by Erin Mitchell
Congratulations! You’ve published a book! Now, if conventional marketing wisdom (using that term lightly) is to be believed, you have six weeks for people to buy the book. If it doesn’t sell in those first six weeks, all kinds of dreadful things will happen.
Only problem with this particular piece of marketing wisdon’t is that nobody told readers. You remember them….the people who buy books. With a few notable exceptions, they don’t necessarily or usually know or care when a book is released. They buy it when they’re ready to read it. And that can take a while.
Also, it can take time for a snowball to gather steam, for word of mouth to spread.
I just looked at the Top 20 Best Sellers in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon. This list changes frequently (as in, several times a day usually), but right at this moment, of these top 20, only 40% were published in the last six weeks. Another 20% came out in January-March this year. 10% were released in 2011. And a full 30% hit shelves in 2010 or earlier. In fact, one title was released in December, 2004.
I also spend a lot of time each Friday on the FridayReads Facebook page (because I’m the wizard behind that particular curtain). Granted, we see a ton of posts about the usual suspects—the last few weeks, 50 Shades has shown up in a lot of posts. But every week I also see hundreds of people reading older stuff—from classic Stephen King to Jane Austen, and just about everything in between you can imagine. I also get messages each week from readers who have discovered new-to-them books and series on the page.
I understand why publishers need to focus on those first six weeks. It makes perfect sense. But authors? Not so much. If you have a backlist, you have an opportunity. You talk about your stories and characters in between release dates. There was a time—feel like not long ago—when this made no marketing sense because getting an older book was such an arduous process, but thankfully, those days are gone. If I want to read that Jeffrey Archer from 2004, it takes but a few clicks to get myself a copy. Or if I decide it’s time to reread THE STAND (which, for those playing along, was first published in 1978), I need not fret, but instead just buy a copy on paper or screen.
Some savvy authors have recognized that they have a huge opportunity with backlist titles, and are rereleasing them theirowndamselves because the publishing rights have reverted back to them. Makes perfect sense to me, particularly for those who are prepared to put some marketing muscle behind these rereleases.
So…let’s say your magic first six weeks are up, and sales aren’t spectacular. Should you panic? Absolutely not. Far from it. You should make sure people know about your book. That those who like your story share their excitement. Whether you do it yourself or get help, don’t let your marketing efforts have a 6-week shelf life because your story will last far longer!