|My mother doesn't really look like this.|
The first step in marketing, or in a marketing plan, is to identify your customers and your potential competitors. The more precisely you can define the customers, the easier it will be to reach them and the more efficient your marketing can probably be.
- If you’re writing and publishing a dictionary, your potential market is all of the people in the world who can read the language you are publishing in, or are trying to learn it. The potential audience could be many millions, and your potential competitors may number in the hundreds.
- If your book is about your not-so-famous mother, you probably have no competitors covering the same subject, and your potential audience may be eight people.
- Most books fall somewhere in between. Books intended to help fisherman, amateur mechanics, guitar repairmen and corn growers probably have potential audiences in the tens or even hundreds of thousands — and dozens of competitors.
- If you're writing a novel and you think your audience is "everyone" — can you afford to deliver a promotional message to everyone?
It’s important to understand the difference between “push marketing” and “pull marketing.” Books of fiction and poetry and most memoirs use push marketing. You must “push” your books on readers who really don’t need to read what you wrote. It can take much more time and effort to push a book than to write it.
A non-fiction book about an important subject can be sold with much easier pull marketing. If there is an existing need for the information or advice you are offering, readers will search for it and “pull” the books from the printing presses, warehouses and stores.
In book publishing, your customers are not just the potential readers. You have to court, impress, seduce and convince other potential “partners.” Your partners include booksellers, as well as a wide range of influencers. Traditionally the primary influencers were book reviewers in printed newspapers and magazines. Today many newspapers no longer review books, and magazines are disappearing. In their place is a constantly growing group of online influencers on blogs, websites and social media such as Facebook. You have thousands of potential allies who can recommend your book — or condemn it. This blog both praises and slams books.
Book marketing has a lot in common with the marketing of other products, but it’s also very different.
- Unlike food, books are not consumed and then replaced with identical items throughout the life of a customer.
- Unlike clothing, books are not outgrown and replaced with a larger size.
- Unlike tires or tools, books are not replaced because they’ve worn out.
- Unlike handkerchiefs, people don’t buy a pack of a dozen identical books to save money.
- Unlike cars, you probably won’t sell a book to each adult in the family.
- Unlike cars or videogames, people seldom trade-in older books for the latest model.
- Unlike televisions, people generally don’t return a book after trying it and finding they don’t like it.
- Unlike frying pans or screwdrivers, people don’t buy the same type of book in different sizes.
(top illustration from http://greenlotus.hubpages.com/hub/The-Real-Housewives-of-1955. Thanks.)