“With over 3 million books being published every year, competition in the marketplace is enormously stiff. In fact, over 78% of all published books fail, and the average book, today, sells just 250 copies.”
Ouch! A sobering fact from book promotion guru Patricia Fry.
What’s an author to do?
You’ve got to be a book promotion machine.
But you’re not a machine, are you? No, you’re an author.
By “fail,” they mean the books sell fewer than 100 copies. There are no statistics that I know of that indicates how many self-published authors versus traditionally published authors “fail.” However, I can tell you that around 78 percent of all books published today are produced by pay-to-publish “self-publishing” companies.
Why are so many books failing in the marketplace? Because most new authors neglect to study the publishing industry before getting involved. They don’t know the importance of writing the right book for the right audience and they don’t understand that it is up to the author to promote the book. Many new authors who do take the initiative and time to learn something about book promotion, find themselves in over their heads once they are faced with the huge responsibilities involved with marketing their books. They don’t realize how much time, energy and effort it takes. They become overwhelmed and disillusioned and they either never start a marketing program or they quit before they’ve gone very far with it.
Competition is another reason why some books fail in the marketplace. There are more books than ever before and statistics show there are actually fewer readers. But even in the face of competition, there are some books that do much better than others and the key is always–write a book that is needed/wanted by a segment of people, know who your audience is and write for that audience, have your book edited by a good book editor and, when it comes time to promote that book, it is vital that you know how to promote to your particular audience. No one will buy a book they don’t know about. It is up to the author to reach his/her audience. Something else authors often lose sight of is that once they stop promoting their book, it will die.
OK, so about 22% of all books are with traditional houses. Traditional houses will promote your book (right?), but the author still needs to do as much as they can. What do you say to the authors who think they can just sit back and watch sales roll in? And what do you say to those authors who complain, “But I’m not a natural promoter. I’m an introverted writer!”
I don’t know much about the statistics. That isn’t my strength. But I can tell you that in today’s publishing climate, all authors MUST be prepared to and expect to do the majority of the promoting and marketing for their books. There are hundreds of traditional publishers and they each have different ways of working with authors, but most are more interested in the author’s platform and what the author can and will do to spread the word about their books than almost anything else. Most of them want to work with authors who have a following, a reach—a ready-made audience for promoting their particular book and an understanding of book promotion.
By way of promotion from the publisher’s side—generally, a publisher will put the book in their catalog and on their website. They might send out press releases to their list of reviewers, newspapers, etc. They may give an author 3 months with an on-staff publicist. But, yes, the author is expected to be the main marketing agent for his/her book.
What do I say to authors who do not want to promote? I would hope to talk to them before they ever write that book. I would ask them to study the publishing industry and to learn what is expected of them—what their responsibilities are as a published author. I would urge them to learn what book promotion entails—to gain an understanding of this huge responsibility before ever deciding to write a book for publication. If they don’t want to do the promotion, they should seriously reconsider producing a book.
For those who have already written and published a book, I would recommend that they engage in the same study asap. There are hundreds of ways to promote a book. An author can find his/her level of expertise and comfort among them. They can pick and choose—but they must be realistic about what it’s going to take in order to reach their particular audience.
This means, they must know who their audience is, write the book with that audience in mind, know where their readers are and how to approach them. They must understand that it’s all about exposure. No one will buy a book that they don’t know about. Someone (in this publishing climate it is the author) must get word out to their particular audience.
With so many avenues of promotion available now, it can be overwhelming. And so part of an author’s job is to become familiar with those avenues and determine which ones are best for their book. There is usually no one or two activities that will help an author reach his or her audience. Authors must use a variety of activities, skills, methods, mediums toward getting exposure—getting their books noticed by their readers. And those methods, skills, etc. may differ from author to author and book to book.
Is there any particular promotional tool or event that is easiest for a new author to jump into? Is there anything you recommend doing first and foremost?
First and foremost, the author must know who his audience is and where they are—what do they read, where do they hang out—on the Internet, around town, throughout the universe? Where do they go for the sort of information you provide in your book or for entertaining reading material? Then the author must find ways to reach his or her readers through these means.
Remembering that it is all about exposure, as an author, you must make sure your book is front and center where your readers are. This might mean having it for sale at specific specialty shops related to the theme or topic of your book. It might mean announcing your book in appropriate newsletters (members of organizations can usually place announcements in organization newsletters, for example), having it reviewed at appropriate blog sites and so forth. So the primary promotional activities might differ from author to author, depending on the genre and theme of the book and the nature and needs of the audience.
However, as for the basics for most authors, I would recommend building a website related to the genre/theme of your book. I can’t tell you how many authors miss out on opportunities because they don’t have a website that can be easily located and accessed. They rely on their publisher—even their self-publishing company—to get word out about their book through the company website. Bad idea!! If someone is looking for a good mystery involving horses, a handbook for beginning surfers, a guide to gardening in the northwest or a children’s book on hygiene, for example, and this is the nature of your book, you want them to find you first. A website is a good place to start making this happen.
The second thing you need to do is to advertise that website. Put it in your email signature, on your promo material, in your bio at the bottom of your articles, and so forth.
A good place to start introducing just about any book is locally. I urge authors to speak locally, reserve booths at local flea markets and book festivals, offer it as an auction item for charity and visit independent bookstores and appropriate specialty stores and other venues where you can sell the book. You’ll get an idea of the reader interest in your book. You’ll learn tips and techniques that will help you with future promotion. You’ll learn whether or not it would be a good idea for you to travel and speak about your book and whether to sign up at larger book festivals, for example. In other words, you can test your market locally without much expense.
This is a good starting place for many authors. There are hundreds and hundreds of additional promotional tools and ideas–I have over 250 in my book, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK. John Kremer lists 1001 in one of his early books on book marketing.
Thank you, Patricia! I think we’ve got a lot to think about and a lot to do! I can’t thank you enough for your wisdom and your terrific books.
Considered “a maven when it comes to counseling authors in the art of publishing and selling their books” and “one of the most well-known writing gurus,” Patricia Fry has been working with other freelance writers and authors for over two decades. Currently, she has 39 books to her credit, representing an eclectic mix of subjects including several writing/publishing-related books. She is a literary and manuscript consultant, an editor and a teacher. She can help you write a book with more publishing potential, professionally edit your book manuscript, guide you in preparing a more effective book proposal and coach you in more successfully promoting your book. You can find promotional tips and free ebooks at PatriciaFry.com.