Thursday, July 17, 2014

Differentiation

By Hank Quense
Copyright © 2010 Hank Quense

This three-part article describes one aspect of marketing and selling books.
With the gazillions of other books available, authors need something to make their book grab the reader's attention.  Book differentiation is one way to do this.

Part One: The Differentiation Process
Getting a book published means you can call yourself a 'published author.'  You may not know it yet, but it also means you can add the titles 'marketing manager' and 'sales manager to the title of 'published author.'  In other words, you, the 'published author,' are in charge of marketing and selling you book.  Surprised?  I was.
What do these new titles mean?  As marketing manager, you have to spread the word on your book and create a buzz about it.  This will get some folks interested in or curious about the book.  These folks will visit your selling site.  As sales manager your job is to convert these visitors to customers.  Your differentiation statements are the key to converting the visitors.
These statements tell the world why your book matters and why readers should buy it.  This is a vital aspect of self-marketing.  Consider this: thousands of new books become available every month.  Consequently, your book is competing against all these other books for the readers' attention and money.  Your book has to stand out from all the others and persuade readers to shell out money to get a copy.
I've read a number of books on self-marketing and using the internet as a marketing platform.  While they all contain good ideas, many ignore this subject.  When it is mentioned at all, it is covered rather quickly and shallowly.  I intend to cover the subject in depth because I believe it is of paramount importance.
For many years, I worked selling high-tech telecommunications equipment.  If I wanted to talk about a new product or new features on an existing product, I'd call a customer, explain what I wanted and the customer would set up a meeting with other interested departments.  Later, I'd give a presentation and answer any questions.  The critical point to make is this; I knew the customers and could get a face-to-face meeting whenever I needed to.  Marketing and selling on the internet are entirely different processes for several reasons.  First, you are selling from websites, not in-person.  You don't know the website visitors and the majority of them don't know you.  A second reason is that I presented my product to what amounted to a captive audience.  Website visitors are not captive; they are capricious and fleeting.
To sell your book, you have to devise a sales plan.  Yeah, a sales plan.  You're the sales manager in charge of selling the book and sales managers develop sales plans.  After you develop the plan, you then implement it.  The sales plan consists of two parts.  The first part is to develop your differentiation statement.  The second is to develop the means to use the statement most effectively.  That is, place the statement where potential customers can see it.
The good news about the sales plan is, that unlike many other marketing activities, it's free.  It can also be completed before the book is published.  I start working on a differentiation statement for a new book long before the book is finished.  This gives me ample time to tinker with the messages and to perfect them.
There are three elements involved in developing your book's differentiation.  These are depicted in the diagram.

Part Two: Differentiation Development
Essentially, what this process entails is developing three sentences or short paragraphs that can be used to sell your book.  The pitch line is the hook to grab the readers' attention.  Its purpose is to persuade the reader to keep reading the other two statements.  It should be simple, a few short sentences at most, and it must make a clear statement about your book.
What's in it for the buyers? is a statement that explains what the reader (i.e. a book buyer) will get in exchange for money.  This must be explicit.  This statement is not the place to get cute.  Don't come across like the legendary used-car salesman.  Tell the readers what benefit they'll get from buying the book.  Think of this statement in this way: If your book is surrounded by hundreds of similar-sized books on a shelf in bookstore, what would persuade the buyer to choose your book instead of one of the others? 
What's different about this book?  With all the books published every month, what makes your book stand out from the others?
These dry descriptions are difficult to grasp so I'll use examples from my published books.

Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty humorous short stories.  Here is my differentiation statement.
Pitch Line:
Live longer.  Laughter is good for your health.  Read this book and you may live longer.
What's in it for the buyer? 
Unusual characters, settings both strange and familiar, and bizarre plots are a few of the things you'll experience and enjoy.
What's different about this book?
Aren't you tired of reading scifi and fantasy stories that take themselves too seriously?  Well, you won't find any stories like that here.  It doesn't take anything serious.  Politics, Shakespeare, Lord of the Rings, the military, aliens, the undead, they all get cut down a notch or two.

