Sunday, January 21, 2007

Marketing Your Published Book

Yesterday, my friend Maria and I attended a presentation by a writer talking about ways that authors can market their books. Since the speaker had a background in marketing and advertising, I was very interested in hearing what he had to say.

One thing struck me. He was primarily talking from the point of view of his experience as a non-fiction writer who had published through a small regional press. While there were some things that translated well to fiction writing, there was a lot that didn't.

He explained that, as he was writing his book, he identified what he called a focus study group--twenty-four people around the country who were willing to read his manuscript and comment. After they'd read the entire book, he sent them a questionnaire, asking their opinion (whether they liked it, found it humorous, found it interesting, would recommend it, or would buy it as a gift). He compiled the twenty-one responses and included them in his query presentation. He said the publisher that signed him was bowled over by this focus study.

I found myself thinking, "Okay, that's a critique group. A large critique group, but certainly not a large enough group to constitute a valid study statistically." While I can see that a non-fiction publisher might find this "focus study" interesting, I can't imagine an agent or fiction publisher being moved by twenty-one people who liked a book any more than they are by comments that "everyone who reads my book loves it."

He did not seek representation by an agent and did not seem to think it necessary. While I absolutely agree one can be published without an agent, it's becoming increasingly difficult for a fiction writer to break into the New York print houses without one.

What I did find most interesting were his tips on how to do a booksigning. He offered the following:

1) Make sure you have a contact at the bookstore ahead of time with whom you can check to be sure copies of your book have been ordered.
2) Set your table up near an entrance. Be sure to have a tabletop sign with your book's cover.
3) Make sure you engage the customers walking in.
4) Dress in an interesting--but not weird--manner.
5) Ask a question--any question--to engage the customer. Then LISTEN.
6) DO NOT keep bookmarks or postcards advertising your book on the table. It will allow the customer to say, "I'll take this and think about buying your book" instead of actually purchasing the book.
7) Hold out a book and say, "To whom may I autograph this?" He says invariably the customer will give a name, and you've made the sale.

He said that the national average for books sold per signing is 4.5 books. (Eek!) Using the techniques listed above, he said he averages 3.5 per hour.

His suggestions for a signing are very similar to those offered by Joe Konrath. As I draw closer and closer to publication, I find myself eager for marketing ideas.


Marie Tuhart said...


Very good points on a book signing. Another point to remember is that you have to be a very outgoing person to do a booksigning alone.

I agree with you on the focus group, in a non-fiction market I can see how that would work, but not with fiction.


Lisa Logan said...

#6 on his list was most interesting. I'd never have thought that offering bookmarks, etc on the signing table could damage sales, but it makes total sense.

Thanks for posting this!

Maya Reynolds said...

Marie: And I'm trying to figure out how you can adapt what he's saying to a book signing for an EROTIC romance. You can't just waylay everyone you meet when marketing eroromance.

Maya Reynolds said...

Lisa: I agree. The bookmarks comment was one I would never have thought of.

Glad it was helpful.

lainey bancroft said...

Hi Maya,
Probably cart-before-the-horse for me to comment as I have no publishing contract yet, but the thought of hand-selling my book makes me want to hurl :)

Which would strike most who know me as a bizarre confession because I am the type of person who can strike up a conversation anywhere and have learned intimate details of people's lives in line at the grocery store. I've also never been adverse to promoting (read, pushing) books I've enjoyed. But I agree, erotic romance is a different sort of an animal.
I have a friend who hosts 'lingerie' parties (lingerie being only one of the interesting objects presented, of course) I know she's worked enormously hard to introduce her stuff as 'fun and flirty' rather than 'down and dirty' and held parties for many groups she wouldn't have considered the 'stereotypical' market for her product.
I'd say the leading question is your best bet at a signing. A 'what did you read recently that you'd recommend' or 'have your read XYZ' sorta thing. That will better help you gauge their interests. And FWIW, I'd go after the guys. "Why give her chocolates that'll make her whine about her waistline, when a racy read will be a gift that keeps giving--for you both...?"
No worries, I'll be your Ontario sales force ;-)

Maya Reynolds said...

Lainey: What a terrific idea. "Why not buy a book you and your wife can read together?"

Thanks! I'm glad to know I've got Ontario covered.