In the years since I've been in publishing I can't even count on one hand how many myths I've heard or how many of them have been pushed on unknowing authors. Arming yourself with knowledge is always a good idea and my intention is to share what I've found to be the biggest myths in publishing. There are twelve that rise to the surface for me, you might have a few that you’ve learned the hard way. I hope that I can help dispel a few myths and, in the process, give you a few promotional tips as well.
1) If someone writes a review I don't like, can I get them to rewrite it? No, this will never happen, nor should you ask for this. Doing this will show you are a novice. If you get back a bad review try to learn from it and move on. It happens to everyone at least once, it's disheartening but unfortunately, it's part of the business.
2) Radio is all I need to sell books. Not true. For some authors radio is golden but that's few and far between. Doing a lot of radio may be great for your exposure but it may not sell books. The best type of radio are interviews that are done to promote an event or workshop, that way you can at least drive people to something, rather than hoping they'll click on your site.
3) I'm going to take my independent title and get it on Oprah. Some years back, Oprah decided to be "unique" when selecting her books and she picked a title that came from a very small publisher. Because a mention on the Oprah show can produce a high demand, the publisher could not keep up with the orders, nor did they have enough in stock or stocked in a bookstore. The result? A lot of viewers called into the show when they couldn't find the book and Oprah vowed never to feature a small press title again. The challenge here is always availability. If you have a book from a small press but it has significant bookstore placement and availability, be sure to let the producers know this when you're pitching the book. It could go a long way to helping you gain consideration for the show!
4) I'm going to get my book on the New York Times Bestseller list. Bestseller lists are funny things, many of them (like the New York Times list) are not based on sales but rather on exposure and popularity. Meaning that if your book is gaining huge popularity, it might not be selling a ton of copies but bookstores are buzzing about it. The New York Times has around thirty or so bookstores around the country that report to them on what's hot and what's not. None of this is based on sales, just on what people are asking for. But regardless of the sales quota, in order to attain this level of exposure your book needs to have a significant print run of at least 50,000 or more. This also means that there needs to be placement of the book in bookstores. Yes, there are always exceptions to this rule, we saw that recently with the success of The Shack, but if someone is promising you bestseller status, take your marketing dollars and run.
5) If I get into Amazon does that mean my distribution is handled? No, Amazon is not a distributor, they are an online portal. Distribution means that there is a distributor actively involved in selling your book into bookstores. While it's great to be listed on all the online sites, having this as your only access point could hamper your book's success. If at all possible, get someone to distribute your title. Distribution can be tricky but it's often the one missing piece to a book's success.
6) How can I prevent my review copies from being sold? Unfortunately you can't, nor should you waste your time and energy on trying to get them back. Review copies are sold, it happens all the time and spending your time chasing used copies isn't a good use of your promotional efforts.
7) When I schedule a book signing the store will do all the promotion, right? Wrong. The bookstore may do some of the promotion, but not all of it. You will handle the lion's share of promotion for your event - this includes but is not limited to: notifying the media, printing up flyers and taking them to the store (if they'll let you provide bag stuffers to notify patrons prior to the event), getting a calendar listing in your local paper(s), getting posters done with your book cover on them, printing up and inviting every single one of your local contacts.
8) Will major media outlets review my book? Possibly, it depends. There's a lot of competition out there for review space, and review space is shrinking. While aspiring to a review in the New York Times is nice, it's important to be realistic. If your book is print-on-demand, major media may be less inclined to review it. Instead, take a look at trade or local (regional) media. And if your regional media says they won't review your book, try getting them to do a story on you.
9) Your book will be judged by its cover: This means unless your grandson is Rembrandt he or she may not contribute her finger paintings to your cover design. Period. End of story. There is a rare exception to this but it's important to note that it's rare. Having a professional cover is like trying to decide whether to use hot pink paper for your resume or stock white. Unless the job you're applying for welcomes a wildly creative bent, it's likely that an off-beat approach to your resume will turn off any future employer. Your book is the same way. Your book is your resume, your book cover is your cover letter. If you want to get them to read on you'd better be careful about the first thing you put in front of them. Don't take chances with your cover. Do your research, know what sells and what doesn't, and know what will get your reader to pick up the book and what won’t.
10) All of my friends will buy my book! Your friends may not buy your book; the truth is, strangers tend to buy books faster than friends do so don't be discouraged if your pals aren't snapping up your book.
11) How many copies should I plan to give away to promote my book? As many as it takes. Don't give copies to family and friends. I know this might sound mean but fair is fair, the only people who get a free copy are Mom and Dad. Friends and family need to pony up the money and buy their own copies. The rest (promotional copies) you’ll buy and give away like candy.
12) How long will it take for me to be successful? I don't know, no one does. I wish I had the answer to that question. We've worked with authors who are rising successes after six months, and others who are still plugging away two and three years after their book came out. The key is to have passion for what you're doing. Passion and commitment will keep you going through the good times and the dark days which will most certainly happen. Passion and commitment will remind you why you're in this and why you need to stay dedicated to your work. If you're not passionately committed to what you're doing, how do you expect anyone else to be?
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a book marketing and media relations expert whose company has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Visit AME