How will my book get on store shelves?

This is one of the most common questions I receive from authors. Before I answer, I want to bring up another common question: Why should I buy copies of my book?  The reality is that these two questions are closely related.

With the “why” question, the implication–and sometimes the outright statement I get–is that authors think someone else should be trying to sell their books to bookstores (the publisher, publicist, marketing rep, or some other person). But bookstores don’t buy books the way Walmart buys Mac & Cheese or notebooks or bed sheets or TVs. When Walmart buys these things, they pay the vendor and they have them until they sell them. When bookstores buy books, they can send them back whenever they want and get full credit from the publisher. If we sold books to them and there was no one to buy them, we would be left holding a lot of books. Authors don’t get paid for books that aren’t paid for, and publishers can’t make money printing books just to put them in storage. Ultimately this is a question of demand, not supply on shelves. Demand always precedes supply in the book industry.

These days bookstores do not take any chances. They don’t need to. Bookstores carry at most 20,000 titles of the more than 20 million currently in print. On their websites, they carry closer to half of those titles. If you are a Tate Publishing author, thanks to our efforts and relationships, your book is among those they carry online, and most bookstores decide which titles to put on their shelves based on what is selling online.

So how does your book become one of those? When enough people go and buy your book online to put your book in the top 20,000 titles (roughly speaking), stores notice. They go to the distributors we work with and start ordering. How many is “enough people”? There is no way to tell, but it will need to be at least hundreds and possibly tens of thousands.

This is why you need to buy books and resell them. When you do that, you are creating a market for your book. That’s what “marketing” is, in the end: Creating a market for your book. We can do that with you, but we can’t do it for you. This is true of every product in every industry, but given the way books are sold in the 21st century, it’s even more important to grasp.

Bookstores also respond to demand generated in niche markets with target audiences, which is why it is so important to establish a platform away from bookstores. This is the lifeblood of most books, as the demand must build, word of mouth must spread, and you need to get your book in front of people that need to most. As sales in niche markets grow, the online sales can increase, and stores begin to take notice.

This is why we so strongly encourage our authors to take advantage of buying books at your deep author discount to resell them. First, that step makes your book profitable quickly, and second, when you do this, you are creating a market for your book.

Publishers that are interested in helping their authors build an audience make offers of deep discounts and free items to you to help you get this start and make your book successful in multiple markets, starting in the niche market and including bookstores as well. If you are a Tate author, we can always help you explore a variety of markets and make contacts for you in areas outside bookstores to allow you the opportunity to have events in a variety of venues to see what works best for you and your book.

If you’re not a Tate Publishing author, visit TatePublishing.com to see how to become one.
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Blog + Twitter + Facebook = growing audience

For professional authors, writing is your job, and there is a lot of work involved in it. The hardest work is in building an audience for your writing. Nearly every other article I’ve written is about what to do to reach people near you, but people often ask how they can reach people beyond their physical ability to be there. Or maybe you can be there, but your niche is difficult to find. The internet has 3 tools you can use together to grow your audience.

It all starts with blogging. If you are an author with Tate Publishing, you may already have a website with a blog. You can ask your Marketing Consultant how to get one if you don’t already have one. Or you can start one on your own by going to WordPress.com, blogspot.com, or any other blog hosting service. Most have free options and paid options. The blog you’re reading is one I pay nothing for. So how do you start?

1) Decide your frequency

Before you post a single thing on your blog, you should decide how often you will blog and STICK TO IT! Daily is great unless you blog for three days and never blog again. Monthly is too infrequent, but it’s a good start if you aren’t sure you can stick it out. Ideally, twice a week or once a week on specific days is what you should shoot for.

What do you write? One of my favorite teachers in the world of sales and marketing is Jeffrey Gitomer, whose newsletter I try to read every week. Jeffrey’s article on writing to relax demonstrates that something you need to do for work can actually flow naturally from something you want to do to relax. Here is a the link to his article: http://www.gitomer.com/articles/ViewPublicArticle.html?key=ajcdMibak3P8c%2BzzDDgyNQ%3D%3D. (I’ve pasted it below if you don’t like to click links.)

