Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Author Tips for Success: Beyond the Book Launch

Good surprise, bad surprise.

Last week was the good kind. My husband brought me the Sunday magazine from our local newspaper—we subscribe to the online edition, so a hard copy is a rare thing around here. I assumed there must be something in it he wanted me to see, so I began turning pages. Lo and behold, three pages of the magazine were devoted to an article featuring and reviewing two e-book anthologies I’d co-edited with author David Marusek.

If either of the books had been newly released, I would have been pleased—of course—but not surprised. But one title came out half a year ago and the other a year and a half ago. The reviewer spoke highly of both editions as well as our authors’ co-op, Running Fox Books.

As a result, we’ve seen an uptick in downloads. More significantly, Tip Jar donations rolled in, thanks to the journalist pointing out the Tip Jar feature as part of his write-up.

The bad surprise isn’t news to anyone who’s been publishing for any length of time. After the launch, sales on most books taper off. There are exceptions, of course—audiences that grow over time—but upheavals in the publishing industry still haven’t changed the fact that the market tends to be launch-centric.

However, that nice newspaper coverage long after launch proves that there are ways for fresh energy to flow toward a book long after its release. Here, four ways that can happen:

·         Special sales at events that feature a topic related to your book: As a reporter for the IBPA Independent, I’ve come across lots of proof that special sales to target markets can increase a book’s sales substantially over time. For this reason, I’m looking forward to an onstage conversation at our local museum Oct. 4. The topic is the future of fiction, and the bookstore will be featuring fictions by all four participants.
·         Teach from your book: This old trick of college professors—write a book and then make it required reading for the course you teach—has applications outside academia. This weekend, I’m teaching a workshop, Jumpstart Your Writing, for our local writing center. As part of the course fee, students will receive a copy of Write Your Best Book, one of two books I’ve written on writing and publishing.
·         Media coverage: The article on the Alaska Sampler series in our local paper is but one example of how media coverage can boost interest in your books. Send press releases for your books, and make sure they’re tied to items of interest to the media. Don’t be surprised if it takes awhile to see results, as was the case with our Sampler coverage.

·         Book Clubs: Because book clubs generally make their selections a full year in advance, it may take some time before they begin picking up your title for discussion. Book clubs also rely heavily on word of mouth, so the post-launch potential for interest may extend for years after launch. In early October, I’ll be Skyping with a library book club that’s featuring my novel that came out more than a year ago.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored sixteen books. Her most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion; and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. A regular contributor to the IBPA Independent, her views here are her own.