Sell More Books!
(Cheap, Unobnoxious Tactics that Actually Work for Shy Authors and Non-Celebrities)
Presented by J. Steve Miller at the Georgia Writers Association Fall Conference, 2009


General Principles

a.       Taylor your plan to your personality and your book.

b.      If you want your book to sell, you’ll probably need to learn how to and devote some time to marketing your book, even if you’re with a major publisher.

c.       If done in a way that fits your personality and strengths, publicity can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.

d.      Don’t expect immediate returns from most of these techniques.

  1. Publish a Marketable Book (For more on this, read my series of blog posts on “Getting Published Without a Platform,” starting with this post: )

a.       Write a really good book.

b.      Consider including content that can later be used for marketing.

·         Including recommendations of other books and organizations.

·         Setting it in a location where the book could be marketed for its local flare.  

c.       Get input from lots of friends, acquaintances and experts.

d.      Get lots of blurbs from all kinds of people. )

1) Don’t think “Platform.” Think “Multiple Platforms.”
(Thus, get different kinds of blurbs from different kinds of people who might appeal to different niches.)
2) Help them to write their blurbs. (They’re not writers and are intimidated by your writing!)

e.      Take care of details like an ISBN #, LOC #, etc.

f.        Target the Title and Subtitle for Much-Searched Key Words: The seismic marketing shift from “interrupting people” to “helping searchers find you.”

g.       Don’t let it look self-published.  

1.       Establish your own publishing company. (And the ISBN should be bought through that company.)

2.       Don’t name the company after yourself.  

More on Publishing a Marketable Book: Read Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual (even if you’re seeking publication through a traditional publisher) and On Writing Well, by Zinsser, on how to write and the writing process.

  1. Let People Know about Your Book

The two secrets to book sales are: 1) to produce a good product that has a market and 2) to let people know about it.” (Dan Poynter, Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, pp. 201, 202.)

Writing books is like an iceberg - 10% is writing. 90% is marketing.” Steve Harrison

Discussion: assumptions and hurdles that keep us from getting our books out there.

Jack Canfield (co-author of the Chicken Soup series: over 115 million books sold in over 41 languages, after being initially rejected by 144 publishers): “We make our own luck. We started thinking differently; thinking like a marketer. It took several years to get beyond the stigma of marketing - thinking that it was something less than legitimate for an author. It took a shift in attitude, a learning of techniques and strategies.

a.   Clearly define your niche, and how your most-likely readers will best find your book

b.      Send out Review Copies

1)      Word of mouth is the key. But how do you get word of mouth started? Sending it out to 20 relatives and friends is hardly enough to start and sustain word of mouth.

2)      How many?

Send out review copies. Send out lots of them. Send out more than you think you should. Hit every major newspaper and magazine which you think might be at all interested in the subject of your book. In most cases this means sending out somewhere between 300 and 500 review copies. Don’t be stingy about sending out review copies. For every hundred copies you send out k, you’ll get perhaps ten reviews. And those ten reviews will bring you anywhere from twenty to one hundred direct sales and many more indirect sales. Even at a conservative estimate, you’ll receive 200 orders for every 100 copies you send out. That’s cheap advertising.” (John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, p. 138)

3)      Where to find reviewers.

·         Galleys to early reviewers: Typically a long-shot.  Example: ForeWord Reviews recently said that they were reviewing only 5% of the books they received. That’s a 95% chance your galley would be rejected. If you want to try, besides the main book review newspapers (New York Times, LA Times), here's the list:

Booklist (American Library Association)
ForeWord Reviews (Formerly ForeWord Magazine)
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
SLJ Book Review (School Library Journal)

·         ForeWord (as of October) is accepting applications for a paid digital review ($99). (Click Publishers/Book Reviews/Digital Reviews)

·         Completed books to second line reviewers (Midwest Book Review is the largest for independents and self-published). I culled through lists of about 150 reviewers and listed 29 on my blog that I felt were worth submitting my nonfiction book to.

·         Top Bloggers – I’ll tell you how to find them in a moment.

·         Major publications and journalists who write on your subject. (This isn’t typically a book review column.) I started by finding a webpage linked to major newspapers. (Out of perhaps 50 newspapers, I e-mailed about 30 financial writers, about 8 of whom requested a book. One wrote a review so far.)

·         Smaller magazines/newspapers/blogs that cover your topic. (Look in the recent Ulrich’s and/or Gale’s Directories in your library.)

·         Publications that cover a broader topic that encompasses your field.

4)      E-mail first to find if it’s okay to send it. Tell in a paragraph or two why you think they’d like it or it would be useful to them.

5)      Send with a press release and brochure. [I order envelopes/mailers for c. 25 cents each here: . (Compare $1.00 each @ Walmart)]. That’s a savings of $75 on 100 mailers!

6)      Write “requested material” on the envelope.

7)      Follow-up to make sure they received it. (Emphasized by many book marketers.)

c.       Consider Local Avenues

Bookstores are lousy places to sell books.” Dan Poynter

d.      Pimp out Your Amazon Page.

