Stop Promoting and Start Communicating

by Brian


Tin can telephoneBook marketers tell me they spend hours and significant sums of money promoting their books, but experience little results. They do not understand that the impact of promotion is not the number of press releases, emails, and media appearances that they conduct. It is the lack of communication and engagement with the recipients. If they do not understand why they should buy your books, they won’t.

People are inundated daily with mass communications that are directed to a general audience. Your prospective buyers are busy, and will not read or listen to a message if they don’t think it will improve their circumstances in some way. Be more successful breaking through the clutter by first getting their attention, giving them some reason to learn more, and then act.

Begin by grouping your prospective book buyers according to their reasons for buying. They take no notice of something they think holds no relevance for them. Retailers (including bookstores) want store traffic and increased profit per square foot. Librarians are not so motivated, nor are corporate buyers or TV and radio producers. A general press release sent to all these people describing how great your book is will be trashed. According to Rita Thompson, former field producer for CNBC and CBS News, “I have to think of my viewer first. It’s not my job to sell books, but to make interesting television. If a book helps me get interesting television, that’s good.”

How do you communicate with people in each group according to their reasons for buying? Follow the advertising copywriter’s formula of AIDA. First get the recipients’ Attention, then get them Interested, build their Desire for your book, and then ask them to take some Action

Get the Recipient’s Attention

Your first objective is to get their attention with a provocative headline that quickly points out why your information will be of interest to them. However, it cannot be written just for its attention value. Your stopper must lead logically into what you have to say and precondition the reader to be receptive to your selling points. Here are a few ways to do that.

  1. News. Feature your message in the same manner as if it were a noteworthy item of timely interest. Select the outstanding feature of your book (from the reader’s perspective) and present it clearly and quickly: TV Violence: Shocking New Evidence.  Headlines beginning with the words New and Now typically have the same effect. Combining these formulas can have a positive impact on the reader: Just Published. A New Book About an Amazing Way to Grow Hair.
  2. Primary Benefit. This is a simple statement of the most important benefit offered by the author: A Hassle-Free Vacation. Guaranteed.
  3. Give Advice. The word advice suggest that the readers will discover some useful information if they read the copy (Advice to a Young Woman Traveling to Europe).
  4. Emotion. This attention getter has no direct-selling value, but makes an emotional appeal to involve the reader. (“I was Going Broke Until I Read …”).
  5. Gimmick. This headline is most effective when your title has few important competitive advantages. For instance, a gimmick headline addressed to librarians might declare: This Book is Two Years Overdue. Another gimmick is to use a headline of only one word. This method is most successful if the single word is meaningful, selects the right audience and asks a question (Nerves? or Bashful?).
  6. Challenge. One intriguing technique is to offer a challenge (Can You Pass This Memory Test?).
  7. Directive. Use this headline when you wish to get an immediate action from your reader. Directive headlines begin with words such as Go Now! or Call Today… and therefore are better used when addressing your ultimate customers.

Generate Interest

Once you hook the recipients with your headline, deliver on their expectations or they will stop reading immediately. Use the body of your missive to continue the momentum started with the headline.

Body copy falls into a few well-defined categories, each used in accordance with the general format and theme of your headline. The style of copy you use in the body of your promotion must follow the pattern and pace established by your attention getter. If you use a direct, factual headline, your body text will usually be most effective if it, too, is factual. Likewise, if you employ a gimmick headline, your body copy should explain the connection to your book.

Stimulate Desire to Buy

Now that you have whet the recipients’ appetite, give more concrete reasons to buy. These should be specific to the needs of each segment. Use a dot-point format to make these stand out and communicate quickly.

  • Describe specifically how people will benefit from your content
  • Give people specific reasons to buy now
  • Offer a testimonial
  • Tell them where and how they can purchase your books

Get Them to Take Action

Your prospects now have all the information they need to buy your books, but may decide to do so “one of these days.” Give them an incentive to purchase now. Your book may be the perfect gift. You cold put a time limit on a special offer. Tell them what they will lose by not acting quickly, and make it easy for them to buy or contact you.

Use the AIDA formula in your press releases, sales literature, voicemail messages, personal sales calls, networking events, trade-show displays, emails, and direct-mail letters. Engage your prospects so they understand how they will benefit, why they should buy, and why they should buy now. In doing so, you should see a significant increase in your book sales.


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.