Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II

Today I am again honored to have as a guest blogger Seymour Garte, PhD.  Dr. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh PA.  He is also the author of  Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet. Dr. Garte writes:

In the absence of a major marketing campaign ala Harry Potter, the best way to get your book sold is through publicity. Which basically means free advertising. Book reviews are wonderful publicity, even if they are not gushing with praise. A really bad review is of course, not good, but those are also rare. The big question is how to get your book reviewed. You publicist will send out galleys or books to whomever she thinks might be interested in the book. These days, this will include blogs, and other web based media, which can have more readers than some newspapers. It will also include the local media in your hometown. She might try some of the bigger national magazines or journals, but they get swamped with requests to review.

The hardest books to publicize are general literature fiction. Genre fiction (romance, sci fi, crime, thrillers etc.) are easier, because there are specialty web sites, organizations, newsletters, and other outlets that often allow for free publicity of new books. Non-fiction is much easier, because (depending on the subject of course) there is the possibility of the author taking a role as an expert in the media. Again, this is where your publicist comes in.

Television and radio are major outlets for book publicity. You have seen the results of the work of publicists, when you watch any TV show with a guest who has just published a book. In fact, most talk show guests are there to publicize their books. There are two ways to get on a national TV talk show or major network. 1. Be famous already. 2. Have a book that talks about something incredibly topical. Local TV shows are much easier to get onto (my first publicity gig was on a local TV show), but of course don’t have the selling potential of any national program.

If your book is on the theory that massive biological extinctions were caused by gigantic earthquakes, and your book release date is two weeks after a gigantic earthquake in California, you might have a shot to get on CNN, or one of the morning shows. Radio, TV and print all follow the news cycle. If your book is on dieting, and there is a news story about some famous star fainting from lack of food, you could get lots of calls. If your book is on the Middle East, and the Israeli tanks start moving, get ready for a barrage of calls. In my case, there was a toxic scare of lead in toys from China, Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, and a few other environmentally related news items that put me in demand. And then the election campaign started, and all books NOT about politics just died for 8 months You might surmise from this that luck is a big player in getting publicity, and you are right.

Radio, talk radio in particular, is the medium where authors of non-fiction can do well. Your publicist will get you booked on as many radio shows as possible.  Of course not all radio shows are equal. Some like Mankow from Chicago, get almost a million rush hour listeners. Others, like a thoughtful health and environment show from Oregon, might get only a few hundred listeners, but they tend to be loyal and really listen. Of course the more topical the subject of your book, the more likely you are to get booked.

My publicist sent me a whole kit on how to do radio. I am lucky in that I have a good radio voice, a hammy personality, and not a shy bone in my body, so I turned out to be a natural. The better you do on the early shows, the easier it is for the publicist to get more bookings. 

Doing radio shows is fun, but can be frustrating. Often the host has no idea about your book, other than reading the title and inside flap 5 minutes before airtime. Sometimes their questions are absurd, sometimes they get your name or the title wrong. I did the Mankow show twice, and got about 5 minutes of airtime. My publicist assured me this was the equivalent of a full-page ad in the Times. Most of the shows I did were a half hour to an hour. I appeared in person at two or three shows, and sat in the studio, but most of the time the interview is by phone.

Remember these rules when doing a live radio interview (most are live, taped shows are much easier of course). Use a fixed phone, not a cell phone, but have a cell phone handy for emergencies. Wherever you are, make sure your phone will not run out of battery charge. Lock the door, and post a sign outside that says in large letters “DO NOT ENTER OR KNOCK. FOR ANY REASON. EVEN FOR FIRE OR EMERGENCY.”

While on the phone in an interview, you need full concentration. I learned both of those rules the hard way.

During the two months following the release date, I did on average 4 radio shows a week. On some days I did 3 or 4 a day. Usually the notice would come the day before by email or cell phone. “Tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM EST, half hour live at KOMG, Boston, they will call you.” I got used to the routine. If the show was to start at 7:30, the phone would ring at 7:29, a producer would ask if I was ready, then put me on so I could hear the feed, (usually a commercial) and then the host says, “I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Seymour Garte, author of Where We Stand, A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet. Welcome to the show, Dr. Garte.”