2) Build your inventory

The surest way to fail at blogging is to have to come up with something new every time you sit down. This is like going grocery shopping every single day. I have five kids, and as I write this, 60% of them are teenagers. We already have trouble keeping food in the house when we shop every week. If we tried to shop for that day’s meals (and snacks), we’d do nothing but drive back and forth to the store. We don’t want to do that, and you don’t want to get yourself into a similar trap. The exercises in Jeffrey Gitomer’s article will help you build this inventory. Do what he says and come up with 10 or 15 or even 20 blog posts before you post a single one. That way you are feeding your audience from a full cupboard. When you have good writing days, add those to your inventory. When you have bad writing days, pull from your inventory and post away.

The best way to do this is to write in a document (Word, Pages, Works, whatever) and save it in a specific folder on your computer. Then you can copy and paste from your doc to your blog. There will be days when you have a time- or season-specific post that you write and post immediately. Good! That’s another day your inventory goes untouched!

If you are an author, you already have an inventory. It’s called your book. Have you ever heard of The Pioneer Woman? How about the book and movie Marley and Me? Both started as blogs. Many books start out as a blog, and often the book contains little more than the blog posts strung together! As an author who already has a book, you can reverse engineer that. Put your whole book out on your blog one snippet at a time. Don’t worry about giving too much away unless your book is fiction. People often ask bloggers to compile their blogs into a book. You’ll gain both online and in book sales.

If you’re a fiction author, use your blog posts as your Blu-Ray extras. Tell the back stories of your characters, the connections to real life, how you came up with the idea, where the characters go after the end, anything that gives your readers more. There will be people who find your blog first and buy your book because they already know your characters.

3) Keep it brief

I’m not following my own advice here, but I’m not trying to build an audience with this. To get people’s attention, it is best to give them short treats more often than long ones infrequently. 150-500 words should be your guide. Use the word count tool in your document until you gain a natural feel for this length. If you have a post that just needs to be longer than that, break it into 2 or 3 pieces and post on 2 or 3 different days.

4) Post and spread

I’m going to apologize for this analogy up front, because I’m going to compare our writing to manure. If you collect manure in one place, it won’t do anything but stink. If you spread it on a field, it helps bring life. You can see where I’m going: Don’t collect your writing on your blog and expect it to bring life. Now, the analogy breaks down because our writing doesn’t stink, but if even something that does can bring life, how much more can good writing?

The way to spread it is to make good use of facebook and twitter. If you vowed never to get on either, it’s time for a new vow. There are a lot of people on facebook and twitter, and there are some easy things you can do on both that will give you real benefits. It is now officially stupid not to be on them. If that offends you, be offended, but do something about it.

Fortunately, it is easy to learn. I originally wrote this as an email to the authors I serve. When I finished sending it, I copied and pasted it to my blog, just as you’ll do with blogs from your inventory. A warning before I continue: This next part will sound like gibberish to the uninitiated. I’ll initiate you later.

I have my Twitter account connected to Facebook, so anything I tweet becomes my status update on Facebook. I copy the address of my blog post and go to bitly.com. I paste it in and shorten it. (This is important because Twitter forces brevity by only giving you 140 characters.) My tweets have 3 or 4 components: The title of the blog post, a very brief explanation or shout-out to another Tweeter if needed, the shortened link, and 1 or 2 hashtags. For the original version of this post that focused more on the concept of writing to relax, my tweet said:

#Authors, writing to… relax??? Jeffrey @gitomer does it, and you can turn it into #bookmarketing: http://bit.ly/13KIjnq.

This is 122 characters, and it uses 2 hashtags and a shout-out, all in context. (HINT: Using them in context reads a little funny, but it does save characters.)

