The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Selling, Marketing, and Promoting Your Book
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by Richard F. X. O'Connor
Category: Self Improvement/General Nonfiction
Description: Publishing Industry Executive Tells How to Market Your Book--and Yourself! Whether you are a novice writer, a successfully published veteran, or are considering self-publishing you need the practical, insider's tips and secrets in this eBook. A former director of marketing for such companies as Doubleday and the Walden/Borders book chain shares the wisdom and insights of a lifetime spent in publishing. Rich with anecdotes of the famous literary figures the author has worked with and learned from, such as Irving Wallace, Arthur Hailey, George Plimpton, James Dickey, Erica Jong, Maya Angelou, Bob Hope, and others, the book is as entertaining to read as it is illuminating. Readers will learn how to: * Get an Agent * Sell to a Publisher * Work with Your Editor * Maximize Promotion & Publicity" * Maximize Marketing & Sales * Mastermind a Bestseller * Secrets of Successful Self-publishing * All About E-Books Richard F. X. O'Connor has been called "the quintessential publishing insider." In addition to his years in marketing, he is a bestselling author who has appeared on Donahue, Good Morning America, and Larry King. Includes pre- and post-publication marketing and publicity checklists.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: November 2004
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [172 KB]
Reading time: 95-133 min.
Why You Must Become A "Marketing Author"
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."--Samuel Johnson
Andy Warhol was wrong!
The artist prophesied that, "In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."
In this age of CNN and the Internet, Warhol may have been right for most folks--but not writers. As a writer, you can have a lot more than fifteen minutes in the limelight--if you are willing to pay the price of admission, which is the time spent learning how to market yourself and your book.
Given one's druthers, most writers would finish a manuscript and mail it off to the publisher. A few months later they would see the book in a bookstore window, wrapped in a positively smashing dust jacket, with the author's name in 36-point caps.
But one's druthers don't count in the heady world of commercial publishing. And even the least cynical writer realizes that it is no longer enough to labor at the craft of writing. Begrudgingly, writers understand that they must also "sell" their work to an agent, an editor, and a publisher. Like it or not, we must sell ourselves to others before our passion goes between covers.
COMPETITION FOR READERS
In the first place the competition is enormous, especially if yours is a first book--and most especially if yours is a hardcover first novel. Of the tens of thousands of manuscripts by unknown writers submitted to publishers every year, Ann Burns of Library Journal estimates that only 248 hardcover first novels were published in 1990. The highest number in any year was 310.
Consider this from an article in the New York Times: "Publishers know that most first novels will not sell more than 3,000 copies and many sell about 1,500. A sale of 10,000 is considered very good. As a result the publishers are generally unwilling to pay advances over $15,000"--and that number is high,
TOM MCCORMICK SAYS YOU NEED "AN EDGE"
As the former CEO of St. Martins Press, Tom McCormick, said in an interview, "With most literary first novels, you know damn well you are not going to sell it even if you bring it into [book] stores with a hand grenade."
If your book is a first novel you need an edge to get noticed to sort your work out of the agent's or editor's slush pile. If yours is a second book or non-fiction, you need an "edge" to get your agent and editor to push you to mid-list or higher.
THE MARKETING AUTHOR
The real meat of this book is to make writers more successful through a working knowledge of marketing--so that the writer becomes a Marketing Author.
The unpublished Marketing Author is one who has learned the basics, such as those in this book. The already-published Marketing Author is one who has paid his or her dues by getting down into the trenches and earning their way to the top.
ROBERT ASPRIN, GENRE WRITER AND MARKETING AUTHOR
An illustration of this type of writer is Robert "Bob "Asprin, a Sci-Fi and Fantasy author who studied at the feet of his agent, Kirby McCauley; who attended every Con (Science Fiction convention); who glad-handed at every meeting where science fiction fans gathered, who listened to the counsel of marketing people at his various publishers' houses, and absorbed the lessons they offered; and most importantly, who is good at his craft of spinning a tale.
The Marketing Author can also be a celebrity or established author who really doesn't have to promote the book--since celebrity status assures a given sale in any event--but one who takes off on the author tour anyway, willingly flogging the book to optimize its sale and support the folks whose hard work and sweat have gone into the publishing process. Such was the late and wonderful Liberace.
