Marketing steps by traditional publishers are usually for their bestselling authors only. This includes for example: Advance Book Reviews, posted on the book’s cover, book tours and signings of celebrity authors, lots of media coverage including reviews, speaking engagements, book signing tours, and placing new books at major bookstores who report to bestseller lists. How can author-publishers use the methods of global trade publishers to promote their self-published books?
7 Million Self-Published Titles: Stiff Competition!
Since years, millions of new self-published books appear, and almost all can be found at online retailer’s websites. These titles will be offered for many years to come, as most of them are in digital format. The “Gold Rush” seems to be over and self-publishing has been dropping almost fifty percent per year, obviously “separating the wheat from the chaff”.
You might not be yet a New York Times bestselling author. You don’t have a publicist. And your Amazon sales numbers are awful. Should you quit writing books? No, absolutely not!
For those authors who want to succeed at self-publishing: use also some traditional marketing methods, create a business plan and a budget, including anywhere from 5-10% for your overall book marketing, website / blog hosting, IT help, and graphic designers.
Traditional publishing uses multiple ways to promote their latest books. Self-published authors attempt to market their books to the entire world via Amazon, social media, and their website, it seems. Publishers select books in order to stay in business, and also to determine what the publishing house’s identity is.
Here’s how you can copy traditional ways to market your books – adjusted to self-publishing. One step at a time, but continually every day – split in small tasks.
1. Start Early!
Market Research – the very first step to do! An editor for a publishing house will need to make a case that the book fills a market need. And to do that, the publishing house will look carefully at what’s out there. Has the competition a recent publication in this sub-genre? Does the manuscript have similar scope? Is it widely available?
Authors, and especially self-publishing authors need to study their competition carefully too: Read their books, study book covers, pricing, reviews, and the marketing of competing books. The most powerful and essential steps you can take toward promoting your book begins long before the actual writing of the book. At least two years before the book is published, start building a network of supporters and reviewers.
2. Advance Book Reviews in Magazines and Newspapers.
Did you ever wonder why brand new books had already reviews? The Amazon-owned Goodreads website noted that some 4,000 (in words: four-thousand) ARC’s, Advance Reader Copies for “The Girl on the Train” were sent out to not only to booksellers, but also readers (including Stephen King) and book critics to build a buzz around the title long before it hit the shelves.
New author-publishers can learn a lot in bookstores: Check out how professionally published books look like: Many of these trade books have either on their back cover (paperback) or on their binding flap (hard cover) several snippets of early book reviews, as well as endorsements from bestselling writers or other professionals, that were already written before the book was printed.
Traditional publishers may budget anywhere from fifty to several hundred “free and review” copies. Advance Review Copies (ARC’s) are what they send out half a year before book launch date. How these pre-editions (Galleys) are produced and to whom they should be sent is explained in How to Get Reviews Before Your Books Launch. Prepare your book review query well in advance and learn what to avoid when pitching to reviewers.
3. Set up Your Book for Pre-Orders.
Pre-Orders on Apple iBooks can start up to 1 year before book launch, and at Amazon you can start three months before, but calculate at least three weeks for pre-orders at Amazon. Don’t forget to set up your book also for Giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing at the same time. This will give you plenty of time to promote the book heavily before its launch day, and to gather the first orders from your readers.
4. Print Format is Essential!
Traditional publishers concentrate on print books, which still make up for about 60% of the book market, depending if you look at book sales numbers or revenue per book. Audio Books: The audio-book market is certainly growing, and Trade Publishers are not only investing in digital (even so it took them a very long time) books, but also in audio-books.
E-book authors might be happy with their sales on Amazon, Apple, Kobo or Barnes & Noble. They might have even turned it into an audio book. But the questions for a “real” book, paperback or hard-cover copy from conservative friends or elderly family members are nagging… And wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a Chapters or Baker & Taylor or one of these rare independent book shops and see your book in the shelf? You will not earn a fortune, not even a living, but for a couple of months it is a nice pocket change. Only months… yes, because longer than this, barely any book will stay in the book store, unless it really is a bestseller and gets re-printed.
