by Patricia Fry
Why Book Promotion Takes Patience
Why must authors have patience? Because it takes time to go from exposure to sales. Exposure is necessary in order to alert potential customers to your book—let them know that it exists. People have to know about your book before they will purchase it. News flash: Just having it sitting on a shelf in a bookstore, doesn’t necessarily mean that people will be inclined to purchase it.
They need to hear about it, read about it, hear others talk about it, see it reviewed in their favorite related publications, handle it a few (or many) times, have it recommended and learn more about it. Not only do they need to know about it, they must be convinced that this is something they want to read—that they will enjoy it or benefit from it or that someone they know will. Handpicked books make great gifts.
So how do you get this sort of exposure for your amazing book? You must establish a website and, perhaps, a blog site. Go out and speak. Get your book reviewed many times over. Arrange for book signings. Rent booths at book festivals. Join organizations and groups that can help you get exposure for your book (those related to the theme or genre of your book as well as those that can help with marketing, offer resources, etc). Where appropriate, teach courses and/or give workshops related to your book. Speak at conferences related to your book. Talk about it everywhere you go. Submit articles to appropriate magazines/newsletters/sites. And make sure you are listed in Books in Print (so booksellers can special order your book for customers).
Currently, I am testing new waters while getting exposure for my latest book, Catscapades, True Cat Tales. And I am reminded how time-consuming book promotion can be, especially just coming out of the publishing gate. How much time is it taking? LOTS of it. Getting exposure in all the right places is my full time job at the moment. And it takes patience, because reviewers don’t always respond as quickly as you would like. Booksellers can drag their feet about scheduling your signings. Potential customers who may really want a copy of your book put off purchasing it.
How long does it take to get the results you want through exposure? Do you want me to be candid? This is an ongoing activity for as long as you want your book to sell.
Until you have major name recognition as the author of mysteries, true crime books, children’s or young adult books, fantasies, science fiction or books on finance, for example, you will need to practically hand sell each and every book you produce. As authors in this publishing climate, the best that we can do is to consider authorship a serious business, not a privilege that will result in instant fame and fortune.
Sure, you’ll get a flurry of sales after a positive review is published by a reviewer of some credibility and with a large following. You may sell a box or a handful of books at a book festival or a large conference where you speak. You will surely sell a dozen or so books at a well-publicized book signing. And some of those customers will tell others about your book and you’ll get some residual sales. But then, you’re back to the drawing board reminding potential customers about your book on a regular basis while attempting to find new ways to get exposure.
Does it sound like a dismal reward for writing a marvelous book—to have to promote for evermore? It depends on how you look at it. I suggest shifting a measure of your creativity over from your writing efforts to the process of promotion and look at it as a creative challenge.
Here’s another tip. Don’t ever allow yourself to be discouraged when your sales, during a particular event or after a great review, fall below your expectations. Exposure doesn’t always lead to immediate gratification (sales). In fact, I like to tell the story of a SPAWN member who shared in our SPAWN booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books one year. He didn’t sell very many books that year, but he made some amazing contacts that led to him being involved in a documentary featuring the topic of his book. It airs frequently on the Military channel.
If you are currently or will soon be promoting a book, keep things in perspective. Understand the concept of book promotion.
• Book promotion is not a one-time shot. It is ongoing for as long as you want to sell copies of your book.
• Book promotion is not a passive process. It takes serious planning and assertive action.
• Book promotion efforts do not usually result in high sales right off the bat.
• Book promotion takes time, effort, energy and creative thinking.
If you have a good product, your next obligation is to be proactive in promoting it and be patient.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.