Looking for a book marketing strategy that will work for you? Then you’ve come to the right place! Today’s guest is Rick Lite, COO of Stress Free Book Marketing. Rick is a seasoned book marketing professional with over 18 years of experience in the industry. He joins Robin Colucci to share his knowledge and experience in helping authors develop a marketing strategy that’s right for them and their goals. He also shares insider tips on creating a successful campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness, and sales. Plus, keep your ears open for the book marketing strategy you should be avoiding. Stay tuned!
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Rick Lite And The Pitfalls Of A Common, But Damaging Book Marketing Strategy
We are going to talk about a topic that we’ve talked about before but we can’t talk about it enough and that is book marketing because if there’s one place in the book development, writing and publishing process that gets the least amount of attention compared to its level of importance, it’s how are you going to sell these books once your book is out. With that in mind, I’ve been invited to be with us Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing.
Rick is a seasoned book marketing professional with many years of experience in the industry and embracing the core values of integrity, motivation and growth. Rick works closely with authors to create custom robust book marketing programs. His easygoing manner provides stress-free support and comfort to authors going through the book marketing process for the first time. Rick shares his knowledge and insider tips for a successful marketing campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness and sales. We also have a talk about one particular strategy that can be problematic and that should be avoided. Be sure to keep your eyes open for that.
Rick, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
I’m so thrilled to have you because I know one of the greatest conundrums that authors face and it’s probably, one of the most difficult to solve is, “How do I promote the book once it’s out?” I’m thrilled to be talking with you about this because, having checked you out, I know you’re going to be sharing some very pragmatic and reasonable ideas and goals and try to help our authors get their arms around this.
One of the biggest challenges is even with a traditional book deal, which I know you’ll be able to speak to, I do think that authors have this experience of being dropped into a chasm. One image I used with my team is that madman guy falling out of the skyscraper when it comes to promoting their books. Share with our audience a little bit. Do you agree with that perception? What is going on?
I do agree with that. It’s not a need for people to be able to market themselves comfortably or even know where to go with that. They have some ideas and people, in general, are smart enough to read and figure things out, but they might be reading things on the internet and find conflicting information. It becomes more frustrating as you go along. The illustration that you mentioned is accurate. For me, marketing and promoting a book starts when you’re writing. It’s easier because you’re writing with characters in mind, the target audience in mind and you’re always thinking about whom you’re going to want to read your book.
There are things that you could be doing and setting yourself up for success for a book launch. If you’re the type of writer that has multiple books, the work that you put in initially will pay off because the other releases that you have down the road would become easier. If this is your first book and you’re releasing it, then it becomes a little more challenging because you have to lift that boulder all the way up the hill. You’re not sure it’s going to be for a 2nd or 3rd time.
Let’s back up a little bit because I love what you said about thinking about and even starting to promote your book while you’re writing. Can you give us an example or 2 or 3 of what that might look like?
There’s a certain number of strategies that I find authors have success with when they’re promoting their book. It could be social media, advertising, giveaways or promotional opportunities, book reviews, editorial reviews. Things that put your book in front of other people can validate that it’s a good piece of literature. Social media, as an example, would be something that you could start to work on as you’re writing. You can bring your followers through that process with you, so they’re not being introduced to your book when you’re ready to sell it, they feel like they’ve shared the burden of writing it with you, looking at your cover reveal and helping you with some twists or turns if that’s relevant.
Let’s talk a little about the nonfiction area because that would be more for our audience. In terms of nonfiction writers, starting to promote their books as they’re in the process of writing. Is this something that you advise your clients on even that early or are you more stepping in later on?
It’s a mix. I’d say, over the last few years, I’ve been referred to more people from editors and publishers who are in the middle of the writing process. I have the pleasure of working with somebody early on. If I’m getting referred to people from IngramSpark, which I do because I’m on their website as a marketing expert, then a lot of times, they’re done with the book and now it’s time to market.
For nonfiction authors, it’s similar in the sense that as you’re writing, you can be building up a following of people that appreciate the message that follows that message. You can start to work on building a nice network of people to prepare for your book launch hopefully. Everything you do is going to parlay into the next strategy. If you’re releasing the book in three months, you’re building followers. You can start to find people who can help you get a very strong book launch. From that point on, they become almost rabid followers to help promote your book. That should all be done while you’re writing.
