It's important for authors to hold themselves in high esteem, by making comparisons of their writing to success stories. That is why I like to sit down with the writers I work with and nail down what the comparative or competitive book titles to their manuscript might be, before making a submission to editors at publishing houses. We in the industry casually refer to this as asking what the "comps" are (short for comparative or competitive book titles). These are books in the current publishing marketplace that are similar and successful. It's not just about simply saying that a book or author is not unique—it's about celebrating how great a potential publication could be...
Why are comp titles important?
A literary agency receiving a query letter or submission from an author, or an editor at a publishing house receiving a pitch and manuscript from a literary agent, will need to know what the comps are. The literary agent and the editor will be trying to figure out where that particular book/author would fit within their list of authors: is it commercial fiction, literary fiction, or upmarket fiction? If it's nonfiction, then which category of nonfiction? A literary agent or book editor will ask themselves where the book/author would be shelved in a bookstore: is it mystery/crime, romance, science fiction & fantasy, or something else? Most important of all, an agent or editor will be asking themselves how well that book/author would perform in the marketplace: will this book go on the become a mega bestseller or garner highly prestigious awards?
In fully comparing apples to apples, a book editor at a publishing house will try to base their potential offer to publish, on the sales performance of the comp titles. They do this by running a profit & loss statement, or what we in the publishing industry call a "P&L" or "P&L sheet." Plugged into the P&L, which also accounts for the costs associated with printing and publishing a book, will be the sales numbers on the comp titles. A publisher can look up the sales numbers of a given comp title on Nielsen BookScan, where some of the most accurate reporting of sales numbers are given, so there's no lack of transparency there. That's why an author is a in a far better position by having their literary agent offer the author's successful comps to the publisher, over allowing the book publisher to come up with accurate comps of their own. This is especially the case if the publisher's comps haven't been all that successful. Then the publisher might not want to publish the book, or they might make a smaller offer.
An author that has assembled a good list of two to three comp titles will be miles ahead in the publishing process. When a book publisher is in the stage of getting their salesforce to place copies of the book among retailers, guess what question the publisher will be asked by the retailer: What are the similar books to this one? Having the comps handy can therefore help the book publisher in the actual publication process, by raising a book retailer's expectations. Maybe the book retailer decides to order more copies of a book for their stores, or they decide to recommend and prominently display the book, if they think the book will be a success.
What's a good comp title?
As much as possible, an author should make literary agents and editors think that their book has a good-looking, smart and athletic "twin" in each of its comps. A good comp title is a bestselling or major award-winning book. It's easy to know if the comp title is one of those two things by simply looking at the cover of a comp. If the cover states, "New York Times bestseller" or "National bestseller" then you know you probably have a bestseller on your hands. The same goes for major awards featured on the cover. If it says, "National Book Award-winner" or "Man Booker Prize-winner," then the same would be true. Looking at the number of reviews on Amazon (hundreds or thousands is impressive), and the overall Amazon sales ranking (the closer to the Top 100 the better), are other ways to know how well the comp title has been performing.
The comps should have been published within the last five years. Outside of five years, book publishing will have been a different industry, with books written and published in different ways. What is popular reading among book lovers also changes quite a bit over the years. Those are a few of the reasons why classic novel comps are not good comparisons, and will often garner eye rolls from editors. When a fantasy author tries to comp to J.R.R. Tolkien, or a mystery/crime writer tries to comp to Edgar Allen Poe, it also begins to look self-aggrandizing.
It's important to keep the comps accurate. We are comparing apples to apples here, rather than apples to oranges. So a comp title should also be of the reading age range and of the book genre. If an author wrote a young adult novel, then they shouldn't go and compare it to an adult romance novel; or if an author of wrote a nonfiction work of history/politics/current affairs then they obviously shouldn't refer to it a science/technology book. At the same time, only books make for good comparisons, since we're trying to figure out where a book belongs in a bookstore, rather than where a movie or a TV show fits on the shelf.
The process of assembling comp titles may seem small or insignificant at first glance, but it is actually a huge part of the publishing process and a key player in a book's success. The comp process ultimately helps readers find their way to an author's book.