“Thank you Bruce, it’s a pleasure to be here.”

“So what do you think about this whole Global Warming stuff?”

Now my  book is about the environment, but only makes a passing comment about global warming. Doesn’t matter, the host will ask about what interests him or her, not about what your book is about. And what interests the host is what interests their listeners, which is usually whatever is on the news that day. When Al Gore won the Nobel Prize, I got a lot of bookings, but everybody wanted to talk only about global warming and Al Gore. The trick is to turn the conversation away from the host’s topic to your book’s topic, which is not that hard to do.

It is fine to say controversial stuff, because it leads to more phone calls, which is good for the host. But be very very careful to say nothing mean, derogatory or insulting toward either host or callers. If you do, you are through, and you will not get another show. Your publicist will stop trying to get you booked.

Book tours, readings and signings in bookstores are well-known publicity methods for all types of books, fiction and non-fiction. The rules for getting book signings are much more fluid than for radio shows. Some bookstores will only book authors through publishers or publicists. Other, smaller stores in smaller towns, are open to new authors suggesting a book signing, especially if the author is a local resident. The idea of a publisher paying for a new author to do a national tour promoting their book is long dead. The publisher will try to get you signings in stores near where you live, or if you tell them you will be in San Francisco for a month, they will try there. But they will not pay your expenses.

Here is the main thing about book signings and readings at bookstores. If no one shows up, it’s a disaster. In fact, some stores will want to see your mailing list or know how many people have agreed to come to the reading, before they book you. I have been lucky, to have been able to draw a crowd, in the few book readings I did. It can be fun, if you like speaking on your subject or reading your work.

Frankly not everyone is a ham like me. Some people just don’t like to do public speaking. But, remember that your audience is (by definition) already interested in you or your book or both, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Rarely will you face a hostile crowd, unless your book is highly controversial, and makes people mad. Most people who would not buy your book, simply don’t show up.

For non-fiction books, especially those written by experts, there is an entire set of opportunities for (mostly print journalism) publicity related to current events, and the need for expert quotes. Journalists, TV and radio producers, free lance writers, and networks of experts are all tied in with one another for mutual benefit. And at the center of these webs are the publicists; the tool is the query.

Say a journalist is given an assignment to write an article on green buildings. Deadline tomorrow at 7 AM. The journalist shoots out a query email to a network of publicists, industry groups, academics and other experts which says “I need an expert on green buildings, technical, not economic. Must have science credentials. Call before 4 PM today” My publicist gets this and forwards it to me, with the added note “Can you do this?” I answer “Yes.” She then answers the journalist with my name, credentials, the name of my book, etc. The journalist goes through the many positive answers she has received, and if I’m lucky, she chooses to  call me. She talks to me for at most 10 minutes, gets a quote or two, and again if I’m lucky, mentions my name and the book in her article. From her assignment to getting my quote, maybe two hours have passed.

Related to the print articles that mention your book are other possibilities for publicity. Appearance on Web casts (which are really much like TV), presentations at public forums, and appearances at conferences are all useful. For months I carried a stack of flyers in my briefcase, and distributed them liberally at conferences, seminars, and where ever I traveled.

As I mentioned, the publicist who works for your publisher, is pushing more than one book at a time. This means she has limited time for your book. Some people suggest that an author hire a free lance publicist. This works. A private publicist will be able to book you (depending of course on your book subject, and your reputation as a speaker) on many top radio shows, and also on national TV shows. But if you go this route, you need to examine your motivations. This kind of publicity will definitely raise your book sales. But often NOT enough to equal the cost of hiring the publicist (unless you get  lucky). Publicists charge according to how many radio shows they book for you. (TV is a much more complex rate calculation). 

