“Hey girl, when are you gonna pick up your copy of my book,” asked the author turned publisher.
I looked at the note in my inbox like a pup looks at his pet-parent when he wants praise for chewing up a new shoe.
She was kidding me, right? Why the heck would I buy her book when I had my own book for sale and at the same price? Also, I’m an avid reader of Sci-fi/Supernatural/Thrillers, not urban fiction romance. She would’ve known that if she would have bothered to read my Myspace profile page.
“Sure, when you pick up your copy of my book,” I responded.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were my friend Mel from North Carolina. Good luck with your book.” “Thanks, you too,” I offered.
She knew good, and well I wasn’t “Mel from North Carolina.” But I knew she was a writer who suffered from the same affliction most author-publishers suffer from:
“I don’t know my readers.”
Possibly this lack of business planning is reaching epidemic proportions in the Literati because an author is an artist, a creative type who may not have a proclivity for business. Therefore, the last thing on the creative entrepreneur’s mind is pinpointing a group of people who may want their product.
In fact, most entrepreneurs suffer from the same syndrome and fail to acquire enough customers to keep them in business. Does that mean there aren’t enough prospects? Heck no! There are 300 million people here in the United States alone, and that’s plenty of possibilities.
What? Did someone say all those people can’t be considered prospects? By Jove, you got it. No one’s market consists of 300 million people in the US unless she’s selling the air we breathe. So, why do most entrepreneurs think they can sell to anyone in ear or eyeshot of their pitch?
They can only sell to people who are receptive to their product.
There are two ways to find out which prospects will buy your product; knock on a lot of doors and ask to make a sale or figuratively prepare a buffet, set the table and see who shows up hungry. You may not know what your dinner guests need to eat, but you do what they want. In this case, they want to satisfy their hunger. Now that you have the home-field advantage, you can find out your guests’ wants and needs through observation and communication.
In determining who will most likely buy your product (in this scenario, your book), you must first learn:
- What problem does my book solve? (My heroine shows the reader how to mend a broken heart)
- Why does my book solve that problem? (Although my protagonist’s dilemma is universal, her solution is unique)
- Who has this problem? (A jilted lover)
- How does my book help the readers? (My heroine gives the book buying jilted lover an adventure and how to heal)
- Where can they get this help? (My books’ platform should be the ideal destination)
- When can prospects expect relief from their problem? (Once the prospect buys and reads the book.)
If you’re not interested in making a full-blown strategic marketing proposal, at least answer those questions.
- Who are your likely customers?
- Where your customers “live” metaphorically-speaking.
- How to develop a relationship with your prospects so you can get your product in front of them.
- If your book is able to satisfy your prospect’s want. (Nobody needs a book)
- If your customers will buy again and refer your books to a friend.
When you determine who your book helps, it’ll reveal other businesses that are already helping the group. This information will give you an opportunity to form a partnership and go through the back door to sell to their ready-made market. Also, your research will reveal your competition and under the right conditions. Those competitors could become allies.
Finally, once you know who is in your audience, you’ll know how to communicate with them. You’ll know what they want and how you can be of assistance in helping them get it.
The latter is the foundation for developing a stable relationship with your customers and potential stakeholders; those who will eventually form a sustainable network for your book business.
Update: As for the author-turned-publisher I mentioned in the beginning; I heard she now has a thriving publishing business. I didn’t say knocking on a lot of doors doesn’t work – it just takes longer.