Mark Gottlieb has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on Publishers Marketplace in Overall Deals and other individual categories. Using that same initiative and insight for identifying talented writers, he is actively building his own client list of authors of fiction and nonfiction. Mark is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available at book publishing’s leading literary agency, Trident Media Group. Since his time at Trident, he has represented numerous New York Times bestselling authors, as well as award-winning authors, and has optioned and sold numerous books to film and TV production companies. Mark is actively seeking submissions in all categories and genres.
Authors Marketing Guild, LLC, is proud to introduce a new program that will allow you to make more money from not only selling your books but using the services and programs we offer. What a great way to save money and get more marketing opportunities at the same time. Our new POINTS program (APS) is very simple.
For every dollar, you spend on a program related to Texas Authors Inc., Dear Texas Inc, or Texas Authors Institute of History, Inc., you will get 1 point.
For every book sold through our website http://Books.TxAuthros.com, the author gets one point for the sale price of the book. (Sale value $15 = 15 points)
We will offer additional programs that give you more opportunities to earn points and achieve special rewards.
At the end of the year, you can turn in the points for use on programs, membership renewal, events, etc.
Here is an example of one person earning points:
I pay my membership renewal at $100, I would get 100 points
I purchase a table at Wimberley book festival for $25, I would get 25 points.
I refer a new member to TxAuthors and they join, I would get 125 points.
Readers bought 5 books on the website http://Books.TxAuthors.com at $15.00 each, I would get 75 points.
This example gives me a total of 325 points that can be turned in and used toward table time purchase, Dear Texas Radio Ads and all other programs or events by any of the three participating organizations.
There are endless opportunities to earn points. Grace Allison, for example, has sold over 100 books on Amazon this year. Those 100 books could be 1,000 points she could use if the books were purchased through our website.
One author is attending all of the book festivals we have produced this year, that will equal to over 500 points just for those events.
This program puts more money in YOUR pocket to use on marketing which increases YOUR book sales!
There is no cost to the author for this program. There is no sign-up fee. It’s totally free for TxAuthors members. All points will be calculated annually, from Jan 1st through December 31st. If you choose to participate in the TAPS Program this year, you will receive a formal report of your total point accumulation no later than Jan 31, 2018. These points are not transferrable to any other author or organization. They are only valid for the author who earned them. Unused points will expire by December 31st of the following year they have been awarded. (Example: Points awarded for 2017 will expire December 31. 2018)
As we continue to grow, access to the points accumulated through the program will increase and give you quicker use and turn-in time.
So, jump on board and start driving sales traffic to your books listed in the Texas Authors Book Store. Start accumulating points for every referral you make who joins TxAuthors, every donation, every event purchase and every product purchase starting NOW!
As the song says, the times they are a-changin’ and that certainly applies to book marketing trends. We read a lot about what’s working, how it’s working and why, but I see very few articles about what’s not working because I mean, don’t you want to know what to stop doing? I’ve found it’s best for my business to stay on top of the hottest marketing trends so I can make solid recommendations to indie authors. After countless client conversations, I’ve found some really common practices that you’ll be best to stay away from, as well as ideas for how you can improve existing book promotion efforts. Here’s my assessment on some of the strongest switches you can make in your game plan.
1. Generic Anything We live in a world that slams us with thousands of impersonal messages and ads to us each day. Each of us is beyond saturated with messages that are not on target, emails that don’t pique our interests, and phones that fill with thousands of generic missives, just waiting for us to respond. The thing is, we don’t. Attention – both getting it and keeping it – is the new currency and in order to do that, you have to personalize. Instead: Personalize Everything
Personalization, in anything, always takes longer and considerably more effort but in the end they can pay off in big ways. We’ve all gotten the emails that say “Dear Sir” if you’re a woman, or “Dear Madam” if you’re a guy. These emails always feel lazy and they very rarely get our attention. However, emails that are personalized (“Dear Penny”), or even start off by attempting to connect go a long way. For example, they might say something about a blog post you wrote that the sender enjoyed, or maybe you’ve connected on Facebook or Instagram and they loved your recent vacation pictures. Whatever it is and whatever you’re doing: don’t be generic. This works even in pitching – and especially if you’re pitching bloggers or the media. Make a comment on a recent story they did, or blog they posted. Just a small, thoughtful addition like that will make your pitch stand out amidst the thousands of other pitches they’ve gotten that week.