TRANSLATION FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT:
I’m going to work backwards here, so I’ll start with hashtags. What the heck are they? It’s Twitter’s way of dealing with key words that help people find tweets they are interested in, and other social media sites have begun using them as well. You’ve seen it on the screen of almost every TV show, and they look like this: #hashtag. The # symbol tells twitter it’s a keyword, and the letters after it comprise the key word. There are no spaces in hashtags, so if your key word is “adult fiction”, you’ll use #adultfiction. It’s read like this: “hashtag adult fiction”.

If you use good hashtags, people WILL find you. I know this from experience. I don’t care if there’s not a single soul following me on Twitter; I do this to help the authors who have contracted with my company. But I tried using #bookmarketing and #author on my tweets, and people started following me. (Some of you reading this found me that way.) Given how infrequently I blog, I’ve been stunned by these results. To date, I have over 300 followers on Twitter without trying much to get a single one.

Pick a hashtag that isn’t too general nor too specific. If you really do write adult fiction, use #adultfiction, but make sure you use something more specific, like #drama, #scifi, #romance, or #action. Twitter tracks these, and it learns over time what I’m interested in. So my twitter page will feed me with tweets from others who tweet about these topics. In other words, it leads you right to people in your audience. More importantly, it leads them to you.

Shout-outs are ways to hitch your wagon to another successful person who is also on Twitter. When I type “@gitomer” in my tweet, Twitter automatically turns that into a link to Jeffrey’s Twitter page.

Now do you see why you need to be on Twitter? Facebook provides similar opportunities but it also offers the opportunity to connect a little more deeply.

If you are not on either one, sign up for facebook first. Write down your username and password. Then go sign up for Twitter. During sign up, it will ask if you want to connect your Twitter to your facebook. Say yes. You’ll need your username and password, and you’ll need to give Twitter permission to access facebook. I believe it is because of this connection that hashtags became a standard on facebook within months after I posted the first version of this blog predicting that very thing. I’ve even seen people use them in texts, even though they don’t actually “do” anything there. It’s becoming a shorthand way to say, “This is the key word here.”

Accept almost every follower on Twitter and every friend request on facebook. That way what you do will show up on their pages, giving their followers and friends the opportunity to find you. I say almost because there are people who use facebook and Twitter to try to scam people or lead them to seedy sites. If it smells fishy, play it safe and decline them.

Those are the instructions for the 3 best tools on the internet. Others like Instagram and Pinterest that are more photo-based are good if you or your book are more photo-inclined. Get these three down first and then go make friends with someone who is 14-24 years old to see what new networks are out there!

Here’s the article from Jeffrey Gitomer:
Think the “Write” Way. Do the “Write” Thing. And All Will Be Well.

RELAX!

You’ve heard that word since the first time you got angry or upset. Or maybe it’s a word in your head that beacons reality. Pent up frustration, worry, or concern about the present or the future – or both – and nervousness about what’s about to happen in the world, at work, at home, or in your personal life.

RELAX! is easy to say, hard to do.

Here are my secrets for maintaining inner peace and fulfillment in a world filled with distractions, diversions, and distortions:

1. Write down all the crap clogging your brain. Get rid of your mental clutter. As soon as you write the details, you no longer have to dwell on them, or remember them – and your mind is free to think. Try it. It’s amazing and mentally relaxing (almost a relief). The bonus of an uncluttered mind is that ideas and resolutions to your issues and challenges will begin to manifest themselves daily.

2. Write down your present situation. What’s going on in your life right now? What’s the status of all things work, family, friends, life, and self? More amazing than unclogging, writing your present situation actually creates answers to situations that have been bugging you. Oh, and it also helps relax you.

3. Write down your dreams and thoughts. Everyone has thoughts of “one day I’ll…,” or “someday I’ll…,” but those words are usually just spoken. REALITY: Those thoughts are just pipe dreams until they’re written down, formalized, and crystalized. Writing your dreams will help you see a more clear and focused picture of them.

