Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Promoting Your Book With Trailers

When movie companies promote a film, they do so with something called a trailer. That's the 2-3 minute advertisement for the film that you see during the "coming attractions" at the theater and on TV. For the past couple of years, publishers have been doing the same thing for books.

You wouldn't think that books lend themselves to video, but a well-produced trailer can boost interest in a book and gain readers that it otherwise might not have had. We have become a very visually-oriented society, and video sells.

So, what can you actually do with a book trailer, you might ask? Here are a few ways you can use that 30 seconds of video for maximum impact in promoting your book:

Your web site: When a reader visits your web site, try to have it set up so your video starts playing automatically when they get to your home page. It's an attention-grabber, and it will let the reader know right away what your latest book is all about.

Social video sites: Susan Boyle became world-famous because of her video that appeared on sites like YouTube, which logged more than 120 million views of her performance on the UK show "Britain's Got Talent." Although Boyle didn't win the talent contest, she became an instant media sensation and still got a record deal. Her CD has sold millions of copies. Of course, her video went viral, which means that people shared the video with their friends and family, and they shared the video with their friends, and so on. If you have an attention-grabbing video, it could be shared and passed around online, getting you the kind of exposure you would never get from a book tour.

Blog tours: A blog tour is a virtual book tour. You don't actually go anywhere. Bloggers review your book, interview you, host Q & A sessions and give your book exposure on their blogs. A blog tour is usually comprised of visits to 10 or more blogs over a period of a couple of weeks. The book trailer could be used on the blogs to promote your upcoming appearance.

Electronic press kits: EPK's, or electronic press kits, are emails which are sent to the media which contain links to your web site, an online bio, a sample chapter of your book, and yes, your book trailer. The press release sent to the media might simply include a link to a static web page which includes all of these things. Think of an EPK as an online newsroom which gives the media all the background info they need to know about you and your book.

Book signings: Chances are, you've got a digital version of your book trailer. Why not bring a laptop and have your book trailer play continuously at your table while you are signing your books? It will certainly be an attention-grabber!

It is easier now than ever before to distribute video content. You're only limited by your imagination!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Authors Need to Think and Act Like Entrepreneurs

Today's guest post is courtesy of Matthew Toone, an entrepreneur and author of Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children! Keep in mind his figures are averages for the entire publishing industry.
- Terry
Authors Need to Think and Act Like Entrepreneurs

Authors Need to Think and Act Like Entrepreneurs

By Matthew Toone

If you are an author, or even an aspiring author, you probably realize that less than 1% of published authors ever make more than $50,000. The vast majority of authors are unsuccessful because they fail to realize that their book is a product and that authorship is a business. Authors often fail because they believe that writing the book is their responsibility, and promoting the book is the publishers. The first step towards guaranteed failure for most authors is to simply write the book, hand the manuscript over to the publisher, and expect the publisher to make them millions.

To put it simply, authors fail because they do not think or act like entrepreneurs! There is a 'secret' that most successful entrepreneurs know and apply that is the reason for their success. This same 'secret' or formula, ironically, is the same formula needing to be applied to be successful in anything in life. Unfortunately, most authors know of and practice only the first few steps, and then they unfortunately stop (or quit) by not putting into practice the last few steps of these secrets for success. To summarize this formula and apply it to authors (although it applies to anyone and any goal), we need to break it down into 5 simple categories:

1) Desire Success

2) Believe in Themselves and their Book

3) Take Action

4) Learn from Failure

5) Persist and Never Quit

The formula seems simple, right? The reality is that there is much more that goes into it, and it is certainly more difficult than these 5 simple steps make it seem. However, most unsuccessful authors stop after step 3. Every author of course desires their book to be successful, they undoubtedly believe in their book, and they put forth the necessary effort to write the book. However, writing the book is half the battle - promoting the book to make money is much more difficult. Thus, most authors fail because they expect or depend upon others to make their book successful, when those 'others' do not have the same desire, belief in the book, and time to put in the effort required to make the book a success.

Keep in mind that best-selling books are best SELLING. That does not mean they are necessarily the best written, most informative or helpful, or even the most entertaining books. Thus, if an author's book is not making money, rather than assuming the plot, size of the market, or front cover illustration or title is the problem - perhaps the actual problem is within - reflected in a lack of the author's desire, belief, and work ethic to make the book successful. Every successful entrepreneur (and author) understands that their potential and success is determined by them alone - not the publisher, not the customers, not the economy, not even the business/book idea. They also understand that work will be required every day, overcoming fear and doubt is a constant battle, getting up after failure is essential, re-adjusting the marketing plan is necessary, not giving excuses or expecting others to make them successful is understood, and persisting until their goal is accomplished is what they are committed to doing.

So, where is the manuscript for your book? Is it collecting dust on the shelf, is it already published and in print, is it just thoughts in your mind, or perhaps you haven't even discovered yet that it is in your mind? Regardless of where it is, the reality is that it can be a success if you personally learn and implement the laws of success to achieve greatness in anything. But never forget that the success of any book is not solely found in the plot, market size, topic covered, or catchy title - it is mainly found and realized because of the desire, belief, and work ethic of the author.

