In my years in the book industry, one truth has been absolutely clear when it comes to book sales and success. Want to know what it is? It is simple, and it should come as no surprise.
Here it is:
Active authors sell books, inactive authors don't.
Pretty profound, huh?
And yet it stands to reason that with more than 1.5 million new books released into the marketplace every year, every author must work incredibly hard to stand out from the pack.
Standing out can't be done by the publisher and publicist alone or by simply having a very good book. After all, every author claims their book is terrific and needs to be set apart. This can be incredibly difficult if you are not a household name like the author in my picture above. Even if you don't admire him (I actually don't agree with his politics or personal decisions at all, but he does know how to sell books), I think you may recognize him. But you know what he didn't do? He didn't sit back and expect his publisher to sell books for him. He understood that the success of his book would rise and fall on his ability to generate interest and engage his audience, as we see him doing above.
If Bill Clinton – who stood as the leader of the free world for 8 years – needs to promote his book, be the face of his book, and engage people personally in order to sell books and be a successful author, then I don't know of a single author that can afford to not do the very same.
Along with the calling to write a book comes the calling to promote and sell it. You cannot separate the two, and very few (if any) writers can simply afford to only write and leave the selling to someone else.
Stephen King on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" 2012
This summer I watched Stephen King make an appearance on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" to promote his most recent book. It can be argued that there is not a more famous or prolific writer in the last century than Stephen King, and whether you like his writing or not, the reality is that he understands and knows the need to be visible and actively promote his work in order to sell books and be successful.
In the 21st Century, having a good book isn't enough. But if you couple an excellent product with an author that will be active and visible, the results can be terrific.
You might think it's easy for authors like Bill Clinton and Stephen King to sell books due to their name recognition, and certainly they may have opportunities that non-celebrity authors may never have. But both worked to build their platforms for years and years – engaging people, building an audience, and developing a following. At one point in their lives and careers, both authors were entirely unknown and had to start building influence and growing a platform in their respective fields. It didn't happen overnight for either of them.
If you don't know where to start find a marketing partner (perhaps through your publisher) that can brainstorm with you about opportunities for sales. And at the same time, you can be building your audience, making contacts, and pursuing your own events for our team to publicize as well. The more active you are, the more books will be sold.
Events are the cornerstone of a new authorâ€™s marketing plan. These events can include speaking engagements, retail bookstore signings, craft fairs, church and school events, book festivals - pretty much anywhere and everywhere that authors can find people to engage and sell books. According to recent reports from Publisher's Weekly, only 30% of books sold are sold in brick and mortar bookstores in today's market, so authors must take advantage of opportunities for events in as many locations as possible, finding out where their target audience is located and taking the books straight to those potential readers.
If you aren't active, the best time to become active is right now. If you have been an inactive author, make a decision to become active and to purposefully be the face of your book. The results will be seen quickly, and though it is hard work, it can be extremely rewarding (and even fun!) in the long run.
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