Saturday, July 14, 2012

Niche Marketing

You’ve written a new book, published it, and people aren’t buying. Publishing is definitely not a case of “build it, and they will come.” It’s hard work to get the word out about a new book when tens of thousands are published every month.

There are two groups of people you should be marketing your new book to. The first of these consists of the people you know, and the second group is made up of people who like the type of book you’ve written.
Humans are social creatures. By identifying yourself as a member of a group, you’ve identified a niche market for your novel. Look at unique opportunities to market to that audience. Maybe it’s as easy as telling a group of fishing buddies that you’ve published a book, or perhaps the group is so far-reaching that you’ll need to consider advertising.  Each group is unique and will present distinctive ways of communicating that you’ll be able to tap into. For instance, college alumni groups typically have both nationally distributed magazines, and local meeting groups. Your high school alumni group will most likely have neither.

So what groups are you a member of? I’m going to start by listing some of the more common groups. I’m sure you’ll find that you belong to one or more. Then you can brainstorm for additional groups of which you’re a member. You’ll be amazed at how many groups you can come up with in a short period of time.

The first group that most of us belong to is the workforce. I’m not saying that we should define our audience as the entire workforce, but you certainly can slice up your job in a variety of different ways. First, what company do you work for? Most of your co-workers will be interested in hearing about a new book—particularly one written by someone they know. Make a point of telling the people in your office about your new endeavor. There will be some of you who will not be able to talk about your writing. Some bosses will think that your newfound fame as an author will spell the end of your job at work. You’ll have to make the call on that. Still, your workplace can be a source of sales.

Beyond the company you work for, you are part of a professional group as well. Currently, I teach middle school English. I belong to the National Education Association as well as the National Council of Teachers of English. Submit an announcement of your publication to your professional organization’s in-house magazine. Most publications have a column or feature announcing member news. You can tell all of the people in your profession about your book in this manner.

Now that you’ve covered your workplace, consider covering your former schools in a similar fashion.  Most of you went to high school and college, so you’ll have at least two avenues to pursue. Schools, colleges in particular, are ideal places to promote your work. While attending institutions of higher learning, you were in the process of becoming who you are today, which includes your writing. Now that you’ve accomplished something, they are a great place to tell people about it.

Most alumni organizations have local chapters and a nationally distributed magazine. All of them have a place where alumni can announce their promotions, weddings, and children. Tell the editor about your new book. Local groups usually put out a smaller newsletter for the graduates in the area. Obviously, if you went to school close to where you now live, you’ll probably have a bigger population of graduates to whom you can promote your book. With local groups, always try to get a mailing list of the members. Some groups will give or sell you their lists if you’re a member.

Your high school can be another place to sell your book. It’s a bit more difficult to get the word out because most high schools are not organized or financially secure enough to send mass-mailings to former students. And typically alumni events are only held every five years, so you could have a book published and out of print in less time than it takes to get around to the next reunion. Still, if an event is coming up that asks graduates what they’ve been up to, be sure to include your book title.

Having covered the basic organizations, there are numerous other organizations that you belong to, some you might not even be aware of! If you live in an apartment complex or a condominium, post signs about your signings on the public bulletin boards, and ask to have a notice about your book put in the complex’s meeting minutes. These minutes are often sent directly to residents.

The number of organizations that you belong to will surprise you. Even your choice of religion can provide you with new marketing opportunities. Your church has a newsletter that can announce your new book. If you fish or hunt or collect glass animals, most of these activities have national organizations that allow announcements as well. Many cozies these days contain a unique hobby or craft that interests the reader. These avocations can be used to market to the relevant craft people; perhaps you can even set up a signing at the local hobby and craft show.

Your family is another source for your work. If your wife works outside the home, she can promote your book to her co-workers. If your husband belongs to the Elks or the Masons, he can tell that group to buy your book. Boy Scouts, Brownies, soccer teams, bowling leagues, PTA, and others are all places where you can find a niche to promote your work

Jeffrey Marks is the long-time moderator of MurderMustAdvertise, an on-line discussion group dedicated to book marketing and public relations. He is the author of Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, the only how-to book for promoting genre fiction.