What the heck does he mean by that? I’ll start with an anecdote related to our shift in focus toward the website. Mike and Mindy took Comics Illustrated magazine to C2E2 and tabled for days pushing the magazine. According to their report prior to our restructuring they were having a hard time selling the magazine. Did they cut their losses, pack up and run home with their tail between their legs? No, they accepted their loss and gave away piles of the mag for free to attendees and solicited feedback from those who accepted. The summation is that it looks great, reads great and is one stellar magazine. The giveaway stunt combined with the traffic on the Comics Illustrated website pointed toward a pretty straight forward solution. Ditch the price point holding people back and focus on the freely accessible website people are already on.

This sort of research and market adaptibility is paramount not only in publishing but any small business. If something isn’t working solicit feedback from your audience and adjust accordingly (leaning toward the lowest common denominator) or to simplify further: do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

There are a lot of ways you can apply this concept to your own enterprise beyond advertising stunts, buckle in guys I’m about to start going on about marketing funnels so this might put you to sleep. What we all want to do (whether we know it or not) is reach as many people as possible and in all transparency capitalize on as much of it as possible. Oh, so you’re just in it to make money? No, I’m in it to tell stories and entertain other people I NEED to make money. It’s very old and very practical advice that 10% of your monthly profits should be reinvested in marketing, if you’re a small operation you should consider your time and profit on a more or less even keel. Suppose you’re just starting out and 10% is a few nickels, then you’ll have to reach out manually but don’t let schmoozing and clout chasing become the whole job. Try to maximize the benefit of the time you sink in to advertising. I use Facebook groups focused on related interests, I usually write one post and reshare it about 80 times once a week. Does this make me a ‘dirty spammer’ kinda, but whatever, ain’t no rest for the wicked.

The important thing about marketing strategy in general is consistency. Most people don’t react to an ‘ad’ until they’ve seen it 7 times ‘but I hate seeing the same ad again and again and again’ <this is you and I’m not talking about you I’m talking about most people. After it keeps buzzing in their ear they’ll go ‘what the heck is this? I’m going to look in to it’. Another beautiful thing about consistent marketing is that it lines up with the all too evil ‘social media algorithm’ everyone blames stuff on. These algorithms are designed to look for patterns, just give em one.

If you’re a data nerd try posting at the same time every day and watch your ‘reach’ analytics scale up each day as you do it… it is really this simple. New problem, nobody is buying/reading my stuff. Now we’ve got a ‘funnel’ and it’s much easier to troubleshoot than chaos and blaming the market. This is a weird math thing I’m not going to dive too deep on or else this will be a completely different essay, but assuming you’re new and have a brand new funnel you will almost certainly see: reach-1000 (ish) engagement-100 (ish) website visits- 10 (ish). Some of you guys might think I’m nuts but this is really how it works. Expect every step someone has to take toward the goal to shell off 90% of your foot traffic. If you’re getting a better return than this you are a natural or you’re selling crack.

There are a lot of fun statistical concepts that will help you troubleshoot these things as you go and increase the return on your efforts and sometimes you need to cut your losses, but don’t ever pack it in and throw out the baby with the bathwater. If you’re at a con and traffic is slow or your sales are down don’t mope at your table, walk across the room and introduce yourself to someone who’s table was busy earlier ‘hi my name is…. you seemed pretty slammed earlier, how long have you been in the game?’ Trust me if their table is slow in that moment they won’t shut up about themselves and their business and you’ll walk away with a mountain of insight.

Side note, part of the reason most people will be open to being approached like this is because people are sort of ‘magnetic’ ever notice that everyone in the grocery store piles up at the cash register at the same time? Anywhere people are in groups they behave the same, if you want a big crowd start by talking to someone at your table it will give other people the impression they’re missing out on something or at the very least that you might have something to say. Everyone wins when you approach other people publicly.

Oh and don’t let any of this make you too jaded, just because you know how it works doesn’t mean it’s not magic. Be genuine, keep your thumb on the scale in your favor but don’t bullshit. The whole reason we got in to this business is to make a living out of being honest don’t screw it up by being a sleaze with the sale. A quick pitch and answering some questions should do, if someone’s not interested move on to the next person and then go back to your funnel.

Facebook is a marvelous marketing tool despite its pitfalls, the function of groups packing people together with niche shared interests essentially does the targeted marketing for you. Spam those groups, ‘but a lot don’t allow spamming’… um… don’t spam those ones (shrug), compliment other people’s work when it’s genuine and you will make contacts and fans, the more you do it the better off you’ll be.

Closing the deal to sell your book I personally find is very effective with a direct ask through facebook messenger the old school way. I personally have about a 60% rate of getting a yes out of direct asks for a sale. This is based in another statistical concept referred to as the pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. Don’t ask me why but you’ll likely find 80% of your book sales come from people you already have a rapport with and people like the personal touch of you reaching out directly and talking about your project and how it can speak to them personally. Admittedly, this is the most socially high maintenance part of the whole endeavor. Your ad blanket spamming shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to maybe a half hour, whereas these direct sales conversations can take 15 minutes to a half hour a piece. That adds up and you still have to draw, so remember to prioritize these people’s feedback and opinions. You want them to buy your book, your previous books and keep an eye out for your next book and you don’t have time to start from scratch with them after you disappoint them. 

Don’t get discouraged! This whole thing is a ‘system’ not a goal. It can not fail if you keep your expectation low and just keep going, do everything as consistently as you can and just keep hitting that same button. Think in percentages and hold what you can, don’t play ‘retention’ don’t fight for sales and don’t look back. Just keep going and you will see numbers pull in, those numbers will attract bigger numbers but when and if you stop the numbers stop, give em what they want in a predictable fashion and you can not lose in the long run, anyone who says they’re not interested is not worth your time. You could ask six more people in the time it would take to convince them.

Remember every book you sell increases your chances of selling the next book, be honest, be clear, adjust to the market and never stop telling people about your project. I’m rooting for all of you.

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Ryan Howatt

ByRyan Howatt

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