Sunday, May 12, 2024

Authors Must Prime the Pump

By Terry Whalin

When I begin a new nasal spray for my allergies, I have to spray a couple of times to prime the pump. Then it will work properly. For this article, Im adding an image of an old-fashion pump. For this pump to give water, you have to pump it a number of times. Through taking action, you bring the water up from the well until it runs out of the pump. 

Authors have to prime the pump to sell their books and in this article I want to give you some ideas and details about actions in this process.

Someone must hear about your book dozens of times before they purchase it. The author is the person with the greatest passion for their topic--and it is up to you to drive this exposure or prime the pump--with social media, stressing the benefits of your book, telling stories, sending emails, writing magazine articles, shooting videos, going on podcasts and radio shows and many more actions--hopefully you get the idea.

Recently David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing, and I were talking about the presale process. He said at 13 months bestselling author Dave Ramsey will begin talking with his audience about a forthcoming book and the content of it. He will tell his readers that he is writing the book and a bit of what it will contain.  When Ramsey talks about this forthcoming book, he is peaking the interest of his readers and priming the pump for them to prepare to purchase it. 

In other articles on The Writing Life, Ive mentioned that Im a Daniel Silva fan of his writing. Each year, Silva writes a single novel which is released in July. Almost a year ahead, he will announce the title in his newsletter then a few months later, he will show the book cover. A few months later he will announce the book is ready to be pre-ordered. His next newsletter will announce that readers can order a signed copy of this forthcoming book. How does he sign these books? His publisher sends him a page of the book and Silva signs these pages then returns them to the publisher. They are bound into signed copies. Its called a book tip-in and is used to drive pre-sales for the forthcoming novel. 

I ordered my copy of A Death in Cornwall on April 3rd and the book will not release until July 9th. Whether you order your book from your favorite independent bookstore or an online bookstore like Target, no copies of the book will ship until the release day. Ive already ordered my signed copy. 

According to David Hancock, “The best time to begin marketing and telling people about your book is the moment you decide to write it or today--which ever day comes first. As David told me, there are three reasons bookstore buyers purchase a book. First, youve compared your book to other books on your topic or category. Because other readers have bought X number of that book, the bookstore will order your book for their customers. The second reason for bookstores to order your book is you are the right person, talking about the right topic at the right time. Yes, there were a number of rights in that last sentence but you can sell books if they line up. The final reason is that you as the author are consistently talking to your reader about this topic. That consistent effort pays off with a steady stream of book sales in the bookstore. 

Every Author Must Cross Two Bridges

As David Hancock recently told me, every author with their book needs to cross two bridges. The first bridge is:

1. The Authority Bridge. The public must perceive you as the right person talking about the content of your book. You show you are an authority through consistently talking about the topic of your book. Also you bring the audience along on your publishing journey as you write the book, look for a publisher, get rejected, keep trying and eventually get accepted. 

2. The Permission Bridge. Most authors dont build this bridge. Instead the hold their content close to themselves then begin to share it when their book comes out. If you have built the permission bridge you have shared your content and expertise on the topic and earned the right to ask your readers permission to buy your book. Youve not only created a book but created associated products such as a readers guide with study questions or a journal or have launched an online course associated with it. What else can you build in addition to your book? Can you create a keynote speech tied to your content which you give to various groups and settings? As David Hancock said, readers beget readers. 

As you build the authority bridge and the permission bridge, then you begin to build the community or tribe who love your content and your work. As Jay Conrad Levinson, the creator of Guerrilla Marketing in the 80s often said, he made $35,000 on his book but $10 million because of it and the related products from it. 

During my conversation with David Hancock, he also gave me the top four best practices to sell books:

1. Word of Mouth. People talk about the books they are reading. How did the book change them? Give them access to your content and they will talk about you and your book.

2. Consistent Email. It sounds old fashion but here's the truth. Not everyone has a Facebook page but everyone has an email address. David suggested sending one email a month and this regular communication on your topic will build your audience.

3. Podcasts. There are millions of podcasts and they need authors who can speak with authority and passion about their topic. Learn how to pitch and get on these podcasts

4. Social Media. Many writers will groan at this final one because in general there is a lot of noise on social media. David advises you to be consistent, be a real person and it takes patience. 

In this blog post, I want to give you an unedited recording of my interview with David Hancock which is about 35 minutes. This recording will provide more details than this article. Follow this link and download the audio to your computer and save it. There are three vertical dots on the right side of the recording. Click the top dot of the three on the right and it will let you download the audio then listen to it. 

