Signing a book contract with a major publisher confers indisputable prestige and quite likely an advance against royalties. And more, the publisher shoulders lion-share of editorial and publishing responsibilities and, icing on the cake, takes the lead in marketing.
The Purple Crayon, an outstanding blog covering writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books, tells us that publishers at minimum: [^purplecrayon]
- Display your book in their catalogs
- Distribute their catalogs to libraries, bookstores, specialty outlets, and schools
- Provide tip sheets and advance selling materials to their sales force
- Support a sales force that promotes your book with booksellers and librarians
- Put your book on their websites
- Provide ‘’sneak peeks’’ and news of new reviews or publicity
- Send review copies to reviewers
And more. They:
- Send advance reader copies to booksellers
- List your book in their ‘’release ad’’ in PW and other magazines
- Show your book at conventions for librarians, booksellers, and teachers
- Provide ‘’metadata’’ about your book to Amazon and other online bookstores
- Insert your book into the wholesale pipeline
- Promote your book via social media
Sweetest of all, the publisher gets our book into bricks-and-mortar bookstores with significant sales upside.
But don’t kid yourself. We can’t escape marketing tasks and responsibilities altogether. It’s quite likely the publisher will urge us to influence our ‘’platform’’ in many and diverse ways.
Indeed, our platform, that is. population of fans and followers, is likely the reason why the publisher offered us a contract in the first place.
A large and eager-to-hear-your-every-word platform is of value regardless of route to publication. But, hard truth, without a platform it’s hard-scabble to get a traditional publishing contract.
Chicken-and-egg problem: How can we build a platform?
Solemn fact: It all comes down to marketing.
Self-publishing offers not-to-be-scoffed-at benefits:
- It spares time and effort pitching book ideas to literary agents with probability of rejection
- It spares further delay in publication while the agent pitches publishers
- And it spares yet further delay while our book wends its way through the publisher’s editorial, publishing, and distribution cycle
- We keep and control copyright which means that all future income opportunities are wide open
- We keep the profits of every book sold
- It motivates us to think creatively and hustle
Yes, we do need to hustle.
Assuming we put skill and effort into publishing a beautiful book, the key to sales success is patience, practice, and precision marketing.
Indeed, we can do for ourselves many of the things a traditional publisher might do to market our books. Nothing magic here. It all comes down to initiating constructive conversations with influentials and gatekeepers who, in turn, have means and motivation to reach and influence our most likely readers.[^Beatles] I use the word “conversations” advisably since we’re striving to listen to what people have to say and to forge relationships with key individuals and groups.
It takes a posse to successfully market a book
Here, now, at ground zero, with a book in the cooker, you’re an army of one.
Been there, doing that. Precision marketing is all about finding and motivating allies—folks who can put us in touch with our most likely readers.
We’ll strive here to outline step-by-step precise prelaunch, launch, and post-launch marketing tasks that will lead to sales success. It’s a never-ending endeavor. As long as we’re writing and publishing, there’s ever so much more to learn.
Precision marketing involves six realms of thought and action:
- Time and money management
- Social engagement
Imagination inspires our books and creative marketing initiatives. Introspection keeps us on track. Going in we need to know our strengths, weaknesses, and how much we’re willing to gamble.
Every marketing initiative takes time and costs money. Marketing is based on implicit or well-stated hypotheses—do this, expect that.
But the market doesn’t always respond as we hope. So every initiative is a throw of the dice.
Through research and planning we strive to tilt the odds in our favor. We conduct mini experiments. Plan for failure. Learn from feedback and adapt.
But if we don’t step up to the table, we lose from the git-go.
Precision marketing is about:
- Creative planning big and bold
- Front loading time and effort
- Precisely focused action
The key is homework; think strategically, execute tactically.
No. It’s not easy. But neither is writing and publishing a book. But given ravenous curiosity, eagerness to learn, computing skills, and the Internet, it’s easier than one might expect.
Self publishing is an act of faith. What else sustains the lonely hours of creative composition? Marketing shepherds our creative work into the hearts and minds of receptive readers—infuses faith with transformative action.
There’s many a route to the summit of success. No one-size-fits-all. Every author brings unique experience, perspective, strengths, weaknesses, depth of resources, and definition of success.
Every book is unique, launched in it’s own time.
It’s never too soon to think deeply about why we want to publish—how much time and money we’re willing to invest. Publishing a memoir for the grandchildren is reason enough.
But if our motivation includes wide readership and profitable sales, the route to the top is foreordained. We’re committed to investment of time, energy, and money.
We’re entrepreneurs. We must be honest about strengths, weaknesses, and limits; steel ourselves for challenges ahead.
It all starts with the promise of the book. Ends with delivery on the promise.
Every book sold is faith redeemed.
## Action Plan
Steep yourself in current book publishing trends:
- Join the Independent Book Publishers Association
- Attend regional book festivals
- Subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly
[^purplecrayon]: Do ‘’Traditional’’ Publishes Market Their Books? (Yes), https://www.underdown.org/publishers-and-marketing.htm
[^Beatles]:What the Beatles Tell Us About Fame