Sunday, May 17, 2009

Facing the Day You Have to Brand and Promote Two Disparate Things


Today I am in New York getting ready to sign A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions at the National Stationery Show and that, surprisingly, made me think of something all writers need to know about promotion, not just retailers. We are going to talk about what all of you have faced or may someday face. Bear with me. You need to know the background story. (-:

I’ve been putting off telling those who follow me for writers' advice about my new book because it isn’t about writing. Nor is it something you will want to curl up by the fire to read unless you are a retailer (although some of the promotion ideas in it might inspire a book launch or other event). You may have noticed that I’ve dropped a few hints in past newsletters and blogs. Call it foreshadowing. But then I thought, Aha! I do have a lesson to derive from the marketing of A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques to share with you. And here it is.

Actually that secret is buried in the prior paragraphs of this letter. Did you find it?

It’s about finding the angles. That sounds like hard-sell marketing but are really about knowing your own book and how it relates to its audience and the world at large. We must find the aspects of our work that will be news at certain times or to certain segments of the population. The skills involved in doing this are what prepares us so we can get the publicity we need for our books. It is what we must know before we write our advertising copy. Before we write our pitch. Before we can know how readers will benefit from our book. And we have to know it well enough so that we don’t fall back on, “Well, it will entertain.” That’s what all books should do. You need to recognized specifically how yours does that differently or better or is especially suited to an audience, a time or an event.

Generally speaking these angles are most visible to us because we know our own books better than others.

So, what is the angle here? Why would you writers be interested in A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques? Here it is.

What I am going through promoting this book is something you may one day face if you haven’t already. It may face you when you write a book in a different genre or one that appeals to a different audience. John Grisham faced this problem when he wrote A Painted House after he had written only courtroom dramas for decades. He was still writing fiction, but Painted House was not a legal thriller and it was not received well by many of his most devout fans. I, for one, adored it because it was more literary. By that I mean that it was more about that connection that makes all humans part of the same species, therefore more lasting and meaningful that “just” plain old entertainment, however great that may be.

But back to marketing. I had to think about branding of this book. I wanted A Retailer’s Guide to benefit from my other nonfiction (and even fiction!) as much as possible but still be different enough that it wouldn’t be confusing. Here’s what I did.

~I used the same color combinations on the cover but varied the style of the art considerably.

~I worked the word “FRUGAL” into the title so it could still be part of the HowToDoItFrugally brand name but I gave it a different series name of its own. “Survive and Thrive.”

~I used my picture on the cover. Those of you who have read The Frugal Book Promoter know that it is the author that is the most interesting aspect of any book--fiction or nonfiction. Without the author a book can’t be easily promoted and readers tend to follow authors they already know--either for their voice in fiction or for their expertise in nonfiction.

~I gave A Retailer’s Guide a page of its own on my Web site but also mention it on my other FRUGAL pages.

There are probably other ways that I subconsciously cross-branded these books but these are the ones that you may be able to learn something from. If you switch genres, you definitely won’t want to throw away the work you’ve done to gain name recognition but you also want to separate your new work from the old enough so that there won’t be too much confusion. I may not have entirely achieved what I was after, but I sure enough gave it a shot on a conscious level.

In many ways it was easier than the marketing I have done with my poetry and fiction. The cross-over has been harder there. Still I often get asked about how to handle a Web site when an author writes in separate genres. The trick is balance. You don’t want to fragment your work so much that you have to market several different sites. At the same time, you want your site not to confuse but still allow your readers to surf other genres instead of only the one they came to the site to find.

You can do that easily by categorizing your work and using

1. separate pages for separate genres and
2. separate domain names that take people to different pages within your site.

Example: When I promote my poetry I lead readers to my site with this domain name: www.carolynhoward-johnson.com . When I promote my HowToDoItFrugally books I use www.howtodoitfrugally.com. I may now get another for retailing. I’m thinking about the domain name for that. Any ideas?

Happy Writing, Promoting and, Yes, Editing, Too!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

PS: So, what if you don’t write in two genres and never intend to? Rethinking one’s brand almost always leads to new and different ways to promote. So, if your book’s sales have gotten a bit musty, reread this blog post. The principles are at the very root of great promotion.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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