Mention the name Samuel Langhorne Clemens and people will scratch their heads and ask, “Who is that?” But say the name Mark Twain and they’ll break out in a smile and nod.
He smoked at the age of nine, detested school and led a group of boys in wild pranks. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Tom Sawyer. Speaking of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn— both books which are considered Twain’s best work, were banned because of the dialect he used. People thought they were more suited for those in the slums than for intelligent, respectable people.
Twain wasn’t deterred. If the bookstores wouldn’t sell them and the libraries refused them, he’d get out there and promote them himself. And that’s exactly what he did. Twain went door to door selling his prized books.
That’s what I call fearless marketing.
I did some online research and discovered the following: for a fiction book to be successful it needs to sell 5000 books. But I read somewhere that 95 percent of all traditionally published books sell less than 500 copies. The writer earns no royalties until the publisher recoups their production costs: the advance, editing, layout. On top of that, the publisher, not the writer, owns the copyright, publishing and distribution rights to the book. [The author still holds copyright on his or her content and characters.]
Seventy percent of books published don’t earn back their advance. If the book sells for $10, royalties earned are 8 percent; the writer gets 80 cents a book. That means to cover the cost of production, sells of 12,000 –20,000 books need to happen just to break even. But wait, 95 percent of traditionally published books sell less than 500 copies.
This got me thinking. It doesn’t matter if you go the traditional route or self-publish, after publication, it is necessary to fearlessly market your work. The responsibility to promote a book rests with the writer. Sure, a few traditional publishers might do some promotion, but ultimately, if the book is to do well, it’s up to you to get it out there and make it known.
Fearless marketing. We can do what Mark Twain did and peddle our books door to door but that’s a bit time consuming. Instead, we can get creative and figure out other ways to connect our work with readers.
I think it’s important to know the readers that you’re targeting. Who will want to read your book? What are their interests? Their demographics? Once you have that, you can hit the streets running, or rather, hit the keyboard and find the many online sites that will help you get your work known. There are tons of them out there. Start a Facebook page that highlights not only your book, but its theme. Post often. Don’t consistently push your book. People will get turned off by that. But post interesting issues related to your writing and most importantly begin to develop relationships.
Register for an author’s site on Goodreads and Author’s Den and create an Amazon Author’s page. Check out the free classifieds to advertise such as Christ’s List and others.
So if you’ve written something you believe in, take the Twain road. Don’t be afraid to get out there and promote yourself.
Winner of The Word Guild Award