A unique blog dedicated to covering the worlds of book publishing and the news media, revealing creative ideas, practical strategies, interesting stories, and provocative opinions. Along the way, discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising from a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing.
you write a great book. It gets
published. Book reviewers find the book
on their own and rave about it.
Bookstores sell copies faster than they can reorder them. Book clubs voluntarily adopt your book. Foreign publishers inquire about rights to
publish in their languages and movie studios want to option your story.
it sound like a fantasy?
yes, it is!
scenario may play out once or twice a year.
The rest of the publishing world has to make its own breaks. Little
happens organically or accidentally in book publishing. Often there’s a force behind a book that
propels it forward. Marketing and
publicity drive sales and today’s author has to push his or her brand or they
are left to the mercy of the marketplace, one that’s deluged with some 2,000+
new titles released every single day of the year – including weekends,
holidays, blizzards, birthdays, and election days.
will say: “Why can’t I just write and
let sales take care of themselves?”
if you are self-published you know that no one else is pushing your book if you
don’t. It simply will not sell on its
own. There’s no guarantee it will sell
even with a big marketing campaign, but there’s a virtual guarantee it’ll die
if you don’t promote it.
you have a publisher, don’t expect them to do a lot for you, no matter what
they say. They may have good intentions
– they want the book to sell – but they have different motives and models for
success that often do not position them to promote your book as much as you
need it to be promoted. Let me explain.
publisher may publish books that it believes can earn a profit or at least
break even. When it publishes a book it
believes that several will break through and make a lot of money. It will put its limited resources into
promoting the handful of books it is banking on. The rest get few or no resources at all.
when the publisher shows support for a title, it can only go on for so long for
so much. But the author can always -- and
should – supplement their efforts.
publisher and author have different goals, though they both want more
sales. A publisher has to first make
sure it recovers its investment. An
author is looking to sell books to earn a royalty beyond his advance. A publisher only cares about book sales,
whereas an author cares about branding, being in a position to earn a new book
deal, and possibly improving one’s speaking career, consulting business, or
professional track. Both would love for
other rights deals – foreign, audio, movie, digitally, theater – to come of it, too.
beauty about book marketing is there’s always something that could be done and
you can rest assured even if you have a very active publisher they are not
doing everything, nor doing anything for too long. You must fill in the gaps. Look at what could be done to promote a book
and divide and conquer the tasks:
the news media’s book reviewers prior to publication.
You Tubing, Podcasting, Webinars.
media: FB, Twitter, Pinterest,
Instagram, Linked In.
or free speaking gigs.
organizations, schools, non-profits, companies, or gov’t agencies for bulk sales.
you can’t afford the time or resources to support your book, rethink publishing
it. If you find your writing speed far outpaces your ability to promote your
books, slow down. You need to rally your
efforts around a single book or series, establish yourself, and then look to
build on that brand.
all wish to get lucky and win the book publishing lottery but the odds are so
stacked against you. There are plenty of
great books that go unread and lack public discussion. Don’t let you hard work go to waste by
failing to give it the support it deserves.
Darlene has been an avid fan of my blog for years. She wrote this
original piece for your eyes only. For more information, please consult: www.darlenejonesauthor.com
I debate with friends and family over differing political views, I always feel
amazed at how difficult it is for me to persuade them over something that seems
deeply obvious to me. I grow incredulous over their stupidity, ignorance,
or nerve to take the opposing position, one that seems riddled with errors and
prejudice. But if their argument seems so blatantly weak or wrong, why
can’t I convince them to see the light?”
What should it take to sway
*Passion and emotion
*Facts and statistics
*Slogans and catchy phrases
*Good intentions and strong
problem is, the opposing side will come back at you with the same thing.
you end up just shouting at each other, restating, if not repeating, your best
statements, and growing frustrated with every passing moment.”
