The WANA Theory of Book Economics–Why Traditional Marketing Doesn't Sell Books
Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you rock it hard when it comes to social media and building an author platform. Last week I talked about the dreaded Spam Toad. I know sometimes it seems I am being critical in my blogs. I want any writer who has made these mistakes to appreciate one thing…I made them too! Don’t feel badly. It’s an honest mistake.
There are a lot of marketing experts who are benevolently offering flawed advice. They don’t mean to. Most of these experts (at least the ones I have met) have a genuine desire to help and serve others. They see writers who need to market so they offer what they believe is a good plan. And, it very may well be a good plan…just not for books.
The problem is that most marketing experts have a disconnect. Since most of them are not writers to begin with and haven’t worked in the publishing industry, they often fail to appreciate that not only are writers unique, but our product is too. What works for Starbuck’s and Levis and Joe’s Car Wash will not work for authors and books. Why?
First, the CEO of Honda is not personally responsible for building every car. An author, however, is solely responsible for producing the product. Not just a product, but an EXCELLENT product and in a timely fashion. Writers cannot be on a half a zillion sites, doing blog tours and pod casts and on and on…and still have time to write good books.
Yet, even if we could change the fabric of space-time and add more hours to the day, it wouldn’t matter how many social platforms we blitzed with marketing. Why? Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has and never will. Don’t ask my opinion, mega-agent Donald Maass (and anyone working in publishing) will tell you that there are only TWO things that sell books…good book and word of mouth. Period.
I remember years ago hearing that traditional marketing didn’t work for selling books. I didn’t want to believe them and I did a lot of running my head into a wall. Finally, I realized they were right, so I wanted to understand what made this particular product (books) so different from pizza, televisions and Frappuccinos. After a lot of study, a few cases of Red Bull and a massive brain cramp, I came up with my own theory—The WANA Theory of Book Economics—WANATBE (get it? Wanna to be? I crack myself up).
The WANATBE is going to super-duper simplify Marketing 101 so you guys can plainly see why blitzing and advertising about your books non-stop is a bad plan that will do little to drive sales. Yes, traditional marketing will drive some sales, but won’t offer the life-changing numbers all of us want. WANATBE is very simplified, but I tend to believe in Occam’s Razor—the simplest explanation is usually correct. Time to explore why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books.
Commodities are often divided into two types of commodities:
Low Consideration Purchases
High Consideration Purchases
Low consideration purchases are of low social influence. If I drop three bucks to buy a tube of toothpaste and hate it, it is not big deal to toss it in the trash and buy a different kind….unless you are my mother.
Most of us aren’t paying attention to friend recommendations for toothpaste and I would guarantee we aren’t surfing the web looking for blogs and articles about the latest developments in fluoride so we can finally settle the Crest versus Aquafresh debate. We won’t need support and approval from peers that we made a good choice in toothpaste.
And if you do? That’s, uh kinda weird.
High consideration purchases on the other hand, are like cars, vacations, 3-D televisions, and jet skis. These are products where peer opinion weighs heavily upon the decision. If I am about to drop 30 grand on a bass boat, you better believe I have lost my mind I am going to check out consumer reports and on-line resources to get opinions from others.
High-consideration purchases are almost always emotionally driven.
Corvette. Enough said.
But what about books? Some books cost even less than a tube of toothpaste and none cost nearly as much as a flat screen TV. Are books high-consideration or low-consideration?
First, I want all of you to forget the mythos of the Book-A-Week Reader. To the person who devours books like candy, books are a low-consideration purchase. The problem, however, is that this type of reader makes up a VERY small fraction of the overall literate population in need of entertaining or informing.
You want to know how Stephenie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown became such mega-huge successes? They mobilized the fat part of the bell curve made up of people who normally would not define themselves as readers. There are people out there who have never read any other books, but who own every last hard cover of Harry Potter. These books ignited word of mouth so powerful, that they were able to mobilize the largest segment of the population that is traditionally the toughest to move.
These authors’ books became so popular that they transformed into a social definition. I would have never picked up The DaVinci Code or Twilight on my own. But, finally so many of my peers had read the book that I felt like an outsider. To fit in with my peers, I had to read the book.
The fat part of the bell curve—people who believe they do not enjoy reading—is like a huge boulder sitting on the edge of a cliff. It takes a lot of energy to get moving, but once it does? There is no stopping it. And this is how legends are made.
Yet, too many writers are focusing all of their efforts looking for the ever-elusive avid reader. Why? Who cares if someone only reads one book a year if it is your book?
How much advertising is happening in bookstores, on book blogs, book review sites, and author web sites…the very places we will probably NEVER find regular people in need of entertaining or informing? Writers are all in search of the White Stag (the avid reader) and, in the process, passing up thousands of brown deer. Wait too long on an anomaly and we can starve.
A massive percentage of Americans do not consider themselves to be readers, so to them, books are now a high consideration purchase. If we merely look at price, we can get sucked into this notion that books and toothpaste require the same low-consideration purchase approach. But, when we look closer, we see that books cost something more precious than money…TIME.
So books are tricky. To the avid reader, books are a low-consideration purchase. This is why traditional marketing does not drive the big sales numbers. Traditional marketing (for books) targets a select group of people who already love to read. They don’t have to be talked into giving up their time to read. This person was going to be reading anyway. Traditional marketing does work for this small percentage of the population, because they love books and need help choosing from all the options.
Yet, for the BIG numbers, we have to mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, and that can be a MONUMENTAL task. We have to convince this non-reading group that our book is worth giving 12 hours of undivided attention (average time to read a novel). Unlike music or video, reading is not a passive activity where we just soak up entertainment like a sponge. We can watch a movie while we fold laundry or listen to music while we do dishes. Books are different. They require our full attention.
Thus, our job is to convince this non-reading group to forgo all other fun hobbies for an activity they don’t even believe they enjoy. We have to convince them to turn off Monday Night Football, stop chain-sawing monsters on X-Box, or turn off Dancing with the Stars.
How do we do this? We have to make buying our books an emotional decision driven by peer influence. This is not as tough as it might seem, but we are out of time. We will talk more about this next week. If you must know the answers right away, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.
What are your thoughts? Opinions? I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.
Mash Up of Awesomeness (This week’s is very short. Power has been on and off. Will make up for it next week.)
Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell addresses back story. Awesome post!
The brilliant and talented Jody Hedlund talks about time-management and productivity.
What scares you that you can’t get enough of? by Angela Wallace