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So whatMany products, including books, are combinations of tangible and intangible elements. People do not buy the tangible features of a book, i.e., the paper and ink that create it. They buy the intangible benefits they receive from reading fiction (a vicarious feeling of fantasy, romance, adventure, or mystery) and nonfiction (information, motivation, or help).

When you stop selling your books and begin selling what your books do for the people who read them your marketing will become more successful. That is the difference between marketing a feature, an advantage and a benefit. A feature is an attribute of your book. It could be its size, binding, title, or number of pages. An advantage describes the purpose or function of a feature, and a benefit is the value the reader receives in exchange for purchasing your book.

One way of distinguishing among these three definitions is to use the “So what?” test. When thinking of a reason why someone would purchase your book, put yourself in the place of the prospective buyer and ask yourself, “So what?” Keep doing that until your imaginary customer says, “Oh. Now I understand.” Then communicate that concept in your promotional literature and they will be more likely to buy.

Feature: A four-color cookbook with a spiral binding. (So what?).

Advantage: It will lay flat while you are preparing the meal, making it easy to read. (So What?)

Benefit: It contains recipes that are easy to prepare and guaranteed to please your guests. You will have more time to socialize and enjoy yourself at your parties. (Oh. Now I understand.)

Impact on marketing strategy

Just as individuals have a variety of reasons for purchasing your books, businesses also have diverse reasons for buying them. For instance, think about the companies in your channels of distribution.

People at each level of the distribution network have a unique reason for buying your books, and a plea to an incorrect appeal will not motivate them. The key to persuading each to carry your books is to show them why it is in their best interest to work with you. For example, when selling to the buyer at a retail operation you may demonstrate that your superior promotional plan will bring more people into their stores, increasing their inventory turns and profitability. However, an appeal to profitability would not entice a librarian to purchase your book, nor would it persuade a college instructor to buy it as a textbook. The key is to match the appropriate benefit to each prospective customer’s reason for wanting to own it.

There is a way you can organize this information, and that is by condensing it into a guide that will remind you of your book’s benefits. To create this useful plan, create a table with four columns. In the left-hand column list the different market segments that are potential targets for your title. In the next column define the decision maker for this segment. Use column three to describe the benefits your title provides this group, the potential you need to communicate. Finally, list the general marketing strategies you will implement to describe the respective benefits to each decision maker in the last column.











Marketing Strategies



Market segment 1



Decision maker






Marketing strategies



Market segment 2



Decision maker






Marketing strategies


















People do not buy features, they buy benefits. They buy what your book will do for them. Each decision maker has a unique reason for buying. Know what that is and communicate that benefit to them. Keep this in mind when you are creating your book or convincing people to buy it and you will sell more books, have fewer returns and become more profitable. (Oh. Now I understand.)


Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore.