Perhaps it’s because Amazon is refusing to sell certain traditionally published books and those authors are feeling the pinch, or perhaps it’s just a lot of self-published authors truly realizing how much work it is to market a book—but the air seems full of interesting commentary on selling books. No matter which route to publication you’re pursuing, these articles should be of interest.
✱ First thing, write a good book.
Sometimes that means getting feedback from other writers. I discussed writers’ groups, critique partners, and mentors in “Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me” but what if you don’t know where to find a community of other writers? Guesting at Jane Friedman’s blog, author Nathaniel Kressen has some concrete suggestions in “How to Build a Writing Group in Your Community.”
You’ll want to consider frequency, group size, structure, and feedback first, Kressen says. Once you’ve found some like-minded writers to participate, you’ll need to address:
• How big will the group be allowed to get and how will you add new members?
• Will you charge fees to join?
• Who will oversee the circulation of manuscripts and related critique materials?
This is a fascinating article with lots of good detail to help you start a writers’ group or improve the one you’re already in.
✱ Then, sell your manuscript.
And that includes writing a good synopsis and a good query letter. A year ago I told you the difference between a real synopsis (needed by an editor or agent) and marketing copy in “No, Actually, That’s Marketing Copy.” At Writer Unboxed, author Keith Cronin expands on this theme in “Query Detox, Part 1.”
One of the most common problems I’ve seen is writers resorting to what I call “movie trailer language.” You know, that profound-sounding narration full of powerful-sounding words, which you can usually imagine being spoken by the incredibly deep voice of that guy who does all the movie trailers: “In a world where robot weasels rule…”
Writers often use this sort of language in their queries in an effort to A) be brief, and B) sound dramatic. For example, they might summarize their story like this: “When two worlds collide, one woman has to face her own demons, or pay the ultimate price.”
Sounds great, and you can just imagine the really-deep-voiced guy saying it. But what does it mean?
I think I’ve actually had somebody send me the “when two worlds collide” synopsis. :)
Seriously, though, there’s some good stuff here, and in Cronin’s follow-up (Part 2). Check it out and then banish these errors from your promotional material.
✱ After that, sell the book.
I’ve talked a little bit about marketing in this post—“How to Love an Author”—but you can get consistently good marketing advice over at the MacGregor Literary blog. In this post—“Ten ideas for book marketing you (maybe) haven’t thought of”—Chip MacGregor is challenged to come up with new ideas. Here’s one:
2. Insert ads into the back of your current backlisted ebooks, promoting your new, soon-to-release title. It’s called “cross-selling,” and you need to be thinking about it. Sticking an ad for you new book into the back of your current one helps get the word out to people who are already reading you, and build interest in your title as it launches. Most authors won’t do this because it’s a pain, sticking in a new page in the back of all their old books. But it works—it helps you sell books.
Have a look; it could spark more ideas.
✱ It’s not over ’til …
I’ve recently read some smart people declare unequivocally that Twitter does not sell books. But if you’ve read “My Very Last Twitter Post,” you know there’s an important distinction a lot of folks miss. Twitter is about community, it’s about interaction. And this inspirational story about a disastrous book launch (originally called “Social Media Success Story”) might make a believer out of you. From being dead in the water to being number one in the Kindle nonfiction charts, Ben Hatch has a great story and five tips for success with social media.
Are We Nearly There Yet? was released in August 2011. Publicity was embargoed for three weeks to allow the Daily Express to serialise it. It all looked good. The day it was due to appear the summer riots started. The story of how my wife, two kids and I had visited every town and city in the country, been attacked by bats, snakes and had had run-ins with ghosts, Nazis and thieving monkeys, had been due to run across a couple of centre pages. Understandably, after the events that night, The Express shelved it. It was due to appear the following day then the next. Eventually, as the riots spread, it was pulled altogether. The book, apart from anything else, now seemed —who wanted to read about a family touring the UK when that country was on fire and looting its sports shops?
With the book out a month it had now missed its review window. Newspaper book pages were on to new releases. It was the same at my publisher. The PR department had new titles to work on. The book began to die. My publisher never quite put it like this but its Amazon ranking dropped into the hundreds of thousands. No-one was buying it. No-one knew it was out. That’s when I took to Twitter. I had no real hopes it would make any difference. But at least I could tell my 50 or so followers about it without it being subject to some greater and supposedly wiser authority deciding it was too late or they were too busy to do this for me.
Can you imagine how sick you’d be if this happened to you? The guy had a quote from John Cleese, for heaven’s sake! (And yes—I’d already read the book before I happened on this article.)
* And this is the last update post—hope you’ve enjoyed reviewing my archives this summer!
Tweet: It’s not over ’til … Read this inspirational story about a disastrous book launch.
Tweet: The air seems full of interesting commentary on selling books these days: have a look.
Tweet: The Book Selling Biz—new insights to keep you in the game.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”