Monday, March 16, 2009

When Marketing Your Book, Don’t Look for Readers!

Many of the books and articles I read on marketing your book speak about finding out who will want to read your book. This is all part of finding a niche, identifying an audience for your book, etc. But I say this is wrong! If you want to sell your book, you don’t want to find people who will read your book, you want to find people who will buy your book.

But you ask, “How can people read my book unless they buy it?”

Many ways… a reader can borrow it from a friend or a library. He or she may receive it as a gift from a loved one or their company may have purchased it for them to read.

Readers are not necessarily buyers. Buyers are not necessarily readers. But all buyers are buyers. (You might have to think on that one for a minute.) So it stands to reason that if you market to the later group (the buyers), you stand a better chance of selling your book.

For instance, when you market your book to libraries, you are not marketing to readers, your are marketing to the library’s buyer of books. Libraries don’t read books, they buy them for their patrons to read.

This is even more evident if you write children’s books. Not too many children buy their own books. Parents, grandparents, schools, aunts, uncles… adults are usually the ones who buy children’s books for children to read.

Bryan Fields ( discovered this when he was marketing his children's book, Lunchbox and the Aliens (Henry Holt, 2007). This book is about a basset hound who is abducted by aliens and saves the world. What group would buy his book? Obviously parents of elementary school aged children. But Bryan hit on a unique group that no one had thought of before. Basset hound lovers. Bryan, who owned a basset hound, was aware of several basset hound groups, both online and off. When he announced his book with these groups, they went crazy for it. These loyal basset hound lovers were willing to buy anything having to do with their favorite canine. I’m sure many of the books that were purchased were never read, but they were bought and possibly ended up with the corners chewed!

Super salesman, James Megellas, sells so many books at his book signings that he is always in demand at the Books-A-Million in Grapevine, Texas. James’ book, All the Way to Berlin, is about his experiences as the most decorated officer of World War II. Whenever people pass his table, he’s not thinking “reader,” he’s thinking, “buyer.” He asks questions like, “Are you a veteran?” Maybe this person will purchase my book from a fellow veteran. If not, then he asks, “Do you know a veteran?” Perhaps this person will buy the book as a gift for someone they know.

I know… you want people to read your book, but before you can get it into the hands of readers, someone has to buy it. And that’s what you should be doing when marketing your book – getting the buyers to buy it. Change the focus of your book marketing efforts from the reader to the buyer. It could make the difference between ho-hum and best-seller in the book world.


  1. Having the right mind-set, being buyer-oriented,
    that authors should always think: what marketing tactic or concept will make a person buy, buy, and buy?--now, there you have a shrewd marketing plan to really ponder...Of course, with tough times we have now consumer spending behavior is a crucial factor to consider...this is not to say, however, that targeting online readers for potential buys isn't worthy at all--an author just has to realize that this specific market he has in mind are not all there is--that it's more important to think "outside the box", that THAT should be an author's constant, ideal marketing attitude...I'm optimistic it's effective!

  2. An interesting perspective, Dan. Good ideas and it makes a difference in marketing strategy. Thanks for making me think! Yikes! Chewed corners of my book, though? :)

  3. Dan, focusing on the target buyer is right on, especially when it sparks one's imagination to create a unique and fun way to market your book (i.e. basset hounds, et al).

    Another couple of visualizations I do is to see my book, with sticky tabs marking pages of interest, laying on the desk or on a bookshelf in a home, school or library, not on a bookstore's shelf.

    I won't deny that having it displayed in a bookstore is great for the ego, but its shelf-life can be too short for the writer's bottomline.

  4. Excellent point! I am going to incorporate this concept into my marketing strategy.

    Thanks, Dan!

  5. Wow, now that you've told me, it is so flaming obvious! I have book about Gardening from a dog's point of view, and I haven't marketed it to Dog lovers specifically. Duh!

  6. I'm confused. You said James Megellas was the most decorated officer of WWII. Actually, Audie Murphy was given a field promotion to Lt. and he is the most decorated man in WWII. I don't know this Megellas, but something isn't quite right with this story.

  7. I misspoke about James Megellas. He was the most decorated officer of the 82nd Airbourne Division in WWII. Of course, I know about Audie Murphy - the most decorated man in WWII as both an officer and enlisted man. Who hasn't seen the movie To Hell and Back, starring... Audie Murphy as himself.

  8. Dan, your perspective and suggestions are just what I needed. You obviously have a clever mind when it comes to reaching a goal with creative strategies and I'll be looking for more that you have written on this subject. I wish I could borrow you for a day!

    Jennifer Slater
    "Silver Lining: Success Stories of People Who Created Their Own Business ...and a Life They Love"

  9. I agree that you need to find the people that will actually buy the book. (I myself have stopped to talk to authors but didn't buy.) Now the shoe is on the other foot :-)
    As a potential author I definitely need to look for those that would buy a book and not those that would just chat with me.

    Good comment.

  10. Thanks Dan, there's some great advice there - I'd say focusing on the target buyer is half the battle.