One of the things unique about this podcast is that we don’t just talk about tactics to sell more books. We also, from time to time, talk about marketing fundamentals so you can understand why certain tactics work, if they will work for you, and hopefully how to come up with your own tactics.
These fundamentals episodes have a special marker called Marketing 101. These are special episodes that connect all the other episodes together. So as your professor of book marketing, today we are going to talk about How Readers Make Buying Decisions. You could also call this the customer buying journey.
Some authors think that books are somehow special and the fundamentals of marketing don’t apply. These authors are wrong. The longer I work with authors, the more I see how the fundamentals apply now more than ever. The better you understand the fundamentals, the better you can adapt to the constant change in tactics.
In this episode I will be using the word “customer” because for this journey, they aren’t your reader yet. We are going to focus on the physical bookstore journey in this episode, but many of the steps are similar. The principles are the same regardless of if the reader is online or offline.
This episode is for everyone. Indie, trad, fiction, nonfiction, and childrens.
Why Reader Buying Journeys are Important
You can’t force people to buy your book!
They must chose. This is the immutable fact of marketing. Marketing is never more than persuasion.
So it is vital for you to understand how they make thier buying choices. The better you understand that, the easier it is to sell books.
While readers look for different things, the buying journeys are relatively similar.
For this episode we are going to focus mostly on undecided readers. If someone has already decided to purchase your book, the journey is a lot shorter.
Step 1 The customer decides to visit the bookstore.
Which bookstore the reader picks has a huge impact on the kind of book they are about to buy.
Two kinds of book stores:
- Destinations – Barnes & Noble
- Interruptions – The airport bookstore or grocery store book spinner.
What store someone visits tells you a lot about that kind of reader:
- Big Box – General Readers wanting to find their next great read. Also coffee drinkers.
- Amazon Bookstore – Amazon Prime Readers (Listen to episode 141 for a breakdown of Amazon Physical Bookstores)
- Speciality/Indie Bookstore – Already have an idea of what they want.
- Used Bookstore – Budget readers.
- Airport Bookstore – Wealthy readers.
- Grocery Store Book Spinner – Infrequent readers.
Step 2 The customer picks a shelf/section to visit.
If you are on the wrong shelf, your book will appear before the wrong customers and fail.
This is a strategic decision. Johnson & Johnson baby powder is on the baby items aisle. All other baby powders are in the diaper aisle. The fruit juices in the produce section have just as much sugar as the soda in the soda aisle. But they can sell for more in the produce aisle because of the health halo from the kale.
This is why shelving instructions are so important. One of the most common mistakes indie authors make with thier physical books.
Ultimately the bookstore has final say where your book is shelved. Unless you are paying for specific placement.
Placement is one of the Five Ps of Marketing. To find out what the other Ps are listen to episode 61.
Step 3 The customer looks at the shelf.
- Books are either:
- Face Out
- Spine Out
- You have to earn face out status.
- Does your book stand out on the shelf?
- Standing out is not about being pretty! There is a reason Dummies books have sold millions of copies. A big reason for this is because how well they stand out when slotted spine out.
- Sometimes bookstores will put reviews under books. For more on how to get in nice with physical bookstores, listen to episode 195 How to Work With Bookstores.
Step 4 The customer notices a specific book and pulls it from the shelf.
The key to getting pulled from the shelf is all about your title & subtitle if you are a new author.
If you are an established author it is all about your brand. It doesn’t really matter what titles John Grishem or Steve King use. People buy based on the author’s name. You will know these authors because the font of thier name is larger than the font of the title. This is what makes them “big name” authors.
Step 5 The customer looks at the cover.
This step is skipped if your book is faceout.
They don’t look long. Perhaps 2 to 5 seconds. They are asking the question, does this book look like the kind of books I have enjoyed in the past? If not, is it the kind of book that I might enjoy in the future.
We have several episodes about book covers:
- 106 – 10 Things Every Book Cover Needs
- 107 – Book Cover Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Marketing
- 199 – How to Create a Design Brief for Your Book Cover
Step 6 The customer flips to the back cover.
This is where they see the blurb. Writing good blurbs is critical. Don’t be afraid to hire this out!
We have an episode to help with this:
- 111 – How to Write Best$elling Back Cover Copy
- 189 – How to Craft a Compelling Elevator Pitch for Your Book
This is also the book’s price.
- 201 Book Marketing 101: How to Price Your Ebook
- I have another episode about pricing already outlined.
- Price is another one of the Five Ps of Marketing. To find out what the other Ps are listen to episode 61.
This is where they will see your top endorsements.
- The key here is to have endorsements by people the customer has already heard of.
They also glance at your author photo/bio
- 079 – How to Write a Crazy Cool Author Bio
- 098 – 7 Tips for Best Selling Author Portraits
- How to Avoid Lame Author Portraits
- How to Take Portraits for an Author Website
Step 7 The customer opens the book.
This is the moment of truth and the first time the quality of your writing matters. Depending on the book they might flip to different sections.
- For novels readers often read the first page or a random page in the middle.
- This is why it is so important to start your novel off with a bang. That first page has to “sell” the rest of the book.
- Don’t skimp on learning your craft! Write short stories to get better.
- The table of contents is key. The pro tip here is to write compelling chapter titles. Each chapter title needs to “sell” the content of the chapter.
- Advanced typesetting can help set your book apart. People don’t always read nonfiction start to finish like a novel. They flip around. Make this easy and attractive.
Step 8 The customer makes a buying decision.
If the customer has said “yes” all the way through the process they will decide to buy your book.
Customers can exit the buying path at any point. Usually if they leave early it is because they have said “no” but sometimes it is a “shut up and take my money” moment. If the customer sees book #3 from a series they already love, they won’t go through all these steps. They are sold on the spine alone.
You have to earn access from step to step. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is if the customer doesn’t pull your book from the shelf and crack it open.
Step 9 The customer becomes a reader.
Deciding to buy a book is not the same as deciding to read a book. I would venture to guess that for the average book buyer, they only start about half the books they buy and only finish half of those.
This ratio shifts based on the kind of reader they are. The more books the buy a year, the higher thier completion percentage tends to be.
Let me know if you want me to do a breakdown of the online customer journey. Many of the steps are the same, but some are different, particularly at the beginning.
I crafted this plan with bestselling and award winning author James L Rubart to be step by step guide through the first five years of your writing career. Learn each quarter what to do to succeed and avoid the mistakes that hijack the success of most authors. Learn more at NovelMarketing.com/courses.
Alysia of Athens is sold into slavery during the turbulent reign of Tiberius Caesar. When she runs away, she finds herself in the battle-torn land of Palestine, where her life is forever changed.
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Baby #2 is almost here! We will have some reruns and pre-recorded episodes over the next several weeks so I can spend time with my family.
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You have been listening to Thomas Umstattd Jr. on the Novel Marketing podcast, giving you innovative ideas on how to promote yourself and your writing, offline, online, and everywhere in-between. Thanks for listening.
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