Monday, September 3, 2012

The Biggest Secret of Successful Authors

Bill Clinton Book Signing, 2004
In my years in the book industry, one truth has been absolutely clear when it comes to book sales and success. Want to know what it is? It is simple, and it should come as no surprise.

Here it is:

Active authors sell books, inactive authors don't.

Pretty profound, huh?

And yet it stands to reason that with more than 1.5 million new books released into the marketplace every year, every author must work incredibly hard to stand out from the pack.

Standing out can't be done by the publisher and publicist alone or by simply having a very good book. After all, every author claims their book is terrific and needs to be set apart. This can be incredibly difficult if you are not a household name like the author in my picture above. Even if you don't admire him (I actually don't agree with his politics or personal decisions at all, but he does know how to sell books), I think you may recognize him. But you know what he didn't do? He didn't sit back and expect his publisher to sell books for him. He understood that the success of his book would rise and fall on his ability to generate interest and engage his audience, as we see him doing above.

If Bill Clinton - who stood as the leader of the free world for 8 years - needs to promote his book, be the face of his book, and engage people personally in order to sell books and be a successful author, then I don't know of a single author that can afford to not do the very same.

Along with the calling to write a book comes the calling to promote and sell it. You cannot separate the two, and very few (if any) writers can simply afford to only write and leave the selling to someone else.

Stephen King on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson", 2012
This summer I watched Stephen King make an appearance on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" to promote his most recent book. It can be argued that there is not a more famous or prolific writer in the last century than Stephen King, and whether you like his writing or not, the reality is that he understands and knows the need to be visible and actively promote his work in order to sell books and be successful.

The overall point is something I've been discussing with the Founder of Tate Publishing, Dr. Richard Tate. He recently said to me, "We're simply seeing more and more in this industry that it's not just about the book - it's about the author." In other words, having a good book isn't enough. But if you couple an excellent product with an author that will be active and visible, the results can be terrific.

You might think it's easy for authors like Bill Clinton and Stephen King to sell books due to their name recognition, and certainly they may have opportunities that non-celebrity authors may never have. But both worked to build their platforms for years and years - engaging people, building an audience, and developing a following. At one point in their lives and careers, both authors were entirely unknown and had to start building influence and growing a platform in their respective fields. It didn't happen overnight for either of them.

If you don't know where to start and are a Tate Publishing author, you have an advantage that most authors in the book industry never have in your assigned Marketing Representative. This person can brainstorm with you and direct our team of publicists on your behalf to make contacts and pursue events and opportunities for sales. And at the same time, you can be building your audience, making contacts, and pursuing your own events for our team to publicize as well. The more active you are, the more books will be sold.

This summer alone, our marketing department at Tate Publishing scheduled, publicized, and promoted nearly 3000 events nationwide for our authors. These events include speaking engagements, retail bookstore signings, craft fairs, church and school events, book festivals - pretty much anywhere and everywhere that authors can find people to engage and sell books. According to recent reports from Publisher's Weekly, only 30% of books sold are sold in brick and mortar bookstores in today's market, so authors must take advantage of opportunities for events in as many locations as possible, finding out where their target audience is located and taking the books straight to those potential readers.

If you aren't active, the best time to become active is right now. If you have been an inactive author, make a decision to become active and to purposefully be the face of your book. The results will be seen quickly, and though it is hard work, it can be extremely rewarding (and even fun!) in the long run.


Keith said...

Thanks Mark, great article! My book was just released by Tate and I have struggled with the promo of it due to its nature, a devotional for addicts and alcoholics, "Under the influence." Yhe niche market for me is in recovery groups and rehabs, where I am re-focusing my efforts, instead of book stores. It is getting more attention, but I need to continue or double my efforts. Thanks for the article. skeithbarnes.

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence, Keith! My book will be released sometime in the next few months and is my life story as an alcoholic. I too am struggling with ideas for promo since I am a member of A.A. and anonymity is the rule! Also, while my book is largely a polemic for A.A., it is not without considerable criticism of their "theology". Sometimes when I re-read my ms., I feel that I have alienated 75% of my potential audience by being critical of the 12th Step --and Catholic "doctrine" which has infiltrated A.A. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I hop0e my marketing guy has some good ideas because I haven't got a clue where to start.

Angela Bertone said...

Thank you for this post. I am trying to make some really important decisions about my work as an author and your post are very helpful.

Angela Bertone

George Coriaty said...

Mark, what a super article! Before I became a writer, I was in sales and marketing. You are so right. No matter how good the book is, it must be promoted. My tactics are simple, I am working on building a following on the social media networks. It takes some work,but I genuinely like people and enjoy chatting with folks on topics from politics, religion to cars. Tate should be launching my book around February and I'm laying the ground work now. It's a blessing being part of the Tate family of authors.
George Coriaty

George Coriaty said...

Mark, this an excellent article. No matter how great the book is, it has to be promoted! My strategy is building a following on social media sites. My book is scheduled for release in February and I am laying the ground work now.

It's a blessing being part of the Tate family of authors.
George Coriaty

Anonymous said...

Mark my son has started a real great series of books. He has two out now. A prequel and first beginning. How can I help him get his foot in the doors of a great publisher. I live in America and he lives in Scotland. Help! Plz!

Mark Mingle said...

If you'd like Tate Publishing to review your son's manuscript, he is welcome to submit directly on our website at Thanks!

Charles Moreland said...

My book is scheduled for production in May with Tate so I feel excited about getting a head start on building my platform. My book is for everybody that has a dream, but unfortunately not everybody does. This article helps me see the importance of me being active will help me develope my niche market.

Thanks Mark

Mark Mingle said...

Thanks, Charles...we are thrilled to have you in our family of authors! I'm sure your book will inspire others to achieve their dreams and to even begin dreaming as well!

Syndee Maestas said...

Hi Mark, thanks for this article. I am so excited to be a new part of the Tate Publishing Family. I will be starting production in June and am extremely excited. I have been telling my clients all about my book (I own a Hair Salon) so I am nervous to be out there soon but I will try to find many way's like teen dances or maybe football games or church youth groups. My book is primarily a scary young adult Christian book so lets all pray for OUR books to do well. Thanks again.

wolfy ghalkhani said...

Hello, my book is to be tentatively published in June by Tate publishing. Do I start promoting the book now or wait until its available?

Mark Mingle said...

It is never too early to begin building contacts and engaging your audience, even letting them know the book is yet to come!

Ann Marie McKenzie said...

Priceless advice Mark, great information for a new Tate Author as myself, thanks much.