One of the biggest benefits of using a hybrid or traditional publisher rather than self-publishing is distribution. SparkPress has a distribution relationship with Ingram Publisher Services, and our sales team there is amazing at getting your books into the marketplace effectively. However, getting your books into the marketplace is useless without sell-through.

Sell-through is what we call “through the register sales.” It means that the final customer has bought the book. And the primary way to push sell-through is through marketing.

Some authors look down on marketing; they think that their book should be able to stand on its own without being pushed. While that may have flown 200 years ago . . . not so much today. There are literally hundreds of thousands of books coming out every year, and without marketing, your book will be lost in the masses.

Marketing is actually an umbrella term that includes sales, advertising, building a platform, social media, events, and publicity. With all of these components, you need to have a strategy with clear, quantifiable goals so that you can reach for them and see whether or not you were successful.

To define your marketing strategy, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your goal for publishing this book?
    • Who is your audience?
    • How will you reach them?
  • How does the book solve their problem?

Some of these questions may be harder to answer than others, but they are all essential to defining what your goals are.

What is the goal of publishing the book?

Is publishing a book the goal itself, and sales don’t matter? Is it because your dream is to be an author and you’re already working on book two? Or perhaps this book is career-defining and goes along with your practice. All of these options are going to speak volumes to what your strategy will be. If publishing itself was the goal, then perhaps you don’t need much marketing. If you want to be a prolific and well-known author, then you’ve got to think of your first book as an investment—you need to push publicity hard and build a platform, but understand that you may not recoup the costs on the first book. Right now, you’re getting your name out there so that when you put out book two, people are already interested. If the book goes with your practice, you may want to focus more on positioning yourself as an expert. You can give talks and sell books to supplement your income. A publicist can help you book appearances on shows or be referenced as an expert in print, especially if the topic is timely.

Who is your audience?

You should be able to identify three potential audiences. Great examples of audiences are: “Women who were coming-of-age in the ’80s and have an interest in healthy lifestyles,” “people who have lost a loved one to suicide,” and “teens who love rock-and-roll music.” Consider how these examples are much more specific than just an age group and gender? There should be an interest or life experience that defines them as a group. However, you do not want to get too specific. The description “mid-forties housewives in Maryland with two sons in high school, still dealing with unresolved issues surrounding childhood trauma” would be too restricting. It’d be better to divide this into “housewives aged 30 to 60,” “survivors of childhood trauma,” and “parents of high school-aged children living in Maryland.”

How will you reach your audience?

You can’t really answer this question without answering the last one, and in a lot of cases, the first question will feed into it too. For example, if your book goes with your practice, then your audience is probably easily accessible. Depending on the angle, your clients and/or your contemporaries are likely in your audience. Can you sell or promote them at your office? Can you sell or promote them at an industry event or conference? Conferences are also a great opportunity to see if you can speak on the topic you’re an expert on.

Beyond that, once you’ve defined your audience, research is your friend. Where do your different audiences spend their time? What publications do they read? What do they watch? Listen to? This is where you want to be. Identify the media and pitch it (or ask your publicist to). What social media platforms do they use? Join the platform(s) and follow similar authors.

How does the book solve their problem?

This question is more focused on nonfiction books but can be relevant for fiction as well. Does this book fulfill an untapped market? Is the protagonist from a minority group, offering the demographic a voice or acting as good representation? Will the book lift the spirits of the reader, or allow them a cathartic cry? All of these can be fulfilling a need of the reader.

For nonfiction, the answers may be more obvious. Some of the fiction answers may still work, especially for memoir. It may also make the reader feel less alone, educate them, or provide a guide for future activities. Or, it can instill them with hope or grander aspirations. It can assuage fear of what is to come.

Knowing this information will help craft the pitch. Yes, the quality of a book will be a selling point—but it’s what it does for the reader, what the reader will gain, that will catch the interest of the media and get your book out there.