Want Booksellers to Stock Your Books?

A To-Do list for Authors Who Want Booksellers to Consider their Self-Published (and Traditionally Published) Books

  • Invest time and money in editing and design before your book is published. Booksellers are in business to attract customers and to keep them coming back. “Books absolutely need to be professionally produced, from editing to design and binding,” says Jessica Paul at Munro’s Books in Vancouver.
  • Price your book reasonably: check out similar books to yours and set the cover price within the range of comparable titles. Deborah Hines at Audreys Books in Edmonton says many authors price their books too high.
  • Learn about the bookstore before you approach the staff about stocking your book. Make yourself familiar with its particular “personality,” and be ready to explain how your book is going to fit with it. Best of all, become a regular customer long before your book is published, and get to know the staff.
  • Some bookstores do not want to talk to self-published authors until after the author has read the store’s information guide about consignment sales. Ask if such information is available. If you do approach a bookseller in person, avoid times when they are busy with customers.
  • Do not ask your aunts and cousins to call the store to request your book before you offer it to the bookseller. It is also very bad form to have your friends and relatives pre-order books and then cancel their orders when the books arrive at the store, thereby leaving those books available for sale. Booksellers are not stupid, and they have long memories.
  • Know that your book will be taken on consignment. Expect that the bookstore will receive 40 percent of the cover price of any book it sells.
  • Don’t pester the staff with questions about how many copies of your book have sold, and don’t expect to be paid every time a copy sells. Like publishers, booksellers do accounts and cut cheques on pre-determined schedules: they will tell you what their terms are, and you need to conform to them.
  • Develop a marketing plan that will bring local buyers to the store – to find your book and to buy books by others. Try to get local media interviews and reviews. Arrange talks and readings in your area. Become a guest on podcasts. Encourage your real-life and social-media friends to buy your book from the independent bookseller rather than online. Present your marketing plan and a brief bio to the bookseller along with the book.
  • Expect that if no copies of your book have sold within a specified time period (e.g., three to six months), you will be asked to collect your stock or see it donated or recycled. Don’t whine or argue. Just act like the professional you are, and hope for a better result the next time. If you have built a positive, professional relationship, when your next book becomes a bestseller, the bookseller may be interested in stocking this same book again. If you have offended them, you may be out of luck.
  • Keep in mind that the bookseller is doing you a favour, not the other way around. Your book may be your baby while you are writing it, but you need a business-like approach to every aspect of marketing it. Placing it in bookstores is no exception to this rule.
This list is Part Two (click here for Part I) of an article originally published in a slightly different format in the Fall, 2018 issue of Write! Magazine, the newsletter of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Booksellers wishing to print and distribute copies of this article to give to authors are welcome to contact me for permission.

How to Win Over Your Local Independent Bookseller

Strategies for Writers Shared by Bookstore Owners Themselves

This article was originally published in a slightly different format in the Fall, 2018 issue of Write! Magazine, the newsletter of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Booksellers wishing to print and distribute copies of this article to give to authors are welcome to contact me for permission.

More than ten years after the popularity and viability of self-publishing took off, most post-publication options available to conventionally published authors remain almost inaccessible to those to choose to publish their own books.

Very few self-published books are reviewed in traditional media, and with the exception of an agency or two, their authors remain ineligible for grants and conventional awards. But the literary world is changing. In 2015, The Writers Union of Canada – long the bastion of authors of traditionally published books – voted to admit to membership self-published writers who have “successfully demonstrate[d] commercial intent and professionalism”. Libraries in at least two Canadian cities – Vancouver and Victoria – are taking active roles in helping local self-published authors to find their audiences.

Times are changing in the bookstore sector, too. I recently contacted five independent booksellers from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to discover their current thinking about self-published books, and I found that most have at least developed some kind of store policy to help them manage the increasingly frequent requests from self-published authors to stock their books. Their responses to such requests vary widely – from reluctant to warm-hearted – but none is outright banning all self-published books, as many were doing even a few years ago.

