Does Pre-Ordering a Book Matter?

Great question popped up on one of the lists. The person asked, “Does pre-ordering a book help the author? Is pre-ordering more important than buying a book within the first 3 weeks it comes out?”

Here’s my answer:

As I understand it, pre-ordering helps a lot. The publisher looks to pre-orders to determine print run–and early indications of popularity. The higher the print run, the more a publisher has invested in a book, and therefore, the more a publisher might “get behind” a book. That’s incredibly important. Publishers allocate scarce resources based on which books they think will do well. So…if there are plenty of pre-orders, the publisher MIGHT instruct publicity to send out more ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) or to buy an ad somewhere or any number of activities that will help. And the publisher benefits when they publish more because each additional book costs less. The higher the print run, the more the cost of producing a book is spread out. (Cost of publishing includes advance to author, if any, as well as editing, pagination, cover design, and so on.)

Here’s another way pre-orders help: I’ve known other authors who had contracts for Books #2, #3, whatever–and the publisher cancelled publication because sales were low. So, if the publisher looked to pre-orders, he/she might re-think cancelling a series. One friend got a cancellation notice, and then when her agent prompted the publisher for numbers, the publisher took a second look and said, “Whew, um, that book’s doing better than we thought. Rescind that cancellation.”

Any book purchase helps.

Every book purchase helps.

Especially for those of us launching a career. Lorraine Bartlett says that the first 3 weeks are critical for making the NYT list, and that’s a whole ‘nother story as I understand it. There was a recent article in RWR, the house publication for Romance Writers of America, about this. There’s a lot involved in “the lists,” and they’re not exactly representative the way most consumers think. If Lorraine says 3 weeks, I’d believe her. She’s a really smart cookie.

I ended my response with this–and it comes from the heart:

Thank you a zillion times over for considering my book, for reading my book, and for sharing it. I appreciate your faith im me and I’ll continue to work hard to earn it.


Stand Up to Sell Your Books

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Festival of Mystery. I’m not sure how many books I had to sell–must have been 20 or two dozen at least. I sold out in the first hour and a half. After I sold out, I started taking orders for my books. That resulted in selling another 18 or so copies of my books. (Now, remember–I was standing there without anything to show people in a room full of other authors competing for sales. So I think that 18 or so more copies was a real test!)

Later, another author asked me, “I noticed you stood up the whole time. Why?”

I stand up at signing events for these reasons:

1. It pumps up my energy, and I want to be focused so I can give my all to fans.

2. It makes me easier to approach. When you are sitting behind a pile of books, you can remind folks of bad moments facing authority figures. (We’ve all had those.) Instead, I want fans and potential fans to come on over and say, “Hi!”

3. It makes it easier for me to call out to people who walk by. If they were milling about, I’d say, “Hi! May I tell you about my book?” And usually, they’d say, “Sure!” Even if they didn’t buy, I tried to make new friends. After all, they were there because it was a book sale. They, I assume, were all readers. They might decide my book would be great for them–or for a friend.

4. It makes it easier for me to communicate. We love looking into people’s eyes, don’t we? Did you know that our pupils flare when we are viewing something that makes us happy? So, I want people to see me–and I want to lock eyes with them. I want them to know I think they are important.

5. I want to be seen over the pile of books. Um, I’m short, so this is important!

Does standing up make me more successful? I dunno. But, I come from a betting family. If I had to lay odds on it, I’d say, yes, standing really does improve my chances of making a sale.

Here’s the news release Richard and Mary Alice sent following Festival of Mystery:

On Monday May 4, 2009 at the Greek Church Hall in Oakmont was the scene of the crime. Dozens of volunteers and the crack team of Mystery Lovers staff pulled of an amazing retail event— the 14th Mystery Lovers Bookshop Festival of Mystery—with loads of good feeling all around. Thanks to our staff and volunteers as well as the authors and publishers who make it all happen.