2. Print Ads An author recently told me they were holding off doing any marketing until their ad ran in the New York Times. He had bought a $5,000 ad in the book section and was eager to see how it worked. Turns out, it didn’t work at all. Print ads, unless you’ve already got a platform, are best to avoid. And even if you do have a platform, it’s still sketchy unless you’re Nora Roberts or someone equally well-known. Instead, try ebook ads
Ads, like the kind you buy to promote your eBook, work well, but I am beginning to see the effect of these fading – you actually have to do more ads now to get the same amount of bounce. Thankfully most eBook ads are cheap, so you can still do a lot of them and spend far less $5,000.
3. Generic Blog Tours It’s a sad truth that you used to be able to host a blog tour and see the momentum for your book kick in almost immediately. That’s not really the case anymore. Blog tours that are more generic in nature are a complete waste of your time and money. Instead, try Genre-based Blog Tours
Blog tours that are focused on your book topic, specifically, and are far more effective and a better use of your time and money. They tend to be more work, but they are absolutely worth it in the long-run. Even if that means getting your book featured on 10 blogs, instead of 100 (which some tour companies offer) your focus should be much more to the niche blogs. This is not just because you want to stay away from generalized topics, but because the audience for most ‘general’ blogs is lower and less focused than for the niche ones.
4. Press releases Unless you’re well-known or have something major to announce, you’re far better off saving your time and money on a press release and spreading the word via social media and your mailing list. But before you announce anything – even your new book, ask yourself why anyone would care. Yes I know, you wrote a book and that, in and of itself, is a grand achievement. But no one, perhaps beyond your immediate family and friends, may care enough to click over and buy it. So save your big announcements, and big drum rolls, for something that really matters. Instead, try a newsletter.
According to Experian,“Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue.” Why do I love a newsletter so much? Because with all of the noise on social media, you really want to have a way to get in front of your readers with specials, promotions, or new information on your topic! And speaking of newsletters, I always recommend that your website features a way for your visitors to sign up. A newsletter is a great tool even if you don’t plan on using it for a while.
5. Expecting Social Media to Sell Books There was a time when you could actually sell a lot of books on Facebook without having to buy any ads. Amazing, isn’t it? Well that’s not the case anymore. In fact, that’s not the case for any social site, even Pinterest which has a history of being a good buying haven. Instead, Use Social Media for Exposure
Social media should be looked at as exposure and even then, you’ve got to be careful how much time you throw into your social media because not all exposure is created equally. I always like to say that you don’t have to be everywhere, just everywhere that matters. What I mean by this is that you don’t need to be on every social media sites, but you should be on at least one that has a strong tie to your industry. Then, make the time to create personal connections with your followers. Much like the generic blog tours and generic anything I addressed earlier on in this piece, the more personal you can get with your social media, the stronger your connections will be – even without buying ads.
6. Bad Blogging We always hear: you need to blog. So many of us (myself included) would just blog for the sake of blogging. There’s a lot of content out there, and much of it isn’t really worth our time. I mean, let’s face it, it’s got to be really good for us to want to spend time reading it, right? Instead, Practice Good Blogging Skills
This sounds perhaps obvious, but it’s SO true! Put out really solid content even if that means reducing the times per month that you blog. I used to blog four and five times a week, but the stuff I put out wasn’t always great. Now I blog just one time a week and I like to think that it’s stronger, better content. Less is more, especially when it comes to content. Not only will your readers appreciate it, but Google loves superb content and will send you more traffic for one great piece, than five so-so blog posts that are only interesting to you, and maybe your cat.
7. Promoting YOUR Book I know, I’m a book marketing person and I’ve got some nerve telling you it’s passé to promote your book, right? Realistically, no one but your mom (and maybe your cat) cares that you wrote a book. But this is one of those marketing trends you’ve got to watch out for! Instead, Promote THEIR Book
By this I mean, focus on what this great book offers readers. What can the book do for THEM? Even years ago I was telling authors to never market your book, always market what your book can do for your readers and that’s true now more than ever. That’s ultimately what readers care about. So promote the benefits, promote how it’ll make the reader feel, what they will learn or how wildly they will be entertained. That’s the key when it comes to creating a sales pitch that will actually sell!
