While you may have heard about the 4 Ps of marketing, in this post, we’ll explore the 4 Ps of book marketing—product, place, price, and promotion. To that mix, I will also add branding and target reader as essentials to your marketing toolkit. These touchpoints are the crucial mix to maximizing the potential sales for your book. To determine the details of exactly WHAT to do within each of these, explore your vision for success. Your vision and purpose guide decisions from the price you charge to the distribution channels you choose. They are the signposts along your path to get you to your destination.
The first of the book marketing Ps is product—your book. Readers will look for the quality of your writing, editing, cover design, interior formatting, and any graphics or photos you use in your book. Readers first look at your book cover to determine if the book appeals to them. Next, they’ll ascertain whether they like the genre, messaging, and trust the author. If they like the front cover, they’ll check out your book description, author bio, and any book reviews on the back cover for further clues. Finally, they’ll peek inside the book and check for writing style and quality of the editing and interior design. If you want to sell your book, quality matters.
Your book must also solve a problem for the reader. If you write fiction, they are looking for the next book to dive into in a genre they like. If you write nonfiction, have you made it easier, better, faster for someone to do something? Have you inspired or motivated them to have the life they’ve always dreamed about? Your book stands out if it’s written from a unique angle or includes photos, graphics, stories, comedy, questions, and the like. You want to consider how you solve your reader’s problem better than another book on the bookshelves.
With books, form matters also. You might publish your book in paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook, or even in large print. While many authors don’t include all of these versions, your vision determines the value of the additional time and/or cost in producing them.
The next of the 4 Ps in book marketing is price. You price your book according to the value to the reader and in comparison with other books or other solutions to the reader’s problem. A romance novel priced at $25 won’t sell very well. In contrast, a photo book of travels to Europe may sell well at that price. Naturally, pricing also determines your royalty per book.
Factors that drive pricing may include color vs. black and white, page count, and market saturation of the topic. Your price will vary by the version of the book—paperback, ebook, hardcover, or audiobook—and the country where you sell it. A traditional publisher sets the price for your book. If you self-publish, you determine the price of your book based on its value, not on recouping publishing costs. Regardless of where you publish, there will be a minimum price to cover the cost of printing and profit for the publishing platform or publisher.
Choosing the best price for your book, given no restrictions from publishing companies, comes down to researching other books on the market. Search Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore for books in your genre. Make note of pricing, but also search for clues of its value. Read the description, check out the table of contents, and determine the page count. Finally, read book reviews for insight into the quality and value to readers. These touchpoints guide the decision to price your book higher, lower, or on par with other books.
However, there are reasons to give your book away for free. If you wrote a book series, giving the first in the series away for free may drive sales to the subsequent books, therefore, driving book sales overall. If your book serves as a marketing tool for a business, giving your book away may drive increased revenue, often at a much higher margin than book sales.
An often overlooked part of marketing is distribution—where readers can find and buy your book. A good rule of thumb is to sell your book wherever readers buy them. While Amazon is the obvious choice, it’s not the only one. Readers shop for books on Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, iBooks, Kobo, local bookstores, at workshops, conferences, your website, check them out at libraries, and many other locations, online and off. Because of increased distribution in foreign markets, worldwide distribution shouldn’t be ignored.
Again, due to the cost and royalty structure of different distribution partners, you may or may not distribute to all available networks. Although I hear and appreciate some authors’ reticence at distributing on Amazon, their dominance in the book marketplace makes it difficult to avoid if book sales are a priority. One of my clients felt strongly about her decision to forego Amazon distribution only to reverse it when many of her fans balked. There are other ways to voice concerns about the distribution giant and not harm your book sales.
You will find a variety of print book distributors, ebook distributors, and audiobook distributors that serve different marketplaces. A first-time author may focus on one or two distribution platforms, while a more prolific book marketer may ramp up and exploit every opportunity. Again, let your vision be your guide.
When most think of marketing, they are thinking of promotion only. Advertising, social media, content marketing, email marketing, book fairs, speaking, anything you to draw attention to your book or author business are part of the promotion slice of the marketing pie. Of all the 4 Ps of book marketing, this generates the biggest interest and most questions.
Although promotion is a subset of the marketing process, many try to skip the line and go right for the BUY NOW talk. Promotion is more than sales. It’s about building relationships with our readers. This process allows us the opportunity to build trust with our readers so they want to buy this book and many to follow. Relationship-building is not instantaneous but a necessary part of our long-term success as authors. While you can buy your way to more sales, and many do with paid advertising, author engagement increases your chances for success now and in the future.
You may have heard the term “priming the pump” when it comes to marketing a book, a product or service, or even a company. When it comes to writing, readers not only know about our book but about who we are as authors. We’ve set them on a path to know, like, and trust us and know that our book is the solution to their problem, whether that’s entertainment, inspiration, knowledge, or a combination of the three. When we go through the process of marketing, we turn our readers into evangelists for us too.
According to Hubspot, “A brand is a feature or set of features that distinguish one organization from another. A brand is typically comprised of a name, tagline, logo or symbol, design, brand voice, and more. It also refers to the overall experience a customer feels when interacting with a business—as a shopper, customer, social media follower, or mere passerby.”
Your brand as an author isn’t just about the fonts you use or the colors on your website. It’s about how people feel and what they experience when reading your book, blog, and social media posts. It’s how you present yourself and interact with people at live and virtual events. It’s the difference between Martha Stewart and Kim Kardashian or Stephen King and Kevin Hart.
Part of your author brand is determined by the genre you’re in, especially in fiction. But regardless of your genre, your brand image may be funny, professorial, sarcastic, compassionate, hopeful, sunny, silly, helpful, off-putting, scammy, or any number of adjectives. It’s how you want to be viewed, but, more importantly how your readers view and feel about you and your books.
The final piece of the marketing basics pie is your target reader. Although often overlooked, identifying your target reader allows you to communicate and engage with people who are most likely to buy your book. By zeroing in on things like age, gender, location, income, lifestyle, where they shop, and what problems they are facing, among other demographic and psychographic (personality, behavior, and values, etc.) markers, you avoid wasting time and money on people who won’t like or don’t need your book.
For authors of fiction, your genre often indicates the target reader’s details. However, the sci-fi writer who podcasts about how she’s made a six-figure income by selling books has a target reader for her books and a different target audience for her podcast. She’ll advertise and communicate with each audience differently. Correctly targeting your message and audience helps Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Amazon’s algorithms work more efficiently and effectively, and help you grow your author business.
Creating a reader avatar, someone who represents everything about your target reader holds even more importance when it pertains to nonfiction. Mistakenly thinking that everyone will like your book will likely be met with disappointing results. The saying is that if you target everyone, you target no one. Let the reader think you are speaking directly to them.
You’ll use information about your reader in the content your produce on your website, in social media posts, and in your email newsletters. Target reader information is essential in enabling your paid advertising to reach the exact audience most likely to make a purchase without wasting a dime on those who will not.
The 4 Ps of book marketing—product, price, place, and promotion, plus branding and target reader—form the basics in your marketing toolkit. Use each tool to maximize your potential sales and growth. If sales aren’t where you had hoped, return to each of the basics for clues to where adjustment is needed. Details of how you use each of these for your book marketing stem from your vision for success as an author. The bigger your vision, the more carefully you examine each aspect of your marketing plan.