What is a book? What is a sales window? What is publicity?
The independent author and the independent bookseller are mostly on their own. Everything you do to work with the booksellers in order to give them a reason to want your book in their store…matters.
A “book” to a bookseller includes the following:
- ISBN – and there are different ones for print books and e-books. If you have a publisher, the publisher will handle getting these for you. If you are self-publishing, you have to buy them yourself.
- A real edit – a copy edit (technical), a content edit (beta), proofreading. Booksellers do not want a self published book that is poorly written and edited. Pay to have someone proofread and copy edit the book. You shouldn’t have to pay for beta readers. Beta readers are oftentimes other authors who you then exchange beta reading services with. “You beta read my book and I’ll beta read yours.
- Cover copy – a paragraph or so about your book or an elevator pitch, with is one or two sentences about your book.
After the book is done, you need to get the Advanced Review Copy (ARC) out to booksellers. If they like your book, they may decide to carry it and push it. Get it to them before you publish it. Send the ARC to book bloggers, especially genre specific books. For example, there are subcultures of readers who subscribe to blogs about science fiction books or fantasy books. If you wrote a book that fits into those genres, get the ARC to the popular bloggers for a review. If you are working with a publisher, they will get the ARCs out to their list of book bloggers and reviewers. It doesn’t hurt to provide a list of your own after doing your research. Any published reviews of your ARC can be used to help promote your book. You can have them put onto your book jacket or in the front of the book. You can put them onto your website. You can use the reviews when contact booksellers in order to show that they should carry your book or allow you to hold an event in their store.
A sales window for booksellers is 60 days. Basically, your book needs to do well in their store for them to continue to carry it longer. Like anything else, it has to start out strong. Many independent sellers will keep a book in stock for 3 months and then send the remaining books back if it isn’t doing well. You have to remember – There are 150,000 to 200,000 books published each year. That is A LOT of competition.
Publicity is your willingness to spend money to get your book out there to booksellers and the public. Like in any business or investment, you have to spend money to make money. Most authors aren’t walking around with a supply of cash to get a book published and out there. So like in any other life experience, you have to find a way to do it in a cost effective way. Do favors, barter for services, ASK for a favor…like I tell my daughters...“Make them tell you NO.” Use your connections. Use social media SMARTLY. Know who you are trying to reach – what kinds of booksellers and what kinds of readers and then go to where they are. If you are going to spend money, you can purchase ads on blogs and Amazon.
Use your community. There are freebies and opportunities everywhere. For example, in my area, there is a popular morning radio show that has random people come into the studio every week for the duration of the show. If you can get onto that show – it is free and you can talk about your book – and it reaches an untold amount of listeners, many of whom read books.
During this panel, I asked about book trailers. Video is very effective. You can easily use any simple video making software program and make your own book trailer, giving readers a sneak peek. During trade shows, there is a book trailer channel, where authors have book trailers going 24 hours a day. Make a trailer and put it on Youtube. Again, an effective but inexpensive way to get your book out there.
If you are alone or with a small publisher, without the backing of one of the big boy publishing houses, you are swimming up the current in the sales market. So…you need to prepare for the hardships associated with that and decide that you are going to be in the water for the long haul.