Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Joanna Penn, How to Market a BookJoanna Penn. 2017. How to Market a Book. Bath, UK: Curl Up Press.[1]

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the banes of postmodern life is that successful professionals must communicate effectively across multiple media. Communication is more important than ever because technology has made all of us more productive. If one 2017 professional can now do the work of a dozen 1960 professionals, then that professional effectively functions as a team, including the team manager. Production, marketing, and sales all need to be done by that one professional. As an economist, I faced this challenge; it has only gotten worse now that I am an author and publisher.

Introduction

Joanna Penn in her new book, How to Market a Book, advises authors on trends in marketing and sales of self-published books. She sees five non-negotiable activities for all book marketing:

  1. Make sure that your book is the best it can be…
  2. Identify your comparison books and authors.
  3. Optimize your book sales page…
  4. …use paid promotions to send readers to your book page.
  5. …set up a professional looking website and an email list sign up. (281-282)

In my experience, each of these activities can keep you busy. During the past year, for example, I spent more than six months working with different webmasters to upgrade my three websites (T2Pneuma.net, T2Pneuma.com, and StephenWHiemstra.net), which is Penn’s item 5. Meanwhile, I spent an equal amount of time moving my titles from exclusively with one printer to be jointly with another printer, Penn item 1. These two activities ostensibly prepared me to be more effective in my promotions, Penn item 4.

Who is Joanna Penn?

Penn is an interesting writer for self-publishers to pay attention to because she is one of the few authors who has succeeded in quitting her day job and living off the proceeds of her writing. Less than five percent (one in twenty) of independent authors sell a thousand books (I have sold about six hundred) which implies that even fewer authors have broken even on their book sales. Most independent authors are supported by a dhealthy or by a spouse. By her own accounts, Penn started seriously writing in 2006 and quit her job in 2011, five years later (7-9). This track record makes Penn a credible source of recommendations for how to succeed in self-publishing.

A Healthy Mindset

Part of Penn’s success arises because of a heathy mindset. She writes: “marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it.” (13) This mindset is a form of “attraction marketing” which means that you find out what people want and offer it to them.

Why is this important? Two reasons stand out.

Attraction Marketing

First, when I studied marketing in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was taught “push marketing”. Push marketing means that the firm bought advertising and pushed it out to the reading, listening, and viewing public. Attraction marketing is new and many people have not yet caught on to it. Penn has done her homework which is an important reason for her success.

The Mindset Advantage

Second, Penn mindset comes as a relief for those of us who doubt our own credibility as authors. It is one thing to write a book; it is another to believe that anyone other than your mother would want to read it. This fear of being an unworthy author is pervasive and it prevents many authors from succeeding in their marketing. Penn mindset shows that she believes in herself and does not get in a muddle in reaching out to others who will appreciate her writing.

The Book Launch Thing

Another gem arises when Penn writes that “marketing is more than a book launch” (20). While I have learned to sell books in person and online, my failure to have a great book launch has always bothered me. Penn offers an important piece of background information on this point.

 Traditional Publishers Focus on the Launch

Traditional publishers, who work with retailers to stock and toss books all the time, focus on the book launch because they have limited time and resources to devote to each book. The launch is coordinated with a media campaign and a month later they are on to another book.

For small publishers who have no retail connections, no publicity team, and no media budget cannot easily host a successful launch following this model and probably should not try. Book marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint for the small publisher because resources are tight, relationships need to be built, and learning is an ongoing necessity.

Assessment

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book is a useful, readable, and timely book for authors who publish. I found her comments on podcasting and publishing audio books particularly insightful. Perhaps you will too.

[1] http://CurlUpPress.com. www.TheCreativePenn.com. https:/JFPenn.com. @TheCreativePenn.

Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Also see:

Penn Whispers to Professional Speakers 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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MacGregor Aids Authors; Simplifies Social Media

Writer_01072014Chip MacGregor (a.k.a. Amanda Luedeke). 2013.  The Extroverted Writer:  An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

People are funny.  Back during the cold war, the wife of a Russian friend of mine kept calling to ask him to come home.  Vladimir, she would say, I cannot take care of the kids and do the shopping too!  When she came to visit, the complaints continued.  That is, until she visited a local department store.  At that point she was lost in choices.  She asked:  how do you Americans ever know what to buy?

As a first-time author, I feel a bit like Vladimir’s wife amid all the publishing alternatives.  At least 4 intimidating questions arise:

  1. Which stylebook should I follow?
  2. Do I promote my writing with a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media?
  3. Do I self-publish, hire an agent, or look for an established publisher?
  4. Do I publish in paperback, hardcover, or eBook?

Worse, the questions are not interdependent of one another.  In the middle of all this uncertainty, Chip MacGregor’s book, The Extroverted Writer, offers welcome guidance.

MacGregor starts by observing that agents and publishers advise wannabe writers to establish a platform, but offer no guidance on what a platform is or how to get one.  He defines a platform as the number of people who follow you online, attend your speaking engagements or are otherwise know about your work.  For nonfiction writers, he talks about tens to hundreds of thousands of followers; for fiction writers maybe half that many (12-14).  Obviously, establishing a viable platform takes time and effort.  MacGregor’s objective in writing is to offer ideas, rules, and advice to help you establish this platform and at least 10 action items to work on (1-3).

