Today’s Book Marketing Tip: Books that are marketed strongly at publication keep selling for much longer. Buzz lasts years.
I’ve notice two things about our title list:
- Books that sell well in their first month go on selling well for several years.
- Books that are marketed well to an established or natural platform sell better than others in the first month of publication.
This makes the launch of a book extremely critical. Rolling out a book requires a dedicated marketing effort and a platform.Our poker book, The Game Day Poker Almanac Official Rules of Poker (ISBN 978-0-9795889-2-1, trade ppb, $19.95), received quite a push at launch, as it was one of the first books published by Flying Pen Press. It was also the first true official rules of poker written since the 1900’s. There was a natural demand for it, or so we thought. However, poker players were not interested in it on publication day.
We were fortunate to discover that there was another natural platform, one that truly wanted the book: professional poker dealers. Pouncing on this information, we handed out dozens of free copies to poker dealers at the World Series of Poker®. These dealers went back to the cities they came from after the month-long event, and took these books with them. Players at their tables back home saw the books, and the sales grew quickly.
Now, several years later, the title continues to be the best-selling poker rulebook on Amazon.com, especially during the World Series of Poker.Another title, the science-fiction cyberpunk thriller Looking Glass by James R. Strickland, is another example. This was Strickland’s first novel, and Flying Pen Press’s first title. To say that there was no platform would be an understatement. However, by sheer luck and indomitable drive, I managed to somehow connect Looking Glass with Spook Country by William Gibson, a highly anticipated frontlist title that launched the same week as Looking Glass. I pulled every trick in the book to get people to say Spook Country and Looking Glass in the same sentence.
As a result, Looking Glass’s cover and link appeared on Spook Country’s Amazon product page from the start. Spook Country launched at a phenomenal Amazon Selling rank of 13, where it stayed for most of a month. While Looking Glass didn’t even come close to that, it did enjoy a nice launch for an author’s first novel published by a start-up small press.
Then, over the following months, something strange happened. Spook Country eventually dropped from the bestseller lists, as all bestsellers eventually do. Gibson’s book dropped in rank quickly once the next book-publishing season came around, and Strickland’s book fell off Spook Country’s page as cyberpunk authors with established careers filled in the positions. However, Looking Glass’s rank did not drop. Sales remained steady, and was our best-selling novel (and second best-selling book, behind Official Rules of Poker) for a couple of years after Spook Country fell off the lists. Strickland was outselling Gibson!Other titles have not been so lucky. Seventh Daughter by Ronnie Seagren is an exciting action adventure novel in the spirit of Indiana Jones, set in 1935. It is, I think, the most entertaining novel Flying Pen Press has ever published. But Ronnie Seagren is a quiet person who is not comfortable with active marketing. We launched the book at DenCon, the World Science Fiction Convention for 2008. Her bashful style was overrun by the sheer force of other author’s promotions, and Seventh Daughter flailed about.
Eventually, Seventh Daughter received great reviews from some well-known reviewers. Had those reviews come in time for DenCon, it would have launched Seventh Daughter brilliantly. However, it came months later. Such incredible reviews did not help Seventh Daughter one bit. There was no momentum. (Please consider reading Seventh Daughter. It’s still my favorite of all the Flying Pen Press titles.)
When a book is published, it develops a reputation. It seems that word of mouth remains fairly unchanged. It’s as if a certain volume of buzz is unleashed, and this buzz is self-sustaining for a long time, never growing, only shrinking slightly. For frontlist titles like Spook Country, big-money marketing reigns supreme, and when that is worn out, the book slumps quickly. For midlist titles (and midlist publishing houses), word-of-mouth is the focus, and this endures.
Writers should spend as much effort as possible on building a platform prior to publication, so that buzz is strong within the platform on publication day. This platform, no matter how small, will be self-sustaining and will draw in new readers by its own efforts, at no cost to the author or publisher.
The way to build word-of-mouth prior to publication is simple. I’m doing it right now for my forthcoming book, Fishnets & Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book.
- Communicate with readers, such as in a blog or newsletter.
- Distribute excerpts of the book to the best fans.
- Keep mentioning the book by title (did I mention my forthcoming book, Fishnets & Platforms: The Writers Guide to Whoring Your Book?)
- Find a platform to borrow or steal, or slip into an unfilled niche to adopt a natural platform.
- Solicit positive reviews before or on the publication date.
- Hand out free copies of the book to push buzz early.
- Connect your book with a similar frontlist title that is being launched that same week, any way you can. Failing that, connect to a viral video or hot breaking news.
Sadly, the converse is also true. I’ve found that a lackluster launch for the first book in a series does carry over to the entire series. Sales will continue to slump.
Getting it right on Day One of a book’s publication is crucial to a writing career.
Knowing that the momentum for a book is built on publication day, what can you do to launch your next book?
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