Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Five Free (or Cheap) Online Marketing Tools for Authors

Since it's New Year's Eve and all of the news casts and news channels are doing their obligatory year-end "Top Five" lists, I thought I would post a few of my own. Today, it's the Top Five Free (or Cheap) Online Marketing Tools for Authors. These are things that you might already be doing, but there may be an idea or two here you haven't considered before.

1. Your own blog. Do you have your own blog? Every author should have one. It's like having your own web site which you can update and add to every single day, if you want. You can post a free chapter of your book, list your upcoming book signing events, post photos from your book signing events and discuss your latest writing projects. This post you are reading right now is posted on my own blog. I use the blogging platform Blogger, but there are other free blogging platforms such as Setting up a blog on Blogger is easy and free.

2. Paypal. Do you plan to sell your books on your blog? You'll need a way of accepting payments, and the king of online payment systems is Paypal. Have you ever wondered how you can take credit card and check payments at your book signings or at book fairs? If you have a laptop computer with wireless internet access, you can use Paypal to process these payments. Click here for a tutorial on how to set up a Paypal account, if you don't already have one.

3. Facebook or MySpace. Once you set up a blog, you'll need to start driving traffic to it. A good way to do that, and promote yourself and your book at the same time, is to get your own Facebook or MySpace account. As with your blog, you'll want your Facebook or MySpace page to offer some content of value and not seem to pushy while you're pushing your book. People want to know about you. Be yourself. MySpace and Facebook pages can also be customized, which takes a little more know-how. If you can't or don't want to do that yourself, there are services to help you do this (your Tate Publishing marketing rep can help you with this).

4. Red Room. Red Room is like Facebook or MySpace, but it's for authors. It's a great way to connect with other writers or with fans of writers.

5. Twitter. Twitter is like a mini-blog, and you enter updates of 140 characters or less at a time. I use Twitter to pass along publishing news or articles that I think are worthwhile, or to let people know I have a new blog post. Setting up a Twitter account is free and easy, and it's a great way to update your readers about what you are up to, whether its a book signing event, a new book you're writing or news about your book. You can follow me on Twitter for additional marketing tips or to send messages directly to me.

Honorable mention:

Shelfari -
This is a social networking site focused on books. You can use this site to build your own bookshelf (including your books, of course) and discussing books with readers.

Craig's List - Craig's List is like the penny-saver paper for the online community. It has a section where you can post community events, which is a great place to post the information about your upcoming book signing events.

LibraryThing - You can use LibraryThing in a number of ways, such as entering your book to the list if it isn't already listed, discussing your book, listing your events and finding venues in your community which regularly host book signing events.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Market Your Book When You Don't Have Time to Market Your Book

I had a conversation with an author yesterday that went something like this:

"Ugh! Terry, I am just too busy to do anything to help market my book. There is just too much to do. How can I possibly do it all?"

First of all, I think they were overlooking the fact that they are not in this alone. As their marketing representative, I'm here to help authors create sales and promotional opportunities for their book. But, I get their point. Marketing and promoting a book IS a lot of work, and authors MUST be involved in the marketing and promoting of their book.

This was my response:

"You don't have to do everything all at once. Just do it in baby steps. Pick one thing to do each day to help spread the word about your book. It could be anything. Write a blog post. Post a message on your Twitter or Facebook profile. Call a bookstore and see if you can do a signing. Just do one thing each day. By the end of a year, you will have done 365 things to help market your book."

That's a lot of marketing and promoting, and the cumulative effects of those tasks do add up, in a positive way.

When an author's book is first released, they are excited. They should be. They authored a book! But, all too often, they feel like everything has to happen NOW. Unfortunately, publishing isn't an immediate-results type of business. Just like it takes time to build traffic to a new web site, or bring customers into a new business, it takes time to develop a loyal readership. It doesn't happen from the simple act of a book being released. That's just the first step.

So, market and promote your book in baby steps, but remember: there is no expiration date for your book. Many of these "baby step" activities can be done in just a few minutes. Everybody can find 10-15 minutes in their day.

A sample marketing schedule could look something like this (assuming you're only going to work on your marketing Monday-Friday and do book signing events on Saturdays):

Monday - Call a bookstore and schedule an event.
Tuesday - Update your Facebook and Twitter pages.
Wednesday - Send out press releases and invitations for your upcoming events (at least a week before the event)
Thursday - Identify at least one new niche marketing venue for your book and try to schedule an event there (not a bookstore). These could be speaking engagements, book fairs and festivals, trade shows, etc.
Friday - Send an email to at least five new bloggers, book reviewers or publications introducing yourself and telling them about your book. Spread the word!

