Sunday, July 23, 2006

10 Things Savvy Writers Can Do to Maximize Profits (Part 1 of 2)

Copyright 2006 Tonya M. Evans-Walls, Esquire. All rights reserved.
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I returned recently from the Harlem Book Fair on Strivers Row in Harlem New York, where I participated on a panel titled Entrepreneurship and Finance: Money, Power and Respect. The focus of the panel was to discuss ways that writers can maximize their book sales (and profits, they are NOT the same) through diligent, focused preparation and promotion.

Publishing powerhouses Linda Gill (GM of Kimani Press, a division of Harlequin Books) and Glenda Howard (Senior Editor, Sepia Books) served as co-moderators of the panel. And I was joined by my colleagues Lynnette Khalfani (Getting to Your First Million: Your Action Plan for a Lifetime of Financial Fitness and best-seller NO DEBT), and Jennifer Lewis-Hall (Life Changes: Using The Power of Change to Transform Your Life and a series of greeting cards carried by American Greetings), two dynamic women who are very accomplished in the publishing industry. Later we were joined by another author whose name escapes me at the moment. I'll provide that information in my next post.

We presented a list of the top 10 things savvy authors can do to maximize sales and I have tweaked the list a bit and provided 5 of those things below. I will post the remaining 5 in my next post.

  1. Get the word out well in advance of your book's release. Start promoting your title at least 6-8 months before the release date. Why? Because many reviewers have a long lead time and need your information well in advance of release so that the review of your work pre-dates your release. For instance, I generally have cover art and press releases 9-12 months before I have a completed manuscript and start advertising at that time.
  2. Be your book's biggest cheerleader. Don't expect your family, friends or publisher to adequately promote your title. Of course, your family and friends will support you but promoting your work is your responsibility. And despite popular opinion, publishers generally do not devote large amounts of money or time to promote your book. Publishers invest in the book's production and distribution, and will notify the trade, but -- again -- promotions are your responsibility. And if you don't do it, then it won't get done -- not effectively, anyway, in most cases. In fact when books are not selling, booksellers, wholesalers and the like return them (usually after about 3 months on the shelves!) Give your book some shelf life and a fighting chance. Promote early, often and shamelessly.
  3. Research your target market carefully. This may be a surprise to you but not everyone in the world will want your book. So you need to do some research to figure out your target market. Are they adults, young adult, teen, children? Women and/or men? A specific socioeconomic status or educational achievement? A particular segment of the population like writers, or students, African-Americans, or the self-employed? You get the picture. Know to whom you intend to sell and then identify where they go, what they read, and their likes and dislikes in order to target your message through the appropriate channels (kind of like a stalker, but with much more honorable intentions!). It does no good to devote a lot of time and money to create and maintain a blog, for instance, if your target market doesn't regularly use computers. And it doesn't make sense to advertise in a magazine that does not reach your target market, even if it is a popular magazine with a wide circulation.
  4. Think outside the box and use non-traditional marketing methods. Do not underestimate the power of non-traditional sales. If you own your rights, consider selling directly to book clubs, gift shops, doctor's offices, local grocery stores, restaurants, schools, organizations, businesses etc. Even if you cannot sell directly to these entities because a publisher controls your distribution, you can certainly market to them. Again, know where your target market goes and try selling to these markets, which exist outside the normal trade channels in the publishing industry. And if you control your rights, you'll keep more of the profits and avoid costly returns by selling on a non-returnable basis.
  5. Use every opportunity to promote and sell your book (never leave home without them!) Be on the look out for captive audiences (hair salons, airports, waiting lines etc.), and seize unexpected opportunities to chat up your book. And while giving your 30 second pitch, be sure to have the book close at hand (always have a case in your trunk!!) in case that captive audience turns into a potential sale. Develop a thick skin and get comfortable with a certain degree of rejection because, as I noted above, not everyone is going to love your book. Also, be PLEASANTLY persistent but NOT a pain in the you know where. Word of mouth works both ways and someone who has a bad experience with you is ten times more likely to tell others than someone who has a positive experience.

Next week, I'll post part two of this post to discuss the final 5 things on the ever-evolving list savvy writers do to maximize their profits. Until then, tell a friend about this blog and my podcast, Lit Law for Writers on the GO!, available from iTunes and also at You can listen directly from your computer or subscribe and instantly receive the latest cast sent directly to your MP3 player. And please visit Podcast Alley and vote for my podcast if you enjoy it!

Continue to write and SHINE!


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