Another celebrity-author who worked tirelessly to promote his books is Bob Hope, one of which was entitled I Owe Russia $1200. Hope's publisher booked him into an autographing in the window of a Fifth Avenue bookstore at high noon. Lunchtime crowds soon filled the intersection outside, literally bringing traffic to a halt. The gawkers wanted a glimpse of celebrity. Half an hour went by and the street crowd had not abated. Hope turned to an aide and was heard to say--"Why the hell don't they come in and buy the goddam book!"
WHERE THE POWER IS: KNOWING HOW IT WORKS
By making oneself aware of the many steps and intricacies in the publishing/marketing process, the Marketing Author becomes empowered with the very same tools used by reps, publicists and marketing practitioners.
Insider's tip: Anything the publisher can do, you can do.
WHY BOOK MARKETING?
The word "marketing" wasn't even in the lexicon of publishing when I entered the business in 1961, straight out of college. Indeed elements that are a part of marketing were already in place, elements such as advertising, publicity, and promotion. But they had yet to be drawn under the coordinated umbrella of marketing.
While there are as many definitions of marketing as there are marketing practitioners, try this definition: Marketing is a matter of common sense--the exercising of those sales principles and persuasive elements that put you or me in a mood to buy.
There is little difference in the marketing of books, Band-Aids, or bananas! For all three, the marketing principles remain the same. Only the emphasis changes, which principle you apply, how, and when. As you continue exploring the various elements that make up book marketing you begin to see where book marketing differs from marketing of other consumer products.
Wise is the marketer who gives attention and importance to value, both perceived and real. For example, attractive packaging yields Perceived Value--where the customer "feels" she has gotten a dollar's worth of goods for a dollar paid. Real Value is what the customer gets out of the purchase--customer satisfaction.
It is said that marketing leaves nothing to chance. And 98 percent of the time, that's accurate, since manufacturers are well aware of the marketing rule which says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But there's always some damn fool who will tinker, like the whiz-kids who introduced The New Coke and promptly lost 25 percent share of market to Pepsi,
THE INVENTION OF BOOK MARKETING
Before the decade of the 60s was out, marketing was in full swing. In a sense, most publishers had to invent book marketing, along the way borrowing principles as they did from other segments of American business and manufacturing, and applying those techniques to books.
During this time I was very fortunate to study under masters, some who became mentors. I met the great and the near-great--editors, authors, celebrities and publishers--some of whom are now gone but whose lessons, contained herein, must not be allowed to disappear. Those lessons are their legacy to this generation of writers--models to instruct and inform, to make the writer's craft more fruitful, successful, and rewarding.
HOW PUBLISHERS RESISTED THE IDEA OF "MARKETING"
While the concept of marketing came late to the publishing world, publishing was anything but receptive.
To be sure, marketing was flourishing throughout the economy in those years as well as in limited segments of book publishing, such as mail order and book clubs. But marketing was nowhere to be found in Trade Publishing. As the reader has gathered by now, the folks who people Publishers Row call themselves Trade Publishers. That simply means their output goes to the Trade--bookstores and libraries for the general reading public, as opposed to the audiences for book clubs, textbooks or reference works.
The reason for publishing's out-and-out hostility towards marketing back then was twofold. Until that time, book publishing was still cloaked in the mantle of a "Gentleman's Industry," a term coined by Alfred A. Knopf (the "k" is not silent, by the way). That great editor and publisher is reputed not only to have said that publishing is a gentleman's industry, but also that he would have no one work for him who was not "a gentleman of independent means." Little wonder, since publishing didn't pay well then and doesn't to this day. (Mother, don't let your kids grow up to be writers.)
The second reason for resistance to marketing: Publishing was equated with editors and the editorial function. The seat of power was not in advertising and sales but rather in editors and the editorial department.
And great editors dominated every publishing house from the turn of the century through the 60s and the rise of marketing. It is no accident that those who are barely familiar with books have a familiarity with the names of Maxwell Perkins, Roger Strauss, Bennett Cerf and Alfred Knopf. Those titans were editors and publishers.
THE WORD "PRODUCT" ANATHEMA AT DOUBLEDAY
Editorial was king and all else in the publishing house--sales, publicity, art, subsidiary rights--fell under the fiefdom of the king. The following anecdote will illuminate the subject.
