To put it the way a very smug lady once asked me "So, Charlie, What do you know about marketing?"
The answer is a whole lot - when it comes to web marketing and grass roots campaigns, as they are the strongest means of marketing for a young man such as myself. Thus, they are the means I have studied closest in my 13+ years of attempting to become a professional novelist.
I paid close attention to the Obama election, and now the Bernie Campaign strategies because they share interesting similarities with successful book-marketing campaigns, and I'm seeing similar patterns of effectiveness in word of mouth advertising between their campaign trails and a solid foundation of reputation and integrity that I hope to offer as well in my book promotion.
it is my belief that the closer you are to doing what you say you're going to do, the more successful you will be.
The old methods of marketing and advertising are somewhat failing. Hardly anyone goes out and buys a pepsi after seeing a commercial - though it may effect their decision making when already selecting a soda from the store.
In spite of these subtle changes to marketing and commercial effectiveness, these means will be around for a long time yet. This is because they are still cost effective, but as with all cheap tricks - it's only a matter of time before word of mouth overcomes them as it always has. That's where integrity in the product and quality control come in - and it's also how The Obama and Bernie campaigns relate to book campaigns.
See, you need to get exactly what you're selling, to exactly who wants it - and in order to do that you need to target a demographic in the first place, and hit it dead on with what it expects, and what it wants from what they are seeing.
People are taking in less T.V every day, and believing social media marketing less and less as well, and weather that word of mouth marketing be legitimate or cleverly placed ads from the mouths of those people whom we empathize with and trust most - W.O.M is becoming a clear winner in the arena of getting people to buy what you're selling, and so are grass root campaigns, though they can be expensive in both time and finance.
Which brings me to want to talk about
Cheap Guerrilla Marketing Tactics.
For my book I have a new plan of attack for invading the Science Fiction Market that I will now share with my readers.
SCIFI is a market who's demographic is largely made up of young men of all ethnicities (12-24), Old white and asian men, and Adult white women (28-35) who are often somewhat introverted, intellectual types.
When my book is ready, I have several methods for gaining popularity with these exact crowds which I think any author can, and SHOULD imitate. I came up with these methods after studying what the people who buy these products do when researching their next pick, or ingesting entertainment in general.
Some things I learned early in marketing; you always want to go with the lowest common denominator when looking at behaviours of your target audience - the simplest mechanism is almost always the best. This is because your maximum market reach will ALWAYS be within the lowest common denominator's sector. In some cases that means sidestepping some of the classic publishing rules a little bit, and in other cases the idea translates to some pretty low brow content.
In this case, however, I asked myself what do people who read SCI FI most commonly do, when looking for new entertainment, and what do they also like as well as reading?
The none-guerrilla marketing answers are the usual suspects; make sure you make book lists, advertise on facebook, Amazon, Itunes, and kindles - and do book signings and other events. But the less obvious strategies are as follows:
The answer to what is the L.C.D is the same across all disciplines of entertainment; everybody loves free shit. Especially when it's good free shit. And to top it all off, piracy is alive and stronger than ever. So how does one combat this issue without alienating ones market?
I have a Five-Point Guerilla Marketing strategy which I will detail below, to help resolve how to deliver your product and be profitable at low cost, using what is becoming the best advertising method.
Step one: Give that Shit Away (Regional Victories)
Every journey starts with a single step, so you're going to need to make it big locally before you go nationwide with your work.
Make sure it seems as though it's difficult to get your product THE WAY YOUR AUDIENCE WANTS IT for free - but still make it possible. That means don't just give away free copies as Ebooks or Physical books to friends or fans, even to build hype. (Even though some authors may recommend this route.) Without doing this, you can't expect anyone to buy anything can you? And people don't generally decide on books based on the author's past article writing experience, if we're honest about it.
But you must accomplish spreading the word without cost to these people, none the less. And you must do so on the most popular medium possible, that won't effect sales. What does that mean exactly?