This isn't a carved-in-stone schedule, of course. It's just a sample of what can be accomplished over the course of a week in just a few minutes a day. Over time, these efforts add up and begin to pay off. Try it. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results!

How much time do you dedicate to marketing and promoting yourself and your book each week?

Monday, December 28, 2009

How Do Books Get Stocked in Bookstores?

Reader question:

Hi Terry. I was just curious...Is it common or helpful at all for an author to contact bookstores (local or not) and request that they order your book at that store? Basically, what is the regular criteria for why a certain store puts a book on their shelf or not?
Thanks! I enjoy your marketing articles! David

This is actually one of the most-asked questions we receive in the marketing department at Tate Publishing. To understand the answer to this question, you must first understand how certain titles come to be stocked in bookstores in the first place.

We have already explained how competitive and difficult it is to get a book stocked in a bookstore. With more than 560,000 titles released in the U.S. this year, there is no way all of those titles, or even a majority of those titles, are going to get stocked on a bookstore shelf. Let's take a look at the two kinds of bookstores and explore how the decision is made to stock the titles they do have on the shelf.

Corporate chain stores: These are the major chain bookstores like Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, etc. The decision to stock books in these stores is not made at the store level. It is made by a buyer who works in the corporate offices of these bookstore chains (they only deal with the publisher. Authors should not contact them directly). Each company may have several buyers, and each buyer may have a particular genre of book they buy (such as Children's books, Christian books, etc.). Buyers take several things into consideration when deciding whether to add a title to their stores' stock: Has the author published before? What kind of sales did their previous titles have? How have similar books sold at their stores? Are they already overstocked on books with a similar theme? Books by previous bestselling authors and celebrity authors go to the front of the line. Does the store already have 49 different titles about gardening? They probably don't need a 50th. Also, some publishers pay for product placement in certain stores. This real estate, usually somewhere in the front of the store, is usually reserved for bestselling authors and is very expensive.

Store managers have very little say about the books stocked in their store. They can order books for book signing events and they may even stock a few select titles for their "local interest" section, but that's about it. So in this case, the answer is "no", it probably won't do an author any good to call their local corporate chain store to ask them to stock their title. Authors can call and ask to participate in a book signing event at the store, and if the event goes very well and customers continue to request the title, the store manager may locally stock the book in their "local interest" section. If the buyer at the corporate level notices growing customer demand for a particular title, they may eventually pull the trigger and decide to stock the book in their stores. Books handled by a distributor have the edge over books which are only available directly from the publisher. Buyers want books at a discount, and they want books that are returnable. This usually disqualifies self-published titles.

A word of warning: in the past, some authors have asked 300 of their closest friends to call their local Barnes & Noble or Borders stores and order a copy of their book. The problem with this is the friends don't go to the store to purchase the book when it arrives. Many authors mistakenly think the stores will then stock the book on their shelves. They won't. The books will be sent back to the distributor as returns. Now, not only has the author cost themselves money, but the corporate offices of these bookstore consider these to be "fraudulent" orders. What are the chances that this title will ever be stocked at these stores in the future (or that the author will get another book signing event)? Probably never.

Local, independent stores: I call these stores the "mom and pop" bookstores. They are locally owned and locally operated. The people who make the decision to stock a title work right there in the store. The decision might be made by the store's owner or manager (often this is the same person) or with feedback from all of the store's employees. These stores also stock the "hot" bestselling titles, but they also often stock titles by local authors. Authors can often get in touch with the managers of these stores, show them their books, and if the manager thinks the book will sell, they'll stock it. They may order the book from a distributor, or they may have the author leave a few copies and sell them on a consignment basis. If the book sells well, the store may reorder copies of the book. No, this won't get a book stocked in a major bookstore chain nationally, but it does make the book available in a retail outlet. In this case, it may very well pay off for an author to contact the store and ask them to stock their book (a step you may want to approach in person or via email, along with a photo of the book cover and a good description of the book.

Look at it this way: when any other product first comes out, no matter what kind of product it is, it isn't automatically stocked in every store across the country. There has to be demand for the product. If the Shamwow didn't have a stellar track record of sales, you would not see it in Walmart or Walgreens or any other retail outlet. The buyers for those stores stocked it because they had a reasonable expectation that it would sell. Bookstores operate the same way.

Getting published is the first step. Building demand for a title is a job that is never done.

Which bookstores are currently carrying your book, and how did it come to be stocked?


Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's It REALLY Like to be a New York Times Bestseller?

Most authors aspire to become a "bestselling" author. What exactly does this mean? You might think it means that your book has sold millions of copies and that it nets millions in royalties. The reality, however, is quite different.

Sheila Kelly, also known as Lynn Viehl, is a New York Times bestselling author, and she blogged about the reality of hitting the NYT bestsellers list.

Her first NYT bestseller for mass market fiction was actually the sixth novel in The Darkyn series of books. She does a great job of breaking down how many books were printed in the publisher's initial run (not all publishers have print runs. Those are mainly used by those who use offset printing), the amount of her advance and how much she made in royalties during the period her book became a bestseller. She even posts a copy of her royalty statement.

Here are the highlights:

1. Her publisher did no marketing for her book. The author had a platform based upon previous books she had written, and she reached out to her readers. Her readers made her book a NYT bestseller.

2. For the royalty period that the book became a bestseller, it sold about 65,000 copies.

3. The author's royalties for that period were about $40,500. However, her net earnings, after returns, royalty holdbacks, etc., were just under $28,000. Her ACTUAL earnings for the period (because she had received an advance) were $0.

That's right, a NYT bestselling author sold about 65,000 books and didn't receive a royalty check. Now, once her title earns back the amount of her advance (IF it earns back the amount of the advance), then the author will start to see some royalty checks. But until then: nothing.

Kelly said most authors are lucky to make 10 percent profit on their book, and the amount of money she received for her effort up to that point (the blog post was written in April) was a grand total of $26,000. Many authors might say they would be happy to make $26,000 on the sales of their book, but remember, Kelly writes for a living, and this is a NYT bestselling book, after all.

I think Kelly shatters a few myths with her post:

1. Not all NYT bestselling authors are millionaires.

2. Not all NYT bestselling books sell millions of copies.

3. Not all bestselling authors have nationwide book tours.

Kelly's "secret" to sales success: connecting with her readers and reaching her book's niche audience.

As an author, what surprised you most about Kelly's post?


Monday, December 21, 2009

Five Recommended Marketing Books For Authors

I get involved with authors when their books are ready to go to print and receive their release date. When I make my first introductory phone call to the author, one of the most common things I hear them say is "I love writing, but I don't know a THING about marketing books." Sure, I'm there to help the author and assist them with the marketing and promotion of their book, but authors must be involved in the marketing of their book. No matter who the publisher of the book is, authors are always an important part of the marketing equation. Some publishers are bluntly telling their authors they are responsible for doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing their own book. Authors need to be savvy about publishing, the marketplace, and how to promote themselves. With that in mind, I have a list of five books that I consider required reading for authors who are looking for an edge when it comes to promoting their own books.

1. Amen: A Simple Guide to Self-Marketing Your Christian Book - I have had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Leon Mentzer's presentations for authors about self-marketing. Even though I have been in the business awhile, I learned some new things myself. Leon condenses his knowledge about marketing and promotion into this book, which could be used by any author, not just authors of Christian books. Leon's mantra: "I just concern myself with selling one book at a time."

2. 1001 Ways to Market Your Books - I purchased a copy of this book, read it cover-to-cover, and then one of my co-workers "borrowed" it and I haven't seen it since. I can't blame them. There is a lot of great advice in this book, and you're sure to find some marketing ideas you hadn't considered before. In my opinion, this book is really written with the self-published author in mind, so some of the book's advice won't apply to every author, but there is a lot of good info in this book that can be used by any author.

3. Beyond the Bookstore: How to Sell More Books Profitably to Non-Bookstore Markets - If you're looking for a good resource about niche marketing for books, this is it. Brian Jud points out the many lucrative markets that exist for authors outside of regular bookstore channels. The book even includes a CD-rom to help authors map out a marketing plan for their book using niche marketing channels.

4. Guerilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons to Help Sell Your Work - This book is straightforward and blunt, which I like. "Guerilla Marketing for Writers" states that writers need to take the future of their book sales into their own hands, and it details several ideas to help writers move copies of their book. Many of the ideas in the book are free for the author to implement. If you want to sell books, you'll want to buy this one.

5. Social Media Marketing for Dummies - It's a fact of life; If you want to market your book these days, you need to know something about social media. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter...they are all being used by authors and publishers as a means of marketing and promoting their books. Social media works, but only if it is done well and done right. This book is a good crash course about how to use social media to your advantage for marketing and promotion.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do Book Awards Sell Books?

Quick: without Googling it, which novel won the National Book Award for Fiction this year?

Chances are, you don't know the answer. I have to admit; I didn't, and I work in the publishing industry. I had to look it up, and the winner was announced just last month. Yet, many authors are convinced that book awards will help them sell thousands of copies of their book.

Do book awards really sell books? The answer is: it depends.

Each year, it seems that there are new book awards being created for authors to enter. The reason for this is that for many competitions, book awards make money for the organization sponsoring the award.

