Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Book Launch: Selling the Book Today

On a recent evening I had the pleasure of listening to Tempa Pagel discuss her new book, They Danced by the Light of the Moon, the second in her Andy Gammon series. I’ve known Tempa for twenty years, when she signed up for a writing workshop in New Hampshire and later joined a writers’ group I started. We still meet as a group, and watching her success is especially pleasing.

Launching a new book is work, as is the follow-up of establishing an audience for it and its sequel. As different as we may be as writers, we all face the same challenge—finding readers. Tempa held a book launch and party at a local bookstore, and invited everyone she knew in the area. She gave a brief talk, about forty minutes, and then took questions and later signed books. The bookstore owner provided refreshments for a wine and cheese evening. Tempa began her talk with a joke, talked about the origins of the story and her research, which involved learning about two historic buildings in the area, and historical events that informed her novel. She maintained a balance between information and humor.

Twenty years ago the book launch would be followed by events at other bookstores and libraries and interviews for radio, television, and newspapers. New writers might send hundreds of postcards to libraries throughout the country, and visit area bookstores, offering to “sign stock,” as it was called. Writers offered (and still do) writing workshops and classroom visits. For all but the most successful writers, selling a book was a person to person job. It meant getting in the car and making contact with owners of bookstores and buyers at libraries. The writer was in a sense following the path of the book salesman, who went with catalogues to individual bookstores recommending specific titles because he knew the bookstores' clientele, knew what people in the area bought. These sales people are all but gone now.

With the advent of the Internet, selling books changed dramatically, so much so that some writers never have to leave the house to establish a readership and sell thousands of copies a year or a month. They establish a presence on Facebook and sites where readers gather—Goodreads, Librarything, or the Reading Room, among others. They post stories to interest readers on Wattpad and other sites, and they network wherever readers gather to discuss books and find recommendations. They email libraries with book flyers, send out newsletters, and hold virtual book launches without ever buying a stamp, a bottle of wine, or a piece of paper.

Every writer finds a way to find readers, but we are always learning more. James Moushon queried dozens of writers to identify what writers use now. It’s interesting to read through and see the number of resources writers have come up with. Not everyone follows the same path; most writers use a mix of social media, finding the ones they’re most comfortable with and focusing on those. But all of those interviewed agreed on one point—finding readers is about building relationships. Each reader tells another, and on it goes. We might do much of the work in front of a screen now, but in the end it is still a person to person job.

The writers interviewed mention several sites that might be of interest. The survey and its link are given below.

Your Book Launch: Marketing Methods and Ideas Used by Outstanding Authors – A Study

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