I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing clients who have had great success with their books. They have signed deals with leading publishers, hit bestseller lists, become sought-after speakers and thought leaders.
Over the next few months, I’m going to feature in my blog some conversations I’ve had with these authors about the publishing experience. What did they learn along the way? What would they do differently if they had their time over? What advice would they offer first-time authors?
First up are Meredith Sandland and Carl Orsbourn, authors of Delivering the Digital Restaurant: Your Roadmap to the Future of Food (released by Amplify Publishing in July 2021). After collaborating with Meredith and Carl on their manuscript, I’ve continued to follow their progress via their e-newsletter and on LinkedIn. I’m always impressed by how consistent they are in their voice and their message, and how active they are in promoting their book almost a year after its release. It seems to be working: their book was an Amazon category bestseller, is now available in hardback and paperback editions as well as Kindle, and they have had international interest and requests for translated editions.
In this blog post, I’ll share some of Meredith and Carl’s insights into how book marketing really works (what does the publisher do, and what is up to the author?); what worked well for them in promoting their book; and what they would do differently if they had their time again.
Did your expectations of how much work you’d need to put into promoting your book match the reality?
Carl: Quite honestly, Sally, we underestimated the level of involvement we would need to put into marketing. If we could have started again, we would think about doing our podcast earlier, developing a mailing list earlier, and demonstrating thought leadership in this space sooner. I would say that the promise of marketing support from publishers—and I think this is true with both traditional and hybrid publishers—wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be, and didn’t yield the results I was hoping for. A lot of the success we’ve had in marketing has largely been because of the time and energy Meredith and I have invested in it.
Meredith: When we first started this book-writing adventure we talked to Stephen and Mara Klemich [whose book Above the Line was published by Harper Business in 2020]. They introduced us to you, of course, and they were the ones who first told us, everything that happens with book sales will happen because of you and your network; how you make yourself visible, get a following, and get people excited about the book. A publisher may be very specific about what activities they will do, but they will not sign up for any outcomes. To some extent, they can’t guarantee you’re going to get a placement in XYZ magazine, but a lot of activity may lead to absolutely nothing.
That’s certainly what I have seen as an author and editor in traditional publishing houses. They do quantify their marketing efforts by activity, not outcome. Most authors also don’t realize that the marketing department may consist of six people, handling a couple of hundred new releases every year. If they split their time equally, each of them would spend maybe five days on launching each book. That’s simply not a lot of time.
Carl: Yes, and because each publisher is promoting so many books, it’s a bit like spam email. When magazine editors see such a high volume of press releases from the same source, I wonder if it affects the credibility of the information they’re sharing. Even if your publisher was sending out the best email marketing campaign, I don’t even know how effective it would be since it’s one out of so many.
Meredith: For us, the good news was that because of our careers and our connections, between the two of us we knew all of the major trade publications, all the major conferences—either we personally knew the people in charge of them or writing for them, or we knew people who knew them. Every placement we got in a magazine or a conference came through our own connections. Carl is also quite good at cold-calling people and making them love him! But the one-to-one connection of the author going to the editor or writer at a certain type of magazine, or reaching out to the relevant conferences, is much more powerful than any publisher sending a form email.
Carl: And just to add to that—the other way of thinking about it is also looking at who in your network is being interviewed by those outlets, then reaching out to them to say, “Would you mind introducing me to the editor?” It’s all part of the “network effect.”
And that’s the cliff-hanger I’m going to leave you with. Carl and Meredith have much more to say about this “network effect,” so my next blog post will be dedicated to exactly that. How do you make the most of the people you know, and how can you spur them on to be your biggest fans and promoters?
Stay tuned for this and so much more!
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