4. Find a quiet park or a garden where you can sit and think, read, or write for an hour. Invest quality time with yourself DAILY. This is the most relaxing of all outlets IF you have done the first three things I’ve recommended.

5. Read something positive, and write down the most inspiring quotes. Create a mailing list of important people to share them with. Make sure you acknowledge the author.

6. Mentally go to all the positive places where you’ve been before. Those thoughts will lead you to stories and lessons – write them down right away. Then blog them.

6.5 Blog your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Blogging not only creates a public avenue for you to publish and express yourself, it also positions you and your views to the world. Your ideas may matter to some people in the world, and the feeling of accomplishment will give you a feeling of personal pride and fulfillment. I have decided that 2013 will be my “year of the blog,” consisting of an intensive, daily effort for me to talk about and video about sales, business, and life. You can see my blog history at http://www.salesblog.com. Got blog? Air your thoughts to the world!

There are other things you can DO beyond writing to relax…

Play with a kid. It’s an amazing elixir for relaxing and having fun.
Go shopping for yourself. It makes you feel good to do things for YOU.
Make a list of ten people from high school or college you want to reconnect with. Call them, don’t just Facebook them. These are people you knew in your responsibility-free days.
Take a walk someplace you’ve never been before. Look around as you walk. Marvel at things. Take a few pictures. Write a few notes. Sit down and soak it in.
Book a weekend trip. Make a list of the places you’ll go and the things you’ll do. Often just the action of writing and planning the getaway will change your mood and your thinking, and that can calm you.

GOTTA GET AWAY? Need a vacation? That’s because you’re not relaxing every day. When the “need to get away” is a dominant thought, it’s a symptom, not a problem or a goal. The reality is you’re not relaxing on a daily basis.

RELAXATION REALITY It’s likely you’ll need to make some personal changes if true relaxation is to permeate your life. Avoid negative events, negative things, negative news, and especially negative people.

“Jeffrey I can’t eliminate these things!” you exclaim.

Relax dude, just relax.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of twelve best-selling books including The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling. His forthcoming book, 21.5 Unbreakable Laws of Selling, will be available September 3rd, and will feature a national public seminar tour. Get the details at http://www.gitomer.com. It will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at salesman@gitomer.com.
– See more at: http://www.gitomer.com/articles/ViewPublicArticle.html?key=ajcdMibak3P8c%2BzzDDgyNQ%3D%3D#sthash.FXUhwPXA.dpuf

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A New Year’s Story for Authors

Perhaps the greatest misconception most new authors have is that once they are done publishing the book, there is some train they can get on to take them to Successville. Successville is of course populated with adoring throngs who are just dying to buy your book, celebrities who have been holding their breath until they can tweet about it, talk show hosts and reporters who can’t wait to interview you, and bookstores who have been clearing space on their shelves for this fabulous new book.

If you’re like me, this description of Successville sounds a lot like Ralphie’s daydream in A Christmas Story of how his teacher and everyone else would respond to his theme on why a Red Rider BB gun is the best gift for Christmas. If you’re playing the scene in your mind right now, don’t stop. Go right on through to the part where he gets it back with a C+ and a note that says (as every adult from mom to Santa Claus told him in the film), “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Now fast forward to the end. Do you remember what happened? He nearly shot his eye out. (Can you tell I always watch at least 3 or 4 of the 12 times TBS runs this movie every Christmas Eve?)

You could say that my job is to try to keep authors from shooting their eyes out. If, like Ralphie, you live more in a fantasy world than in the real world, you are far more likely to shoot your eye out. Even in the real world, there is always the risk of getting stuck looking like a deranged Easter Bunny! I’m a dad, so I will be the first to tell your mom you look like a pink nightmare.

The bottom line with books is that you need an audience to sell them to. That’s it. No magic, no miracles, no luck; you just need an audience. Easy, right? Well, not really.