The mid-point of the 60s found me laboring for the family-owned giant Doubleday & Company. At 25, my annual salary of $7,200 belied the very long title I held: "Assistant to the Advertising, Sales Promotion and Publicity Manager." The words "to the" in my title would be eliminated with my next promotion, with no guarantee of a pay raise.
To increase my knowledge and value, the firm sent me off to an American Management Association marketing school where I would rub shoulders with my opposite numbers from Duracell Batteries and AT&T, to name but two.
The AMA filled my young head with newfangled notions of marketing plans, Unique Selling Propositions, target markets, and market share. When I returned to the staid world of publishing, where leather elbow patches on tweed jackets were still in vogue, I was absolutely certain that I alone held the key to my company's future and its success. Youth!
That view was not shared by some colleagues, one of whom was Pyke Johnson, Jr. Pyke was probably 20 years my senior and Editor-in-Chief of Anchor Books, Doubleday's prestigious imprint of supplementary college trade paperbacks. He was a widely read and extremely intelligent man, a gentle fellow bespeaking his Quaker background. In a sales conference rehearsal I made the mistake of referring to one of his books as a "product."
Well--Pyke hit the ceiling! Hs face turned red as he uncharacteristically yelled, "Product?" Repeating the word louder, "Product? My goodness boy, this is a book. This is not a--a--product." He spat out that last word "product" as you would spit out snake venom after extracting it from a bite.
I was certain that my very short career at Doubleday had just ended--then and there, in that conference room. Properly chastised, I never again coupled the words book and product within earshot of an editor for the next several years.
Young and green as I was, I could not have foreseen that the old-fashioned and elegant world of book publishing was in the midst of a huge pendulum swing that would shift the balance of power from editorial to marketing in that very decade.
MARKETING COMES TO BOOKSELLING
But marketing did come to publishing--just as certainly as women changed the face of the "gentleman's industry." Though some might disagree, women found their way earlier to publishers' seats and boardroom chairs in disproportionate numbers to any other industry. And rightfully so.
The publishing industry caught on fast, which accounts for the on-going success of established houses like Simon & Schuster and Random House. Other firms that were not product-oriented, non-marketing firms, either fell by the wayside or later saw the light.
And the productive, well-rounded latter-day editor is a Marketing Editor, one who evaluates books in terms of sales, who can speak the lingo of marketing folks, while exercising keen editorial judgment. Such an editor understands that dust jackets are packaging; she prepares her author for the rigors of book flogging; and she has embraced knowledge of the marketplace.
Thirty years after publishing was dragged kicking and screaming into adopting marketing principles, the most successful editors and publishing houses are known for their marketing savvy.
BOOK TO TITLE TO UNIT
Former Tarcher/Putnam editor Jean Marie Stine--who I consider one of the best editors I have encountered--is one such Marketing Editor. Stine says she developed a heightened appreciation for marketing on a visit to the buying offices of the B. Dalton bookselling chain in the company of sales rep Bob Morris. "The buyers there," Stine said, "were talking about '''units', which was something new to me. Not books, but how many 'units' the chain would take."
Editor Stine developed the following formula, which she shares with her authors--a marketing reminder that should be glued to every writer's typewriter or PC:
* Writers Write Books
* Publishers Issue Titles
* Book Buyers Buy Units!
Parenthetically, the largest bookseller chains are: the Borders Group including Walden; Barnes & Noble including B. Dalton; Books-A-Million, and Bookland. Quarterly fluctuations aside, it is safe to say that chains account for 40-50 percent of all bookstore sales.
TOO MANY BOOKS
Another trade secret: Too many books are published each year.
If that sounds like a contradiction to those writers who have been unsuccessful in landing a publisher, it is also heresy in publishing itself. However, ask any bookseller. The size of the average bookstore, excluding superstores, is approximately 2,500 square feet. It is a source of amazement that booksellers handle the incredible annual output from publishers.
Between 50-60,000 new titles are released by publishers each and every year. Publishers Weekly reported that total book title output hardcover and paperback, by publishers in 1994 was 51,863, causing P/W to speculate: "Does this large increase [for 1994] signal a return to the excesses of the mid 1980s?"