If you go the indie route and choose for example the POD services, your book will never get discarded (good: no-return-policy in Print-on-Demand worldwide distribution), however it will not be automatically distributed to bookstores, customers can only order it there.
Why not additionally create an audio-book from your novel or even from non-fiction? Audio-books are becoming more and more popular! Your readers can listen to your audio-books, which can easily double their book consumption because they are using time that previously was not available and turning it into valuable “reading” time. They can listen in the car, bus, train, plane… while exercising, walking or hiking, on the beach or while doing mundane tasks around the house or yard. Special needs readers, such as blind ones will have access to your written words in form of an audio-book.
Audio-books can be listened to on an iPod or iPhone/SmartPhone or other MP3 player, even on most e-readers such as Kindle and Nook.
A membership at www.Audible.com (owned by Amazon.com) is a good deal for your readers. They can choose from various plans, and easily download digital audio-books to their preferred device. Or your readers can go to their local public library to get audio-books for free.
6. Book Sales at Several Outlets.
Imagine you could buy all books from Penguin only in one book chain… Publishers distribute their books to as many outlets as possible, to brick-and-mortar stores, independent booksellers, mass markets, online book sellers, even via Affiliate programs.
Authors: Sell your books, e-books and audio-books not only through Amazon, but as well on Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo websites, to have your “eggs in more than one basket”. And don’t forget the potentially huge potential market for hardcover books, selling them to libraries all over the country! However, there are way more online retailers for e-books and books than just Apple, Sony, Diesel, Kobo or Barnes & Noble. Sign up with a book distributor / fulfillment company for your print-version of the book. Distributors mostly require just three books to be listed as a publishing business, and if authors have not written three books yet, they can band together with other authors to reach this minimum. Aggregators will distribute also single books. See a comparison of book distributors here.
Traditional publishers and the books of their authors can be found on Bowker’s global database of books. How to get into “Books in Print”, a worldwide database and to register your book for FREE! with Bowker is the topic of another blog post.
7. Set up Your Own Book Sales Page.
Many big publishers and major online retailers sell from their own website print and digital books – and so can you! How? Get all the information you need to start selling your titles from our former article: How to Sell Your Books From Your Own Website.
Make at least 30% more on your books, compared to selling it on Amazon, B&N, or Kobo – up to 95% of the book’s sales price. Get your revenue immediately and get to know your readers, a very important point for your future marketing and to keep in contact with your customers. ALWAYS include your website, blog and social media information in your book, no matter if e-book (where readers can have a direct link to your sites) or print book, so that readers can join / contact you.
8. Sell Your Books to Libraries.
All traditional publishers sell their books to libraries. According to statistics from the American Library Association and the Book Industry Study Group, libraries yearly purchase books for nearly $2 billion. But not only books, also audio-books and other forms of publications. Around 95% from major publishers. Imagine, you sold your $15 book at a 50% discount to only 10% of these libraries, you will earn more than $75,000. But how can you tap into the lucrative library market? It is explained in detail, including valuable links of wholesale companies who sell to libraries, in a former blog article at SavvyBookWriters.
9. Attend Book Shows & Fairs.
Representation at the applicable trade shows includes bookseller trade shows like the Bookseller Expo America (BEA) or one of the regional bookseller shows, such as the New England Booksellers Association, Book Shows for the Library Association (ALA) and certainly the world’s most important, the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany every October.
Which Book Fairs or other Literary Events will you attend in the coming months to present your work? How to organize your participation and how to attract visitors is explained in detail in this blog post, pointing out the do’s and don’ts at book fairs.
10. Offer Book Signings.
An author tour can take various forms. Two weeks of travel, flights from city to city, an author appearance every day, twice a day if possible. Publishers often make their choice on the basis of three factors: if the book can sell in quantity in bookstores; if the book can be reviewed in newspapers, not simply journals; and if the author is presentable. How you can organize your own book signing is explained in detail, even with a time-table, here on this blog post at SavvyBookWriters.com/blog.
