Put the Reader First or Risk Losing Them

Write for your audience, and don’t try to impress others with your skill

Put the Reader First or Risk Losing ThemI recently read a nonfiction book. My assessment was that the author wrote to impress more than to educate. Though I did learn from her words, I’d have gained much more had she gotten out of the way and put me, the reader, first. I didn’t care how educated she was or about her sometimes sassy style. I wanted her to teach me.

Regardless if we’re writing a book, article, or blog post, we need to put the reader first. Our words need to serve them, not call attention to ourselves with our clever use of words or the way we weave a phrase. The same applies to sales copy and marketing efforts for our books.

Whatever our promotional activities, we must carefully consider each campaign from the perspective of the prospect. Before we launch our promotion, even before the test marketing, we should take a step back and look at our creation as if we were the prospect.

Consider an email I received. It was set up like an email newsletter. The first item caught my attention. The email only provided a two-line teaser, so I clicked on “more” to read the rest.

That took me to a website (as opposed to the full text, lower in the email). Unfortunately, that page only provided the first four lines of the text, so I couldn’t read further until I clicked on “read full article.” I was six lines into it when the screen grayed out and an ad popped up, covering the entire piece. Then I had to “skip” the commercial so I could close the ad.

As this happened an intriguing video played to the right. My curiosity was piqued, and I wanted to hear the audio, but there was no volume control or “on” button. Incredible!

By then I had lost interest in the article and was peeved by the entire ordeal. I closed the window and opted-out from receiving further messages from the company.

I doubt that was their intent.

What steps can we take to put the reader first? What do we need to do to get out of the way of our message? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

3 Ways to Create Top of Mind Awareness

3 Ways to Create Top of Mind AwarenessMarketing can have one of two goals: make sales or create awareness. Although any marketing effort can do both of these, it will only do one of them well.

This post will discuss ways to create awareness – and when done right, top-of-mind awareness. That is, having our author brand be what a reader first thinks of when he or she considers what book to read next. Awareness, which some would call branding, is built slowly over time. Here are three strategies to consider:

  1. Articles enhance awareness both online and in print but especially in print. Publishers appreciate a well-written article that’s interesting and provides useful information. It will establish the author as a credible source and a knowledgeable resource. It creates awareness.
  2. Blogging is a great way to develop a following and increase awareness in those who read our blog. And as a post is shared more people will be exposed to us and our writing.
  3. Online efforts including guest blogging, commenting on blogs (real comments, not “buy my book”), and interacting on social media. These take time and require effort, but when done wisely they produce great results – and backfire dramatically if done badly. Each is its own art and requires time to develop.

There are other creative tactics that authors can do to increase brand awareness, but these are some of the top ones. Just remember, branding is building for the future. For the most part it’s not going to immediately sell books, but if it does that’s just a pleasant bonus. Book sales requires a different approach.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

5 Benefits of Using Online Advertising to Sell Books

With an online ad, a book sale is one click away

5 Benefits of Using Online Advertising to Sell Books

I once shared columnist Andrew Brenneman’s thoughts on the benefits of print advertising. It is, by the way, a compelling list that includes things we take for granted or overlook. Print advertising is the medium of choice to meet certain marketing objectives.

Notwithstanding that list, he also shares the benefits of online advertising. Consider these when contemplating marketing your book online using paid advertising:

1) Dynamic: It is essentially immediate, and can be updated as needed. Test an ad, tweak it, analyze the results, and then make it even better.

2) Two-way: It facilitates easy interaction and dialogue. Answers and access are a click away when an ad is online.

3) Medium Resolution: Although online’s medium image resolution pales in comparison to print’s hi-rez capabilities, it also works nicely on mobile’s tiny displays.

4) Transaction-Enabled: A sale is but a click away. This allows for the easy tracking of ROI (return on investment). As long as an ad costs less than the profit on the sale of our book, we can run as many ads as we can afford.

5) Personalized: Offers can be tailored to the recipient and targeted to specific demographics.

Online advertising and marketing is getting all the attention and hype these days, in part because of these factors. If these are your goals (seriously, they must be your goals – not what you think your goals should be or what someone else told you), then embrace online book promotions and pursue them diligently. However, when doing this, don’t forget to consider the benefits of non-online advertising.

Book marketing success, as with most things in life, requires balance: online and offline promotions and marketing initiatives.

Have you thought about running online ads for your book? Where have you run book ads? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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12 Tips to Create a Better Book Ad

Designing a great ad is an art that takes practice

In my work as a magazine publisher I see all sorts of print ads, from good to bad, appealing to boring, effective to ineffective. While ad creation is an art, one that requires both practice and talent, it’s also something that can be learned.