With huge numbers of new titles being released each year, it remains that there is "x" amount of space in the average bookstore to house new releases. So it is indeed fair to say that too many books are published each year. No magic shoehorn exists to expand extant retail floor space.
If this sounds disheartening to the would-be author, take heart instead, because what I am revealing here will help you beat the odds, and not only get published, but get published well!
It is not only the publisher who sins on the side of over-production but authors as well. Fiction aside, there isn't a new idea under the sun, save for evolving technologies. Whatever book idea a writer has, it has probably already been thought of, published, remaindered and disappeared into the great typographical abyss. So your idea for your book better have a truly new wrinkle if you are to grab the attention of the book-buying public in an age of substance-less books and sound bytes.
PUBLISHING IS A CRAPSHOOT
Trade secret is: "Publishing is a crap shoot." You have better odds of making money at Las Vegas craps table than you have in publishing books.
Why? The extraordinary costs of editing, publishing and marketing a book. These costs have sent many publishers running for cover. Among the top ten hardcover houses are super-conglomerates, and what they are publishing today are brand names: authors with proven track records. Admittedly, that statement contains more than the seed of truth.
YOUR BOOK IS A PRODUCT!
Lesson: "Your book is a Product and products are marketed."
"Whoa," says the writer who feels her mission in life is to create great literature or a valuable book. "How dare you call my literary work a product!"
Fact is, it is! No book--whether it is of high literary merit or a collection of cartoons--no book is immune to the rules of marketing--nor are any of us consumers. I am not suggesting that fine literature be peddled like a crate of mackerel in the Fulton Fish Market. But I am saying that the successful author, the "marketing author," is one who understands that marketing gets the word out; marketing tells the world that there is a new title, a product if you will, that it should be aware of and perhaps purchase.
Focus panels and studies have proven that most of us are in denial when asked if advertising affects our buying decisions. The more educated the person questioned, the more they deny that television advertising or radio talk shows affect whether or not they buy a particular product. Poppycock! The powerful media bombarding our daily lives influences all of us, to one degree or another--it is impossible not to be. Denying that we are affected simply makes us feel hip, above it all.
As much as editors have accepted marketing, so too must you embrace its principles to become a successful author.
THE PUBLISHER AS INVESTOR
Publishers are bankers, investors if you will. As executives of publicly traded conglomerates, their job is to insure high profits. To achieve high profits, it is a short jump to a philosophy that says: "Publish only winners."
Now, publishing only winners with a proven track record doesn't leave much room for the first novel, a work of poetry, or an author without a track record. Little wonder it is so difficult to get published. In the main, commercial publishers leave risk publishing, poetry and the like, to specialty publishers, of which there are literally thousands. Little wonder also that so many writers turn to self-publishing.
In this kind of publishing environment, writers have all the more reason to become marketing authors
GENRE FICTION, THE EXCEPTION
There are always exceptions. In a handful of cases, some books do not follow the rules of marketing. An example is "category fiction" such as Romances that, while they respond to some marketing principles like packaging and display, there is precious little a Romance author can do to promote this genre except perhaps local signings. Category fiction is highly dependent upon reader-following, built upon by consumer taste and trust in a series name such as Harlequin, or upon the author's name.
A STROLL ALONG PUBLISHER'S ROW
So come with me now on an Insider's stroll along Publishers Row where you will meet some interesting and powerful people--celebrities, CEO's, authors, agents and publishers. You will share lessons they can teach ... and along the way, take a look into the offices of editors, salespeople, art directors, and publicists, the very heart of publishing itself.
On this journey they will share with you lessons, tips, author myth-conceptions (notions widely held that are debunked), and trade secrets (those pieces of information known to publishing insiders, but rarely conveyed to an author, let alone the public).
The reader will note that delineations are not made in this book among small, medium and large publishing houses, opting to represent the large house as typical so that the reader can see the total breadth of activity. Small and medium houses, and the self-publisher, are simply microcosms of the large publishing firm and must publish and market in essentially the same fashion, albeit with fewer resources.
* Perceived Value and Real Value
* How book marketing grew
* A "gentleman's industry" no more
* Chains buy units
* Your book is a product--and products are marketed
* Do not count on your book's quality or significance, alone, to sell your book to a publisher
* You must sort yourself out of the pack
* Defining the Marketing Author