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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