Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sales DNA Part II

If the people you’re marketing to don’t know who you are, you’re not going to make a sale.  End of story. Why should they buy from you? Who are you for them to buy from? What makes you such a hot commodity? Why should anyone trust you to give them their money’s worth? Is your book worth the price?  Hard questions, I know, but these are the real questions that matter. Everything else is secondary. This holds true for sales in general, not just books.  You’d rather buy from Sony, JVC or Panasonic brand names wouldn’t you?  You’ve heard their names, you know where they stand in the marketplace and for the most part, you trust their products. Novels and books are no different. They are products just the same.

However, books are products that are tied into one more thing. One very important factor which ranks very high in determining whether you’ll make a sale or not. And that factor is you, the author. You are the real product. (Preferably a celebrity or a politician, or whomever.) Your novel or book (your by-product) is almost secondary to your personality, your charm, your platform. And by platform, I’m referring to your core beliefs as a human being more than anything else. Your book is the result of your efforts, your beliefs. It is, in essence, your by-product. The more that people can identify with your core beliefs, the more trust they will have in what you have to say, and what you offer. These are some of the conditions that lead to a sale. There are others, of course, but these conditions, these ingredients are paramount and absolutely essential in making, or at least stimulating a prospective customer’s decision to buy. In the structure of sales molecules, TRUST is its functional DNA.

All that is well and good, you say.  So how do you gain that all-important trust? Where do you begin? What’s the catalyst?  You must start somewhere. After all, you were not born a sensational writer. But somewhere along the way, you acquired the knowledge and developed the skills to become one. And you are the hottest thing since Aristotle aren’t you?  Just say yes and roll with it folks, I’ve got a point to make. And no, I’ll spare you of my old axiom this time around. I’m sure you’re sick of its oversimplification, albeit its undeniable truth. But here’s the good news. We live in a capitalist society. That’s a good thing. It’s an environment that fosters brilliant ideas and encourages strong competition, which in turn generates all the conditions that lead to great, irresistible products and by-products such as you and your amazing book.  Got it? It’s not as complicated as it sounds but everything I mentioned is necessary in the scheme of making a sale. If you don’t see it this way, you’re missing the banana boat. These are the facts. These are the truths that will set you free. These are the conditions that will help you succeed in selling your books.

I’m going to give you an example of what I’ve just said but it has nothing to do with selling books. Bear with me it’ll help defrag your brain from all the mumbo jumbo. For example:  After the break-up of one of my favorite bands of all time, (Creed) its lead singer, Scott Stapp went full speed ahead with his solo career. Question: Has anyone heard of the amazing singer, Scott Stapp? Maybe a handful of people, but certainly not millions.

What happened was that Scott Stapp broke away from his by-product, the band, and tried to re-invent himself as another Product and By-product. Respectively, him and his music. Did it work? Don’t ask me, just look at the billboard charts and see where Scott Stapp fits in.

The reason people defected from Stapps image and his music was because he became a new product, but had to prove himself, and his new music. It didn’t work. You’re still amazing Scott, but you were much better with the band. You cut-off an essential element in the sales DNA structure and suddenly, Creed was not the same. It was gone. It vanished into thin air, in fact. The Creed DNA was irreversibly altered. A big mistake. Either that, or Stapp better get his mojo on and write some better tunes. Besides, once you’re known for being great at one thing, it’s almost impossible to succeed on a grand scale in another, if it’s a personal image thing. Consumers are easily turned off. Companies, however, are more likely to get away with re-inventing themselves.

The point is this. Again, you cannot separate the two entities and still expect to win people over. It rarely ever works.  Authors and their books are an entity that should never be broken. And that magnetic, karma-infused entity is also known as, your Platform. Neglect to build it, or destroy it at your own risk.

Okay, repeat after me: Book buzz feeds off trust. Trust, is a vital component of sales DNA. Too scientific for you? Okay, how about this? Without customer trust, sales are dead. As a matter of fact, I’ll throw a curve ball into this whole equation. Competition also limits your chances of making a sale, regardless of strong sales DNA. But this is where another vital element of Sales DNA comes in; book buzzing. Let’s break it down.

Lip Radio - Essential Sales DNA

You’ve written an amazing novel, which is to say a complete package; an intriguing title, an awesome cover. Great blurbs on the back cover and a kick-ass opening chapter and/or prologue. This is your hot, amazing product.

