Marketing Guide for Your Lulu Books – Part 1
One of the most common type of question on the Forum concerns marketing books that have been published using the Lulu service. I have answered different questions in different ways over the years, but here is an attempt to pull everything together. If Lulu has a way of “pinning” this thread to the top of the Forum, that could be useful.
I have called it “Part 1” because I can only deal with the marketing of specialist non-fiction books. Hopefully someone else can contribute a “Part 2” dealing with fiction and other non-practical subjects like poetry.
The first key to successful marketing is that the book must be marketable. What I mean by this is that:
(a) There is a commercial demand for a book on the subject and that demand is not already fully met by currently published books.
(b) The proposed book has some unique features that make it different from existing books on the subject.
(c) The writer has established credibility as a recognised authority in the field or can quickly establish such credibility.
(d) The book is well written. Spelling, grammar and syntax are extremely important. You might get away with “unusual” sentence construction if you are writing a novel and your name is Steinbeck, but not in a non-fiction book. (Just a wee tip here: Proof reading is crucial but do not attempt to proof-read your own writing. It just doesn’t work. Get someone else to do it for you. As some will have noticed, I cannot even proof-read my own Forum posts before clicking the “submit button”!)
I appreciate that some folk reading this may already have a book almost ready for publication. If you don’t yet quite meet the above criteria, I would suggest being patient and getting the marketability of your proposed book set up before publishing it and trying to market it.
To my mind, the best way of doing this is to write some articles on your specialist subject and submit them to a number of magazines in your topic area. There are three advantages to this:
1. The editors of established magazines (and I mean the glossies you see every month on the newsstands) are probably the best people to give an indication that your work is up to scratch. They will also give advice if you perhaps need to make some changes to style or approach.
2. Having a number of articles published in prestigious magazines is a way of getting your name known in the field and gaining credibility for your work.
3. When you do publish your book, the editors of the magazines that you write for are likely to give favourable reviews of your book and may even allow you to plug it in one of your articles.
I was lucky. I started writing articles for several national magazines in the UK in the 1970s on two specialist subjects – wildfowling and gundog training. After a few years of regular magazine articles, a book publisher approached me and asked me to write a book about wildfowling (“Modern Wildfowling”). Over the next 20 years I had five books published by major book publishers and had written over 2,000 articles for a range of national magazines.
So, by the time that I “discovered” Lulu four or five years ago, my name was fairly well known amongst the country sports community in the UK. Now I don’t suggest that you wait 20 years before publishing a book. But taking maybe six months to a year to establish a regular pattern of publication in magazines could make the eventual marketing of your book a more realistic proposition.
Right. Let’s get on with a marketing strategy. For this purpose I am going to take a specialist subject that I know a little about but that I would never consider myself sufficiently knowledgeable about to write a book on the subject. That way, I’ll try to make myself think outside my own immediate comfort zone. By doing that, I’ll have to use some of the creativity that you will need to apply in your own chosen subject area.
You need to think about marketing before you even complete your book. The title must clearly describe the content. Clever cryptic titles are totally counter-productive in terms of marketing. So I will change the provisional title of my imaginary book from “Snapping Animals” to “Top Tips for Wildlife Photographers”. I also need to have a preface or introduction in the book written by a national “name” in the field. In preparation for publishing the book I have had eight articles about photographing birds and animals published in “Practical Photography”, “Amateur Photographer” and “Digital Camera” magazines. The editor who has been the most helpful and friendliest has been the man at “Digital Camera”, so I will send him a draft of my manuscript and ask him if he would do me the honour of writing a few paragraphs of preface. He might also give me some tips about errors or omissions in what I have written.
Lulu is only possible because of computer technology and the internet. Fortunately we can use the same technologies to do our marketing at no cost. My first step is going to be to set up four websites:
The first is going to be a straightforward photograph gallery featuring my very best wildlife photographs, including some of those that I used to illustrate my magazine articles. Most photo-editing software, that any serious photographer will have (e.g. Adobe Lightroom), will have a module for setting up flash galleries for the web. This website is to establish my excellence in the field. No-one is going to buy a book about photography unless the author has demonstrated that he takes superb photographs.
