A PMA ROUNDTABLE
What Makes Authors Good
By now, the consensus is clear:
When authors help with marketing, books are much more likely to succeed.
But how do you get authors to
play their marketing roles enthusiastically, intelligently, and effectively?
In the reports that follow,
seven PMA members explain what works for them. In upcoming issues, we?ll
present other members? tactics for making authors effective marketers, and
we?ll provide selections from author questionnaires that elicit powerful
Thanks to all of you who shared
The Equal-Effort Arrangement
Both in our submission guidelines
and in initial contacts, we make it abundantly clear that any author working
with us must accept responsibility for half the marketing effort—not the
cost, but the effort. We expect authors to work as hard as we do to promote
· being positively responsive to our
suggestions, or offering their own as needed
· making themselves available to
· being open to suggestions about
media coaching, author tour conduct, etc., especially if they?re rookie authors
· showing up at events when they say
· following through on media
contacts if we send reporters, editors, or program directors their way
· being proactive about contacting
us if they need help or something goes wrong, instead of letting things get out
We require that each author have a
professional-looking author Web site, or launch one before pub date. Authors
not willing to make this relatively small investment in their careers strike us
as not committed to their own success, and we decide not to work with them.
If they don?t know how to proceed,
we offer two options: We will put them in touch with the Authors Guild, which
provides professional-looking sites that are easy to create and update for just
over $100 plus $6/month. Or, if they want something more customized, we provide
a simple, five-page site at a deeply discounted price to get them started. They
then can choose to put our Webmaster on retainer (again, at a deep discount) or
to handle site maintenance on their own. If these requirements would cause
financial hardship for an author, we pay for the site and deduct the cost from
the author?s advance.
We also give authors the option of
building their own sites at their own expense and linking to ours. On our site,
we provide a multipage area for each individual book that links to the author?s
For obvious reasons, we require
that authors? sites be kept current and remain professional-looking (and our
contract states that we have reasonable say in what ?professional-looking?
We also require completion of an
extensive author questionnaire, which we then discuss at length during an
initial in-person meeting (if it?s geographically feasible) or via conference
call with our editor, marketing director, and publicist. And we match many of
our marketing efforts to each author?s individual strengths and indicated
Working closely with authors, we
develop promo opportunities for them by leveraging our media database, creating
press kits, and providing training on how to approach media people
professionally and effectively. And we consider reimbursement to authors for
documented expenses for limited travel and regional touring, provided we are
consulted ahead of time for approval.
We expect authors to make
themselves available for interviews with the media and signings at stores and
events. We plan to start asking them to provide articles/excerpts for
submission to magazines and journals. Perhaps not surprisingly, we?re finding
that the more well known the author is, the harder it is to make sure the author
is available for these opportunities. We?re not referring to career authors
here, but rather those who are big names in their field, ministry.
Our most successful authors are
those who go out of their way to solicit endorsements, make appearances, contact
the media, and so on. One of our best-selling authors of 2006, Hugh Poland, did
everything possible for his first book, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Steal Away: Devotions for Baseball Fans.
He took part in Faith Nights at baseball stadiums, made as many book-signing
appearances as we could rustle up, visited with Little League teams (which then
bought the book in bulk for the players), and generally was as accessible and
easy to work with as any publisher could hope. The efforts paid off, and we are
currently looking at his second manuscript.
Lucre from Lectures
I publish educational books,
encourage authors to think of the content of their book as special intellectual
property that is valuable and interesting to others, and suggest that they
contact local universities about lecturing. Then I assist with promotion of
these events and attend the lectures to answer any questions about ordering the
book. Usually, I bring copies to sell on the spot.
Feedback from the first live event
usually fuels motivation to do more.
Live lecture events account for at
least a third of our book sales. So my authors boost their royalties with just
a few hours? work!
Supplying Starting Points
Sales just won?t happen if authors
don?t stand behind their own books!
Each of our authors has a blog on
our site. I also encourage them to blog on other people?s sites, to submit
articles to magazines (I suggest topics), to send press releases to their local
media (again, I give suggestions—what to say, how to make it newsworthy,
etc.). On the trade end of things, I ask authors to contact their local
bookstores to ensure that their books are stocked, and to contact specialty
stores that might be interested in their books.
