By Gina Burgess
I have nearly 35 years’ experience in sales and marketing all kinds of products and services, mostly services. I found out that I’m much better at promoting intangibles rather than tangibles. Services seem to have more obvious benefits than physical objects. Promotion of books came a bit harder for me to do until I realized readers do not buy books.
I can see your eyebrows raised and hear that explosive, “What?”
It’s true. Readers don’t buy books. They buy experiences. Think about it. Why do you purchase a book? It certainly isn’t because of the binding, nor the typestyle of the prose, nor the book’s cover even though the cover has a lot to do with creating interest in the book.
Did you purchase your computer because it had a 17 inch screen, backlit keys, and a terabyte of storage? Believe it or not, you did not. You purchased your computer for what it would do for you. The wider screen made your work easier because everything is easier to see when it’s bigger. Backlighted keys are easier to find while typing in low light, and the larger storage space allows you to download movies and games and still have plenty of space for all your writings so you aren’t juggling a portable drive. It’s all right there at your fingertips. Plus the price was within your budget, or they had easy payment plans.
Back to book promotions.
Generally, readers have a reason to buy that sounds good—Hey! This book is on sale! But that isn’t enough for them to buy it. If it was, people would have tons of books in their Kindle or Nook. A person will never buy just because a book is on sale or download it because it’s free. They must have a real reason to buy. What might that be?
Way back when, Brian Tracey named this double reason to buy the Duality Law: The reason that justifies the purchase, and the real reason.
Look at it this way: You don’t purchase a pair of slacks because they are on sale. Your closet would be stuffed if that was the real reason. You purchased the slacks because they made you look good, or feel better about your figure, or they were very comfortable. Those reasons are sense-able appealing to your senses. They were on sale, or the perfect color that matches a pair of shoes, or had deep pockets. These are the reasons that justify the purchase. A reader must have both of these reasons to prompt a purchase and/or a download of your book.
Price is neither a feature nor a benefit. Pricing of the book helps to justify the purchase. As long the price is reasonable (Smashwords survey said between $2.99 and $5.99 for fiction) readers will buy your book as long as the genre is one they like to read. If a person doesn’t like action/adventure they’ll never download action/adventure even if it’s free. Never. Because they don’t like the genre. See?
As for non-fiction, a higher price plus author credentials help justify the sale. The reasoning for higher price? This must be a quality non-fiction because of the higher price. Credibility is crucial as well for obvious reasons. Here’s an example: Even though two different face creams have the same ingredients to help promote a smooth, soft complexion, if one is priced low, say $10 compared to a higher priced product say $50 generally the higher price indicates better quality ingredients so the cream must be better quality than the $10 priced cream. Understandably, the non-fiction book requires more research and more time for the editor to work magic on it so it should cost more than a book of fiction.
So how do you appeal to the senses in book promotions?
Your book description needs to leave the reader wanting more. It needs to raise some compelling questions, or describe a scenario that raises the questions, How? Or Why?
Here’s part of a description from one of my clients, Julia David:
Then a voice speaks from the morgue basement. A rough and tumble outlaw who’s supposed to be dead is still alive! For some unfathomable reason, Lauren agrees to help him stay dead.
Intriguing? You betcha.
Choosing sound words
Words are all an author has to appeal to the senses. Using the perfect word to convey a particular sound seems easy—for Edgar Allan Poe. What kind of bells is he referring to with these words: tinkling, sprinkling, merriment, jingling and the tinkling of the bells?*
What about these words: mellow, molton-golden, swells, dwells, rapture impels, swinging and ringing, chiming and rhyming?*
What about these: brazen, turbulency, shriek out of tune, clang, clash, and roar, clamor and clangor?*
And these: melancholy menace, rust in their throats is a groan, moaning and groaning?*
Creating a smell out of nothing
Our sense of smell is powerful. It can instill memories that will swell when an aroma tickles our noses. It can evoke emotions, and it can trigger us into survival mode. Words describing smells can either curl the lip in disgust or make a reader float in some pleasant memory. Whether it’s a heady aroma, piquant, comforting or fetid, frowsty, funky or fusty, smells bring a story description to life.
Taste is closely linked to smells. Of course just reading the word sour makes the jaw muscles tighten. Savoury or syrupy, tart or spicy can make mouths water.
Touchy vs. Feely
Let’s not confuse feeling with touching. You feel comfortable when laying down in bed, but the bedspread has the knotty texture of channel. Believe it or not, some authors do confuse the two. There are hundreds of words that describe how something feels to the touch. Hairy or smooth, damp or dry, hot or cold, abrasive, bristly, gelatinous, jagged, and the list goes on. You can also add texture words to sound words for even more clarity such as, “Her abrasive shriek grated my ear drums.” Or “His jagged sigh cut into my heart.” It creates an emotion with sound.
Just remember that you don’t need to address all five senses in your book’s description. One or two senses will bring your description alive leading readers to purchase your book. If it’s horror, make them feel the terror. If it’s romance, give readers a “taste” of longing and desire. If it’s non-fiction, create a desire to know more about your subject that you are passionate about. The only limit is your imagination.
Take a few minutes in the comment section below and sense-able a book description by writing a one-two sentence description of your latest book using two or three of our senses.
Gina Burgess is an editor, illustrator, and author. She is COO of AuthorsCommunity.net owned by Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC. She also writes a weekly column at LiveAsIf.org
Answers to the Bells question from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Bells.