Just like it takes a lot of target practice before Ralphie could realistically expect to defend his family from Black Bart and his gang, it takes a lot of work to build an audience. You have to meet people wherever you can. One by one or group by group, you literally need to meet thousands of people if you want to guarantee success for your book. Sometimes all the trappings of Successville come along with it, and sometimes they don’t. What will happen if you work to meet those thousands of people is that some (not all, mind you) will buy your book. And some (again, not all) of those will tell others to do the same. And some (say it with me now, “Not all”) will actually do so. The longer and harder you work at it, the more likely you are to reach success — and possibly Successville.

Some authors hear this and completely get that there is work involved, but their response is one of the following:

“That’s really messed up.”

“I had no idea getting into this that there was this much work.”

“You should have told me I would need to do more than write the book.”

“I thought it was going to be different than this.”

“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”

If you’ve found yourself there, don’t worry. Many have, and it is no sin to think these things. It is only a sin to dwell on them. All of these thoughts and those similar come floating to our brains from Successville. It’s fun for Hollywood, the media and even Amazon to tell the end of the story, where all the great things have happened. But they don’t like to tell the hard work part. At least Amazon’s article hints at it when it points out that the author who has sold millions of eBooks “by himself” had 6 books and 70 short stories published before he ever struck out on his own. For all his talk of “trusting readers to find the stories they’ll like”, he had to have had thousands of followers before placing that trust, and that gave him a leg up.

And good for him. I love to see a good, hard-working author succeed. The point is that he didn’t get there without work. There is nothing magical about Amazon’s plan any more than there is about any publisher’s plan. There are almost 11 million books in print with an average of a million new ones a year over the past 4 years. It stands to reason that the authors who work will rise above those who don’t. Becoming a known author is not much different from becoming a known actor or musician. People have to know your name.

Before you get too far into the new year, sit down and decide how much time you have to invest in building your name. If you have a good marketing rep, they will tell you how best to invest that time so you don’t shoot your eye out. Make sure your marketing rep is part of your planning. If you don’t have a marketing rep, feel free to contact the publisher I work for, Tate Publishing. We’ll see what we can do to help you.

Now go upstairs and take that bunny suit off so you can get outside and practice with your Red Rider.

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Readers, Fans, and Evangelists

Authors talk and think all the time about who is reading their books, but how often do you think about who talks about your book and who gets others to read it?

Gaining readers is only the first step of building an audience. A reader is merely someone who read your book whether they loved it, hated it, or were indifferent. If all you’re building is readers, you’re doing all the work yourself, one reader at a time. You can have success this way, but you can have more success paying attention to the other types of people you’re looking for.

Fans are people who love your book and talk about it. Evangelists are people who get others to buy it. Building up these segments of your audience is far more important than building readers alone. These people will be the army you need to grow your brand.

So how do you build fans and evangelists?

• The first step is to provide a place for fans to gather. If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you don’t know what one is, you’re reading one. If you’re a Tate author, and we created your website, you already have one. The internet has no lack of articles to learn how to blog well, but here is a good place to start.

• Use your website and/or blog to let people know more about you and your message. If you’re a fiction author, you can write short stories or back stories about the characters in your book and post them here. Do whatever you can think of to give more to people who want more. Think about the things you like to read about famous people you admire and provide these things.

• Encourage anyone who comes to the site to post comments and questions, and respond to them. Readers think every author is famous, and the more they like your book, the giddier they’ll get about hearing from you. When they’re excited about hearing from you, they’ll tell all their friends that an author replied to their comment. They may post a link to your blog or website or facebook or on their own blog. You can encourage this by giving blanket permission to repost your posts if they give you credit, like I did with the tips on blogging from Ford Saeks. (If you haven’t clicked that link yet, it’s right here.)

• Wherever you go to speak or sign books, tell people about your blog and/or website, and encourage them to connect with you there. If you use projection slides with your presentation, put your blog or weblink on the last slide, and make sure it stays onscreen while you are taking questions from the audience.

