10 Action Steps To Sell Your Book



Mother in the Middle

HarperCollinsPublish and Peddle . . .or Perish: A Sales Guide to Selling your Book. A few years ago Your Business Blogger advised a number of academic authors on the marketing of books. I compared the professors with peddlers:

The copier sales guy drives onto your campus and glides into the reserved vendor parking zone.

He’s got 2/3rds of your IQ points, but makes three times the money, and he’s the one with the assigned parking space.

The university professor published a book. And is really smarter than the copier guy, maybe.

But the guy in a tie has got an expense account and company car.

So what’s the difference?

He sells.

It is not enough these days to produce and publish, it also needs to be purchased. With your book your CV will be expanded, scholarship advanced, your work cited or your tenure ticket punched.

But to change the world, filthy lucre must change hands.

So how many books have to be sold? A university press will need 800 book sales to barely break even. A civilian publisher, absent the university subsidy, would need higher sales to cover your book advance and their higher cost of capital as well as PR costs.

Work to sell 800 and you will be a hero. A marketing mind set of simple daily behaviors will get you past that 800 and on to 8,000. Pick up a pen . . .get ready to pick up the phone — following are ten action items:

1. Feature your book on your web site and blog.

2. Issue a press release.

3. Include on your syllabus.

4. Write your own copy.

5. Submit your work to your network.

6. To sell 800 books, write 800 words.

7. Rap with the Reps.

8. Schedule a book signing.

9. Memorize your 8 second sound cites.

10. Book hook for bookers and lookers.


credit: Policy Review1. Feature your book on your web site and blog. Marketing consists of reach, frequency and awareness. Your web site can have the greatest reach of your marketing plan. Include the image of your cover, an introduction, perhaps a first chapter and blurbs. Google yourself — now — and register if your site doesn’t appear. Also place and link your book on others’ web sites. Ask your publisher or publicist to load and link with Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

2. Issue a press release. A good press release will tell people how FAB your book is — the features, advantages and benefits. Remember, your book is a commodity; a bar of soap, or a piece of real estate to be packaged, promoted, positioned, priced, and peddled.

Features — what it is, a description

Advantages — what it does

Benefits — answers the “So what?” question. Faster; Better; Cheaper.

The press release will include a description of the intended audience, a short bio of the author, and previous books. Your release should be one page and be newsworthy.

Don’t bury your lead, follow a hierarchy with the most important point first, progressing to least important — when cutting for space, newspaper editors edit from the bottom up.

Be sure to use the quotes of experts commenting on your work that you worked hard to get.

Have your institution send out the press release and get an electronic copy posted to your web site. Then email an alert to your Christmas card list.

A typical Congressman will have 1500 names on his holiday list, you don’t need quite these numbers to compete in a different kind of popularity contest. A good outlook on your Outlook will improve your outreach.

3. Include on your institution’s syllabus. You’ve already done this, of course. But with your book on your syllabus, and all your courses posted on your web site — will help you turn up on search engines. Remember to remind your faculty friends, and enemies, to include your book on the reading lists for other courses.

This is the easiest method of getting to 800 sales without setting up a book table in the grad lounge (although this might be a good idea).

4. Write your own copy. You wrote the book, now write the Cliff Notes. This can be the most challenging item, like writing your own obituary. If you want a good book review, a good blurb, a good softball question, write it yourself and give it away. To whoever owns the ink or the mike.

You do the work, they get the credit. Just like a typical committee meeting. This is the only way your book will be done right.

Your next introduction to the Kiwanis Club will have the Master of Ceremonies holding up your book and reading a glowing two minute introduction of your brilliant accomplishments. . . that you wrote and handed to him under the table.

The MC looks smooth; you sell books. History was very good to Winston Churchill because he wrote it himself.

5. Submit your work to your network. Press or media kits should be assembled and sent with a handwritten cover note to the radio, network and cable outlets. Your kit should include the press release, bio, articles about you, your blurbs and any reviews, publicity photo and the book itself if appropriate.

Use excerpts of your book if your supply is limited. Solicit and include testimonials; what readers are saying about your book. Include frequently asked questions and answers as show prep for interviewers, fact sheet about the book, ISBN, and number of pages.

Also include clip art of your book cover and your web address. All of this info should be on your web site with a high resolution photo. Have a short video clip ready.

