I launch a book and learn new stuffLast week I was excited to launch my 8th book over the course of 35 or so years. My long tenure has put me in the position of having now done almost everything possible in the book biz, except for a text book. I tried pretty hard to get When Friday Isn't Payday and the updated version Running a 21st Century Business into the classroom, but the hill was steep (like a cliff), and the reward wasn't worth it at the time.
But I have:
- Sold books through a local small publisher into a niche market - bicycle retail stores
- Sold a major book to a major publisher for wide distribution - business books noted above through Warner Business Books
- Used a New York Literary Agent to sell a book. Same books
- Used a smallish national publisher in the Christian market - A Generation Betrayed - Its Time to End the Sexual Revolution
- Self published a niche book for $50 each
- And now, I am self publishing a Christian market theology book on Kindle, Amazon print, and audio.
If you are a Christian who wants to take your faith to the next level, please check out my new book: God Called - He Needs Your Decision!
So how does all of this tie into our business blog? Book selling is another business. And the marketing of books is very instructive for other types of business. After creating the product, which requires the better part of a year, and an investment in the mid four figures, you now need to let folks know you have a product they might want to buy. As with any product or service today that might be free (blogs, videos, website, FB, Twitter, radio interviews, TV, etc) or have a cost (print advertising, booth space, online ads, and sometimes the use of a publicist.)
Covers (packaging) were always a critical issue, but in a book store the customer might only see the spine. Spine art and color is even a science. Now, the book cover is critical and must be very bold in a thumbnail size so that the title and mood are clear and readable.
Like any business in today's market, but even more so, the potential for sales is driven by reviews. Getting folks to read it and review favorably prior to and during launch can make or break a book. Yes, you can have another round of promotions, months or even years into a book, assuming it doesn't have an expiration date (due to timeliness issues), but the initial launch is where you have the best chance to build excitement. I have participated in numerous grand openings, and I always suggest spending as much as possible to get that early visibility.
What about success rate? Generally, I would speculate that it is about the same as Amway. Most authors have no stomach for marketing or speaking, and the real money is made selling the book after giving a talk (which often includes an honorarium to boot). Most authors become very discouraged after the first book doesn't do well, and don't create that string of books in the same market that establish the author's brand and build audience.
I am somewhat of a freak in the business. I don't write for money. I do know how to market. I have written in 4 distinct genre's, and I have had 80% success in terms of either making money or helping folks with the message. I'm not sure I would recommend my approach, other than to go into the book business with no expectations of making money on the books...ever. Then recognize that the only hope of doing so is luck or very hard work. OH! Once again, it sounds just like any other small business.