• Always, always, always ask people to tell others. Obviously, I’m not talking about accosting strangers and asking them to tell people about your book. That would be creepy. However, whenever someone says something nice about your book, your knee-jerk response should be, “Thank you so much. Please tell everyone you know about the book. We’re trying to build an audience!” (Saying “we” is always better than “I”. It connotes a team, and people like teams.)

• This is particularly true when people ask you when your next book is coming out. It is not uncommon for new authors to have 5 or 6 people ask this question and then try to put pressure on me to make their 2nd book happen. I can’t go to our acquisitions editors and say, “6 people have asked when the next book is coming out.” Their first question will be, “How many books have they sold?” If someone asks you when your next book is coming out, say, “As soon as we sell enough copies of the first one, so tell all your friends to buy it.” Some people will. Those are your evangelists.

• Reward your fans and evangelists in ways that are small to you but big to them. This could be anything from sending them a handful of bookmarks to naming a character after them in your next book. Some authors even use their blogs to workshop their future books. They share ideas on setting and plot points on their blog and work the feedback they like best into their writing. Be creative.

The crazy thing is that fans and evangelists don’t even have to be readers, necessarily. I’m a fan of Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch.tv. I interviewed him (skeptically, I might add) when I was the editor of a magazine that showed how churches use technology in worship. The more I heard his heart and his passion repeated through my interviews with the rest of his staff, the more I came to appreciate him. I’ve never read his book Chazown (that’s the Hebrew word for “vision”), but I like it because I’ve seen his God-given vision in action.

Even stranger, I’m an evangelist for Bill Hybels, another author who is pastor of Willow Creek Church. When I was 17, my dad gave me one of his books, and for over 25 years now, I’ve called it “the best book I’ve never read.” The book is called Who You Are When No One Is Looking. The title alone convicted me and changed the way I look at the world. It has shaped my character again and again over the past 25+ years, and I’ve told many, many people to buy the book. If you’ve never considered this issue or known who you should be when no one is looking, go buy the book and read it.

If you’ve done anything at all to build your audience, you have some fans and evangelists. Connect to them and watch how much faster your audience grows.

Comment below: What are some of the ways you’ve created fans and evangelists?

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You’re the Feet; I’m the Shoes

The tip this time is along the lines of helping you frame in your mind your role as the author and my role as your marketing rep. Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve danced this dance a few times, it’s helpful to have a clear idea of what we’re all doing here.

So what does “You’re the feet, I’m the shoes” mean? In short, it means that I can’t do the walking for you, but I can make it hurt a lot less. Walking is hard and takes a lot of energy. Same with marketing a book. Too often, authors feel that there is something we can do to walk for them, but this isn’t true. We can take the impact of the rough terrain for you. We can absorb some of the heat and provide a little traction when it is slippery.

This is because there is no better advocate for your book than you. My colleague, Terry Cordingley, often says, “No one will ever care more about your book than you do.” That’s true, and it’s the way it should be. You are the expert on your topic. You have to have the passion to carry the vision forward. We are experts in the industry and marketplace. Our passion is for serving you in your passion.

Therefore, it is your job to work on spreading the word about your book. It’s our job to help you make the most impact and income for the time you invest and to publicize every event. There are always harsh realities and closed doors in any venture. It doesn’t help either of us to debate things we can’t control, and in certain parts of this business (primarily retail outlets), there are many things we can’t control.

What we can do is keep walking. What do we do when a bookstore says no? Keep walking. What about when an entire chain says no? Keep walking. What if we have trouble getting speaking engagements lined up? Keep walking.

Remember what the apostle Paul said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Beating our heads against a closed door is not good. Finding ways to serve your target audience is always good. When you help others, they will help you, and you will reap a harvest!