In the pouring rains the folding chairs came out and from 1:15 until the 4PM opening folks lined up around the building to be among the first 100 to score a bag of free books donated by our generous publishers—-Harper, Random House, Midnight Ink, Simon &Schuster, St Martins and Penguin. Folks who value the entertainment of reading came from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Indiana. In 8 minutes the freebies were gone and the real shopping commenced. Fueled by the goodies sold by the Riverview National Honor Society, readers mingled with other readers and with writers during the four hour event.

Armed with a bibliography they received when buying their tickets, and the full story of 40 authors from the US and Canada in the latest newsletter, lists were scrupulously reviewed and over 300 readers came prepared to meet new friends who write mystery books and old friends met in past years. By the time Richard’s interviews with the 13 new writers began, eight long lines of shoppers were lined up to take home piles of new mystery books.

In four hours, 1806 books were sold—-a 15% increase over last year. At almost 8 books a minute sold, it was a recession defying achievement. The raffle for our charity Beginning with Books netted over $500……a new high. The gift baskets donated by our media sponsor WDUQ, authors who couldn’t make it to the Festival this year, and many attending, were swept up by grateful readers.

A happy and grateful group of Mystery Lovers once again thank all those who make this the largest and longest running book festival in this region.

Richard Goldman & Mary Alice Gorman
Mystery Lovers Bookshop
514 Allegheny River Boulevard
Oakmont, PA 15139

50 Things Under $50 You Can Do to Promote Your Book

by Penny Sansevieri

If your book marketing budget is tight (and even if it’s not) you
might want to consider some ideas that are powerful, and won’t cost
you as much as you think. Here are a few to consider!

1) Buy your domain name as soon as you have a title for your book.
You can get domain names for as little as $8.95

2) Head on over to or and start your very
own blog (you can add it to your Web site later).

3) Set up an event at your neighborhood bookstore

4) Write a few articles on your topic and submit them onto the
Internet for syndication

5) Check out your competition online and see if you can do some

6) Do some radio research and pitch yourself to at least five new stations this week

7) Ready to get some business cards? Head on over The cards are free if you let them put their logo
on the back

8) Put together your marketing plan

9) Plan a contest. Contests are a great way to promote your book.

10) Google some topic-related online groups to see if you can network with them

11) Send thank you notes to people who have been helpful to you

12) Send your book out to at least ten book reviewers this week

13) Do a quick Internet search for writers’ conferences or book festivals in your area you can attend

14) Create an email signature for every email you send; email signatures are a great way to promote your book and message.

15) Put the contents of your Web site: book description, bio, q&a, interviews, on CD to have on hand when the media comes calling!

16) Submit your Web site to the top five directories: Google, MSN, Alexa, Yahoo, and DMOZ

17) Write a great press release and submit it to free online press release sites.

18) Write your bio, you’ll need it when you start pitching yourself to the media

19) Schedule your first book signing

20) Start your own email newsletter; it’s a great way to keep readers, friends and family updated and informed on your success.

21) Go over to Yahoo Groups and join some online groups on your topic – it’s great Internet networking!

22) Develop a set of questions that book clubs can use for your book, and post them on your Web site for handy downloads.

23) Add your book info or URL to your answering machine message

24) Join Audio Acrobat ($20 a month) and begin recording audio products you can sell on your Web site

25) See if you can get your friends to host a “book party” in their home. You come in and discuss your book and voila, a captive audience!

26) Find some catalogs you think your book would be perfect for and then submit your packet to them for consideration.

27) Go around to your local retailers and see if they’ll carry your book; even if it’s on consignment it might be worth it!

28) Add your book to Google Book Search

29) Research some authors with similar subjects and then offer to exchange links with them.

30) Is your book good for the My Space market? My Space has recently started doing book reviews.

31) Write a “So You’d Like To…” article for

32) Ask friends and family to email five people they know and tell them about your book.

33) Leave your business card, bookmark, or book flyer wherever you go.

34) Are there any book fairs you could participate in? Look them up on the Net!

35) Pitch yourself to your local television stations.

36) Pitch yourself to your local print media.

37) Work on the Q&A for your press kit. You’ll need it when you start booking media interviews!