Brian’s comments brought to mind a class I
took many years ago. The professor, Dr. Chevrolet, from France, facilitated
international negotiations in Europe on numerous issues. This was high level
One day, he asked us to think of something we
felt passionate about and plan a speech to convince a skeptical audience that
our way was the only way.
This will be easy, I thought smugly, as I
began writing. I’d convince everyone of the importance of sex education in secondary
schools. I believed wholeheartedly then (and still do) that the Sex Education
course I taught was one of the most important things I did with my grade nine classes.
Why? I wrote furiously.
need to be armed with information to protect themselves.
have too much information from unreliable sources.
are raging and kids won’t leave the topic alone just because you don’t talk
the kids are already having sex.
teach your kids street safety. Sex education is no different
and kids don’t see each other as sexual beings so it’s easier for a neutral
third party to be the sex educator.
virtually impossible to talk to your own kids about sex.
Armed with my list, I waited for Dr.
Chevrolet to ask us to present.
That was when he threw an unfair curve ball.
“Now, I want you to take each of your arguments and use them to convince your
audience the exact opposite of your original point of view.”
I shook my head. What he was asking of us
just wasn’t possible. We argued, but he insisted. I cringed as I took my notes
and tried valiantly to reverse them. When he asked for a volunteer to start, I
offered to go first. Might as well get the misery over with.
As I began speaking, I found myself becoming
passionate about what I was saying. “Imagine your child sitting listening to a
teacher talk about something as private and intimate as sex. Imagine your baby
exposed to ideas you don’t agree with and what if the person isn’t well
As I spoke, I felt the heat rise in my chest
along with the pitch of my voice. I was hot and bothered and became more and
more strident as I argued against something I held dear.
If I could reverse my position with that much
passion and emotion, why is it that others can’t see possibilities beyond their
own point of view? As Brian says, “Why
can’t they see what seems obvious to me?”
Short of putting everyone through Dr.
Chevrolet’s exercise—multiple times, I don’t think there is an answer to Brian’s
question. We all come in to our discussions with our long-held beliefs, our
subconscious determinations of how life should be, and our selfishness that
tells us we have to be “right.”
And, dismal thought, if that is the case, our
lives and our world will always be filled with conflict.
Books has scanned more than 20 million books.
Yes, that is 20,000,000. It’s
hard to wrap our heads around that number.
By the end of the 1980s, fewer than 45,000 new books were being released
annually. Over a decade ago it surpassed
500,000 new titles per year, and then a million. Self-publishing, foreign translations of
overseas books, and an explosion in ebooks has made the book market a very
crowded place. But the books scanned by
Google include a lot of old, rare out-of-print books, some of which are
historically important. The question is
this: How do we prioritize or rank these books so that they are meaningful to
readers, scholars, the media, and writers?
old card catalogue at your musty, neighborhood library used to list books in alphabetical
order, by an author’s last name. They may
have also had a version that did the same with the titles. Eventually this went digital. Vast computer banks in the clouds store the
names of all the books known to have existed, give or take a few. Now you search in a number of ways, though no
system is perfect.
can search by an author’s name, book title, genre, publisher, year published, and
to a degree, by specific words or phrases in these books. Google Books, on the positive side (even if
it violated copyright law in my view), makes the content of all books
searchable. Historians, researchers,
writers, media, companies, and the government have access to a great amount of
how does one find a book to read?
There are so many ways to go:
off a book review.
a recommendation from a friend.
what makes a Top 10 list by a blogger.
one that won a significant award.
you can pick out one with a provocative title, cool cover, or interesting artwork. Actually, a good chunk of books are read
because a teacher assigned them, a boss required it, or because you received it
as a gift. But there are times where we
want to just discover a book, not knowing what we want, not particularly in
need of anything. How do we do
that? Where do we start the search?
like going to used bookstores, even though I love new books and their pristine,
uncracked pages. But used bookstores act
like a grandparent handing down books they enjoyed 20, 30, 50 or 80 years ago.
