How to Balance Writing a Great Book with the Energy Needed for Marketing
Episode #5 of the course How to begin (and maintain) your career as a writer by John Robin
Welcome to day six!
For the remainder of the course, we’ll be talking about how to maintain your author career. Today’s discussion is on the most immediate step: learning from your first book launch.
Even with realistic expectations, it’s impossible not to go into your book launch with excitement. It’s great to ride the momentum and further excitement of everything that passes on launch week and beyond.
But as the months pass, you’ll soon be looking back at it all—and preparing for your next one.
As I mentioned in day 1, launch is seldom like you imagine it to be. Many authors expect their book to hit the NYT bestseller list, but in reality it’s a very small selection of authors who do (very very small). Even hitting sales over 1,000 on your first book is tough and a privilege enjoyed by some but not all.
If you find yourself struggling to sell more than 100 copies of your first book, just know you’re not alone.
Book Signings Don’t Sell Books: Lesson #1
Book sales are happening more online now, but books are still selling in physical book stores. Authors show up at conventions to engage with fans and often times will do book signings. Authors with traditional publishers do book tours and ardent fans come to buy copies.
But a great many other authors at conventions will get a table and feature their books, or arrange a book signing event at a bookstore, only to be ignored. Understanding why requires understanding the person on the other side of the tables. Usually they just want to browse. They’re not likely to come your way unless they’ve already heard of you, or unless something about what you’re offering directly attracts them.
This leads to a related point:
Don’t Order in Bulk: Lesson #2
Many authors jump at the opportunity to order hundreds of copies of their first book. Most of them will tell you now they still have a couple boxes from that first order collecting dust in a shed. This is especially common when you’re new and not backed by a large publisher.
Despite what you might hear of many authors talking about doing book release parties and book signings, beware that the reality of this can also be difficult. Especially in the case of authors with big publishers, if they don’t sell books at a bookstore signing, the bookstore keeps those books on the shelves.
If you, personally, are purchasing your own books for selling, make sure these are books you wouldn’t feel you wasted your money buying if they don’t sell right away. In fact, my advice would be to buy a smaller quantity up front with the intention of giving several away and selling personally to your closest fans. Make it a goal to buy more when these sell.
It might look something like this:
• Buy 50 copies for launch week.
• Buy 100 copies when 50 copies are gone.
• Buy 200 copies when 100 copies are gone.
Selling print copies can be hit or miss, so it shouldn’t be your exclusive focus unless your publisher already has a distribution plan and partnership with booksellers. If you’re hand-selling, see this as just one opportunity to connect while keeping your promotional plans broad.
Tomorrow, we’ll extend a bit further beyond launch and discuss ways to think long-term in your writing career.
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