Direct Marketing for Authors – A Good Investment?

There’s a highly profitable industry out there that not very people are aware of: customer acquisition through direct marketing. In simpler terms: list rentals.

You know those unsolicited pieces of advertising that appear in your mailbox addressed to you personally? Chances are, you’re on a mailing list somewhere that the advertiser rented to send you his mail piece.

For well-known brands this is a great way to gain new customers. But what about the ambitious author looking for an innovative way to reach potential new readers? How cost-effective is it for them?

The first challenge would be finding a list that targets potential readers. Book club membership lists are great fits. Or you could try a publicly-sourced list that allows you to target your audience by age, location, dwelling type, etc so you can reach the right people. For example, if you’ve written a book about home renovations, you might want to avoid mailing out to apartment buildings.

Next you have to merge the data to remove all duplicate names and addresses within a list and with any other lists you procure. Then you have to design and print your offer, stuff it into envelopes, pay for postage and mail them away. And because many list suppliers won’t release their data to the end-user (insisting that you retain a bonded 3rd-party lettershop), you have to pay someone else to do the work.

Direct mail campaigns can add up to thousands of dollars. How many books would you have to sell to recoup your investment? And how many of your mail pieces will wind up in blue boxes?

The same goes for email campaigns, which are always up against spam filters and junk mail detectors. A quick message through SMS marketing might be effective, especially if you can use GPS technology to detect when the cell phone user is walking by a bookstore!

But again…what about the cost?

I’ve been a long proponent of Social Media marketing. It’s quick, cost-effective, and a great way to meet lots of people all over the world. And you actually interact with them too. I still believe that it’s the way to go for authors, whether traditionally or self-published.

By the way – social media marketing campaigns are easy enough to execute yourself. Never do it through any third-party, even your self-publishing company (if you self-published your work). They’re overpriced – grossly overpriced.

So hats off to the bold author who invests in other forms of direct marketing. As long as they don’t have to sell said hat (and other apparel) to eat.

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Richard Todd is an author, blogger, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at


Author: Richard S. Todd

Pro copywriter. Expressive voice artist. Award-winning public speaker.

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