Sisyphus, from Greek Mythology, rolls a boulder uphill for eternity. With each attempt, the boulder rolls back downhill and Sysyphus must start the task anew. This is the author’s task once a book is published.
Some authors think that the publisher does (or should do) most of the promotion to sell their books. They might reference the Bestseller’s List for authors who’s latest book cover is promoted in stores, mailers, and social media. Places like Barnes and Noble and Books A Million have posters of books and authors to entice shoppers. As of this writing, Amazon is promoting books recommended by their editors. How do these books get on the ad banner, much less make the list?
I don’t have the answer. My publisher for So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation (see description) has not told me, but is it her responsibility? The answer to that question is what I’ve been told by other authors before me, and when I did book publicity for a friend and excellent writer Phil Rosette: The best person to promote an author’s book is the author.
Publishers do promote the books. They have many that they must get air time on their website, mailings, and at the relevant book events. For most authors that’s as good as it gets. The few with high advances on royalties might get more investment in marketing. Again, a publisher has many books to promote. Considering the books you see on an end shelf, or display tables. Many are not rotated so that different authors are on display for the consumers. Likely, the same books will be presented week after week, because the publisher paid for the service. This practice is not exclusive to the book industry, as the same is found in many stores from clothes to groceries.
The author must be proactive in their book promotions. Sylvia Hubbard, author and book marketing coach, was once asked how long should an author promote their book? She responded (paraphrasing), how long do you want your book to be read?
If the best person to market and sell a book is the author, what should the author be doing? A few ideas include:
- Use social media to keep the book in people’s minds. Keep the message fresh. Connect the book content to events or special dates throughout each year.
- Share ideas and content that others would be interested, and find relevant ways to reference your book. For example, So All Can Learn can be purchased at Rowman & Littlefield for 20% off using the code: RLEGEN17 OR the Kindle version (as of this writing) is on sale for $9.99.
- Present at events such as conferences, stores, and schools. Again like item 2, use topics that interests potential buyers, and that also tie-in to your book.
- Recruit and invite people to read and write reviews for your book. Have them post the reviews where potential readers look, such as: Amazon, Good Reads, Barnes and Noble, and other sites. When potential buyers see that others have read your book and posted a positive review, they might be more likely to buy the book.
- Create a website for your book. Here is mine for So All Can Learn.
- Write a blog with new ideas and insights. Include links to your book. Write weekly, advice I’m working on for myself 😉
- Establish a listserv that you can share content you’ve posted on your blog and social media. Send out once a week or 2-3 times a month. Find the balance that works for you and your listserv. The key is content that they find relevant.
- Give your book to key influencers. If they like the book they might share it with their networks as recommendations.
- Use images related to your book where possible.
Many of these suggestions require you to put yourself out there. Some have suggested that self-promoting one’s book may be seen as negative. Who is best to sing the merits of a book other than the author? There may be a line between hard sell and convincing others that your book is worth the time. Being subtle all or most of the time will leave you with a dusty pile of untouched books. The result is that a publisher will wonder why you didn’t do more when sales are low. Most authors on the best sellers list started without name recognition, and had to become known. Those who were already known, likely had to establish themselves within their respective field. An author who chooses not to promote their book may become a best-kept secret, and lots of unsold books.
There are more ideas to try. This is a beginning. It will be time consuming, yet how important is your book? Catch your breath, and start rolling that boulder uphill–again, again, and again…