The fine art of frantically selling books

Most books these days have exactly one lead salesperson/cheerleader: the author.

Oh, there are exceptions. Undoubtedly you’re thinking of your favorite author, who simply writes¬†books. Maybe gives interviews from time to time. But toiling in the crass commerce of selling? Never.

That’s probably true. And that’s probably why he or she is your favorite. There are a few dozen A-list authors who get the heavy lifting of marketing performed on their behalf. From their publishers’ perspectives this makes perfect sense: these authors are guaranteed commodities. Supporting their new releases (even their backlists) with vigorous marketing campaigns is only good business.

This means, however, that the other 99% of authors, whether self-published or aligned with a small press or even contracted to one of the majors, receive almost no marketing support. Such authors should consider themselves very, very lucky if their publishers spring for twenty or fifty review copies, or for the expenses of a short book tour.

Most writers (including all who self publish) don’t even get that. So their choice is simple: let their book die a lonely death, or handle the marketing on their own.

Writers tend to be an introvertive lot, so this could clearly be a problem. But today’s writers are fortunate to have at hand, for very little cost, an almost unlimited array of electronic tools that make selling simpler and more effective than ever. This, coupled with what should be the writer’s most profitable asset (creativity) means that modern authors can not only sell their books, they can sell them very well.

One completely new selling phenomenon, almost always driven by the author’s vision (if not created solely by him or her) is the book trailer. First seen in 2002, trailers are short videos that consciously echo more familiar movie trailers, and are usually hosted by YouTube and imbedded in the author’s homepage. They can introduce characters, storylines and plots, or they can merely hint at the book’s grand themes. Since they’re usually devised by the person who knows the book best, they can be awesomely creative outlets – even extensions of the books themselves.

Take the following trailer, which preceded by several months the release of James Renner‘s novel, The Man From Primrose Lane. It created quite a bit of buzz at the time and had many people thinking about time travel and asking, who is the man from Primrose Lane?

Or this one, supporting Kameron Hurley‘s Bel Dame Apocrypha series. It much more closely follows the movie-trailer formula, with hints of the action and personalities to be found in the books’ pages. It’s also compelling and engaging, not to mention slickly produced. And the author created it almost single-handedly .

Returning visitors to this page are likely aware that I too am currently hawking a book, a humble little fright tale called Voracious. This means I’m engaged, for several hours per day, in the challenges of internet-based marketing.

So – a book trailer for Voracious? Well, not yet. I haven’t yet envisioned a cinematic teaser for the book that wouldn’t, alternatively, look cheesy or require a blockbuster budget.

Instead I’ve been trying to create a buzz via social media: Facebook, Twitter and horror-fan forums. Building a buzz takes a while, of course, but that’s okay. I’ve got time and the work (which is really just a series of conversations on enjoyable if spooky subjects) is plenty of fun.

And there’s this place I tend to steer those conversations. (Pay attention and you’ll notice I’m doing the same thing right now.) It’s my creative outlet-cum-marketing effort, my book trailer if it weren’t so damned static. Its budget was next to zero but it’s generating nothing but compliments (and maybe a book sale or two? here’s hoping).

It has also been a great chance to collaborate with some incredible writers. I’ve been lucky enough to entice Susan Hart, Benjamin Norris and Stephanie Schoppert into the Voracious world, to do what they do best.

You can be the judge. Stop by the Voracious page and see what you think.

There’s no right or wrong way, in this new and evolving world of author-launched marketing. There’s only the tried and untried. I expect every author, every creative person, would vie for the latter.

Speaking only for myself, I can say I’m having a blast. Writing a book can be lonely and painful. Talking about it, hyping it, getting others to hype it–that’s the payoff. Any books get sold as a result, well that’s just the icing on my sweet, sweet cake.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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