12 Tips to Create a Better Book AdThe biggest difference between a good ad and a bad ad is the use of white space. Novices fill every square millimeter of space with stuff: information and images they deem relevant and critical to their message. And if the words don’t all fit, they simply reduce the point size of the font until it does. Then to make key words or certain phrases stand out, they use italics, bold, underline, and uppercase. While none of these are necessarily bad, they need to be used with much restraint.

Seasoned ad creators do the opposite. They know:

  1. White space is your friend.
  2. Graphics or photos are the focal point to grab attention and draw them in. Remember: “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
  3. Embellishing text with bold, underline, italic, and UPPERCASE screams is seldom a good move.
  4. Having less text increases the chance people will actually read it.

With these basics out of the way, here are some tips about the words in the ad:

  1. Put the reader first; give them value. It’s not about you.
  2. Communicate one message.
  3. Write a great headline; make it count.
  4. Use a subhead if it advances your message.
  5. Every word you use must have a purpose.
  6. Make the text readable and flow. Complete sentences, correct punctuation, and even grammar technicalities don’t matter.
  7. Include a compelling call to action at the end.
  8. Carefully proof the ad, and have other people review it.

These are the ads that get people’s attention. They elevate your book and position it as a must read. And if the ad has a compelling call to action, they may even buy your book.

Today’s prospects look at pictures and scan headlines. They don’t actually read something unless you grab their attention first – and then you need to keep it by presenting a short and interesting message.

What tips would you add? What makes you read ads and respond? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Three Reasons to Advertise in a Social Media World

Social media and its wide reach on the Internet has given rise to word-of-mouth book recommendations. Given this trend, some book marketers wonder if there’s still a role for traditional advertising. Here are three reasons why traditional advertising is critical to promote books in a social media world:

Three Reasons to Advertise in a Social Media WorldAdvertising Influences Recommendations: We don’t form opinions in a vacuum. Outside forces influence us. One credible source is advertising. These visual mediums provide a strong, but subconscious influence of how we feel and think. This includes influencing the book recommendations we receive and give. Sometimes we even make recommendations about books we haven’t read but only saw in ads.

Advertising Reinforces Recommendations: Once we hear a recommendation we seldom accept it as indisputable. First we contemplate it. When considering a book recommendation we often reject it if it lacks reinforcement. This is a subconscious act and advertising provides a key reinforcement of the book recommendation as it’s being considered.

Advertising Confirms Recommendations: Once we accept a book recommendation as a viable option, we seek confirmation. Without confirmation, the validity of the recommendation falls into question, and we’ll likely dismiss it. Advertising is a key means of confirming word-of-mouth recommendations.

In each case the role of advertising is subtle, and we can’t measure it. The influence, reinforcement, and confirmation roles book advertising plays in word-of-mouth recommendations is seldom realized by those receiving it, but it is a critical factor. Without it the recommendation will fail to materialize and produce a sale.

Wise book marketers use advertising to influence, reinforce, and confirm word-of-mouth recommendations. The only remaining decision is determining where to advertise.

What is your experience using advertising to promote books? What forms of advertising work best for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

4 Tips to Capitalize on Social Media

It seems many authors are putting all of their book marketing efforts into social media. This is often shortsighted and not cost-effective. Though I’m not dismissing social media, it’s critical to proceed only in a practical, informed, and responsible way – and not just because everyone else is doing it or in reaction to the latest trend.

4 Tips to Capitalize on Social MediaFirst, it’s called social media, not social marketing. The distinction is key. Use social media for social stuff not for marketing. It seems common sense. While social media can feed into book marketing, it is not a marketing machine.

Next, what are your objectives? Facebook fanatics brag about the number of friends they have. Twitter is about of follows and LinkedIn looks at connections. Then there’s Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads – which is a great place for writers. What is your goal for each platform? Is it sheer numbers or significant interaction? Quantity or quality?

Third, we must treat social media like every other consideration, looking at the return on investment (RIO). What is the cost? What is the return? Unless we have unlimited time, whatever we spend on social media detracts from something else. We must invest our time on what offers the best return.

Last, some people claim there is no direct cost for social media, but time spent on social media is time not spent somewhere else. Pursuing social media has an opportunity cost. We shouldn’t ignore this, even though most people do. What we give up for social media could be damaging to our long-term viability as a writer.

Although it may be uncool to not make social media a priority, it may also be the best decision we can make.

What is your favorite social media platform? Is it a time suck or a good use of time? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Seven Marketing Touches Are Required for Success

Marketing experts says it takes an average of seven marketing touches before a consumer buys a product. Advertisers who run a couple of ads and give up are giving up too quickly. As writers with a book (or service) to sell, we need to keep this in mind if we want to maximize our success.

Seven Marketing Touches Are Required for SuccessWhile we can accomplish each of these seven touches via the same promotional channel, we should tap multiple ones for greater effectiveness. What options might we consider?