11. Lobby to Book Clubs.
Traditional Book Publishers sometimes sponsor book clubs, or invite them to participate in a contest, such as the one offered by Random House of Canada “Book Clubs are Beautiful”. Members suggests four or five books that they must have read and then the voting and lobbying begins until they’ve got their list. member suggests four or five books that they must have read and then the voting and lobbying begins until they’ve got their list.
Authors on the book clubs list have attended a meeting or contacted them by phone or email. Writers can find easily contact addresses of book clubs via Google Search. Offer them a free copy of your book, just as big publishers do. Don’t overlook the virtual book clubs at Goodreads, Wattpad, Bibliophile, LibraryThing etc.
12. Enter Writing Contests.
Many published authors compete in writing contests, and publishing houses sometimes organize contests. How to Get More Readers from an Award: Publicity around a book award will boost your book sales. Contests are a great way to hone your craft and show the world how much better you are than other writers. Winning a book award for your self-published fiction or nonfiction book is a great way to gain recognition and approval. You will not only see an increase in your book sales – if you market it well – you also can add the award sticker to your cover and mention the achievement on your back cover, in your books’ description, and in all your marketing and promotions – online or offline. Here is a list of 25 Writing Competitions You Should Enter.
13. Content Writing for Magazines & Newspapers.
World-famous bestseller writers from big publishing houses, such as Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Atwood, Tom Chiarella, Gloria Steinem and Stephen King did it: Writing occasionally short stories and magazine articles – before blogs became fashionable.
Your book has been launched months ago or even last year. NOW readers need to see something NEW from you. It doesn’t need to be a whole new book:
The three main assets you have already
- your writing skills
- the content you already penned
- the research you have done for your book(s) can be used to write at least 20 – 30 articles or blog posts – and if regularly posted on Google+ it is raising your Search Engine Ranking (SEO) on Google tremendously
More benefits of writing content:
- it is a subtle way to promote your book
- you receive valuable backlinks to your website or blog
- you will have lots of possibilities to post on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook
- include links to your articles in email newsletter (that you hopefully send out regularly to your readers)
Post these articles on your blog or contribute guest blogs to other sites that are focused on the same topics as your book.
Content is used to draw in your ideal readers / reviewers, it will link to your book sales page or your website and it helps a lot to build a platform. Last but not least it gives you a lot of material to post and to tweet. The result: you will increase your exposure, show your writing skills, grow a loyal following and attract reviewers – in one sentence: you will achieve success with your writing – and in many cases, even get paid for it.
14. Press Kits on Your Website.
Bestseller authors at traditional publisher have the support of the publisher’s in-house (or out-sourced) publicity department. How much publicity support depends on many factors, but there are the basic elements that a publicity department will likely provide: Book Press Materials. Near publication date, the book’s publicist will email the electronic version of the press kits to a large number of applicable editors and producers to garner interest in the book. Book Media Follow-Up is the next step. The book publicist will follow up with any media outlet that responds to the mailings or e-mailings, will mail additional copies of the finished book, and will make additional calls or emails to other outlets to remind them the book is in their in-box.
To get the word out about the upcoming book launch, to receive positive articles in newspapers., magazine, book blogs, or to get interviews, writers should professionally deal with anyone who could tout their book – not only national press or TV. Don’t make these common errors: Not having a press page on your website for example.
Unfortunately most writers are not aware that journalists, bloggers or radio hosts need a bit more information than what they see on an Amazon page. And they won’t just copy and paste your “about the author” or the description of your book on the sales page. Check out Stephen King’s website, see how he organized his page for the media, where journalists can download high-resolution press photos.
15. Radio Interviews.
Bestseller authors often appear as guest at TV or radio stations. Publicists for major publishing houses have longstanding contacts to their editors and arrange interviews for bestseller authors.
Authors can go the same route, starting with internet radio stations, such as this one: The Book Report. Don’t forget when you plan the marketing of your public events, to announce it for free on Google+ and on Goodreads, use their free Event pages.
16. Speaking Engagements.
Keynote Speakers and Motivational Speakers are handsomely paid, often $10.000 to 15,000 for a two-hour speech! Most celebrity authors, found as speakers, are writing Non-Fiction books.