Certainly, while the book’s being edited, you could move your attention towards more marketing and promotional opportunities and look to find people that appreciate the type of writing that you’re doing, the message from the book, enjoy writing in general, enjoy reading. Those are the people that will be lifetime friends for your work and even beyond that.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started in this book launch business.
I started helping my wife, Lori, who’s an author. She has a line of children’s titles that help kids with stress, anger and anxiety. She’s a pioneer in that industry because she’s been writing these types of books for many years. I was between jobs and thought I would help her to bring her book out. I had a sales and marketing background. I enjoyed it so much. I started doing it full-time and been in that industry since.Marketing a book starts when you’re writing it. Click To Tweet
We’ve had the opportunity not only to be self-published but be traditionally published. She’s been with Simon & Schuster, Scholastic and sees what goes on in promoting your book. The emotional opportunity that you have to bring a book to life, to see it come out, to know what happens behind the scenes, to understand the publishing world and distribution world.
That had given us, certainly myself, the opportunity to see firsthand how these things transpired. There’s no better way of learning something than going through it and having the success fortunately that we did, in building up something and looking at book distribution worldwide and looking at selling the rights to international publishers to translate the book into Japanese, Turkish and a few other languages.
The marketing component was naturally a big piece of that. I’ve always been drawn to that because it’s harder than the technical side of putting a book together. I have immersed myself in that world. Over the last years, I started helping other authors, both traditionally published, self-published, hybrid published authors, gain awareness, distribution, promotion and everything that goes into bringing a book to life.
What did you learn working with Simon & Schuster and Scholastic about book launches and her book promotion that you use now with your clients? Does anything stand out to you that you learned?
The biggest thing that stood out was the author is still responsible for marketing. My wife appeared on the first season of Shark Tank and that was before it was HD or it’s popular but because we had that publicity and one of her publishers at that point gave us an end cap for our books in Boulders at that time. That’s about the biggest thing that they did for us.
For our audience, end caps cost money. To get your book placed on an end cap in a bookstore chain, they spent a little money. They threw money at it.
They helped in that way and might’ve done a couple of other things, but ultimately, it was our responsibility to get the word out. That’s the biggest thing that stood out. The royalty is paid twice a year. That convinced us that we needed to do the work ourselves. We needed to self-publish. We knew that would have certain limitations, but we were willing to try to work through those and fortunately, we were able to. That’s the traditional piece.
What have you or Lori have been able to do as a self-published author or that you can do for your clients as self-published that doesn’t necessarily work so well in the traditional model? Is there anything?
You have the freedom to go about it. It’s similar to being a business owner, an entrepreneur or working for a corporation. You’re your own boss. You have to risk everything every day. You have to be on your game, realize that marketing and promoting your book is long-term. It’s not done in 3 or 6 months. When you have that type of pressure on yourself, whether you do this full-time or as a hobby, you tend to work and be smarter.
When you are traditionally published, there’s always that feeling that no matter how hard you work, you’re not going to see the immediate rewards. Having said that, being traditionally published, at least for one of your books, is amazing. It’s an accolade and adds credibility. It’s a good thing to have. I wouldn’t want to discourage anybody reading from trying to do that, being self-published and having control over our material and my clients as well. It’s a better opportunity.
Besides social media, where do you see your authors getting the most bang for their dollars in terms of book promotion?
Doing a broad stroke approach, setting yourself up with the knowledge and a plan to look at any and every possible strategy to promote your book is a good thing. That doesn’t mean you’re going to work everything but reviews, for instance. Not read the reviews that appear online, but editorial reviews, blog reviewers, newspapers, book clubs, podcasts, things that you have to work a little bit harder for are great ways to get the word out about your book. Blog reviewers, for instance, post a review on their website, social media, Goodreads and you have an opportunity to take advantage of that.
Sometimes, they’ll even post it on Amazon for you but if you’re in the business and you’re writing a lot, using a social platform like Goodreads and being able to take advantage of book groups, find other readers and promote yourself is one strategy that you have to go deep with. You have a broad approach on your business plan but when you find something that’s working, then you have to go deep in that strategy, get ready, hang on and work it until you feel like you can’t work at anymore.
When you start with a new client, how do you help them set their goals? Do you talk about a book sales number you’re trying to reach? How do you help them figure out what success looks like?
