Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Selling Your Book When It's No Longer "New"

months and years (or even weeks) but that should just be one part of a book's overall marketing plan anyway.  We have a saying in my marketing department:  "Marketing a book is a marathon, not a sprint."  However, some authors feel like if they don't sell thousands of books within a few weeks of the release date, they are basically done and their opportunities have passed them by. 
I have worked with some authors for almost five years now, and in a few cases they sell more books now than they did when their book was first released.  In fact, their sales increase with each passing year.  How is this possible?

1.  They target their niche market, not just bookstores.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with selling your book in a bookstore.  If stores have picked up your book and they are stocking it on the shelf, that is great.  But shelf space alone won't sell your book.  Who is going to buy it?  Your target audience.  If you have a web site or blog (you should), then be sure to tell your readers where your book is available.  Whether you realize it or not, you wrote your book for a specific audience.  Sell your book directly to them.  If you have written a romance novel, target blogs dedicated to romance novels, visit book clubs, do events at gift shops, and locate events frequented by lots of women (the target audience of romance novels).  Do this enough times, and you'll start generating the best advertising of all for your book:  word-of-mouth.

2.  They write more than one book.  Can your first book be made into a series?  Readers who loved the first book will buy the second, third and following books in the series.  If a reader discovers the second book first, they will want to go back and read the first book to get the back story.  If you have built a good fan base for the first book of a planned series, then you'll have a ready-made audience for the subsequent books.

3.  They don't stop marketing their book.  Some authors give their book marketing the good ol' college try for a few months, get discouraged or lose interest and then just stop promoting their book.  Big mistake.  Developing a following as a writer is a lot like starting a new business.  Success isn't going to come overnight, and it takes time to build a list of loyal customers (readers).  The first few months after a book's release is a good beginning, but the best could still be ahead of you.  One author I work with has been interviewed for a documentary on the History Channel, but that opportunity didn't come along until her book had been out for more than three years.  What if she had given up after the first year?

4.  They target new readers.  OK, so the book has been out a couple of years and has sold a couple of thousand copies.  There are still plenty of people out there who haven't read your book.  The book may not be new, but it is new to those readers.  It may seem like you have spoken at every Rotary Club and bookstore in your area, but what about other nearby cities?  Do you do events in other areas when you travel?  Do you reach out to readers via Facebook, message boards, Twitter, bloggers, etc.?  If not, you have a lot of work to do.  Recently, one of the authors I work with found their best success selling their books at signings in coffee houses, after I scheduled their first coffee house event for them.  "I didn't even think of approaching coffee shops," they said.  Car dealerships know that people don't buy cars every week, so they are constantly looking for new customers who are in the market for a car.  Think of places where you might find new readers.  You can only hit up the local bookstores so many times for events. 

5.  They network.  You won't sell books just sitting around the house.  You've got to do some networking.  Online networking is great, but that still isn't a replacement for good ol' face-to-face networking.  If you are doing a speaking engagement, let those in attendance know that you're available to speak at other venues, too.  That event could lead to several others.  You never know who is in attendance.  

The fact is, unless your book contains completely dated material, the only one who really knows your book isn't "new" is you (and those who have already purchased your book).  Broaden your horizons, don't give up, be persistent, continue to spread the word about your book, and the early groundwork you do could lead to bigger and better things.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Most Popular Posts of the Week


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Guest Post: Book Signing Nightmares

Book Signing Nightmares

Book Signing Nightmares

By Teresa Slack

Book signings. Ugh. The mere thought is enough to send shudders down the spine of those of us who have sat behind a table of books, wearing an insipid grin while praying that someone, anyone, will come over and talk to us.

Book signings are a lot of legwork, networking, interviews, and basically debasing yourself to the free world for little or no apparent reward. Leading up to a recent author event, I did radio interviews and was featured in two local papers. The library where I was to sign and read from my book bought radio spots for the event. Even after all that, response was regrettably low.

In a depressed, dejected state, I prepared for another book signing event in another out of the way locale. A forty-five-minute drive with gas prices kissing three dollars a gallon to sell a couple of books.

I know what you're thinking. Book signings are for the reader, not the writer. It's all about networking. I realize that. But the cold hard facts are that since getting published, I'm having a hard time finding time to do what I'm paid (hmm) to do...write. Regardless, I put on a happy face, loaded up the minivan, and headed out.

