Microsoft’s Windows trumped Apple’s OS, not because the former was a better product that the latter, but because Microsoft’s Windows was better marketed than was Apple’s OS. “IBM didn't realize there might be any money to be made from microcomputers in 1980, then couldn't figure out how to market OS-2 in the 1990's, while Apple insisted on keeping their hardware locked up so no other companies could build plug-in functionality boards.” 1
Book sales follow an analogous pattern. Cogitate that Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch, and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, all were, initially, promoted as “pulp” before finding their places among mainstream offerings. 2 Correspondingly, impressive works of literature, which eventually became attractive to wide audiences, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, were, at the outset, unpopular.3 Place the fates of Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, Henry Green’s Blindness, e.e. cummings’ The Enormous Room, and Aldous Huxley’s Crome [sic] Yellow4 side by side with the aforementioned happenstances. Critics can esteem works as superlative, even peerless. Nonetheless, audiences do not similarly value them.
The reliability of predictions about books’ relative economic conquests is no less codswallop than is the “verity” of magic. Even so, everyone, hence no one, is “expert” at selling them. A quick Internet search, using the phrase “book marketing,” and applied to a single platform, i.e. to YouTube, yielded over three million distinct videos about book peddling! Thereafter, a general search, unrestricted to that single platform, yielded more than three hundred and seventy-seven million distinct URLs on the topic!
It’s of small wonder that, as with the writing process, and as with the pitching process, when it comes to the marketing process, authors do best to accrue intimate knowledge of their mercantile dealings. Expressly, authors need knowledge of their books’ targets, content, vehicles, and social relevance, and their books’ relationship to the authors’ broader personal and professional purposes.5 Albeit, becoming familiar with those data won’t guarantee pecuniary success, it can help.
More specifically, wordies need to expend energies to understand their intended audiences before they despair of unrequited market shares. Namely, there are as many ways of gaining an audience as there are varieties of audiences to gain. Some readers are intrigued by giveaways on sites like FaceBook or Goodread. Other readers feel happiest when waiting for the titles that they seek to be marked down on Barnes & Noble or to become Amazon perma-free books. Alternatively, some readers, who pursue no bargains, merely need to preorder books before they launch. Yet other readers, ones who buy books after publication dates, frequently buy anything and everything written by their preferred authors.
What’s more, identifying selling guidelines for distinctive segments means possessing knowledge of those envisioned recipients’ preferred genres and geographies. Chew over the reality that readers vary by demographics and psychographics, and that money-making arenas other than North America exist. The first claim is self-explanatory. Per the second, it’s the case that significant numbers of English-speaking readers reside in India, in Brazil, and in South Korea. “[C]onsidering that almost 30 percent of India's population can speak English [i]t is, therefore, no surprise that India is right behind USA and Britain as the biggest book market for English-language books.”6
Outside of reader particulars, content, too, matters for book sales. There happen to be legions of readers who prefer one type of plot to another, or who favor one type of character to another. Vending to those audiences is different than selling to anonymous addressees. In addition, most often, target marketing is more fruitful than is broad advertising. “The beauty of target marketing is that by aiming your marketing efforts at certain groups of consumers it makes the promotion, pricing, and distribution of your products and/or services easier and more cost-effective.”7Accordingly, writers sometimes calculatedly shape their settings and others of their books’ literary elements to suit their proposed readers.
Authors are furthermore well-counseled to weigh which, among the many vehicles available, they might use to attract audiences. Whereas it’s ideal to begin marketing in tandem with completing books, there’s also much in the realm of sales that needs responsiveness after release dates. Currently, almost all writers: maintain a website, give lectures on their books’ topics, and establish a social media presence. For details on these processes, refer to some of the above-mentioned three hundred and seventy-seven million distinct URLs.
Not only is it vital for authors to understand their products’ potential audiences, content, and engines, it’s also savvy for them to grasp their books’ social relevance. It’s possible to move many units of literary commodities, both initially, and during the time that titles remain in print, if authors can recognize how their works reflects larger goings-on. “The process of finding meaning in the books we read, or making meaning from them, is one that goes far beyond any commercial transaction.”8
Whether theses discovered associations between books and circumstances concern one time occasions, such as the election of particular political leaders, or are perennial calendar events, to give “book[s] the best possible publication, [writers] need to consider any possible special tie-in date.”9 For instance, works about Donald Trump became popular before, during, and following the USA’s 2016 presidential election. Comparably, child development titles traditionally get touted for Mother’s Day, and books about the history or environs of Israel get hawked for Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.
Finally, when publicizing books, it’s a boon for writers to be aware of their immediate as well as their overarching professional plans. Writers’ ambitions customarily consist of: the number of copies sold, improved visibility, profits, and increased status among peers. In view of the fact that personal goals diverge, the heuristics used to measure publishing results, too, necessarily must have reach. More exactly, some writers are overjoyed to achieve critical acclaim with limited royalties, where others count on proceeds from literary junk. Yet others want their books to achieve a palpable intertextuality with their earlier works while viewing fame and fortune as lesser needs.
After their books are published, writers must make great and numerous efforts to ensure that their books get sold. Among those labors, writers ought to endeavor to be familiar with their audiences, their products, their markets’ available vehicles, their books social relevance, and their personal reasons for writing.
Regardless of whether their books become sleepers, dark horses, clear hits, or failed releases, when plugging their wares, authors need to take the steps. There’s still no high-speed elevator to book sales.
1. Len Gould. “How did Windows become dominant in the workplace?” [sic]. Quora. 10 Apr. 2014. https://www.quora.com/How-did-Windows-become-dominant-in-the-workplace. Retrieved 22 Jan. 2018.
2. Jake Flanagin. “10 Great Novels That were Originally Published as Pulp” Dec. 05, 2013. The Airship. http://airshipdaily.com/blog/12052013-novels-published-as-pulp.
3. Maddie Crum. “12 Classic Books that Got Horrible Reviews When They First Came Out.” The Huffington Post. 23 Jan. 2015. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/bad-reviews-classics_n_6527638.html. Retrieved 22 Jan. 2018.
4. “20 Classic Novels You’ve Never Heard of.” Qwiklit.com. 29 Apr. 2013. https://qwiklit.com/2013/04/29/20-classic-novels-youve-never-heard-of/Retrieved 22 Jan. 2018.
5. Lloyd Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. 1.1 (January 1968).
6. Joanna Penn. “How to Find the Right International Markets for Your Book.” The Creative Penn. 23 Jan. 2014. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/01/23/international-markets/. Retrieved 23 Jan. 2018.
7. Susan Ward. “Target Marketing Can Be the Key to Increasing Sales.” The Balance. 17 Jul. 2017. https://www.thebalance.com/target-marketing-2948355. Retrieved 23 Jan. 2018.
8. Daniel Wehner. “Publishing should be more about culture than book sales.” [sic]. The Conversation.com. 7 Feb. 2016. http://theconversation.com/publishing-should-be-more-about-culture-than-book-sales-54173. Retrieved 23 Jan. 2018.
9. Alan Rinzler. “Timing your book’s launch date for maximum impact.” [sic]. The Blog for Writers: The Book Deal. 1 Nov. 2012. https://alanrinzler.com/2012/11/timing-your-books-launch-date-for-maximum-impact/. Retrieved 23 Jan. 2018.