It’s what they think it looks like. I’ll listen to what they’re trying to achieve. Why do they write the book? It’s a variety of different reasons that come up from that, but if their goals are to use the book as credibility or to help them in their consulting business, that’s the goal. It’s not necessarily a number of how many books we need to sell or what the ranking should be online. It’s having them hit their goals and go past their goals, achieve their goals as quickly as possible.
It’s understanding what their needs are, how to take that and translate it into an action plan and the timeline. I speak to my clients every week, especially in the first couple of months. There’s always a balance of, “What you have done last week? What did you achieve? What have you run into? You got an A for homework. What are we doing this week to get to that next step?” I’m on the hook with that as well.
Are the clients mostly doing their own work or are you doing a lot of it for them? What’s the balance there?
It is a balance. It depends on the individual, but the author has to have skin in the game. They have to be doing things. I don’t work with authors that want somebody to do it all for them. It’s a nice combination of what they can do. I work with some authors that aren’t real savvy on the internet, social media or even sending emails and editing videos or podcasts for them or doing different things for them that I wouldn’t normally do for another customer who might be more tech-savvy.
It depends on the individual, on the relationship we have and what they’ve signed on for. The author is going to do as much as they need to do. I don’t run into people that are not willing to do something for themselves. A lot of times, it’s, “What else can I be doing? They’re hounding me.” That’s a good relationship where they’re keeping me in check as well.
It is so true that nobody can promote a book better than its author. I think not all authors understand that in the beginning.
If you think of it, no matter what you’re doing, the end-user, your target audience, your reader want to speak to the author. I’ve had scenarios where I set somebody up for a podcast. I immediately have to hand it off to the author because they don’t want to deal with me. I’m the catalyst. They’re going to spend the time talking with the author about that. It’s a nice balance. When you’re in-sync with what the author wants, what their goals are and what you can do for them, making sure you set the right expectations, then it’s a beautiful relationship.
What are some more unrealistic expectations that authors come to you with that you might have to help them dial in a little bit more to reality?
I will see a lot of emails when I get forms submitted through one of the print-on-demand companies I mentioned. I’ll see a lot of goals that are a number of sales or number of books. I have to make sure that they have the right expectation. In fact, I say in my agreements that I can’t guarantee that they’ll sell one book. I know that’s silly, but it’s more important that the author has the right expectation, understands that this is a long-term play. That it’s going to be a while, take momentum even with something like reviews or endorsements. We’re 6 to 8 weeks out on a lot of reviews. They have to be aware of that and be comfortable with it.
At least start asking for endorsements while we’re doing a book proposal. We don’t even wait to start writing the book because endorsements take a while. They can also be a big help and even get a book deal if you have some real long endorsers.You have to have a broad approach on your business plan but when you find something that’s working, you have to go deep in that strategy. Click To Tweet
No doubt. There are other unreasonable expectations.
What’s another one?
How much time they have of mine? I will help anybody, even if they’re not working with me. I feel like I want to help an author, make sure that they’re going in the right direction, at least. If I’m working with somebody, I will occasionally run into somebody that doesn’t value my time and asking for more stuff than they should be. I’ve gotten better at having those conversations, but that’s probably the biggest thing these days.
That’s nice guys never finished because there’s always someone that will ask.
I have my wife to keep me in line with that stuff because she knows when to put the foot down and remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a good partnership that way.
What do you think is the most fun to work on when it comes to book promotion? What are you most excited about when you get to work on it?
I like the technical side, either social media or video content creation, audio creation. I’ve been dabbling for years with whether I do my own podcast or not. It’s the things that involve technology and putting things together appeal to me. We could do websites, a lot of different things. We have to be careful because you want to make sure that you’re providing that value for somebody, whether it’s finding something with an eBook promotion company.
I haven’t done a lot of work with the giveaway world because, as a publisher that created content, I have a little bit of a problem with giving away something for free. I see the value in it in certain situations, like a lead magnet on your website or if you’re giving away an eBook of a past work because you have a new release coming out. Short-term, I see the value, but I’m not a free person.
What ways of doing the free book giveaway have you seen that are particular things that authors should avoid or not beneficial? What are some of the things authors should be wary of and stay away from when it comes to giving a book away?