Matt is the founder of - a website focused on inspiring people to achieve their goals and dreams, live up to their full potential, and learn the secrets for success in anything. As a successful entrepreneur, Matt recently accomplished one of his dreams - to write a book! His book is entitled: "Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children." To view the book and learn more, visit:

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Overnight Success Doesn't Happen Overnight

Every now and then, I get a phone call from one of the authors I work with, and it goes something like this:

Author: "I'm really discouraged. I've been doing everything I can think of and my book just isn't taking off like I thought it would. I thought I would sell 5,000 books right away and be interviewed on radio and TV stations all over the country. I walked into 10 different bookstores today to see if they were carrying my book, and I didn't see my book in any of them. I'm just going to give up and let you take care of selling my book for me."

Me: "How long ago was your book released?"

Author: "Three months."

I'm sure you can see the problem here right away. The author is expecting to become an "overnight success." However, overnight successes are actually very rare in the publishing industry, particularly new authors who have just published their very first book.

As I have stated elsewhere on my blog, I am currently working on a marketing guide for authors called "Your Book is Your Business." The reason I chose that title is because when you become a professional writer and author, your book really is a business. It takes time to grow a business and make it a success. It also takes time to build readership and generate book sales. Neither of these things happen overnight.

When I get these phone calls, I give the authors three pieces of advice...advice I wish I would have gotten when I first entered the broadcasting business more than 20 years ago, because a lot of this is applicable.

1. It isn't going to happen overnight. When a book is first released, that is just the first step. Bookstores don't automatically know your book has been released. There were more than 500,000 books released in the US last year, and bookstores can't possibly track them all. They just can't. The marketing plan is geared toward creating demand for your book, and that takes time. Besides, there may be better places to sell your book than bookstores.

2. You have to be persistent. If you give up on your book after a few months, what then? Nobody will care about your book more than you. You wrote it. If you throw in the towel before giving your book any real chance, you'll never know how successful it could have been if you had just kept at it. Some of the authors I have been working with for four years are just now experiencing some real success with their books. What if they had given up a year ago?

3. There is always something you haven't tried. It may seem like you have tried "everything" to get your book noticed, but that probably isn't the case. I sell books for a living, and I learn new things every week. I don't mean authors should run out and spend money on classes that promise they can make your book an bestseller. Explore new markets and audiences for your books that you may not have considered before. If every signing you have done has been at a bookstore, try some non-bookstore venues. If you have a children's book, go where the children are: daycare centers, toy stores, schools, etc. Kids don't have credit cards, but their parents do. How else would the kids get all those video games they play? There is always a new marketing avenue an author hasn't tried. If what you have tried up to this point hasn't worked, why keep repeating the same action?

With patience, persistence and a willingness to try new things, you really can achieve new levels of success with your book.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Interview with NYT bestselling author Suzy Spencer

  1. How much help did your publisher give you in the marketing of your book?

I’ve had four books published. Of those four, I’ve had little marketing support from my publishers. Now let me clarify. When I say “marketing,” I’m referring specifically to public relations. I’m not referring to sales and distribution support. I’ve never been allowed any contact with the sales teams, though I understand some publishers encourage such. In fact, I’m friends with a sales representative for a major publishing house and she has advised me to always get to know and befriend my sales reps. When the sales reps love your books and you, they’ll fight to get your work into the stores, get you solid display space, and psych up the bookstore staff so that they recommend your book to the buying public.

Having said that, sales reps are going the way of landline telephones. Maybe landline telephones is the wrong metaphor to use since sales reps – those human beings who travel, from state to state, from bookstore to bookstore, to make face-to-face sales pitches to bookstore management – are being replaced by telemarketers. To foresee how well that is going to work, just think about how you react to telemarketers.

As for public relations support, for my first book Wasted, which became a New York Times bestseller, I believe my publisher sent out a few review copies. By that I mean I provided names and addresses of friends in the media and my publisher mailed them copies of the book and, from what I understand, a note that said here’s a book by Suzy Spencer. There was no publicity packet included. No sales pitch of what the book was about or why they would be interested in it.

With my second book, my publisher decided it was too expensive to send out review copies, so I was provided an extra box of books, which I was supposed to mail to my media contacts.

I switched publishing houses for my third and fourth books. That publisher did provide a bit of publicity support. But for the purposes of this interview, I’m going to stick to the details of marketing and publicity for Wasted, i.e. the experiences of a first time author who fluked into becoming a New York Times best-selling author.

  1. Did you hire a publicist, or did you work on marketing and promotion on your own? If you hired a publicist, what types of things did they do for you?

My answer is all of the above. Initially, I did everything myself. As time passed and I was out of ideas and contacts, I hired two different publicists. Each pursued only radio shows. I believe one publicist charged per booking, meaning if she got me on a show, I paid her a fee. If she didn’t get me on a show, I paid her nothing. She got me on numerous radio shows, mostly high-wattage stations in rural areas, in daylight hours.

I believe the other publicist charged a flat fee with a minimum number of bookings guaranteed. He booked me into larger markets but in the middle of the night, AM hours. One radio host sent me a copy of that publicist’s Suzy Spencer “PR packet.” It consisted of a copy of my book and a note scribbled in black Sharpie on white paper that said Suzy Spencer is available for interview – no explanation of why the radio station might be interested in interviewing me. At least my publisher had included a neatly typed note.

I never used that publicist again. In fact, I never hired another publicist.

3. What types of marketing activities did you handle on your own?

I sent out postcards announcing the publication and availability of the book, including its ISBN number. I sent those cards to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, though I might have a tenuous relationship to them, and often added a handwritten note. I forced my family to do the same.

