Authors need good practical advice about book marketing because it is different to regular marketing and cannot be treated the same.

When authors come to Zeus Publication most of them are totally unaware of how the publishing industry works and how difficult it is to actually sell books. Most have never researched the facts before they begin their project. Usually, because they love writing and getting the manuscript finished is their first priority (a noble one at that).

Out of the thousands of books printed each year some will be lucky to sell 50 copies. A bestseller in Australia can be as little as a few thousand.  When you hear the wonderful stories of authors selling hundred of thousands this is extremely rare. That is why short-run, subsidy and print-on-demand publishing is so important to the publishing industry in this country.

Many of the bestselling authors accumulate these figures over the body of their publications and not just during the sales of one book.

Also figuring out just how many sales of a book are ‘actual sales’ can be extremely difficult. All bookstores work on sale or return and may in fact return every book they have ordered, not selling a single copy. (Sad but true!)

The fact is that a book is a commodity that is only bought once, so we are always looking for potential buyers. 

Do you know anyone who buys a book and then goes back a week later and buys the same book after they’ve read it? (Okay, they could buy for a friend or relative because they loved it so much and didn’t want to share their own copy – but you get the drift.)

Books are directly competing with DVDs, CD, magazines, ebooks and the likes. They are also competing with anything around the same price that a buyer may prefer to buy than a book.

For example; A mother is shopping and would dearly love a book to relax with over the weekend but she passes a shop with two t-shirts for $30 on her way to the bookshop. Her sons both need new clothes so she buys the shirts not the book. No sale to the author that day.

Then of course each author is competing against the other for sales. Each cover competes with the cover beside it, each first page competes with each first page and so on.

So without discouraging you all together – there ARE ways to sell books. At Zeus we have been in the industry long enough to know the challenges so we can direct you to the best marketing strategy.

To take a quote from the book Marketing Your Book—An Author’s Guide by Alison Baverstock: ‘In industry, most firms would seek to make a profit of at least 15-20 per cent; publishing houses do well to get 5-10 per cent. As some wag once said, the only enterprise you take on for the love not the money is owning either a publishing house or a football team.’

So firstly authors have to be aware that publishers are, in fact, on their side. They love words, books and publishing. They want your book to be as much of a success as you do. Believe that when they try to explain the industry to you that they are giving you the reality to help you not to upset you or discourage you. Most are working to change how bookstores do business and how much profit authors and publishers actually receive.

There seems to be a huge gap in the compensation for the efforts both the author and publisher put into writing, production and distribution and what the stores do to earn their share of the profits (usually the most). It won’t be remedied any time soon so that is just the way it is and we have to work with it.

The reality is that a book only has about eight weeks to build hype after it’s released. If it does not show signs of selling after that point even mainstream publishers would minimise further marketing and move onto the next book.

To help you achieve your sales goals you need to be seen everywhere with your book. Always have a copy on hand because you never know who you will meet. Bring your book into discussions and show it to family and friends and then hand them a business card or bookmark so they can buy at a later date.

Even if you are uncomfortable with pushing your own profile you have to ignore the discomfort and push ahead. If you’ve put so much effort into writing it would be a shame not to have anyone read your book. It’s up to you.

At Zeus we individually design and word your book release and media release and issue them to the relevant contacts from our extensive databases.

We will try to organize reviews (the best and least expensive way to gain publicity) with the relevant media. If you receive a review it can be used for further publicity and any good quotes or testimonials can be cut out to place on your next cover or in other media releases.

Media can be fickle and will not always support authors, even if you are a local. The famous often become more famous. Unless something extremely newsworthy happens to you it’s unlikely to expect to be interviewed (but we do try for that elusive interview).

You may ask what your chances are for getting on television and realistically unless you are famous already or have the ‘it’ topic—no.

We have had some success with biographies (of the famous) and health and medical titles but again television can be fickle. For example we recently had an interview organised for an author and as the negotiations for a filming date were being set the producer of the show moved on and the next producer cut the interview.

The harsh reality is that you don’t want to become the next Chk Chk Boom Girl just to gain publicity. Nor do you want to do a Helen Demidenko and cause the sort of scandal in the literary world as she did.

I suggest you can hype your book and yourself and still be honest and true. Tap into your brilliant past or discover any interesting facts about yourself that audiences may enjoy. More importantly write the best book you can and you will always be proud enough to spruik it.

If you are lucky enough to be interviewed by a newspaper, magazine, radio or television always be prepared. Most interviewers will steer the conversation so you have to be ready to try to get back to your main points.  Talk about the book but also about yourself, why you write, what you went through and anything topical that relates to you and your book.

Usually and interview will have to suit the publication so if you are speaking to a women’s’ magazine keep your points on women’s interest subjects such as motherhood, fashion, health and careers.

If you can create your own publicity it then creates publicity for the book. If you already hold seminars or speak in your line of work, can you sell your books during these events?

