of the marketing jigsaw, if you like, it all fits right there, right at the beginning, right with the idea. And we were talking about this recently, that actually the book that is designed to help you grow your business needs to be written for that very purpose. So, it is a marketing conversation right from the beginning.
Dave Harries: [00:06:40] And of course, one of our very earliest podcasts was about the ‘who’.
Sue Richardson: [00:06:44] The ‘who’. Absolutely.
Dave Harries: [00:06:45] Because it is so important. That’s very interesting.
Paul East: [00:06:47] I think it’s important to make sure that your book’s going to be getting to the right people. And you need to write a book that suits that audience, and so you haven’t thought about who that audience is, then the book can’t really succeed. You know, impressions these days are really easy to come by. It’s easy to get people to see your thing because you can just put it on social media. What counts, these days, is engagement and if you’re not getting that book to the right people, then you might as well have not bothered, in all honesty.
Dave Harries: [00:07:11] Yeah. And presumably once you’ve identified the ‘who’, would you say the marketing plan, the marketing strategy, does that become obvious then? Do you think: oh well, these are the people I want to read book, therefore this is how I’m going to market it?
Paul East: [00:07:27] Well, I think it becomes more obvious. I don’t think it answers all the questions or ticks all the boxes. I think that there’s still a process that you need to go through to really drill down. But I think in the early stages, what you don’t really want to do is get too deep, too distracted, into the detail of how you’re going to market your book, when you’re also trying to write it. And so, you know your focus should be, during the writing process, your focus should be very much on the writing. I think in the early stages, you just need to have that idea, that very clear idea, and put quite a lot of time into thinking about who those readers are. The strategy doesn’t necessarily follow from that, and it may change slightly as you write the book as well, but it certainly makes the whole process of creating a marketing strategy easier if you’ve put that time in at the beginning.
Dave Harries: [00:08:15] Sorry, Sue you wanted to jump in.
Sue Richardson: [00:08:16] You just reminded me there, actually, I think that’s a very, very good point. There’s an approach, you’re thinking about the marketing right from the start, but to avoid getting into too much detail. We, Paul and I, had a marketing strategy session fairly recently with an author, who actually isn’t publishing until next autumn, and she had the title, she bought the domain name for the title of the book. And Paul was saying to her: just wait, just hang on a minute, because you haven’t written the book yet. Things can change. In the process of writing the book, your ideas will develop; stuff might happen that means that if you start marketing, in detail, too early, you may find that you’ve been marketing the wrong thing. So, just a little…yes absolutely. And I think that really important to be clear about the marketing in terms of your market. Who is it that you need to reach? Where are those readers? And that sort of thing. But in terms of the detail, that may come a little later.
Paul East: [00:09:25] The detail, I mean, I always, with the authors that I’ve worked with, the point to start working on the detail is when the manuscript is handed over and it’s gone into production. That’s when you start really drilling down into the detail. You know, you have a very, very clear overview of who your book is going to be for and who you’re going to be marketing to. And there is a…you know, never underestimate the pre-awareness phase, there’s a massive, kind of importance on making sure people are aware of your book before it’s ever published. And the more you keep people involved in that, the longer you keep people involved in that, and the more you get involved in that, through the writing process, the better. But you know, you need to get down into the detail when you know that you’ve nailed the book. You know, that you’ve got the right book for the right people.
Dave Harries: [00:10:05] I know from talking to you before, and from reading some of your notes, Paul, you talk about the top three things to get right, right from the start. We’ve already dealt with how it’s important to consider marketing right from the start, even if you don’t go into the detail. One of those things is target market, which obviously we’ve just talked about, the ‘who’. So, I understand that, but you also talk about your authority and credibility, as the second point. What do you mean by that?
Paul East: [00:10:31] Well, I think it’s important before you start writing your book to understand your authority and credibility as a person in your community, the community that you’re writing for, and your visibility within that. So, you know, part of the marketing plan really has to be about how you’re going to reach and find readers and that will be made an awful lot easier, and it will be an awful lot more effective, if you have authority and credibility within the market that you’re aiming your book towards, and with the readers that you’re trying to reach. So, it’s really about taking time, I guess to grow that or at least to assess it, to think: well, okay look, I’m going to write this book; I’ve got a great idea. But you know, who’s going to read it and how am I going to get to those readers. If you think very carefully about your own authority within your niche, you can find ways to leverage that, and also look for gaps in that to see where you need to work to fill those and work out how you can use your authority and credibility to sell your book.
Dave Harries: [00:11:39] But I can conceive of a situation where you might be writing a book, but you might not feel that confident about your authority and credibility. And indeed, one of the reasons for writing the book might be to build your authority and credibility. Is that okay though, to kind of start from scratch, as it were?