2008 Book Sales:

Barnes and = $466 million
Borders/ Waldenbooks = $3.11 billion
Barnes & Nobel/ B. Dalton = $4.52 billion = $5.35 billion

In 2008, Amazon’s sales grew by 16% while each of the other bookstore chains lost money. If this trend continues…

1)      Upload your cover according to Amazon’s specs.

2)      Jumpstart your reviews with early readers. (Your writer’s group, people who critiqued your manuscript, etc.)

3)      Prioritize your best (most helpful) reviews. (Have people click “yes” to “was this review helpful for you?”)

4)      Make your publisher’s section sing.

5)      Allow “Search Inside” so Amazon can use your content to help people find your book in a subject search.

6)      Add tags and search terms -

a)      Find what people are searching for in your topic:

b)      Type the phrases into your Amazon page. Use several Amazon accounts if you need more words and phrases.

c)       Give it time. Some say it takes a year before a lot of this takes effect.

d)      Link people back to your Amazon page (or a press page or whatever).

e)      Recommend a “browse path” over time to put you in their “Browse Categories” section. Amazon will list books by popularity (sales) (Either e-mail suggestions to Amazon or Booksurge authors can offer up to 2 through Booksurge.)

To learn more about enhancing your Amazon page:
Also read Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard, although some of his ideas are dated, since Amazon is always trying new things.

e.      Develop a Web Presence

1)      Inexpensive (Consider WordPress for a free or cheap blog, or site that is easy to update. You can make it look like a traditional site if you wish.)

2)      Easily Updatable by you

3)      If it looks amateurish, consider paying a good designer $200 to “give it the once over.” (If you don’t have $200, offer it to a web design student who needs a free project for her resume.)

4)      Use it to build a following (collect e-mail addresses).

5)      Use it to build a platform (your press page should contain reviews, interviews, article ideas, etc.). My press page:

f.        Utilize Social Networking (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

g.       Comment on Popular Blogs and Articles and Forums

1)      It’s the “go where people are already gathered” principle.

2)      You’re not bothering people! You’re meeting a huge need.

3)      Use proper etiquette – Not, “Cool post! Why don’t you buy my book at…”

4)      Sign off with your name, possibly a tag line, and a link to your Amazon Page (or book site/blog). Mine looks like this:

J. Steve Miller
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
The money book for people who hate money books.”

5)      Results: incoming links, better Google ranking, the links can be searched years later, etc.

6)      Find the top blogs in your subject area. (Where are most people gathering?)

a) Search your key terms in Technorati , which ranks blogs according to number of incoming links. (The higher the number the better.) It assumes that a blog is more respected and visited if more people link to it.

b) Search Technorati’s blog directory. (Click "blogs" and “directory”.)  

Find the subjects that most closely match your topic and click on them to find the most popular blogs that talk about those subjects.

c) Search key words or phrases in Google Blog Search to find more blogs.

d) Download the free Alexa toolbar to discover how the site’s Google rank (the lower the number, the better.) (Click "Download the Alexa Toolbar" to start the process.)

e) Of course, search Google’s main search engine to find other popular sites besides blogs.

f) Find recommended blogs from the links and recommendations of other top blogs. When you find a popular blog on your subject, check out the blogs they link to. Also, see if they mention important articles once a week or so. Check out these blogs as well.

7) Prioritize getting a review by the blogger rather than just commenting on posts. (“Let another praise you…”)

h.      Help writers with their articles. HARO: Help a Reporter Out - 

i.        Write Articles.

1)      Send out press releases.

2)      Free or paid releases?

3)      The benefits of publicists.

4)      The benefits of targeted lists: example - Bostick Communications ( versus free.

5)      Find relevant periodicals through Google searches, local bookstores, Ulrich’s and Gales’s Directories, etc.

j.        Submit Your Book for Appropriate Awards

1) What are the Benefits? (Platform + Sales)

a) You can buy a sticker to put on each book (“Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year”).

b)      You can call it “an award-winning book”

c)       You can send out a press release.

d)      Some will put out the word to libraries, and other markets.

e)      You can call it “an award-winning book” in all your marketing.

 2) Are the Odds Worth It? (They can be pretty darn good!)

k.       Find Some Marketing Buddies

Jack Canfield:  Mark Victor Hanson was more outgoing than me. You might need to team up with a person who's more out there.

l.        Utilize Great Publicists (They keep up with the industry and have media contacts who trust them.)

1)      If you have money but little time, hire a publicist to do the whole thing. You still have to be involved, but they initiate.

2)      If you have time but little money, hire a publicist for only those tasks you can’t do.

3)      Good publicists will take you only if they are excited about your project and think it’s a fit for them.  

m.    Explore distribution options. (Is a 70% discount feasible for you?)

Seek those who do the type distribution you need.

1)      To Bookstores?

2)      To Libraries?

3)      To Special Markets? (Give Jud information.)

n.      Offer to meet with reading groups. They’ll buy your book, read it, and relish talking to you about it.