I set up book signings. I sent out postcards promoting the signings – again, to friends, acquaintances, and strangers to whom I had tenuous ties. I repeatedly contacted newspapers and radio and television stations regarding the signings and begged for interviews. I brought extra books when I felt bookstores hadn’t ordered enough product for a signing. And believe me, that happened often.

I created a press kit, which included a press release, biography, headshot, and eventually press clippings. I sent those to newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and alumni publications. I constantly monitored the media to see if there was a news event that related to my book topic. If there was, I immediately contacted radio stations explaining how my book related to the event, what I could offer their radio show, and that I was available for interviews.

I probably need to stress that even when seeking publicity for my book signings, I didn’t simply say here’s my book, I’m available for an interview. I always provided a reason as to why they should want to interview me. I provided them with a story angle. I told them why their listeners, viewers, and/or readers would be interested in what I had to say and/or how it related to their audience.

I also set up talks with writers’ organizations, book clubs, high schools, and anything else I could think of. And I ran ads in Radio-TV Interview Report, a publication monitored by radio and TV producers as they look for topics and guests for their shows.

  1. Which marketing activities have been the most helpful in selling your book?

With that first book, initially, I think the postcards helped most. Current friends wanted to support me, so they bought the book. Friends from the past were curious about what I was up to, so they bought the book. I believe my friends all over the nation are the ones who pushed the book onto the New York Times bestseller list.

After that, a book review appeared and proclaimed that Wasted had been banned in the oldest town in Texas. I jumped on that. Whereas my publisher had insisted x is your sole market. I insisted that x, y, and z were my markets. I sent a press release announcing the ban, along with copies of the review, to media that targeted those y and z markets. They jumped on the story and gave me coast-to-coast publicity. I then used those stories to get more publicity.

Finally, I think the radio interviews helped. I’d check my Amazon sales ranking before an interview, during it, and afterwards, and I could see the positive results.

One note: I inundated my publisher with my press clippings, which I believe kept them excited about the book. That meant their sales reps worked harder to keep the book on store shelves rather than letting it die a natural six-week to six-month death.

  1. Which marketing activities have not worked for you at all?

This is kind of a tough question because what works for one book might not work for another and what works for a first book might not be right for a fourth book. Or what works for my book might not work for someone else’s book. For example, I’ve had friends who got scores, if not more than 100, radio bookings from Radio-TV Interview Report. For me, that was a waste of money.

Though I insinuate that I was disappointed with the publicists I hired, as I mentioned before, I could track improved Amazon sales after doing a radio show they booked for me.

And while I rarely do bookstore signings anymore because I lose money on them due to the travel expense, I found them highly beneficial for the beginning of my career. They introduced me to bookstore staffers and readers who never would have looked at my book. That meant that they talked about it and recommended it. The signings also got me at least a week’s worth of great in-store display and promotion, when, normally, one or two copies of my books would have been relegated to a bottom shelf. And they allowed me to get radio, TV, and newspaper coverage that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Believe me, it’s a great thing when you’re sitting in a bookstore and a TV crew comes in to interview you. Customers start flocking over in curiosity and start buying.

  1. What was the biggest misconception you had before you started promoting your work?

I’m not sure I had a lot of misconceptions. I know I didn’t expect the publisher to help me much on PR. And I knew that they only give a book a few weeks to succeed before moving on to the next book. But I guess I did expect them to put out a decent press release and send review copies to more than a few outlets. After all, I spent hours filling out their marketing questionnaire, i.e. my background, marketing angles, people and media outlets I knew that might promote my book and why they might promote it, etc..

No, my biggest misconception was their myopic view that only they know what works marketing-wise. I have a Masters of Business Administration degree in marketing and I live in Middle America. So I guess I had a fantasy that they’d respect my expertise and what I know about the market in which I live. But, no, they didn’t. And they don’t. They say, we’ve been doing this for years, we know who your market is, we know what works and what doesn’t, and you don’t.

But my theory is that what may have worked 20 years ago isn’t working today. The proof of that is the decreasing sales and profits experienced by the major publishing houses. So the other half of my theory is don’t say anything when they tell you don’t know who your market is and don’t say anything when they tell you your marketing ideas are wrong. Just go implement them on your own. If you don’t succeed, at least you know you gave it your all. And if you do succeed, well, your publishing house might take all the credit, but who cares … because you’ve got a bestseller.

  1. How vital is social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to your marketing?

My books have all come out prior to the mass popularity of social media. However, since 2004, when I started work on my next book, which should be out in 2011, I have been prepping my marketing plan. I have a list of blogs that I want to hit up for PR. I have my own blog on writing that I’m trying to grow. And I have a smaller blog that primarily deals with the topic of my next book. Eventually, the two blogs with be integrated.

I have my Facebook account and really try to work it. I have my Twitter account, though, admittedly, I don’t “get” Twitter. I have my YouTube account and am prepping videos for it. And I have my BlogTalkRadio account, for when I need that.

Though I don’t know if Twitter and Facebook will be as important five years from now as they are today – after all, look how myspace has almost disappeared for anyone other than musicians – I do think social media is imperative to follow and utilize. For example, I have Facebook friends all over the U.S., England, Turkey or Greece (I forget which), and the Philippines. Previously, if I wanted to hit those markets, I had to be on CNN. And believe me, I find national and international TV to still be my best promoter. But those aren’t always available to first time authors. But Facebook is. In a matter of seconds, you can post a few lines there and have people all over the world reading about your book. And that’s a heck of lot cheaper than sending out postcards.

