Earlier this week another writer and I were talking about how to sell more books. The question was: How does a writer get his or her work noticed?
When I started writing, I though a writer sat at a desk, typed out a story, sent it off to an editor, who (of course) loved the story, the book was published, the author then did a few book signings or interviews, and then started another book. I didn’t think about advertising or publicity. That would be the publisher’s job. Right? My job would be to write and cash the checks.
What a blissful dream.
The reality, especially today, is publishers do very little advertising. Most publicity falls on the shoulders of the writer. If I want to sell more books, it’s up to me to bring them to the attention of possible buyers. Not always an easy task, especially since the e-book came on the scene.
Why has the e-book made a difference? Primarily because the number of books now available (both in print and as e-books) is staggering, and every year the numbers increase. Whereas my romances used to be on the shelves for six weeks at the longest and after that time only available as used books, now they can live on forever as e-books.
If a paperback or hardcover book didn’t sell well, it was remaindered. Nowadays the physical book may disappear, but if there’s an electronic version, it goes on and on. Also, in the past, if a publisher didn’t feel there were enough buyers for a certain type of book, it might never be published. But nowadays getting published isn’t dependent on being picked up by one of the big-name publishing houses. Smaller, niche publishing houses keep springing up; publishers who are willing to accept stories that may only have a small audience. And, as we know, Amazon has given everyone a chance to have a book published, in one form or another, which isn’t necessarily bad. More and more self-published books have made best seller lists, won contests, and created millionaires. Being self-published has lost the stigma it once had.
A new analysis of U.S. ISBN data by ProQuest™ affiliate Bowker™reveals that the number of self-published titles in 2013 increased to more than 458,564, up 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008. Print titles were up a very strong 29 percent over 2012, indicating the format’s continuing relevance to self-publishers. (October 8, 2014 http://goo.gl/7rp2mK )
More than a third of contributors in Books In Print have an ISNI as opposed to the traditional ISBN.
New Providence, NJ – May 7, 2014 – A new analysis of Bowker® Books In Print shows that a full 33 percent of its contributors have the ISO-certified International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) connected with their names and in use in the database. ISNI was created just over two years ago and has topped 8 million assignments, 2.33 million of which are represented in Books In Print, showing rapid uptake by authors and other contributors.
So what does that mean for me or other writers? It means our books, whether in print form or as e-books, even those published in the traditional manner, are simply a few among hundreds of thousands. It means getting name recognition is not easy, and for most of us, it’s our job to make sure our books sell. Which, I’m sure, is why agents and editors often ask a writer for a marketing plan.
But wait, I’m a writer, not an ad man (or woman). Which brings me back to my original question: How does a writer attract a potential book buyer?
Ad agencies know repetition is a key factor in sales. Dean Parker says, “It generally takes 3 exposures to the same ad before a potential client will respond.” http://goo.gl/jiOHrs
He also says you need to reach your targeted market. This is the point that worries me about my advertising. Yes, I know writers are also readers, but am I reaching book buyers who aren’t writers? And if not, how do I do that?
These are the few things I’ve learned.
1) A good story (especially one that happens to be about a topic that’s of general interest) is primary.
2) A good title and a good cover are important.
3) Name recognition is important. Some people are afraid to buy a book if they’ve never heard of the author.
4) Having a “Brand” can help people find me, especially if my brand gives people an idea about what I write. In my case, my brand is “Romance and Mystery Writer.”
5) A web site is essential. This is where a potential book buyer can see what I’ve written and what my writing is like through excerpts and blurbs; can discover how to buy what I’ve written; and can learn a little about me. This web site needs to be professional looking but also welcoming, easy to navigate, and visually pleasing.
6) It’s important to join various social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc). Why? Because if name recognition is important, this is one way to develop that recognition. It’s not a “Buy my book” time, but a time to be seen as a person.
7) Book talks and book signings, even if poorly attended, are important. They help with name recognition, with readers, store managers, store owners, and librarians.
8) No one knows how effective bookmarks, flyers, tray cards, or any other printed advertising might be, but they get your name out there. Same with blog hops and contests.
9) And finally, word of mouth is the best advertising a writer can get, which goes back to #1 on this list. If people like my book(s), they’ll talk about them. And, if you have a fan club, treasure those people.
I treasure those of you who read my blogs. Thank you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.