38) Pitch Oprah. Go ahead, you know you want to.

39) Is the topic of your book in the news? Check your local paper,and write a letter to the editor to share your expertise (and promote your book!)

40) Stop by your local library and see if you can set up an event,they love local authors.

41) Do you want to get your book into your local library system? Try dropping off a copy to your main library; if they stock it chances are the other branches will too.

42) Go to Chase’s Calendar of Events ( and find out how to create your own holiday!

43) Going on vacation? Use your away-from-home time to schedule a book event, or two.

44) If your book is appropriate, go to local schools to see if you can do a reading.

45) Got a book that could be sold in bulk? Start with your local companies first and see if they’re interested in buying some promotional copies to give away at company events.

46) Don’t forget to add reviews to your Web site. Remember that what someone else has to say is one thousand times more effective than anything you could say!

47) Trying to meet the press? Search the Net for Press Clubs in your area, they meet once a month and are a great place to meet the media.

48) Want a celebrity endorsement? Find celebs in your market with an interest in your topic and then for it. Remember all they can say is no.

49) Ready to get some magazine exposure? Why not pitch some regional and national magazines with your topic or submit a freelance article for reprint consideration.

50) Work on your next book. Sometimes the best way to sell your first book is by promoting your second.


Penny C. Sansevieri is a book marketing and media relations
specialist who coaches authors on projects, manuscripts and
marketing plans and instructs a variety of coursing on publishing
and promotion. To learn more about her books or her promotional
services, visit . To subscribe to
her free ezine, send a blank email to:

Should You Self-Publish?

Should you self-publish?

That’s a tough question, and you’re the only one who can answer it. I can’t tell you what to do…but I since I’ve been both self-published and traditionally published, I can share some insights.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself is: What’s my goal? And as you ponder that question, mull over these four considerations:

1. If your goal is to make money…

Unless you can snag a big advance, you might be able to make more money fast self-publishing. Of course, it depends on whether you can buy your books at a reasonable price and if you have a way to sell them. But let’s say you do. Let’s say you’re a motivational speaker, a job I did full-time for years. Since I was already in front of audiences, selling books was a way to add income to my speaker’s fee. So, yes, it’s possible that self-publishing will quickly put more money in your pocket. By contrast, with traditional publishing, you have to first repay your advance, and then wait for the publisher to calculate your royalties. (And know that publishing houses hold out a portion of those royalties until they see what your returns are.)

2. If your goal is to minimalize your risk…

You won’t want to self-publish. At the very least, you won’t want to act like a traditional publisher, a job which includes book design, cover design, getting the ISBN, setting the price, paying for the printing, shipping and warehousing books, and getting distribution. But, you might want to self-publish through a POD (print on demand) publisher or through an ebook publisher.

3. If your goal is to be known as an author…

This one is tricky. Yes, if you self-publish you can call yourself an author. You will be able to point to a book with your name on the cover. However, in the hierarchy of author-dom, and yes, there is definitely a food-chain, you probably won’t get a lot of respect. So if you want to be accepted in almost every venue–such as author’s conferences and at booksignings–you probably won’t want to self-publish. (By the way, to the best of my understanding, the food chain starts with literary authors at the top of the pyramid, then thriller and suspense writers, then hard-and medium boiled mysteries, and finally cozies. Yeah, I’m probably wrong. This is pretty much on the basis of my observations. And yeah, I have NO idea why it seems to be like this…but even Stephen King admits that his commercial success hasn’t always brought him respect as an author. It’s a weird, weird world.)

4. If your goal is to have a career…

Um, self-publishing will not ruin your career. I know, I know. You’ve heard it said it will. But if your self-publish a great book–one that’s well-written, well-edited, and professionally produced–you aren’t going to deep six your career. That said, if you self-publish a product which is shoddy, you take your chances. And if you only feel you have one GREAT book in you, then self-publishing it is risky because once your book is out there, you might (and I emphasize MIGHT) have issues with copyright. (But I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take this as legal advice.) Do realize that ebooks are much trickier when it comes to protecting your rights. Anything on the Internet is harder to monitor and control. The biggest fear you should have is how your final product witll reflect on you as an author. On your professionalism. Frankly, this is incredibly important. (At least to me!)