I can understand why an author would want to enter their book for an award. They are proud of their book, and they would like to be recognized for that work by their peers. However, don't confuse recognition with book sales. They are two completely different things.

Here are a few myths about book awards competitions:

1. "A book award will help me sell lots of books." I did some research on this, and found many quotes from the publishers of award-winning books which went something like this: "It's nice for the author to get a pat on the back with an award, but overall we didn't experience a sales increase." Also, many of the books that win major awards already have a good track record of sales at the time they win.

2. "A book award will ensure I'll be a bestselling author." If myth Number One isn't true, then this one can't possibly be true. There is no doubt that award-winning books have gone on to become bestsellers, but was it because of the award?

3. "A book award will help make my book become more well-known." If you didn't know the answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this post, is that really true? How many people browsing for books at your local bookstore specifically look for award-winning books? I don't, and I'm willing to bet you probably don't either.

Here are a few truths about books awards:

1. "I can incorporate my award into my marketing plan." Sure you can. You can include "Winner of the XYZ Award" in your press releases and on your book's web site. It sounds impressive, even if people haven't heard of the particular award your book has won.

2. Most people don't pay attention to book awards. Other than the major awards, such as the Pulitzer, most people outside of the publishing industry don't pay much attention to awards. This includes the person you are trying to impress the most: the one who buys books. Case in point: when I worked as a journalist, I won many, many news awards. When I first started winning news awards, I thought to myself, "This is it! I'm ready for the big time!" The fact was other than the radio station I worked for (and the ones I beat), nobody really cared.

Think of it this way: who won the Oscar for best actor this year? C'mon, almost everybody watches the Academy Awards, right? Besides, we're talking about movies. Everybody watches movies. Give up? It was Sean Penn for the movie "Milk."

3. "I can make some money by winning an award." This is true, but not in the way you might think. Many awards result in the winning author receiving some kind of cash prize. Even though the award may not sell a bunch of copies of your book, you could still get some money if you win.

Also, you have to be careful about which book awards competitions you enter. Some "competitions" are outright scams. Authors enter an awards "competition", send in an entry fee, and wait to find out if they won. There may not even be an awards committee or an awards ceremony. The person running the competition could be somebody who built a web site, came up with a name for an award, charged a $50 entry fee and got 5,000 entries, and printed 5,000 certificates for the "winners." Stick to established awards competitions from reputable groups.

Book awards aren't a bad thing. If you are an author proud of your work, by all means enter an awards competition, but keep in mind what book awards are not: a guarantee of increased book sales. There are no guarantees in the publishing industry.

By the way, the winner of the National Book Award winner for Fiction this year was "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann, who was already a bestselling author.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Sales Opportunities You May Have Overlooked

During my last post, I pointed out some ways of how NOT to sell your book. These are ideas that have been tried, and in my experience, really don't produce results. Some of my readers then asked, "OK, so where SHOULD I sell me books?"

There are bookstores, of course, but we have already talked about the tremendous amount of competition there is for space on a bookstore shelf. That doesn't mean the author and publisher shouldn't try, it just means it shouldn't be the only focus of their marketing plan for a book.

Here are some sales opportunities that may not have occurred to you, and these are all locations which have worked out really well for the authors I assist.

1. Niche Marketing Venues. What is a niche marketing venue? Basically, any place where you would find the audience that would be most interested in your book. One of my authors has a historical fiction book about the Civil War. I told her the best venues for the book would be places like Civil War reenactments, Civil War museums, Civil War groups...any place related to the Civil War. During one of her recent 2-day evens at a Civil War reenactment, she sold $5,000 worth of books. Not bad for a weekend!

2. Coffee shops. Everyone thinks of Starbucks, but there are many other coffee shops across the country, and many of them also happen to sell books. These are good for novels, poetry readings, etc. Some of the most successful "store" book signings I'm aware of have been held at coffee shops.

3. Craft shows/bazaars/expos. Some of these events draw hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The trick here is to realize that people are not there to buy books per se, but they are there to buy. You can't just sit at a table full of books and expect them to sell. Dress up the booth, use a theme related to your book, do anything to draw attention to your booth. Children's books and novels do well at these types of events.

4. Gun shows. Got a book with a military, political or law enforcement theme? These sell really well at gun shows. People don't just go there to buy guns, and it's not just the guys that shop at gun shows. They usually bring their wives, too. Again, they are at these venues to buy.

5. Public service organizations. Groups such as Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary are located in just about every city, and they meet weekly. They are always looking for guest speakers at their meetings. If you can develop a presentation around your book, even if it's about to become an author or what it's like being an author, you can usually get invited as a guest speaker. If you do a great job, word gets around and clubs in surrounding areas may also invite you to speak at their meetings. Of course, you would hold a signing at the end of the meeting and sell your books.