In the end, while the marketing trends I’ve identified as no longer working don’t necessarily hurt (except in the case of the $5,000 NY Times ad that was painful to the author’s pocketbook), they’re not the strongest options available. We’re all incredibly busy, so why spend valuable book promotion time on efforts with the least amount of pay off? Stay flexible, be prepared for what you KNOW to be ever-changing, and focus on the most efficient use of your marketing time and budget.
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Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME), is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book social media marketing, book marketing, and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most leading-edge book marketing campaigns.
With more people relying on the internet to discover a wide variety of subjects, products and resources, one rarely has a need to see a person or product face-to-face anymore. At least, that’s what the internet gurus continue to preach to the masses.
The reality is that people do need human contact and interaction on many levels. Book Festivals are one such interaction for die-hard readers. Yet, it appears that many of these events are not drawing as many people or vendors as they once did. Why is that?
After spending years participating as a vendor, author and as a creator of such events, it has become clear to me that people simply get bored of the same old routine. This applies to the big book festivals as well as the smaller ones. As with any event, people want something new and exciting, a reason for them to leave their homes, spend their money and get something they can’t get anywhere else.
Traditional Book festivals are created with authors who sit behind a table and try to get someone to buy their book, and in most cases, they halfheartedly try. Most book festivals are filled with local authors, who if they have done their job as a marketing person, have saturated their market to the point that there is nothing new or exciting about them. None of this gives people a reason or motivation to stop by and check out the book festival.
Even the book festivals that bring in the big names, are seeing a decrease in attendance and vendor participation. This is due to the high cost of producing such an event. Big named authors expect to be paid for their time, and their cost has to be trickled down to the vendor’s booth fees. These fees then become too hard for people to justify the expense. Small press and indie authors cannot sell enough books to warrant the high cost of participation. But these are the people who must participate at these events if they plan to make a name for themselves. Just doing Social Media or internet based campaigns is not enough.
How can you draw the crowds to an event and justify to the vendors the need to spend the money on a booth fee? This is a multi-point issue that all book festivals have to address in order to stay reverent to the consumers and vendors.
First, book festivals should look for new partners to team up with. For example, art festivals are a perfect combination to work with. Both draw on an audience that generally has money to spend, and is highly educated. They do not compete against each other for the dollar as one is usually priced much more than the other. However, they complement each other, which allows for each to promote and draw from their base, while giving the audience something new to enjoy.
Second, while indie authors and small press will not sell as many books as they would like to at any festival, they have little or no choice but to be present. It comes down to the basic core of marketing: letting people know you have a product, and then getting them to want to buy your product. If authors are not attending book festivals, then new readers will never know they exist. At the same time, they must work on their presentation at the table and not look like a bump on a log, bored to tears who doesn’t want to be there. That’s another article in its own right. They key factor is that an author will never know who they may meet at one of these events, which could then help propel them onto a new level of growth. Each consumer that walks up to their table should be considered as the ONE person, even if they are not.
Finding new avenues to engage people to attend book festivals is a key factor for attendance and participation of both readers and vendors. Working with other organizations can help save money, and draw new attendees to the event, which in effect benefits both organizations. The concept of ‘elitism’ needs to stop on both ends in order to keep their event alive and of value for the consumer. The consumer is already pulled in a hundred different directions, therefore, combining energy and resources gives them less directions to be pulled, and more value for their money, and especially their time. A win-win for everyone.
Third; sponsorships. While companies that make millions from authors continue to charge high fees, or rake in large amounts from the author’s work do not support book festivals to the full extent that they could or should. Amazon is a perfect example of this. They don’t have to, as the authors have given up their power to Amazon and they will continue to take money from authors. CreateSpace, Ingram and, Barnes & Noble participate only in large scale festivals, but do not participate in the more local bread and butter programs. Again, a lack of need to woo the author or the consumer keeps them away.
Book festivals need to find a way to get sponsors to cover the cost of the event so that indie authors pay little to nothing for their space, thus increasing their income potential, and ultimately making them happier to be at the events. Combining forces with other festivals helps rejuvenate each organization, which then creates better results for all parties involved. Teamwork on multiple levels that improve the quality of life for the consumer and vendors should be a key priority!
Recently through my search of new technology and the latest happenings in the publishing world and came across an organization named UnGlueIt. This is a web based system to allows anyone to read an eBook for free. Naturally, as a writer who wants to make money from his book, my hair stood on end already getting my back in line for a fight. Well, there was no fight.