So now I’ve given you four considerations. There are more, and I’ll cover them in another post.

Shhh! How I Handsell Books

Don’t tell anyone, okay?

I’ve found standing in front of the table is best. I think if you read about body language, behind a table or desk is always considered more intimidating. I hold my book up in front of me like the perfume salesladies do–that sort of warns folks that I’m hawking my book. So they know I’m not trying to get their cell phone biz. Then I say, “May I tell you about my book?” Or better yet, “I’m a local author signing here today. May I tell you about my book?”

Usually, they hesitate, then say, “Uh, okay.” If they say, “No.” I thank them politely and step away. Often they come back by. The trick is to be friendly and CALM. I’ve found that sounding very, oh, confident but not excited works best. (It’s hard because your heart is pounding.)

If they have a child with them, I ask the child, “Can you guess how many words are in this book?” They never can, but I give them a bookmark for trying. Parents appreciate anyone being nice to their kids, and they love the fact you are giving their child something to keep him/her occupied while the parent shops.

I’m averaging selling 8-10 books an hour this way. I keep refining my pitch. This is the best training for getting to know your audience ever. And the booksellers start to get really excited when they see how your book is coming through the check out line.

One of my friends said, “I could NEVER do this.”

Yes, you can. If you believe your work has value, you can do it. In the beginning, you’ll feel absolutely sick at your stomach with terror. You’ll search their faces and see NOTHING and think, “Oh, my God, why did I ever sign up for this? They HATE me. They think I’m stupid.” Then to your surprise they’ll say, “Could you sign that?”

It’s just amazing. I figure I sell one out of four or five people I approach. It’s strictly a numbers game. But one I’m willing to play to move my books.

About Literary Agents.

Rick Frishman posted this interesting take on literary agents.

Literary agents have emerged as the publishers’ gatekeepers. They are middlemen (and women), go-betweens and facilitators. Approximately 80 percent of the books that publishing houses release were brought to them by agents. Most publishing houses give agented submissions more attention because editors have a high level of confidence in agented submissions. They know that it’s not in an agent’s interest to waste their time because they have ongoing business relationships with editors that they don’t want to jeopardize.

“An agent is effectively a vendor. He or she usually has already worked on the proposal, which gives me quality control and a partner in the creation of the book,” Jeremy Katz, super literary agent, says. “The author isn’t really my partner until I buy the book, but I’m in business with the agent.”

Publishers rely on agents to screen submissions for several reasons:

* Cost savings. Since agents read manuscripts and proposals, publishers don’t have to hire more screeners.

* Selectivity. Literary agents usually have experience, know quality, and know what sells. They usually won’t try to interest publishers in stuff that’s weak, except when it’s written by a big celebrity.

* Insider knowledge. Agents usually have a feel for the pulse of the industry.

They are adept at spotting trends and usually know what’s hot. Agents are often great talent spotters, and the good ones know what particular publishing companies and/or editors want and like. On the flip side, publishers know that agents are commissioned salespeople and their livelihoods are directly tied to selling the books they pitch. Agents receive a commission, usually 15 percent, on whatever their writers receive. While publishers won’t automatically sign every writer that agents recommend, they usually will read what their clients write. Legally, agents represent authors; they are their sales agents. When publishers pay authors for advances and royalties, they send checks to the agents, who deduct their fees and remit the balance to their clients. Since some agents tend to work with the same publishers or editors, they can become beholden to them. This can create delicate situations and agents must balance the interests of two, often conflicting, parties: authors and publishers. An agent’s primary job is to represent the writer and protect his or her interests. Much of this involves the selling of the book and negotiating the contract and fees. The work of a good agent continues long after the ink on the contract is dry. A good agent monitors the publisher’s actions, sees that they are keeping their bargains and putting forth their best efforts to promote and distribute their clients’ books. They also are watchful for future opportunities and push for follow-up books, additional printing runs, added publicity, and other benefits. For most writers, getting a literary agent isn’t easy. Agents don’t make money unless they sell books, so they’re selective about the clients they take on. Most agents simply can’t afford to waste their time and energy on writers whose works won’t sell. Increase your chances of getting an agent by understanding the process from the agent’s perspective.

