For some, the idea of authors selling their own books may seem to be an impractical notion cooked up by contemporary publishing gurus who lack the same influence within the book supply chain as the traditional trade publishers have. For some, the belief is still held that, as purveyors of the greatest literary writers, trade publishers will do (and always have done) all the work for their authors because they’ve carefully selected only the crème de la crème … the sure sellers that will guarantee a profit for them.
In his 2013 Forbes article titled How To Market And Sell Your Book In Five Steps, Nick Morgan, comments that:
…most authors – naturally enough – are focused on the book, not on what happens after completing it. It’s enough to get the book over the finish line, the typical author thinks, let the publisher worry about marketing and selling the book. That’s human nature and it makes sense, but it’s not enough in the world we live in now. There are simply too many books published each year – a million or more in the US alone – to rely on destiny, or fate, or even good word of mouth to get your book the attention it deserves. And you certainly can’t rely on the publisher.
He nails it right on the head … except for the “in the world we live in now” portion. The truth is, it was always this way for the majority of authors. Even back in the day.
The Myth Debunked by Trade Publishers Themselves
For those who balk at the idea of self-promotion because they believe it is their publisher’s sole responsibility to promote their books on their behalf—and that all traditional publishers will take care of it for them all the time—think again. Even the Association of Canadian Publishers will tell you otherwise:
Many publishers have a publicity department that will handle this while the book is on the front list. However, once the next season is published, or you have published the book on your own, the job of getting publicity exposure for the book falls to the authors themselves.
And Canada isn’t alone in this. Not by a long shot. Even the Big Five—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—admit they focus primarily on their front list titles; and, once those books fall to the back list, the responsibility of continued promotion falls to the author.
Based on the common twice-yearly publishing schedule followed by most trade publishers (spring and autumn), I figured that the average book would be considered a front list title for only six months which means it has a shelf life of only six months. After that, the author is on his or her own to continue selling it. I’ve since learned that my six-month guesstimate was actually quite idealistic after picking up a well-researched book by John B. Thompson titled Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century. He delves even deeper into a trade publisher’s publicity, sales, and marketing budgets than I did in my last three books:
Today more than ever, a writer’s career is always hanging in the balance, rising and falling with the sales of their most recent books and always at risk of being curtailed by a disappointing track. Careers cut short and writers cut loose are among the prices to be paid for the logic of the field. They are the human costs of an industry where numbers rule in the end and where short-term growth and bottom-line profitability have come to assume more and more importance in the practical calculations of the major houses.
You would think that the major publishing houses with the larger budgets would be able to spend more money on promoting and selling all their books; but, the fact is, they are under even greater pressure from their parent corporations to watch their spend and focus primarily on what they consider the “big books” (which do not necessarily equate to “great literary works”) that can generate the most profit for them. The result, according to Thompson’s research, is an even shorter shelf life for the majority of books by the majority of authors:
As soon as a book shows signs that it’s going to take off, the sales, marketing and publicity operations mobilize behind it and look for ways to support it with extra advertising, trying to get more radio and TV appearances, extending the author’s tour or putting together a new tour to cities where the book is doing particularly well, and so on. … the sales, marketing and publicity operations are geared and resourced in such a way that, when they see that a fire is starting to ignite, they are able to pour generous quantities of fuel on the flames. … But if further appeals fall on deaf ears and sales fail to pick up, then the marketing and publicity effort will be wound up pretty quickly – ‘In two to three weeks we might pull the plug,’ … So how long does a book have out there in the marketplace to show signs of life? How many weeks before it becomes a dead fish that will be left to float downstream? … I would say the life of a book today is about six weeks. And quite frankly it’s even shorter than that, but you probably have six weeks and that’s it.
So we’ve gone from a six-month shelf life to a six-week shelf life with the larger, corporate publishers. Then the ball is back in the author’s court. Yikes! Scary stuff. There has to be a better way, right? I believe there is, and I’ve made it my life’s mission to help authors take control of their own book sales and marketing efforts so they can enjoy more commercial success.
Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors
Not all authors are introverts, but all authors can benefit from online marketing. And it only takes one hour per day, six days per week, to get the ball rolling. That’s it, that’s all. Truth.
Whether a book was self-published or produced by a traditional trade publisher, there are some effective ways the author can boost its sales that will fit well with both introverted and extroverted personality types. And here’s the best news yet: it’s possible to successfully market and sell your book using nothing more than a comfortable chair in your favourite writing room, a laptop, an Internet connection, and your own God-given talent to write.
So, what is stopping authors from moving ahead with this? That’s the question I asked myself when I wrote my most recent educational resource guide to complement my sales coaching for authors classes. Maybe you will recognize yourself in this chapter: Is this you? If it is, that’s okay. We’ll work together to overcome your fears and teach you how to sell your own book. You may just surprise yourself with what you’re capable of once you start this sales coaching for authors program.
I sincerely hope you will give it a try. I created the program specifically for you.
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