A sixth grader met me at the door of the library. "Are you the writer?" he asked. He held the door open while my husband and I carried in our boxes--one containing books, in the other; flyers, a door prize, bookmarks, a sign-in notebook, and all my other writer paraphernalia. While I was setting up the table, preparing myself for a dismal turnout at this small off-the-beaten-path branch library, a young man entered. He turned out to be from the local paper, his presence requested by the librarian. He interviewed me before the signing and then exited. I went through my spiel for six people, one of whom was my mother.

"Why am I doing this?" I asked myself after selling five books, barely enough to replace the gas in my tank.
But it's all about networking.

And the boy who met me at the door? It turns out I have a fan besides my mother. He had been waiting to meet me all afternoon. He didn't have money for a book, but asked if I would autograph a picture and an author event flyer that he paid a quarter to print off of the library's computer.

So why do I do this? An entire evening where I ended up selling five books?

It turned out I got more than just treated nicely by a sixth grader that evening. The following week, my interview made the front page of three different newspapers in neighboring counties. My next reading/signing more than doubled in attendance and books sold.

Yes, readings and signings are never as exciting as they appear on television. It's a lot of driving, a lot of schmoozing, and little outward reward. But it's fun. I meet honest, helpful, friendly people. And my offer to autograph a copy of one of my books has yet to be refused.

Don't go to a reading/book signing expecting to sell a carload of books. Go prepared to speak to a few people, make some friends, and hopefully leave them happy for having left the comfort of their homes to listen to you speak for thirty minutes. They will appreciate it. Your local library will appreciate it. If nothing else, your significant other will enjoy the opportunity to show you off.

Relax. Have fun. Unless you are a professional athlete or ex-president, it will take a lot of time and more hard work than you bargained for. But your book is worth it. Your message will get out there, one reader at a time. Be patient. It may not get any easier, but someday a sixth grader may ask for your autograph, and it will be worth all the effort.

Teresa Slack is the author of five novels, including Streams of Mercy, the first in a series of Jenna's Creek Novels, and A Tender Reed, both published for the Christian fiction market.  Marketing her books has been her biggest challenge so far. It is a job, she says, that never ends. Read more about her and her fiction on her website

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

What It Means to Be a Professional Author

"Professionalism:  It's not the job you do.  It's how you do your job."  Author unknown.

This post isn't about marketing or selling books per se, but it does touch upon a subject that can definitely affect your success as a professional author and that is acting and operating as a professional author.  But, what does it mean to be a "professional author?"

You have published a book, it is being distributed, you have done book signing events and you are earning money (even if it is a small royalty) each time a copy of your book is sold.  By any definition in the publishing world, that makes you a professional author.

Publishing (writing, editing, designing, marketing) is a business, just like any other business...banking, teaching, construction, selling insurance, etc.  Whether most people like to admit it, being an author is basically a job, an artistic one, but a job nonetheless, and people who work a job are expected to act with a certain amount of professionalism.  Some authors have made the comment to me that "I have never written a book before.  I am new to this."  While that may be true, everyone has worked a job at some point in their life, and so they should have a pretty good idea of what is expected in a professional working relationship.  It is no different in publishing than it is in any other industry.

Professional authors:

Should not only show up for their book signing events, but be on time (early would be better).  You don't want to be known amongst the bookstores as the author who can't be depended upon to be an event that they have set up and worked to pre-promote.  If there are special circumstances (illness, death in the family) call the bookstore and explain the situation to the manager.  They are people, too.  They will understand and they will likely postpone the event. 

Should be gracious with bookstores that are hosting their events.  Bookstores are under no obligation to schedule a book signing event with anyone.  The fact that they have agreed to let you come to their store and let you promote your book shows that they are already supporting you.  Yet, some authors get angry with bookstore managers who "didn't take out an ad in the paper" or "promote my event."  I have even heard of authors who have berated managers in the store and leave because there was no table and chair set up for them as soon as they walked into the store for their event.  Would these authors behave the same way if they went to a scheduled meeting for their day job and the people they were meeting weren't ready for them yet?  Probably not.

Should not have unreasonable expectations of their friends and family.  Writing a book is your dream, not theirs.  Don't expect that they will be as excited about your book coming out as you are.  It's even possible that they won't buy a copy of your book (in fact, they will probably expect a FREE book).  I already know that my parents aren't going to buy my book when it's finally finished, because they aren't really going to be interested in a book about how to sell books.  But, they'll still want a copy that they can show to their friends.  That's OK.  They'll each get one as a gift. 

Should read EVERYTHING that their publisher sends to them.  This includes the publishing contract.  You would be surprised at how many authors don't read theirs thoroughly, or ask questions if they don't understand something in the contract.  At my company, we provide a marketing guide for authors before their book goes to print.  I can always tell when an author hasn't read theirs, and it happens a lot.  Your publisher, no matter who it is, provides information to you with good reason.  You wouldn't ignore paperwork that crosses your desk at work.  It's the same with forms, guides and contracts sent to you by your publisher.