However, the accommodation these booksellers extend to self-published books and authors remains exactly that: accommodation. When it comes to ordering, billing, and returning books, it is much easier for them to deal with traditional distribution outlets than with individual authors: the former require less “paperwork,” and involve fewer egos. In the vast majority of cases, when booksellers stock self-published books, they are doing so out of kindness more than from any anticipation of significant profit. And yet, many of them told me, far too many self-published writers approach bookstores with expectations and attitudes that range from presumptuous to rude.

Booksellers say that most authors, whether traditionally or self-published, have very little knowledge about how independent booksellers operate. Much of what I learned will be of use not only to self-published authors, but to any writer who finds they are expected to contributed significantly to the promotion of their books – which, today, is almost all of us.

Bookselling Basics for Writers

The following basics are among those of use to would-be petitioners:

  • Booksellers love books. Some of them are also writers, but all of them are avid readers. Often they have actually read most of the books they stock, and they know many of their authors. They also know the likes and dislikes of their customers. Over time, their bookstores have developed a particular character that is unlike that of any other. Curation, care and attention are what distinguish independent booksellers from the mass-market outlets that treat books with the same level of affection they accord to refrigerators.
  • Bookstores do not have unlimited space, which means that of all the books they would like to carry, booksellers can only stock a fraction. Since it is almost as hard to make a living from selling books as it is from writing, bookstore owners also need to consider which books will actually sell – rather than merely stocking books to make the authors happy.
  • Authors whose books are considered to be of sufficient merit to be stocked by an independent bookseller are privileged to bask in the reflection of the store’s reputation. That same reputation is undermined if the authors’ books are poorly written, edited and produced.
  • Booksellers who deal with self-published authors will sell their books on a consignment basis. They will typically retain 40% of the cover price of books sold, which is the same percentage they retain with traditional publishers and distributors, and the balance will go to the author. Books that do not sell are returned to the author.
  • Booksellers are extraordinarily busy, and it is always of more value to them to use their time to talk to prospective customers than to prospective vendors – whether publishers’ representatives or individual self-published authors.
  • Booksellers are human. If you exhibit no interest in them or their bookstore until the day you stop by, plunk down a stack of books, and explain that your title is going to sell like crazy and they’d be fools not to take it, their response may be less warm than you might like.

Booksellers’ Perspectives: A Range of Responses

Some highly curated bookstores continue to refuse approaches from self-published authors almost every time. Ben McNally at Ben McNally Books in Toronto says, “We basically say ‘No’ to self-published authors, but then we usually say ‘No’ to Simon & Schuster and Random House as well. We are in the business of selling books, not displaying them.” Any exceptions McNally makes are going to be for books that fit their very particular niche.

Michelle Berry, herself an author and also the owner of Hunter Street Books in Peterborough, ON and a widely published fiction writer herself, explains that she has set up a bookshelf specifically dedicated to the display of self-published books, and she provides their authors’ contact information to customers who are interested. She has found this a viable approach since she is the store’s sole employee and her time is so limited.

Lexicon Books in Lunenburg, N.S. – where two out of the three owners are also published writers – does stock a significant number of self-published books, mostly non-fiction, some children’s literature, primarily local. They do not accept books that have been published by Amazon’s self-publishing arm, due to Amazon’s business practices.

Co-owner and author Jo Treggiari says that Lexicon Books sees itself as a community centre, and welcomes group activities on its premises, like book discussions and readings. Staff members as a group review and select self-published books carefully, typically accepting only those by authors from the area, or ones on subjects that are so specific to the region that traditional publishers would be unlikely to accept them (e.g., a book on Nova Scotia mosses, or a memoir by a local fisherman).

Similarly, Audreys Books, a large independent bookstore in Edmonton that has been championing Canadian books and authors since 1975, also describes itself as a “cultural community centre,” and has now assigned a staff person to acquire and manage its inventory of self-published books. Deborah Hines says that half a dozen self-published authors approach the store each week, and she estimates that there are between 40 and 60 self-published books on their shelves at any given time. Authors must drop their books off along with an information sheet, and give Hines and her colleagues time to examine the book and make a decision on whether or not they will stock it. Like other bookstores, they prefer to stock self-published books by local authors, or those with a particular local slant.