Speaker agencies, or organizers of Writers Conferences are the best approach if you want to earn more with speaking engagements than with your book. If you are really serious about publicly speaking, join first Toastmasters.com and then the Certified Speaking Professional Association where you can get certifiet in public speaking.
17. Foreign Rights.
Basic subsidiary rights that publishers contract with their authors include translation into foreign languages, foreign rights, and reprint of selections by other publishers in other countries, just to name a few. For example: An American publisher may also license a book to a British house for separate English-language publication in the UK and the Commonwealth.
Foreign Rights as well as translations into other languages can be a great way to leverage the value of your manuscript – but don’t expect big numbers right away. Additionally, it will add an international, professional image to you and your books. Revenue will be an advance and approximately 6 – 10% royalty of the retail price, minus percentage for the agent. Try to get the highest advance possible. It’s also a long-term project as it takes around 18 months until the book is translated and finally available online and in bookstores – and another half year for royalties to arrive. There are platforms on the internet, which enable self-publishers to offer their books or search for foreign publishers. You might call it DIY Selling of Your Foreign Book Rights, which doesn’t require agents, and their stiff commissions. To consult a foreign rights contract lawyer before giving the manuscript away, is highly recommended – and certainly a thorough research.
18. Bookstore Placement.
Placement in bookstores, both chain and local (especially bookstores that report numbers to the Bestsellers List) William Germano explains in his book:
Trade publishers’ marketing departments issue all kinds of catalogs to promote books—ones you see and ones you won’t unless you’re a librarian or a bookseller. The trade catalog is a publisher’s principal tool for making sales to bookstores. Publishers with two trade catalogs bring out one per publishing season. The fall season usually begins in September and continues through the winter. The spring season begins in February or March, and continues through the early summer. Books to be announced in a catalog must be securely in place at the publishing house up to a year ahead.
19. Placement of Books in Big Box Stores.
Wandering into a Walmart or Shoppers DrugMart outlet, you will most likely find close to the entrance / cashier desk the shelves of magazines and books, often from Bestseller authors. Big publishing houses sell tons of books to these big box stores – at steep discounts I must add.
If your books are selling like hot cakes, consider selling in bulk too. Book wholesalers or websites, such as ChainStoreGuide.com and TheSalesmansGuide.com, provide contact information for hundreds of buyers. You could also visit the websites of your most coveted outlets. Target even maintains a “vendor hotline” to answer questions by phone. However, be aware that having at least a dozen books is the minimum before you approach purchaser at big box stores vendor department. They will not order single titles. If you have a book that should go into a specific department, for instance Sporting Goods, Electronics, Childrens, etc. contact the local store manager and ask who the purchaser is for that specific department, check out this YouTube video.
20. Reader Communities.
Not something, where trade publishers have a huge presence, but important for self-publishers: For a book to sell, you need to create the demand. You need an audience, a platform – which you will get when your book is showing up on many websites and forums, visible to readers, bloggers and to book reviewers. There are top websites where you can sign up, join the community, show your books or upload parts of your writing.
Start with Wattpad, Goodreads and LibraryThing! Wattpad has more than 45 million members spending an average 30 minutes on the platform per visit. There are more than 130,000 signups daily. The service is offered in English, Spanish, Danish, Polish, Italian, Swedish, German, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Catalan, a total of more than 50 languages.
This is just a small selection of the many book marketing activities that authors can copy from major publishers – beside Social Media networking.
“Just Because You Wrote a Book, Readers Won’t Line Up To Buy It!”
Authors who take their publishing endeavour seriously and work as hard on their publishing business & book marketing as they do on their writing, will always succeed!
Find many more detailed tips and links to all aspects of author-publishing and book marketing at SavvyBookWriters, especially how you can act like a professional publisher and take your books to the next level. Try to wring the maximum value out of your work – by creating magazine and newspaper articles, short ebooks, audio-books, magazine excerpts, foreign language editions and more. Remember that you don’t have to do all of this at once! Take one step after the other.