Should deal with their publisher's employees in a professional manner.  There is no doubt about it, a book is an author's baby.  You have poured your heart and soul into producing it, and it is an emotional experience.  However, publishing is still a business.  If there is an issue you need to discuss,  it is definitely acceptable to speak with your publisher about it in a professional manner.  Calling the publisher and yelling at the employees or writing emails in all caps with four-letter words sprinkled throughout is not acceptable, just as it would not be acceptable at an author's regular day job.  It's rare, but it does happen.  When communicating with your publisher, stop a moment and think to yourself "would I say or write this to my co-workers or supervisors?"  If the answer is "no," then it definitely should not be sent to your publisher, no matter how upset you might be.

Should have reasonable expectations.  There are no guarantees in life, and publishing is no different.  If someone starts a new restaurant, salon, construction company or any other kind of business, there is no guarantee that it is going to succeed and make the business owner a millionaire.  Writing a book is no different.  Hard work and persistence can and do pay off in the publishing industry, but the overnight successes are rare.  Bestselling authors are nearly as rare as Grammy Award-winning musicians.  Plenty work in the industry with moderate success, but not everyone reaches that level.  It's OK to shoot for the stars, but realize that no publisher or publicist can guarantee success. 

Remember, nobody achieves success on their own.  Those who are truly successful, whether it's Donald Trump, Bill Gates or James Patterson, needed somebody's help at some point in their professional lives.  For an author, those people are the publisher, the bookstore managers, the publicists and many people they may not ever meet face-to-face along the way.  Treat each one the way you would like to be treated, and you may be surprised at the results.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So, What Good Is All This Advice, Anyway?

Well, it's official:  this blog is now more than a year old.  It's hard to believe that I have spent nearly 13 months writing this blog, dispensing book marketing and promotion advice.  I am actually a bit surprised by the number of readers I have gained, as well as the reaction I have received to many of the posts.  This blog has a diverse readership, ranging from new authors who have just published their first book to best-selling authors from major "name" publishers.  It has readers not only in the U.S., but also in France, Africa, Canada and Singapore.  It has been rewarding knowing that I have helped authors in their quest to promote their books.

But, have I?

The advice here sounds good, and it is based upon my experience marketing books.  The experience I have gained from the past five years of working for a publisher has been invaluable, and I pass this information along to help authors save a lot of time, money and frustration.  I have really enjoyed it. 

To put the advice I give into perspective, I thought I would include portions of actual emails that I and other members of the staff have received from our authors, along with the blog posts that reflect the advice apparently followed by the authors.  After all, seeing is believing.  I have omitted the names of the authors, but have not altered the content of the emails.

How To Schedule Speaking Engagements

"I have started calling area churches. I did stop at a few but they are closed during the week so I have come up with a new strategy. I am calling churches and then following up with a letter a week later if I haven’t heard from them.  The second church I called was an amazing experience, to say the least. I was able to speak with the senior pastor who also pastors 2 additional churches. He said that my call was an answer to his prayer!! He had been praying for something new and fresh to come along as his sermons were getting stale and he was tired of talking about the rich and the war; whatever that means. I met with him the following day and we spent an hour together talking. I was able to meet his wife. He wants me to come and do a 6 to 8 week ministry on surviving abuse on Tuesday evenings from 7 pm – 9 pm. He also took my book cover flyer and my info sheet and said he was taking it down to a District conference he was attending this past week. He thought my book was so timely that he wants me to share my testimony with all churches in the state! "

"A BIG HUGE THANK YOU for however you got me into Dallas Child Magazine!!!   i saw it on-line last night and was soooooooooo excited!  but today i received copies in the mail and you cannot even imagine how thrilled i am!!!!    as i told you before -- it has always been a dream of mine to have a book published -- but when i have looked through countless magazines i always thought "how cool would it be to have your book picked to be in one of these lists!"   and both dreams have come true!!!"

"Just returned from a fantastic event at Prairie Grove Battlefield.  Sold lots of books! Averaged $1,000 per day sales in the 3 day event.  Had so many returning customers who are now avid fans (that was fun!)"

