Book marketing expert John Kremer is the owner of Open Horizons in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, The Complete Direct Marketing Sourcebook, High-Impact Marketing on a Low-Impact Budget, and many special reports and databases. He is also the developer of the Ten Million Eyeballs Internet marketing events.
How did you get your start as a book marketing guru?
I got started as a book marketing guru just after I'd published the first edition of my Directory of Short-Run Book Printers. Someone came up to me at BookExpo America and told me that they saved tons of money printing their books, but now they had thousands of copies in their garage. Their question to me: What do I do now? Well, I knew at least 101 ways to market your books, so I wrote the book. Once you write a book on a subject, you become an instant expert.
And, once you are an instant expert, it doesn't take too long before everyone begins telling you their good ideas, tips, and stories. Over time, you build a real expertise because of all the ideas others have shared with you. My job, as a book marketing guru, is to share what others have shared with me. So when I speak as a guru, I'm not just speaking from my solo experience, but I'm speaking from the experience of thousands of authors, self-publishers, and publishers.
What's the most important thing an author can do to promote a book?
For fiction, the most important thing an author can do is to speak, do readings, meet your readers, create fan clubs. Your job as a marketer is to get the word of mouth going for your book. The best way to do that is to meet people in person via bookstore appearances and speaking engagements wherever people are willing to listen to you.
If you don't like meeting people in person, then do personal appearances via the web: Q&As in blogs (like this interview), teleseminars, podcasts, videos, etc. Again, your job in doing these online events is to create word of mouth.
Are there any promotions or approaches that really don't work?
Advertising generally doesn't work for books. There are exceptions, but for the most part advertising doesn't work. Besides, who wants to spend money when with a little effort, you can get much better results.
When should an author begin to consider their marketing, and what are some first steps?
I believe the best place to start marketing a book is when you have the idea for it. Start then.
Practically speaking, the best time to start marketing is about six months before the book is published. That's when you should start building relationships with key media and other market outlets.
Since 90% of marketing consists of creating relationships that make a difference, you can really begin to market your book as you do the research for it. For nonfiction, this is crucial since a good nonfiction book is built on good content from research and good stories from anyone who will share their experiences.
For fiction, you can create relationships with other novelists. Writers should help each other by sharing contacts for appearances, websites that love good fiction, bookstores that love new authors, etc.
What differences are there in promoting novels versus non-fiction titles?
The biggest difference is that with nonfiction, you can target specific audiences much more readily than with fiction. If you wrote a golf book, you target golfers. If you wrote a cookbook, you target women who love to cook.
If you wrote a genre novel, you can target genre readers fairly easily, but if you wrote a literary novel or contemporary novel, it's much harder to target your audience. It takes more work to uncover the people that will love your novel.
With nonfiction, you have more specialty markets, more catalogs, more premium and corporate sales opportunities, more speaking venues, more targeted websites, etc.
Do you find that the same techniques apply for self-published authors as well as commercially published ones?
Most of the techniques will be the same. The one major difference is that the commercially published author will have better distribution in most cases. And distribution can make a big difference.
Many long-published authors resist doing self-promotion, and some respected industry professionals even advise against it. For a commercially published author with an established reputation, how vital is self-promotion?
Every author does promotion. It's just a matter of what you call promotion. Showing up at a publication party is promotion. Doing an author tour is promotion. Write a book is promotion. And every author should be doing at least some promotion, even those with an established reputation. Indeed, it's hard to develop an established reputation without doing a lot of promotion at some point in your career.
How important is the marketability of the author?
Most of the publishers I know tell me again and again that the author must have a platform. If a publisher has to chose between two good books (either to buy the rights to them or to put money into promoting them), they will always take the book that has a marketable author behind it. The author with some sort of established platform (a radio show, a well-read blog, a syndicated column, a fan club) will always get more attention from a publisher - and, in turn, from booksellers, reporters, producers, etc.
Book trailers are a popular promotion tool on the web right now, but some people feel this area is already over-saturated. What are your thoughts?
I think most book trailers are a waste of time because no one watches them. If you only get a few hundred views, the trailer was a waste of time. If you are going to create a book trailer, you have to create one that's so interesting, so far out, so intriguing, so funny, so something that people want to pass it one. A book trailer only works if people HAVE TO TELL their friends.
99.99% of the book trailers I've seen are not viral. They don't get passed along. They never get the views.
In your experience, can author promotions jump-start flagging sales or perhaps turn around a career slump?
Author promotions can definitely jump-start flagging sales or turn around a career slump. No doubt about that. But authors have to spend their time and money on the right promotions. That's the tough part of author promotions: Deciding what to do. Most authors spend 70 to 80% of their promotional time on useless things.
How can you decide what to spend your time on? Simple. Spend time on things that produce measurable results: more book sales (that's the most important), more media interviews, more people visiting your website, etc.
Avoid the bandwagons. Find the things that actually work for you and your book. And be sure you enjoy doing whatever you chose to do to market your book. Because, if you don't enjoy it, you won't do it well. And if you don't do it well, it won't be effective.
Check out https://www.bookmarket.com/debutnovels.htm for a listing of successful first novelists. Very inspiring.