Since you are the author, and your book reflects who you are, you are by association its real product. This in turn makes your book a by-product. An extension of you and your ideas. You want to sell your product to millions of people, not just a handful. And in order to accomplish that, you have to promote your book via a talented sales agent or do it yourself. If you can find a good agent that believes in your story and can smell big sales, you’re almost done with the hardest part.

If no one else but you believes in your book, then you’re all on your own in promoting not just the book, but promoting yourself along with it. Product and by-product, in tandem.

And finally, this is where the all-important book buzz comes in. Hire an agency such as, AuthorBuzz, Red Hot Internet Book Tour, or Pump Up Your Book Promotion, just to name three. I encourage you to do an extensive search of your own and try one out. Some of these services can get pricey, but they’re going to showcase you and your book in the most advantageous way so as to build your name brand (that’s you) and your book(s) with the purpose of introducing and defining you and your product(s). And that’s the very first step in getting closer to making a sale.

What does this do for you? It gets your name and product out there where it counts. In front of millions of potential book buyers. It narrows your market and increases the chances of making a sale or many, many sales. It buzzes your book within a promotional arena. If enough people buy your book and they like it, then they’ll buzz about it to their friends (WOM or Lip Radio) and increase sales even more, depending on how much universal appeal your story has. This is the desired scenario. The formula, whatever you want to call it. It’s out there. It’s available to you and it may work wonders for you, as it has for others for a small investment or many times for free.

Now let me mention something about universal appeal. You’re probably thinking that your book may not fall into this classification. Never mind all that. People buy books for reasons other than to read them. They collect them, they re-sell them, they use them as paper weights. Who knows?  And many people, (this is even better news) buy them because it’s the popular bookish thing to do. In fact, many of the books that are bought, go unread. Many are read but not in their entirety. (I’m guilty of this when the book doesn’t deliver the story I expected, and I suspect it happens more often than you think.) Books are like commodities and they are often bought just like any other products.

Consumers often buy products they never use. They get caught-up in the sales moment, the hype, the controversy, in many cases, and before they know it, they’ve swiped their credit cards and made a purchase for an item they don’t need or maybe even a product they don’t really want to begin with. Books are like that too. The literary-minded are a minority.

Although I'll give you several exceptions to this DNA rule. Namely, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, and I'll include Cormac McCarthy in this bunch.  These elusive authors, because they are authors, more than they are writers; have built a name for themselves by disassociating from the media and the press. To the point of being recluses, in fact. 

Yet, this has also made them even more magnetic in the eyes of the reading public and the media, of course. They've unwittingly created an aura of mystical proportions surrounding their names and their novels. And except for McCarthy, they are one-hit wonders in the world of literature. Nice gig, if you can get it. Either way, they have branded themselves in an opposite direction, which is just as effective in attracting attention and tapping into that all-important, sales DNA. Their secret? Powerful strories that moved, inspired, and motivated readers to read their work. And a good movie behind the book always helps. (Darn it. I was so close to closing this with a hopeful tone, and now this.) Uhh...learn to write screenplays. It'll help your story and your novel. I recommend STORY, by Robert Mckee.

Good grief, what’s the bottom line?  Heck if I know. Just get yourself and your good book out there, cross your fingers, and pray to the Greek book gods like crazy. It works every time.


My next Post will be a surprise, because I don't even know what I'm going to be writing about. I am reading 2 new novels, Sons of God, which I'm having some trouble getting through, and Finn should be in my mailbox by tomorrow. I'll review both books in the weeks that follow. Meanwhile folks, keep reaching for the stars. 

Oh, I remember what my next Post will be: It's about today's book-buying habits. No, not by consumers, but by agents. You'll be appalled when you read this, but it's happening, here and now. Don't miss it.

Godspeed folks.


About the Novel - The Shack:
BTW, as an addemdum to this post I also wanted to mention the recent success of self-published books, such as The Shack which is ranked #6 on Amazon.com. Amazing accomplishment. I'm not sure of its hard sales numbers, and that's not the important part at this point, but the fact that it has found and struck a chord with its core audience is proof enough that a good book, along with all the hype, goes a long way. 

I read the first few pages and wasn't swept away by it. I'm sure I haven't given it the chance it deserves either, but I don't think it's for me. It has gotten some mixed reviews, over 2000 all together, mostly positive, which helps people decide whether to buy it or not. This book has what I call, marathon legs. In it for the long haul. Check out Windblown Media for details about the book's fame to publication and how two pastors are scrambling to keep up with orders. Great success story. Congratulations, W. Paul Young.