These are just a few ideas, but you get the picture. If you can connect your book with the people that would be most interested in it, even if it's not in a retail setting, it can work out very well in terms of promotion and sales.

Give us your feedback: Which "unusual" locations have been good for your book sales?


Monday, December 14, 2009

How NOT to Sell Your Book

So far, each of my posts have dispensed advice about the nature of the industry and the best way to move your books in a very competitive market. Now, a few words about how NOT to sell your books.

Each month, an author approaches me with what they think is a new and innovative way of selling books. If only we could just do "this one thing," they reason, "my book will be a bestseller." Unfortunately, there is no one thing that will make your book a bestseller. It takes a lot of things all working together in just the right way, at just the right time, to make a book a success.

Here are a few things that have been pitched to me over the years as a "surefire" way of selling books:

1. "Let's buy an ad in (fill in the blank). Let me ask you this: when is the last time you purchased a book as a result of an ad you saw in a newspaper or magazine? Exactly, me either. To be blunt, buying ads in general interest newspapers and magazines (or radio or TV) just isn't very effective, and I say this as a guy who worked in radio and TV for 20 years. Sure, they may result in a few sales, but I have yet to see an ad that has sold enough books to pay for the cost of the ad. If this was an effective means of selling books, trust me, your publisher would be the first to do it. Better idea: Approach the local media about doing a feature article about your or your book, or a book review. The local media is always looking for feature article ideas.

2. "I took a class that showed me how to make my book a bestseller on Amazon. I just have to do (fill in the blank). There are no surefire ways of making a book an instant bestseller on Amazon, regardless of what some books or classes may tell you. If fact, Amazon doesn't even share how they arrive at their sales ranking numbers. It's a formula known only to Amazon. Stocking hundreds of books at Amazon and telling 300 of your closest friends to leave glowing reviews about your book on your book's page may work temporarily, but it's not going to result in your book spending five months in Amazon's top ten. Only legitimate book sales will do that. I have had authors who have had books hit the Amazon bestseller's list, but it was as the result of hard work and great media coverage. Did I mention the hard work? Better idea: refer people to your book's listing on Amazon through your Facebook, MySpace, blog and web site. You have these things, right?

3. "Send a copy of my book to Oprah." I have mentioned before how much of a longshot it is to get on Oprah. In my four years of marketing books, I have had exactly one author get booked on Oprah's show, and it had nothing to do with his book. It was the result of other media appearances the author was lucky enough to get. The book wasn't mentioned on Oprah's show. Better idea: target the newspapers, radio and TV station in your local area first. You're more likely to score an interview there than on Oprah.

4. "Get my book into Walmart." No doubt about it, Walmart does sell a lot of books. The next time you are there, take a close look at their book section. There are very few titles displayed there, and the ones that are there are almost always bestsellers already. Walmart doesn't take chances on new, unproven authors without a track record of sales yet. Better idea: ask the manager of your local Walmart if you can do a book signing there instead. On occasion, they do allow this.

5. "Let's pay for an e-mail blast. This company will send 10,000 emails to a targeted list of people who will buy my book." Actually, that email will wind up in the SPAM or junk mail filter of the email accounts of 10,000 people. I have never seen an email blast work as a means of selling books. Ever. When is the last time you have purchased a book as a result of an email you received out of the blue? Me either. Better idea: Send an email to your contacts inviting them to your next book signing event. The more people you attract to your events, the better. Bookstores love authors that can draw a crowd.

There are others, of course. With few exceptions, they almost always cost the author additional money, which could be better used for things like bookmarks, posters, business cards and other items you can use at your book signing events. Remember, your book is your business, and each expenditure should be a wise business decision.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why Most Books Aren't Stocked by Bookstores

When an author first publishes their book, they have visions of walking into a bookstore on their book's release date...any bookstore...and immediately spotting their book on the shelf, right there at the front of the store. There may even be a stack of their books in a point-of-purchase display or in the window of one of the major book-selling chain stores. However, unless they are already a best-selling author, a celebrity or infamous (think Tiger Woods or Sarah Palin), this is highly unlikely.

But why? you might be thinking. My book is great! Everybody who reads it tells me how great it is! This may be true, but believe it or not, the decision to stock your book on the shelf has less to do with the merits of your book and more to do with mathematics.

In 2008, there were 560,626 new titles published in the U.S., more than double the number of books that were published just five years earlier. Most of this growth has occurred in self-published or short-run titles. However, despite the growth in the number of titles, bookstore sales are actually declining. Taking into account the number of titles available and the number of actual books sold, the average U.S. book is selling less than 250 copies a year.

