Sunday, 3 March 2013

Marketing Tips for Authors - The 4Ps Part One

Pick up almost any text book on marketing and somewhere within it you’ll find the ‘4Ps of Marketing’ (The Marketing Mix). Some ‘gurus’ have, since the inception of the 4Ps, added a few more Ps to the tally, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll, for the moment, stick to the original four.

So what does each ‘P’ stand for? The first is ‘Product’, and in this article we will assume you have a book to sell, so the book itself is the first of the 4Ps. (Well not totally, but we’ll come to the reasons why a little later). Next comes ‘Price’, and with it a whole host of associated problems. The third ‘P’ is ‘Promotion’ – primarily getting the correct message over to the correct audience. That isn’t as easy to achieve as it might sound, and of course price will play an important part. Then finally, the fourth ‘P’, which stands for ‘Place’. How are you going to get your product to your customers? With the introduction of ebooks and print-on-demand, the cost implications of printing and storing physical books have reduced significantly. This huge differentiator between the traditional publishers and self-publishers, where the latter couldn’t compete with the former due to the huge resources required, is slowly becoming less important.

In this particular session I’m going to discuss in more detail Product. Price, Promotion and Place will all be dealt with in later articles, when I’ll be looking at each in turn.

I stated earlier that the book was not the whole story (no pun intended) when considering what was meant by Product. I can explain why by giving you just two names – JK Rowling and Dan Brown. Ignoring JK’s latest book for a moment, when these two authors released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Lost Symbol, respectively, the result was global sales from day one. If JK Rowling had in fact released Harry Potter #8 at the time, Amazon would probably have crashed, such would have been the demand. Because The Da Vinci Code was such a success, almost regardless of what Dan Brown wrote, the next book was going to be a huge seller; and it was.  However, almost 3,000 reviews on Amazon US suggest The Lost Symbol has been considered average, at best (with all the five rating levels getting almost the same number of reviews), but The Da Vinci Code had already done the hard work, and had created a brand for Dan Brown. All the previous books were re-released, new covers complemented one another, and book shops were selling copies by the truck load. Some may say all the hype may have ‘overvalued’ his brand, which didn’t really deliver with The Lost Symbol. I look forward to his next release with interest, just to see if the wheels are in fact starting to wobble on Dan Brown’s wagon. Conversely,Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows has a little shy of 4,000 reviews on Amazon US, of which a staggering 78% are 5 star. JK Rowling has created an enormous brand with Harry Potter, plus a bank balance, allegedly, in the region of $1bn. It will now be interesting to see how her writing career progresses after Harry Potter. Early reviews of The Casual Vacancy are totally split, suggesting a ‘Marmite’ book, which will mean in the long term, if the reviews continue in a similar vein, the weakening of her brand. The key point for me about product is, understand what your customers want, then give them what they want, again and again - without compromising on quality.

In the next article I’ll discuss that all important topic of Price.

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