If you want to see what’s stood the test of at least one generation, visit your
antiquarian shop in the area.
are typically arranged in a store by format, genre, sometimes price, and, if a
best-seller. At a used bookstore there’s
more of a mixed-bag approach to how things are displayed.
an author you can see why book marketing and publicity is so, so
important. You not only are competing
for attention with other products, content providers, and the distractions or
demands of life, but with all books that have ever been published and now have
become available. Books want a home, to
be adopted by someone who will enjoy them.
How will you help your book find a good home?
are over one billion people who speak English on the planet. Find them and tell them about your book. Show them why they need it or should desire
it. Making them aware it exists is the
real battle. Once discovered, the book
must sell itself. And if it’s good or
useful, word-of-mouth shall spread. If
not, into obscurity you go.
may be 20 million books out there but the truth is there are only maybe a
thousand different types of book out there.
Yes, the archetypes. Look at the
plot lines that come up over and over -- good vs. evil, human perfection, moral
conflicts, wandering lovers, superhero powers, searching for God, the pursuit
of riches, the value of family, the underdog who prevails, etc. So many millions of books are just different
takes on the same story. The same is true
with non-fiction. There are only so many
ways to make money, save a relationship, raise a child, improve government,
cook a healthy meal, or learn how to lose weight. So how do we find the best,
most relevant, most accurate books?
will find that it’s rare that a book becomes a one-stop, sole-resource point of
action. No matter how good a novel is,
you move on to another one. And no
matter how informative a book is, you benefit by consulting more than one book
on a given subject. Perhaps the way to
finding the right book is to keep looking, and to never end the search.
book, no matter how old, has something to offer you. By consulting thousands or even tens of
thousands of books, you will grow in knowledge, creativity, and ability. Some books are must-reads and are superior to
others but the vast majority have something worthwhile to offer the hungry
reader who seeks them out or stumbles upon them.
you read 1% of all books – 200,000 -- you would be incredible. If you read 1% of 1% -- 2,000 books – you would
still be quite exceptional. Whichever
ones you consume, appreciate them for what they are, and never feel satiated or
act as if your library of knowledge is complete. There’s a new truth awaiting
your discovery on the other side of the page.
Use these 4 ways to market a book:
pay, act, trade, network
was at my daughter’s second-grade classroom the other day. She was participating in an event that
showcased poetry. It was wonderful to
see the kids read their works aloud and hold up signs for “alliteration” and “couplet.” April is National Poetry Month, a celebration
that was introduced two decades ago by the Academy of American Poets as a means
to increase awareness and enhance a deeper appreciation of poetry in America and
Canada. Poets.org is a good resource to learn
about local poetry events. My wife and I
gave our eight-year-old daughter a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where
the Sidewalk Ends: 40-year Edition. She loves it.
Seeing her gap-toothed grin made me smile as wide as the halls are long
at her elementary school.
should always encourage our youth to experiment with writing in all forms and
genres. Let them try everything on so
they can determine what fits them.
I attended her event, I heard a disturbing rumor that the school’s library may
disappear and be replaced with a tech and robotics center. The news was
paused to reflect and thought, “Well, the kids can get books at their local
library, but they can’t easily get a decked-out technology lab." But that quickly got replaced with: “How could a school not have a library?” I came to my senses quickly, even though the
shiny, new toy sounded promising. It’s a
shame we have to choose between the two.
the principal quelled the rumors and reassured me personally that this was not
going to happen, I felt relieved but unsettled. I realized that it could’ve
happened and still might down the road.
It can certainly happen at any of the other thousands of elementary
schools across the country.
serve many functions in a school. They
not only are a repository of wisdom and inspiration, but they serve as a strong
model for the printed word. Students enter
a library and feel the power of choice, ideas, and information wall to wall. They
can come across hundreds or thousands of titles, touching, seeing, and reading
centuries of history and imagination.
kids can get books for cheap on Amazon.com.