Start with a press release; it’s not much, but everything helps. Email blasts, assuming we have an email list, are a great way to connect with our readers and potential book buyers. Website ads on destinations our audience frequents offer a third option. Guest blogging is a fourth consideration, followed by social media mentions and ads, especially Facebook and Twitter. There is also direct mail. Another consideration is print ads, providing we find the right publication.

This is seven options for seven touches, but don’t use every option. Pick the ones that feel right. Regardless of which ones we select, we must have our book highlighted on our own website. This is essential; it is key to success.

When it comes to book promotion, keep in mind that just because something is available, doesn’t mean we should use it. Carefully test each option before investing time and money into it. While some options have relatively minor cost, there is still the cost of time – time that we can’t spend doing something else.

What promotional efforts have worked well for you? Have you had any epic fails? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

2012 Advertising Outlook

The January issue of DM News (Direct Marketing News) had some interesting commentary about the advertising outlook for 2012.

They note that overall advertising expenditures are expected to outpace the US economy this year.

They also proclaim that online ads are expected to thrive in 2012, growing 11.2% to lead all forms of advertising. (This stat was shared by Stuart Elliott of The New York Times, citing Vincent Letang, executive VP and director for global forecasting at the MagnaGlobal unit of Mediabrands.)

This is good news. Advertising today paves the road for sales tomorrow. The overall economy will surely follow.

Twelve Facts About Magazines

The following is from the 2010/11 MPA Magazine Handbook:

Magazine audiences are growing – and young adults read heavily: The number of magazine readers has grown more than 4% over the past five years. Ninety-three percent of adults overall and 96% of adults under age 35 read magazines.

  1. Magazine audiences are expanding across platforms: The number of magazine websites and mobile apps is increasing; e-readers are projected to grow rapidly – and consumers want to see magazine content on them.
  2. Magazine advertising gets consumers to act: More than half of all readers (56%) act on magazine ads. Plus, action-taking has increased 10% in the last five years.
  3. Magazines improve advertising ROI: Analysis of client-commissioned cross-media accountability studies found that magazines most consistently generate a favorable cost-per-impact throughout the purchase funnel.
  4. Magazines contribute most throughout the purchase funnel: Magazines are the most consistent performer in the purchase funnel, with particular strength in the key stages of brand favorability and purchase intent
  5. Magazines build buzz: Magazine readers are more likely than users of other media to influence friends and family on products across a variety of categories. Magazines complement the web in reaching social networkers, whom marketers increasingly favor to generate word-of-mouth.
  6. Magazines spur web traffic and search: Magazines lead other media in influencing consumers to start a search for merchandize online, ranking at or near the top by gender as well as across all age groups. Also, magazine ads boost web traffic, and magazine readers are more likely than non-readers to buy online.
  7. Magazines prompt mobile action-taking: Magazine readers are most likely to use a text message to respond to an ad and redeem a mobile coupon versus other media. Plus, magazines rank high in generating other mobile action.
  8. Magazines and magazine ads garner the most attention: When consumers read magazines they are much less likely to engage with other media or to take part in non-media activities compared to the users of TV, radio, or the internet.
  9. Magazine advertising is valuable content: Consumers are more likely to have a positive attitude toward advertising in magazines compared to other media.
  10. Magazines supply credibility: Multiple sources show that consumers trust ads in magazines.
  11. Magazines deliver reach: Across major demographic groups, the top 25 magazines deliver considerably more rating points than the top 25 primetime TV shows.
  12. Magazine audiences accumulate faster than you think: More than three-quarters of readers read their copy within the first three days. The average monthly magazine accumulates approximately 60% of its audience within a month’s time, and the average weekly magazine accumulates nearly 80% of its audience in two weeks.

Avoiding the Trap of ROI-Driven Media Buys

There is a troubling trend in advertising; it is making ad buys based strictly on ROI (return on investment) calculations.

This tendency began in earnest with online advertising, which provides readily available performance data, such as impressions, clicks, and leads. Soon, advertisers were justifying ad buys solely using cost-per-click or cost-per-lead calculations – and forgetting the big picture of effective marketing.

For many forms of advertising, performance metrics are not available, so ROI calculations are non-existent or mere guesses. Lacking firm ROI numbers, some shortsighted advertisers are bypassing viable opportunities, such as print, thinking that they are making a wise and informed decision in doing so.

Most advertising builds brand awareness, but does little to generate immediate sales. So even if a unique phone number, email address, or landing page is included to measure response, it won’t matter. Ads that lack a clear call to action will have no action to measure. Branding ads pave the way to future sales, future goodwill, and future top-of-mind awareness. But that is hard to measure and takes a long time to realize.

Marketers who seek instant gratification may opt to rely on ROI to make decisions. However, those who want to be around for a long time, need to invest in branding efforts today in order to enjoy the rewards of increased sales tomorrow.

The long term success for the marketer, their company, and their brand cannot survive solely on ROI-driven media buys.