Divide the Task, Double the Success

One of our members poured her heart out to Tom and me the other day. The task of marketing can be a great chasm that swallows you, and the struggle for success in selling books is draining. Jann Martin’s post struck such a chord with me, I’m sharing it with you with her permission.

Are you struggling like me to get people to buy your books?

I’m making calls. Sending emails. Knocking on doors. But still no response.

My agent tells me the problem is that I live in Florida. He says it’s typically not a good state to sell books. When I lived in Michigan and my first books were published I didn’t have any trouble. It’s a Christmas book, “This Babe So Small.”  I had 58 books signings from the beginning of November through December, sometimes two and three a day. I sold almost 2,000 books.

They were available at Border’s, Amazon, and several local gift shops and books stores. I was able to do books signings at all of the local Borders stores.

It seemed like every school and church that I called said yes for me to come and read my book to a group and sell the books at the end.

I also have a pageant version of the book. I have a recording of a performance. I also attended two churches and watched the pageant as it was performed.

That was in 2007. In 2008 the economy tanked and I wasn’t able to sell as many books. I did however have almost as many book signings.

Then we moved to Florida. Since then it has been very difficult if not impossible to get any signings or to have my books placed in stores.

Does this sound like your problem? Does it resonate with you? Maybe you haven’t had such great success at the beginning and are struggling to get momentum in your book promotions. Perhaps the answer to your problem and struggle is to divide the task.

Richard Hackman began studying teams back in the 1970s. He discovered some conditions necessary for teams to achieve their goal. Hackman’s conditions for success are: A compelling direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context. These conditions continue to be particularly critical to team success.

How can authors be team players?

The answer is in the one word that most authors despise: Marketing.

In a Harvard Business Review article (Secrets of Great Teamwork) https://hbr.org/2016/06/the-secrets-of-great-teamwork Haas and Mortensen give some excellent insight to how teams work. But we want to mold that into how writers and authors can team together to achieve double success in the marketing of their books.

Haas and Mortensen point out that “teams cannot be inspired if they don’t know what they’re working toward and don’t have explicit goals… People have to care about achieving a goal, whether because they stand to gain extrinsic rewards, like recognition, pay, and promotions; or intrinsic rewards, such as satisfaction and a sense of meaning.”

So we’ll do that here and on the blog.

The goal: Sell books in specific genres.

The reward: Book sold, new followers, friendships forged, guest blog posts, satisfaction of reaching a broader audience, new meaning because you’ve reached a broader market, encouragement from someone who knows what you are dealing with.

Is that reward greater than the effort exerted to sell books? If not, then quit reading because the rest will be Greek to you 😊

In my experience, authors don’t like to follow directions. “I’ve gotten here all by myself, and I can extract myself all by myself, thank you very much.” I think this comes from the isolating independence we all have because in order to produce, we work alone. So we plod along figuring we can do better by ourselves. But that’s really not true, is it?

We want to be better at our craft so we read books about it. We earn degrees in it. We hone our skills, and we reach out to others for help in all aspects of writing. There is great value in teamwork.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” –Andrew Carnegie

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” –Vince Lombardi

And we could say: Individual commitment to a group effort makes marketing work. Thank you Vince Lombardi. Extraordinary insight from an extraordinary man.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

“It takes two flints to make a fire.” –-Louisa May Alcott

Two authors in the same genre could pool efforts in Facebook and Twitter to enlarge both their following. There’s the fire. There is no way one person can publish enough books to satisfy their readers’ reading needs completely. Two people can produce twice as many newsletters and blog posts and cull twice as many emails. That’s doubling the success. Solomon said that one person traveling alone is easily overcome. Two people can help each other from falling, but a three corded rope is strong and not easily broken.

At least what I’ve seen so far, is most authors jump into a plan eagerly, then have trouble putting together the mettle to forge relationships and the grit to follow through with a marketing plan through those relationships. Is it because today’s one-minute-microwave lunch-society has programed us to believe results must be instantaneous or it’s a failure? Arthur Ashe said “Success is not a destination, but a journey.”

