Macy’s or Wal-Mart—Which Are You?

By Khalid Muhammad

[Khalid Muhammad]In this second in an occasional series, Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office, talks about something as important as writing your book—marketing it. Brand is crucial to an author’s success, and so is how you price your book. So who do you want to be?

Macy’s or Wal-Mart—which are you?

There is a reason that marketers get paid the big bucks—we know how to position and market your product for the highest return. There is also a reason that 99% of us hate to compete based on price—because the next guy that comes along at 10 cents cheaper is going to steal our customer. That is capitalism at its finest. It doesn’t matter if the product is better or not, if the price fits, the consumer will buy.

Why do they buy? Because you haven’t given them a reason to stay with your product, in this case your book. And therein lies the rub …

When we spend months writing our book, detached from family, losing sleep, and inhaling more caffeine and nicotine than our bodies know what to do with, we are doing it because we have a story to tell. We want the readers to be absorbed, engaged and interwoven into the words that we put on the page. We want them to escape into the lands that we create, feel the emotions of our characters, and savor the experience until our next book comes to market. So why do we price our books so low that real readers don’t touch them?

For most authors, they never think of the marketing side because they are too busy working on writing the actual book, which is much more important, nor do they have the capital to go out and hire someone to do the marketing for them. So they take on the task and find themselves competing for the Wal-Mart customer rather than catering to the Macy’s loyalists. Let’s stop for a second and talk about what that means.

I am a big fan of Wal-Mart. It’s a great place to shop, and wonderful people work there, but we all need to be clear—we don’t shop there because of the great quality, we shop there for the price. Because Wal-Mart buys in indecent quantity, they are able to offer a significantly lower price to the consumer so they don’t need to worry about quality. They just need to keep the shelves full. Now, look at Macy’s. They don’t care about price. They focus on quality and the experience of the consumer. The Macy’s shopper doesn’t spend their time waiting for the flyer, they just go and buy. Price is not the decision point for them, it’s quality and experience. So, you have to ask yourself, which one are you? Are you a price point or do you give the reader a fantastic experience? That’s a tough question because it affects your entire marketing strategy, book positioning, and sadly, your book sales. So let’s ask the question.

As an author, do you deliver a fantastic experience to the reader? Do you want to have loyal readers that send you emails, post on your Facebook page and hound you on twitter wanting to know when your next book will be out? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you need to think about the experience and forget the price.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump your price to over $8 an e-book like the traditionally published authors, because you don’t carry the same expenses nor do you have a publisher that is hungry to generate obscene revenue from your hard work. This is your baby. This is your money and only you know how best to price it, so price it that way.

I know there are a bunch of authors out there who believe the best way to sell their books is to drop to a .99 price. But can I ask you a question—what do you think when you walk into a dollar store? Are you there because you want the best quality or are you there because you want to get some inexpensive things? Yeah, I thought so. The same applies to when you give something away for free. You got something for nothing, so what is it really worth to you? I should be clear this does not apply to the books you give away for reviews because that is also a marketing activity and good reviews sell books. But if the reviewer sees that the price of the book is below the price of a McDonald’s meal, they don’t take it with much value.

So I leave you this week with this question—as an author, are you Wal-Mart or Macy’s?

[Agency Rules Cover]

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About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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So You’re An Author

By Khalid Muhammad

[Khalid Muhammad]I am very pleased to welcome Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. In this occasional series, Khalid discusses what it means to be an indie author, responsibilities you didn’t even know you had, and tips on creating a powerful marketing presence. In this first article, Khalid covers the basics of the author platform.

So you’ve written your masterpiece – 90,000 plus words, formatted and cover designed, and you’re just getting ready to publish it to the world’s hungry eyes … when all of the sudden fear grasps you and you start to wonder, How will people know? and What if they don’t buy? Yes, we’ve all been there, whether traditional or self-published—that moment that makes us turn ghost white wondering how people are going to find out about our book. That moment when we realize that no matter what the publisher does to promote it, we will have to brand ourselves and market our books. Oh, the horror!

About a decade ago, before the social media and the Internet became like food for everyone, marketing a book would mean buying advertising space, getting on popular radio shows and begging local and regional newspapers for reviews of your book. That all changed with the digital generation, where with the right tools, you can spend very little and get huge results. That’s if you know how to use the right tools.

This new series is designed to help authors of all shapes and experience understand how to select and use the right tools to build their brand and market their books to the largest possible audience.

The Author Platform
Let’s start with the basics. There are things that you must have as an author in today’s digital world, if you even hope to achieve a modicum of success. Those things are:

  • An author website
  • A Facebook page for either your book or yourself as an author
  • A Twitter account
  • A Goodreads author account

I know, not rocket science right? Actually, it is. The four things above are essential to any author, not having any weakens your efforts and limits the access that potential readers have to your work. This is what I call the proverbial “author platform.” Each piece of the platform caters to specific groups of readers and all work closely together to deliver what we call in the marketing world a strong user experience, but I’ll go into that later.

Remember, as an author, you need to create an inviting place for potential readers to come and get to know you. You also have to take into account that the attention span of some readers has slimmed down to 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and some will want to read more about your writing before they buy your book since you’re not a recognized name. And there are hundreds of other things you must take into account about the characteristics of your potential audience than you realize that you can’t do on any single platform alone, which is why there are four parts.

