The Hard Sell

The publishing industry is changing. Would-be authors no longer have to wait in vain for their book to be plucked out of the slush pile by a publisher or agent. The opportunity to self-publish has unleashed a wealth of previously undiscovered talent. Worldwide, rookie novelists are putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Hundreds of new titles are being released every day. And the numbers are rising. This is a good thing but what many of these new authors don’t realise is that getting your book into print is only the first step, you then have to sell it.

Traditional book publishers have a team of people to support authors on the road to publication. They employ editors, proofreaders, designers and a marketing department whose sole purpose is to make sure that your book gets noticed. All too often, a book’s success has little to do with how good or not it is. We have all read bestsellers that failed to live up to the hype or eagerly awaited the release of a new novel by a favourite author only to find it is nowhere near as good as their last. Similarly, I have read some really excellent books that struggle to make the ratings. It all comes down to marketing.

Publicising a book, any book, takes time and money. For a new author, both are often in short supply and most first-time authors can’t afford costly advertising or even to buy sufficient copies of their book to sell on to family and friends. Social media and word of mouth have a part to play but you will be very lucky indeed if this is enough to encourage even a few people to buy your book.

I recently published an anthology, Write on the Coast, with Westcliff-on-Sea WI (WoSWI) Writing Group. As the book is being sold in aid of charity, with fifty per cent of the monies raised helping to buy pioneering, life-saving, cancer treatment equipment, I was fairly optimistic about getting relevant coverage. Not so! I have had to beg, bully and cajole some publications even to mention it and as for all those people queuing up to order copies, well…

In all seriousness, without the mighty force of a dedicated marketing department, it is hard to draw attention to a self-published book and if no one knows that your book exists, even if it is the best book ever written, the sad truth is that no one will buy it and it can feel that all your hard work has been in vain.

To repeat my opening statement, the world of publishing is changing. More and more new self-published titles are flooding the market and seeing your book in print is no longer an impossible dream. However, generating publicity for your book and selling copies, remains as difficult as it ever was.

Discouraged? You should be but hopefully not enough to stop you from trying. Just remember that publication is only the beginning and it will take just as much willpower, determination and sleepless nights to market your book as it did to write it.

Write on the Coast is available from – in paperback (£5) and Kindle (£3.09) versions.

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  • About Kim

    Kim Kimber is an experienced writer, copy editor and proofreader who is passionate about the written word in all its forms and a stickler for getting it right. As the former editor of a parenting and lifestyle magazine, Kim knows what makes interesting copy and how to achieve it. Her features have been published in national and international publications on many subjects. Find out more
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