After spilling your own barrel of ink, go meet some people. It’s not what you know . . .it’s not who you know . . .it’s who knows you.

It’s not whose business cards you have, but who has yours. Go insert your card into some one else’s rolodex.

1. Make yourself able, available and willing as a speaker to any church group.

2. Give talks to specialized associations and civic organizations.

3. If your book is really controversial, hold a press conference.

4. Alert your professional associations and alumni organizations.

5. Lecture at the “.org’s,” on-line education entities and for profit companies.

6. To sell 800 books, write 800 words. No one has time to write a short letter. But a short opinion editorial with your byline as author with your book title is a good leveraged hit. A guideline in advertising tells us that a buyer needs seven exposures to a product before making a purchase decision.

There is help in getting this marketing frequency. Start with the people who will make money off you. . .the sales reps.

7. Rap with the Reps. While you’re schmoozing with the big dogs reviewing strategy and marketing, be sure to remember tactics and sales. Meet the publisher’s sales manager and her sales reps.

These are the guys with the feet on the street who do the wholesale selling to the bookstores and major accounts. “Your” sales team will recommend your title(s) if they know that you are working as hard as they do.

And they will know you are working because you will tell them about the events you are scheduling.



8. Schedule a book signing. The fastest and best endorsement is the personal recommendation through word of mouth. Call your favorite bookstore and offer to speak. About your book.

We live in an information age, run on a service economy where books are bought on line.

But for something really important like, say, graduation ceremonies, real people show up.

There is a greater chance that books will be sold In Real Life in a face-to-face close.

And sign every book possible. These count as sales; they might be sold, they might end up in the remainder bin, but such “altered” books are not sent back to the publisher.

Work with your bookstore host; attention to detail will sell. For example, smart bookstores would arrange for child care when attending a book-signing about motherhood. Collaborate with the book store on alerting the local media and the .edu’s and student newspapers in town.

This is leg work that your publicist might do — a big outfit like Planned Television Arts, a division of Ruder Fin, would need $15K to get started, and some $3K/city to haul you around. More likely, it will have to be you.

Well, even with their help, it still has to be you. As good a job as they do, your publisher will expect you to do most of the PR yourself. Much like your dean.

The real value of booking signings is that this shows your publisher that you are serious about selling. The publisher will push books into the stores; you will pull them out — or sign them out.

Your signature can telegraph an added value in addition to being a coveted autograph. In this new age of electronic mail messages the handwritten note and envelope is nearly unknown.

Be sure to thank the bookstore. With stye. Your untyped thank you note, fountain pen on fine paper, will be rare, appreciated and suitable for framing, an artifact from a more civilized era: an author who does the little things.

And can say things little — in 8 seconds . . .

9. Memorize your 8 second sound cites. Big books should be broken down into sound bites made simple and memorable for citations. The broader the audience, the simpler the message.

When FLOTUS Nancy Reagan was speaking to 8 million potheads, she used three words: “Just say no.”

When speaking to the 800,000 elite readers of the Wall Street Journal use 800 words.

When talking to the four million viewers of Politically Incorrect, use 8 seconds.

And when speaking to a large, large audience — just like a survey class — cartoons illustrate your theme. 800 pound gorillas write in 800 word articles and speak in 8 second sound bites.

10. Book hook for bookers and lookers. Every show producer has a box to fill for a segment.

When a print reporter contacts you about a story he’s working on, he’s got a box to fill.

You’ve got a (simple) hook to grab them. You fit in the box. They already have the story written. You fit in the box. Your byline on the printed page or the small screen: “author of…”

Remember: your audience has an eighth-grade education. It’s got to be fast. And easy.

Your visual hook will be your book cover. It should be designed to be seen at a distance by browsers in bookstores. A cover gets eight seconds before a customer will pick up the book or pass. A well-designed cover is easily seen on a TV monitor. Make sure your publisher has run your book jacket by the sales team. People really do judge a book by its cover.

Numbers count. This is your report card. Every day pick one of the action behavior items listed and pick up the phone; pick up a pen and get started. Do this and your work will make a difference, even if you don’t get a reserved parking space.

Persistence every day will pay.


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Thank you (foot)notes:

See media calendar selling Charmaine’s book on extended entry.

