Marketing your Book


    If you think that writing a book, and getting it published, will end your labors, think again.

    Your closest friends *might* buy your book, as well as a few relatives, but face it:

        Some people want to read books but can't.

    Reading books often requires situations not everyone has. Many parents are working, raising kids, and simply don't have spare time like the rest of us do. The same is true for people taking care of sick friends or relatives. Students are busy reading textbooks and can't spare their study time for pleasure reading. People dealing with unemployment or other crises are often too stressed out deal with things they would rather be doing. I have personally experienced times of my life when I couldn't afford to buy books I wanted (horrible times indeed!). Leave these people alone; they will get to your books when they can ... and not before.

        Some people claim to read many books ... but don't.

    Several people have claimed to me that they are experts on the Lord of the Rings, but they had no idea who Tom Bombadil was. Being a great reader is a lot easier to boast of than to accomplish. Few want to be known for not having read any books. These people don't need to be outed by you; that will only insure that they will never read your books. Pressuring them won't make them frequent readers. Leave them alone; they may be good friends, but they would not be good reviewers. Hopefully they can give your books to others as birthday presents.

        Many people won't read a book if they know the author.

    I have relatives and long-term friends who won't read my books. They each have a reason, I'm sure, but very few are vocal about it. One close friend had been promising to read my unpublished manuscripts for 3 decades before I published and "never had the time" ... despite a serious online gaming habit. Some people don't enjoy reading at all. Again: Pressuring these people to read your books won't help. Leave them alone. The inevitable outcome is not worth losing a friend.

        Some people who have read your book may never tell you.

    Writers want reviews, but very few people like giving critiques, let alone writing reviews. I know several people who read what others write on Facebook everyday, but they never post anything themselves, or they only repost images other people created. One close friend loved my trilogy and Jeremy Wrecker, but he was born and raised in China, and would only feel comfortable writing a review in Chinese. Others may avoid admitting that they read your books for fear that your friendship might end if they tell you that they didn't like your book. Pressuring these people is impossible; you will never know if they read or reread your book.

    There are no books that *everyone* likes - not everyone will like your books ... even your friends. If you want to be a writer, deal with it.

        Even if you could get everyone you know to read your book, how will that affect your sales?

    To be honest, few people know enough friends to make writing a book profitable. Yes, you have to market as much as possible, and it helps, but I feel sorry for my closest friends who get inundated with my ads, many after they have already read and reviewed my books. You must spread the news quickly and as widely as you can, but unless you can afford to hire a marketing agency, you will have to do the majority of advertising yourself, and you have to get it in front of as many people as possible.

        What is my sales goal?

    I don't have a sales goal. Sales goals are dependant upon your ability to reach people. That ability is hampered by the realities of marketing options and out-of-pocket expenses - marketing is not cheap.

    The one required price of sales is courage: You MUST be able to walk up to a total stranger, ask if they read books, introduce yourself, give them a card, and tell them about your book. If you can't do that, hire an agency - someone has to do it.

    My primary goal is not to sell to everyone; someone who only likes books of a different genre than yours won't like your book, won't recommend your book, and would write a bad review.

        My goal is to make sure that everyone I can reach knows about my books.

    That's it. That's the best I can do. But with that in mind, my next goal is to reach as many people as possible.

        How can I get more people to read my books?

    Only a small percentage of people on Earth read books, and nothing you do is going to significantly change that percentage. Of readers, only a small percentage reads any one type of book, specifically, your genre. Of those readers that you can reach, that same percentage applies. At this point, it becomes a numbers game; the wider a group you reach, the more people will learn about your book, and of those people, that small number (a percentage of a percentage) will buy and read your book. If you can do that, then you can sell books.

        Books don't spread like gossip.

    Tell ten people a juicy lie about the local mayor, and days later, a hundred people will have heard your lie. Those people who read your books do try to get their friends to read it, but they will be facing the same small percentage of success that you struggle against. Most people don't read books, and even with reports of high-quality, books propagate slowly. With gossip, two friends each tell two friends, and word spreads. With books, for every five people that read it, and tell their friends, chances are that only one new person will buy your book based on their recommendation.

        Are chances of big sales hopeless?

    The chance of any one author gaining world-wide notoriety for one book is tiny. Billion-dollar marketing corporations spend millions trying to figure out the same thing you are, the clues to selling large quantities, and you are unlikely to have their resources. But there are some things you can do.

        1. Go where large numbers of people gather.

        2. Make yourself as visible as possible.

        3. Always be eager to meet new people.

        4. Always be ready to introduce yourself and hand out your business card.

        5. Produce as much high-quality advertising as you can and put it online.

        6. Ask yourself why people would want to read your books, and keep the answer on the tip of your tongue.

        7. If you can, target celebrities; if a famous person comments on your book, that will reach more people than all of the marketing you can do. (But remember, not all celebrities are going to like your book.)

    There are other, more basic options you should consider:

        1. Write to the widest book-reading audience - the bigger a percentage of readers that like your genre, the better your chances.

        2. Write more books - each book is another chance to attract a reader.

        3. Don't stick to just one story - if someone has specific tastes, they may be attracted to one of your books, but not all.

        4. Listen to critiques of your books very carefully, take each word seriously, and constantly try to improve your writing style - no matter what writer you name, someone doesn't like them, but if they are/were a successful author, then many loved them. Ignore the haters, but hear what they have to say. Ignore the comment that says your book is trash and the comment that says it is the best thing ever written. Listen for similar comments said by different people - those are what you need to focus on the most.

        5. Cover art attracts the eye - if readers are not instantly attracted to your book, they probably won't pick it up to read the back cover. Plan your art carefully or get an artist to read your book and make a recommendation. Catch their eyes if you would catch their interest.

        Prepare for a change in your life.

        Marketing is a long, hard, endless slog. Most of my writer-friends spend almost every weekend marketing or looking for new marketing venues. It will eat up enormous amounts of your time. Unless you are very lucky, more lucky than the average lottery winner, then you will join us, at a table, shaking hands and signing books, for years to come.

        If this does not frighten you off: Welcome aboard!

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