Sep 12

What Should You Do If Your Book Fails?

Book marketing gone bad

Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Determining What Went Wrong to Get Future Marketing Right

Once upon a time, way back in the last decade, author and researcher Lisa Ann Hewlett’s publicity predicament illustrated to the world of books what we authors suspected all along: Huge amounts of publicity surrounding a release don’t necessarily translate into massive sales figures. I still remember it today and am haunted by it whenever a client tells me that her marketing isn’t working.

When a major publicity coup like Lisa’s turns out to be the most bitter dose of rejection we could expect to encounter, it’s an indicator that it could happen to anyone. That may happen even when the publicity is the stuff of which dreams—in Surround Sound and Technicolor—are made of.

It is reported (variably) that Hewlett’s Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children sold between 8,000 and 10,000 copies. Many authors would be ecstatic with sales figures that look like that, but everything is relative. It is believed that Miramax paid a six-figure advance for this title and projected sales in the 30,000 range for hardcover alone. Considering expectations for the book, the figures do appear dismal.

Therefore, smart people in the publishing industry searched for reasons for its less than stellar performance, especially with the kind of publicity this book received, and I mean biggies like Time Magazine (the cover, no less) and several “New York” magazines. TV shows like “60 Minutes,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and “NBC Nightly News” lined up behind this book, for heaven’s sake. Even Oprah’s magic book-sale-wand was not effective.

Hewlett’s book made great news! It warned young career women that they have been mislead by petri dish miracles reported in the press. She pointed out that women have come to believe that they can put conception after career and be reasonably sure they can have still have both. She attempts to exorcise that notion in Quest.

So, just what did go wrong?

Many groused that the title was not scintillating nor was the book’s cover. Those in the know wondered if that influenced book sales. But that’s a huge burden to put on professionally produced book cover or title choice in a book published by an experienced, savvy and BIG publisher. Something else was clearly wrong.

My thirty-seven-year-old-daughter who had just returned to college to embark on a career in anthropology suggested that women don’t want to hear the dreadful news. She says, “I just flat out don’t want to hear this bad news in the middle of something rewarding, exciting and new! Why would I slap down the price of a book to get depressed?” Another unmarried friend who is also caring for an aging mother said, “I wouldn’t buy it. What am I supposed to do with that kind of information once I have it?” For women like them, delaying childbearing isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

All this searching for answers may reap results, may help publicists and publishers and authors determine cause and effect so that this syndrome can be avoided in the future.

The problem lies in the fact that this soul-searching and hullabaloo was misdirected. Even Hewlett says, “I don’t know what to make of this absence of huge sales.” One can see her shaking her head in disbelief. If someone with her research skills can’t figure it out, can anyone? It may be the economy, stupid. Or retailing. Or the book biz.

It’s surely something completely out of the author’s control unless someone had thought to run the idea by a focus group of career women the age of the book’s expected audience. In the publishing industry, the term “beta reader” is often associated with this kind of research, but it must be accompanied by hard questions posed to the readers and that seems to entail some notion of unforeseen exigencies.

That seems like a bit of a conundrum, don’t you think? To do that, a similar trial I might run for my The Frugal Book Promoter might miss the mark for brand new authors because a large percentage still might be operating on decades-old ideas of what big publishers will do in terms of marketing! If that hadn’t occurred to me or my publisher, we wouldn’t have asked the hard question!

But, I think the most valuable lesson that can be learned with the Quest kind of rejection—any kind, really—is that it is not personal, that it pays to search for the lesson even after the fact.

We must keep the faith, keep writing, and keep publicizing, because if we don’t, we’ll never know if a book—or a career—was given the best possible chance at success.

Here’s what I know for sure. I now fear publishing less. If my faith should slip a tad, I know it need not be fatal. I know those things thanks to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

This article was originally published at:


Author and Book Marketer

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. She taught editing and marketing classes at UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and carefully chooses one novel she believes in a year to edit.

The Frugal Editor ( award-winner as well as the winner of Reader View’s Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the coveted Irwin award. She appears in commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Disney Cruises (Japan), and Time-Life CDs and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences.


Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of.

Send me an email at: (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable and marketable shape today!

