Authors Must Learn to Sell What They Write

by Yvonne Perry

Many a writer aspires to be a published author – by any method, whether self-publishing or being accepted by one of the “big six publishing houses,” such as Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House or Simon & Schuster, or one of their imprints (subsidiaries). What most new authors don’t realize is that once a book is published, it requires a lot of time, effort and money to market it. The book, like any other product other than toilet paper, won’t sell itself; it has to be presented to its target market over and over.

Promoting a book can become a lot like owning a business. I learned this the hard way when I published my first book in 2005. I knew little about book marketing at the time, so the book didn’t start selling until two years later when I published my second book. That’s when I paid a publicist about $3,000 to do my book marketing for me.

The mistake many newbie authors make is becoming too attached to their book and not allowing others to critique it or suggest changes for improvement. Another error is not having a professional editor help them develop the book or at least provide a copy edit. Most authors assume this service is too expensive and will skip this very important step in bringing a book to the market. I’ve heard things like: “I had my friends proofread my book and they didn’t find any errors,” or “My cousin is a high school teacher and she said it is a great book.” That’s like going to the dentist to buy lip gloss! Even an English teacher cannot provide the same level of editorial assistance that a book editor can. Because an editor knows the book industry and the reader market, he or she can offer consultation about publishing methods and important tips about what makes a book appealing to readers. That’s in addition to having extensive knowledge about various style guides, acceptable word usage, character development, transitions, making dialog work, formatting, and being able to assist with publisher query letters and book proposals.

A book is a product and must be sellable. It’s not just about packaging. A poorly written book,with a so-so cover, or an ambiguous title/subtitle that lacks keywords is not as marketable as a page-turner that jumps off the shelf and causes the reader to say, “This is just what I’m looking for.” That reader becomes a fan and automatically starts helping you promote your book via word of mouth. If I don’t enjoy a book, I won’t write a review (at least not a positive one) or recommend the book to others.

I had a “first” last week when an author I am working with told me he wasn’t sure he was ready to be an author because of the time he would need to spend marketing his book. Usually, new authors have no idea of the amount of time and energy involved in successful authorship. I recommend authors do as many of the following things as possible:

• Create a marketing plan
• Maintain a blog specifically for the book
• Get domain names and build a Web site for the book
• Query to obtain radio and TV interviews
• Be available to record radio and TV interviews
• Create promotional videos and post them to YouTube and other social sites
• Conduct a book tour (in-person or online)
• Participate in the launch of other authors’ books
• Do an Amazon launch campaign
• Write and send media releases
• Write and post articles to online article directories
• Write and send articles to print magazines
• Participate in online forums pertaining to the topic of your book
• Social marketing such as Facebook or Twitter
• Comment on and link to other people’s blogs

In an age of social marketing, authors are able to befriend and interact with their readers. This allows an author to build the buzz while still writing a book. Many authors spend as much time writing and marketing their books as they do marketing them.

Yvonne Perry is a freelance writer and the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services (WITS). She and her team of ghostwriters are ready to assist you with writing and editing for books, Web text, business documents, resumes, bios, articles and media releases.

For more information about writing, publishing, and book promotion, or to sign up for free email delivery of WITS newsletter, please visit