Note: Rick offers a list of literary agents he works with in his Million Dollar Rolodex.Get it at

Reprinted from “Rick Frishman’s Author 101 Newsletter”Subscribe at and receive Rick’s “Million Dollar Rolodex

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what I think about agents, and I’ll tell you how to get one.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

You remember this song, right? I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone’s religion, but I think this song title could well be adapted to our work as promoters of our books.

I think it’s my job to tell anyone and everyone who meanders across my path about my books, because you never know when you are going to meet a new (potential) fan.

Let me give you a few examples:

1. I was talking with the account rep at National City Bank about transferring some money from one account to another. She said, “While we’re waiting for this to go through, is there anything else I could do for you today?” And I said, “Sure! You could take a look at my new mystery on Amazon.” Well, wouldn’t you know it, she LOVES mysteries and scrapbooking, and she copied down my book title and told me she’d tell all her friends.

2. We said “Hi” to the nice lady in the villa two doors down from us here on Kiawah Island. She told us she was shocked because none of the renters here usually say hello, and she’s a very lonely resident. “I’ve joined local bookclubs to get to know people,” she said. And so I followed up with, “What kind of books do you read?” Then I told her about my book, and later I delivered a customized bookmark. Her daughter was visiting when I dropped off the bookmark, and my neighbor had already told her all about my book.

3. I found out that one of my doctors has a holiday boutique in her office each November. I asked if they would have an opening for me to come sell my books–and they were thrilled.

4. I talked to my sister who’s a teacher about how important it is to promote my books. We changed the subject, and then, Meg said, “You know, they have a bookclub at school. I didn’t even think about it, but there’s no reason they couldn’t read YOUR book.”

5. I talked to Sonja who exercises right next to me at Jazzercise. She told me there’s a book club in her association, and she’s getting me the contact information.

6. At a party, I handed one of my business cards (with my cover on it) to Vickie Newton, a local news anchor for KMOV. She’s planning to interview me as soon as the book comes out.

You don’t have to be obnoxious. You do have to be strategic. And the conversation can’t just be about you and your book…

But here’s my thinking: I personally LOVE books. I really love knowing authors. And if someone shared information about his or her book with me, I’d be happy to hear the good news. As long as the person was respectful and not pushy. I’m always looking for that next new favorite author.

And I trust that there’s a universe of other people who feel the same.

Promoting Your Book to Organizations

Motivational speakers often promote their books to businesses. They offer to personalize their books or individually sign them, and then to appear at a business meeting for free. There’s no reason fiction authors can’t do the same.

For example, my husband hosts a meeting of the St. Louis Area Music Teachers Association every year. This year, I suggested he purchase a copy of my book for each of the teachers who’ll be in attendance. I’ll appear at the event and personally sign them.

The sales? At least 60 books.

Maybe more, because I’ll be on hand to sell additional copies to the attendees. And I’ll create a flyer to go to each attendee with the dates/times/locations of local signings. Plus details on where to order (through my local independent bookseller) more personalized copies.

Okay, you’re thinking, but Joanna that’s YOUR husband. That wouldn’t work for me!

Nonsense. I’m working on a similar event with a local realtor. She wants to buy copies for her business associates and host a signing party for me. At the signing party, she’ll invite her customers to meet an area author (me!) and enjoy some light refreshments.

What’s really super about this event is…it’s right in my backyard, it has no cost to me, and it will increase my local sales which may bump up my regional numbers.

Here’s the key: It never hurts to offer–and I mean OFFER–your book and your presence to a business owner. They are always on the look out for a new, exciting and personal gift to give their best clients. Why not a copy of your book?