Congratulations! You have found a publisher well suited to your book. The contract has been signed. You are a published author! What’s next? What will your publisher do? What should you do to enhance the publisher’s efforts?
Authors covet traditional (trade) publishers because those publishers are experts in taking a book from manuscript to retail stores with perfection. No matter how many articles you might have read about the enticement of self-publishing or “vanity” publishers, trade publishers know what must be done, how to accomplish the tasks and they can do it in a timely manner. They have the artists, printers, distribution channels and retail connections that you require. That’s why you should be willing to share some of the profit with trade publishers.
Without a publisher, you would need to be an expert at cover art, graphic design, editing, printing, acquiring distribution channels, web site design, marketing to retail booksellers and all facets of sales. Very few excellent writers are also experts in all of those areas. And, even if you were an expert in all of those fields, would you have the time to accomplish all of those tasks, as well as restock retail stores? In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing retail book market, even trade publishers cannot do everything. So, unless your last name is King or Clancy, you will need to chip in with some time and effort to make your book a smashing retail success.
What can you expect from your publisher?
A trade publisher will edit your book, create cover art, print the books, contract with distributors and then place your book on the Internet sites of Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Target and other major global retailers. Your publisher will market your book globally and arrange for distribution in all relevant countries. The publisher will then process the books to sales outlets and restock them on a regular basis. Your publisher may also promote your book at book fairs, through catalogs, through an e-mail or fax blast, generate media publicity, arrange book tours, create a web site, solicit reviews and arrange book signings. And, despite all of this effort on the part of your publisher, you’ll receive royalties, which a pretty nice feeling.
However, in today’s ever-changing book sales market, a great deal of additional work remains to be done by the author. Much of this is electronic marketing. Because of the changing nature of the publishing world and the revolution in electronic book purchasing, someone needs to market your book throughout the Internet world. Because this work is extremely labor-intensive and detail-oriented, few publishers have the time, workers and enthusiasm to make it happen. This is where the author must step in, with the motivation to work hard on behalf of his or her book. The bad news is that there is a lot of work for the author to do. The good news is that almost no expertise or money is required to accomplish these vital tasks.
The Internet has turned the publishing world upside down. Even mammoth publishing houses are today petrified with this abrupt change. People can purchase on the Internet, bypassing brick and mortar stores. They download books to their Kindle. They can even download books on the Internet for free. People today make purchasing decisions based upon what they can see and read on the Internet. For example, Amazon not only allows you to describe your book, display its cover and details; it also has a feature called “Search Inside” that allows prospective buyers to sample many pages of your book before buying. Bookstores and publishers are frightened and losing profit margin. But here is where you can step in and help your publisher.
What should you do to help your publisher? You can contact your local newspapers, magazines and on-line Blogs in order to solicit articles about you and reviews for your book. You can contact local bookstores and arrange for book signings. You can sell books on your own through local organizations. You can try to obtain reviews and interviews about your book everywhere in town. One of the fastest ways to solicit business for your book is through the media. Since you require positive reviews to sell your book, newspapers, magazines and book clubs are a great place to start. When you encounter serious interest, send them a review copy. If your publisher runs out of review copies, send them the e-book as a review copy, or ask them to purchase the Kindle version.
But, the world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood. If you want a great many people to read your book, you will need to create a global electronic marketing campaign. Fortunately, almost all of this can be accomplished with your computer. Better yet, it won’t cost you a dime.
First, create a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing means many things, including web pages, Blogs, social networking, video marketing and all other electronic means of selling your book. It sounds difficult. In reality, it is simple and free. Use effective search terms in Google or Yahoo to find places and people related to your book. For example, a book about the history could be promoted to schools, public and private colleges, universities, historical societies and organizations dedicated to historical preservation. Thousands of people, places and organizations that might use such a book can be located with Internet searches.
Once you uncover these people, places and organizations, all that remains is to contact them with a sales pitch for your book. E-mail marketing is cheap and fast. However, your sales pitch must grab the reader’s interest quickly. You must construct an e-mail cover page that is informative, has embedded links to your web sites and the publisher and will sell the value of your book instantly. More about e-mail marketing later in this article.