“Authors should have a marketing plan,” Hines says, “so that people will come in and buy the books we stock. Otherwise, no one is going to notice them.” Audreys will also host a book launch, for a modest fee to cover costs.

Munro’s Books in Victoria, arguably Canada’s best-known independent bookstore, has also developed a list of guidelines and a questionnaire for its Consignment Program. Jessica Paul, assistant manager at Munro’s, recommends that authors not approach the store in person, but that they request the guidelines, complete the form, and then wait for a decision.

“The biggest piece of advice to self-published authors,” Paul says, “is to acknowledge and then treat their book as either a ‘vanity’ project (i.e., really of interest only to friends and family, which means that we are not likely to want to stock it), or to come at it like a publisher would, with a marketing and publicity plan. They should also keep in mind that getting a book on a bookstore shelf is not a publicity plan.”

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Coming Soon: “To-Do List for Authors Who Want Booksellers to Consider Their Books”
Thanks to Doyali Islam for editing this article pre-publication in Write.

Amazon Author Pages: Build Your Presence in the USA, the UK, Germany, India, and beyond

Let’s Get Visible (IV)
How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It (7)
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Figure 1

Figure 1: Sample Link to my Author Page from Book Description page

Through its Author Central program, Amazon provides a great opportunity to expand your presence by linking information about you to all editions of all your books – not only on the amazon.com site in the U.S., but also on Amazon sites in other countries. It takes a bit of time to get yourself set up on these platforms, but maintaining your presence once the pages are set up requires very little effort.

While you are at Author Central, you can check out your sales figures through Nielsen BookScan and Amazon Sales and Author ranks, and read all of your Amazon reviews in one place. All of which can be depressing experiences, but there they are. (See Figure 2, below)

Start with your Amazon.com Author Page

Start by completing the Author Page on amazon.com (Amazon’s U.S. site). Once you have done that, readers who are looking at the “About the Author” section of your book’s title information on Amazon will be invited to check out your Page and to “follow” you (see Figure 1, above).

In order to set up your Author Page on Amazon, first go to Author Central. The page is user-friendly, and setting up your Author Page is the first thing it explains to you. Follow the link, follow the instructions, and you’re done. When you’re finished, your Amazon Author page will look like this (except, of course, that it will feature you instead of me).

A few things to note:

  • Anyone with a book listed in the Amazon “catalog” can have an Amazon Author Page.
  • You can set up links to your blog site on the Author Page, and intros to your newest posts will appear there after you post them on your blog.
  • If you have any videos you want to share, you can post links to them on your Author Page as well.
  • There is a section on the Author Page where you can add speaking engagements, readings and other events. I don’t use this section because since I am not Stephen King I don’t think that it would be worth my time to post in it, in terms of who would see the notices. Posting about my upcoming appearances on Facebook is more likely to attract the attention of people who might attend – i.e., those who live in my city and might even know my name. (I also have a section for events on my website which I don’t always remember to update either.)
  • You can post a link to your Amazon Author Page on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you want to: Amazon provides the url in the upper right corner of your Author Page. You cannot, however, post a clickable link to your website on your Author Page: at least as far as I’ve been able to determine. (If you have done it, let me know.)
  • You can link all of your books to your Amazon author profile, including those from different publishers, as long as the books are available on Amazon. If you have changed your name or your books are out of print, you may have trouble with the links, but I have found that in the past couple of years, Amazon has become increasingly helpful when I run into any problems. They have a specific page on which you can email them with any problems relating to Author Central here.

Increasing your World-Famousness, Amazon-style

Once you have completed your amazon.com Author Page, you can fill in the same information on the Amazon Author Central site in the UK. If you are multilingual, or want to try posting your bio in English in non-English-speaking countries (I haven’t done this… at least not yet), you can set up a page on the amazon sites in Germany, France and Japan through their Author Central pages:

For other countries that have Amazon sites (including India and Spain, for example. Hey! I just found out that my Rita book has a five-star review in India! I never would have noticed this if I hadn’t written this blog post!), the information from Author Central at Amazon.com should be available to readers automatically. The one exception I have discovered to this practice is on amazon.ca, the one located in my own home country. I find amazon.ca very aggravating for many reasons, not just this one, and prefer to deal with amazon.com

Figure 2

Figure 2: Recent Amazon Sales Rankings

Although having an Author Page in German would probably be of more use to someone whose book had been translated into German than to one whose book hadn’t, it doesn’t hurt to spread your name around. If you have the time and inclination and decide to set up an English page for yourself on the Japanese Amazon site, let us know how it goes. And it’s definitely fun to check out your sales figures from time to time – and watch them climb, we hope, in relation to your various marketing efforts.