It means while you're selling your Ebook and physical copy (Ebook at a slightly lower cost for logical reasons) on Amazon, itunes, and Kindle, you must also release it for free somewhere that is somewhat useless but will gain traction.
A youtube video, that has the text and automates the reading over ambient music makes an excellent example.
You will notice that on youtube there are postings of book readings, script readings, etc - some of which are set to music, and the people who look these up most? You guessed it. Readers. And guess what else? Young people today are more likely to find your work on youtube than in a library, even if that library is Amazon's own because it's free entertainment available anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection - and libraries and for the most part, still physical locations.
Releasing youtube videos that display (and read) the text of your novel, and is set to pleasant ambient music makes your work stand out. Or paying a famous person to read it (which isn't always very expensive.) It will be memorable when people search for a related concept and someone comes across your product and begins to enjoy it - sometimes related youtube videos begin playing automatically as well - so you may just accidentally gain a readership that way. This is a marketing strategy much like fire-side book readings on the radio used to be, but modernized.
It's also an easy, automatable process if you have a lot of books or write a lot of articles. There are programs that can phonetically read the book (though I suggest taking the time of having a professional record the reading, as it's not that expensive.)
What's more interesting is that there are MORE PEOPLE watching youtube videos than reading books in 2016.
So anyone can enjoy the audio version for free, or even read the book on Youtube if they are so inclined - but they can't get a copy for free easily - certainly not an ebook. It's possible to steal this work but the quality will be low, inconvenient for travel (the time when most people read) and even though they can do this - they won't be inclined to steal when there is a Download/Buy link close by and convenient instead. (Most people who watch youtube videos don't possess the skills of an expert pirate.)
This way if a fan is broke they have a way to obtain their own copy, or watch it for free. Or if they want to show it to someone who's on the fence about it, they can do so without lending out their book.
This strategy is excellent because you are gaining much needed popularity even though your sales aren't increasing - which is a necessary component of a successful product.
(To gain popularity, that is.)
You could also post your work yourself on The Pirate Bay, or other services using a VPN, Proxy, etc - but make the version released on such services is of lower quality or convenience somehow (limited number of reads, etc.)
Though I would surely never advise that as it breaks some term agreements with Amazon and Itunes.
It is an excellent option if you are doing independent release however.
Step Two: Make your product Mysterious, but appealing
What else do introverted Sci-Fi/Fantasy readers enjoy? A good legend, and a chance to socially interact which they do less often than extroverted types if we're honest with ourselves here. The extroverts will be the ones passing the book around most if you accomplish this step.
With the younger crowd, everyone loves crowd participation and even more than that everyone loves a good urban legend. No one has heard of your book, but it's very expensive and the youtube music makes it seem epic. On top of that, there are notes hidden by the author in the versions being given away to spread the word. When people are young they are more social and more likely to engage in activities together as well - if you make the price of your product absorbant, but not ridiculous, dedicated fans are still likely to purchase it. (We're talking 20-50$ range prices on a book.)
It has the added effect of making the book rarer - meaning people who recieve them from your other means of distribution will be more excited about reading and sharing them.
So how does one accomplish this legendary, word of mouth grass roots-campaign status?
My favorite method I have decided, would be printing up some books and giving away physical copies in local book exchanges, or leaving them at local libraries, and travelling enough that you can corner these markets.
As your turn comes around in a book exchange, you will be given many books, which you can then sell and use the profits to print more of your books to give away. This way people get ahold of your book through word of mouth - someone told them it was their favorite and they got it for free. On top of that, when they look it up, it looks expensive. It's already more interesting than the other books they were given - which is causing word to spread, slowly but surely about the mysterious book no one has a copy of, but everyone seems interested in.
Hardly anyone is buying it because they can hear it for free somewhere and it's a little pricey - though the interest generated should be high enough that you are getting some orders in - people will find that note inside that you write in the copies in book exchanges and libraries all the more unique.
