Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marketing my book, Dear America

I had heard over and over at writers conferences that an author must sell her own book. The promotion is all up to her. Don’t expect the publisher to do anything. If they do, that’s all gravy. The author must work hard to sell her own book.

I had listened. I had believed. I never doubted.

So when I had my book in my hands, I started in doing everything I could think of to sell it. I let everyone I knew know I had a book out. And I sold a few copies.

I set up book signings. The Christian bookstore in the town where I had served on the pregnancy center’s Board had closed, so I set up a book signing in a popular gift store on main street.

I had since moved to an even smaller town which also had no bookstore. I talked to the owner of a gift shop there and set up another signing.

One day while in Colorado Springs, I stopped in and talked to the manager of a Family Christian Bookstore and he also said yes to a book signing! Me? At a national chain signing books?! Whoo-hoo! I’d hit the big time.

I set up several more book signings.

I had heard and read from other authors that you can’t just set up a table and sit behind it and expect people to come over and buy a book. That might work for Frank Peretti. Or Bill Clinton. But not for a no-name like Dianne E. Butts. So I did my best to crawl out of my shell and approach people. I smiled. I talked with them about my book and about writing and publishing and whatever interested them.

Many friends showed up to support me. Some even bought a copy. Mostly though, they created a crowd. That’s a good thing, because then other people in the store would come over to see why the crowd had gathered.

I had a big poster made of my book cover at Office Max and put a dish of chocolates on my book table. I mean, I did everything to sell my book. Right?

Seven must indeed be a lucky number because it seemed no matter where I held a book signing, I sold seven copies. Exactly.

I’ve heard that’s doing pretty well, actually. I’ve heard many authors say they’ve held book signings and didn’t sell a single copy.

I wasn’t getting rich but I guessed I was doing okay. I was earning back some of the money I had invested in getting the book published. It was trickling in…six dollars and ninety-five cents at a time.

Some of the stores even asked me to sign additional copies to leave at the store. Imagine! My little book on the shelves of Family Christian Bookstore in Colorado Springs!


I handed out fliers. I sent out a newsletter. I bought an ad. A friend was traveling to Ground Zero with her daughter on spring break and she took a dozen copies with to give away.

Later that year I told people about my newly published book in my Christmas letter. I mean, I did everything I knew how to do to sell my book.

This book marketing thing was harder than I thought it would be. I spent a lot of time. Put in a lot of effort. Even spent some on stamps and ads and fliers and that big poster of my book cover.

And I ended up selling a couple hundred copies of Dear America. A couple years later, when I’d sold three hundred (of the five hundred) copies I’d had printed, I hit the break-even point.

No profit. Just break even. (On expenses, that is. Not on getting paid anything for my time either for writing or for marketing the book.)

I’d learn later that this is not an usual tale for a self-published book. As a matter of fact, by some standards, I’d done pretty well.

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