Giving it away or pricing it too low. A lot of $0.99 eBooks out there that are 300-page novels. It’s a good work. It’s great writing. Something like that long-term is not an effective strategy. With a giveaway market, if you’re giving away things to try to get some information from somebody, I struggle with the email marketing side of that building an email list. Everybody talks about how great it is. I’ve done it for years. We do get people that want information but it depends if it’s nonfiction and you’re helping them with something that’s great. You build that loyalty, but if you’re giving away a vampire book, then it’s like, “Why is your book better than the next book?”
The analogy is if you’ve ever worked a trade show and there’s somebody there that has given away free key chains or free this, you get a line of people that are going in, taking a quick look and grabbing the item. They’re not looking, reading, thinking about it, “You have something for $3. I have to think about it a little bit further.”
The value is gone when you’re giving away something. I feel that the world’s largest online bookseller, I’m not going to mention names, has done a terrible job at forcing the artists and author at keeping the prices lower and it making it all about price, not putting a value on the work and the vendors that are selling the work but making it all about the almighty dollar. That’s not fair. Anybody that writes knows that there’s a lot of time and money that goes into creating a good piece of work. It’s my nickel’s worth of free advice.
This is true. I think it’s an interesting perspective. One of the free strategies that I find particularly annoying and I advise against very strongly is being at an event, having a table and having a stack of your books on the table with a sign that says, “Take one,” or sponsoring an event and putting a copy of your book in every bag. First of all, it’s wasteful as anything because most people aren’t going to even be interested in it.
The worst is walking around with a bunch of books in a bag and every time you meet someone, “Here’s my book.” Shoving it in the face of somebody that you want to meet. They devalue your book and I don’t think that the read on that is generosity. The read on that is desperate. That’s probably not the positioning that most authors are looking for.
You have to create value for your book. I’m doing an assessment for somebody. That was a key point because her books were $0.99 all across the board. My point was that. If you make $0.99, you fall in line with everybody else that’s trying to get a name who probably isn’t doing other things to do that other than selling online. If you create a value to that, it doesn’t mean that you price an eBook at $9 but don’t worry so much about the actual sales.
We are not talking about a release. We’re talking about six months after the release or so. Focus on building your reputation, your name, brand, writing style. As you do that, you don’t have to give away books. You don’t have to sell books for cheap. If you look at some of the top authors, they’re not giving away $2 eBooks. They’re also not selling them for ridiculous prices either. Their publishers are probably setting the price, but they’re setting the price at a fair market value.The value is gone when you’re giving away something. Click To Tweet
What other strategies do you help your clients with? It sounds like you have a lot of hats that you wear like podcast, booker, website developers, social media posters. That’s a lot of different hats. Are you the guy? Do you have a team?
It’s impossible to do it all. I’m fortunate to have some people that are working full-time, but I have a network of people that I can go to editors, website developers and designers, podcast technicians. With Zoom and technology, now anybody can podcast, but the editing component for video and audio is still challenging. If I want to take a stab at it, I’ll do it. I have clients that I do that for but if it’s overwhelming or if I have too much, then I outsource that. Everything that I do for my clients, I did for myself. I learned how to do that so that as I’m hiring people, I know what needs to go into it. I know what to look for.
My marketing website, I built. I’ve had people look at it, work on it, go to make changes and stop the process. You have that knowledge like an author would go through that process the first time. They know what to do and what not to do when they’re going through the publishing or editing process or what to look for. That’s from experience and doing it for a while. We do a lot of different things. Any strategy that can help sell a book or a product, we can do, but our strength is with the core products that make sense for authors to become successful.
Those core products are like what you’ve articulated. You have social media, like growing your social media following and doing podcast interviews.
Having a website, podcast interviews, regular interviews, editorial interviews, reader interviews, all those promotional opportunities. There’s been a pause with COVID but author events, author signings. Some people have good luck with that. Some people sit and twiddle their thumbs. No one should ever do that without taking full advantage of it.
Taking pictures, videos, having people coming in, getting people to come into that location, whether it’s a store or not, having a launch party, putting together a launch team that takes you from 2 or 3 months before the book’s published all the way through the publishing date, looking at and making sure that you have multiple levels of distribution.