It is an interesting little commodity If it's a quality book - and it will quickly become a hotly traded commodity in the word of mouth arena, and the book exchange arena as people realize how rare it is to get ahold of, as well as the fact that it seems that most of the copies anyone has, have unique notes from the author hand-written inside. These initial first physical copies that are given away may even become a collectors item - and grow in value as your popularity increases.
Step Three: Metasales
Now that your book is being talked about a small bit, and you are generating income through purchases and youtube views/advertisements, it's time for the bread and butter side of profiting from your work. See, all of these other tactics aren't that profit turning; they are for building hype.
Now it's time to profit big.
Release as short, related book of high cover quality, but don't make a video for it. Make it nearly impossible to get it for free. Make it only available in physical copy - and most importantly, make it a meta-attachment of the previous work. What I mean by that, is release the Journal of a character from your story. Or a monster/geography/anthropological compendium of the first work - much like Tolkien had, or monster manuals have. This helps in two ways; it causes repeat sales. Anyone who bought the first will buy the second if they liked it - (so now you have a fanbase) and it also adds to the initial legend of the book, in much the way Tolkiens work had a legendary background to it.
Make this secondary book short and cheap. I mean VERY cheap - and most importantly, make it reveal more about the original, mysterious product that appeared from nowhere and is not advertised anywhere - but for some reason, is getting talked about. How do you do that, one might ask? Make sure it's a compendium of geographical, anthropological, or monster/character information from your universe (such as a journal, or blueprints/character inventions, or even an artwork book.) Like I stated before, anything to add depth to the previous work.
Make this item something ANYONE can buy. Just a dollar or 3 to order, and make it answer a cliffhanger or definite question from the first work. Make it a necessity for any fan.
Step Four: Mainstream it!
Once the legend of your book has peaked, and a fan base begins growing - and you have made sure all the book exchanges and libraries have been graced with your work for targetting regions- it's time to put the word of mouth marketing to use in the target regions. Now it's come time to move to stores.
Locally owned bookstores are the best start because you can just go in and talk to the owner about working something out. Maybe doing a signing or a reading, and giving them a good deal on the books - or if the original strategy worked out successfully, you may just be able to go straight for a publishing deal with the major book stores (which will involve travelling signings, etc.)
You may have to go through 10-30 states if you are in the U.S to accomplish regional success, as book exchanges aren't as popular as they once were. (though, who knows, you may just make them more popular.)
Make a deal with a bookseller, Amazon, Itunes, or Kindle, to get your stuff displayed front page. You should have enough extra money now that you can do so at a profit. Do it by targeting the audience - people who read this also might like this type of advertising. Get your publisher to cover large orders to stores if there is enough interest in your book, and accept a publishing deal that involves profit sharing - because this is too much work for one person - but you wouldn't want to miss out on a profit percentage of your own work.
By this time It's already being talked about - so it should be a hot commodity with the higher ups, who've heard of the book but can't find it anywhere. This is the exact situation that gaurentees that investors will want to see and sell as much of your work as they can get their hands on. (A feeling of quality and rarity.)
Step Five: Profit. (World Domination.)
When you have completed the previous steps, it's time to pay a very good translater or I.T worker in another large country to begin the process all over - in a new language or medium. Or if you are successful enough, at many places and mediums at once. Through your publishing deal and previous book sales, with a relatively low amount of investment (such as 20-40 thousand dollars), you can imitate the success you had locally, and regionally, not just nationwide but worldwide - wherever there is interest in the subject.
Remember, before beginning, to always do research on your target demographic, and more importantly, when writing a book, ALWAYS HAVE a target demographic. No one wants to publish a book written for just you. (As much as it saddens all of us authors to hear that.) And make sure you are saying what the people of that demographic not just want to hear - but expect to hear about a successful book.
Thanks for reading.