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Authors can help publishers market books

ARTS & CULTURE
By Lucas Wafula | June 18th 2016

Many first authors published today really get shocked when they see their royalty statements. They always have high expectation. This is their first book, and it all starts with everyone around them patting their back, congratulating them on work well done. Curiously, none of these people who congratulate the new author buys a copy of the new book; they all admire the gratis copies the author has received from the publisher. Their family and friends espy the cover, says a few words about the wonderful design and apt title, saying, “When the money comes, usinisahau.”

With all the praise expectations rise and they really get surprised when they are told that only say 800 copies of their books sold in a year. They get annoyed with the publisher, feel cheated and finally, some give up writing all together. After all the struggle? It is not worth it, they say. Questions abound. Did my publisher ensure all the copies sold are reflected on the statement? Some ask who the incompetent people in the publisher’s sales team are; others suggest hiring of a completely new team all together! I could do better myself, they opine. Well, I would like to submit that marketing of books should not be left to the publisher and that the author can be involved to enhance sales.

Last weekend, I conversed with a young well-published author and he surprised me when he said he sold 1,200 copies out of a print run of 3,000 copies, of his book. The first question I asked him was, how did you do it? He went on to tell me how he markets his books even before they are printed. “I advertise them on my social media pages, and all my connections – church and colleagues. By the time the book is out, I will be having orders that I just service!” I couldn’t help but admire his ingenuity. This writer actually does not just wait for the royalty cheque; he buys his own books from his publisher and sells them!

Talking about books

Without doubt, the work of marketing and selling books falls on the shoulders of the publisher. However, I would like to submit that an author who talks about his or her books and asks people to buy them always achieves more. I have seen it with all established authors; Ngugi wa Thiong’o always talks about his books whenever he goes, just as lfeoma Akabogu-Chinwuba, Ambassador of Nigeria in Cote d’lvoire, does! Yet talking about books is not enough, you must encourage the people you interact with to buy your books. Encourage your friends to buy your books as gifts for their friends, siblings, parents and children.

Talk about your books the way mothers talk about their children or missionaries talk about religion. Put the covers to your books on your social media pages and ask your friends to share them. Go a step further and ensure they buy and share – on a light note, some are capable of talking about books they have never read just to please you. If you have written poems, offer to read in functions and let your audience know the short story or poem you read is part of an anthology available in bookshops or supermarkets or online and ask them to buy it. I tell everyone I meet to read this column – everyone I meet − so do the same.

Sir, Richard Branson of the Virgin Group says putting yourself (the business owner) before the camera is one of the best ways of marketing apart from utilising social media, which is free. Writers must learn to influence people to read. They must use their influence say in counties to have their books bought and read in schools. I would expect that county governments would be keen on enhancing educational standards in their counties but someone has to remind them. That person is you – the writer.

Times have changed and we should change with them. Publishers have many titles to promote and yours is among them. You are better placed therefore, to talk about your book and give it all the attention it requires. Don’t forget that readers are always happy to meet their favourite author. Therefore, when you see someone reading or buying your book, talk to them and even offer to autograph the book. This way you will smile when you receive your royalty statement and so will your standing in the writing world be enhanced.

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