Planned Television Arts, PTA, a division of Ruder Finn, one of the top publicity firms in the world, is where Tom Peters and Charmaine go for PR.

Not all good books come out of the academy. See Brian Gongol’s 10 Big Answers You Won’t Get From Politicians.

Don Surber has best Saturday posts.

Basil’s Blog has a Saturday picnic.

Robin Good has more for on-line publishing.


How I Spent My Summer Vacation in 1996 Selling Mother in the Middle.

Charmaine appeared as the “on air talent” for the following listings:

CNN CNN & Company with Mary Tillotson 11 :30am April 23

WXGI David Holt, Richmond, VA 1O:20am April 26

KWBI Tom McMillen, Denver, CO

Family Research Council Book Premium Offer May 6

syndicated radio

The Jane Chastain Show 1 :30am May 7

NET, TV American Family Show 4:00pm May 7

NET, TV Straight Talk with Kristi Hamrick 8:00pm May 8

radio syndication

The Beverly LaHaye Show, with CWA 10:30am May 8


Seattle Post Intelligencer, editorial page May 8

WAZR Peter Dillon, interview,Woodstock, VA, 8:10am May 9

TV Newstalk Television, Gannett affiliate 12:00pm May 10

WORD Radio interview, Pittsburgh, PA. 4:00pm May 10

NPR The Diane Rehm Show WAMU 850 FM, Washington, DC 10:30am May 10 cited

print Chicago Sun-Times May 12 cited

KBXL Balance Point Dennis Mansfield, Boise, Idaho 6:00pm May 16

WAVA Janet Parshall’s America, Wash. DC, 4:00pm May 29

KDKA Mike Pintek Show, Pittsburgh, P A 12:00pm May 30

CNN CNN & Company with Mary Tillotson 11 :30am May 31

USA Radio Network, WCTN John Clemons, Point of View 2:00pm May 31

PBS Straight Talk with Derek McGinty: The American Family rescheduled

print media The Chronicle of Higher Education May 31 cited

C-SPAN, Washington, DC Washington Journal 8:30am June 1

CNN The Jesse Jackson Show 5:30pm June 2

News Channel 8 Report Noon, Washington, DC 1:00pm June 4

WYLL-FM The Dick Staub Show, Chicago 5:00pm June 14

trade show American Booksellers Association, Chicago June 15 -17

trade show Talk Radio Show Convention, Washington, DC 9:00am June 21 -22

print magazine Reflections excerpt June 21

CNN Talk Back Live 3 :00pm June 25


“Mom. Inc.”, Policy Review, The Journal of American Citizenship excerpt July 1

print The Madison County Journal, Book Review July 3

Op Ed USA Today July 9

KDFX The Kerby Anderson Show, Dallas, TX 5:30pm July 9

KEZK The Morning Show, St. Louis 8:15 July 11

CNN CNN & Company 11:30am July 15

trade show

Christian Booksellers Association Convention, Anaheim, CA July 15 -19

KKLA Live From LA!, Los Angeles 4:00pm July 16

book signing Baptist Bookstores, Springfield, VA scheduled Fall ’96

KaMa ABC-TV, Seattle Town Meeting, debate Patricia Ireland NOW July 21

book signing Kingstown Sussex Commons, Alexandria, discussion 10:00am July 22 cancelled

book signing Borders Booksellers, Falls Church, VA, reception 7:30pm July 24

print Manchester Union Leader, cited by Betsy Hart, columnist TBA cited

print Kalamazoo Gazette TBA cited

KSIV The Carol Buck Show, St. Louis 5:00pm July 19

radio interview Concerned Women of America TBA cited

WVLK Front Page, Lexington, KY 11:00am July 26

book signing Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY 1 :00pm July 27

WJMM Straight Talk, Lexington, KY 3:00pm July 27


Hill’n Dale Christian Church, Lexington, KY 7:30pm July 29

KVJY The Truth of the Valley, Harlinger, TX 12:00pm Aug5

WCBM The Zoe Show, Baltimore, MD 10:00am Aug 16

KDFX The Kerby Anderson Show, Dallas, TX 5:00pm Aug 21

KBXL Balance Point, talk show co-host, Boise, ID 6:00pm Aug 23

speaker with Senator Larry Craig, Spud Bake, Idaho Family Forum, Boise, ID 5:00pm Aug 24

