Writing and Selling Books Ain’t for Sloths! – by Tom Douglas

Writing and Selling Books Ain’t for Sloths! – by Tom Douglas

Hey, Anna Banana, Angela is right!

If you write it, they will NOT come…unless you promote it.

This cautionary advice to “Anna Banana” in BookLocker publisher Angela Hoy’s recent WritersWeekly post really hit home. Where real estate agents tout Location, Location, Location, successful writers know that Promotion, Promotion, Promotion is the best way to get their books into the hands of readers.

Visions of sugarplums dance in the heads of novice writers. Hollywood has left them with the fantasy picture of authors being sent on lavish press tours where adoring fans line up at the signing table and where the writer is hounded by eager reporters just waiting to churn out glowing reviews of this soon-to-be bestseller.

Well, all you wannabe Steven Kings and JK Rowlings out there, welcome to the cold, cruel world of book writing. One of my favorite characters on the old Bob Newhart show was “Mad Dog” – the terminally shy door-to-door salesman who would stand at the front door of a house for five minutes without knocking or ringing the bell and, if no one happened to open the door, he’d leave. That’s what inexperienced authors do when they are, as Angela put it, too egotistical, lazy, or apathetic to promote their books.

This harsh reality tapped me on the shoulder a number of years ago.  The successful publication by Booklocker.com of my first book led to an offer from a traditional publisher for my next effort.

A literal wake-up call came from the person in charge of shipping books from the traditional publisher’s warehouse. She asked me if the publisher owed me and my wife, also an author, any royalties. When I told her there was an outstanding amount of $20,000, she replied: “Well, you’d better make an arrangement with them because they just laid me off and I’m the only person in the warehouse!”

A quick call to the publisher resulted in an agreement where they would send me $20,000 worth of our books to cancel the debt. I had just finished stacking myriad boxes of them in our garage when word came that the publishing company had closed its doors.

My next step was heading out on a promotional binge to recoup the money owed to us. I contacted every service club I could think of, and offered to give free readings of my books at their regular meetings. All I asked was that, at the end of the session, they set up a table and chair where I could sell our books to their members.

I did the same with as many other organizations as I could think of that invited guest speakers to their gatherings – universities, colleges, and veterans’ associations (a number of my books have a military theme). If they met regularly, and invited speakers, I was there with a stack of books and pen in hand.

I also made deals with bookstores in malls where I would sit at a table outside their outlet with a homemade but professional-looking sign to catch the eyes of passersby. I would split the cover price of the book with the shop owner – something I was able to do because I owned the books outright.

It took many months, and many miles on the family automobile, but I eventually sold all of my books, also putting a sizable dent in the stash of my wife’s novels so that we could start parking the car again in our garage. And, along the way, I met so many interesting people! What had seemed like a daunting chore at the outset turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Whether you’re selling books, or widgets, or the world’s first authentic hair-restoring tonic, you’ve gotta be in it to win it! If Hollywood star Bette Davis really did say that old age ain’t for sissies, then it’s equally true that writing – and selling – books ain’t for sloths.

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Tom Douglas is a best-selling Canadian author whose first book was published by Booklocker.com. He lives in Oakville, Ontario.

 

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