Promoting Your Cross-Market Book, Pt 1

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Congratulations, you've just finished your cross-market book. So how are you going to increase visibility (and all-important sales) to your audience? Will you choose:

 

A. By reading Mick's brilliant blog post here.

B. What? Promote? That's the publisher's job. Or

C. I figured I'd learn all that once I get a contract.

 

If you answered B or C, give yourself a little slap. Wake up. While you were sleeping, it became your task to prove why your book is important. And the best way to do that is to show how it's a part of a sizeable movement—the "spiritually-interested" movement.

 

The top Christian publishers owned by larger NY parent houses may be positioned to exploit this large area, but their awareness of it and how to reach it is still fairly, well, not always stellar. Some have seen moderate-to-big success with these kinds of books, but whether by accident or intent is largely conjecture. The encouraging news is that many of the authors of these books had modest platforms, or no platform at all before, and whether or not a particular publisher is heavily personality-driven in its philosophy, the appeal of these books is often message-driven, content-driven, and reader-need-driven. In short, there’s a strong “heart incentive” here for readers you can tap into in your marketing. The author best positioned to succeed in winning readers in this audience is the one who proves he or she can lead the way to defining and even shaping this newer category (I like the word “psychographic”) of publishing.

 

And you thought you were just writing a book.

 

Some big reasons to take control of your publicity:

1. This new territory is wonderfully wide open. That means you can largely define the shape of your approach (more on that in following posts).

 

2. This spiritually-curious audience is media-saavy and uber-connected. There's a good reason top-Twitterer Ashton Kutcher found The Shack.

 

3. Existing CBA stores are closing at a faster rate than new CBA stores are opening, and commerce in general is shifting away from brick-and-mortar stores to the Internet. This has been going on for some time, but most CBA retail commerce is controlled (and limited) by just a handful of channels—including FCS, LifeWay, Mardel, CBD, Choice, Parable, and a collection of independents. When you add up all the units typically sold through these channels, first-year sell-through projections are rather low for all but a handful of Christian authors. So publishers are finding it necessary to follow authors' leads who can effectively identify and sell into the new online and viral sales channels (to which, spiritually-interested books are especially suited). This means you're much more likely to find a top publisher if you're already active in promotion.

 

4. Most importantly, you need your message to go to more than book-readers, believers, or any other category familiar to a publicity team. Let's just say these spiritually-interested folks don’t typically shop in CBA stores. Christian and general market retailers are generally averse to new genres (and even to many established genres). They like their usual areas–Christian living, genre fiction, diet books, whatever–and maybe a few others (proven best-selling authors and really cheap books). This limits publishers commercially. Taking on a new mission like this is attractive to a house and spurs greater innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. And again, authors have a huge opportunity to be the lead entrepreneurs here.

 

In short, as author of a spiritually-interested book, you have the opportunity to identify and test new strategies in sales and marketing, in line with the present and future of book publishing. And that's attractive no matter what kind of book you've written.

 

As authors, we must define this vision and ensure it’s understood in our proposals and manuscripts. We must incite passion in our publishing teams for reaching this large audience. And we need to explore nontraditional ways to “pitch” the appeal of these books.

 

We'll unpack much of this with more practicals in the posts to follow. Some questions we'll answer next time:

 

Q: Why are these books without a clear goal or “take-away” so vastly superior for this audience? 

Q: What's the best way to prove I can reach these readers? 

Q: Should I just self-publish my spiritually-interested book?

Q: Are some publishers and retailers really actively seeking these books?

 

Come on back. I think you'll like the answers.

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3 thoughts on “Promoting Your Cross-Market Book, Pt 1”

  1. Interesting post, Mick. I’m wrestling through all these things, particularly as my memoir releases. (See it here: http://twitpic.com/eedot). When the marketing director showed the trailer to sales, it was the ABA sales force who seemed to really latch on to it. So I’m encouraged.

  2. Great post!
    I’m very interested in this topic as a minister and writer targeting the “spiritually-interested.” The traditional methods haven’t worked well reaching this audience. Many church planters and ministry leaders, myself included, are changing our approach.
    Knowing this audience doesn’t shop at Christian book stores, I’ve been wondering where my manuscripts fit, what types of publishers would be interested, or who in the publishing industry would understand this focus and give advice.
    I’ve been encouraged by some CBA publishers embrace of young church leaders evidenced at events like the Catalyst Conference. But I’m curious about their cross-over efforts.
    Your post gives me hope. Thank you for this topic!! I’ll be reading more from you.

  3. Mary, that’s awesome Zondervan’s ABA sales team is excited. Use that…then come back and share the best ideas! ;)
    Robin, it’s a common struggle. Thousands of writers are in the exact same boat. Be encouraged.

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