Book Promotion, Brand management, Featured, Marketing, Uncategorized, Writing Life


May 23, 2016

Many readers of this blog are also writers. And like my fellow writers, friends recommend books on how I can be a better writer, how I can write [fill in genre here], how to publish and how to sell books. You can imagine my skepticism when a respected friend recommended How To Sell A Crapload of Books. Yeah, I thought. I know how to sell a crapload of books. Write a book and give it a title of How To Sell A Crapload of Books.

To be polite, I accepted the book. I expected to scan the table of contents, skim a couple of chapters and thank my friend for his thoughtfulness. Instead I found a well-written book that, while not offering many new revelations on book selling/promotion/author branding, made cogent arguments for building an author brand, leveraging connections you didn’t know you had and creating an executable promotional plan.

Vandehey and Aryal use humor to lay down some principles: “the PR you can afford is probably useless.” Rather than name everything a debut writer can’t possibly do, they offer things that worked for other writers whose careers is where ours are. If you write mysteries, consider a book launch that is a scavenger hunt, especially if you can launch your book where the action takes place. Leverage where you live, because more people know you where you live than across the country in huge cities. They advise not getting your heart set about book reviews by the New York Times in favor of concentrating on wooing your local newspapers. The louder the local buzz, the more likely you can extend outward in concentric circles to broaden your audience.

Because so much of life takes place online today, Vandehey and Aryal demand a writer learn how to use social media. That means more than a Facebook page where you do nothing except flog your books. Hint: This doesn’t work and pisses off potential book buyers. Learn what each platform can do for you. Twitter is great for reaching more potential buyers than most other outlets. Facebook is great for building your brand. Know the difference. Don’t waste time on social media networks or social media applications if your readership doesn’t hang out there. I know most of my readers have no clue what Instagram or Snapchat do. I don’t hang out there, but I know I’ll engage in great conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn. Yes, even LinkedIn.

The authors share ten secrets for building an author platform. Rather like a 12-step program. the secrets walk a writer through suggestions they have tested and know work.

Regardless of whether you read this book, or one of the countless other books in print about book selling/promotion/author branding, first decide what your goals for writing and publishing your book really are. If you are a “friends and family” writer (i.e., most of your sales will be to friends and family and not to strangers), set you expectations accordingly. That decision will drive how much effort you want to put into building an author platform. If you want to rise beyond the friends and family level, determine how much time and effort you can devote to building that platform. Once the decision is in the bag, begin executing it. Consistently. Daily. Diligently.

What have your learned about bookselling that you can share with other writers?


 Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please follow me on my website, on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

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  • Reply Marion Crook May 23, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Hi Betsy,
    I have a book coming out in September “Wiring Books for Children and Young Adults.” The publicist of that company is working with me now on publicity. She is very well organized and I am free to consult her at any time. She answers immediately. Another book “Thicker Than Blood: Adoptive Parenting in the Modern World” is out this week. That publicist has her own lists and publicity goals. It’s a bit of a trick knowing how to work with the publicists in different companies–what is useful, what they support and what would just get in their way..sending a review copy, for instance, to someone they had already approached. I may have some answers in a few months.

    • Reply Betsy Ashton May 23, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Good luck on your upcoming release. The trade paper edition of my second Mad Max book released Friday, so I’m deep in promotion myself. I have a complete promo plan and am executing it. How nice to have a publisher to help — or to have enough money to hire a publicist. Enjoy the ride.

  • Reply Valerie Beverly May 23, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Betsy, I had to laugh when I hit the last sentence of your first paragraph because I was thinking the same exact thing! Ha! But I most definitely will check out this resource. Thanks!

    • Reply Betsy Ashton May 23, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      I don’t usually buy books on book selling since I think most won’t help. This one was different. A little flip, a lot of good information, and some rethinking on my part about my current promo plan. Hope you find some good in this.

  • Reply Dean Robertson May 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Hi, Betsy, Great post and I will definitely be taking your advice and looking at this book. As a first time author I have had the usual struggles with marketing, starting with learning at least something about how to use the social media. When I signed my book contract, I had never even seen the social media so it’s been a wild ride indeed. Part of that process was learning to limit and focus my use of FB, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Twitter. During the first six months after the release, I worked the local market hard and, of course, there’s the rush of friends and family and friends of friends, et. al. as those amazon numbers soar. I predicted almost to the day when that well would dry up. My effort at the moment is to borrow the expertise of a couple of friends to use Twitter more effectively, to carefully choose 2-3 groups on Goodreads and really participate actively their just to get known, and to continue to investigate two venues that I just have a feeling might work: book festivals and online book clubs. We’ll see. And, by the way, is this a second blog or have you redesigned? Whichever it is, it is absolutely gorgeous.

  • Reply Betsy Ashton May 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Dean,
    My web designer merged the original WordPress blog with a new WordPress web site. It’s so much easier to manage, and the rotating images keep it fresh.

    About your book. I understand the rush. Max 2, a.k.a., UNCHARTED TERRITORY, is finally shipping to my traditional readers as a trade paperback. Our publisher tried e-book only at first. I’m not sure I lost any sales, because my numbers are so much higher for e-books than paper. Still, I’m happy I can answer their plea: when is the paper version coming out? I can answer, order it here on my website or on Amazon.

    About your opportunities. You know I really liked LOOKING FOR LYDIA, LOOKING FOR GOD. It should find a wider audience in churches, at historical societies, in museums around Virginia (to start with), in Christian book clubs, senior centers, etc. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Next, think about the FB groups that are interested in Christian books, historical societies, and genealogy. Those are where your next round of readers interact. I join groups interested in contemporary slavery, pastoral intemperance, racism and child abuse. I lurk for asking questions. I tell the group members that I’m a writer, so I have full disclosure. Several child abuse survivors have asked to read Max 2 and have offered fantastic comments.

    So, there are plenty of places you can visit without taking off your fuzzy slippers. Good luck. You’ll expand your reach. Write on, right now.

    • Reply Dean Robertson September 11, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Hi, Betsy, I am re-reading this and have copied and pasted your suggestions into one of my marketing docs. I have found myself on a terribly long “break” from marketing LYDIA due, first, to some serious health problems, and then to the arrival of this unexpected grandchild. Three months ago my blog crashed and there have been major problems with the rebuild. I believe I’m finally almost up and running. I’m scheduled for a book festival next month and plan to apply for two larger ones next year. I’m hopeful. I agree with you that LYDIA should reach a wider audience and I know that it’s a question of finding that magic bump up and out. Meanwhile, I think the thing I like the most about this new website is the referral to other blogs of yours, with pictures. Would you mind if I asked the people who are working on my site to take a look and consider doing something like that? Did your web designer set that up? Do you then manage it to the extent of selecting the blogs and inserting them each time?

      Otherwise, how’s tricks??

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