Thursday, December 27, 2007

Legs to Walk

I recently received an email from an author explaining something that every small publisher wishes every one of their authors understood. This author’s book just came out and we’ve been working closely with him on ways that he can promote the book, set up events, get local media interested in writing about the book, etc.

He said that at this point in the publishing process, he’s conceived and birthed the baby (the book) and now it’s time to give it legs to walk. He gets it. Too many authors think that because they’ve spent years researching and writing their book, once the manuscript is complete and off to the publisher, their job is done. It’s not. Authors who think this are sending their babies out into the world without legs and the results are always predicable. The book won’t do well and the author won’t understand why. When authors understand that writing a book is one step in the process and that promoting the book after its release is another step, it makes working together with them to publicize their book a lot easier.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Publishers can do for Book Sellers, a Bookstore’s Viewpoint

Earlier this month I wrote a post titled “What Publishers and Authors can do for Book Sellers, a Publisher’s Viewpoint.”

I also wanted to get a book seller’s two cents on the subject. I can describe how I think a publisher and author can help a book seller sell books, but what really helps them? I ran this question by Bjorn Skaptason with Abraham Lincoln Book Shop. He provided a thoughtful answer which I am including below as a guest post on the subject. I hope other publishers and authors find it as useful as I did.


Thanks for asking for our comments on what authors can do to help booksellers sell books. At Abraham Lincoln Book Shop and Virtual Book Signing we view publishers and authors as partners with the mutual goal of selling books. Sometimes, simply keeping that in mind while pondering publicity strategies will help.

The three points you raised in your December 7 post are very important. The willingness of authors to provide signed copies of books will help the book sell. This can be accomplished in person or with a book plate, but the willingness to personalize the customer’s book in some way is the important part. Also, when authors and publicists provide downloadable publicity materials, such as press releases and author bios, it makes it much easier for the book seller to advertise an event. Try to make the book seller’s life a little easier, because we all hope that they will be plenty busy filling orders. Finally, the value of media exposure, compared to paid advertising, is immeasurable. Work hard to get media exposure, and when you get it use it to tell customers how and where to buy your book.

Here are a few more suggestions that can make a book event successful:

We want authors to know that shameless self-promotion is a good thing. You wrote a book! That is a big deal. Don’t be shy about sharing your enthusiasm for your topic with others.

Before traveling to an event authors and their publicists should research the local market and find opportunities to give media interviews. The book seller might be able to provide leads, but the author and publisher need to do the leg work to book the events.

Let the book seller know your publicity plans. They might wish to cooperate. We will sometimes buy ad time for an author’s event on the radio program that does the interview.

Plug your events during your interviews. Don’t count on the interviewer asking “So, how does someone buy this book?”

Technology is changing the book world from beginning to end. The notion that an author writes a book, then hands it off to a publisher, who then hands it off to a book seller, with each party doing their “job” is no longer true. There are too many books coming out, from too many authors, and too many publishers, via too many resellers for the old model to work. The parties must work in partnership right up to the point of sale to create excitement about a book, reach the right audience, and deliver the book to the customer. The author must be involved throughout. The author was there to write the book, and the author will be there to sign it after the sale. After all, it is the author’s book.

Best Regards,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Signings – Going Virtual?

Publishing and book marketing newsletters frequently mention the decline of the traditional author book signing tour as we know it. Articles are appearing on the subject too. Here’s an example of one that appeared in The Christian Science Monitor a couple weeks ago.

Of course there’s something to be said for meeting an author in person and getting an autographed copy of their book, but virtual book signings and tours have many advantages. For starters, anyone anywhere who is interested in the book’s subject or the author’s work can hop on to the Internet and watch the interview. How many people in one city will attend a traditional event versus those who can “attend” from their computer at home? Or, as the article above mentions, you might see a recorded message from the author in your local bookstore. If this is played in dozens of bookstores throughout the country, imagine how many more people can view the message than if the author traveled to each of those cities.

The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop has a nice Virtual Book Signing program set up where viewers can interact with the author and interviewer live during the event by emailing in questions and orders for the book. After ordering a copy, the author will even personally sign the book to you on screen. Pretty cool. Our books Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862 and The Maps of Gettysburg have recently been featured in these events. With travel expenses to think about and no guarantee of how many people will show at each event, this is a great way for publishers and bookstores to change with the changing industry.

Friday, December 7, 2007

What Publishers and Authors can do for Book Sellers, a Publisher’s Viewpoint

As a publisher, we want to make it as easy for bookstores and non-trade outlets (such as museum stores, gift shops, etc.) to sell our books as possible. Here are some relatively easy things you, as an author or publisher, can do to help these outlets.

1. Signed books/bookplates and “Autographed Copy” stickers

Offering autographed copies of books has always been important to us, and it’s a reason why many resellers and book dealers buy our books from us instead of elsewhere. The majority of our books come signed by the author. When it isn’t feasible for the author to sign all the books himself (a few of our authors live overseas), we have them sign bookplates which we include with every order. Signed books sell faster and provide the seller with something customers can’t get on Amazon or at other stores.

We also provide resellers with gold sticker labels that say “Autographed Copy” which they can place on the front cover of our books. It’s an easy way for the buyers to know they are getting something special. There are different varieties of stickers available on book supply websites and a couple of rolls of the labels are an inexpensive investment.

2. Downloadable material

It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a successful book signing event. The publisher, author, and bookstore all want to sell as many books as they can at these events. We work closely with bookstores to promote the event beforehand. Most bookstores like to (and should always) put up some sort of book display and posters in their store prior to an author event. They usually also have an “Events” page on their website listing upcoming events and mail or email event info out to their database of customers. Make sure to provide the bookstore with a digital image of your book’s cover and an author photo. Many bookstores also appreciate a description of the book and an author bio. You can email these to the bookstore events coordinator. Or, make them available for easy download on your website. The Publicity section of our website has downloadable information sheets for each book and computer and print quality images of all of our book covers and author photos. Bookstores and members of the media can easily download these at any time.

3. Media

As Ted Savas mentioned in a recent blog post, the publisher has a limited amount of time and budget for each book. If we think a book will do well and we have the author’s full support in our efforts, we’ll put more time into marketing the book. Promoting events beforehand with in-store displays, community event calendar listings, and media coverage such as a local radio interview and book review in the local paper all help. As much as we’d like to think people will magically flock to an event just because the book is great, it doesn’t happen unless you draw the people in.

The book sellers you work with will appreciate these small things you can do to help them sell your book. If you already do one, try implementing the other two and see what a difference it makes. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post: What Publishers can do for Book Sellers, a Bookstore’s Viewpoint.