Self-publishers face an emotional roller coaster as they venture through the world of publishing, realizing a terrific high when they finally see their book in print, followed by a sometimes significant low as they face the challenge of getting their book to potential customers. Not everyone is a natural marketer!
The marketing bottom line
The bottom line is that all authors, whether traditionally published or self-published, are largely responsible for their own marketing. The benefit of working with a traditional publisher (such as Random House) is that they cover a considerable portion of the cost of marketing, and prepare the marketing plan with you. The author, however, is still the primary person sent out to promote their book. Please make sure you understand this point. Regardless of whether you’re paying for your publishing project, or have been picked up by a publishing company, you are the one who does the work of promoting your book.
If this is something that you simply cannot undertake, then you need to set your goals accordingly. There are book marketing services available but they are expensive and do not guarantee success.
It is one thing to write and publish a book and quite another to sell it.
So what should my publishing goal be?
Simply put, we believe that publishing should be undertaken with the end goal of personal satisfaction. The next tier of success would be to recover your publishing expenses. Webb Publishing has worked with authors who have created very successful projects, but they are few and far between, and their success is largely due to circumstances: the right product, the right time, the right people involved in the project.
Creating a Marketing Plan
Developing a thorough marketing plan will provide a step-by-step plan to achieve your sales goals and help you stay realistic. An author should write a marketing plan to cover the twelve months following the launch of their book, addressing the following types of questions:
- Retailers: Where will I sell my book?
Options include consigning your book to bookstores and local museums and shops, setting up online sales via Direct From The Author.com, Amazon.ca and other sites, personal sales to your own contacts, finding a book distributor to handle sales for you, attending appropriate fairs and trade shows.
Consigning books to bookstores and/or distributors generally costs you 40%-60% of your book’s cover price. Many self-publishing authors find this discouraging and prefer to sell directly to their customers instead of going through a middle-man.
Don’t forget to think outside the box. Does your book talk about the history of a certain community? Reach out to venues in that community and discuss selling through them.
Should I send out a press release?
Should I organize a book launch event?
Should I arrange some author appearances?
Writing a press release (an announcement of your book) is a great way to start the marketing process. It gives you a ‘calling card’ when you approach book stores and can be attached to any mailings you do. An official-looking press release shows that you are serious in your goals.
Also prepare a ‘sell sheet’ for potential bookstore buyers. You can find samples online.
Try finding some free publicity by tying into local community events, accessing media (radio, newspaper, TV) for applicable interviews, etc.
If you consign your book to a bookstore, the book store may request that you host a book signing in their store. This is a good way to get a feel for the sales and marketing side of publishing, but we find that book signings and appearances do not usually generate many book sales.
How will people find out about my new book?
Should I do any advertising?
Do I need a website?
Again, these questions will be answered by the sales goals you set for yourself. If you can find appropriate advertising opportunities (ie: advertising that is targeted to your specific audience), and the advertising is affordable, then it may make sense for you to pursue it. In general, advertising dollars are best spent trying to target a specific audience (ie: there’s no point advertising a book about hair loss to children).
Where do I start?
Set a goal for yourself and use the goal to help create your marketing plan. Then you can use your marketing plan to keep you on track and avoid options that don’t meet your marketing goal.
As stated in other sections of this website, Webb Publishing feels that an appropriate starting goal for a new self-publishing author is recovery of cost and the satisfaction of seeing your book in print.
We are happy to provide estimates for the following marketing services: press releases, posters, sell sheets, business cards, personal web site development, planning sessions, and more. Webb Publishing has many years of media marketing experience and is happy to share our knowledge with an author during the marketing planning stages.
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge book distribution. The single biggest frustration facing independent authors is getting their books to the book-buying public. In the past, book publishers worked with book distributors to promote their company’s latest titles. Distributors would create catalogues, send their sales reps to book stores and national head offices of retailers, and set up booths at book shows 2-4 times per year. Publishers liaised with distributors, ensuring the supply of product and invoicing was up to date. These were usually exclusive sales arrangements, and new book titles typically had one shot at getting promoted. After that, they would become ‘back-listed’. While some traditional distributors have incorporated self-published titles into their systems, the challenge of maintaining inventory at distributor warehouses and being responsible for refunds of unsold or damaged books, plus the 60% commission, is prohibitive to most independent authors. Plus, independent authors do not want to be restricted about who they can sell their books to. Plus, distributors cannot possibly achieve volume sales of so many new and relatively unknown clients. It is still possible to find book distributors, but most of our indie authors find that it is better to maintain control of the marketing of their book themselves.