The Extroverted Writer is organized into 8 chapters.  These chapters are preceded by a forward and followed by an Afterword and Acknowledgments.  The chapter titles are informative:
  1. Know your audience,
  2. Know your goals,
  3. How to use this book,
  4. Websites,
  5. Blogs,
  6. Twitter,
  7. Facebook, and
  8. Miscellaneous Social Media Sites.

Obviously, for MacGregor a platform consists of a theme, an audience, and a social media presence.  Interestingly, this book does not cite a publisher, but is listed on Amazon.com as published by CreateSpace which implies that this book is self-published.

MacGregor starts his social media advice by focusing on the need for writers to have a website (17).  A website signals 3 things to agents and publishers:

  1. You are serious about your career,
  2. You are not afraid to use the web to promote yourself, and
  3. They can check you out without committing to a relationship.

Having established the motivation for a website, MacGregor gives advice on quality points to look for in the website.  These points summarize in making the point that a website has effectively become an online resume—it must have eye appeal, be informative, and point to your blog where you show your skills (23-24) [1].

Chip MacGregor’s The Extroverted Writer is a useful author guide and a fun book to read.  Missing perhaps is a reflection on the role of branding–being known for your expertise, not just your following.  For example, why do many boutique publishers have fewer followers than authors with a platform under MacGregor’s guidelines?  Still, MacGregor clearly met his objective in writing.  In each of his social media chapters, I found actionable tips on what to do—easily meeting his goal of leaving me with 10 tips.  Personally, I found his advice on using professional pages in Facebook and on organizing a book giveaway particularly helpful. I am sure you will too.

________________________

1/ In the corporate world, content production and marketing likewise needs to carefully planned (bit.ly/1igPRHp).

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Hyatt’s Platform Stands Solid; Gets Noticed

PlatformMichael Hyatt. 2012.  Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

My introduction this fall to social media evokes memories of my experience with survival camping as a Boy Scout. Survival camping tested your skill with the equipment, with problematic colleagues, and with hiking through rugged terrain. Social media likewise tests your knowledge of technologies, ability to communicate, and dealing with numerous uncertainties. In preparing for survival camping, I studied the Scout Fieldbook [1]. In preparing in social media, Michael Hyatt’s Platform is a great help.

Introduction

Hyatt is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, celebrity author and speaker, and professional blogger. His professional focus is on leadership, productivity, social media, and publishing—all issues of personal interest. Hyatt came to my attention online when I observed him promoting John Maxwell’s Sometimes You Win; Sometimes You Learn among bloggers (New York:  Center Street, 2013) [2]; at that point I knew that he was also a marketing professional. My curiosity about Hyatt led me to purchase Platform.

Hyatt’s basic thesis is that: “A good product does not stand on its own anymore. It is foundational, but it is not enough” (xvii). He defines a platform as: ”the thing you have to stand on to get heard” (xvi). A platform provides visibility, amplification, and connection (xviii). He writes: “This book is all about attracting [an] audience, turning on the brightest lights you can find, and building passionate loyalty so your audience stays with you through every line, every scene, every act” (xv).

Organization

Platform is divided into 5 parts: 1. start with wow, 2. prepare to launch, 3. build your home base, 4. Expand your reach, and 4. Engage your tribe. Before these parts is an introduction which declares that “All the world is a stage” (William Shakespeare; xv). After these parts are some helpful items: complying with FTC guidelines, post ideas for novelists, a list of online resources, notes, acknowledgments, a writer’s bio, an index, and contact information. Hyatt’s scope is comprehensive; his details are thoroughly researched.

In chapter 35 which focuses on generating more blog traffic, for example, Hyatt talks about how he was able to increase his traffic (measured by unique visitors) by 81.3 percent in a single month. After changing to a professional blog theme, he blogged more frequently; we wrote shorter sentences, paragraphs, and posts; he started optimizing his posts for search engines; and he became more engaged in comments (134). He then offers ten additional recommendations on increasing traffic, a focus most bloggers identify with.

Focus on Followers

What is interesting is that in chapter 36 he then argues that increasing traffic is the wrong focus. Focus instead, he says, on increasing the number of people who follow and promote your blog. Keep your best customers happy and they will keep you happy (137). Hyatt’s list of 7 strategies to grow your list of followers then makes it clear that he sweats the details. My favorite is suggestion 4: offer an incentive for subscribing. Hyatt’s incentive here is to offer a free copy of one of his e-books.

Assessment

Hyatt’s Platform is a helpful book and a good read.  Authors, speakers, and other professionals in the public eye will want to take a look because the rules for success in professional life are evolving so rapidly. While many professionals will not be stepping up to a national platform like Hyatt, his advice should scale well to the local platform where most of us live. In my case, I have already given my blog a makeover and have developed a long to do list based on his advice.  I suspect you will too.

[1] Boy Scouts of America. 1967.  Fieldbook for Boys and Men.  New Brunswick.

[2] In the interest of full disclosure, I received a free copy of Maxwell’s book in exchange for an online mention.   I read the book and found it worthy of a review (http://bit.ly/1ktRxPI).

Hyatt’s Platform Stands Solid; Gets Noticed

Also see:

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/Holy_Week_2018

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