Finally, if you’ve been selling Special Edition hardcover books at your events, stop reading. If you haven’t, a lot of our authors have found that it helps them to sell more books, including more paperbacks. How? Well, my signature line says you’re supposed to ask, but I’ll just tell you. When you are at an event selling paperback books, the only question you have is, “Do you want one?” Only 50% of the possible answers there is yes. But if you have hardcover books as well, the best question is “Do you want paperback or hardcover?” Then 2/3 of the possible answers are yes, and you didn’t really give them the option to say no! If you have the sense of humor that Chris Weston has, you might say, “Are you going to keep the book in the bathroom or the coffee table?” This has helped him sell hundreds of copies of his book, Hawgeye. Find out more about the bathroom version here or the coffee table version here.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

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What Does the End of Borders Mean to You as an Author?

You might have heard it on the news. Maybe you read it here.

The question on the mind of every author — and everyone in the publishing industry — is, “What does this mean to me?”

Tate Publishing is preparing a statement, and I don’t know what the official word is yet. However, I wanted to share a couple of my thoughts as our leaders prepare theirs.

The first thought is this: DON’T PANIC! We’ve been saying for months that this could happen. We’ve also said that even if every single bookstore in America closed, we would still have a plan for our authors. Unlike most publishers, our plan for our authors’ success does not depend on anyone but us and our authors. Having others involved is great while it lasts, but we don’t rely on it. In fact, as independent bookstores have closed in large numbers, and other publishers have reacted by laying people off and shrinking production, Tate Publishing has added staff and increased production. June was a record month for book sales at Tate even as the economy sank again. Authors who follow our plan are succeeding. If you are following our plan, Borders closing means very little to you personally.

The second thought is this: There are some major points in the article linked above that I’ve been saying for a long time. Here’s one: most traditional publishers don’t have a plan beyond bookstores. Consider this quote from the article:

“It saddens me tremendously because it was a wonderful chain of bookstores that sold our books very well,” said Morgan Entrekin, the president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic, an independent publisher. “It’s part of the whole change that we’re dealing with, which is very confusing.”

It’s only confusing if your plan relies on things you can’t control. We’ve long told authors that they need to focus on the things they can control. Any author that spends any energy on trying to move bookstores without moving people to those stores is putting their fate and the fate of their book in someone else’s hands. With this in mind, Borders closing is a reminder to focus now more than ever on what you as the author can control.

Here’s another quote from the article:
The news exposed one of publishers’ deepest fears: that bookstores will go the way of the record store, leaving potential customers without the experience of stumbling upon a book and making an impulse purchase. In the most grim scenario, publishers have worried that without a clear place to browse for books, consumers could turn to one of the many other forms of entertainment available and leave books behind.

Not only has Tate NOT shared this fear, we’ve been saying this very thing for over a year. The experience of “stumbling upon a book” is alive and well on Amazon.com. While this is welcome news, I’ve never thought that any good plan includes much reliance on “stumbling”. Apparently most publishers haven’t noticed that consumers have been turning to many other forms of entertainment for decades. That doesn’t mean no one is reading books. It just means that they are less likely to choose them first. What does this mean to an author? That books, in and of themselves, are not as much of a draw as they used to be. Another mantra of mine stems from this: “Don’t lead with your book.” When seeking speaking engagements, focus on what you have to offer the audience in terms of your message. If they buy you and your message when you’re speaking, they’ll buy your book when you’re finished.

Finally, there’s this:

Publishers said with Borders gone, they would plan for smaller print runs and shipments.

This is yet another area where Tate is ahead of the curve. We’ve pioneered the business model of smaller print runs and shipments. The days of publishers killing thousands of trees with books they are just going to throw away may finally be coming to an end.

So if you published your book with Tate, be confident that your publisher has been prepared for this for a long time. In fact, if you go back to the emails you’ve received from your marketing rep and replay their phone conversations with you in your head, you’ll realize that your publisher has been preparing you for this for a long time. And don’t forget that we’re here to help you implement the plan.