Web site marketing:
Most publishers will create a web page for your book. But never rely on the public finding that one page, or even your publisher’s web site. Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book. Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, Blogspot, Goodreads, or Geocities and begin building your site. There are many other Internet sites where you can build a web site or Blog for free. The instructions are simple and fast. The more web pages that you create for your book, on your own, the more chances buyers will discover it. I have dozens of such sites.
You can create a free web page that includes many detailed facts about your book, including review excerpts, historical data and links to your Blogs and web sites, as well as your publisher. To keep readers on the site, add dozens of interesting and useful links about the topic of your book. Then, you can create another free web site that includes a syllabus for your book, packed with features and reasons why people should purchase it. Connect these web pages to each other via links. This is FREE. All it takes is some of your time.
The secret to success with Internet web sites is to make them interesting and to use effective key words. Key words (a.k.a. “tags”) are the way that search engines find web pages. Select your key words very carefully. The more accurate and appealing your key words, the better the chance that search engines will uncover your book.
Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool. Publishers may disagree. However, if you allow someone to download your e-book, or e-mail it to them, there is a chance that they will enjoy it and tell their friends about it. Since most people do not wish to read a book on their computer particularly a long book, print sales will increase as a result. Someone recently asked me if I was disappointed that so many people were reading my book from the local library, rather than paying for it at a bookstore. I don’t mind at all. People who enjoy your book will tell friends and family about it. In the end, giving away books judiciously is an effective sales tool.
There is no limit to the number of web pages that you can create. The more times you create a new web page, and the more times you update an existing page, the more times people will discover your book. Continue to perform maintenance on your key words and update your sites with new links. Before you are done, go to this web page http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl. Here you will be able to submit your web sites to Google’s search tool. This step is critical, so that your web sites will appear on all future Google searches.
Blogging about your book, or writing on other Blogs about it can be a powerful tool to increase sales. Anyone can create a Blog for free and use it to promote a book. I Blog on two of my own sites. Blog about anything of interest to you, or any particular expertise you have acquired. It doesn’t have to be related to your book. Note that you can easily promote your book on Blog pages, through links and sidebar widgets. Just be sure to sign off each post as, “Author of …” below your name.
Perhaps more importantly, you can comment on other people’s Blogs, vastly increasing your book’s visibility. Use a Google search feature to troll the Internet searching for key words related to your book’s topic. When you find Internet newspaper or magazine articles about your book’s topic, visit the site and write something there about your book. Always sign off on Blogs with the title of your book and a link to your book’s web site under your name.
Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions. In most cases, you will need to register. It’s free and the time you put into registering is a small price to pay for the ability to promote your book in all future iterations of that newspaper or magazine. Most Internet news media allow reader comments after an article. When you find an article related to your book, write your comment and then sign your name and, “Author of …” after your name. Be sure to include the title of your book and a link to its web site under your name.
Anyone can write articles and have them published on the Internet. Where is your expertise? In what way can you provide people with valuable information? Writing articles is not simple or swift. You may need to conduct some research. Take your time and write carefully. Your topic need not be connected with your book. I have had articles published on topics as wide ranging as publishing, psychology, religion, life, death, war, happiness, prejudice and philosophy. Each article is a chance to sign off with your book’s name and a link to its web site.
Establish a Goodreads account. Goodreads is a web site for readers and authors. It is a terrific place to see and be seen. There is no more natural place to sell your book’s value to potential readers. Although Goodreads is not a retail site, it offers an opportunity to network with other authors who have similar interests and problems.
Join as many social networking sites as possible. MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Ziggs, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Multiply, Urbis, Squidoo… They are all valuable ways to make your book known. You may be able to generate your own Wikipedia page. At each of these social networking sites, you can create a profile, including a description of your book and stores where it is sold. But your work there is not finished. Join groups within the sites that are related to your book, your writing, or anything related to the topic. Promote your book through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter by joining groups related to it. LinkedIn is an excellent place to network with professionals of all types. At LinkedIn, you can create a profile to describe your book that will be seen by countless readers. You can also join groups of interest related to your book. You can reach literally thousands of people within these groups.