When a new title is released, it isn't just competing for shelf space at bookstores with 562,626 other titles, it is also competing with the millions of other titles that have been published in previous years. For every spot available on a bookstore shelf, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other titles competing for that one spot.

Don't just take my word of it. Most of this information was originally written by the president of another publishing company. As for the prime point-of-purchase displays at the front of a bookstore, publishers pay for that space, and that real estate isn't cheap. The major chain stores don't just put the books at the front of the store because they like them.

This information may seem a bit depressing for authors, but only for those that completely depend upon the major chain stores to sell their books. It isn't the fault of the bookstores. With so much at stake, the bookstore buyers must stock books that they feel will have a good chance of selling and making money for the store. A book by a new, unknown author is a gamble, and a big one, for stores that must turn millions of dollars in profit each year just to make payroll and stay in business. That means stocking a lot of titles by famous celebrity authors, or titles that already have a good track record of sales.

Pretend for a moment that you own a video store. Which movie titles are you most likely to stock? Blockbusters like "Twilight," or an independent film featuring unfamiliar actors? This is the same decision bookstores must make, and there are far more book titles released each year than movies.

This is the reason why niche marketing is so vitally important to authors and publishers. One fact I didn't touch upon earlier is that most book sales don't occur at bookstores. Most books are sold through other channels, such as retailers other than bookstores (supermarkets, pharmacies, gift shops, coffee shops), book clubs, online booksellers like Amazon, churches (many have their own bookstores now), home shopping TV channels, etc.

Of course, publishers do want their books to be stocked and sold through bookstores. Bookstores do, in fact, sell books. However, this shouldn't be the only marketing channel used by publishers and authors. Focus on the book's niche, figure out who the audience is for a particular title, and where that audience can readily be found, and you'll have identified your prime market.

Leave a comment answering this question: What have been the best markets for YOUR book?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Keeping Good Records for Consignment Sales

Many authors just starting out will more than likely sell their books on consignment through one or more bookstores, and they may even conduct book signings at bookstores on a consignment basis. These can be great sales and promotional opportunities for authors, if handled properly. One of the areas where some authors get in trouble is record keeping.

At least once a month, I receive a phone call from an author that goes something like this:

"I left 10 copies of my book at the XYZ Bookstore (fictitious name) and I haven't been paid for the books they sold. When I asked for my books back, they said they didn't have them. What do I do?"

"Do you have a receipt or something in writing stating how many books you left at the store?" I ask.


Of course, I'm sure you see the problem here. If you were selling IPods for a living would you just hand ten of them over to a store without getting something in writing? Of course not. It's not that bookstores are shady when it comes to this sort of thing, but things happen. Bookstores experience customer theft, just like any other retailer. They could have mistakenly sent them to their distributor as returns, thinking they had ordered the books. Without paperwork, how would they know?

This is why it is good for authors and bookstores to sign a consignment agreement if the author is leaving books at the store for the store to sell. It protects the author, because they have a record of leaving books at the store and how much they expect to get paid per book. It also gives the store a record of just where they got those books that are sitting on their shelves.

Here is a basic sample consignment form that you can alter and print to suit your needs, but it's pretty straightforward:

Book Title __________________________
Subject: ____________________________
Title Code: __________________________
ISBN: ______________________________
Consignment Agreement
Date: __________________
This is to confirm (store name) has received (number) copies of (book title)
From (Author or vendor’s name)
For sale at $ (retail value)
(Store) will pay (dollar or percent of price) per copy sold, to be reconciled at (date).
Books will be in stock until (date) at which time it is the author's
responsibility to reclaim any unsold stock.

SIGNED: _______________________________ for (store)

SIGNED: _______________________________ for vendor

Author Contact:

Store Contact:

The author and the bookstore should each keep a copy of the consignment agreement.

Remember, your book is your business, and one of the basics of running any successful business is keeping good records.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Many authors have an idea of what it takes to become an overnight success. They slave away over their keyboard producing the next Great American Novel, then they get a literary agent or publisher interested in their work. The publisher immediately rushes the book to press and the book flies off the shelves on its release date.

Let me just say right now, this rarely, if ever, happens.

Many bestselling authors have worked for several years to become overnight successes, and they each faced their own share of trials and tribulations. Here are a few examples.

John started working on a novel while he was still attending college, but the writing was going so slow and he decided that the plot was so bad, he just abandoned the effort. The writing of his second novel went better, and he decided to contact literary agents and publishers with a copy of his manuscript. Each week, John received rejection after rejection in the mail. Finally, one publisher agreed to publish John's manuscript. However, they wanted him to make some changes to it, and 20 percent of the novel had to go. When the novel was finally published, a mere 5,000 copies were printed.

The novel? A Time to Kill by John Grisham.

