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Do You Have a Book Distributor? Are You Sure?


I had so much fun talking with the authors and indy publishers at AuthorU earlier this month.  Here is a snippet that explains in detail the difference between Wholesalers, Distributors and Fulfillment Houses.

Too often I get calls from authors/small press owners who tell me that they “have a distributor”… then they mention Ingram or Baker & Taylor.  CLOSE!  But no…. check out this 2 minute video to see why:

Book Distribution vs. Book Wholesalers





Why is Everyone Selling My Book Except Me?


This week I have received a number of questions from a client who has seen her book for sale on Amazon’s Marketplace, B&N’s used book page, and other used and cheap book sites.

“Where did these come from?” she asks.  Her next question was how to hire a lawyer to stop the sale of her book from which she gets no recompense.

After phone-pouring her a stiff drink, I explained where they came from and why there is nothing she can do about it.

First off, several of the sites that list a book do not actually HAVE the book.  Computer bots have scurried around the book websites and grabbed new book information as it is released. The bots then send the book info back to their host computers who post the book automatically. I love seeing one of my clients $16.95 books on sale for $203.50 at a used book site.

But other than that, the books you see ARE real.

Smart authors print pre-release copies of their books, Advance Reading Copies or actual book copies, to send to reviewers and jounalists during the early months of a book’s marketing campaign.  Dozens or even hundreds of copies of these books are sent out to reviewers and editors asking for some attention.

Bethany Brown of The Cadence Group says: “We here at the Cadence Group always sticker the books we send out with bright orange stickers stating that the books are for review only and not for resale.  But even with those stickers, the books always show up for sale on Amazon, B&N, and other used book outlets. It is the reality of the review world.”

Once a book is reviewed, the reviewer is well within their rights to do whatever they wish with it.  A LOT of reviewers have a local used bookstore that will take boxes of books each  month.  These used bookstores, having bought the books legally, put them up on their Amazon and other retail marketplace pages.

I will say here what I said to my now-no-longer-letigious client.  Let it go.  A few used copies bought cheaply will only help get your book out there.  The more people who read it the better!  If you sent out 100 books, then brace yourself that 86 will be sold as used or almost new.  That is 86 more readers than you would have had.


“I want to sell a million copies”


I hear this sentence at least three times a day.  A million copies. The magic number.  Just thought I’d throw a few more magic numbers out there….

Here is a brief run down of Stephen King’s latest marketing program for his last book from an October 2011 Wall Street Journal Article.

Mr. King and his publisher, Scribner, face an odd challenge as they unleash an elaborate marketing campaign to promote “11/22/63.” How do you rebrand one of the world’s most famous and successful living authors? Scribner is targeting history buffs with book-giveaway promotions on and history sites. To reach news junkies, the publisher bought ad time on 11 p.m. news programs in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The 30-second ad, which will also run on the CNN airport network and on the A&E and Syfy networks, shows archival footage of Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade, with a voice-over that says, “What if instead of justwatching history, you could change it?” Mr. King’s book tour will include appearances at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, the site Oswald fired from. The Dallas museum is preparing to host 1,000 people.

So what do we take away from this?

Mr. King has a huge following and decades of New York Times Best Sellers behind him.

He was on the road for weeks doing events in high-profile locations.

His publisher purchased ads on CNN, A&E the 11pm news in major markets.

Scribner also launched a multi-platform online campaign that gave away over 3000 books.

The magic number since the book released last November?  According to Bookscan, Mr. King has sold 576,361 copies across all formats.

One of the best-selling authors of all time spent over a hundred thousand dollars on marketing with his publisher and even with eBook sales included, did not reach a million copies.

What is the real magic number?

It starts with the amount of time you spend getting the package of your book right

It is followed by the number of months you spend planning and orchestrating your launch

Right behind that is the number of ads and programs you participate in.

But that last number does not count much unless the ads and programs are in top venues (USA TODAY, PEOPLE, CNN…)

Next up is the number of PR and marketing professionals you are working with.

Then is there are the amount of reviews you get

A BIG number is how many retailers are getting your marketing and PR information to convince the buyers to buy your book.

