Most of the authors I work with are brand new to the worlds of publishing and book selling (and make no mistake: those are two different worlds). Even though these questions are addressed in a lot of websites and blogs, they remain prevalent in the minds of authors who are trying to wrap those minds around an industry that doesn’t work at all like it seems in the movies. So I thought some pointed and concise answers to these 3 questions would be helpful.
1) Who sells books to bookstores?
The quickest answer is no one. That’s because bookstores don’t need to buy books this way anymore. They used to have to try to guess which books were going to succeed the way a mutual fund manager picks stocks. They employed buyers who showed an ability to be right more often than they were wrong, and their profits from when they were right would more than make up for when they are wrong. Now, all a bookstore has to do is look to see what is selling on their website. So they laid off all those buyers. They can carry an infinite number of books on their site and a finite number of books on their shelves. The ones that sell best on their sites make it to their shelves. Your publisher fills orders that bookstores place, but they are not out there trying to convince bookstores to guess when they have no good reason to do so. Buyers for stores now watch trends on their sites and in their stores to determine what to order.
2) Why should I buy copies of my own book?
Simple: To sell them. You don’t have to become a slick salesperson or open your own bookstore to do so. You do need to learn how to connect to the natural audience for your book. Unless you have an audience clamoring for everything you write, you will sell more books this way than any other way, you will make money per book, and you will get it faster. And if you do it right, it is the easiest way to sell books. (Ask any of the millions of authors who have tried to push their way into bookstores.) It’s also a lot of fun because you’re spending your time among like-minded people. The more time you spend among them and the more people read your book, the more you’re seen as a leader. That increases your opportunities and the cycle continues upward to greater and greater success.
3) What should a marketing consultant do for me?
There are three things a good marketing consultant does that you can’t do for yourself:
1) Get your book in distribution – Really, this is what a publisher is for. If your consultant doesn’t work with a publisher, they may still have contacts to help you. This is what makes your book available to bookstores. In all likelihood, your book will start on their website before it is physically in a store, but it can’t rise up the list if it isn’t on their site. Tate Publishing, who I work for, does all that for our authors with every major retailer and distributor.
2) Teach you how to grow your audience – You can do this yourself, but book marketing consultants have the benefit of not only our own experience, but the experience of every author that we’ve worked with. We know the most common potholes and pitfalls to avoid. We know the things that are most likely to produce positive results. Most importantly, we know how to communicate this to you.
3) Publicize your events, your release, and your achievements – Again, you can contact the media yourself, but do you know when are the appropriate times and who are the appropriate contacts to reach? We do. We also have the tools for doing so. Contacting the media and getting interest back are two different things, but you can’t get the latter without the former. If you aren’t getting media coverage, it’s not because our team is bad. It is because you, your book, your message, and your activity are not yet noteworthy enough. That’s a sign that you need to do more or give yourself more time to grow your audience.
Most authors would rather skip all this and just be a household name selling books without much effort. I wish there was a spell or an enchantment I could utter to make that happen, but I’m not a wizard or a genie. The real world doesn’t work that way.
There will be some who will interpret things I’m saying here as blaming the author or trying to escape my responsibility or some other nonsense. It is nonsense, but it is understandable, and I don’t blame you if you feel that way. However, this isn’t a judgment on the quality of your book, your message, or you as a person. It is a reality check to let you know where you stand on the track where you’re trying to run. If you haven’t seen the book sales you want to see — and getting no reports from your publisher means you’ve had no sales — then you are closer to the starting line than the finish line, and it is time to run.
If you are an author not signed to Tate Publishing, contact us and one of our acquisitions editors will be happy to talk to you.