Sure they have a community library where they can get books for
free. Sure they can find tons of digital
content online. But when they attend a
school they need to be exposed to a library.
It doesn’t just provide a book they may need to do a report. It provides an opportunity for young minds to discover the reader inside
themselves. It provides a safe,
encouraging, and sharing environment. It
gives shelter to books and to readers.
Its very existence makes a strong statement that books matter, that they
don’t just get boxed up into a device or remain shored away in an attic. Books matter and a school library must always
be seen as the foundation for a school and for one’s learning experience.
The other day I read an article about Enya, a 54-year-old songwriter and singer who had some success in the U.S. in the 1990s (I was a fan), and how she has surprisingly done what all creative artists long for: become a wildly popular seller, been able to avoid touring and promoting her work, and is able to seclude herself so she can privately – and without disruption – work 24/7 on her craft. A part of me was jealous and a part was sad.
Enya apparently is UK’s biggest success story for a female singer. She has sold 75 million albums and is worth a reported 167 million bucks. However, it sounds like she doesn’t get to spend her fortune because she’s too busy hiding in her castle. Yes, a castle!
The report says she long ago swore off having a long-term relationship with men because she didn’t believe she could dedicate enough time to him or deal with his needs. She is extremely focused on her work.
Though it’s admirable that she wants to pour herself into producing a quantity of quality work, doesn’t she want a life of her own? What’s the point of wealth and success if you don’t share it and join the living?
You have to wonder how informed her music is if it’s based on living a monk-like existence. She’s writing and singing for the masses. How far removed is she from those she seeks to touch?
On the other hand, with no spouse or kids, no financial worries, and no other obligations, burdens or distractions, she is able to zone in on her passion. She’s able to plunge the depths of her creativity unobstructed. She can tune in to her inner-self and actually hear just her voice. But as much as writers crave such an opportunity, I think most would need a balance. Yes to occasional solitude and spontaneous writing without having to reschedule a day, but also yes to family, friends, love, and fresh air. Yes to life and all of its wonder and foibles, to its beauty and hatred, to sex and violence, to nature and pollution. Bring it all on!
Is Enya happy or some kind of social misfit or mentally disturbed individual? Who knows? For those who just love her music, they may ask, “Who cares?”
It is hard to feel bad for someone who chooses to live life on her terms, especially for a successful person who has the resources to choose many different paths. But maybe she is making a sacrifice for us. Is she giving up parts of her life so that she can produce music that millions can live by? Is she a victim of her talent?
It takes self-discipline to be a productive writer, artist, or musician. It requires thousands of hours of research, practice, experimentation, and execution. Enya has found the way to do what most dream of. Hopefully it’s not her nightmare.
is how I felt when I saw those three words in my 11-year-old son’s reading choice,
an award-winning, critically-acclaimed book, I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.
School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly,
Booklist, Boston Globe, Time, New York Times and others rated it as one of the
best YA books of the year. The New York Public Library and Chicago Public
Library put it on their best-of-the-year list.
The author’s site describes the book as “radiant,” that will “leave you
breathless and teary and laughing – often all at once."
sounds like a great book. The
best-selling novel could be in the hands of our youth for generations to come.
have we crossed a line somewhere?
get me wrong, I’m no prude. I long ago
decided to let my kids – by age six – say “shit” and a few other funny-sounding
words. But I draw the line with the F-word. I do my best not to say it in front of
them. But now my son, in fifth grade, is
reading a book with this line in it.
don’t oppose the use of the word. All great books cover
controversial topics and sometimes blue language goes along with them. But I didn’t realize the day has come where
the F-word is so normal and mainstream that we let kids in elementary school
read books with such words.
concepts, terms, or actions are hard to define.
My eight-year-old is not reading a book with that word in it. No fucking way! But my son is. Is it too soon? Is it really necessary? On the other hand, so what?
old enough to grasp the use of the word.