What steps are you taking on a consistent basis to prime the pump with your audience? What am I missing? Let me know in the comments.

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Sunday, May 05, 2024

Don't Overuse This Word and Get Blacklisted

By Terry Whalin

Words have incredible power to influence and affect our life and work in the publishing community. There is a common word which authors will often use but in this article I want to give specific examples and discourage you from overusing this word and having the retailers blacklist your book.

Years ago when I was on the faculty of the San Francisco Writers Conference, I spoke with a bookseller and learned not to use this word in my conversation. I showed this retailer the first edition of Book Proposals That Sell and in my pitch I told him the book had over 100 Five Star Amazon reviews. Instantly he frowned and told me that he didnt care about Amazon reviews. Yes the single word not to overuse is Amazon.

Instead of touting that you have an Amazon bestseller, you can say your book was a bestseller in _____ category. Instead of saying you have 56 Amazon reviews, you can promote your book has 56 Five Star reviews (or whatever number of Five Star reviews you have received). It is a slight revision but a significant one.

Amazon is a large player in the book retail market but many bookstore people believe Amazon has destroyed their business. The book market has made dramatic shifts and Amazon has been a factor in those changes. For example, at Morgan James Publishing, Amazon accounts for about 24% of our overall business. When I meet an author who has only published on Amazon, I tell them they are missing 76% of how Morgan James can distribute and sell their book. Our books are in 98% of the bookstores in North America including the brick and mortar bookstores. Recently I was looking for a book cover image on one of our novels and the first place I located it was at Target.com. Morgan James sells our books at Target along with over 180 other online retailers.

Give Your Readers Options

When you set up your website and the page to sell your book, what link or links do you include? I was looking at the books from a long-time author friend. He writes a new blog each week and sends it like clockwork. I admire and respect this type of consistent action from any author. Today I checked his book sales page. Each book had a single button that said, “Click Here to Buy on Amazon. He used a publishing company to create his book and I didnt recognize the name of his publisher. Yet he was giving his readers one option to buy the book: Amazon. As Ive been saying in this article, its the one word you dont want to overuse. 

Instead of sending your readers to a single place like Amazon, I encourage you to give them options like Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, their local independent bookstore or getting it directly from you (even encouraging readers they can get a signed copy from you). Its how I set up my sales pages and heres a couple of examples for some of my books. The sales page for Book Proposals That Sell is here. The sales page for 10 Publishing Myths is here. The sales page for Billy Graham, A Biography of Americas Greatest Evangelist is here. The reader is going to buy the book where they normally purchase books. As an author, you want to give them options and dont just send them to a single place. 

A Little Known Bookselling Fact

While on the surface, the community of booksellers looks large with thousands of bookstores from chains like Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores. Most of the sales people for these chains have been in the book business for many years. As a part of their work, they cultivate and maintain relationships with owners, authors, editors and many other people in the industry. These sales people know each other and have developed friendships. On one level they are competitors but on another level they are colleagues. These colleagues speak together and share information. When an author is only focused on sending readers to Amazon, these sales people notice and can blacklist your book from the brick-and-mortar bookstores. According to my recent conversation with David Hancock, the founder of Morgan James Publishing, such a blacklist practice is happening.

Sometimes You Cant Avoid the Word

In 2019, Morgan James Publishing released Steve Andersons book, The Bezos Letters: 14 Principles to Grow Your Business like Amazon. Even before the release date, this book garnered a great deal of attention. The Morgan James foreign rights person sold the book into multiple languages including the highest advance received in this area for a book in the 21-year history of the company. The Bezos Letters has hundreds of Five-Star reviews and a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Its unusual for a book to achieve this level of success which translates into many book sales. 

Yet this book could not avoid using the word Amazon. According to David Hancock, “The brick-and-mortar bookstores blacklisted The Bezos Letters from the release in 2019 until this year. Now in 2024, the brick-and-mortar bookstores began to order and sell this title.  The success and continued sales of this title eventually removed it from the blacklist. At the end of the day, retailers want to stock and sell books which will move off their shelves and into the hands of buyers. The steady and continued sales of The Bezos Letters eventually won over the retailers who want to serve their customers and sell books.

What actions will you take?

Ive written this article to encourage you as an author to take action for your website and sales pages. Will you remove the word Amazon in your social media and promotion efforts? Will you give your readers a wide variety of bookstore options to purchase your book? What actions are you going to take? Let me know in the comments.

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