It's not just credit card companies that benefit from affinity marketing. Selling a little-known book head to head against a widely known title is challenging. Coupling your book with another interest your reader shares with your book is a smart marketing strategy and an author's best friend.
We've all seen them and most of us have them in our wallets - those credit cards that tout our favorite sports team, organization or airline. It's silly if you think about it. A Visa card with a Patriots' helmet on it works the exact same way that a plain old silver Visa card works. So, what made us sign up for a card that often carries a slightly greater cost? The answer is simple: We felt connected to it on an emotional level.
Those corporate marketers (a.k.a. the Big Boys*) are smart. In a crowded marketplace, they want us to feel an immediate connection to their product. They want us to identify some part of ourselves with their product. Doing so elevates their product in our mind and singles it out of the din. It's an easy leap from there to "win" our dollars.
If you are an author with a small marketing budget behind you - publishing house backed or indie digging into your own pockets - you want to make your pitch matter. The goal is to efficiently connect with your potential audience and ignite that desire to purchase your book. The assumption is that your audience does not have unlimited dollars or unlimited time to buy and read every book on the "Women's Fiction" or "Mystery" shelves. They are going to choose one or two to buy and curl up with at home. The more books to choose from, the harder your job is in making your book stand out and be purchased.
Rule Number One: Don't compete head to head with the Big Boys. Launching a child's action adventure series? Competing with Rick Riodan's Heroes of Olympus series isn't going to give you an easy win over a tried and true name and brand. Instead, find another love of your target audience and market through the "back door."
Rule Number Two: Don't think that books have to be sold in book stores: I'm the first one to say that supporting your local bookstore should be one of your missions in life, but after you've secured a spot on their shelves, then what? Think of where people might want something to read or might be ripe for an impulse buy. How about your local deli or pharmacy? Your reader's wallets are already open and seeing your book next to something they need or want may be just the trigger needed for a sale.
Rule Number Three: Find something inside book that can spark a connection. Positioning your book with something you know your target audience already loves is key. Do you have a collection of short stories that references a love for a dog? Contact bloggers of all things animal and tell them about your work. Find a pet store that will place your book in the isle beside dog treats or get the email list for the local dog park and let the members know about your book.
Rule Number Four: Find something in your life story that can spark a connection. We see books marketed like this all the time. The obvious cases are those people who have endured a life altering experience and live to tell the tale. The less obvious are professionals in a field who write fictional tales by using that deep knowledge as the core for their story - think doctors turned forensic sleuths. A great avenue for promotions that many authors miss is contacting your alma mater or any organization you are a part of. Volunteer for a local fire department? Contact them and the national organizations surrounding them. Most colleges or organizations are always looking for a cause or person to highlight in an article or website.
The positioning can be physical as well as virtual. I recently spent a weekend marketing my book at a major national horse exposition - appropriate convention attire was denim or breeches and boots. The Charity and The Troubles have a strong narrative thread comprised of the horse world but, as mainstream thrillers, they do not immediately trigger the "horse-lovers-are-going-to-love-this-book" switch. The exposition was the perfect venue to find horse lovers who are also avid readers. It helped that I had done my legwork and had reviews from major horse magazines touting my work. The picture above is from a major Grand Prix event. I was beside the grandstands and next to the ring. Perfect! In both venues, I sold a lot of books, but the better part was I got the word out to a huge new readership. Even for folks who may have only glanced at my cover, they will associate my book with something they already have a deep interest in and affinity for.
So, mine your background and your book for those hooks that will pique a reader's interest and begin the process of separating your work from the crowd and establishing an emotional connection.
*By using this term, I am in no way excluding the brilliant work of women marketers in corporate America. After all, I was one.
More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.