Finally, there is the elusive “tipping point” number.  How many people have to love and recommend your book before it takes on a life of its own?

So what is the answer to the question “what are the right numbers for my book?”.

It is different for everybody, but start with THOSE numbers and THEN tell the world how many you plan on selling.  If you are going to spend 20 hours and $4000 on sales and marketing, your book will not “catch fire”.  The stories of books that grow from nothing and become huge successes have enormous numbers behind them. Numbers of hours, numbers of dollars, numbers of supporters…. the ratio varies, but the totals are the same.  At least a million….


Social Media and Online Book Marketing


We had a wonderful time today talking to Sherrie Wilkolaski about Social Media and Marketing your Book Online.

Here is a recording of her great advice for authors:



“But how many books will I SELL?” – Author Events Part Two


One of the first things a publisher or author will ask of any marketing plan is “what is the return on my investment going to be?” The person with the checkbook wants to know that if they write out the zeros, they can plan on a significant return on their investment.

I hate to tell give them the only answer that anyone can give… “It depends.”

Carol Zelaya, author of the Emily the Chickadee series, published by Richlee Publishing, launched her first children’s book in April 2008. She hired a fantastic PR firm to set up the launch, complete with a book signing tour covering four states that she expected would stimulate sales. Her expectations were quickly dashed.

“I mistakenly thought that once you were invited to do a book signing, you had really made it.” says Zelaya “I was so wrong. Even when the stores did tons of publicity and put up big posters, no one came.”

But are sales the only purpose of an author tour? What results and returns can authors expect when the people don’t show up at the event? Why do an author event if no one can guarantee sales?

“The thing you have to remember is the benefits outside of the event.” Says David Brody, author of several novels, including Cabal of the Westford Knight, published last February by Martin & Lawrence.

If you go into a tour looking at it strictly in terms of sales during events, it will not work, Brody says. “I may sell only 5 or 10 books at an event, but that is not the point. I have to take into consideration that the store orders the books a few weeks ahead of time, makes a display, puts up a poster; plus, the manager and employees get to know my book. At the event, who knows who will hear me and what they might tell other people? And after the signing, I will leave a few signed copies and those might get displayed for a few weeks. I can often attribute 50 or 60 sales to an event that drew only 10 sales that day. If you look at it that way, the economics make sense.”

So the question I put out there is this… “What is the REAL return on your author tour investment?” I’d love to hear from authors who have recently toured to see if they think touring is worth their time and money.


Your query letter IS your cover letter


Would you spend hours working on a resume only to throw together a quick generic cover letter and hope you get an interview? Probably not. In fact, in today’s tough economic times, your cover letter is probably the most important piece of your “package” in any job search.

A good query letter is much the same. This is your calling card. This is your first introduction. This is the one page you have to make you, and your book, stand out from the hundred if not thousands of proposals that publishers and literary agents receive every year.
Writing a good query letter can be daunting. It can be scary. It can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
  1. Address your letter to a specific agent or editor at a specific agency or publisher. Don’t send out something generic.
  2. Make sure that you’re sending your letter to an agent or publisher that works in your genre. One of the biggest mistakes that authors make is not doing their research. Agents and publishers list their interests and previously sold titles on their websites. Check them out and make sure your project is a good fit.
  3. Show that you’ve done your research. Mention a book or an author than an agent has represented in your first paragraph. Identify why you picked this particular agent or publisher to query.
  4. Sell yourself. Give you and your platform a full paragraph. Explain why you are the best author for your book and how you can sell yourself and generate book sales.
  5. Be courteous. Let people know if your project is on multiple submission.
  6. Identify a market for your book. Really. A real market. Add a statistic or two.
  7. Be respectful. Use appropriate business etiquette.
  8. If you’re just sending a query letter, let the agent or publisher know what else you have available – i.e. A full proposal and two sample chapters are available upon request.
  9. Have someone else read your letter before you send it. Even the best of writers needs an editor. Typos have no place in a good query letter.
  10. Be succinct. Keep your query to one page. Identify why you’ve chosen a particular agent or publisher, pitch your book, identify your market, sell yourself, thank them for their time.
Good Luck!