Do you have any success stories based upon the information you have learned from this blog?  I'd love to hear them!  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Most Popular Posts of the Week

It's time once again to mention the Top 5 posts of the week. If you missed them the first time around, here is your chance to check them out. The Top 5 posts of the week, in order and by number of readers:

1.  No Book Signing is a Failure

2.  Capitalize on Keyword Searches on Amazon

3.  What's it REALLY like to be a New York Times Bestselling Author?

4.  How to Market Your Book on Facebook

5.  Do you need a publicist?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guest Post: No Book Signing is a Failure

No Book Signing Is a Failure

No Book Signing Is a Failure

By Mike Saxton

People seem to like numbers for a variety of reasons. Even those who aren't into math (of which there are many) like to gauge success or failure in terms of numbers. When it comes to book signing events, there's even a number for that too which is the magic number 8. If you sell 8 books, you can consider it a success.

Here is my take on the whole math equaling success or failure paradigm. Math is wonderful for architects and engineers. It is great for use in sending spacecraft into orbit, calculating gravitational pull, producing grade point averages, and a whole host of other things. What it isn't good for is determining true success or failure.

When we use math to determine how successful something is, we are looking at only one dimension: whether or not we made the numbers. In pretty much everything we do in society, we measure success by numbers. Grades, standardized test scores, balance sheets, income statements, and a whole host of other types of reports are regularly crunched and run. If the "goal" number is made, there is hand shaking, pats on the back, etc. If they are exceeded, there is champagne, profit-sharing (sometimes), parties, or other such gestures. If they are not made, there are consultants, re-trainings, disciplinary actions, and sometimes even terminations.

"It is important to acknowledge a mistake instantly, correct it, and learn from it. That literally turns a failure into a success. Success is on the far side of failure." - T.J. Watson, former President of IBM

When we don't look at the other side of the rating, we miss the most important part. When we don't make numbers, we are often driven to find out what we need to do to make the numbers. We know that if we want to continue in whatever it is that we are doing, we need to improve. When we make the numbers, we typically stagnate. That's why it is important to raise the bar for ourselves. If we get to the point where we consistently make the "8 books per signing" with little or no effort, that is great. That means that if we really focus and act as if we are not making the grade so to speak, we could do 12 books per signing, or 20 books per signing and so on.

If you find yourself at a book signing and you do not make the numbers that you were hoping (especially if it is under the standard 8 copies), it is time to pull apart what you did and see what you could have improved on. Talk to whoever it was that hosted the signing for their input. The answers could be obvious (science fiction book signing in a store that primarily sells non-fiction books) or a little more subtle. The point is, you didn't fail if you learned how to do it better. Actually, failures early on could lead you to success that would be far beyond what you would be able to do if you consistently made the minimum sales.

Remember, if you look at failure as a road to success, you will remove fear of said failure. If you go into your events knowing that you can't fail, then you won't fail.
Mike Saxton

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Capitalize on Keyword Searches on Amazon

Today's guest post is part of the virtual book tour  for How to Sell More Books on Amazon, by Dana Lynn Smith., the world's largest bookstore, has more than 14 million titles listed on the site. While it's easy to direct customers to your book's Amazon sales page through your own promotional efforts, it's more of a challenge to get found by shoppers who are already on the Amazon site.

Customers often search for books (especially nonfiction titles) using the keyword search feature on Amazon. To perform a keyword search, select "Books" from the drop-down menu near the top of the home page, then enter keywords in the search box to the right. From the next screen, you can click on the "Advanced Search" button to perform a more specific search.

Keyword searches bring up results based on availability, popularity (number of books already sold on the site), and relevance to the keywords being searched. Amazon's search engine looks for keyword matches in the title/subtitle and tag fields. If you haven't yet published your nonfiction book, try to use important keywords in the title and/or subtitle. 

Tags are keywords that customers have associated with products to help them and other shoppers find items related to that keyword. To add tags for your book or Kindle ebook, scroll down your book page on Amazon to find the "Tags Customers Associate with this Product" section, then click on the small "Tag this Product" button to open a pop-up window where you can add tags. Click the "Save Tags" button when you are finished adding your tags.

Word order matters, so create different search tags with variations on your most important keywords. You can add up to 15 tags per product. If you're publishing in Kindle format, there's also a place on the Kindle publishing dashboard to enter important keywords and select appropriate book categories as you are publishing the ebook.

Keyword searches can be a valuable source of traffic on, so be sure to tag your book with keywords that your target customers are likely to use in their searches.

Excerpted from How to Sell More Books on Amazon, by book marketing coach Dana Lynn Smith. This new ebook, available in both PDF and Kindle format, outlines strategies for boosting visibility on, increasing sales, and improving profits. For more book marketing tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter and get Dana's free Top Book Marketing Tips ebook at


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