Paul East: [00:11:55] Absolutely, but I think if you’re going to start from scratch then I think, what you have to understand is that, it’s not going to be very easy to reach readers with your book, if you don’t have any authority or credibility. So, if you come to this project and in initial stages of thinking about marketing and you consider your authority, credibility and visibility, and you don’t think you’ve got any, then you really need to start working on building that up. Because when you come to publish the book, the job of marketing and getting it to the right people is going to be made an awful lot easier if you can reach people directly or indirectly through people you know.
Dave Harries: [00:12:28] And Sue, in your experience, are most people that come to write a business book, I suppose – well, I mean, correct me…this might be a preconception, an incorrect one on my part – but I’m assuming that a lot of people that come to write a business book already have, perhaps, run a business, or they’ve done something and been reasonably successful and that sort of thing. Unlike our previous guest, Bryony, who wrote the book almost…she had a career in marketing, but then she wrote a book right at the start of setting up a new business, but that’s relatively unusual, do you think?
Sue Richardson: [00:12:59] No, I don’t think it is. I think that there’s no doubt about it that, if it’s done right, a book can be that tool that you can use to fast track from where you are to where you want to be. Now, there’s no doubt about it, Bryony, in a sense, what she talked about, I thought so eloquently, was clearly she had the expertise; she had the knowledge; she had the expertise; she had brilliant ideas about what she wanted to do with that in order to grow the business. What she did with the book was she boosted the visibility of that brand that she created, massively. And if you also listen to what she said, and I think this is key, it’s an approach as well, is that everybody will be different, depending on where you are. One of the ways that you can massively enhance and boost the growth of your authority and credibility, is to get that book to reach the right readers, in whatever way you need to do. So, for some people that might mean giving a thousand books away. And I know that Bryony gave a lot of books away, and actually still uses the free gift of the digital book as a marketing tool to bring people in and engage with them. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach here. If you are in a place where you need to go from A to B, and A is quite small, and nobody knows you at all, but you’ve got all the tools, all that knowledge, all the stuff in the box, if you like, then there’s the whole thing is, where do you go with what you’ve got there? How do you create a plan that fits with that? And Paul works with every individual that I’ve seen him work with, in a different way. Because where they are in that point A will be different. If you have already got massive authority and credibility and a big network, it will look different. What is your specific plan for world domination or for whatever it is? What’s your B? And how do we take you there? Or how do you take yourself there?
Paul East: [00:15:15] But the point is really, is to have a clear understanding of where your credibility and authority and your visibility stand at the beginning of the project, so that you know what you need to do to try and make this work. You know, with Bryony, she was very clear about how the book was going to fit into her business and the point she wrote it, she was very clear about how the book would work within her business. She had an understanding of her credibility and her authority. And I think if you go into the whole marketing process without having considered that, you’re going to have a really big job on your hands, just as the book publishes probably, when you can really do without it, to start building up, to suddenly have to start building up that credibility and authority side.
Dave Harries: [00:15:54] And I should say, we keep referring to this interview we did recently with Bryony Thomas, if you want to hear that, that is an episode of these podcasts that is available in the same place, so it will be labelled with Bryony’s name. So, I urge you to go and listen to that, if you haven’t already, in case you just jumped in on this episode. Which is fine!
Paul East: [00:16:10] Sorry, Dave, just one other point on that. I mean I think the point about around the kind of credibility and authority thing, really, is that you…by the time your book publishes, you need to make sure you’re findable; you need to be involved in the community; you need to make sure you’re involved in that community that you’re trying to sell to, by the time your book comes out. And I think, we’ve spoken about how the book can help you to grow that. And it can, exponentially, help you to grow that, but it has to exist in the first place. At some level you need the tinder.
Dave Harries: [00:16:40] You can’t just parachute in and hope for the best.
Paul East: [00:16:43] Exactly. And that takes planning and it takes time, and I think you know if your point A is actually quite small, you might just want to build a bit more time into your schedule to be working towards something a bit more.
Dave Harries: [00:16:54] Okay, so that’s authority and credibility, and you just touched, as well you mentioned the word, visibility as well, there, which is the third point in the three things you need to get right, right from the start. So, how does visibility differ and how important is that?
Paul East: [00:17:08] Yeah, I did just kind of touch on the visibility thing. You know, authors that have visibility online, socially, on social media networks, within the business that they work; so, their connections to their peers, to groups, forums, other networking, LinkedIn, and all of that kind of stuff; their visibility within those and how active they are and how easily known they are and how easily people will recognise the name and will say: Yeah, I know that name, that person is the person that does X. And does it really well. You know, having that visibility and being active there, pays dividends when it comes to publishing a book. Because you need people to be able to immediately recognise the name and say: yeah, I know that person that person does this really well. The book’s going to be great. It’s going to help.