Rather do it yourself? Check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


Writing and Point of View: Two Must-Know Elements

Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

Are You Overthinking Your Story?

Social media sharing
Nov 15

8 Must-Know Tips to Get Your Book Visible for Free

Are you thinking about writing a children’s book? Or, maybe you have one published already.

Well, unless you’ve written a book for ‘your eyes only’ or maybe your family’s, you’ll want to make your book visible. You’ll want as many people as possible to see what you’ve written.

This is especially true if you want to sell any of your books. You’ll want to actively generate visibility.

So, how do you do this?

Promotion, promotion, promotion…

Promoting your book is the only way to create visibility. And, as many have limited funds and can’t afford to pay a publicist or marketer, you need to look at strategies that are affordable or free.

In addition to the very basic strategies of creating a marketing plan which should include the book’s cover, how you’ll self-publish, and where your book will be sold, there are at least eight book marketing strategies that are free and sure to help create visibility for you and your author platform.

These tips are just as important if you’re traditionally publishing.

Eight FREE Strategies to Help Create and Increase Your Visibility

  1. Before your book is even published, create an author website.

I realize a number of new authors don’t want to be bothered with a website, especially if writing books isn’t something you intend to continue. But it does make a difference. It makes you look professional and it’s the place you will lead potential buyers to.

Let people know what your book is about. Maybe put tidbits from the book or books. Write about your writing, publishing, and book marketing process and experiences.

Preferably you will want to post to your site regularly even if it’s just once a month. You want it to be active for the search engines and for those who visit.

For more on why you need an author website you can read:

The Author Website – Do You Really Need One?

2. Create your own social media campaign.

This is where your website comes in handy. Post about your book and share your posts to your social media networks.

If you absolutely don’t want a website, at least post to your social media networks about your book.

Tip: If you use social media to promote your book, don’t forget to share other users’ content. Social media is about engaging others and making connections.

In addition to this, it’s a good idea to provide some useful information to users.

For example, my middle grade fantasy, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale. If I were to use social media just for promotion of my book, I’d post about things that relate to the book – maybe about dragons or the ancient Chinese culture of the time period of the book.

It’s about giving and engaging, not just promoting the book

Numbers 3-8 are tips for after your book is published.

3. Go to your local library and give the librarian a copy. Ask if she will carry your book. You can also ask if you can give a workshop or presentation on writing and/or on getting a book published.

4. Contact your local newspapers and ask if they will do a feature on you. Local papers look for local news. Having an author in the neighborhood is news. When my book, Day’s End Lullaby, became available, my local paper did an article on the book and on me. It was great exposure.

5. Join groups and forums that focus in the area you write. Social networking is a wonderful way to increase visibility. There are also many marketing groups you can join to increase your book marketing knowledge.

6. Post reviews of books you’ve read on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari.

This is another useful marketing tool that will increase your visibility and build your author platform.

7. Submit your book to reviewers. This is a great marketing tool. Having good reviews to post on your site, and sites such as Amazon, is an important aspect to selling books, and selling books is what book marketing is all about.

People are influenced by the recommendations of others.

There are also sites like The New Book Review to post your reviews to. Just read the guidelines.

Get your friends and family involved too – ask them to read your book and post reviews to the above sites.

Be careful with Amazon though. Sometimes they won’t allow the review if you’ve posted to a number of other ‘review’ sites. And, sometimes they may stop a review if the reviewer didn’t buy the book.

Ask the reviewer to include a simple note at the end of the review explaining that s/he received a free book and the review is completely impartial.

You might also keep up with Amazon’s guidelines.

8. Create a signature for your emails. This signature is another means of allowing your platform to take root and create visibility for your book. Include your website’s URL, the name of your book/s, and maybe the sales page link.

You might also include your primary social media tag or URL to help build your network.

Use these tips and get started making your book visible today.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need help with ghostwriting or rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


Self-Publishing: 3 Perks and 4 Warnings

What is an Author Platform – How Do You Build It?

Small Home-Grown Book Publishers – Good or Bad?

Social media sharing

May 31

Book Marketing On a Budget for Your Newly Published Book

I write a lot about writing a book and only occasionally about marketing your book.

