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How to Sell and Market Your Book — margot potter
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Hello, Gorgeous! (or Handsome, what have you…)
Happy Thursday, which feels like Monday. I’m not sure that I’m down with the mid-week holiday. Alas, I am not in charge of scheduling. If I were, we’d probably have a lot more holidays and four day weekends would be a thing. Or, in the case of this week, the elusive five day weekend. Can I get a what, what?
Today I’m talking about How to Sell and Market Your Book. I get messages and emails from people all of the time asking me these questions. It usually starts with something like, “I was hoping I could pick your brain…” My first thought is, “Um, no. Ew. Please keep your pick away from my gray matter.”
My response is usually something more like, “I wish I had concrete answers, a 12-step program for writing a book, getting it published, and marketing it successfully. I don’t even have a 3-step program, or any program at all. I’m not even good at getting with the program or sticking to the program.”
Years back I wrote a series on The Impatient Crafter blog called How to Write and Publish a Craft Book. This was because I got so many emails from people asking for advice it was easier to just point them to my blog. Everything is different now, and my new book Fifty and Other F-Words (affiliate link) is a non-fiction humor title. So, here’s my newly created program for How to Sell and Market Your Book. The short version is this: Honestly, I don’t know, but here’s what worked for me.
Step One: Be prepared. If you want to get published, have a pitch ready and a manuscript or at the very least an outline and some sample chapters. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a few pitches in your pocket, you never know which one might be the right one at the right time. (This is obvious, but it’s kind of important that you have a ‘voice’ and a strong grasp of writing basics.)
Publishing has changed. Advances are smaller. Publishers are much less open to taking risks. Like most creative endeavors, it’s a crap shoot and you need to be prepared, flexible, tenacious, and resilient. If you believe in your ideas and your talent, keep pitching, some of the most successful writers in history were rejected many, many, many times before becoming successful.
My most recent book was an anomaly. I spoke with an editor at a craft industry trade show who was looking for a book on metal stamped jewelry. I just happened to have a proposal I had sold to another publisher. The advance they’d offered was so paltry, I declined their offer. So, I pitched the slightly retooled proposal to the new publisher, they reviewed it, and they loved it.
Step Two: Always, always, always be diplomatic. People like working with nice people.
We went back and forth about this book for months. There was no formal offer, timeline, or contract. After six months of waiting, the editor emailed and said a contract was on the way. I waited. I waited. I waited some more. Finally, several months later, I heard from the editor again. She was leaving the publisher to go back to school. They dropped the book. What?! I was deflated and upset, but I did not fire off a snarky email. The email was cc’d to her bosses, a senior editor and the Editorial Director. I typed out a brief and diplomatic reply thanking her for letting me know and suggesting that they keep me in mind for future opportunities.
Step Three: Make it easy for people to find you and your creative content. Make a lot of content, because the more you put yourself out there, the easier it is for people to find you.
There was a link to my blog in my signature, that blog was all about being a woman over 50. Two hours later I got an email from the senior editor and Editorial Director. They wanted to know if I’d like to talk with them about writing a humor book about being a woman over 50. WHAT?! YES! YES! YES! We chatted, we clicked, and we moved forward. I had dozens of essays already written, so it was easy for me to put a proposal together. They loved the proposal. Sales loved the concept. They purchased the book, and I got to work.
Step Four: Do your research. Why do they want your book? What do you have to offer that they can’t find somewhere else? What makes you and your book worthwhile?
My first book The Impatient Beader was sold with a blind query. That means I sent a proposal to a publisher following the guidelines on their website and they purchased it. It was a craft book on jewelry making. The chance of getting a book deal out of a blind query is pretty slim, yet, as evidenced by my experience, not impossible. The timing and the approach were in tune with what the market needed at that time. I did a lot of stealth market research before I pitched, to see what was already on the market and what was missing. It’s my best selling book to date. I have not made a fortune on craft books, even though three of my books were in the center of every bead aisle in every Michaels craft store in the country for three years. This leads us to contract negotiations.
Step Five: Contracts are for suckers, try not to be one.
Don’t just sign the first contract you receive. Contracts are created to favor the entity presenting them. Look for royalty percentages, ask a lot of questions like: Can I have more of this and more of that? Can I retain these rights? Ask for more, because you aren’t going to get it unless you ask and the worst they can do is say no. Grab a Sharpie and your resolve and get ready to ask for MORE!
There is a lot to pick through in a contract. This is why an agent is helpful. They can look through the horrid contracts publishers give to authors and get you a better deal. I have no idea how to get an agent. I hear good things about them, though.
Step Six: Bring your fans with you!
Once you’ve sold the book, you need to start working on PR and marketing. Don’t start this until you’ve signed the contracts. Once the ink is dry, let folks know you’re on your way to having a published book. Start with the announcement that you sold the book. Post regular updates to maintain momentum and interest. People like to feel like they’re a part of your journey! Bring your friends, fans, and followers along for the ride!
Step Seven: Make a marketing plan.
When you have a firm publishing date confirmed, start making a master plan. Who is the demographic for your book? That will determine which social media platform will require most of your attention. My book is for women over 50, they are mostly on Facebook. There is also a contingent on Instagram. So most of my efforts have been focused there.
