Today we’re excited to cover the topic of book marketing in our interview with Dan Blank. With our interview series we hope to give you tips from the pros on marketing, formatting, writing, editing, cover design and everything involved with the book publishing process. Dan Blank is the owner of We Grow Media and works with writers to build their platforms, and with publishers to grow their online communities.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I own a small company called We Grow Media, I focus in training and strategy for authors and publishers. For authors I do a lot of online courses, workshops, and work to really build the author’s platform teaching them how to engage their audience rather than giving them a list of tactic “they have to do”, what works well for one author may not for another.
For publishers I work a lot with marketing campaigns and audience research. Again it is all about connecting with the audience and bringing them content they want.
What does “Marketing” mean to you?
When I work with writers the two words that come to mind are communication and trust. Communication is so important, you need to communicate with your audience. The traditional idea of mass communication has changed, and that is where trust comes in. You need to build relationships, engage with the audience, work on combining communication and trust together.
What one piece of advice would you give for those just starting out, marketing their books (and many times themselves)?
The biggest thing I find is that a lot of authors do not understand who their audience is. Research is so important. As an author you need to understand who your audience is, be careful not to generalize them. If you are clear about who your audience is, understand what engages them, what sets you apart from other authors, then you understand the market and really go that one step further that most authors do not. Also when you really do the research and understand your audience many of the other marketing questions will become easier to answer.
Another thing that I hear a lot is authors who believe their books can appeal to everyone, like Harry Potter. Even if this is true it is important to first start out by focusing on your main audience, this will get the ball rolling and make your marketing meaningful.
What has been your greatest marketing resource(s)? Any blogs, websites, books we should check out?
Mixergy.com does long form interviews via Skype, and now they also have online courses. Andrew Warner, the creator, interviews successful start-ups as a way for all those interested in business to learn. Even though Mixergy is not publishing focused I believe you get a sense of how hard it is to develop a product people want to buy, how hard it is to balance the emotional journey it is to get your product (book) out there, and an understanding of success.
Publishing IS a business so it is important to look beyond the publishing world when researching how to be successful in the business. I find that when I talk to business owners they are so passionate about what they want to bring to the world with their product. For the business owner it is not about buying a frozen yogurt chain because the research shows it will be successful, it is because they actually believe it is important to the world. I see this same passion in writers. So it all goes back to that key in research, you have to pull out the few golden nuggets from things like these interviews to really go deeper than just the basic “5 ways to sell your book” posts.
As a business owner what is the biggest tip you have for making the time for marketing while still keeping up with your other responsibilities?
As a business owner there are two things you are always thinking of, improving the quality of your product (the courses, book, frozen yogurt), giving your all to your work, and then the long-term goals, the road ahead of you that will keep your business alive and thriving.
I did a lot of research when I started my business. I believe you need a balance, you can’t give crappy service now and only plan for your business future or you will not have customers. On the other hand you also can’t put everything into what is in front of you now and forget the future or your business will not have a future. Recently, I read a quote from Doug Sundheim where he encourages business owners to spend one hour per week planning the overall strategy of your business. For writers I believe if you follow this advice and spend just one hour per week thinking about your overall writing career, in just those four hours a month, you will develop a better balance than most.
Marketing comes in all different forms, e-mails, newsletters, giveaways, interviews, blog tours, ect. What are the three most important marketing tools you utilize and how do they work for marketing?
The first things I would say is relationships, too many people focus on the idea of getting people to “follow them” and not building the relationships. Pay attention to your audience. It is hard to get people in the door. My colleague, Tad Hargravegave, gave me this example, think of your business like a bucket and you are pouring more and more clients into it, but there are holes in it. If you fix the holes by working to better what you have than it is easier to fill the bucket. It is always easier to upsell one client you have a previous relationship with than it is to get someone else into the door.
The second would be E-mail. E-mail is still an incredibly powerful tool; people read their e-mails! Twitter can be a fine resource but if you tweet when someone is not looking they may miss it in the sea of other tweets. E-mail gives you direct access to your audience that is unique from what social media provides.
Last I would say in person connections. This is the least crowded channel. If I find someone inspiring I read all their blog posts and articles, I retweet them, and then I try to meet them in person. If I can have lunch in just an hour you learn so much about the person and build trust. If I can’t meet in person I will try to meet with them over Skype. Author Tim Ferris once described the best money he spent marketing his book in paying for flights to meet people he hoped would endorse his writing. He spent not only all that money but also much of his time to get to these places just for that one-hour conversation. You need to have that in person connection, it is the most powerful and least crowded. They are more likely to want to spread the word about your books, buy your books, and help you if they know YOU as a person and not a marketer.
And here is one question we hear a lot – Can you give us a couple of example of successful book campaigns you worked on that surprised you with the results?
One thing I do find surprising is when I work with someone and outline their goals as a writer, and when they dug into what they want in life as a whole, what they believe in, they found that the book they are working on is not the book for them. They find that the book they were working so hard on is what they were before, only a small part of them, or not for the people they want to reach. It’s often when people find what they really want that things like this happen, but it still surprises me every time.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my marketing questions!
About Dan Blank:
My name is Dan Blank, and I founded We Grow Media in 2009. I help writers build their platforms, and work with publishers to grow their online communities.
Upcoming course for writers: Build Your Author Platform
Kate Tilton is the marketing associate for BiblioCrunch, an author assistant, and a book blogger.