Soon he’ll be exposed to such language more regularly as he enters
middle school. But I thought we could
keep him innocent for a little longer.
He doesn’t even turn his head to look at beautiful young women. He
hasn’t entered the world of sex-obsessed, drug-taking, language-offending
he will. With the reading of this book
it’s begun. I think what bugs me is his
school is endorsing this. It could’ve
chosen any number of great books, but it took the one with the F-word. The mass media endorses it, too. Maybe parents need to follow suit, I don't know.
all for pushing the envelope and challenging people on their ethics, passions
and behaviors – but when it comes to kids, my kids, I thought some things were
still off limits. I guess not. What a fucking shame.
always telling authors, whether they are first-time novices or veterans of
multiple best-selling books, the key to success is to go all-out on book
marketing and publicity. That is
actually more important than making a book great. A mediocre book with great PR often does
better than a superior book with little or no marketing behind it.
doesn’t matter what genre you write in.
It doesn’t matter if your publisher is big, small, a university press or an independent. It doesn’t matter what your
book is about, how it’s written or designed, or how catchy your title and cover
appears to be. You have to promote and
market the heck out of it.
some authors lack the key elements to promote:
They don’t know what to do, when, or how.
·Ability;: They lack certain skills needed to sell
·Time: Everyone is short on this.
·Money: You need it if you want a professional helper.
You don’t want to talk about yourself or book.
Make-up: You fear public speaking or desire
·Attitude: You think you shouldn’t have to blow your own
horn, that the book sells itself.
how do you get some marketing success when you lack one or more of the above?
either do what you can and supplement the rest, or you outsource everything, or
you do nothing and pray that you get discovered.
you recognize that you need help, you have a few options:
for professional services.
less for amateur services.
your services/resources with others.
with your network for help.
funds and resources.
an investor or sponsor to fund your efforts.
Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites.
what can authors do to make sure they have exhausted all possible avenues for
success? They must act with a sense of
urgency and assume a mindset of desperation.
They can’t have a wait-and-see attitude.
They can’t be laid back in their approach. They can’t just hope to win the lottery or be
dependent on the kindness of strangers.
Nor can they risk debt or bankruptcy to take a dream and turn it into
you do what you are capable of and what you enjoy doing. I don’t mean writing. I’m talking about the specter of book
marketing and PR that you do well. Let’s
say you are good at research and emailing people, but not so good in
networking. Let’s say you are good at
getting speaking gigs but not at securing media coverage. Perhaps – you know how to get radio
interviews but social media baffles or even frustrates you. Know what you do well and identify what needs
to be outsourced. Accept the things that
you will ignore, that neither will you do yourself nor get others to do for
identify who can help you do the things you plan to outsource. Query them on capabilities, fees and past
performance. Find people you can work
with. You likely will need multiple
experts to help you if you have numerous areas that you require help in. There are no one-stop-shopping pros in the
figure out how to work your network, as well as build it up. What will you ask of them – and give in
return? How will you reach the networks
of your network?
think of how to trade with people who can help you. I don’t mean paying your web guy with books
or compensating someone with sexual favors, but what you can and should do is
think of what it is that you have digitally that is perceived to be of value of
others. Incentivize others to buy your
book not only because it’s a great book at a great discount – or because they
are your friend or colleague – but because by doing so they will be rewarded
with a free item. It can be a prior
ebook. It can be a webinar. It could be copies of presentations, missing
chapters, or a resource guide. It can be
something that belongs to someone else.
Share the digital resources of fellow authors – not only does it help
you sell your book but the authors that you help promote will be willing to
share your stuff with their list of connections. It’s a win-win.
you need to simply take the extra step or do the thing you didn’t think you
were capable of doing. To break through
you need to do more than you think possible and to try things you never
did. That’s how you get moving from
point A to point C: pay others, trade with others, exploit
your networks, and do work on your own.