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The Best Way to Sell Your Book Is Not to Sell Your Book

Ask 100 people, “Who is interested in buying books?”, and you might get 15 to say “I am!” without knowing what the book is about. I’ve had a couple authors recently tell me that the reason their book is not selling is because nobody wants to read anymore. With video games, TV, the internet, music, and movies all vying for attention, it certainly feels like their exasperation has a basis in fact. However, if you ask those same 100 people, “How many of you have books in your house?”, I would bet 85 of them would say they do.

So people are buying books. The problem for many authors is that they don’t know how or where readers buy them. I know this because of a question I get all the time that is very natural for authors to ask: How is my book doing?

Most often, this is code for, “How many books are flying off of store shelves?” For the slightly more savvy author, it’s code for “How many books are flying through Amazon’s warehouse?”

The fact is that until you are famous, you already know better than I could tell you how your book is doing. You know how many you’ve sold. When you are in the name-building stage, the vast majority of book sales come through you. So how can you sell books by not selling your book?

I’ve talked about this before (click here). The number one way to sell books by not selling books is through speaking engagements. Last week, I met with author Sun Hui East (That’s her on the cover of this book), and I got to meet her son, Josiah David Warren, who is a musician. (He’s on the cover of this book.) After a long discussion of all the ways to sell books in today’s environment, he said, “It is so much easier with music. All you have to do is play a lot of shows and say, ‘CDs are in the back!’”

This is true for authors as well. Only instead of playing shows, you’re doing speaking engagements. People aren’t interested in books until they are interested in the person who wrote it. While it is entirely possible to attract people with the book’s topic, they won’t know about the book if you haven’t made yourself known first. We can send out press releases all day long, but if your name is not known, it significantly decreases the likelihood that the press will be interested. The press is only interested when the public is. The best way to interest the public is by speaking to like-minded people, and the more the merrier.

This is easy to say for a guy like me who loves speaking in front of people. However, you may have heard that more people are afraid of speaking in public than are afraid of dying. If you’re one of those, there is hope. Public speaking is a learned behavior, and anyone can learn it. If you need to learn, do a Google search for Toastmasters clubs near you.

You are the attraction because you lived the story. You have learned the lesson. You have carried the message. They’ll buy your book once they hear the story from you. Then as more people buy it and are touched by it, they will tell others, the word begins to spread farther than you can carry it yourself, and you begin to get sales residually. I’ve seen this again and again.

When Ry Sloth, author of the children’s book Sammy Sloth hit the milestone of 5000 books, I went back to research how he did it. I found out that the majority of his sales were from books he bought from us and sold at speaking engagements at schools. The other sales came from retail sales and sales through our website. He found his niche market and mined it for all it was worth and then some. To my knowledge, Ry has never done a book signing outside of his state, but we’ve had orders from every Amazon warehouse across the country. He doesn’t go to schools asking if he can sell his book. He put together a presentation on sports and physical fitness and talks to teachers about teaching their class for 20-40 minutes. If someone was willing to come do your job for you for a few minutes of the day, what would you tell them? Ry doesn’t ask for payment, all he asks is that they allow him to sign books for the kids who want to buy them. The book doesn’t even come up until they’ve agreed to have him come. He just sent me a message telling me he has sold 400 books at the last 3 schools. All those retail sales, then, are coming from kids who have bought his book and are telling others about it. As soon as Ry slows down from selling all those books, he’s going to write a note to me describing more of his system. Don’t wait for that, though. At the rate he’s going, it could be awhile before he slows down! (To learn more about Sammy Sloth, click here.)

Create a presentation based on your book. Find places to teach it. If you need help finding those places, that’s why I am here – and I can help. Remember that the best approach is always the one that helps the person you’re approaching. Don’t commit to help in any way that doesn’t help you. Contact the person of most immediate authority first. (In schools, this is the teacher. In churches, it’s the small group leader or Sunday school teacher.) Most of the time these people can bring you in on their own authority. If they need permission from a principal or pastor, it’s much better for them to approach that person instead of you.

Interest people in yourself, and interest them in the topic, and they will carry that interest to your book.

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