  1. How vital is niche marketing to promoting your work? How do you identify and reach out to your book’s niche audiences?

I’m known as a true crime author. That’s my niche – my x target market that my first publisher insisted was my sole market. My publisher further insisted that a great book cover and great photographs inside the book is enough to market to my niche. So I left that to my publisher and worried about the y and z general markets.

My next book is not true crime, and I think my publisher sees its target market as the general public. I see it building in the niche world and expanding to the general public. As such, I used the Internet to research the leaders within that niche, contacted them, and became friends with them. They introduced me to other leaders, as well as participants, which eventually created a huge email list. I then used MySpace and now Facebook to further develop that list.

In other words, I’m networking within my niche – I meet one person who introduces me to three others, and those three others introduce me to nine others.

As I get closer to publication, I will utilize this email list to create buzz for the book and then sales.

  1. Other than sales, what benefits have you experienced as the result of becoming a “bestselling” author?

It gives you credibility.

  1. What advice do you have for new authors when it comes to marketing and promoting their books?

Step 1: From day one, start creating your marketing plan. That means making a list of possible PR outlets. And it means getting out there and schmoozing and making friends. The greatest thing I ever did for my career was joining and volunteering for the Writers’ League of Texas. I worked on publicity for one of their fundraisers. That gave me an introduction to people in the media. Eventually, those people gave my book PR support.

Step 2: Don’t necessarily confess this PR obsession and game plan to your agent and editor. There’s a time to mention it, and it’s not when you’re writing the book. If you do, they’ll think you’re sacrificing your writing for PR. So wait until the book is done. If they then give your ideas a dismissive wave of the hand, let ‘em … then go do your own marketing plan. They’ll appreciate it when the sales get tallied.

Step 3: When everyone tells you stop with the PR, keep going with it. You’ll extend the life of the book and wring out additional sales. Think persistence, persistence, persistence. Be persistent, persistent, persistent.

About the author:

ABC’s Primetime Live has referred to Suzy Spencer as Austin, Texas’ best-known true crime writer. She is the author of Breaking Point, the story of Andrea Yates, a Book of the Month Club, Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild and Mystery Guild selection; Wasted, a New York Times bestseller and Violet Crown Book Award finalist; The Fortune Hunter (St. Martin's True Crime Library), which was called “riveting” and “blockbuster” by the Globe; and Wages Of Sin

She has appeared on Good Morning America, ABC World News, Primetime, Dateline NBC, and numerous shows on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Court TV, Oxygen, and the E! Channel.

Spencer holds a Masters of Professional Writing and a Masters of Business Administration, both from the University of Southern California.

Currently, she is writing a book about Americans’ alternative sex lives, which will be a lead trade paperback for Berkley Books.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Deal With Rejection

Rejection. The word itself even sounds unpleasant. However, every author, at one point or another, has experienced rejection. Yes, this includes New York Times Bestselling authors. The authors of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" were rejected by scores of publishers before one finally said "yes." That series of books has sold millions of copies.

Authors are rejected when they try to find an agent, when they try to get their book published, when they are trying to obtain book signing events, when they are trying to get positive book reviews and when they are trying to obtain media exposure. For an author, rejection lurks around every corner.

Prior to working in publishing, I worked as a broadcast journalist. I was an anchor, reporter and producer for a number of radio and television stations. This meant that I had the worst job security in the world. If a station's ratings were low, if the station was purchased by a competing company, if I asked for a raise, if the boss decided I was making too much money, I was fired. I have been fired on more than one occasion (several, actually), sometimes in spectacular fashion. At one radio station which had been sold to a competitor, the general manager called the staff into the conference room and informed everyone they no longer had jobs. I was fired from another station after two weeks on the job because the manager decided he didn't like my voice after all. At another station, I took the day off work because my wife needed emergency surgery and she nearly died on the operating table. The surgery took several hours, and when I went home for the night and checked my answering machine, I heard a message informing me I no longer had a job. Now THAT'S rejection!

Although rejection hurts at the time, it comes with the territory when you work in broadcasting, and it's even more true when you decide to become an author. Merely getting a book published and printed doesn't guarantee an author anything but the fact they have a book that has been published. It doesn't guarantee that every bookstore in the country will stock it (or that any bookstore will stock it), it doesn't guarantee Oprah will have you on her show to talk about your great book, and it doesn't guarantee that book reviewers will bother to read it, or if they do, that they will like it.

So how does an author cope with rejection? Here are a few hard lessons I learned over the course of a 20-year broadcasting career:

1. It isn't personal. If a publisher doesn't agree to publish your book, or if a bookstore doesn't agree to host you for a book signing event, it is strictly business. Your book may not fit the current needs of the publisher or the bookstore.

2. Don't dwell on the negative. Yes, rejection stinks, especially if you are rejected by someone or something you really look up to. Not everyone who leaves a review at is going to write a glowing review of your book. The popular bookstore in town may take a pass on carrying your book. Realize that no matter what you do, you'll have your critics. Concentrate on the people who DO appreciate what you do.