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Next time, I’ll be talking about getting yourself an author profile on GoodReads. In the meantime, I apologize to all of those who have tried to contact me in the past few weeks when I was out of town and then side-tracked: I forgot for several weeks to check the email address to which comments on this blog are sent for approval. Argh. Particular apologies to Michael Lowecki who left wonderful messages all over the place and must think me very rude. I resolve to do better in future. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building an Author Presence on Facebook

My Facebook Author Profile page

Let’s Get Visible (III)
How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It (6)
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If you are not on Facebook, you probably have a lot of good reasons not to be there, maybe relating to privacy issues or concerns about wasting valuable (writing) time. However, if you are not on Facebook, you can’t build yourself an author platform on Facebook, so you might as well just skip this post and wait until the next one comes along.

Personal Facebook Pages: Friends and Followers

If you are one of the more than 1 billion people who are on Facebook, that means that you already have a personal Facebook page or “profile.” People can ask to “friend” you on your Facebook profile and you can agree by “friending” them in return.

Most of us have the privacy settings on our personal Facebook pages set so that only our Facebook friends can see our posts. However, if you set the privacy on your personal Facebook page to “Public” under Settings, you can be “followed” as well as “friended.”

Anyone on Facebook can “follow” you if your default privacy setting is “public”: they don’t need to ask you for permission first. If you decline friend requests, the people who sent them can still follow you – unless you block them.  Your friends are also automatically also your followers. Followers can see anything you post with a security setting of “Public,” but unless they are also friends, they can’t see any individual posts that you set for broadcast only to “Friends.” (You have the option of “Friends” only or “Public” publication for every post you create, no matter what your permanent/default setting is.)

Some authors have only a personal Facebook profile. They prefer to let anyone who wants to follow them see almost everything they post, and they use “Public” as their default setting. They do this as a favour to readers who want to know everything they can about their favourite authors. They think it feels more personal. And they also do it because more people are likely to follow your personal Facebook page than they are to “like” a professional or business page.

I, on the other hand, prefer to have a professional Facebook page in addition to my personal Facebook page. On my personal page, I have set my privacy so that only people I have “friended” can see my posts. Even  though I have 500 plus friends on Facebook, and I don’t actually know quite a few of them in real life, I have vetted every single person I have agreed to friend. (A lot of them are writers, from all over the world. I love it.) I’ve made sure they are a real person, and that if they don’t know me directly in real life, they have solid friendships with one or more of my other Facebook friends. I delete them – poof, they’re gone – if it turns out that I don’t like or trust them.

Professional Facebook Pages: Where you can get “Liked”

A professional Facebook page is the platform on Facebook that is used by businesses, public figures, organizations and other entities that are not individuals… including many writers, such as me. Facebook pages offer different options than do personal pages: e.g., templates, links to websites, selling platforms, etc. Facebook business/professional pages don’t acquire “friends”; they accumulate “likes” instead. When someone likes your Facebook writer page, you will be notified, and when you post something on your writer page, it will appear in the timelines/newsfeeds of all people who liked your page. (You can also “promote” your page or one of your posts by spending money. We’ll get into that later, when we’re talking about paid advertising.)

Note: If you don’t have a personal Facebook page, you won’t be able to set up a business/professional page.

My Mary W. Walters Writer page is public. Anyone can see it, and anyone can like it. This means that I’m careful of what I say on my writer page. I don’t talk politics or religion or (usually) sex. I don’t want to lose potential readers of my books just because our political opinions don’t mesh, nor do I want to attract sock puppets.

I do talk about politics, religion and many other things on my personal Facebook page, but I don’t push my writing there: I am there to exchange thoughts with friends, tell them news from my life, vent my spleen, or make them laugh. I always hope that my personal Facebook page is interesting enough that everyone who sees it will want to read my books as well, but I don’t use it as a deliberate sales vehicle.