The second website will be an online photographic magazine about wildlife photography and the third website will be an online discussion forum for photographers. I’ll use some free service such as Yuku for the latter. Those two sites will be linked in that the forum will be seen as an adjunct to the magazine and, in time, I’ll invite some of the more credible contributors to the forum to write articles for the magazine.
The fourth website, once my book has finally been published, will be a series of straightforward pages advertising the book and giving links to all the places it can be bought (Lulu, Amazon, Kindle, etc). With this website, in particular, I will make sure that all the metatags are in place to optimise the indexing by Google and other search engines. Importantly, this website will not “go live” until I know that my books are in the online catalogues of Amazon, which will be my main seller of printed books. Lulu will probably be the place to which I direct potential customers who want to purchase downloads and e-books.
All of those websites will be linked to one another so that internet users who find one are channelled towards the others.
Remember that it takes time for traffic on websites like this to build up. For them to become effective marketing tools, they need to be getting thousands of “hits” every day; not just a few dozen. That will take a few years. Sorry – but there are no shortcuts. In fact, by the time I write my next book on some more advanced aspects of wildlife photography in three years time, my four websites should be reaching maturity and have a regular clientele. The stage that I want to reach is that is someone enters the keywords “wildlife photography” and “book” or “magazine” or “forum” into Google, the links to my websites will be in the top half of the first page of results.
Of course, in the meantime, I will be following other avenues to publicise my book. I will purchase a few copies to send, with a press release, to the three magazines that publish my photography articles and I will send the press release, containing links to all my websites and to the Amazon pages for the book, to the editors of all the other photographic magazines in the country and to the national and local newspapers. Don’t expect too much from those press releases – but they don’t cost anything and might just bring another sale or two.
Now I am going to use other internet services to gain publicity, always with links to my own four websites. There are at least a dozen photographic discussion forums apart from my own, and I am going to become active on all of them. I am going to place some of my photographs on Flickr. Using the digital video facility of my SLR camera I will make a 3-minute video summarising my book, again showing my best photographs, and put it on YouTube. And I will try to build up big followings on Twitter and Facebook where I will regularly plug my book.
Once my book has been published, is readily available from Amazon, and has received at least one very positive review in one of the national photographic magazines I am now writing for on a regular basis, I will make up a list of associations and societies who might like a speaker on my subject at one of their meetings – camera clubs, nature groups, etc. Hopefully they now know my name from the magazines and a few will accept my offer to come and speak to them. I’ll take along one copy of my book but most certainly will not take along a pile of copies to sell at the meetings. Most people hate pushy salesmen and, anyway, buying copies of one’s own book to resell is a mug’s game. Far better simply to hand out flyers at the meetings letting people know where they can buy it.
That all seems a lot of work but, at least, it has not cost me anything other than my own time and a few pounds (dollars) a year for the domain names for my websites. I wonder how many sales of my first book I can expect? If I have really done the marketing well, perhaps sales will grow from zero to 10 copies a month over the first year. Hopefully, as my name and my websites get better known, that might rise to 20 copies a month by the end of Year 2 and to 50 copies a month by the end of Year 3. Amazingly, over the three year period, that could add up to maybe 700 copies sold. Not bad for a first book by a previously unknown author.
The even better news is that, in three years, when I am ready to publish “More Top Tips for Wildlife Photographers”, my marketing infrastructure will already be in full swing and my sales should build up two or three times faster than with my first book.
Returning to the real me, one of the greatest feelings I ever got came from a spam e-mail that I got from Amazon a couple of weeks ago. I had bought a book on another aspect of country sports and Amazon’s marketing department had picked up on the fact and used that to send me a message saying, “You bought this book. Here are some other books that may interest you.” And right at the top of their list of recommendations was one of my own Lulu titles. That felt good.
Good luck with your own project.
Solved! Go to Solution.
