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Ten Million Eyeballs

Media Bistro Interviews John Kremer

1. What do you think are the top three tips for authors when it comes to book marketing?

1. Know who your audience is, who would want to read your book. Then plan ways to reach that audience. The three best ways: a. Via the Internet. b. Via publicity. c. Via speaking.

a. Via the Internet. Target the websites that are rated in the top 30 for the keywords people would use to search for your book. Create relationships with these websites by offering them great content: a review copy of your book, an excerpt from your book, an article based on your book, a written interview with the author (such as this interview), a Q&A column with you as the featured expert, or an audio interview for a podcast, Internet radio show, or teleseminar.

b. Via publicity. Work for the same sort of content to be featured in a major radio show, TV show, magazine, or newspaper targeted at your potential readers.

c. Via speaking. Speak before groups interested in what you have to say. Start locally with groups desperate for anyone to speak to them. As you grow in experience, focus on speaking before bookstores, schools, libraries, conferences, and targeted groups.

These are short answers to what can be a time or labor-intensive endeavor. But necessary. People will not find out about your book unless you do at least one of the above and do it well.

2. What are some of the most creative marketing techniques you've seen authors use?

Here are a couple of recent examples from my blog at http://blog.bookmarket.com:

I am sharing this story from David Kirkpatrick's Fast Forward blog at Fortune.com because I do not know how to link to it, and it is too important to ignore. I wish Fortune made it easy to link to their articles.

Forget Radiohead. Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has been an apostle of free Internet distribution for years. He figures they sell more books this way.

In 1999, best-selling author Paulo Coelho, who wrote The Alchemist, was failing in Russia. That year he sold only about 1,000 books, and his Russian publisher dropped him. But after he found another, Coelho took a radical step. On his own Web site, launched in 1996, he posted a digital Russian copy of The Alchemist.

With no additional promotion, print sales picked up immediately. Within a year he sold 10,000 copies; the next year around 100,000. By 2002 he was selling a total of a million copies of multiple titles. Today, Coelho's sales in Russian are over 10 million and growing. "I'm convinced it was putting it up for free on the Internet that made the difference," he said in an interview at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

Coelho, whose fiction explores universal themes of spiritual aspiration and brotherhood in unpretentious language, has been a star of the Forum for 11 years. (For an account of Davos 2008 see this column.) Before this year's Davos, both Coelho and I attended a wonderful conference in Munich called Digital, Life, Design. Onstage there he told the surprising story of his embrace of free Internet distribution. In Davos I sat down with him to learn more.

Coelho explained why he thinks giving books away online leads to selling more copies in print: "It's very difficult to read a book on your computer. People start printing out their own copies. But if they like the book, after reading 30-40 pages they just go out and buy it."

Intrigued by his growing sales in Russia, Coelho used the Bittorrent site - a favorite for illicit distribution of media - to seek out and download online translations of his books as well as audio versions. By 2006 he was hosting an entire sub-site he called The Pirate Coelho, with links to books in many languages. While he did not play up his own role, he did quietly include a link on his official site.

"So you gather together all the stolen digital versions?" I asked him.

"You say steal?" he replied. "No. I think it's a way of sharing."

His agent, Monica Antunes, who joined in the interview, chimed in unashamedly, "We don't own the translation rights to all those editions."

By last year Coelho's total print sales worldwide surpassed 100 million books. "Once we did the Pirate Coelho there was a significant boost," he says.

For all this, he kept quiet with his many publishers in countries around the world. "Sharing" is typically not the word they use to describe such activities. Coelho says the publishers have periodically taken action to remove books from the Pirate Coelho. "They think it is against me. They don't know it is in my favor. They will know it after your article," he says.

"Publishing is in a kind of Jurassic age," Coelho continues. "Publishers see free downloads as threatening the sales of the book. But this should make them rethink their entire business model."

Now Coelho is a convert to the Internet way of doing things. His online e-mail newsletter, published since 2000, has 200,000 subscribers. In 2006 he started blogging. Last year he joined MySpace and Facebook to interact more actively with readers. "MySpace is an addiction," he says ruefully. He also makes available an extensive archive of rights-free photos on the Flickr photo-sharing site.

None of Coelho's books has ever been made into a movie. But now he is using the Internet to let his readers make one for him, based on his latest book, The "Witch of Portobello." It tells the story of its protagonist from the point of view of multiple people who knew her at various times in her peripatetic life. Now Coelho and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) have created a competition, inviting anyone worldwide to submit a segment as they envision it. Coelho plans to knit together 15 winners and release the film.

He spends about three hours online every day, interacting with readers who send him over 1,000 e-mails and messages daily. A fulltime staff of six helps manage his manifold Net activities, and the entire operation costs him $15,000 each month, which he pays out of his own pocket.

"I don't understand why publishers don't understand that this new medium is not killing books," Coelho says. "I'm doing it mostly because the joy of a writer is to be read. But at the end of the day, you will sell more books."

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I've been recommending that authors give away their books online now for several years. Indeed, that's why I started up the following to websites:

All Books Free: http://www.allbooksfree.com (for novels, short stories, poems, and children's books)

Free Books for All: http://www.freebooksforall.com (for nonfiction books)

In a comment below, Paulo provide a link to his blog. Here is the live link so you can go there right away: http://www.paulocoelhoblog.com.

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I found the following story in Roland Hachmann's Web Jungle: A blog on advertising, digital marketing, and web culture. It's a wonderful example of an entrepreneurial author:

Back in 1897, novelist W. Somerset Maugham, now known as author of Of Human Bondage, was having trouble selling his first novel Liza of Lambeth because his publisher wasn't interested in advertising the book. So he took matters into his own hands.

He took out some classified ads in a few daily newspapers in London. The copy read: “Young millionaire, lover of sports, cultivated, with good taste of music and a patient and empathetic character wishes to marry any young and beautiful girl that resembles the heroine of W.S. Maugham’,s new novel.”

By the end of the week, the first edition had sold out. The novel went on to get critical praise and popular sales.

For more such success stories of debut novelists, see http://www.bookmarket.com/debutnovels.htm.

3. Is it easier to market your book in a niche way? (ie, authors with spiritual books reaching out to new age stores, sports book authors reaching out to athletic orgs).

It is always easier to market to a niche audience because other people have been there before you trying to reach those same niches -- via websites, via media, via stores, via associations, etc. Having said that, I believe every book has at least one niche, sometimes four or five. It's your job as an author to identify those niches and reach out to those people who are interested in those topics.

4. How much should an author expect to spend (time and money) on marketing if they want their book to be truly reach readers? (Talking general author, not bestselling... yet).

I believe an author should spend somewhere between $500 and $5,000 promoting his or her book. Rarely more unless you are unwilling to spend the time. The most important commitment is not the money, but the time spent. Most of your marketing should cost you more time than money: making phone calls, sending emails, building a website, creating relationships. Those cost minimal money but do require time.

All of marketing, ultimately, breaks down to one thing: Creating relationships. While relationships can sometimes be bought, my experience is that the best relationships are earned. That takes time not money. Your job as an author in marketing your book is to identify the key people that can make a difference for your book (producers, editors, freelance writers, booksellers, distributors, catalogs, website owners, etc.) and then work to create a real and lasting relationship with these people. That, above all, is what makes the difference between a successful book author and a wannabee.


Copyright © 2011 by bestseller marketing expert John Kremer
Email: JohnKremer@bookmarket.com

Open Horizons, P O Box 2887, Taos NM 87571