3 You can't please everybody. When an author is first assigned to me, I make a point of asking them who they think is the perfect audience for their book. "My book is for everybody" is an answer I hear a lot. No book is for everybody, just like no movie is for everybody. I can't stand romantic comedies, but my wife loves them. No matter what kind of book you write, some people will like it and some won't. Comedian Bill Cosby once said "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everybody." He was right.

4. Make a plan and stick to it. I can't tell you how many times I was told I would never make it in the broadcasting business. I didn't have the right education, I didn't have the right look, I didn't know the right people, etc. Still, I was determined. I worked my way from a little radio station in Mason City, Iowa to producing reports for syndicated radio programs heard nationwide. Sure, it took me 20 years, but I still did it. The lesson here is that it may take time for you to achieve your goals in your writing career. Things don't happen overnight, especially in the publishing industry. Patience and persistence are qualities every successful author has, and you will experience bumps along the way.

5. Grow a thick skin. Nobody likes rejection, but it doesn't have to defeat you, either. It has been said that God will never give you more than you can handle. There have been times I certainly felt like the opposite was true, but time puts everything in perspective. Now when I experience adversity, I consider "will this impact my life five years from now, or will nobody really care?" I haven't encountered too many obstacles that will still impact me five years into the future. I still take problems and rejection seriously, but I don't take them personally. It's just business, remember?

Keep working toward your goals, keep a positive attitude and don't listen to the naysayers. If they really had something worthwhile to say, they would have written a book about it, just like you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Defines a Bestseller in Books?

Today's guest post is by Irene Watson, Managing Editor of Review The Book. - Terry

What Defines a Bestseller in Books?

By Irene Watson

Every author dreams of writing a bestselling book, but few new authors really understand what it takes to be a bestseller and just what defines a bestseller.

What it takes is selling a lot of books. How to do so is an entire topic of its own, but before figuring out how to reach the goal, authors first need to understand what the goal is. Just what does it mean to have a bestselling book-how many books do you have to sell?

Today, a bestseller is usually determined either by 1) Making the New York Times Bestseller list, 2) Having a high Amazon sales rank, or 3) Selling a large number of copies.

How does a book get on the New York Times Bestseller list? The truth of the matter is it's rather arbitrary. The New York Times has relationships with numerous bookstores that report their weekly sales to the New York Times. (Note that the New York Times' numbers do not include Internet sales, sales in department stores like Walmart, or sales in local gift shops). The books that sell the most each week in the targeted stores determine which ones make the list. If your fishing book is selling like hotcakes in Minnesota, but no bookstore there is reporting to the New York Times, your book isn't going to make the list, even if you sell more copies than the current Harry Potter of that week. Just as political polls have margins for error, so do the bestseller lists because it would be impossible to track each week every book sold everywhere in the country.

A book that never appears on the New York Times Bestseller list may well be a bestseller and outsell books on that list over time. Books that do not make a hit when they first come out can become popular through word-of-mouth and sell enough copies to achieve bestseller status even if they never appear on any bestseller lists. (Note that other lists exist such as Publishers Weekly, but the New York Times is the best known. Comparing a few different lists will show different books and different ranks, which shows no numbers are perfect representations of book sales. Accurate numbers are nearly impossible to acquire since publishers withhold sales numbers as privileged information, until generally books sell a million copies and then publishers simply print something like "Over a million copies sold" on paperback reprints).

Amazon has also become a key player in determining a bestseller because it provides a sales rank for each book listed. By getting a high sales ranking, for example, top 100, a book can also claim bestseller status. Like the New York Times, however, if a book on Amazon sells steadily but does not sell a large number within a short timeframe, its sales rank is not likely to go up as high as a book that sells ten thousand in a week. According to Brent Sampson's "Sell Your Book on Amazon" (2007) to acquire a ranking of 1-10, a book must sell over 500 copies in a day. Books that sell only one copy a week by comparison, end up in the 10,000-100,000 ranking. Many authors follow various strategies to manipulate and increase their book's Amazon rating by holding campaigns to sell as many books as possible within a week.

So just how many books do you need to sell to claim bestseller status? According to self-publishing guru, Dan Poynter, the number is 35,000. Since the popularity of a bestseller can be long or short, I think that's a fair number. A book might come out and make a huge hit and sell a million copies in a year, and then be forgotten. Other books, like the Bible, "A Tale of Two Cities" or "Pride and Prejudice" never appear on bestseller lists but they continue to sell steadily and have far outsold most books making the bestseller lists simply by their quality, word of mouth, and acceptance as great literature.

To sell 35,000 copies of your book is a big task. Studies show that 500,000 books a year are now being published. Of those, over 98% will sell less than 500 copies. If you're just starting out, shooting for 500 is a good start. After that, I would say you're moderately successful-and ready to strive for the thousands.

How important is it to claim "bestseller status"? At Wikipedia is an excellent list of all top ten bestsellers by year in the United States. Take a look at the list from 1951:

  1. From Here to Eternity by James Jones

  2. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

  3. Moses by Sholem Asch

  4. The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson

  5. A Woman Called Fancy by Frank Yerby

  6. The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

  7. Melville Goodwin, U.S.A. by John P. Marquand

  8. Return to Paradise by James A. Michener

  9. The Foundling by Cardinal Spellman

  10. The Wanderer by Mika Waltari

My guess is that, with the exception of maybe the first two listed, most of us have never heard of these books. So I ask again, how important is it to have a bestseller?