The one thing that you need to focus the most on is your author website. This is the central nervous system of your entire marketing efforts. If done wrong, you will not achieve the success that you could potentially have. If done right, you will have a fantastic platform that will feed all of your other tools with content that engages and encourages readers to want to buy your book.

We will be covering each of these points in detail over the course of this series. My objective is to help you build the pieces that will showcase your work and drive traffic to sell your book. If you have questions, please do reach out to me in the comments here or via any of my social media pages, which are listed below.

[Agency Rules Cover]

eBook
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office

By Khalid Muhammad

[Khalid Muhammad]He had always hated these pretenders to Islam. Becoming a Hafiz at a young age and because some unknown seminary in Pakistan had ‘educated’ them, these fools called themselves maulanas, mullahs and imams. Their entire knowledge of Islam came from the mouths of those who also couldn’t understand Arabic beyond what was written in the Holy Quran. They make good cannon fodder for our wars, too stupid to know what jihad really means.

When the world hears Pakistan mentioned in the media, the first thought is terrorism, which sadly has become part of our national narrative since 9/11. But Pakistan is so much more than the narrative that is presented around the world – it is home to a wonderful, talented people that want nothing more than peace in their country, with their neighbors and respect in the international community of nations, but are deceived by its own “leaders,” whether political or religious.

Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office takes you behind the headlines into the events that created today’s Pakistan. It is a tough look at a nation in conflict from the eyes of a young man, Kamal Khan, who is looking for his own identity and place in society. Kamal is raised in privilege, but leaves it all behind as a man to serve his nation. Once in that environment, finds himself embroiled in a complex narrative that shifts with the fiery speeches of their anointed political and religious leaders.

There are a number of motivations behind my story. First, and probably the most important motivation, was to share the Pakistan that I know with the world. The narrative that has become commonplace about my country is that it is a failed state with many players in the power corridor, but that is not all that Pakistan is. My Pakistan is a country that struggles with inept governments more interested in themselves rather than the people who elected them. It is a country whose people are extremely talented and patriotic but unable to take advantage of any opportunities because the country is run like a fiefdom rather than a nation. It is a country in search of its identity, much like Kamal, that is trapped amidst power plays from internal and external forces.

Secondly, I grew up reading spy thrillers filled with the exploits of CIA, MI6 and KGB agents. While reading all of these stories, I always wondered why no one had ever written about Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, and the challenges they face every day. Geopolitically, Pakistan is host to numerous intelligence agencies working within its borders, a public secret here and the ISI holds its own against all of them. It’s routinely demonized by foreign nations, and much of that is because it is so good at what it does.

The backdrop of terrorism does make telling the story easier, but to paint the mosaic of the complexities I had to move backwards to the 1990s so that the reader could understand what happened to create the image of the country as it is today. It’s also a little bit of what I wish had happened rather than what really has happened. In my story, as in real life in fact, the people of Pakistan are the underdog against so many powerful forces, it’s a miracle we still exist. That we do is testament to our resilience as a nation, no matter what you read in the international press.

About Agency Rules
Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office is a fast-paced, action packed story that will keep you guessing all the way to the end. I hope that, as a reader, you will experience that Pakistan that I fell in love with when I moved home from the United States after 25 years. You will feel your heart wrench with Kamal’s when he is stationed in Karachi, Peshawar and buried deep inside the terrorist camps. And, hopefully, you will cheer him on, because he is the Pakistani that you don’t see in the media – smart, driven and motivated to do good for his family, fellow citizens and country.

A comparison to works by LeCarre has been made by a fellow reader and while I would hate to imply that there are obvious similarities I will say that the two authors have certainly the same admirable competence in strong plotting, vivid characterisation and atmospheric style.

Pakistan and its people are often misrepresented in the Western world and I loved how the author managed to bring in a whole spectrum of characters, showing again a complex picture instead of resorting to simple stereotypes or clique; all the while also highlighting outside interests in the country and the internal struggles. While the story moves at a fast pace with compelling writing the author also raises many points about the country’s current state of affairs. It shows a writer with a sharp and thoughtful mind who knows also about diplomacy and international politics – just like any good spy thriller writer should in my opinion.

A good thriller with substance. Very recommendable.

– CHRISTOPH FISCHER, AUTHOR OF THE THREE NATIONS TRILOGY

I thought that this was going to be quite a difficult read for me because on top of the plot complexity of a spy novel there would be the unfamiliar names and places because it was set in Pakistan. So I started off with my laptop beside me open to Google Maps and Wikipedia only to discover that the story was delivered in such an easily digestible way that I hardly had to refer to either. There were a lot of unfamiliar names of people and places at first but they started to sort themselves out as the plot advanced, leading in to a fascinating world of secrets, lies, subterfuge and scandal, not to mention gangs and bribery and corruption reaching right to the top of the government.

– KAREN PRINCE, AUTHOR OF LOST KINGDOMS OF KARIBU

[Agency Rules Cover]

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About the Author
Khalid Muhammad is the author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. You can find more information about him and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.