Dave Harries: [00:18:01] You also talk about the importance of your network and platform. I know these things are very sort of interrelated.
Paul East: [00:18:07] They are quite connected.
Dave Harries: [00:18:08] By network, are we talking about LinkedIn, and things like that, or is it a more, I was going to say more real network? But you know what I mean, actual going out and meeting people and that sort of thing. I’m going to ask Sue’s opinion on this in a sec, but what do you feel about that?
Paul East: [00:18:26] Well, I mean there’s the network and the platform a kind of slightly different. I mean your platform really is your sphere of influence. So, it’s the level to which you can get your book out there relatively quickly and simply and straightforwardly to a group of people that you’re already connected to. The network really is the kind of people, individuals within that. Business book publishers and book marketers and business book authors talk about network and platform as being the key thing. I think it absolutely is, you know, one of the most important parts of the marketing jigsaw that you have to get right.
Dave Harries: [00:19:00] And Sue, presumably, if you can leverage your network, you know, you’re going to get…the best sort of marketing would be people saying: oh, have you read this book by so-and-so. You know, I really recommend it. I mean that, presumably is important?
Sue Richardson: [00:19:14] Absolutely. And you know, we encourage our authors to talk about their book right from the moment that they’ve committed to writing and publishing it. You hear incredible stories about the things that people achieve simply because they’re writing, long before they’ve even published the book. And that’s just about telling everybody that they meet that that’s what they’re doing, whether that’s in a traditional networking meeting or in any shape or on social media or however you do it. We have an author, Della Hudson, who sold her accountancy practice last year and she’s just completed her first book, which will be published in September with us. Della has had tremendous success already in the building of her new consultancy business and speaking business, because she’s been talking about the book endlessly. So much so, that she managed to get an incredibly high-profile person to write the foreword for her book, somebody absolutely bang in her niche, that was really impressive. And she’s got speaking gigs out of it. She’s not even published till September. So, using it, you know just, well, however big your network is whatever your purpose, it’s about just talking about it to everybody that you meet. And there’s another thing here, I think, about this which is people do find it impressive. Not everybody has got a book in them. I know we say everybody’s got a book in them. Well, maybe they have, but is it ever going to come out. Probably not. You know, there’s a very small percentage of people who were actually going to do this, and people are impressed. People do find it impressive. It says that you probably know a lot about your field and it says something about you, that you’re willing to put things on the line, that, you know it’s a gift, if you like, to the world, that you have this book. And people like that. So, go tell the world. And grow your network at the same time.
Paul East: [00:21:10] It’s really important to make sure you’ve got the right network and the right platform. Clearly if you’re writing a book about looking after dogs or dog care, or something like that, and you’ve got a platform or network that’s made up entirely of cat lovers, then you’ve got a bit of work to do on trying to make sure that your network and your platform suits your book. Which is why we come back to the point about thinking about these things early on. There’s no point in writing a book about dog care when you’ve got a network of cat lovers; and not realising that your network is entirely cat lovers until the book’s about to come out. You know, you need to know that you’ve got to shift, something’s got to move, at the very beginning of that process. You know, I think the other thing as well is, what Sue brings with The Right Book Company is, a lot of the philosophy that big publishers bring to publishing, and Sue won’t allow an author to publish…well, she be isn’t interested in publishing books aren’t right for their reputation, for their platform. You know, a lot of big publishers take the same approach. They’re very discerning about the books they publish, because they’re investing in them themselves, so that you know, there’s a lot more rejections than there are acceptances. And I think that publishing with Sue, there’s an authority there and you know that your book has been through a process that says yes this is the right book for you and your business and your platform and network.
Dave Harries: [00:22:25] And when we’ve devised our marketing strategy, you know we’ve agreed it with Sue or whomever, who’s helping us publish the book, what about the sort of cost issue and how one…you know, because marketing can cost a lot of money, can’t it? I mean, you can throw money at all sorts of things in marketing, but you might not know which is the most effective, and all those of things. So, how do you approach that, as a professional book marketer, to make sure where money is spent, is spent effectively?