I do repost items from my writer page to my personal page that I consider “objective” information rather than sales pitches: such as notices about readings and talks I am giving, and announcements of blog posts such as this one. But most of what I post on Facebook in any given week (which is way too much) goes out only to my “friends” via my personal Facebook page.

For me, this arrangement is easier than trying to remember to set every post I make to “friends” or “public” visibility. Also, when people have “liked” my professional writer Facebook page, they are essentially requesting information about Mary the Writer, so I don’t feel badly when I tell them what I’m doing with my writing, or about writing-related achievements, or any accolades my books have received.

How to Set Up An Author Page on Facebook 

On the right hand side of the blue bar across the top of your personal Facebook page, you will see a little arrow pointing down. Click on it, choose “Create Page,” and then follow the instructions. You will need to choose what kind of Page to have: whether a “business or company” page (probably the best choice if you want to sell books directly from Facebook, which I don’t), a “brand or product page” (might be good if you have only one book or series to sell), an “entertainment” page (I’d guess that spoken word poets looking for gigs might want to check this out, although I haven’t), or a “public profile” page. I chose the latter. I like the sound of it. :)

Once you’ve chosen your page category, you can indicate your particular area of focus. “Writer” is one of the options on the “public profile” page, and probably also on Entertainment and Company pages.

Facebook is very user-friendly when it comes to setting up a page, so just follow the directions. If you get stuck, type in your questions under “Help,” and for further guidance check out other writers’ Facebook pages to see what they are including and posting. There is an option under the three dots below your cover photo to see how the page looks to visitors, which I find handy.

Maintaining Your Facebook Writer’s Page

Facebook will send a friendly reminder to you when you haven’t posted on your author’s page for a while, but I try to remember to post something there at least once a week. It may be an article from elsewhere about writing or about one of my favourite writers, or it may be a notice about a new blog post I’ve done or a reading I’m about to do. I have my Goodreads profile set up to repost notices automatically to my writer’s page on Facebook about books I’ve read, etc.

I think of my Facebook writer’s page the way I do about my website: it is there if anyone is looking for me, and it is important to be there in case anyone does look for me. If they do, and if they “like” my page, they deserve to hear interesting things from me from time to time: about my writing, or about writing in general. They can find links to my books and my website and other online things they might want to check out about me from that page, and I let them know when there are special discounts happening on my books on Amazon or elsewhere.

However, I don’t think of my Facebook writer page as a page where I am likely to attract new buyers for my books. People don’t like being harangued about how they should buy my books, so I don’t harangue them, and haranguing doesn’t work anyway (as I have said before. Several times). So the page is just part of the wallpaper.

You should keep in mind when you are building your Facebook author page that it’s not likely to be much of a marketing vehicle. The wallpaper should be hung straight, and look nice and tidy, but don’t bother making it flash in the dark or animate it or do anything else that is going to waste your precious time unnecessarily.

P.S. If you like MY Facebook Writer’s Page and then ask me to like YOUR Facebook writer’s page, I will, and that will help us both. You can also add your Facebook author page link to the comments section below so other readers can follow your page and you can follow theirs, and so on….

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As always I encourage readers to share their experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

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Let’s Get Visible (I)

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (Part 4)

Ieye icon.jpgn this section of How to Sell Your Book No Matter Who Published It, I’m going to talk about the things you need to do to make yourself visible (online, mostly). I’m going to talk about the content and look of the static components of your online presence, by which I mean those that normally stay the same from day to day and week to week – like your website, your profile on Goodreads, your Twitter handle. I am not talking about the things you update, like your status on Facebook.

The topics I’m discussing in the “Let’s Get Visible” section are not specific marketing techniques. If they happen to attract actual purchasers it will be a side-benefit. Their purpose is to make certain that if someone wants to find out more about you or about your books, and they go to the usual places where people go to look for things online (e.g., the Google search engine, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) they will find you. It is not enough that they can find you as an entry inside your publishing company’s website or in its online catalogue (although that’s a bonus): they need to be able to find you as an independent entity.

This doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost any. And it doesn’t need to take too much time… unless you let it: beware the tendency to make yours the most beautiful, complex website on the Net, or the most outrageous Facebook page in existence.

Simplicity is more helpful to readers than are bells and whistles. And the most important characteristic of all of your online initiatives is consistency.

Which brings me to your “look” or “style” – a component of what marketers refer to as your “brand.”

Getting Recognized

Remember the last time you saw someone famous in the real world? Maybe it was even a recognizable writer – Margaret Atwood or John Irving or Salman Rushdie or Anne Rice. The moment you saw that person, you felt like you knew them. Warm thoughts for them and admiration for their writing rushed over you (I hope). You had never seen that person before, but you knew their sense of humour, their verbal talents, their interests, the mood/tone of their writing, etc. It was definitely not like seeing a stranger about whom you knew nothing.

That’s what we’re trying to attain online: not fame (well, not necessarily; at least not right away), but recognition. We want to put the viewer/reader’s ability to associate to work: your name goes with your face goes with your book cover(s). If everyone changed faces every time they went out in the world, we’d never recognize them; by the same token, if you have a different photo or name on every social medium, you lose the traction you gain as your prospective readers move from site to site.

Therefore I suggest that you choose three images to use everywhere online – one of yourself, one of your most recent book, and one background image that is wider than it is tall (approx. ratio, 3 wide to 1 tall; known on Facebook as your “cover photo”). Keep them together in one folder on your computer so you can find them when you think of a new place where you might want to use one.

Which Photos?

Much as I love changing the photo on my Facebook profile page every few weeks or so, I use only one on my Facebook page (we’ll discuss the difference between profiles and pages soon), and I use the same photo on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, GoodReads, the “About Mary” page of this blog, etc. That photo also shows up when I make comments on other people’s blogs or on online articles. I also send it out for use with my bio when I am speaking at a workshop or doing a reading. Recognition is a powerful tool.

The background image can be anything you like. If you write horror novels, you might want something spooky. If you write humour, your background image should convey that. Since my novels are all over the map, I have taken a photo of a stack of my books that I use wherever a generic background photo, wider than it is high, is needed. Mine looks like this (I’ve linked it to my Facebook page, which you are welcome to “like” while you’re there….or not):

background

To further reinforce the “recognition” principle, you could also use a segment of your book cover as a background photo, if it works (mine doesn’t, very well):

screen-shot-2017-02-04-at-1-53-15-pm

So, your homework this time is to choose permanent (or at least semi-permanent; you will probably want to change them occasionally) photos to represent you online.

Next time, I’ll talk about websites: Do you have one? Do you need one?  If you decide to have one, what should go on it?

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Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (3)

Introduction, Part III

Your Online Friends and Followers Are Not Your Target Market

Fishing line icon in prohibition red circle, ban or stop sign, forbidden symbol. Vector illustration isolated on whiteIn future sections of this guide, I am going to talk to you about setting up a Twitter account, a Facebook page, an AuthorCentral page on Amazon, a Goodreads author profile, and other kinds of social media contact pages. I am also going to discuss the merits of establishing and / or maintaining a blog.

However, I do not want you to think of these platforms as ways to reach out to book buyers, because they are not. (Which is a good reason not to spend too much time on them.) Way back in 2013, I wrote a post entitled “Promoting Your Book on Twitter and Facebook is a Total Waste of Time.” My thinking on that subject has not changed. I cannot trace a single book sale to anything I ever did on Twitter, Facebook, or even this blog. I will talk more specifically about this in a future post.

In the meantime, I want to you to make a mindset change before you even start on your book promotion. Do not think of your real-life friends, or your Facebook friends, or your Twitter followers, as the people who are going to buy your books. Resolve that you are not going to waste your time or theirs by pitching your book to them. If you do, you will end up being very disappointed in your friends and aggravated with your social media contacts, because most of them are never going to take your bait. (There are always a few loyal and generous exceptions. Connie, Ruth, Chris and a few others: you know who you are). In general, you need to forget about  marketing to those in your immediate and ongoing / extended circles.

