6. Marketing

Even established authors on a contract with one of the big publishing houses frequently find that they need to drive their own sales. So, any of you reading this page should ponder my top ten tips on marketing yourself if you want to realise success with your work.


  1. Getting your book on websites. Obviously, you need to get your book profiled on as many book-selling websites as possible. That may sound difficult, but it’s not usually so bad. Most book-selling sites want titles they can sell, so will be happy to provide an entry for your book. Beyond that, most publishers (whether they are POD or not) will have existing business relationships with a range of online book sellers. The likes of Google Book and Amazon’s Kindle will host your title for free, for example, as will most others. Of course, if an online customer wants a physical copy of your book (rather than an e-version), your publisher will need to have physical distribution through Gardners or Betrams. You will then get royalty cheques via your publisher.
  2. Marketing your book online. Once your book is on a number of websites, you then need to be sure as many online users as possible are seeing it. One cheap way to do that it to get people who’ve read the book to put a review of it on the book-selling site. Most sites rank books (in their search returns) based on the number of reviews submitted (whether you know it or not). For example, when Necromancer’s Gambit first went on Amazon, it appeared on the 8th page of results when searching with the word ‘necromancer’. With ten customer reviews then added to the book’s entry, it now appears on the top page. Once you’ve done that, you can then turn your thoughts to setting up your own blog/web site to drive traffic. You can get a free site through WordPress.Com.
  3. Friends and family. Authors get between 20-50 complimentary copies of their book from their publisher. Don’t just give those copies away to your friends, you crazy fool – you’re meant to treat those copies as ‘review’ copies that you send to newspapers, magazines and agents. You need to charge friends and family cost price. Explain to them that every sale counts. Tell them to get their friends and colleagues to buy your book too – and that you’ll sign their copy if they get one. And that you’ll buy the book back off them if they really don’t like it.
  4. Local libraries. Get your friends and family to go into their local libraries to ask for your book to be ordered. Not only will you get your royalty on the copy purchased by the library; you’ll also get one pence every time the book is borrowed.
  5. Cold calling individual stores. Phone your local store and say: ‘I’m a local author, my title’s already in such-and-such a store, it’s on your website and I’m available to do book signings.’ Get them to order in a few copies of your book to put on the shelves and ‘see how it goes’, or get them to order around 20 for a signing. Tell them your friends and family will come in and buy copies, so they’re sure to sell the lot. Most stores are happy if you then only sell 15. They’ll keep 5 signed copies for the shelves.
  6. Book signings. When you’re doing a signing, you must talk to the customers. A lot of customers don’t even realise you’re an author otherwise (even when there’s a sign up and it should be obvious). Have a little script ready for your signings, and be ready to repeat it several hundred times in the same day. I outsell a lot of established authors at signings because I engage customers in conversations about fantasy, getting published and my background.
  7. Putting posters and fliers around town. I’ve tried this approach and it doesn’t work. I flooded Manchester with high quality posters and fliers about a book signing I was doing that week, and it didn’t result in a single sale. Forget it.
  8. Local newspapers. As soon as you’ve got a signing, get onto the local newspaper (whether you’re a local author or not). They’re invariably happy to do an item about your upcoming book signing. You should have a press release they can adapt to make that easier. Does a local press item create a big rush to the book signing? No. But you’ll get one or two, and there are sometimes unexpected benefits.
  9. Central buyers. Once you’re in a few stores of the same chain, get on the phone to the chain’s central buyer, armed with sales figures. You need to have sold around 100 copies through them to get them interested in putting your title in a larger number of stores. It sometimes works.
  10. National press and magazines. ‘Getting a review’ is a big deal. You will often be asked, ‘How many reviews have you got?’ or ‘Have you got a review?’ What they mean when they ask you that is, ‘Look, mate, has your book been reviewed in any of the national papers like the Guardian or Times, or any of the big magazines like SFX and Starburst? No, we’re not interested in local newspapers and school magazines.’ It’s tough getting in the nationals. You’ll send off review copies of your book and usually never hear back. Unless you’ve got a big publisher behind you, it will always be difficult. Your best bet, then, is to try to create a ‘human interest’ angle for a newspaper story that will attract interest e.g. an article about current trends in fantasy literature.


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