So you’ve published a few books and now have a body of work available to the world, even if you haven’t quite set it on fire yet.
And unless someone organizes a public bonfire of your work – great free publicity! – it’s up to you to reignite interest in your older books once those initial flames of passion have died down.
How to raise your best books from the dead?
Welcome to the literary marketplace’s version of “voodoo economics”…
One of the advantages of self-publishing over being published by a traditional press, even a small one – and those differences can be almost negligible – is that you decide how long your book stays “in print.” It can remain available for as long as you want it to. Or if you belatedly decide it sucks, you can delete it like it never existed.
The problem many mid-listed authors published by conventional companies have is: if a brick-and-mortar bookseller hasn’t sold X amount of books in Y amount of time, they’re returned to the publisher. And once that happens, they stop investing in your stock as an author, quickly moving on to the next potential bestseller. That’s just the harsh but realistic bottom line that determines the success of most writers, going back to the dawn of the printed word.
If you’re your own publisher, chances are most bookstores won’t even agree to stock and sell your book except via a low-yield consignment deal, since they don’t want to be stuck with unsold copies, and taking a chance on an unknown author is just too risky.
But even indie books have a “shelf life,” meaning a finite amount of time for it to make a splash before it fades into fatal obscurity. Some writers and publishers believe you have about three months to earn your book some crucial notoriety. If you haven’t achieved a certain peak of popularity by then, your sales will level off then plummet, if they haven’t flat-lined already. This seems like undue pressure to place on yourself, doesn’t it?
The truth is, if you’re in charge of your own promotions and career, you can “reboot” interest in a previously published book in a number of ways, keeping it viable as a product long after its initial introduction.
Here are a few ways to exhume that literary corpse and reanimate its presence in the marketplace…
Have a Fire Sale!
Short of a moralistic ban resulting in a book burning that catches wildfire on YouTube, the best way to alert readers to the existence of your work is to practically give it away.
Kindle Select is Amazon’s controversial program that allows subscribers free access to your book, promising “exposure” which can potentially result in a stronger author platform via strong word of mouth reviews. But even this option has its drawbacks.
Selling your book for cheap doesn’t always mean you’re underselling yourself as an author, as long as it’s part of a long-range marketing strategy, which, again, is all up to you.
Write a Sequel!
The best way to sustain interest in a single book is to make it part of a series. This may not even have been your original plan for a particular work, but if you can find a way to keep that story going organically, without forcing the fictional circumstances to suit your real life agenda, or better yet, tell an entirely new one with the same characters, you wind up creating an alternate universe that will continually lure in new readers who are captivated enough by one book to go back and read its predecessor(s).
The importance of your own social networking can never be overestimated, even if some authors contend Facebook is a useless marketing tool. I counter that it’s always relative, with individual exceptions, and there are many real life success stories out there to back up this simple truth.
Just be careful not to oversaturate any particular book, particularly an old one, but rotating posts and tweets about specific titles, particularly if they’re seasonally relevant (horror for Halloween, love stories for Valentine’s Day, etc.), are both socially acceptable and commercially crucial.
Easier said than done, true, especially since many higher profile blogs and literary journals won’t even mention indie books or authors without a fee. However, the small press universe can be very symbiotic, i.e. you review my book on your blog and I’ll review yours on my blog, etc. Even if the online hub that posts a review or interview with you has a very small audience, you can increase exposure and awareness of both by sharing the link via your own network, which in turn directs traffic to that site.
A public plea for your fans and friends to post reviews on Amazon for books of yours they’ve read is never a bad idea either, as long as you don’t come off too pushy or desperate. Just a gentle reminder…
Basically, good books never die, they just zombify. The trick is preventing them from getting buried in that literary graveyard in the first place.
What are some ways you sustain interest in your books long after they’re published?
PHOTO: KEVIN KIDNEY