Steve started writing article and short stories and sending them to magazines when he was just 14 years old. He was writing them, but nobody was publishing them. Each submission was met with a rejection slip. Undeterred, he kept on writing, even self-publishing his own newspaper called "Dave's Rag."

Eventually, a magazine published one of Steve's short stories, "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber." After completing his first full-length novel, Steve eagerly sent it off to a publisher. It was promptly rejected. Steve took the rejection badly, and filed the novel away. After graduating college, Steve kept writing short stories for men's magazines and worked at a gas station pumping gas for $1.25 an hour.

Steve eventually took a job as a teacher and started working on his next novel. After writing a few pages, he decided the story wasn't any good. He crumpled up the pages and threw them in the trash. His wife later found these pages and read them, and urged her husband to keep writing the story, which he did.

The book was Carrie, and the author was Stephen King. He eventually sold the novel to Doubleday for $400,000, and he quit teaching to write full-time.

Jack and Mark are classic case studies in dealing with rejection. They shopped around their idea for their book to every publisher they can think of, and they weren't just rejected a few times. Their book was rejected by various publishers 123 times. The authors were told the title was stupid, and that nobody would read the book. They were told it was an idea that wouldn't sell. Jack and Mark finally took their book to an American Booksellers Association convention, and shopped it around to nearly all of the 4,000 booths at the trade show. Finally, they found one company which agreed to publish the book.

The authors were Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and the book was Chicken Soup for the Soul.

It can be argued that these are some of the most successful American writers in recent history, but their road to success was not an easy one, nor did success come quickly. In many cases, these writers worked for years before they found success. That is a fact that is often overlooked by aspiring writers who hope for the same level of success.

If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. You only fail when you stop trying.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Run a Successful Book Signing Event

"I had a great book signing. I talked to a lot of people and I sold 5 books!" the author states enthusiastically.

Well, that's good. I'm always glad to hear the author had a great time at their book signing event. Is five copies sold a good result for a book signing event? Probably not. If the bookstore ordered 20 copies of the book for the event and only five were sold, chances are the other 15 books are going to be returned to the distributor. The author is actually in the hole after their "great" book signing. Other times, an author will tell me this was a "lousy" signing, and the bookstore "didn't advertise my event at all!"

The good news is it doesn't have to be this way. There are things that authors can do to ensure successful book signing events in which they not only sell all of the books the bookstore ordered, but have to dip into their own supply as well. These tips will presume that the author is doing a regular book signing, as opposed to a consignment sale (which we'll cover later.)

1. Get 'em in the door. Don't just expect the bookstore to advertise your event and bring in throngs of people eagerly awaiting to sign your book. Stack the deck in your favor. Send out invitations to your family, friends, co-workers...anybody you can think of. Don't just assume they won't come to your event. The more people you invite, the better. Bookstores schedule events because they want authors to bring people into their store. When I schedule book signing events for authors, the first question bookstore managers ask me is "how many people can they invite and get into the store?" The bookstore is looking for more customers, and they expect the authors to bring them.

2. Get the word out. Don't just rely on emails. Post a notice on your Facebook or MySpace page, on Craig's List for your community, and on any free events calendar listings in your local area. Send out press releases to the local media. You might get a small two line notice in their events calendar section, or a reporter might event want to interview you prior to your event. Some authors want to purchase ads in the local paper. In my experience, these really aren't very effective and can be very expensive. If they actually worked, your publisher or the bookstore would place the ads themselves. There is a reason why they don't.

3. Work with the bookstore. Ask the bookstore manager where you will be seated in the store (ideally, you'll be near the entrance), if they need posters or bookmarks to promote the event and if they know of any media contacts that have promoted their events in the past.

4. Dress up your table. Don't expect the bookstore to do it for you. At the very least, have a tabletop poster announcing who you are, or have a large one mounted on posterboard at the local Kinko's and place it on an easel near your table. If you have props that are applicable to your book, display them. I have an author who wrote a book about WWII who displays his Army gear at his book signing events. He even wanted to bring his old military rifle to events, but I told him it was probably best that he not bring firearms to the mall. Anything that will attract people to your table is great, but make sure the bookstore manager is fine with it first.

5. Have a pre-written announcement ready for the store to read over their intercom system. Not all stores have these, but the larger ones do. They will appreciate the fact that it is one less thing they have to prepare for the event, and this will let people in the store know who you are and where you are located.