Whether you hire your own publicist, or only use the publisher’s publicist, (or both) remember that you are on call 24/7. I missed one good opportunity because my cell phone had run out of battery charge. Again, this is a stressful and busy period, but it ends pretty soon. Even great, enormously successful books stop being publicized a few months (no more than 6 to 8 months) after publication. From then on the big driver of sales is that all important and totally unpredictable factor —  word of mouth. There isn’t much you can do about whether word of mouth spreads the story of your book and continues to boost sales after the publicity period ends. The key is how well your book is written. Well written books do better than poorly written ones, regardless of how intense the publicity might be at the beginning. So I end this discussion of the post writing phase of being a writer with a return to the basics. The real key to success as a writer is great writing. Big surprise, eh?

Also by Dr. Seymour Garte:
Where We Stand on Selling Non-Fiction vs. Fiction
Selling Your Book to Readers — Part I

Selling Your Book to Readers — Part I

Today I am honored to have as a guest blogger Seymour Garte, PhD.  Dr. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh PA.  He is also the author of  Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet. Dr. Garte writes:

You’re still jumping up and down, the phone doesn’t stop ringing. Your agent has sold your book! After all the work writing, editing, rewriting, editing again, entering contests, sending queries, finally landing an agent, suffering through rejections, and being almost sold, the time has come. Your book is going to be published. You made it!!!

Well, actually, not really. Of course being published is wonderful. Only a small fraction of people who write get published. But that is a small fraction of a very, very large number. At any given time there are about 5 million books in press. So a lot of books are getting published. And now that you have joined the ranks of the elite, you are about to come face to face with an issue you might not have thought about much before. How to get your book sold. Not to an agent, not to a publisher, but to readers. Lots of readers. Readers who will buy your book.

Some people don’t care a lot about selling their book. The joy of seeing their baby on the store shelves is enough. But most writers like the idea of other people, strangers even, reading their words. And the phrases “best seller” “New York Times” “Oprah” etc. have a magical ring for most writers. Fame, glory and wealth are really bad reasons to want to be a writer, but . . . hey, if it happens, groovy.

So how do we sell our books to the public? There are two major players in getting a book sold, the publisher and the author. The author’s role is always crucial. Even well known, famous, best selling authors must spend lots of time and energy selling their books. And if you are not famous, and this is a first book, you will find yourself wishing for the easy relaxed days, when all you were thinking about was writing, editing, querying, and submitting.

The first thing to understand is that all attempts to sell a book come under one of two headings — marketing and publicity. Marketing is defined as anything that costs money, like advertising. Most publishers spend very little if any money on marketing new, first author books, so don’t count on a full page ad in the New York Times for your first book. The extent of the publisher’s investment in paid advertising will depend on how successful the publisher thinks the book will be. Since selling a book is expensive, publishers will only invest an amount of money they think they will get back. Of course this is often a self fulfilling prophesy, since the more publishers spend, the more books will be sold, but that does not always follow.

Publicity refers to free advertising, and this is where you will be spending all of your efforts. Publicity includes book reviews, interviews, book signings and readings, blogging, other online discussion of the book, web sites, and if you are lucky, news items or talk shows.

You will not be doing this alone. Publishers hire publicists, generally young, highly overworked people, who will be in charge of all the possible ways to get your book noticed. The first job of the publicist, which starts well before publication is getting the book reviewed. Many writers don’t realize that the vast majority of books are not reviewed. Getting anyone to agree to review a book is a major coup. Then if the review is good, that’s just gravy.

This timing of the review process is very important. No one will review a book published longer than 3 to 6 months ago. And it takes time for reviewers to read the book. This means that review copies need to be sent out to potential reviewers months before the publication date, so that the review can be out around the time of publication. Sometimes the publicist will send out galleys instead of a review copy, if the book has not actually been printed yet.

The period of two months before to three months after publication will be a whirlwind for you as an author. You will experience considerable pressure to complete galley proofing, and getting endorsement blurbs in, so that the book is ready for the press, and so that copies can be sent to reviewers. Delays in the printing and reviewing schedule are bad, because the publisher has already promised to ship printed books to Amazon, and the major bookstores, who could already have gotten advanced orders, and a delay means that they have to tell their customers to wait, which they hate to do. And publishers hate to get booksellers upset at them. All of which means your editor, your publicist and the marketing and sales departments will be calling and emailing you until you get it done. And I mean constantly.