Your book may never make a bestseller list, but steady wins the race. Over time, you may sell more copies of your book than those books that make the bestseller lists. Authors dream of becoming famous over night, but producing a quality book is the best investment if you're looking for longevity, and longevity, in my opinion, is the best indication of success.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Review The Book, where authors and reviewers meet. Her team provides reviews of recently published books that are posted on the site as well as at least ten other sites.

Article Source:


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Interview with author Sheila Lowe

I think authors can learn a lot from each other, particularly about marketing and promoting their books. Authors with several titles under their belts have already seen and experienced many things that new authors haven't yet gone through, and they have a lot to share. With that in mind, today's post features an interview with Sheila Lowe, the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis, 2nd Edition and a recent novel, Dead Write: A Forensic Handwriting Mystery, published by the Signet imprint of the Penguin Book Group. As a veteran author who writes for a major NYC publisher, I think Sheila has some great words of wisdom for all up-and-coming authors.

  1. How much help did your publisher give you in the marketing of your book?

These days, publishers expect authors to do most of their own marketing. My publisher (Penguin) lists me on their site; they sent out notices of my book to reviewers (though this time they did not send out advance reader copies), and they distribute the book many places where books are sold, including Kindle. If I request a review copy for someone who has asked, they will send a book to that person. Apart from that, the success of the book is pretty much up to me.

  1. Did you hire a publicist, or did you work on marketing and promotion on your own? If you hired a publicist, what types of things did they do for you?

I do have a very low-cost publicist who handles book sales at my launch parties and some other events, and who also has arranged for some semi-local talks for me, some which actually pay(!). In the past I had a publicist who charged a monthly retainer plus fees for events. However, we weren’t on the same wavelength about what events or bookstores would work best for me.

  1. What types of marketing activities did you handle on your own?

I’m active in organizations in my genre, such as Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, as well as professional organizations. I attend conventions where I appear on panels, and meetings where I lecture. I send out bookmarks and signed custom bookplates to readers and to bookstores that want them. I write articles. Drop in book signings, as well as some scheduled ones. Speak at book clubs and guest blog. Because of the nature of my work as a handwriting analyst, I’m sometimes called by the media for comment when there are stories in the news where there are also handwriting samples (most recently, Tiger Woods), so that helps get my name out, too.

  1. Which marketing activities have been the most helpful in selling your book?

I’m still trying to figure that out. When I do, I’ll do more of it!

  1. Which marketing activities have not worked for you at all?

Scheduled book signings have very limited success, which I hear from other authors, too, even big name ones. Book store sales people have told me that signings don’t often generate more than 1 or 2 sales, and that 5 books sold at a signing is considered a huge success. This is probably less true at small, specialty stores that have a loyal customer base who attend everything they schedule.

  1. What was the biggest misconception you had before you started promoting your work?

That my (major) publisher would be helping me sell books. The sad fact is, the large publishing houses have so many authors and so few publicists that mid-list authors can’t expect much in the way of promo. I’ve heard it said that publishers expect their authors to use their advance for marketing, which means you don’t ever break even unless your books sell hugely. When I was with a very small publishing house, there was a great deal of personal help in promotion. Ironically, that’s how I got to move to a big house—the small publisher sent my first book out for review and it got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “a dynamic debut.” That got the big publisher’s attention.

  1. How vital is social media such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to your marketing?

I’m not sure yet, but I think they are important, at least to some degree. I believe we create readership by selling one reader at a time until a book goes viral. I’ve heard it said that one happy reader represents five more. I don’t know whether that’s true, but if it is, I’d like to precipitate a very big sneeze!

  1. How vital is niche marketing to promoting your work? How did you identify and reach out to your book’s niche audience?

For me, it’s important because I’m well known in my field (handwriting analysis) and colleagues around the world read my books. However, the down side is, it’s a very small field. I need to reach out more to people in related fields, such as psychologists and lawyers, as my protagonist is a forensic expert. But then, my fiction books are psychological suspense, so they can be enjoyed by anyone who likes reading mystery.

  1. What advice do you have for new authors when it comes to marketing and promoting their books?

Have a marketing plan before you even look for an agent or a publisher. Write it out so they know you are committed to marketing and promoting the book yourself. If you do, you’re far more likely to get a book deal than a writer who expects to sit back while the publisher does everything. These days, that’s not going to happen. It’s probably even more true in non-fiction, but non-fiction is much easier to sell. There are some helpful books on writing book proposals that include great info on how to create a marketing plan.

About Sheila Lowe:

Like her character Claudia Rose in the award-winning Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series (NAL), Sheila Lowe is a real-life court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in a variety of handwriting-related cases. She’s also the author of the internationally acclaimed The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis, 2nd Edition, and Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous, and Sheila Lowe’s Handwriting Analyzer software.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Five Things You Should Do Before Your Book is Released

Your book is written. It has been edited, gone through layout and is on its way to the printer. Your job as an author is done, right? Not exactly. When it comes to marketing and promoting your book, your job is just getting started.

For some authors, this is where panic kicks in. Writing a book was difficult enough, but now they (and their publisher) have to get people to actually read it. Where does an author begin?

This is perhaps the most common question I get from authors. At Tate Publishing, there is a three month time period between the time the book goes to print until its actual release date. Many authors aren't quite sure what they should do during that period of time.

Actually, this is a great time to "hit the ground running" and get things set up for the launch of your book! In fact, it's a great time to make sales and build word-of-mouth about the book before it's actually released.

