Sunday, April 20, 2008

Nightengale's Nuggets: Publishing a Book Is Like Giving Birth to a Child

Remember as a parent the way you felt when you first held your baby in your arms? Kisses, cuddles, smiles that were really burps? All the planning: setting up the nursery, doctor visits, the sonograms, the baby showers with family and friends cheering you on as a new parent.

But, when all the fuss and frenzy dies down, the reality of parenthood sets in. It seems like it is all about the late nights and diapers. Then as the child grows, there are the skinned knees, and the first day of school, the school plays, or sports events, and all the after school activit
ies, vacations and then college. Kids absorb so much of your time, energy and money --- all well spent of course! --- but isn’t parenthood much harder than you ever thought it would be? The challenges are enormous to raise a human being (or two or three or four or more) from diapers to adulthood.

Now compare that image to the way PROMOTING A BOOK IS LIKE RAISING A CHILD!

Remember as a first-time author the way you felt when you first held your book in you hands? Pride of accomplishment, hopes for getting on Oprah’s show, “knowing” you had a best seller? All the planning: writing it, finding a publisher, setting up the first booksignings, calls to the publisher getting enough books, getting an article in the newspaper, appearing on a radio show, entering awards contests, friends and family lining up to buy your book and cheering you on as a new published author. You felt like you were flying.

And THEN reality sets in. When the frenzy has died down, your arms grew tired, your successes seemed small, and the fact that the work of making your book sell began to wear you down. The challenges are enormous to promote a book from idea to bestseller, or at least a book that keeps on selling.

Now, maybe you feel like you’re just hanging in there with the fingers getting tired of clinging to the branch, ready to fall.

Raising a book ― promoting it to its full maturity takes time, energy, money, love, nurture, education, a willingness to try new things and “abiding persistence” to make a book succeed. You should not give up. Your book talks to you all the time, nagging at you to do more, needing you to provide opportunities and visibility. Your book needs to run races, roller blade for fitness, ride in the back of your car wherever you go. Your book needs to be out there, visible to buyers before anyone will pick it up buy it and read it.

“HOW?” you ask. Well, one thing is to put it in the right places ― yes, advertise it. Show it off! Get in into the publications librarians and booksellers use to find new books to put on their shelves. Get into community driven websites, Social Networking is becoming the biggest way to promote anything, books included. Another thing is to budget for the constant demand your book will make of you to let it out of your house. You MUST let your books breathe the fresh air of the market place. If you keep them cloistered and shut in, they will grow yellow, become brittle and soon be forgotten.

Your questions are many.

Question #1: What IS a best seller?

A bestseller is really whatever the author thinks it is. But in the marketplace, on Amazon, a bestseller sells 1,000 books in one day and then keeps on selling everyday. On B&N a best seller is a book that sells 250 books or more in one day, and keeps on selling for a while after that. See the discrepancy? But if you reach that bestseller status even in a genre category, you can put that fact on the cover of your book, and no one can take it away from you.

The Amazon Blast is an email campaign that accomplishes this, but you need to have thousands of contacts who are interested in your success to sell 1000 books on one day…and there is the little known fact that Amazon counts one order (no matter how many copies of one title are in that order) as one book sold. So, if you sell 50 copies to a friend, it counts as one book.

Conversely, on B&N, if you sell 50 to a friend on one order, it counts as 50 books sold. So, to sell 250+ books on one day is a much easier hurdle to leap, and it opens the doors to in-store booksignings if you poise your marketing plan to include notifying the B&N stores in your area when you reach that magic number on your blast day.

A New York Times Best Seller has gotten rave reviews, lots of expensive PR driven promotion and trade support, and usually sells 10,000 copies or more through normal trade outlets, not including internet sales. This kind of effort costs a lot of money to accomplish, and even with the rapid sales, these can disappear once the promos end. Every book has its lifespan, and for some it is a few weeks. For others it is a few months, and for very few it is a matter of years, decades or centuries.

However, in the real world of most books, a best seller is a book that the author can continue to sell for years after publication. Speakers, lecturers, teachers, business trainers and coaches, and authors with the hutzpah to get out and talk about their books can be very successful. This requires making your book your full time job. It requires planning ahead of publication to whom and how you are going to sell your books.

Question #2: How can you reach your readers when you don’t know where they are?

I would counter that question with, “Why don’t you know who your readers are?” A book written without a fore-knowledge of who would want to read it, is a book doomed to sit on a shelf, alone and dusty. Fiction is divided into genre so people who like fantasy don’t accidentally pick up a romance novel. Or those who prefer political suspense can find books other than detective mysteries. Children’s books have so many iterations, it is nearly impossible to categorize them. Then, of course, there are all the non-fiction books and all the how-to books that fill the shelves of bookstores to overflowing.

An author needs to recognize the job belongs to him/her and no one else. You can hire a publicist for the outreach to publications and radio shows you might need help with, but in the end, you will need to do the talking and provide the copy for the articles. You will need to establish your data-base and keep it growing. Take those emails, addresses and phone numbers, and then USE them to keep in touch with your clients about your talks, signings, events and new books. Which leads to the next question:

Question #3: What can you do to keep your book in the limelight?

Write a second book and market it to your client base. Do a blast for online sales. Give talks locally (in libraries) and regionally. Join a speaker’s organization. Write lots of articles and post them online at the many online article sites ( and are excellent) and of course, start a blog, and get involved in at least one social networking site. Keep up the flow of information about your book.

There are as many ways to market a book as there are ideas you can generate about your book. Think outside the lines, and reach out to businesses in your area whose mission may connect with your book. Children’s boutiques and educational stores are a place where children’s authors can start right in their own areas.

Question #4: How does the size of a book affect it in the marketplace?

The nutshell answer goes like this: books that are smaller in size 4x6” mass market publications, and 5x8" or 5.5x8.5" trade paper publications are usually fiction, though some self-help books are small in size. Larger books (6x9 and up) are usually non-fiction or color children's books which can come in all shapes and sizes. Observation of books in the stores will hold true to this, in most instances. There are many varieties of size for all kinds of specialty books. Mostly, I believe size and page count are a matter of what's best for the subject matter, layout and cover design.
If your manuscript is 75,000 words, your book will be about 250 pages at the 8.5x8.5 format.
It will be more like 300 pages in the smaller mass market format of 4x6” normally reserved for high end runs of well-known authors.

If you have lots of photos or drawings, the larger formats of 6x9 and up are better, because they allow for more page space to make the images easily visible.

If you send a manuscript to a publisher and you have 180,000+ words, the publisher is going to suggest two books, volume one and two, since a 700 page book is very hard to market for a first time author. If you develop a marketplace for your writing, then you can increase the length of the book.

Well, there are so many more questions I could attempt to answer, but authors need to realize that they are responsible for the marketing successes of their books, and the effort and money varies widely from book to book. Some authors spend a lot and get nothing for it. Some spend very little and get a lot. It is all about the author’s ability to persist in the drive to sell his story, and to work at it diligently as a day job.

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