The way to do this is to imagine that you are standing at the top of a hill. All around you, in every direction, as far as you can see, are all the potential readers of your book in the world. There are kazillions of them, or at least many thousands. Closest to you are your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and the guy who just reposted your tweet about your cat. You know the names (or at least the social-media handles) of all of those whose faces you can see.

Resolve right now that beyond letting these people know that your book has been published (if they do not know already), you will ignore them when it comes to book promotion. You will never urge them, nag them or try to guilt them into buying anything you have for sale. The people you will target with your promotion plan are, instead, the ones beyond this circle, the ones whose faces you cannot see very clearly or at all, because they are too far away. These are the readers who comprise the market for your book.

Always keep this image in your mind when you are developing a book promotion strategy. It will do two things for you: 1) it will mean that you do not feel disappointed and petty when your friends don’t by your book because you will know you were not targeting them anyway, and 2) it will mean that you don’t worry about trying to gear your promotion scheme to people you know and end up conflicted by doubt over what they will think of you when they see it. Most likely, they won’t even notice it.

Besides, just think about how many friends you have in the real world and on the Internet. How many are there in total? A few hundred? Why would you try to flog so few people to death to get them to buy your book? Don’t you want to sell thousands? To do that, you need a bigger vision. To sell to thousands, you need to speak to thousands. So let’s do that.

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I am going to cover five major areas of book promotion in this series. They are as follows:

  • Let’s Get Visible (building your online presence)
  • Legitimizing Your Book (reviews, launches, etc.)
  • Free promotion
  • Paid advertising
  • Extensions / Cross-Selling

In the next post, we’ll actually get started!

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Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (2)


screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-4-39-55-pmIntroduction, Part II

Why You Should Exploit Amazon – Even If You Don’t Like the Company

Throughout this guide, many of my suggestions for book marketing and promotion will assume that your book is for sale on Amazon. For most of you, this will be an obvious premise, a given. However, for some – including a number of writers I have known and admired for a long time – this assumption will create a problem: because they are boycotting Amazon.

There are valid reasons to boycott Amazon, the primary one being that it is a megacorp that is taking over the world, destroying everything in its path – from publishers to bookstores and beyond. On the basis of news stories, many consider the company to have behaved unethically towards its employees – rebuttals notwithstanding.

I respect anyone’s decision to boycott Amazon if that is what they have decided to do. Even if they have, they will find a host of useful strategies in this guide to help them market their books; I will include a range of tips and suggestions that have nothing to do with Amazon.

However, before we start, I feel the need to point out that writers who choose to boycott the Amazon sales platform are shooting themselves in the feet. Both feet. And in the head as well.

Because Amazon is a megacorp that is taking over the world and chewing up everything in sight, it is the one place where – if you can get noticed – you are going to sell a lot of books. Statistics (now three years old, but I couldn’t find any more recent ones) estimated that 41% of all new book purchases were Amazon purchases – and we’re not just talking about online new book purchases, but about all new book purchases. (For online purchases, the number was 65%.)

Humans are more often lazy than they are principled. Even if everyone in the world felt that Amazon was the most despicable company on the planet, most of them would still shop there – because it is so easy, and because, unlike my local bookstore, which happens to be Indigo – another big company – it always has the book I want, at a low price, and will get it to me tomorrow. I want my books to be available on a platform where people can make impulse book purchases from the comfort of their couches, as I do.

Amazon is not only friendly to buyers. It is also friendly to writers. It offers incomparable royalties to those who publish with it, and it makes it easy for Amazon authors to promote their books. For those who publish with traditional presses, as I will explain in later installments, there are still many opportunities for authors to use Amazon to serve their own purposes.

Not selling on Amazon makes as much sense to me as not driving anywhere because cars pollute the environment. In other words, it makes sense, but I am not going there. I have done so many principled things in my life that have got me absolutely nowhere, that nowadays I am being very careful about who I boycott. (I am not justifying this behaviour, just telling you where I stand.) To salve my conscience perhaps, I think of myself as exploiting Amazon. This guide will explain how you can do that, too.

In the next installment of this series, I will talk about the Four Stages of Book Promotion – and then, in installment 4, we will get started.

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Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.