Hello, Gorgeous! (or Handsome, what have you...)
Happy Thursday, which feels like Monday. I'm not sure that I'm down with the mid-week holiday. Alas, I am not in charge of scheduling. If I were, we'd probably have a lot more holidays and four day weekends would be a thing. Or, in the case of this week, the elusive five day weekend. Can I get a what, what?
Today I'm talking about How to Sell and Market Your Book. I get messages and emails from people all of the time asking me these questions. It usually starts with something like, "I was hoping I could pick your brain..."
My first thought is, "Um, no. Ew. Please keep your pick away from my gray matter."
My response is usually something more like, "I wish I had concrete answers, a 12-step program for writing a book, getting it published, and marketing it successfully. I don't even have a 3-step program, or any program at all. I'm not even good at getting with the program or sticking to the program."
Years back I wrote a series on The Impatient Crafter blog called How to Write and Publish a Craft Book. This was because I got so many emails from people asking for advice it was easier to just point them to my blog. Everything is different now, and my new book Fifty and Other F-Words (affiliate link) is a non-fiction humor title. So, here's my newly created program for How to Sell and Market Your Book. The short version is this: Honestly, I don't know, but here's what worked for me.
Step One: Be prepared. If you want to get published, have a pitch ready and a manuscript or at the very least an outline and some sample chapters. In fact, it's a good idea to have a few pitches in your pocket, you never know which one might be the right one at the right time. (This is obvious, but it's kind of important that you have a 'voice' and a strong grasp of writing basics.)
Publishing has changed. Advances are smaller. Publishers are much less open to taking risks. Like most creative endeavors, it's a crap shoot and you need to be prepared, flexible, tenacious, and resilient. If you believe in your ideas and your talent, keep pitching, some of the most successful writers in history were rejected many, many, many times before becoming successful.
My most recent book was an anomaly. I spoke with an editor at a craft industry trade show who was looking for a book on metal stamped jewelry. I just happened to have a proposal I had sold to another publisher. The advance they'd offered was so paltry, I declined their offer. So, I pitched the slightly retooled proposal to the new publisher, they reviewed it, and they loved it.
Step Two: Always, always, always be diplomatic. People like working with nice people.
We went back and forth about this book for months. There was no formal offer, timeline, or contract. After six months of waiting, the editor emailed and said a contract was on the way. I waited. I waited. I waited some more. Finally, several months later, I heard from the editor again. She was leaving the publisher to go back to school. They dropped the book. What?! I was deflated and upset, but I did not fire off a snarky email. The email was cc'd to her bosses, a senior editor and the Editorial Director. I typed out a brief and diplomatic reply thanking her for letting me know and suggesting that they keep me in mind for future opportunities.
Step Three: Make it easy for people to find you and your creative content. Make a lot of content, because the more you put yourself out there, the easier it is for people to find you.
There was a link to my blog in my signature, that blog was all about being a woman over 50. Two hours later I got an email from the senior editor and Editorial Director. They wanted to know if I'd like to talk with them about writing a humor book about being a woman over 50. WHAT?! YES! YES! YES! We chatted, we clicked, and we moved forward. I had dozens of essays already written, so it was easy for me to put a proposal together. They loved the proposal. Sales loved the concept. They purchased the book, and I got to work.
Step Four: Do your research. Why do they want your book? What do you have to offer that they can't find somewhere else? What makes you and your book worthwhile?
My first book The Impatient Beader was sold with a blind query. That means I sent a proposal to a publisher following the guidelines on their website and they purchased it. It was a craft book on jewelry making. The chance of getting a book deal out of a blind query is pretty slim, yet, as evidenced by my experience, not impossible. The timing and the approach were in tune with what the market needed at that time. I did a lot of stealth market research before I pitched, to see what was already on the market and what was missing. It's my best selling book to date. I have not made a fortune on craft books, even though three of my books were in the center of every bead aisle in every Michaels craft store in the country for three years. This leads us to contract negotiations.
Step Five: Contracts are for suckers, try not to be one.
Don't just sign the first contract you receive. Contracts are created to favor the entity presenting them. Look for royalty percentages, ask a lot of questions like: Can I have more of this and more of that? Can I retain these rights? Ask for more, because you aren't going to get it unless you ask and the worst they can do is say no. Grab a Sharpie and your resolve and get ready to ask for MORE!
There is a lot to pick through in a contract. This is why an agent is helpful. They can look through the horrid contracts publishers give to authors and get you a better deal. I have no idea how to get an agent. I hear good things about them, though.
Step Six: Bring your fans with you!
Once you've sold the book, you need to start working on PR and marketing. Don't start this until you've signed the contracts. Once the ink is dry, let folks know you're on your way to having a published book. Start with the announcement that you sold the book. Post regular updates to maintain momentum and interest. People like to feel like they're a part of your journey! Bring your friends, fans, and followers along for the ride!
Step Seven: Make a marketing plan.
When you have a firm publishing date confirmed, start making a master plan. Who is the demographic for your book? That will determine which social media platform will require most of your attention. My book is for women over 50, they are mostly on Facebook. There is also a contingent on Instagram. So most of my efforts have been focused there.