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Sensible Solutions for getting happily published

OK, you've signed a contract with a publisher and now you can relax. No way. You have to get out there and help your publisher promote the book.

As you gear up to do that, bear two things in mind:

  • Publishers, no matter how enthusiastic or well-meaning, simply do not have enough people to get to the right markets, media, groups and gathering places for any given book.
  • The fact that anybody with access to the Internet could order just about any book doesn't mean that anybody will discover yours or that, if the book does come to their attention, they'll decide they want it.

You think someone else should do the marketing? It would be nice if it worked that way, but it doesn't, as even bestselling authors and agents know. In fact, the writers who've learned this hard lesson best are the ones who've had lots of books published.

So you'd better prepare yourself.

To explore ways Sensible Solutions might help you reach readers, email Judith Appelbaum.

Read on for just a few of the many steps you can take to give your book its very best shot.

Target the Right Readers

Target marketing has four phases

1. Identifying markets (which you can do by asking: Who are the people who really will be glad if they read this particular book?).

2. Finding routes to targeted readers (which is time-consuming detective work that can be fun and which means using social media resources as well as your favorite search engine).

3. Creating and disseminating pitches and materials (which means figuring out what to say to the readers you’ve targeted so that they'll realize they want the book).

4. Following up (which is essential, and should be done with energy and enthusiasm).

Because publishers simply can't afford to invest the time that all this requires unless they foresee huge sales figures, the author must invest heavily in marketing — or, to put it another way, the author's sweat equity will make the difference between success and failure.

Sometimes — although not often — authors are turned off by the prospect of marketing their own work. It seems somehow shoddy, degrading, hucksterish. In fact, though, it’s a good deed, a service to readers. Because what you're really doing when you market your book intelligently is bringing it to the attention of the particular people whose lives will be better because they've read it, and who might not ever know it exists if you don't go to the trouble of introducing them to it.

Rev up sales reps

When a publisher has bought rights to your book, it's important to get the book presented favorably to its sales force. If the reps sense that it's a loser they'll classify it mentally as a “skip book” (one they can use to build confidence with booksellers by saying, “Between you and me, you can skip this”); and a loser is what it will be.

Since more than a hundred titles may be presented at each sales meeting and since each sales rep will have about twenty seconds to sell a book in stores, it's a good idea to create a “handle” for yours. “Handle” is the first heading on one publisher's Editorial Fact Sheet because it's what the reps need most. The term, as one rep explained, means “key words or phrases that will be sure to catch the attention of the retailer.”

What the retailer wants to know, of course, is whether the book will attract readers, so the best handles are those that emphasize benefits. Think in terms of what your book will contribute to readers' lives rather than what material it contains.

Sell in more places than bookstores

For a variety of reasons, many people never set foot in a bookstore. They do, however, spend time on the Internet (including time at Amazon and other bookselling sites), watch television (including shopping channels), and go to stores that cater to their special interests (which sell books along with sporting goods, yarn, toys, health food and a host of other products). Moreover, all sorts of people regularly hear about and buy books through periodicals, associations, catalogs, conferences, and blogs. Reaching readers through these and other special-interest, “nontraditional” channels is a primary goal for smaller publishers and increasingly important for larger firms.

“Special sales” can bring in sizable amounts of money – more, for some books, than bookstores ever will – while creating echo effects that spur sales in the trade and online. Suggestions from authors are usually welcome in this area, so create a memo pinpointing channels you and/or your publisher can use to get your book directly to its natural readership.

Did the local paper report that a big company will be setting up headquarters in your area? Maybe the human relations VP would buy cartons of your regional guidebook to help employees get adjusted. Is repainting high on the list of your book's decorating tips? Sound out local paint store managers about adding it to their stock mix. Could you host a social media group about your book's subject? Investigating potential partnerships can lead to strong and steady revenue streams.


Sensible Solutions, Inc.

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