So clear your schedule starting two months before publication. And while you’re at it, keep it clear for the 3 to 6 months also, because as your release date approaches, you are about to really get to work.  You will get to know your publicist very well during this period. I had on average about 15 emails a day from my publicist at the peak, and was on the phone with her at least twice a day. I could not imagine her life, since she was actually working on 10 books simultaneously.

So what does the publicist do, and what do you need to do to get your book sold? Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II discusses this for a non-fiction book based on my own experience, and on talking to publicists and others in the bizz.

Also by Dr. Seymour Garte:
Where We Stand on Selling Non-Fiction vs. Fiction
Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II

What Are You Doing to Promote Yourself? How Are You Creating Name Recognition?

This article was written by marketing consultant Sia McKye.

Your book is published, either by a traditional publisher, or a POD publisher, now what?  How do we build a reader base?  How do we get our name out there?  Even if you don’t have a book published yet, what can you do to get your name out there before hand? 

Promotion is a bit different than publicity.  Publicity is largely free.  Most of what I mention here is publicity.  Promotion/Marketing is something you usually have to put out money for-sometimes you will get some funds from your publisher for that, other times it’s out of your advance from the publisher.  Some authors pay a fees for certain industry website Ads, or a Bookseller’s list.  Taking an Ad out in Regional and National papers, or in a magazine.  Doing a tour of book signings. 

I have friends that have been published, both non-fiction and fiction.  Dr. Sy Garte, author of, Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet, made an interesting observation,  “I have gone through this with a non fiction book. Here is what I learned. Most [publishing] houses have a dozen or so books coming out at once. The publicity department is always overwhelmed. If you are a new author, they might not invest the same time as they do for an established author…don’t expect too much marketing investment for a first book, but try to push for as much as you can.” 

Dr. Garte’s book is non-fiction, and much of what he says is from his experience as a published author within that arena, but the information, from what I’m hearing from published fiction authors, is true for both fiction and non-fiction markets.  Bottom line here is that as a new author you will be spending a great deal of time doing both publicity and marketing for your book.  This will be almost full-time on your part for at least the month before and two to three months after release. The more contacts you have the better.  

Building a reader base, and getting name recognition is a must.  Blogging, industry website presence, personal author websites, and to a certain extent, social networks are a good start.  This is where an unpublished author can start building name recognition.  Do you have a book trailer?  Where can a reader see it?  On your personal website?  YouTube?  

Networking also includes, local libraries-get your books in the general area Public libraries.  This can be done by donation.  High School libraries are the same although some are extensions of the public library.  Look at your local newspapers can you ask for a review of your book.  Gina Robinson, author of Spy Candy, mentioned Book Reading Groups.  Getting the lists for those would be advantageous.  Ms. Robinson told me she also signed up on booktour.com to promote her various book signings.  She’s also sent out hundreds of post cards listing Spy Candy’s release and for upcoming scheduled book signings, to every contact she can think of.  Judi Fennell, author of In Over Her Head, uses RWA conferences and functions to get her face and name known, she has entered numerous contests and done very well-in addition to her website and blog. 

Don’t discount friends and family in your networking.  Many of them are proud of your accomplishments and would be willing to pass out your bookmarks-which should have the cover picture, a blurb, author website address, and your publisher website.  An important piece of information to include is where readers’ can purchase your book.  Are you on Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble?  Bookmarks should be colorful to catch the eye.  If you get promotion books from your publisher, which most authors do, whether they are published traditionally or POD, send them out to your personal network to promote for you-especially, if they live in another part of the country. 

There are even small community papers that allow a person to write an article.  Authors should use their writing abilities here too.  Then there are the local radio stations that give free spots for community people and talk shows that will give locals some time for interviews and plugging of our books. Authors need to be aware of these venues. 

Local bookstores can be approached with books in hand and your bookmarks.  Are there other local authors in your area?  Could you approach a bookstore with the idea of a local author’s book signing?  Once we get our foot in the door, it will snowball. 

So what are you doing to get your name recognized?  What successes are you seeing?