Think about the content you will share on the platforms. I made a book trailer, which I paid to promote on my public Facebook page, cross posted it on my YouTube Channel, and promoted across social media. You can watch it, if you’re so inclined. For my book, memorizing and reciting part of an essay seemed like the best approach to give people a taste of what was inside. If your book is fiction, that may not be the best approach. If your book is a DIY book, maybe show some projects and give some tips/tricks. The Book Trailer should entice people to buy your book, so make it interesting. I’m an actress, so I appear in my trailer, if you’re camera shy, maybe use images and voice over. Or maybe a book trailer isn’t a good plan for your title, peek around to see what other writers in your genre are doing. Lots of people hate book trailers, but I really felt it was a good way to promote my book so I went ahead and made one.
Step Eight: Launch your book with some BUZZ!
Fifty and Other F-Words (affiliate link) launched with interviews of seven “kick ass warrior women” over 50. It was fun to share the spotlight with a variety of fascinating women and it also allowed me to reach new people because all of these women have their own followings. Cross marketing is always a good idea. That’s how you build a tribe.
If you have an email list, send out newsletters! Send one out when you sign your contract, a couple of updates as you work towards publishing date, a reminder right before the book publishes, and a book launch email!
Step Nine: Have a Book Launch Party and make it social media friendly!
My book launch party on the date of publication was at Club Cumming in NYC. My friend Brini Maxwell co-hosts a Knitatnite event there every week. This gave me a built in audience within the demographic of the title and lots of fun fodder for social media. I brought some books and prizes to give away, and gave away some sweet swag bags. I put a promotional card for the book in every bag. I did a reading from the book that was thematically relevant to the event. My husband shot a video which I edited and shared via social media. You can watch that video too, if you’re so inclined.
I had another event in Denver Colorado at Cultivated Synergy with the Denver Public Library. We tied crafting and the book together, and I was able to get a craft company to help with free kits for folks to use at the craft event. I had to pay for my travel, and got a small compensation that covered half of my expenses. (Note: It’s not cheap to launch a book tour, which is why I am not on a book tour. Most publishers don’t have money for book tours these days unless you’re a big name author. Be strategic and reach out to any contacts you have who might be willing to let you host an event.)
Step Ten: Be a squeaky wheel. Don’t wait to get invited to the party. Ask for help, ask for more, and be willing to go the extra mile in service of promoting your book.
I pressed my publisher to let me sign books at BEA -Book Expo America. I paid for my hotel and travel expenses and cost of attendance. The signing was a huge success and hopefully helped to sell some books to retailers and libraries. BEA was a an eye opening experience, and I’m so glad that I spent the money to attend. (Note: I requested a marketing budget on top of the initial advance offer. Basically, I asked for a larger advance, which means it’s still on my dime. They agreed. The events and the marketing online have all been funded by that budget.)
Step Eleven: Be creative! Try a variety of approaches to getting the word out about the book!
I’ve been creating graphics with quotes from the book for Instagram, which has gotten some decent traction. Every platform is different; you have to think strategically. What works on one may not work on another. Also, if you want to get real traction on Facebook, you will need to pay for promotion. They are very particular about your content. The word to image ratio is a factor if you’re using graphics. They don’t want anything that blatantly looks like an ad. If a post is not approved, you may need to tweak it to fit their parameters. I find spending about $20.00 a time to boost a post works just fine. You can go in and target the post to the demographic you’re trying to reach. Facebook lets you drill it down pretty far. Try different approaches/audiences/content to see what gets the most traction.
Ask your friends and fans to review your book. The more reviews your book gets on Amazon, the better it will be positioned in the algorithms. I ask people to be honest if they decide to leave a review. People seem to genuinely like my new book, but I’m sure there will be folks who don’t and I’m prepared for that.
Step Twelve: Don’t get discouraged, stay tenacious.
What I’m finding difficult is getting traction in the mainstream media. The publisher sent out press releases and advance copies, we’ve both contacted a long list of media outlets. I’ve also sent out my own releases and book copies, and there has been no response. This is ironic, because a big part of the book and the impetus behind it is that women over 50 are ignored. We feel like we’re becoming invisible. Retailers, manufacturers, advertisers, web, print, and TV media…focus on younger women. So, the fact that I can’t get traction in the mainstream media is not surprising. However, I will not stop pushing this book and the message because I know there are millions of women out there just like me and they want to be celebrated.
The truth is, publishing PR budgets are small, so it’s mostly up to you to market your book. That means getting comfortable with tooting your own horn. Connect with other writers online, join groups of writers who regularly cross promote, sign up for newsletters from websites with information for writers. You can do this! Really!
(Note: If you can afford a publicist, I am sure they’re well worth the expense. They have contacts and connections you do not have, and they can get your book into the right hands to help amplify the message. Unfortunately, I don’t have a budget for a publicist. Therefore, I’m the publicist. That’s the case for most authors who aren’t famous.)
And that, my fine friends, is a bit of insight about How to Sell and Market Your Book according to Margot Potter author of Fifty and Other F-Words , available wherever fine books are sold. (See what I did there? Tee hee.) Hopefully this helps get you on your way. I wish you the best in pursuing your publishing dreams and in promoting your books. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but less so if you prepare yourself with information and maintain your enthusiasm. If you are a writer or agent or publicist with some insights, feel free to add them to the comments below. Oh, and if you’d like a little insight on The Fine Art of Shameless Self Promotion ( affiliate link) , I wrote the book on that.