Within one week, I self-published a nonfiction book on writing for children, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book, and had a traditionally published picture book released, The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman.

Dealing with one book being published is tough enough, two is a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re writing another story, or two, or three.

The purpose of this article is to emphasize how important it is to market your book. If you don’t, you won’t get any sales and just as bad, no one will read a story you’ve slaved over.

The other purpose is to explain the strategies I used, am using, and will use to promote my book.


  1. Your Website’s Book Page

As soon as my books were available for sale, I added them to my Books’ page on my website.

I also included links to the sales pages.

For the self-published book, I linked to the Amazon sales page.

For the traditionally published book, I linked to my Publisher’s author page for me.

To find out why I won’t link my traditionally published book to Amazon, you might read this:

Amazon, Your Book, And Third-Party Sellers

It’s important to note that you can and should do pre-publication promotion.

Let people know you have a book coming out. Give tidbits about the book to whet the reader’s appetite.

I didn’t do this as everything happened too fast and I had too much on my plate.

  1. Video / Book Trailer

I created a video for my nonfiction book.

I have a paid subscription with Powtoons – that’s how I make my videos. You can add music and/or a voice over.

They also have a free plan that gives you 60 seconds for your video.

I intend to create a video (book trailer) for my children’s picture book also.

  1. Author Interview

My publisher for the picture book did an author interview with me:

You can check it out here:

Interview with Karen Cioffi – The Case of the Plastic Rings

I promoted the interview through my social networks.

You can also ask peers or others who have a ‘relevant to your book genre’ website if they’d be willing to do an interview with you.

  1. Reviews

Reviews help sell books.

I asked around for peers and others who would review my books and post their reviews to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

For this, you’ll need to send a PDF of the book or send a print copy if the reviewer requests it.

You can also find people who review books online.

Ask the reviewer if you can post the review on your website also.

Again, reviews help sell books.

  1. A Press Release

When I have a chance, I’ll write a press release for each of the books and ask fellow authors if they’ll put it up on their sites.

I’ll also post it to a press release distribution service.

There are free press release sites that you can upload the release to.

Here’s a a list of 60 free PR distribution sites.

6. A Book Website

When I get a chance, I may create a separate website for The Case of the Plastic Rings, it’s the first of a three-book series.

I have separate sites for my other two children’s fiction books, Walking Through Walls and Day’s End Lullaby.

Or, thinking about it, I may add full-detail pages for all my books to my writing for children website instead.

Keeping everything in one spot (on one website) has its advantages.

I’m not sure yet. Maybe I’ll do both.

  1. Social Media

As soon as the books were available for sale, I posted about them to my social media accounts.

Currently, I’m using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. I may also create an Instagram account.

  1. Encourage Affiliate Marketing

A writer friend has an affiliate account with Amazon and will be happy to promote my press release.

If a friend or peer has an affiliate account with Amazon, they have a bit more incentive to help promote your book.

They get a small payment for every book that’s sold from their Amazon affiliate link. It’s not much, but if you can do volume, it can add up.

  1. Using PayPal’s Buy Buttons

If you’re self-publishing and your book is on Amazon. Rather than sell through them, you can use PayPal Buy Buttons on your website.

That’s what I did.

You can see how it works here:

Why did I do this?

In case you didn’t read the article I provided about Amazon and 3rd-party sellers, the gist of it is that Amazon allows 3rd-party sellers to sell your book.

My nonfiction book just came out and there are 3rd-party sellers selling it through Amazon. I set the price of the paperback at $14.95 but it’s being sold from $14.95 to $25. It’s crazy.

These 3rd-party sellers do the same thing with traditionally published books which is why I link to the publisher’s selling page rather than Amazon’s.

There’s no way to know where those 3rd-party sellers are getting the books from – they may be bootlegged. This means the author and publisher don’t get the money they should from the sale.

Hope this gives you ideas for your own book marketing journey.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need ghostwriting or rewriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

Apr 23

6 Book Marketing Tips Sure to Boost Your Author Online Platform

Book PromotionSo, you’re an author. That’s great. But, just writing books isn’t enough – you’ve got to promote you and your books.