·         Go to , click on “Atlanta,” search the word “reading” to find 68 groups within 25 miles of Atlanta.

·         Go to to find reading groups organized through the Cobb County Library.

·         Search “reading groups” + a city in Google.

o.      Pursue the methods that work for you and that you enjoy. Here’s where it becomes exciting!

p.      Keep a Marketing Diary

1)      To keep from duplicates

2)      For follow-up

3)      To narrow down what’s working

q.      Want to Sell a Ton of Books? Catch Fire with a Vision!

See interview w/ Canfield here:

1)      Define your vision in terms of helping people. (For more information, see this post: )

“Networking is simply a new term for what we used to call caring.”

Harrison: Many authors have passion to serve and make a difference but feel awkward about self promotion. What would you say to them?

Canfield: If you had a cure for cancer, would you have a fear of being a self-promoter? Believe that what you have is extremely valuable. To not share it hurts people. If you have food for the hungry but don't tell the starving you have it, you've done them a disservice. You're not an egoist, you're simply helping people.”

Canfield: “We have over 2000 people who've said they didn't commit suicide because of a chicken soup book.”

You’re not selling novels…you’re helping a young person catch fire for reading. You’re not selling a children’s book…you’re promoting literacy. You’re not selling a business book, you’re giving business owners hope and tools to help them survive in a depressed economy.

2)      Zealously pursue what works. (The Eragon Story: he found one thing that worked for him and his book – speaking at schools – and did it 135 times. Result: millions sold.)

r.        Put your personal marketing strategy on paper. (This helps me, and might help you get a publisher. Others just make sure they do stuff regularly.)

s.       Execute! If you’re doing nothing, start doing something. Lots of lucky, crazy things happen if you just put yourself out there.

Persistence, above all, is the key to success” in book publicity (Kramer, p. 179)

1) Make 5 promotional contacts per day. T
hat’s 35 contacts per week, over 100 per month, 12,775 contacts per year (Comment on a blog, mail a letter, talk to a store manager, e-mail an organization for a review, a phone call the local library, etc.). Don’t wait until you’ve got a marketing plan. Don’t wait till you’ve read a marketing book. Don’t wait until you know what you’re doing. Doing something trumps doing nothing any day of the week.

2) If you’re too busy, make 1 promotional contact per day. That’s 365 initiatives per year! If you’re super-busy, make one contact a week. DO SOMETHING INSTEAD OF NOTHING!

t.        Keep Learning.

Take my instruction, and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choicest gold.
For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things can not compare with her.
” (Solomon)

Jack Canfield (from interview) “Learn how to market books. I spent half of my early money on attending seminars. Become a master. Invest in your education to become a master marketer.

1)      Discussion groups. Discover what’s working and what’s not. Develop camaraderie with fellow writers. Ask questions. Give answers.

a)  - Click on the “forum.” I participate most often in the “What’s the Biggest Challenge with Your Book?” discussion, moderated by Bill Frank (849 replies!), an expert in book marketing/publicity. I also participate in the “What’s Working for You?” discussion, moderated by John Kremer.

b) - If you don’t have a linked-in account, set one up. Look under “Groups” to find “Book Publishing Professionals.” Click “Discussions”. Example: if you’re looking for a great discussion of the pros and cons of self-publishing, two lively discussions contain well over 400 replies.

c) - Publisher's Forum - a place to discuss publishing issues. Knowledgeable participants, chatty, willing to give advice, freewheeling (not tied to any one company and willing to tell it straight.)

2)      My writing blog: – my writing blog. Learn from my successes and failures in marketing my books.

3)      Recommended books (they don't just rehash the same old stuff):

a)     Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual  - Underline and use it as a reference. Read     this as you’re writing.

b)    1001 Ways to Market Your Books, John Kremer. The most extensive book I know on the subject. Tons of helpful detail. (Get the most recent edition. Underline, make notes in the back. Narrow down what makes sense to try for your book. Again, use it as a reference.

c)     How to Make Real Money Selling Books: A complete Guide to the Book Publishers’ World of Special Sales, Brian Jud. (The guru of how to sell books outside of traditional bookstores. Again, you can use it as a reference. Plenty of detail.)

Other marketing books I’ve learned from: Jump Start Your Book Sales (Ross), Best-Selling Book Publicity (Frishman and Spizman), The Well-Fed Writer (Bowerman), The Well-Fed Publisher (Bowerman), The Making of a Bestseller (Hill and Power), Publicize Your Book! (Deval), Damn! Why Didn’t I Write That? (McCutcheon), The Frugal Book Promoter, (Howard-Johnson), Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (Levinson, Frishman & Larsen), Aiming at Amazon (Shepard), Sell Your Book on Amazon (Sampson)

Action Points: A Few Things I Plan to Do to Start Selling My Books

1)      I’ll do something each day or week rather than nothing.

2)      _________________________

3)      _________________________

4)      _________________________


Input and Blurbs

What I liked about this presentation:





What I think could have been improved about this presentation: