The past few days I have been in Dallas, Texas for the Christian Book Expo. The first of its kind and perhaps the last. While it is probably not appropriate for me to blast this fiasco here, there are things to be learned from it on marketing and the importance of getting it right.
1) Target marketing works better than scattershot marketing. So many times I hear authors say their book is for everyone. Everyone? Really? Moms and young people? Pastors and old men? Sassy singles and business execs? Not a lot in common, those groups, so no--your book cannot possibly be for everyone. Similiarly, setting up a convention in the middle of a big city just because it's in the Bible Belt and has thousands upon thousands of people to draw from...doesn't make those people want to attend. But situating a convention in a suburb of that Bible Belt town, in a smaller venue with easy in/out access, and a smaller list of major authors might be a stronger draw. You can target the college down the street, provide incentives to people for bringing a friend, have video eblasts sent to the pastors of the local churches helping them understand the concept, promote on the radio, have speakers on local radio for the weeks prior to the event talking it up, etc. All local people interested in what is happening in their own community.
2) The venue is important. A group of people in a smaller venue makes a different impression than the same amount of people in a cavernous convention hall. Enough said.
3) It's all in the details. From the signage out front to the workshop organization to the time frame of the event, it all matters. We make impressions on the people we are marketing to by the way our ad looks compared to others in the same magazine. Is our copy punchy and to the point? Can we tell the selling points of two books by the same author? How will a consumer know why those two non-fiction books are different if their covers look similiar? Every part of our marketing needs to be sharp and competitive. If the consumer does not understand the mission or the description in a few seconds...there is no point.
4) Never assume. Don't be presumptuous enough to assume that the consumer wants to attend your event or wants to read your book or wants to watch your movie. Why would they when there is so much competition for their time? Make your product so appealing that they cannot pass it up. Think about the price. Think about the economy. Think about felt need. Think about every detail of the cover or package. If you start to assume, then I believe that you start to fail. You get lazy and you get careless and scrappy marketing becomes a thing of the past.
5) Even at a bad event, it is worth the trip to spend quality face-time with your authors. They love the attention and deserve it. In the end, make the best of bad situations and realize that they could be publishing elsewhere, but aren't. Keep your authors happy.
And so we come to the end of the things I have learned while attending CBE. I like learning from other people's mistakes instead of my own. :-)