Amazon is not only a place to sell your book. It is a place to post a Blog. Amazon has a new sponsored link called “Filedby” that includes an author biography page where you can post a Blog and relevant articles. Also within Amazon, each content section has forums in which people start topics or respond to the topics of others. You can post messages and responded to messages in Amazon forums as wide ranging as history, fiction, war, romance, art, science, religion, literature, etc. Again, each time you write, sign off with your name and the title of your book. You will instantly reach thousands of potential buyers.
Another Amazon feature allows anyone with an Amazon account to create a review for any book sold there. Think about every book that you have read. You can locate the book on Amazon and create your own customer review. Just scroll down the Amazon page for any book until you see a button that says, “Create Your Own Customer Review.” Follow the instructions to rate and then review the book. When you are done, be sure to write, “Author of …” after your name. Every time someone reads your review of that book, the name of your book will appear. Since the reader is already on Amazon, they can purchase your book by typing its name at the top of the page. You can review as many books as you wish, each time marketing your own book under your signature.
You can personally contact tens of thousands of critical people and organizations with e-mail. Never count on your publisher doing this. They can only dream of having the time and labor to accomplish such a task. All that you need are e-mail addresses, an effective sales letter and some time.
Use the Internet to search for lists of people who would have a natural interest in your book. You can uncover literally thousands of e-mail addresses related to your book’s topic. Organizations often include membership e-mail addresses. All that is left for you to do is to create an effective e-mail cover letter and send it to each member electronically. This is not spamming because the addresses are publicly posted.
While few of us are brave enough to open an attachment from a stranger, we are all willing to open a hyperlink. Embedding Internet hyperlinks into your e-mail cover page is simple and fast. In most e-mail programs, you can right-click on any word in an outgoing message and then select the “Hyperlink” option. Follow the instructions to embed the hyperlink. That word will appear in all future e-mail versions of your letter in blue or red. When your reader clicks on the blue or red word (while compressing the “Control” key), your web site will emerge in their browser. With this method, the reader can access all of your book’s important web sites, including your publisher’s web site, book reviews, the book’s Amazon page, another web site that contains a syllabus, author interviews and much more.
Hyperlinks are also vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses. For example, the Amazon Internet address for many books can be quite lengthy and would occupy at least two lines in an e-mail pitch page. Instead, simply hyperlink the word “here” at the end of a sentence. Clicking the word “here,” which will appear in blue or red, will transport the e-mail reader to the book’s Amazon page.
Your e-mail cover page message must be brief and concise – less than one page; while compelling the reader to learn more about your book. No one will bother to read a lengthy dissertation about your book while the rest of his or her daily incoming mail is piling up, waiting to be read. Just grab their interest quickly, hyperlink the best web sites and provide contact information. The e-mail is only designed to command their interest. The embedded web sites will sell your book. At least one of your embedded web sites should allow the reader to instantly purchase the book. Another hyperlinked web site should contain the book’s syllabus, access to your best reviews, the author’s biography and links to other relevant sites, articles, Blogs and books.
Once you have created an impressive e-mail cover letter, save it in generic form for future use. Then, each time you wish to contact someone new about your book, retrieve the file and customize it to that particular receipient. In most cases, you will require only a few minor changes to your original letter. This will allow you to contact literally hundreds of people rapidly.
Only a few days are required to create and modify e-mail cover letters, web sites and Blogs appropriately. It will cost nothing. In fact, some large Internet companies, like Google, will pay you per click if you allow them to advertise on your site. Instead of paying for web site development, create your own site and make money by selling advertising on it. Learn more about the “affiliate programs” at Google and Amazon.
The world of book marketing and sales is undergoing considerable, rapid change. People who formerly explored books and purchased them at their local bookstore now increasingly accomplish this task from home or work on the Internet. Since publishers are still required to edit, print, distribute and market in traditional ways, and since they have fewer staff due to lower margins, it falls upon the author to accomplish many new tasks related to electronic marketing and sales.
You can construct web sites and Blogs that can be used to attract the public to your book and accomplish the sale with a few mouse clicks. You can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages, by using appropriate key words in those web sites to attract search engines and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign. You can accomplish all of this right from your own computer – and it is virtually cost free.
Marketing a book can be time consuming and frustrating. But do not count on your publisher to accomplish everything, particularly if you are a new author. Be willing to implement your own marketing campaign with web sites, Blogs, by writing articles and with an effective e-mail blitz. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will become.
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, “Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”