Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Birth of a Book, Part 10 -- Marketing

This is the last part of a ten part series on the stages involved in producing a novel.

Most aspiring writers I know do not expect or want to market their books. I was no different when I started writing. I considered myself a “writer,” an “artist.” Marketing was something slightly dirty, money grubbing, something for “ad executives” and Madison Avenue. I remember telling people that "my books are my children – they may not be perfect but I love them, warts and all. You can’t sell you children!" I felt it was both beneath my dignity and beyond my capacity to aggressively get out and sell my books. I felt, furthermore, that selling books required a totally different set of skills from writing them. Even if, I told myself, I had the time to sell books (which I don’t), I wouldn’t know how to do it or be very good at it if I tried.

But as I mentioned earlier, commercial publisher have only limited budgets, which are dedicated for the most part to the books of already famous people and successful authors, while print-on-demand publishers don’t do any marketing at all. Furthermore, the sheer number of books coming onto the market makes it increasingly important to market books.

To understand the situation, let me provide some key statistics:

• In 2010 roughly 450,000 books were published in the USA.

• Of these, roughly 135,000 were self-published

• Roughly 15% of all published books were novels; e.g. some 67,000 novels were published in the U.S. in 2010 alone.

• Less than 3% of all books published in the USA sold more than 1,000 copies. That’s about 13,500 books – a lot of books! – but still only 3%.

• Today, on average, each published title sells 70 copies. That means for every best seller that sells 10,000s, 100,000s or even a million books, there are a lot of books out there that sell only a handful of copies.

In short, if you are not a celebrity or an otherwise already a successful author, the chances are your book is going to be one of those that sells less than seventy copies – unless you are prepared to do something to promote your book yourself. Thus, whether you like the idea of marketing your book on not, and whether you think you are suited to the task or not, it is advisable to be prepared to market your own product.

There are two ways of doing this, of course. One is to hire a professional book or literary publicist. There are many agencies offering marketing and publicity services to authors today. Many are very professional and good. They are not cheap. I was quoted a price of $1,000 per day by one London agency -- with no guarantees of success. There are also a lot of agencies out there offering services at a reasonable price. Most of these have a standard package of services (press release, reviews, website, social media page, twitter, book fairs, contests). They do not have time to read the books they market. They don’t need to. They rely heavily on in-put from the author and operate using a “cookie cutter” approach. They can afford to charge reasonable fees precisely because they churn out marketing materials for lots of books that are pretty much the same regardless of the book.

Alternatively, you can try to do all the marketing yourself. This requires a lot of time, effort and above all patience. At a minimum, you will need at least one website with considerable content – not just the cover image and cover blurb. You will need to have a blog -- again with serious content that is updated regularly. You should be prepared to surf the internet for the blogs and websites of your competitors and to actively take part in social media forums on topics related to your book. Other things you can do are:

• Enter your book in literary contests

• Place ads for your book in newspapers, journals etc.

• Pay to have your book to be displayed at book fairs

• Organize readings and signings at your local book shop (but don’t expect a lot of people to come!)

Most important, be creative. The world of book marketing is wide, wild and constantly changing.

Just remember, unless you are prepared to market you finished product, that wonderful flash of inspiration that you had at the start of the creative process is likely to be drowned in the ocean of books flooding the market and will end up as one of those titles that does not sell even 100 copies.





























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