Here are five things every author should do prior to the release date for their book:

1. Get a web site. I can't stress this one enough. Every author that wants to be taken seriously as an author should have their own web site. Your publisher may be able to build one for you, or you can hire someone to build one for you. It should look professional, have information about you, your book, your upcoming book signing events (if you have any yet) and a link where readers can place orders for your book. I recommend including a sample chapter of your book somewhere on your web site. This is also a good time to get some promo materials for your book, like bookmarks, business cards, posters, etc.

2. Get social. Now it's time to let your readers know about your web site and your book. You should have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, at a minimum. Update these at least two to three times per week.

3. Friends and family. You probably have dozens of email addresses for friends, family and acquaintances. These are people you want to invite to your book signing events, and you also want to shoot out a pre-release email letting them know your book is available, or will be available soon.

4. Pre-release events. If you are able to get pre-release copies of your book (not all publishers offer this), you can start generating sales right away. Although you haven't hit your book's release date yet, you can set up consignement events at local independent bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, church bookstores, book fairs and festivals, and during speaking engagements for local civic organizations and book clubs. The more events, the better. You're trying to get copies of your book out there to build some "buzz" before your book is released.

5. Review copies. You'll also want to send out some review copies to book review bloggers, your alumni newsletter, and some traditional media book reviewers. The reason you want to do this prior to the release date is it is competitive to get reviews, and it may take awhile to rack up a few. Also, the reviewers need time to read your book and write their review. Ask the reviewers if they will also post their reviews on your book's listing at Amazon after the book's release date. Most do.

And a few "Don'ts":

DON'T start trying to line up media interviews and articles about your book with your newspapers, TV, and radio. Your book hasn't been released yet, remember? If someone hears about your book from one of these sources before it's released, they won't find it at Amazon or be able to get it from any bookstore. Save this for the release date

DON'T call bookstores and ask them to stock your book. Again, your book hasn't been released yet, and the bookstore can't order your book from the distributor. This is why I suggested consignment sales at the local independent stores.

DON'T forget to keep in touch with your publisher about any events you have lined up for yourself. They can help by sending out press releases to help promote your events and they'll likely post them to their web site, too.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Hot Media Source You're Not Using

As an author, you have probably done the usual media contacts: television, radio, newspapers and perhaps a few web sites and blogs. These media sources offer good promotional opportunities, and help an author develop "buzz" and word-of-mouth about their book. However, there is one media source that you may have overlooked, and that's a big mistake.

It is Internet radio.

What is Internet radio? Basically, it's a podcast, or a live or pre-recorded radio show that is strictly available online. We're not talking about regular radio stations that also happen to stream their content online. These are shows developed for an Internet-only audience.

Who listens to Internet radio? I have to admit, back when I worked in radio, Internet radio was considered a fad. Who's going to listen to radio shows on their computer? Of course, this was before IPods and MP3 players. But, it turns out plenty of people listen to Internet radio.

One of the largest Internet radio sites, BlogTalkRadio, has only been around since 2006, yet last year more than 30,000 hosts conducted shows on the site, which were listened to nearly 58 million times. That is some great exposure for an author and their book.

Anybody can host their own show on BlogTalkRadio and other podcasting/Internet radio sites, even authors. Of course, there are plenty of shows already available on the site, and they are always looking for guests to interview, including authors.

Some of the guests who were interviewed on BlogTalkRadio last year include bestselling author Maya Angelou, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Newt Gingrich, Madeline Albright and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. Bill Cosby even started his own Internet radio show this past year.

Offering yourself up as a guest can pay off. One of the authors I work with appeared as a guest on a number of different Internet radio shows. Each week for about a year, she appeared on one or two Internet radio programs and talked about the topic of her book: the End Times and the Antichrist. These appearances were enough to get her invited to be a guest on the syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM. That appearance led to her being interviewed for a History Channel series, The Nostradamus Effect. Each time she appears on the show, the History Channel flashes her name on the screen, along with the name of her book.

If you would like to be invited to be a guest on a BlogTalkRadio show, you can either try to contact the host directly through their show page, if they include their email or phone number. You can also offer yourself up as a guest on the BlogTalkRadio Forum or fill out the contact form.
Alternatively, you can search Facebook or Twitter for "BlogTalkRadio" to find hosts and ask to be a guest.

It's best to find a show which fits your book's niche. If you have written a book related to sports, then you would target the Internet radio shows that are about sports.

If you haven't given Internet radio a second look (or a listen) it's worth checking out. With thousands of shows available, there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring hosts and guests.

Have you hosted a show or appeared as a guest on Internet radio?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Five Ways to Use Twitter to Promote Your Book

Do you currently use Twitter? If you don't, you really should consider it. Those who aren't on Twitter, even at my job, frequently ask me "just what IS Twitter anyway?" Basically, Twitter allows you to quickly send out short messages to your subscribers. The messages are 140 characters or less. That's not a lot of space, so it really forces you to be concise and to the point.

I mainly use Twitter to link to articles and web sites that I think authors would find most helpful. Lately, I have also been using it to connect with members of the media, bookstores and book reviewers. If you think Twitter is a waste of time, consider this: each day, Twitter logs visits by six million different users. That's the kind of exposure authors crave.

So, how can authors use Twitter to their benefit?

