Lengthening Shelf Life Part 1


Brian Feinblum, a book promoter and marketer, asked in the June 2017 issue of The Writer, “What can – or should – you do to market books that are aging in the eyes of bookstores, the media, and readers?”

Lately, I’ve been fretting about my struggle to promote and market Perceval’s Secret which I published as an e-book in March 2014. The novel’s fourth anniversary as a published book fast approaches.  I’d love to give it a boost to get it into the reading public’s consciousness to encourage them to buy and read it.

Feinblum, in his The Writer article “Shelf Life: How to promote an older book,” writes about how a book’s “window of newness” has been shrinking over the years. If it doesn’t make a big splash in the first three months it’s on the market, selling it after that could be a struggle. But fiction usually does not lose its relevance, accuracy or current status for a long time, while nonfiction could become dated faster depending on the subject matter. Fiction should be easier to promote after the magic three-month period, right?

Promotional Options for “Older” Books

It’s important to know what the possibilities for promotion for an older book are just like for a new book launch. Feinblum describes them as follows:

  • Let the book die and hope for a miracle that someone finds it, reads it, and sparks a word-of-mouth campaign that will boost sales. I call this the “wishful thinking” option. However, if a writer has constraints on time, it could be just as viable as fitting in promotional activities in a busy life.
  • Create and execute a social media strategy. This option demands the writer be on more than one social media platform, and that there is daily participation on those platforms to talk about the book. I’m assuming that a writer’s blog falls into this slot, along with online book bloggers who review books.
  • Target promotional efforts using traditional media, like print, radio, TV. Interviews on radio programs that cover books, book review sections of major newspapers and magazines, or doing interviews on morning news programs be they local or national are some of the possibilities here. Some of these activities could be done in conjunction with a book tour or locally. Having a publicist could be extremely helpful for this category; otherwise, the writer will be doing all the press releases, making the calls and connections, and setting up the engagements.
  • Travel for the book, i.e. do a speaking tour, paid or unpaid. Book tours require careful planning, utilizing connections in book stores and libraries, and getting the word out about a writer’s visit via press release. It’s helpful if the writer can also help with promoting locally his or her appearance in the bookstore’s location by doing interviews or helping with advertising the event.
  • Advertise the book. Print advertising, for example, in publications that the novel’s target audience reads. I continue to consider running ads in Playbill for Perceval’s Secret. This option has a huge drawback: it can be quite expensive not only for buying the media space, but also for producing the ads. Writers can also utilize social media for advertising, working with the platform to create the ads. When I launched Perceval’s Secret, I did a postcard mailing to the musicians of eleven major American orchestras, and would consider another one.
  • Cross-promote with other authors. This is especially helpful if you know a writer who is fairly well known and has a readership, and who writes in the same genre and related genre as you. The better known writer can spark initial interest and give the lesser known writer a bit of a boost. I’ve heard of this most commonly done for book tours when two or more authors hit the road to do readings and book signings together.
  • Have a giveaway. Everyone loves free stuff. Do a free giveaway for a couple weeks and promote that giveaway at GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, as well as on your blog. Keep it a specific time period to generate urgency. If you have a hard copy version of your book, you can do a giveaway on GoodReads (this site is working on setting up procedures for e-book giveaways but don’t yet offer that option). If you have the money, BookBub also offers effective promotion possibilities.

Before deciding which promotional options will work for your book, it’s important to think about the factors listed below, and this is where I am at the moment with Perceval’s Secret. I’ve looked at all my options and have done some cost estimates – for example, to advertise on Facebook or promote the series’ Facebook page, to do a BookBub promotion – then made a list of where I can heighten my presence to talk about the novel, for example, creating a series of short videos to post at my Amazon author page, on BookBub, at GoodReads, and at my page on Publishers Marketplace. These videos, as I envision them, would be a mix of reading a short excerpt from Perceval’s Secret and just talking about my experience writing the book or why I think someone should read it.

The Factors to Think About

  • What are your needs and desires for promoting the book?
  • How much time and what resources (money) do you have available?
  • How strong is your belief that your book is worth more promotion?
  • Would your time be better served by letting promotion go of this book and focus on writing new books?
  • Have you figured out why your book didn’t sell as well as hoped during launch or why it failed to generate more reviews?

Answers to these questions could steer you in one of two directions. The first is simply to proceed with the new promotional efforts.  The second could be to revise and repackage the book and do a re-launch. This second direction offers the opportunity to make improvements if you decide they are needed or to add promotional items like testimonials from readers, quotes from reviews, or getting blurbs or a writer to actually write an introduction. I know that I want to eventually issue a paperback of Perceval’s Secret once I’ve paid off completely the debt I incurred for the e-book. This might serve as my repackage of the novel with a specific paperback launch. But for now, I’m concerned about promoting the e-book edition.

Next week in Part 2, how my strategy does or doesn’t fit with what Feinblum wrote in his article in the June 2017 The Writer.

Have you ever been faced with promoting an older book? What did you do?  

Ready? Set? Go!

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