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The 3 ‘B’s of Basic Marketing Messaging

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Marketing a book as a self-published author is, at best, difficult. At worst, it’s nearly impossible. To stand out in an ever-cluttered space, you have to have a clear marketing message.

I learned this first hand at a couple of recent book festivals. First, let me tell you how the book festivals are laid out. The floor plan is divided: traditional printing houses, with their shelves of mass market books; independent authors and publishers; printers, copy editors and businesses involved in publishing; and speaking areas. Most attendees are book hungry and walk right up to the traditional publishing houses and buy books by the armful.

After, most attendees will meander through the self-published authors, looking around with arms clasped behind their back as if they were a child in a china shop. If they found something that interested them, they would stop and squint at it trying to determine if they wanted to pick it up. In this moment, they made a split-second decision based on what they saw. Rarely, if ever, did someone take the single step over to the booth and pick up a book. I noticed certain booths had a higher rate of people picking up their books.

What did these booths have in common? Well, they had what I call, the 3 ‘B’s of marketing messaging. Whether it’s a booth at a festival, an ad on a website, a description on Amazon, or a blog post, these four things allow you to have a higher “pick up” rate.

Be Visual

It seems counter-intuitive that people who love words on a page, but you need to have a clean visual. This could be a cover, an ad, or your site. We say, “don’t judge a book by its cover” but despite this warning we do constantly. Some guidelines for visuals:

  • Clean: I regularly check sites like the Awwwards (not a typo) to keep up to date on what’s “in”.
  • Fonts: believe it or not, you want your font to match your message. Don’t believe me? Imagine a resume written in Algerian font. Check out Awwwards for the latest and greatest free styles.
  • Space: if you have to ask, “Is this too much?” it’s way, way too much.
  • Color: don’t choose colors at random. The standard is a palette of five colors that go together. Use a tool like Coolors (also not a typo) to create your own palette. Some sites, like Degraeve, allow you to upload a picture and it will create the palette for you. To show you the power of color choices I created palettes from two books using Degraeve. First is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, then Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire. Note how the colors tell you how to feel about the book:

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Nora Roberts’ Chasing Fire

Be Clear

Tell people what you’re giving them by using words that are familiar. Let’s take your book’s genre for example: if you describe it as “a kind-of-this, partly-that, with tones-of-this,” you’ve lost a potential reader. When crafting a message, you need to be clear as to what they’re getting. Your book is new to a potential reader so throw them a lifeline of things that are familiar. That may mean oversimplifying your genre to “thriller” or “fantasy” or “romance”. But this will pay dividends when more people pick it up.

I don’t want to downplay your book’s distinctness; kind-of-this, partly-that, with tones-of-this is how someone transforms from a casual reader into a rabid fan. But to appeal to a broader market, you have to be clear.

Be Specific

If you’ve been lucky to catch someone’s attention using a good visual for a product that interests them, you need to provide an easy next step. This is called a “call to action.” It’s an invitation of what to do next from you to a potential reader. For example, what would motivate you to buy something: “Available on Amazon or Kobo,” or, “Buy today on Amazon or Kobo.” One is a statement of where to buy it; the other is a statement to buy it. Check here now for a starter list of calls to action.

There is no fool-proof way of grabbing your target market’s attention (short of a klaxon). But by being visual, clear, and specific you can increase your odds.

Go ahead and post some great examples of ads that are visual, clear, and specific in the comments. Then join me again in two weeks when we talk about the business model of self-publishing.

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Andrew Gaudet

Asker of Questions
Andrew has worked in sales and management for more than a decade. His favorite books include Star Wars "Hier to the Empire" trilogy by Timothy Zahn, "Raw Shark Texts" by Stephen Hall, "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey, and "Paris 1919" by Margaret Macmillan. "No plan survives first contact" - paraphrased from Helmuth von Moltke.


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