I have a private Yahoo group set
up for my authors, and I provide materials, fliers, ads, bookmarks, postcards,
outlines for press releases, and continual encouragement to market.
So far, so good. Each author seems
to have certain preferences among marketing activities—some like
signings, some like working the distribution angle harder, some like radio
interviews. But things are happening, and each author seems to be finding a
DreamTime Publishing created a
generic flyer in Word format so its writers can plug in their own book covers,
descriptions, etc., and market their book and others as well (the bottom part
stays the same). ?Because I?m working on branding a series,? publisher Meg
Bertini says, ?I?m encouraging my writers to use our look/logo/branding in all
In the Region and Beyond
As a regional publisher, we ask
authors to make appearances at events, including bookstore events, within 90
miles of their homes and at their own expense. For events farther away, we pay
Our expectations are set out in
our contract, and we have had no problems with this. It really is quite
simple—both they and we want to sell their books, and their participation
Spurring Sales Company-wide
Before I even read a manuscript, I
send the author an Author Kit that requires creating:
· a 1,000- to 2,000-word synopsis of
· an author bio (100 words maximum)
· back-cover text (200 words
· a Marketing Plan, per a form I
supply (I supply Internet links to marketing resources to help authors fill
Once I have decided to publish an
author who has provided the required documents, I send a draft contract that
clearly says the author is a partner in the marketing effort. I specify what
marketing I will do and what marketing the author is expected to do. This
cooperative approach has worked well.
When my authors visit bookstores
and other places that sell books and speak with the managers, they carry copies
of my catalog and order form and discuss retailer terms. One author got a
retailer to buy 50 copies of each of my titles. Authors also place the catalog
on their own sites to help promote all my titles.
I share the costs of booths or
tables at events and send marketing materials for all my titles so authors can
set up one corner for my business. They know that if the company does well, I
will have more dollars to help each author promote.
The big problem, especially with
new authors, is that most writers don?t know much about marketing. As a
publisher, I believe I have a responsibility to help them learn, encourage
them, and work with them. If they spend time learning about marketing while
waiting for their books to be published and I provide guidance during the
learning process, they are ready to go to work, hyped up and eager to get out
there. Going the extra mile brings positive results. My authors do very well
selling direct to customers.
Pushing That Rock Together
I start by asking an author about
goals, because I want to make sure the author?s expectations are realistic.
While we do provide basic PR, we are not a PR agency, and we need to make sure
that our authors understand our role.
Then I ask them about their past
experiences doing PR and marketing. We discuss what things work well and what
things work poorly and talk about how they can take those things that work well
and run with them—for now and in the long term.
If I find an author is not
comfortable doing PR, we will respect that.
I offer the following analogy to
Selling a book is like pushing a
big rock up a hill. Once the rock reaches the crest of the hill, the rock
starts to roll down all on its own. And as it does, it picks up momentum all by
itself. That?s the point when most publishers like to take full credit. I know
Now, in regard to pushing, the
publisher can push the rock alone or with the author. While there?s no telling
how high that hill is or how long it will take, it?s always easier when two
push. And, of course, when the rock starts to move on its own, it?s important
to make sure the publisher still gets the credit. (Hopefully, the author
Whenever there is a media moment,
we try to back our authors with everything we can do—from booking flights
to producing flyers to PR coaching. These are important opportunities, and we
want to make sure that each author knows he or she is not alone.
Some of my authors speak to
thousands of people throughout the year, selling books while spreading their
message and/or enlarging their business or client base.
They have gotten themselves on <span
every major morning show, The View, and lots of other major shows. Recently our
author Dirk Benedict, co-star of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The A-Team, was on the U.K.?s <span
TV show for a month; and his book, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy, made
it to number 6 on Amazon.com in the U.K.
Additionally, authors have gotten
writeups in newspapers and magazines, secured large special sales, and managed
to become the leading authorities in their fields. And they always mention
their book titles when they are interviewed.