I have a client that he put very little work into it before me but his book is doing very well online. That was his limitation to it. I was able to contact a distributor that I used to do a lot of work with. His book is almost perfect for them but he’s a single author. Years ago, you would never hear of that. They would want that person to be either traditionally published or a bigger publisher, but because his book was online because he’s selling, they decided that they would take him on board. They’ll get it through somebody else but they’ll represent his book and we’re advertising with them and all that. We can help with that if we know that there’s a channel of distribution that they should be in that they wouldn’t be in.
That’s such an interesting thing because, honestly, I know one of the things that some, especially vanity presses do is they like, “Sell is part of the package. We can get you distribution.” By the way, they charged thousands of dollars for that. What a lot of people don’t understand is that you can get listed with a distributor but what makes a bookstore select your book and decide to put it on their shelves is a salesperson.
Even sales information.
They’re not combing through the catalog looking for self-published authors that they’ve never heard of that no one’s putting in front of their face saying, “This is a good book. You should get a few for your store.” Do you help your authors? When you talked about like, “This person taking them on.” Is that more what you’re talking about, like they’re helping to sell the book?
No, it’s a distributor that will distribute the book to high school facilities, educators to the curriculum. There’s a distributor that is popular out there that is boutique enough that they’re not the giant but they specialize in an educational facility.
The educational market. It can mean a lot of books. I looked it up once years ago. It was even a segment of public school libraries. It was 42,000 high school libraries or something crazy like that.
The educators find you. If they know the resources out there. They might find you online but then if they want to do something, their class or their school or their school counselor, we had done a lot of work with school counselors and we would get calls or POs for thousands of books for districts because they found you online. They saw that you have a presence. They can guess that you’re selling and next thing you know, they’re looking for something from you.
A quick story on how that works. In terms of social media and how valuable anything that you do, any strategy that you do, you want to be all in and be successful with it. When Lori was approached by Scholastic, she was specifically contacted by them because they saw her social following and her activity. They figured that there would be 40,000 to 50,000 people that they would now have access to for this series that they were doing. You won’t fall short in any work that you’re doing, even with something like bookstores or independent bookstores.You don’t have to try to get into Barnes and Noble to be successful. Click To Tweet
You don’t have to try to get into Barnes and Noble to be successful. Your stuff will be there online and maybe your local book store will carry it. Look at it in the indie stores that may be specialized. If you wrote poetry, find a store that’s big on poetry. Find a group that’s doing poetry, find book clubs that read poetry. That’s where you need to spend your time.
Meetup.com might be a good place to look for groups.
I haven’t done a lot of work with that. Maybe there’s like the 25th, 26th and 27th hour in the day. That would be great. I would do it then.
You haven’t checked out every possible website where groups of people connect?
Not, yet but it’s on the list. I’ll put somebody on that when we’re done with this.
I need a full report. I’m going to throw at you my favorite last question, which is, what is the question that I should have asked or that you wish I asked that I didn’t?
What was the biggest lesson you learned helping authors market books?
What is the answer?
To me, communication is the biggest thing. I learned that lesson from an author whom we were doing a lot of great work for early on, but we weren’t communicating with them on what we were doing. We were heads down going. 2 or 3 weeks went by, they called me and be like, “What are you doing for me? I paid you this money. What are you doing?” The light bulb went off. We righted that ship. If you’re communicating and you have the right expectations and you’re partnering with somebody and that’s for an author looking at distribution, salespeople, promotional people.
There’s a lot of people that will take your money, offer to help you but you have to have a relationship with people. You should like the people that you are working with and that are helping you out so that you can all do a better job at that. It starts with communication. If you’re communicating with people all the time and you understand what their needs are, you’ll have a great relationship and a lot of success.
Rick, thank you so much for joining us and sharing all these pearls of wisdom.
It was my pleasure and thanks for inviting me.
About Rick Lite
Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing, stands at the forefront of the ever-changing book industry. He is a seasoned book marketing professional with over 18 years of experience in the industry. Rick’s expertise comes from tirelessly working on new and innovative ways to market his own books and CDs with his company and parent company, Stress Free Kids. Embracing the core values of integrity, innovation, and growth, Rick works closely with authors to create custom, robust book marketing programs. His easy-going manner provides “stress-free” support and comfort to authors going through the book marketing process for the first time. Rick is quick to share his knowledge and “insider tips” for a successful marketing campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness and most importantly, sales.