Book marketing tips from one of my successful authors

With delight, I’ve been following the publishing success of my author, David Shepherd, whose novel, Resurrecting Randi, has achieved steady sales since it was published early in 2008 by Balios Publishing Co. Recently, I asked David what he thought were the most important elements of his marketing strategy. Here’s his detailed e-mailed reply:

Dear Arlene,

As both an author of a debut novel that is doing quite well (Resurrecting Randi) and a former business school faculty member, I see book publishing success as relatively straightforward, though very, very hard work. Here are the four pieces I think have to come together, probably in this order:

1) Get great blurbs so that the book is viewed as serious and credible by agents, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, and others in the industry. I was lucky enough to get strong endorsements from John Coetzee, a Nobel Laureate in literature, and David Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Aim high; you might be surprised. We were.

2) Get great reviews. We got a great review from Kirkus Discoveries, but Balios Publishing Co. is small and has not had much success in getting reviews anywhere else. We have a few Web sites reviewing the book now but I’m not sure how influential they’ll be. We need Publisher’s Weekly, major daily newspapers, etc., and Balios doesn’t have the clout to get those. Solution? Persevere.

3) Word of mouth. The key to word of mouth (in addition to the fact that there is no substitute for time) is connecting readers to each other, not to the author or publisher. We’ve created a social networking web site to do this and have had great response. We’ve offered avid readers a complimentary copy if they’ll help us spread the word. We’re offering them a chance to become a part of creating a New York Times bestseller, learn something about the publishing industry, and are even putting aside a modest royalty interest for them. I’ll send you an invitation so you can check it out.

4) National PR. Eventually, numbers 1-3 above will lead to stories in USA Today, national magazines, cable television, etc., and that’s where books begin to have a chance to truly break out.

I spend a little time promoting every day, but my highest and best use of time is to recruit the help of others and then get out of their way! Critical mass is a funny thing. It’s the proverbial hockey stick curve, but you never know when the curve will come. We’re committed to work hard every day for 12-15 months before determining the true success and what to do about a trade paperback version. Those who think some bolt of lightning is going to hit and make their book a bestseller will be waiting a very long time indeed.

Most importantly, I’m also finding time to make great headway on my next novel. It would be a hollow victory for Resurrecting Randi to become a big success, and then not have another book in the queue.

I hope this is helpful to your other authors, Arlene.

David P. Shepherd

* * *

So that’s the word from a first-time author who’s already on a successful publishing journey. Note: These tips are useful whether you’re self-publishing or you’ve already found a publisher. Either way, you have to invest the time and do much of the legwork yourself, as David is doing. I would also add that it’s very important to have a website dedicated specifically to your book or your publishing company if you’re self-publishing. Your website should be up and running as soon as your first books roll off the press or are uploaded to e-book format. You can also add a blog to keep your content fresh and optimized for search engines. Let me know if you try these tips and if you find them helpful.

You may already know of one of my most successful authors, the late Dan Poynter (The Self-Publishing Manual), who was a master of self-published book marketing. I’ll be querying more of my self-publishing authors in the future about what they have found to be their most successful marketing strategies. If you have any other tips to contribute, please let me know, and I’ll post them here.

Picture of Arlene Prunkl

Arlene Prunkl

Arlene Prunkl is a freelance manuscript editor and the owner of PenUltimate Editorial Services. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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