Now that we’ve got the general idea of teamwork marketing, let’s journey together. There are a few things that need doing to organize this effort.

We need a place to find other authors in our genre.

We need time commitment in the endeavor: Commit the time to make the plan, and commit the time to work the plan, and commitment to the author partner you choose.

If you do not plan to devote one hour per week to this, then you probably don’t need to worry about commitment to the rest of it.

The place is the Authors Community Discussion Forum.

The time commitment is up to you.

One thing that makes this sort of collaboration easier is the asynchronous aspect of the discussion forum. You post and minutes later, hour later, or a day later someone responds to your post. If you check just that one thread every day at the same time, you make progress.

In order to join the discussions in the forum, you need to register on the website in at least the Starter level. Then you need to join the discussion forum, create your profile, and then search the threads to find YOUR genre.

Then you need to begin a discussion to find authors in your genre, if a discussion has not already been started.

Jann Martin really wants to help other children’s book authors. She’s asking for those authors’ help as well.

I have a new time travel series, “Bible Characters through the Ages,” that was published in 2016. There are six books in the series at this time.

I have contacted all of the schools, churches and stores in my area and have only succeeded in getting my books into two local stores. They are also in my local Barnes and Noble store. I had a book launch at that store. It was a very busy weekend for the store and several of my friends came to buy books. I set up another signing a month or so later. The store ordered 30 more books without asking me about it. There was a large activity going on in town that weekend and the store was empty most of the day. The manager returned all of those books and put me in the red for my royalty checks.

I have been doing as much as I can on social media. Taken classes online and at conferences trying to learn as much as I can. I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

I would like to work with other authors, especially children’s authors and try to build up each other’s platforms. The hopeful result would be better sales and bigger platforms for all of us.


What’s holding you back?

Discussion Forum members click here to discuss or find your genre partner.

Not a discussion forum member? You need to register on this website first, follow the discussion forum instructions then come back here and  Click to find this discussion.

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3 thoughts on “Divide the Task, Double the Success”

  1. Book marketing is something few authors love, but a necessary “evil” if we want to sell books. Working as a team is certainly one way. I am puzzled as to why the Florida resident couldn’t sell books because she was in Florida!!! One approach I haven’t seen mentioned is one I’ve used successfully, and it seems Florida would be a great place for it. Selling books at senior facilities. I live in southern California and we have an abundance of senior centers and senior residences and they all have this in common – they are populated by readers. With so many people retiring to Florida, I’m sure there are many of these homes there. These senior homes all have activities directors who are looking for programs for their residents. When I make contact I explain I’m a local author, who writes mysteries set locally, and I will come to their facility at no charge to give an entertaining talk which includes my personal writing history, how I had a 26-year career in law enforcement, and how it led me to write my novels. My only caveat is that I am able to sell books at the end. There is never any obligation to buy, but I always sell a few, sometimes many. I ask because some residences do not allow their residents to have money. I started this with my first book, and each place I visited told me to come back when my second book was finished. I’ve now been to most places twice, in two counties, and when my third book is finished, I’ll be back on the road again. It is amazing how warmly I’ve been treated. People love to meet authors, especially those who can’t get out easily to a bookstore. So, look around your area. Even if you are selling children’s books, these senior residents (most) all have grandchildren, and books make wonderful gifts.

    1. Jeanette, that is a great idea! However, Jann is selling children’s books — but I buy lots of books for my grandchildren so I know a great market for children’s books would be grandparents!

      Hey Jann… did you try Senior Centers? Maybe even book signings at a Senior Center?

  2. Thank you for this prompt, Jann! No bookstore in my area will allow a self-published author to present their books to the public in their stores. They won’t consider selling them, either – messes their accounting, they say. I’ve been allowed to display a few at my favourite restaurant but that hasn’t worked. But as the crime and violence have accelerated in Johannesburg and Pretoria (where I lived until 5 of my friends were murdered for old cars, TVs etc and my sons begged me to come to the Cape) more and more South Africans are retiring here and we have some super retirement centres with lots going on. I shall definitely follow up on this one. You have given me courage!

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