NBC Gretchen Anderson, Boise, ID 8:50am Aug 26

book signing Barnes & Noble Bookstores, Boise, ID 7:30pm Aug 26

CNN Talk Back Live! 3 :00pm Aug 30

CNN Crossfire 7:30pm Sept 1

CNN CNN & Company 11 :30am Sept 12

WDCX interview, Buffalo, NY 1:05pm Sept 12

syndicated radio The Marlin Madduex show


The Talk Radio Network Wiesback Show, San Diego, CA 8:00pm Sept 18

W A V A Janet Parshall’s America, Wash. DC TBA Sept 23

featured speaker Rosemont Preschool Mothers Group, Alexandria, VA 9:30am Oct 10

MCA am Memphis, TN 6:00pm Oct 15

WDJC The Hank Irwin Show, Birmingham, AL 2:00pm Oct 18

Chec It Out! Silver Spring, MD 10:30am Oct 18

KERN Bakersfield, CA 3:30pm Oct 22

KAVC Straight Talk, Cliff Huffinire, Lancaster, CA 7: 10pm Oct 29

featured speaker Mothers’ Group, Holy Spirit Parish, Arlington, VA 10:00am Oct 31

KBXL Balance Point, Guest Host, Boise, ID 6:00pm Nov 4

speaker Cedar Ridge Women’s Retreat, Westminster, MD 10:15am Nov 16

CNN CNN & Co. 11 :30am Nov 27

WOCA The Bill Ashford Show, Ocala, FL TBA

WMUZ Talk from the Heart, Detroit, MI TBA

book signing Borders Books, Chesapeake, VA TBA

www. didax.com excerpts October


The Bestseller, by Olivia Goldsmith, HarperCollins. Fiction on how the book business works. Great read. Great education. Pleases and instructs.

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, Harvey Mackay, Doubleday. Need to borrow $20k at 2am to meet payroll? This networking book by the author of Swimming with Sharks tells how. Learn how moguls fill their rolodexes.

1001 Ways to Market Your Books, John Kremer, Open Horizons. Powerful book peddlers’ reference worthy of shelf space in your personal library.

When you get the call to be an ‘on-air talent’ on a radio/network/cable outlet, send an email for help with make-up to mikes.

Jack Yoest is a management consultant.

© Jack Yoest 2004


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8 Responses

  1. Budding Authors

    I am just back from a luncheon featuring the author of a best seller. She came costumed in the period of her book and gave an outstanding presentation. After her speaking, all of the books that she brought where sold in a few moments and it appeared…

  2. Bob Prosen says:

    Jack- I just read your blog and 10 action steps to sell your book. As recommended, I just hired PTA to promote my new book Kiss Theory Good Bye.

    It’s a very exciting time and I thought you might appreciate the objective of my work:

    I wrote Kiss Theory Goodbye: Five Proven Ways to Get Extraordinary Results in Any Company to provide the answers that business leaders and managers need to consistently achieve and even exceed their objectives.

    My goal is to give you the definitive ?how-to? book on business execution. It is not a compilation of rules or the collected anecdotes of other business leaders. It is my first-person account of helping to lead major companies?and some midsize ones, too?to unprecedented bottom-line results.

    The how-to nature of this volume is written to supersede the best-selling business books that explore the process of execution. These focus mainly on what to do, whereas this book provides step-by-step instructions along with easy-to-use tools for getting unprecedented, sustainable results. Leaders want proven answers to today?s business challenges. They prefer action to theory and value straightforward information that?s easy to understand. Their most precious resource is time, so I condensed what matters most into actions that, when implemented, produce immediate performance improvement.

    Jack, thank you for the information you provide. I intend to keep coming back to look for more sage advice.


    Bob Prosen


    The Prosen Center for Business Advancement

    (972) 899-2180



    Executive Director

    The University of Texas Prosen Center for Business Execution

    ?At the beginning of the day, it?s all about possibilities. At the end of the day, it?s all about results.?

    Read what people are saying about Bob?s upcoming new book ? KISS THEORY GOOD BYE


    ?Most management/leadership books I read are confusingly complex and deliver no actionable information. Kiss Theory Good Bye is the exception. It lays out a nuts-and-bolts map for successful execution in any business.?