That's excellent, Eric! I hope lots of people read it an take note.
In terms of the marketability of a book, I sometimes say that it needs to be the first, the best, or the cheapest (ideally all three) on your chosen subject.
In terms of gradually building up a following through a blog, writing articles for magazines etc., you are spot on!
Too many first-time authors think that merely getting your book listed on Amazon will bring sales flodding in. Or even worse, they think that you can buy sales throwing money at expensive advertising and 'marketing kits'.
Listen up people, Eric knows what he is talking about!
Tony Loton, Publishing DIY
The article is interesting, but nothing will kill a website faster than what a search engine does with it. I received an advisory from one of my regular contacts stating that once Google Instant goes up, if you don't join with it, it will stop listing your site on the search engine or traffic will go down.. Certainly what I have seen of my own site is that Google can and will tinker with the coding of your site pages if you don't monitor them often enough. I have found numerous changes in my site coding lately which in essence will redirect traffic elsewhere. I keep having to restore it, which takes time away from my writing.
I have tried everything you have suggested at least twice. But until the economy improves nobody will buy what you sell.
I think you have been listenting to the doom merchants.
If you do a Google search on the search terms - gundog training, magazine, book, forum - you will find that my sites are in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th positions on their listing. And it has been like that for years. They do vary a bit but they are alsways occupying at least five of the top ten places.
What on Earth makes you think that Google can hack into your server and alter your files to change your code? (Actually, they probably could if they wanted to but it would be an extremely serious criminal offence which they would never contemplate).
What they can do is delist any website or domain that breaches their rules - but that would be your fault, not theirs. (Rules against things like having hidden text on web pages, using keywords that are not appropriate to the content of the page, etc. which are all perfectly fair).
In fact I do sometimes worry about Google - but in terms of the amount of data they collect and hold on each of us; no worries yet about them hacking my sites and changing my code!
Thank you Eric again as helpful as ever to newbies and others who have no idea about marketing.
I think you are the best person to write this article as you sell the most books and have the experience behind you regarding marketing and getting yourself out there. Your sales figures are impressive and you certainly know how to market. It is hard work and most importantly I've found your tips work. Says it all.
Thanks again Eric. I'm sure everyone who reads it will be grateful to you. Carol
...and, on your other point, Theresa -
"I have tried everything you have suggested at least twice. But until the economy improves nobody will buy what you sell."
The recession certainly doesn't help but if you have a rising graph of sales it will only slow down the rate of increase. I have just had my second-best-ever month of sales with Lulu royalties for August bringing me £448 ($690). Not a fortune, but certainly not bearing out your statement that "nobody will buy what you sell." The important point, for me, is that the type of stategy I have outlined above has led to sales figures rising month on month.
Has something odd happened to the Forum?
A load of very old threads have appeared on the front page without, apparently, any new postings being made.
You may be one of the extremely few people on Lulu who is selling anything through Lulu. When I say that the economy is bad, I am speaking from what everyone else says. You may be real prosperous at the moment, but your book may be in one of those really desirable categories. Fiction is not selling, and only those books which are of help to people looking for self-emplyment seem to be the good sellers.
You are way too optimistic for your own good.
You accuse me of being too optimistic for my own good.
In reply, may I perhaps suggest that you are far, far too cynical for your own good.
If your books are not selling, then rather than blaming Lulu or "the economy", maybe you need to look closer to home.
Just think for a moment about Amazon's sales figures. Whatever the global economic situation, consumers are still spending millions of $/£s on books every week. Why are your books not in there?
Go on to Amazon and do an advanced search of bestsellers showing Lulu as publisher. You will find hundreds of Lulu books that are doing very well indeed. None of yours there? As I say, maybe you need to look to yourself for the reasons rather than trying to displace the blame to others.
What you are really doing is prejudicing others against Lulu because of your own failures. It may well be a fact that only 1% of writers who use Lulu ever get on to the Amazon best sellers list. But I would rather that aspirant writers took hope from those of us who have, rather than being dissuaded by failures such as you.