The Pan Bookshop in London is to close after thirty-two years of trading. Waterstones too is closing the very first branch it opened in 1982 in west London. It's a tough time in book retailing and a tough one too in publishing, so where does that leave the author?
Books are a low cost item (generally) and not a fast moving consumer good (FMCG) so they don't generally fly off the shelves unless you happen to be a celebrity, or a big named author already. Selling books whether you are a bookseller, author or publisher is very hard work and usually for the majority of titles a slow trickle until hopefully (in some cases) that trickle becomes a stream, then a river and at last an almighty flood. But making that happen all takes time, persistence and marketing.
For the author it's a matter of getting his or her name out there and building readership. Unfortunately not all publishers will help you do this or allow you enough time to build your 'name'. If you're not selling from day one then you could find yourself being dropped after your two book contract is fulfilled. This doesn't mean to say that your book was bad or that your writing was poor. On the contrary both could be brilliant. But in a world that wants quick returns on investments you simply ran out of time. So here are five lessons:
1. Don't rely on the publisher to market you or your book .
Get off your backside and do it yourself. This is no time for modesty false or otherwise. Publishers don't have the time, resources or money to commit to marketing an unknown author but instead concentrate on their BIG names, their 'cash cows!' Draw up a marketing plan from the moment (or even before) your book is to be published and stick to it.
2.Keep marketing from day one and use every opportunity you can to promote yourself and your book.
This can be through a press release to the media, (even if it is just your local or regional press) on-line, through a blog, your own website or a social network like Facebook. Give talks in your local libraries, free, except for travelling expenses. Libraries are great at promoting new authors and have ready and willing readers. You can also sell your books at your talk and cover your costs. Contact your local bookshop if you have one and ask if you can do a signing. You will need to market it yourself, don't expect people to turn up, even some of the big name authors are left at book signings staring at the bookshelves with no one to talk to.
3. Keep it going.
Marketing is a long slow process. What you do today might not have an immediate impact but eventually it will begin to work. I always say give it eighteen months before you start to see any real benefits.
4. Be patient and persistent.
5.Always look for opportunities and seize them where you can.