Maugham’s famous axiom might equally be applied to the task of selling that novel. We hear plenty of suggestions. but no one can say for certain what works for one will do the same for all. In the ‘old days’, which really weren’t that long ago, writers wrote books and publishers sold them.
With many more books being produced these days, things have drastically changed. Writers are now required to do much more in the way of marketing. In the past, the publisher set up an advertising budget and solicited bookstores (where most of the selling occurred) and reviews. A writer, especially one with a following (brand), might be called on to do signings at a selection of stores or do interviews.
Publishers still do advertise, solicit in certain venues and seek reviews. But they also expect the writer to publicize the product and seek sales and reviews. With all the competition, a writer must assume the extra hat of salesperson/promoter if the book is to be noticed.
How you undertake the task depends on your personality and situation. Probably a majority of sales today are made through on line promotion. But what I want to talk about today is in person promotion on your own stamping grounds.
For instance, on a personal basis, I live in an area where the closest bookstores are 60 miles away. I will, and have, traveled that distance to do a presentation/signing. But if you aren’t well known in that vicinity, results can be a crapshoot. For that reason, I prefer to seek audiences in other venues. Area libraries have been a good market for me. If you visit in person and talk to the librarian you’ll do better than by simply sending an email or a promo packet. I’ve found most libraries (particularly smaller ones) eager to help, some even taking on the task of advertising an event. Another tip–it doesn’t hurt to ask friends and family to recommend or request your book at their local libraries.
I’m librarian of my county historical society and my books are displayed and offered for sale there, too. I’ve made friends/fans of many patrons who come in to do genealogy or research and become customers.
Libraries aren’t the only venues. Think big. Approach all kinds of small shops to see if they’ll consider carrying your books. Some will buy outright at a discounted price, others will take them for a trial period on consignment (offer a third of the retail price). My non-fiction regional history has been a steady seller in a specialty shop that’s only open for the Christmas period. I’ve also sold through a local restaurant and a used bookstore operated by a university.
Most writers are introverts and that can be trying. Many clubs and organizations will respond to offers of a speaking gig (some will even pay you). I’m not really comfortable getting up in front of a big audience, so I haven’t done as much of this as I should. It can pay big dividends, though.
Most important–get your name known in your area as a writer. I do a weekly history column for the local newspaper. I get paid for the column and the newspaper always publicizes my new books (Writing articles for magazines can also help make your name known to a wider audience).
Always carry books with you in the trunk of your vehicle. You never know where you might run into someone who will buy a book. And never go anywhere without business cards or other promotional material to hand out to people you come in contact with. Even people who aren’t readers seem to enjoy meeting a ‘real’ writer. They might not buy a book, but they might hand your card on to someone who will.
My latest novel is Geronimo Must Die, a Western and also a mystery. Here’s the blurb:
Geronimo and rascally half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free have never been friends.
Yet, Mickey has already saved Geronimo’s life twice (without acknowledgement) and is the only one who can keep the great Apache leader out of the sniper’s sights now. The sniper has already murdered several tribal leaders and Mickey believes it’s all a plot to prompt a great runaway from the hated San Carlos reservation.
Mickey’s efforts are stymied by Al Sieber, head of scouts, and John Clum, reservation agent, as well as suspicion of other Indians. Adding to his problems, Mickey is in love with a girl whose name he keeps forgetting to ask and who may be allied to the plot.
Only perseverance, risk to his life and, eventually, Geronimo’s help will enable Mickey to resolve this dangerous situation.
A retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill–which may have helped inspire his interest in the West. His 15 published novels are a mix of mystery and historical fiction. Since retiring, he’s served as librarian for his county historical society, assisting patrons with genealogy and research. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth
FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/John-Lindermuth-175253187537/?fref=ts
Shares The Darkness (September 2016), Torrid Books
Something So Divine (August 2015), Sunbury Press