    Ken May

    President and CEO

    FedEx Kinko?s

    ?Bob’s book provides an excellent framework for increasing organizational and personal performance. Best of all, this book is down to earth and focused on operation and execution.

    Kiss Theory Good Bye is a practical, insightful way to get results.?

    Peter Altabef

    President and CEO

    Perot Systems

    ?Roberts? ideas are expressed clearly and with vigor; his style is lively and provocative. He encourages executives to be both passionate and practical in their pursuit of extraordinary results. Everyone should be able to learn from Kiss Theory Good Bye regardless of the level or stage of business career.?

    Dan. T Cathy

    President and Chief Operating Officer

    Chick-fil-A, Inc.

    ?Will Rogers’ once said,” Nothing is more common than a good idea and nothing less common than a good idea carried out.” In a hard charging and confident manner Kiss Theory Good Bye attacks head-on the problem that is at the core of so many companies’ and organizations’ lack of success, the glaring gap between planning and achieving the plan, and provides a crystal clear road map to eliminating that gap.?

    Garrett Boone


    The Container Store

  3. Jack Yoest says:

    Bob, thank you for your kind words. And being a case study on selling books in today’s crowded market.

    Commenting on blogs (even this humble, targeted weblog) is a low cost, tho’ high effort of marketing your material.

    But you should get some exposure.

    And sales.

    My money’s on you and your work.

    Keep us informed on your continued success.



  4. The Carnival Hits Town

    Roll up … Roll up! Welcome to The Carnival of Marketing Week #11.

    Started by Noah Kagan, the carnival is growing nicely … and it’s my privilege to be hosting it this week.

    Even though the Carnival is booked quite well in advance …

  5. And of course then there is this astounding new company that is celebrating it’s one year anniversary this month called Mind & Media that promotes books via the blogsphere 🙂

    I’m linking this post soon!

  6. 10 Action Steps To Sell Your Book

    One of my new friends, Jack Yoest, has a great post about how to sell your book. I wanted you to read it in the event you are a budding author and need some encouragement.

    In a nutshell this is what Jack recommends – and of course your book blogger a…

  7. Randy Kirk says:

    I am a “C” reviewer for Mind @ Media. I love

    the idea, but have only had time to do one

    review for her. In the meantime, Warner Books

    has just published my 7th business book,

    Running a 21st Century Small Business, and

    I found your post to be very useful.

    I had great coverage for my last book “When

    Friday Isn’t Payday,” even getting part of a

    cover story in Inc Mag. They called my book

    one of the three business bibles of 1994.

    With that, the book only sold 10,000 copies.

    Sure, it was enough to get Warner to double

    down with this new version of the book, but

    they (and I) believe that “Running a 21st

    Century Small Business” should sell 100,000

    copies. It looks to me like some of your

    ideas might be more helpful than the money I

    spent on a publicist last time.

    Thanks for your blog.

  8. Bob Prosen says:


    Congratulations on your Web Award! Your blog is a great read.

    It’s been awhile since our last visit and I wanted to update you on some of our successes. My book Kiss Theory Good Bye came out in August and won the Best 2006 Management book award. In addition, we made the #1 best selling business book on Amazon. BizSummaries, Summaries.com and Business Book Review have all published summaries and a number of magazines have published byline articles. In summary, it’s been a great experience.

    I remember your advice many months ago on how to promote your book. I used much of what you suggested with great success. As a way of giving back, It would be an honor to give away five inscribed copies to you readers as a gift for the new year. Many leaders are using it as their 2007 operating blueprint to increase performance and profit.

    I trust all is well with you and look forward to keeping in touch.



    P.S. Attached is the latest summary for your review and use.

    Bob Prosen


    The Prosen Center for Business Advancement




    “At the beginning of the day, it’s all about possibilities. At the end of the day, it’s all about results.”

    Read what people are saying about Bob’s new book


    “Winner — Best Business Management Book”

    “#1 Best Selling Business and Investing Book”

    “By the time I had finished the first two chapters, I asked my assistant to order copies for my Vice Presidents. It is definitely one of the best ( if not THE best) business books I have ever read”.

    Rhonda Shasteen

    Senior Vice President

    Mary Kay, Inc.

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