The first step to doing this is to have yearly, monthly, and weekly book marketing goals. With goals, you know where you’re heading and can work toward that end.
Marketing goals can be considered a marketing plan and it will have a number of steps or objectives that must be set in motion and accomplished.

To market your book, you need to generate visibility for you and your platform. Six of the bare basic online marketing strategies to increase you visibility are:

1. Create a presence and platform.

Creating an online author presence and platform is initiated by creating a website. First though, you’ll need to be sure of your niche because the domain name, site title, and content should reflect your niche and/or your area of expertise.

Remember, plan first. Choose a domain name and title that will grow with you. As an example, if you choose a site name, Picture Books with [Your Name], you’ve limited yourself. What if your next book is a chapter book or young adult, or other?

As part of your book marketing strategy, you should also create a ‘hub’ site that will act as the center to your offshoot sites, such as the individual sites for each of your books.

Leave room to grow; it’s always advisable to use your name as the hub site’s title, or part of it.

In addition, with today’s gone-in-a-second attention span, it’s a good idea to keep your site simple. Marketing expert Mike Volpe of points out that it’s more important to spend time, and money if necessary, on content rather than a flashy website design; simple works.

Google verifies this ‘simple is better’ strategy and notes that milliseconds count in regard to your page load time. In fact, Google gives a ‘poorer’ score to pages that are slow to load.

Sites that take a few seconds or more to load may also cause you to lose potential subscribers and buyers.

TIP: You should have an author website up and running before you start submitting you manuscript to publishers or before you self-publish.

2. Increase visibility.

Writing content, blog posts, for your readers/visitors is the way to increase visibility – content is definitely still King. Provide interesting, informative, and/or entertaining content that will prompt the reader to come back and, just as important, to share your article.

Also, be sure your content is pertinent to your site, and keep your site and content focused on your platform.

3. Draw traffic to your site with blogging.

To draw traffic to your site, promote your posts by using social media. You should also include guest blogging. This will increase your visibility reach.

This is considered organic marketing; it funnels traffic back to your site with valuable content and free offers.

TIP: When using social media, choose two or three networks and ‘work’ them. It’s important to be active on the networks you promote your books on.

For more on using social media as part of your book marketing strategy check out:
The Social Media Marketing Smorgasborg

4. Create effective call-to-actions.

Your site must have call-to-action keywords that will motivate readers to visit and click on your links. Keywords and phrases to use include:

– Get your Free gift now for subscribing
– Free e-book to offer on your own site
– Buy Now
– Get Access Now
– Get Started Today
– Join for Free
– Don’t hesitate, take advantage of our expert services
– Be sure to Bookmark this site
– Become a better writer – tips right to your inbox
– Are you blogging wrong? Find out how to do it right!
– Know what email marketing is? Find out here!

You get the idea, motivate the reader to want what you’re offering and give him/her a CLEAR and VISIBLE call-to-action. Make it as simple as possible for the visitor to buy what you’re offering.

You can also check out this article from Hubspot for more ideas on CTAs:
Great Call-to-Action Examples

5. Develop a relationship with your readers.

It’s been noted that only 1% of first time visitors will buy a product. Usually, only after developing a relationship through your newsletter, information, and offers will your potential customer or client click on the BUY NOW button or other call-to-action you have in place.

While it will take some time and effort to implement and maintain these strategies, it will be worth it in the long run. Think of it as a long-term investment.

6. Create an ebook for increased visibility and opt-in enticement.

Another strategy is to offer your readers an ebook relevant to your niche. This will help to increase your usefulness to the reader and help establish your authority.

As an author, you might offer a chapter of your book in ebook format.

So there you have it – six tips that will help you generate visibility and boost your book marketing results.

Articles on writing for children

The Front Matter – Before the Story Text Begins
Building a Writing Career Takes Practice and Focus
The Author Platform – You Definitely Need One and It Should Have Been Started Yesterday


Along with being a children’s author and ghostwriter, I’m an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Build Your Author/Writer Platform

Karen Cioffi will show you how to build your author platform

This e-class is 4-weeks, in-depth, and interactive. It covers all the tools you’ll need to build visibility and traffic, and boost sales.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW to check out all it includes!

If you want to check out other classes I offer, check out:



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