Authors: Want Sales Traction? Get Out Your Wallet.

Guest Blog by: Cara Landi Buckingham

Authors everywhere please take note. If you want to make writing a career, you might need to pay for it, and not just in blood, sweat and tears. My friends, you are going to need to set aside some cold hard cash to support your book sales, because while it is an honor to be published, it’s even better to be read.

My amazing author-husband (or husband-author), Royce, and I have come to this conclusion after 12 years of watching his books win awards, become bestsellers, get movie deals…or not. We also recently read an informative article about Author James Patterson’s brand-building method.

Writing books is a business, and part of running a business includes effective marketing and promotional efforts–hopefully with backing from the publisher. Reality check: the vast majority of the time (unless written by a celebrity or an author who is already a top seller) publishers don’t put a lot of money or effort into book promos. Support depends on the publisher. It might include a minimal amount of PR and, if you’re lucky, some point-of-sale items for book stores to use. If your book is lucky enough to be a lead title of a new imprint, you will definitely get more support.

I can say this with confidence, because some of Royce’s work has received fantastic support and–surprise, surprise–hit best seller lists, while others were released with little fanfare, resulting in fewer sales. Because of this reality, in one case we hired a PR firm to do a print/radio media and blog campaign to support his book, The Dead Boys. It was effective. Stay tuned for a blog entry with the clearly positive results of that self-funded campaign.

There are all sorts of articles advising authors on marketing strategies and tactics, with a range of costs associated with them. Understandably, in most cases authors take a DIY approach and opt for low to no-cost options. Here are some of the most popular suggestions:

  • Get reviews
  • Do a book store reading/signing
  • Send press releases to local media
  • Create a website
  • Send newsletters
  • Get on social media – you must devote all your waking hours Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, etc. etc….
  • Do school visits
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Present at writing conferences

These are all great, but the ROI on them individually is small. And collectively…don’t get me started. They take a TON of time to do and do well. How are you supposed to get any writing done? Let alone raise kids, have a day job, golf, garden, shower, etc. Additionally, some of them require networking and connections to which authors just don’t have access. Let’s face it, you are an author because you want to tell stories, not take random pot-shots at promotional efforts that might or might not move the needle on sales. And sales is what anyone in the industry cares about when you start pitching your second, third, and fourth books for a deal…if you get to book two.

So here is what Royce and I wish we had done years ago and have committed to as we move forward. We are creating a marketing fund with advances and royalties to consistently build audience and sales. This is essentially a dividend reinvestment model. Our efforts will be targeted and involve partnerships with industry professionals to create effective and coordinated campaigns that get his stories the exposure they need to sell.

Have you had a marketing revelation for your books? We’d love to hear them. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next blog exploring the possibilities of partering with your publisher.



5 thoughts on “Authors: Want Sales Traction? Get Out Your Wallet.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. It’s a tough business, and a bird’s-eye view from a success story is always appreciated! There’s a tendency, when observing someone who’s had publishing success, to perceive only a fraction of the work they put in to get there! I sure have seen that list of recommended DIY options. For the benefit of other Bellingham authors, would you recommend the PR firm you hired? Is your advice mainly applicable to traditionally published authors, or would this also be relevant for indie-published books?

    1. Hi! We hired a PR firm some years ago, and the world has changed dramatically. We still recommend devoting money to building the career, but with the internet morphing so fast it’s hard to keep up with the best way to PR yourself. Can’t speak for self publishing. We’ve had less success there. For our traditional publishing, we’ve seen results. Thanks for your question!

      1. And…I just realized (as in just saw your site) that you are Virginia Herrick, which I didn’t realize two years ago. I do know you! Hello, and we should connect again sometime.

      2. Hi, Royce! Yes, that’s me! I still haven’t gotten any of my own manuscripts ready to shop around, but have helped quite a few Bellingham authors get their books ready to send out to publishing houses and/or self-publish. A few have been award-winners, which is very satisfying, of course. My clients often ask me for advice of various kinds, and marketing is the kind I’m least able to give! Yes, it would be great to reconnect once the current COVID surge dissipates. *sigh* Hopefully soon!

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