I dug into the concept of this company and found that it is actually one of the only websites that encourages reading through free eBooks, but at the same time helps authors earn some money in the process.
I tested our “Short Stories by Texas Authors” book to see what may happen. While there is little income to no income as of this story, the book has only been posted for two weeks, I feel confident that there will be some earnings soon.
To try and explain what this non-profit does, I decided to interview the director of the program, Erick Hellman and let him explain their concept and the benefits for authors.
If you would like how you can UnGlue your eBook for use in library’s and around the world, while making some extra cash, please listen to the two-part series on SoundCloud using the links below.
For the authors who listen to the recordings, I would love some thoughts about the concept.
UnGlueIt Part 1 of 2: https://soundcloud.com/deartexasradio/dear-texas-radio-show-11-unglueit-part-1-of-2
UnGlueIt Part 2 of 2: https://soundcloud.com/deartexasradio/dear-texas-radio-show-12-unglueit-pat-2-of-2
A recent report published in the Publishers Weekly magazine, broke down the United States into eight regions regarding reading activity. Of all the regions, the South Central, which includes Texas, had only a 1% increase in printed books sales. While an increase is good, the sad part is that with the high number of people moving into this region, book sales should have increased at least as much, if not more, than the highest region reported. The Pacific coast, where many of our transplants are coming from, saw a 5% increase in sales.
This is a clear indication that events such as DEAR Texas and the Super Readers program is not only necessary, but should receive overwhelming support from Texas Authors, Texas Booksellers and Texas Libraries. Working together, these organizations and members could significantly turn around the book sales numbers of the South Central region, and help with inspiring more reading and purchasing of books. But, it doesn’t stop with a state wide weekend event.
It is clear that the legislature of Texas does not support Texas Authors, nor the educational systems as it should. They have shown this with funding cuts and legal battles which force school districts to spend money on lawyers and not on students. The end result is that Texas authors, booksellers and libraries must pick up the pieces of a failed education system. This additional pressure and the high expenses can only be met in one way. Team Work!
The library systems need to support their regional and state authors, as does each type of bookseller who does business in Texas. By supporting them, the increased share in market sales leads to a stronger economic impact in sales tax and other financial benefits, which in turn, improves the education system.
Supporting local authors does not mean that booksellers or libraries stop purchasing well known books. It simply means they are willing to open their facilities so that local authors have more opportunities to do speaking engagements as well as display and promote local author’s books, which in turns equates to more sales.
At the same time, it is up to the author to learn how to better market their books and work with organizations which support and help them get their books into various locations. All sides are in fact responsible to the other, no one side can be expected to do all the work. Team Work!
Based on our un-official survey of Texas authors, we saw a decrease in marketing expenses by 17% from 2014 to 2015. This decrease was partially due to the high cost of attending book festival events and the decrease in profits by 7%, thus forcing authors to restrict what events they attend. This, in turn, hurts communities across Texas both in financial impact and lack of new reading material these authors have to offer.
With an estimated 6,000 published Texas authors, and over 120 book stores, there is absolutely no reason why they cannot support each other, which in turn supports the sales tax and donation base for public libraries and schools.
We challenge our Governor and the State Legislature to publicly support the Indy authors, Indy bookstores and Indy publishers of Texas in a large way. Sadly, when Governor Abbot was give three opportunities to do so in 2015, he and his staff chose to ignore those opportunities. This sends a clear signal to Texas authors that they are not appreciated, nor is their financial impact to the state, valued at $188 million, of any concern to the governing body of the state.
Texas has a long and colorful history on so many levels, that it makes sense to support those industries over the long term. Yet, Texas authors have basically been ignored even though they are the ones on the front lines of education supporting and encouraging people of all ages to read more. We cannot afford to ignore these pioneers and educators any longer. Their value to the economy of Texas is strong, as is their value to our education system. It is past time for them to receive the support from our state leaders as the oil companies, railroads, farmers and tech industries have received for years.
Numbers count. If you agree that our government should get behind Indy Authors and the industry surrounding them, in the State of Texas, take a minute to find out who your Legislators and Senators are. Then, write to them, along with our Governor asking for their support. You are welcome to quote any of the statistics listed in this article.
Together we can make a difference. Please click here to sign our petition asking the State of Texas to recognize Texas Authors as they do through their GoTexan campaign for Texas made products.