In this post, I’m extending my discussion with Meredith Sandland & Carl Orsbourn (Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food). Their book explores the massive disruption facing American restaurants through first-hand accounts from food industry veterans and start-up entrepreneurs. Meredith & Carl’s combined experience, in the restaurant industry and in new technologies, gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to understanding how to embrace the innovation that consumers are demanding.
Here, we talk through their approach to a marketing and promotional strategy, a vital part of the process for all authors.
Can you tell me about the process of creating a voice around your idea, and why it is important to develop it before your book is launched?
Meredith: The people who have done really well in this are people who have personal brands. They start their blog long before the book is written, they start posting on LinkedIn long before the book is written. Whatever their social media platform is, they get the following. So that when they release the book, it's already activated. You'll see this now in major traditional publishing house deals. The deals tend to go with people who already have followings.
What is so interesting is, no matter how much I tell first-time authors this, they are really hot to get that book written and out there. But it requires a lot of patience. And this is not just a one-year build, I think you're talking about more than that.
Meredith: It’s probably several years. So, if anyone has an idea for a book in their mind, that's the time to start creating a voice around that idea, sharing articles related to that idea, sharing images related to that idea, and following other people who are interested in that idea and developing relationships with them. Maybe writing either a LinkedIn newsletter or blog posts that are almost drafts of chapters or parts of chapters. In that sense, you're starting to write the book, but you're also starting to do the marketing. You're just doing it in a more public way.
Carl: It’s also, in a way, a draft process to see what engages best with different people. When you've got content out there, you can see how many likes you’ve got and whether that's something that really connects with the audience. That gives a great indication as to whether that topic is something you should expand your research on, and perhaps dedicate a chapter to.
It’s almost like you’re beta testing the content, as well as marketing.
Carl: That’s right. The other day, I met with Shawn Walchef. He is a master of video storytelling, owns a restaurant, and also has a media company. His media company was really his way of being able to say to restaurants “you need to communicate a message regularly to people and you need to do it through video.” But the thing is, he started this whole process in 2017. It’s taken him to tens of thousands of followers, across various different social platforms. He's now benefiting from that investment of time early on. Now he gets paid by the likes of a Yelp, or Toast or one of these other big tech platforms, to go to a conference and talk about something. So it's a very similar kind of analog to the process of a book. You do need to invest that time to build your audience to be able to have a viable path.
Meredith: Yeah, so having said that, we did not do that… so when the book finally came out, we were left with the question, how do we get it out to people? I guess the takeaway here is, that there's a lot of effort. Your publisher is going to say, “we're going to do all that for you, we're going to reach out to all these people”, but no one's going to get back to them. A one-to-one connection of the author with the editor or writer of a certain type of magazine, or the author reaching out to the relevant conferences, is much more powerful than the publisher sending a form email.
Did you bring in anyone to help you with the marketing and publicity? Or was it all just your own sweat and blood and tears?
Meredith: Apart from our publisher, we have not. The reason is that the profit margin on a book is so low that, unless you have a significant backend of some kind of consulting or information marketing platform, or something that you're driving people to, and the book is just a customer acquisition tool, then we have yet to find a paid marketing approach that financially makes sense for just a book.
This is, I think, something authors need to be clear on. If making a profit is what they're after, then that's exactly right. But they may need to consider deeply whether direct profit is their primary goal, or whether as you say, it's profile, or it's other income streams.
Meredith: And, you know, that doesn't mean there isn't a way. I think we're still searching to find the right thing, but so far, we have not found it.
In my next post, I’ll be asking Meredith & Carl about paid marketing support. Is it worth it? Is it effective? They have some fascinating insights to share with us.
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