Tuesday, May 6, 2014

CHRIS KNOPF HAS ADVICE FOR WRITERS SEEKING MORE SALES AS THE COCKEYED PESSIMIST OPENS ITS BLOG TO OUR PARTNER.

When asked the difference between sales and marketing, I usually say that sales are something you do face to face, like the Fuller Brush man showing up at a person’s door and showing his wares.  Or a stock broker passing along a tip, leading to a million dollar investment. No matter the scale, the exchange is intimate and personal.  Marketing is what you do when the number of people you need to reach is too large to afford a one-on-one engagement.  So you have to call upon intermediaries to convey your selling story, and many times, complete the sale.  Though not always.  Often, the sale occurs at another place and time. So how do you know if your efforts through intermediaries are actually responsible for the ultimate sale?  Short answer to a big question:  You don’t.

In theory, then, the more you can have your marketing resemble the intimacy, and presumably the effectiveness, of a one-on-one sale, the better.  Right?  Not necessarily.

If that were true, we wouldn’t have advertising and publicity, all marketing would be delivered through what we call “direct”, such as direct mail and infomercials. But it turns out that most people don’t actually like to be sold directly.  They’d rather come to their buying decisions without the pressure and confrontation inherent in a direct sales pitch, and by extension, a direct marketing appeal.  They don’t call it junk mail for nothing.

So what we’re stuck with, if we want to sell a product or service, is to find a mixture of direct selling and indirect marketing (also known as branding) that exploits the advantages of both in a balanced and mutually reinforcing way. 

This is why the advent of digital communications has the world of sales and marketing in a tizzy. For the first time in history, it’s possible to combine the transactional power of direct sales/marketing with the indirect benefits of agreeable engagement (in other words branding) in a single medium.    

Meet Amazon. They sell everything these days, but they got their start selling books, and now they’re really, really good at it. 

Whether or not physical book stores will ever disappear (I don’t think they will, but that’s another essay) or Amazon perpetuates its hegemony, digital marketing is where the action is.  So, while authors may decry the fact that promoting their books now largely falls on their shoulders (even major best sellers – ask them how many miles they log a year and how many talks they give), we’ve never had more ways to manage the task, giving us at least a fighting chance when competing with the rich, powerful and established. 

You can find lots of advice on how to do this online and in physical books, but let me offer here a broader perspective.  When one of our own, William Gibson, popularized the term “cyberspace” in the 1980s, I wonder if he knew how accurately he was predicting the future.  When you go online, whether it’s on a desktop or laptop computer, or mobile device, you are entering a world that is different from the one we live in offline in one crucial way.  Everything in cyberspace is connected.  Intimately, immediately, accessibly and permanently.

So when authors ask me if it’s worth writing a blog I say, Yes.  Send out emails?  Yes.  Start an online newsletter?  Yes.  Get on review sites?  Yes.  Reviewer blogs?  Yes.  Launch a website, get on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, join online discussion groups, get reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Library Thing, the answer is yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

Is it possible to do all these things, well, and write books and hold down your day job?  No.  Nonetheless, the more online things you can do the better, because of another concept in our business known as “integrated marketing”.  It’s a bit of a misnomer, but the idea is that a message is amplified considerably by appearing in different media channels.  So, if people see the Geico gecko on a billboard, on TV, in a print ad or a rich media banner ad, the ultimate impact is greater than the sum of the individual messages.  Likewise, if you’re in a blog, write a blog, get reviewed by your local paper, score a reading at a regional writers conference (that puts out an online newsletter), rack up reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, optimize your website with keywords connected to your book’s theme, etc., the sum total is greater than appearing in any individual outlet could possibly achieve.

Because in cyberspace, everything is connected.  And the connectors are these clever little things that roam the Internet like voracious bacterium called Google Bots.  They feed on semantic relationships and your job is to make a feast out of you as a writer and the books you write.   

More to come.  

Chris      chrisknopf@mintz-hoke.com

P.S. For the latest Permanent Press updates check out our
May 2014 Newsletter

3 comments:

  1. I shall look forward to more, and meanwhile hope those bots don't eat me while eating my time.

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  2. Only connect. Got it! Good piece, well put together, and one that doesn't leave the writer sitting in his chair with his head in his hands.

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  3. Dear Marty,

    I have admired you and Permanent Press for many years so I guess I'd like to believe that your piece, Who's Afraid of Amazon.com, was written tongue in cheek since it is unfathomable to me that you meant it as an honest statement of how you feel about the threat of Amazon.com. Did you feel the same way when Amazon took down IPG's ebooks? http://business.time.com/2012/02/24/amazon-pulls-5000-books-from-kindle-store/. I would contend that if other small publishers like me failed to speak up it is simply out of fear of retribution. And the failure of other large publishers to speak up is unquestionably out of fear of the DOJ claiming they are colluding to fix prices. http://www.thenation.com/article/168125/amazon-effect

    Do I think that Amazon has done much to improve book selling and distribution? Certainly. Do I think that Amazon has dramatically improved efficiency in our industry? Beyond any doubt. But your diatribe only speaks to how much better Permanent Press has done in certain areas of sales due to these increased efficiencies - not to the real and present threat of Amazon.com's actions against the reading public. How can you honestly not feel endangered by a company that is responsible for approximately a third of all book sales in the US and heading towards half http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/17/140217fa_fact_packer ? Can you honestly ignore censorship under any guise? http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/amazon-escalates-its-battle-against-hachette/

    Do you not see that once Hachette is subdued then the other big four are picked off next, one-at-a-time? And after that Sourcebooks, Poisoned Pen Press, Permanent Press, and every other independent publisher. Screw Hachette. I am not a fan of Hachette or of big publishing in any way. James Patterson is not an author Poisoned Pen Press would publish even if given the rights gratis, but I firmly believe that his books should be available for purchase everywhere books can be bought. And to hold his readers hostage as a byproduct of a disagreement between billionaire corporations is despicable. I think the big five have done enormous damage to literacy and to bookselling over the last 20 years. They did everything they could to kill off independent booksellers with their actions favoring B&N and Borders. They then let the big box stores kill off Borders and cripple B&N. And now they find themselves held by their short hairs by Bezos and Company.

    Ultimately I believe the only answer will be, like AT&T, to break up Amazon.com. I would argue that democracy is founded upon capitalism, and that capitalism cannot survive monopoly. In my opinion Amazon.com has become a defacto monopoly - at least with respect to bookselling - even if it is not in actuality. But if most small publishers are, as you postulate unafraid of Amazon.com, then I fear I've lost my senses. And I fear for my business.

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