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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.


The “New” Importance of the Book Cover


If you’ve been following our blog over the past year or so, you’ll remember our post Your Spine Is Your Cover.

Yes, that’s still true for those authors who aspire to brick and mortar stores and traditional retailers.

But in the eight months since we posted that blog, the publishing environment has continued to change.

Small publishers’ interest in testing the market by just making their books available online (their own websites,, etc.) or as eBooks has continued to increase. POD programs offered by a variety of different companies have drawn a large group of publishers who are willing to save money on big offset print runs, warehousing and fulfillment and who say let’s “throw it up online” and see what happens.

Publisher’s beware. “Throwing it up online” does not mean cutting corners on quality. If you just make your book available online, your number one marketing tool has changed. Your book cover just increased in importance over just about any other single piece of the publishing process.

For those of you who have been there, you understand. Search Insides, excerpts, and sample chapters for downloads are great. But, you’ve got to get the consumer to commit to taking that step.

How so?

A dynamic, professionally designed, top-notch book cover.

If your budget demands that you only make your book available online, take the time to do your research. Look carefully at other book covers in your category – both online and in stores. See what’s working.

Is there a particular font, photo treatment, author treatment, color, design that’s consistent across your category? If so, make sure your cover stacks up against the best of the best.

Budget might drive your decision to start online, but budget can’t drive your decision to put up a mediocre cover and hope for the best.

Trust us, it won’t work.


Your Spine Is Your Cover


Here’s one of the dirty little secrets in book publishing. Publishers spend countless hours and dollars working on their covers, but they often miss the point.  With the exception of online retailers, your book spine is your cover.

Brick and mortar stores are packed with books. New releases. Backlist books. Series. Gift books.

Walk to any category (perhaps your own) and take a look at how many books are crammed on to the shelves.

What do you see? The spine, if you’re lucky.

All to often publishers make the mistake of not focusing at all on the spine of their book, not realizing that this is their number one marketing tool in brick and mortar stores.

What does this mean for you?

Spend some time on your spine.

Spine Size

Think about bulking your page count to make sure that your spine has presence. We’re not recommending that you fluff your book with overblown margins or blank pages. But we are recommending that you don’t cram in your text so tight to save a few cents on your printing prices.

Push it out a signature or two. It might make all the difference between getting lost on the shelf and standing out because you’re 1/8 of an inch bigger. Choose paper that bulks. You might be surprised at how easy it is to snag an extra 1/16 of an inch through paper weight alone.

Spine Color

Spend some time analyzing what the spine colors are in your category. This is extremely important. If every spine in your category is white, choose a vibrant color. Choose something that stands out. Choose something that practically leaps of the shelf and screams “pick me!” This is the time to buck the trends and be a little different. If you’re not sure what will work, grab some books that have different spine colors and stick them on the shelf where your book will go. Which colors pop to you? What do you see first?

Spine Text

Make it readable! Make it bold! Make it big! Make sure that the reader sees your spine and your text right away. If you’re standing 3 feet away from your spine, you need to be able to read what it says (see above about spine width – the bigger the spine the more room for bold text).

Take it to the Bookstore

Let’s keep this next bit between us…

The best way to really know if your spine works is to print out several versions, colors and copies true to size. Cut the spine out, getting rid of excess paper so you’re literally holding your book spine in your hands. Put a tiny piece of tape on the end of each option. Take your spine options to the bookstore and visit your category. Stick the various spines on the books that will sit next to you (usually alphabetical by author’s last name within category or subcategory). Which one works? Do any? What do you see? Can you read your title? Do you get lost on the shelf because you’re too tiny or you blend in too much?

Lack of attention to your spine can kill your book in the marketplace. Once you get in to stores, your spine really is your cover. When you consider the time, money and energy that you spend getting your cover right, promise us, do the same with your book spine.

P.S. Remember, be polite during any bookstore research. Bring your spines with you when you go and don’t interfere with bookstore customers!