1. Give your Twitter readers something of value. If the majority of your Twitter posts say something like "Hey, read my book (Title). It's available now at Amazon!" you're not likely to get much, if any, response. However, if you frequently pass along useful information that can be found in your book, or you update your readers on your next project or pass along the location of your next book signing event, you're giving your readers something other than a hard sell...and they will keep reading.

2. Use Twitter to make connections. I have used Twitter to connect with members of the media, bookstores and book reviewers. If I recently read a book I found interesting, I pass it along to my readers. If there is something going on in the news that relates to a book I'm currently marketing, I mention it on Twitter. Recently, I mentioned I had some new releases coming up and offered free review copies to book reviewers. I received replies from book reviewers that asked me to send copies. That's a lot better than blindly mailing out review copies.

3 Use Twitter to plug upcoming appearances. As I briefly mentioned before, you can use Twitter to plug upcoming book signing events, or your upcoming media appearances, something like "Signing copies of my book (Title) at B&N on Smith Road in Nowheresville this Sat, 1 pm. " If you have a lot of friends and fans subscribing to your Twitter page, you've just notified them all that you have an upcoming event.

4. Schedule a Twitter Chat with your fans. If there are areas of the country you'd like to reach, but can't afford to fly out there for a book signing event, hold a Twitter Chat with your friends. You simply schedule a time to chat with your fans. You can coordinate this with your blog, or another popular book blog. At the scheduled time, you log into Twitter and your fans Tweet questions and messages to you, which you respond to. It's sort of like doing a live Q&A, but you're doing it on Twitter, 140 characters at a time. The best part: it's nationwide! You can even have contests on Twitter, where you give away a copy of your book to whichever Twitter user posts the best review of your book on Twitter.

5. Use Twitter to promote your other social media content. Have you just written a killer blog post that others will find useful? Mention it on Twitter. In fact, I'll be mentioning this post on Twitter as soon as it's written. Not only will it draw readers to my blog, but it may also lead some blog readers to follow me on Twitter. You say you don't have a blog? Tsk, tsk.

Twitter don'ts:

Don't hard sell on Twitter. Just be yourself and pass along useful info that others will find interesting.

Don't overpost. A couple of posts a day is fine. A couple hundred posts a day is not.

Don't get TOO personal. Remember, Twitter is public. If you wouldn't want your boss or your kids to see it, don't Tweet it. Be personable, but not overly personal.

Don't be dull. If you don't have anything interesting to Tweet, don't.

Don't ignore people who send you personal messages through Twitter, unless THEY are getting to personal.

Don't forget to follow ME on Twitter! My Twitter ID is TerryCordingley. I often share info on Twitter that I don't mention on my blog.

Question: Do YOU use Twitter? Has it helped you in your promotional efforts?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Five Sources for Online Book Reviews

One of the first things an author is looking for when their book is released (or just prior to its release) is a review of their book. Book reviews can be a very helpful way of letting prospective readers know what the book is about, if it's something that would interest them, and if the reviewer thinks it's any good. If a reviewer doesn't like a book, more often than not they will not print a review of the book at all, but that's not always the case. Books can and do get negative reviews. Still, book reviews are more ammunition for authors to use in their marketing arsenal.

Getting a book review from a traditional reviewer, such as one who writes for newspapers, magazines or other publications, can be just as challenging as getting a book published. Producers for network television shows can receive 50-75 review copies per day and they may only feature a book on their programs once or twice a week. One newspaper book reviewer told me he has stacks of books in his office, and he receives about 200 books per month. He is only able to review about six books per month. Most book reviewers only publish reviews by authors they know, or books from particular genres or books from the major NYC publishers. As you can see, getting a book review is not always easy.

But, it can definitely be done. The internet has made getting a book review a bit easier these days, but the author has to realize these reviews won't appear in their local papers. They will mainly be available online. That's OK, because readers are turning to the internet to search for reviews of books they may have heard of, or books relating to a particular topic. With so many blogs and websites online, it has become easier to get online book reviews, although sending a review copy to these sites is still no guarantee your book will be reviewed. However, it is often easier to get an online review than a review published by the "traditional" media. With that in mind, here are five sources for online book reviews that you may find helpful:

1. Midwest Book Review. This is a website operated in Wisconsin, but they do literally dozens of reviews each month. Even better, if they review your book they also post that review to your book's listing on

2. Blogcritics. has more than 2,000 contributors and publishes hundreds of original articles and reviews each month. They are also a source for articles for Google News and Yahoo news.

3. Although this site also offers paid services, authors can send review copies and get them reviewed at no charge. If the reviewer likes the book, they will write a review. They also post their reviews at, which is a good selling point for your book on Amazon.

4. Christian Review of Books. For authors who have written a Christian fiction or non-fiction title, the Christian Review of Books will fit the bill. They not only write reviews, but they do book giveaways, interviews and even accept articles written by authors.

5. Have you been getting rave reviews for your book from your readers? Great! Tell them to put their thoughts into words and post their reviews on your book's listing on Amazon itself doesn't write reviews, but anybody can post a review on Amazon. Don't contact everyone you have ever met and tell them to post glowing reviews of your book. Not only is it not honest, but Amazon customers can see right through that tactic. Do encourage your readers to post honest reviews of your book (after they have read it) on your book's page. If they love it, that will be no problem for them. Pick out the two or three best reviews and include some of the quotes from the reviews in the press releases for your book.

There are many other online reviewers of books, of course. You can find more at The Complete Review.

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