Paul East: [00:22:56] I think, one of the first things, that one of the biggest expectations, that I always have to manage with authors, is the idea that marketing these days is free. And I’m not talking about the costs of someone like me helping you to do it. But marketing costs money, either it would be a capital cost, or a cost in time, there is going to be a cost to you, if you want to market your book. You know, the way that I always look at it is, that can you really afford not to invest some time and money in marketing your book? If you’ve spent time on planning your marketing strategy well early on and throughout the process of writing; you know what you’re doing and where your kind of main touch points are for marketing; and then when you start to drill down into the detail; once the manuscript is handed over and you’ve got more time; it doesn’t have to be an expensive process. If you don’t plan it well and you leave everything to the last minute, so you’re about to publish and you think: I’ve got no marketing plan, what the hell am I going to do here? That’s when it’s going to start costing you money; and quite a lot of money because that’s the only way you’ve got to reach people, at the end of the day.
Dave Harries: [00:23:59] Okay. So again, it’s just thinking ahead; making sure you’ve got all the elements in place. And again, Sue, if I can turn to you. Over the years you’ve been involved in publication a lot of different books, have you found a kind of secret, if you like, is there some marketing fairy dust that you sprinkle on to a new book and you know it’s going to work.
Paul East: [00:24:23] No.
Sue Richardson: [00:24:23] No. Thank you, Paul.
Dave Harries: [00:24:26] I was hoping you were going to say yes.
Sue Richardson: [00:24:26] Yeah. Sadly, I wish we could have some of that fairy dust, don’t you? And actually, it is a strange thing, I know, as a publisher, it’s probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned, is that we work very hard to get people to know about our books; to get our books out there. Sometimes magic happens. We had one author who set up a Facebook group six months before her book was published. And that was all she did. But clearly, what Paul’s saying about the early thinking and all of this, she set up the Facebook group, absolutely drew a massive, like a magnet, lots of people absolutely, for her target audience. And within two days of the publication of that book we’d sold a thousand books. Just like that. And actually, we ran out and, you know we didn’t print that many because we were not expecting this. We printed a thousand, we sold out in two days. We had to go back, print more. We sold out again. Sometimes, it’s almost like the world is waiting for a book and it’s lovely when that happens. But it doesn’t happen all that often, sadly. I don’t mean to be, kind of negative about it because it’s great that it can happen. You know, there are lots of other stories I could tell you about books that have sold extremely well because of some very simple strategic thinking around the marketing of that book. That’s really the main point. And it may not be exactly what everybody wants. It may be that the important thing…we go back to the story about Fiona Hudson-Kelly, we talked about Fiona in a previous podcast, I believe, where she actually gives her book away, but it has taken her book from very small numbers to huge, huge numbers in terms of the value of her business. So again, it’s just about thinking it through, thinking about what’s the right strategy for you and getting the books to the right people, however you can do that.
Dave Harries: [00:26:42] And presumably, Paul, you’ve got to accept sometimes, that these things take time, as well. You can publish a book, day one, you might not be as lucky as the example Sue gave, and you can sell thousands, two thousand on day one. You know, it just takes time, and you have to be patient.
Paul East: [00:26:56] I think you’re right. And you know, there’s an awful lot, with new authors particularly on their first outing with a book, they put a lot of focus on that first kind of two to three months has been the all-important, and if it hasn’t worked then, it’s never going to work and that’s not necessarily true. You know, what we’re trying to do here is to give books roots. We’re trying to give them a long term here. It’s not all about that initial, you know fast, getting to number one at the very beginning. It’s about the long term how it can help your business. A lot of authors that have come through the kind of trade, big publisher process where the emphasis really is on the first three to six months. and if a book doesn’t wash its face in the first three to six months, it is considered a failure. And any marketing promotion or activity that was ever given to you by the publisher, immediately ceases because it’s not worth investing in it anymore. That’s where that kind of idea that everything’s got to work within the first couple of months comes from. And it’s just it’s just not true.
Dave Harries: [00:27:49] And we are living in a society that rather regards instant success as the sort of be all an end all, aren’t we?
Paul East: [00:27:54] Yeah. It’s just about having expectations, you know but being clear about your expectations for the book. There isn’t any fairy dust and there isn’t any easy answer to any of this, but planning and preparation I think, is really key to it.
Dave Harries: [00:28:09] Well, thank you very much, Paul, for joining us. It’s been very enlightening, and I know we’re hoping to get you back for a future episode as well, when we’re going to really look at key book marketing strategies and that sort of thing. So, thanks to Paul East for joining us, because that’s all we’ve got time for this week. And thanks also to my expert co-presenter, Sue Richardson. You can get lots more help and advice on writing and publishing your book by joining our Facebook group, The Right Book Project, where you can also leave a comment, ask Sue your questions, or give us your ideas for future shows. Or why not visit our website at therightbookcompany.com, to sign up for one of Sue’s popular webinars or read her blog. We’ll be back in two weeks’ time with our next episode, so please join us then. And in the meantime, keep writing.