Fool's Gold is a retelling of the ancient myth of the Rhinegold.  The story involves a magical horde of gold and ring of immense power.  Sound familiar?  Tolkien borrowed part of the myth to write Lord of the Rings.  My version takes place in the future and uses aliens instead of fantasy creatures.  Here is how I worded my differentiation statement. 
Pitch Line:
A Ring of Power?  That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces laughs.
What's in it for the buyer?
Aliens, ancient gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal, greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone. 
What's different about this book?
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Finally, there is my nonfiction book Build a Better Story.
Pitch Line:
Have a story that needs to be told?  Here's the best way to go about doing it.
What's in it for the buyer?
The book describes a process that eases the work involved in developing a story.  This reduces the time spent in reworking flawed and imperfect drafts. Following the process allows more time to be spent on the creative activities and shortens the time spent on less creative work.
What's different about this book?
Besides the process, this book takes a unique approach to character building and plotting.  It identifies problem areas that inexperienced writers struggle with and explains how to address those areas.  Two of them are character motivation and scene design.

Of course, when you use the statements don't use the questions, just the answers.  So my complete differentiation message for Fool's Gold looks like this:
A Ring of Power?  That is soooo yesterday. Now it's the Chip of Power and it produces laughs.
Aliens, ancient gods, humor, beautiful Valkyries, heros, conniving nobles, betrayal, greed, incest, a magical gold horde; this story has something for everyone. 
This is the only retelling of the ancient Rhinegold myth that is set in the future and is a humorous scifi tale.

Do you get the idea?  How do you start?  Take a blank sheet of paper or a start a new mind map file on your computer.  Jot down every possible idea that comes to you for each of the three statements.  Don't eliminate any ideas because you think they are too dumb.  This 'dumb idea' may trigger a great thought or two later on.  Keep refining the ideas.  Add more ideas, combine others.  Eventually, suitable statements will evolve out of this exercise, but it may take more than a single session to get it.
Once you develop the complete statement, don't sit back and relax.  You need at least one, preferably two paraphrases of the message.  These are used to repeat the message -- to emphasize it -- without using the same words.

Part Three: Using the Message
What do you do with these statements after you develop them?  You stick them anywhere they'll fit.  On your website, on blogs, on ads, press releases, in your trailer.  If you can't fit the entire statement someplace (such as Twitter), use the pitch line by itself.
WEBSITE USE
On your book-buying page, make the pitch line the opening statement followed by the rest of your differentiation message. Why?  Earlier, I mentioned captured audiences when I made a sales presentation.  On the internet, no one is captive and their attention span is too minuscule to measure.  When these visitors land on your web page, you have a second or two to persuade them to read beyond the first line of text they see.  That is the job of your pitch line: to get the visitors to read further.  The next statement (what's in it for the buyer) has to tell them there is something of value here, something they can use or enjoy. Finally, your page tells them what is different about your book, what is in it that they can't get elsewhere.  If this works, the visitors will read even further where they can learn how to get a copy and how much it'll cost.  If you get a sale, you have accomplished the difficult process of converting a visitor to a customer.
TRAILER USE
Make sure your differentiation statements are clearly visible and emphasized in the trailer.  Get the message in the beginning and the end of the trailer.  Innumerable people from all over the world will view the trailer and you want them to understand your message.
INTERNET ANNOUNCEMENTS
Log onto social media sites and post an announcement that your book is available.  Include the differentiation message in the announcement.  
Log onto book sites like Goodreads and Librarything.  Add information about your book.  You can upload the cover and add descriptive text about it.  Make sure that text includes your differentiation messages.
PRESS RELEASES
Display your differentiation messages prominently.  Make them the opening statement in the body of the release.  Rephrase the message and place it a second time further down in the body.
EMAIL
Use the signature capability in your email program to build a unique signature using the pitch line by itself.  Link that pitch line to your book-selling website.  Now, every time you send an email, you'll also be pitching your book.
Once the differentiation statements are completed, you've taken a big step toward getting people to buy your book.  Keep going!  You can do this.

Hank Quense is the author of the Self-publishing Guides. Material such as differentiation and many more book marketing tips can be found in Marketing Plans for Self-published Books, on of the books in the Guides series
Hank Quense is the author of the Self-publishing Guides.  Publishing a book is only part of work.  The marketing work also has to be done.  That's the part most authors don’t understand or like. If you published a book and don't understand the need for building a marketing plan, or you don't know how to develop a marketing plan, this book explains it all. It contains a ready-to-use marketing plans that will have you marketing your book in no time.The book contains a complete marketing plan.
The marketing tasks are explained in non-technical language along with the rationale for the task.  The activities are grouped into timeframes. The plan is ready to be used. Based around the book’s launch date (i.e. the availability date) the marketing tasks covers pre-launch, launch and post-launch activities.





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