6. Be outgoing. Don't just sit at your table and wait for people to approach you. Engage the customers in conversation. Tell them who you are and about the book you have written. Many bookstore customers love to meet authors, but they may not be the first ones to make a move. Sell yourself, and the merits of your book (without being pushy, of course). I have heard of authors who have spent the entire 2-3 hours of their signing just sitting at their table hoping people will line up for a book, or worse...reading a magazine or newspaper during their event. Have you ever seen those people handing out free food samples at the supermarket? They talk to everyone that walks by them, with a big smile on their face. They talk about the product, and how great it is. Authors could learn a lot from these people. Remember, you are "on the job" when you are at a book signing event. Treat it like one.

7. Thank the bookstore manager or events coordinator. Let them know you appreciate their support. Send them a thank-you card after the event. They will be more likely to recommend your book, have you back for future events and recommend you to their sister stores, if they have any. A great attitude goes a long way.

Remember, nobody is more passionate or believes in your book more than you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Importance of Niche Marketing

When it comes to marketing and promoting your book, do you use a shotgun or a rifle? I'm not really talking about firearms, of course. I'm talking about the approach you use to marketing your book.

Many new authors make the mistake of trying everything under the sun to try to promote their books. Even though their book may only appeal to a very narrow, particular audience, they throw everything against the wall to see what will stick. They'll buy ads in newspapers, send out hundreds of review copies to publications which have nothing to do with the topic of their book, schedule book tours for themselves, and send emails to the Oprah Winfrey show. Some of what they try may work, but for the most part they are expending a lot of energy marketing their book to everyone and anyone, but not to the audience that would be most interested in it. They are using a shotgun approach.

The authors who use the rifle approach know the niche audience for their book. They do their research and identify the appropriate venues for book signing events and the media outlets that would likely be most interested in the topic of their book. If an author has written a book about figure skating, for example, they might consider scheduling book signing events at ice skating rinks during figure skating competitions and events. Such events draw hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, and it's probably a safe bet that the folks attending the event are somewhat interested in figure skating. Reaching such a large, pre-qualified audience sure beats sitting in a bookstore for three hours hoping that figure skating fans will wander in through the front door.

The approach to marketing depends upon the book, of course, but no book is for everybody. Even "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin, which has sold more than 2.7 million copies, isn't for everybody. Even Palin's book has a niche: conservatives who more than likely voted for her ticket in the last election.

When you're planning your future marketing and promotion efforts, consider using a rifle instead of a shotgun. You may be very pleased with the results!

Question: What have you done to reach out to your book's niche market?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Driving Traffic to Your Blog

One of the tools that many authors use to promote themselves, their book and their writing is a blog. I use my blog to pass along marketing information to authors to help them sell and promote their books. You can be the Stephen King of blog-writing, but if nobody is reading your blog, it won't really matter. Your blog has to have traffic.

Traffic is the number of readers who check in and read your posts on a daily or weekly basis. The more web traffic your blog experiences, the more exposure you will get. Too often, people start a blog, post to it a few times, and after a week or two they give up on it, deciding that the effort isn't worth it. That's a sure-fire way to kill the effectiveness of a blog.

So, how can you build traffic and hits to your blog?

1. Be persistent, and patient. Just like it takes time to make a book a bestseller, it takes time to develop a successful blog. It doesn't happen overnight. Once you start a blog, keep at it. Fill it with worthwhile, informative content. Don't post to a blog just for the sake of posting, but don't let long gaps of time go by without posting, either. Which leads us to...

2. Post often. The most successful bloggers are those who blog on a daily or near-daily basis. The readers who are interested in your content, once they discover your blog, will check it almost every day. If they notice it isn't being updated, they will simply move on. Post at least 3 times a week.

3. Develop 4-5 "pillar" posts, and have links to them on your front page. These should be posts that are informative, timeless and form the backbone of your blog. When readers are Googling your blog's subject matter, these should be the first blogs that you want them to see. You may have to write for awhile before you develop these posts, but make sure you have them up and available on your blog as soon as possible.

4. Check out and post comments on other blogs, too. Find the ten most-read blogs that relate to your blog's subject matter, read their posts every once in awhile, and post comments to them. The comments should be thought-provoking and add something to the conversation. Include a link to your blog in your post. If readers like your comments and want to read more, they will check out your blog.

5. Keep your blog focused. Develop a central theme to your blog and stick to it. Don't go off on tangents or write posts that have nothing to do with your blog's topic. My blog is about marketing and promoting books, although I may sometimes write posts about noteworthy things going on in the publishing industry, at Tate Publishing, or one of the causes I feel strongly about. Don't stray from your blog's central theme too often, however. You may lose readership.

Do you blog? What things have you done to build traffic? Tell us in the comments section!

Don't miss a post! Subscribe for updates!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Popular Posts

Copyright © Book Marketing for Indie Authors | Powered by Blogger

Design by ThemePacific | Blogger Theme by | Distributed By Blogger Templates20