While some book titles, such as guides and text books, sell because of a title catching a buyer’s attention because of a need, and others, such as novels, can sell due to the author’s name alone. The saying is that once your name is bigger than your title you’ve made it as a writer.

We also recommend that you create a website and keep it up to date (please see my blog or the March issue for a feature on websites). You can link your site to our’s or any media networking sites such as Facebook.

Since bookstores are reluctant to keep book stock on shelves and have a system where buyers have to come in and order titles of less-known authors you can lose sales because buyers aren’t willing to wait. Often they are better off being directed to our website. Again business cards or bookmarks are the best way to keep the website out there.

Authors and publishers need to see outside the square when it comes to selling books.

Bookstores are not the only place a book will sell. At a bookstore a book is competing against thousands of other titles. A speciality store may be a better option. A health and healing title would do better in a new age store or a health food store. A book on gems may sell better at a hobby store or in the gift shop of a gem manufacturer.

There are so many marketing options and the best person to find them is the author. The author is the closest to the content of the book so the author should already have in mind potential readers.

Look at your book and ask yourself, ‘Who are my readers?’ If you answer, ‘They are parents of young children.’  You then ask yourself, ‘Where are these people?’ Often they have their children in daycare. Can you sell your book at a daycare reception? Can you ask the daycare centres if they have a library?

See what I mean; if we all look outside the square we may find out there are plenty of other shapes and we just have to find them.


About bookszeus

I am the marketing Publicist for Zeus Publications. I am a novel, short story and article writer as well as wife, mother and friend. I have
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  1. Wendy Baker says:

    Thanks for the article on ‘marketing your book’. i agree with the comments on how difficult it is to actually sell books. When I was trying to find out about Zeus before deciding to get you to publish my book “Strangers” last year, one of the questions I asked was “How many of your authors actually manage to sell enough books to recoup their initial investment?” ( ie. the $2,600 I had to pay to get it published.) The answer I was given was an unqualified “All of them” which seemed a bit too good to be true, but as I had no other options at that stage I took your your word for it.

  2. Wendy Baker says:

    Thanks for the article about marketing your book. I agree with the comments about how hard it is to sell books, and I have a question. When I was trying to find out about Zeus before deciding to get you to publish me book, one of the questions I asked was “How many of your authors actually sell enough books to recoup their initial investment?” ( $2,600 in my case.) The answer I got was an unqualified “All of them.” I thought at the time this was a bit too good to be true, but as I had no other options at that stage I took your word for it. Now, however, having got my first royalty payment, ( $11) I realise I should have investigated further. I’m sure I don’t need to do the calculations for you to show how unlikely it is that I’ll recoup my money through book sales, especially in the light of what you say in your article. Would you like to have another go at answering my question?
    Wendy Baker

    • bookszeus says:

      Hi Wendy,
      This is my first go at answering your question. I do spend limited time on Bookszeus because I have many other jobs in my role as marketing publicist for Zeus Publications, so sorry for the delay in response.
      I am sure whoever answered your questions on recouping your money would have tried adequately to explain how the industry works. I seriously doubt that the answer was an unqualified, “All of them.” Some do and some don’t. Unfortunately we do not have a crystal ball.
      Books we’ve thought would sell well, for whatever reason, are not picked up by the buyers. Other times a book we doubt will have a big market (such as poetry) could become a bestseller. There is no way to know. Even mass market publishers cannot predict a book will sell even if they spend big on their marketing campaign. The effort an author puts in always helps and is extremely necessary.
      Here is an excerpt from the letter that accompanied your contract:
      We will print as many copies of your book as the market requires. We would mention here that book publication is a very competitive business and there are no guaranteed levels of sales, and although every effort is made to have your title placed in bookstores, we cannot guarantee that book buyers will buy the title.
      I’m sure you still have a copy on file.
      I hope this answers your questions now. Of course you could implement some of the advice I have given to market your book further and maybe gain some sales. You could, for instance, do a talk at your church. Maybe there have been some terrific opportunities that have been missed. Such as every time you talk about the book include the web address to buy it: And mention too that it is available as an ebook.
      The reason for this blog and the monthly newsletter on the Zeus website is to help keep our authors informed and to be upfront with them. We hope this helps the process to publication. The beautiful thing is to hold your own book in your hands. It’s a bonus if it sells.

  3. Richard Blackburn says:

    I agree that the publishing business is very different, but there is a reason for this, especially for new authors. We are asking a stranger to buy a pig in a poke. What is between the front and back cover? Why should the reader pay good money for this story? How can you persuade tham that your book is worth the investment?

    My answer is to get out there and tell them. Zeus has put the book on all the major bookstore’s databases, listed it on their website, commented on it on twitter and sent details to reviewers. They organised my first book signing and radio interview. And they told me to use my imagination to do as much for myself as possible – and I took their advice.

    So I believe that your book can sell well enough to pay for itself, but not on its own. You have to work at it.

  4. Pingback: Marketing my authors from a little publisher perspective « Bookszeus's Blog

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