I have never spent $35 so my family of four could enjoy ice cream cones, but that is what it would have cost if I played the role of lazy and ignorant tourist at an ice cream parlor in Woodstock, New York. My family and I walked out, in protest, after scanning the prices on the wall. We know many people have and will pay those prices, which just goes to show you that there are many entrepreneurial opportunities for authors looking to sell their books.
We enjoyed our Catskills vacation at the end of August, hanging at Hunter Mountain, its surrounding towns, and an excursion to the city made famous by the 1969 music fest, Woodstock. We went on a hike, walked around one of the reservoirs that delivers a lot of New York City’s famous water, enjoyed some good outdoor meals by sunset, dipped ourtoes into a creek, visited stores that sold things that we didn’t really need, and took life at a more relaxed pace. It was a good four-day excursion. We also learned how stores and towns rip people off with crafty branding, convenience, and limited supply.
You can market your brand and sell your book the way these small towns upcharge unsuspecting tourists or locals, especially those who buy something merely because it is made available to them. Eight-dollar ice cream cones. Coffee for $6.50 a cup. Food truck waffles for nine bits. These show me there is a market for anything, at any price.
I wouldn’t want to run a farmer’s market, own a diner, or make a living from operating a food truck, but it is obvious to me that if you sell yourself as a local and independent business servicing the needs of the community, and you tell a certain story, you can charge higher prices. You can ask for tips and donations – and get them simply because you got the customer to somehow feel for you and identify with your presentation of a cause. You convince customers that their desire and passions help support the needs of the vendor. You show how you give back to the community – and the community guilts itself into giving you even more.
Call me jaded, cheap, or cantankerous. All of them may fit me at times, but not because I am choosing to excoriate and expose the baloney sales pitches put out by many businesses. We all know everything comes down to perceptions, not reality – and to marketing more than the quality of a service or product. So, dear publishing world, embrace the tactics that work on you.
Become the mindset of the ice cream joint that scoops out what cost him less than a buck and charges eight times that amount, all because he can, and because he portrays the store as an independent, as one who supports the community. They post prices on a colorful chalkboard and put posters in their window that sound like they care about local events and issues. They may even claim that some supplies and ingredients come from a local vendor. To add to this, they create a founding story and post it on a wall. You know, where they tell you how two generations ago someone opened a pushcart and how they proudly continue to serve ice cream in a way that cools your lips and warms your heart.
So what can authors do to sell their books, products, services, or speaking appearances?
1. Come up with your creation story. This is about how you are living and dreaming, passionate about what you do, how you seek to help others, how you have devoted your life to your writings and how you embody or live out the message that you share. Create that story of origin and authenticity. Let people know where you are coming from. Share that vision passionately. Let them know you are on a mission.
2. Highlight your connection to something bigger than yourself. Think race, religion, gender, industry, geography, etc. Just as these stores highlight they are indies serving the local community, you too can align with a demographic and push that all the way to the bank (a community-owned one, of course).
3. Boldly charge more. Your reaction is to charge less, to give things away, to cut deals. There is a place for that, true, but you must start high. Position how you offer something special, unique, original, and useful. Play on people’s desires, needs, and emotions. If they like you or believe you deliver on what you offer – a great book, a strong speech, a valuable consultation – they will pay a little more out of convenience and because they bought into your story.
4. Redesign your brand. Make everything consistent with one message and the feel that you want people to be left with when they talk to you, receive an email, interact on social media, scroll your website, or see on your business card. It is all about how you package yourself, from the visuals to the words, from the sound of your voice to the passion in your heart.
I told you I scoffed at the over-priced ice cream, but I failed to confess to how I overpaid for numerous other items. I too fell for these stories and conveniences. I paid an extra tax, so to speak, to make myself feel like I was helping a cause. I paid a premium to feed my desires, too. But all that I did was help others make money.
You can be the one to make the money. Tell a story. Charge more. It works.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.