The book marketing snowball

I once spoke to an author whose first book was about to go to print, explaining to him how book signings work, why authors do them, the importance of niche marketing, how distribution works, etc., how to build a platform, etc. I spent a lot of time going over all the ins and outs of promoting a book, sure I was imparting great knowledge. The author paused for a moment and got straight to the point.

“Well that’s great, but how can we get my book to Walmart? They would sell a million copies of my book!”

Unfortunately, most new books from new authors don’t start life on the shelves at Walmart. Something else has to come first, and that something is the customer’s demand. I explained that marketing a book is like rolling a snowball downhill. When it starts to roll, it is a small snowball. As it continues to roll down the hill, it gradually gets bigger and bigger. By the time it reaches the foot of the hill, it is significantly larger than it was when it started.

When a new and unknown author is first published, his book is the little snowball. It may go unnoticed at first, but with persistent promotion it will continue to grow. It may not grow as fast as the author wants, but to maintain sales and exposure, the author and publisher must keep pushing it downhill. If the author stops promoting his work, what happens? The snowball won’t get any bigger, and neither will book sales.

Many authors want to start at the top of the hill with the big snowball, but they only have a big snowball if they have a great platform from which to launch their book. Is the author famous? Are they well known in your state, region, or even across the country? Do you have many followers in your life or profession? If not, they are starting with a little snowball.

You may have heard of the book “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. It is a book that has been turned into a movie and is a best-seller. The book was not published until after the author’s death and was released in Sweden, Larsson’s home country. No one outside of Sweden had heard of Larsson before his book was published, but he won an award and was well received in his home country. A publisher in Britain took a chance on the book and translated it into English, renaming it from the original title “Men Who Hate Women” to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The book did not sell.

The British publisher resorted to giving away copies; leaving them in public places like bus stops where people would find and read them. Like a snowball, word of mouth grew until book sales soared and “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” became a hit. Eight years after its publication, the book is now a Hollywood movie.

That’s an extreme example of a small snowball rolling down a hill and turning into something very large. Not all authors will have this kind of success, but the journey will almost always start with a little snowball. If you keep pushing it, it will turn into something bigger. You just have to keep pressing.

You don’t have to resort to dropping your book at bus stops to gain traction with your book.

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