How book design and book marketing keep your book alive

Too many authors spend all their time writing and then cut back on book design and book marketing. They hope their publisher takes care of all the details of book design and book marketing so they can sit back year after year and bring in the millions.

If those same authors then decide to self-publish, they will quickly get lost in the quagmire of print-on-demand publishers and the time and money gap of self-publishing. In fact, most authors would rather die than think about book marketing or spend money on book design.

Facing Your Book Marketing Competition

According to Bowker, who collects publication statistics, about 172,000 books were published with an ISBN number in 2005. An ISBN number will get you into Books in Print, and your book can be distributed to bookstores and online sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. According to some sources, nearly a quarter of these books were printed by Print-on-Demand (POD) companies.

I would estimate that number to be much higher, as many small publishers have their books printed by Lightning Source, which also handles many of the larger POD companies.

In addition, Lulu Press, which publishes more than 1,500 books a week, says that only about 5% of their books are given an ISBN. That’s another 80,000 books on the market every year, though most of Lulu’s books are only sold on their website, Lulu Press.

The definition of “bestseller” has changed.

It only takes 300 book sales to make it onto Lulu’s top 100 bestsellers list of all time. 300 books! For some people, that can be accomplished simply by selling books to their extended family. While AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and other major players in the POD market may be printing more books with ISBNs, their sales records aren’t much better.

Some sources estimate that the average book sells no more than 150 copies, and other sources estimate that number at fewer than 50 copies. In many cases, authors lose money on their books, which is why Lulu Press is so popular. At Lulu, you can upload your book’s interior and cover (you do all the design work), and you’ll have a book on your doorstep in a matter of days—all for the “printing costs” (which are very high, by the way).

The services and prices of POD companies vary widely, which is why we are in the final stages of creating a comprehensive guide to self-publishing. It can be a confusing morass of information and data with many unsubstantiated claims. The truth will be revealed.

Will you be one of the winners, or part of the majority?

Will your book be dead before it hits the streets? If you plan to sell more than 50 books, you will need to invest time—and money—in producing and marketing your book. Here are the basic steps to consider:

1. Create a great book with an audience.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that people read their books just because they’re “good.” People will read a book if it either applies to their lives (non-fiction), or if it’s a really good book (fiction). Even then, you need to market your book. “How to sell a book” or “How to market a book” are two of the most frequently asked questions we get, and search engine analysis shows these are common search terms. If you didn’t write your book with an audience in mind, then you’re sitting on three legs on your four-legged marketing stool.

2. Spend some money on book design and editing.

The second leg of book marketing is the interior and exterior design of the book. People judge a book by its cover, so if you don’t spend some money on an excellent cover, you lose business. Then people will open the book and read the introduction or the first few pages. Is it well written? Easy to read? Is the interior book design clean, consistent, and well implemented? I’ve seen a lot of POD books where the margins were too small, the fonts poorly chosen, and the images blurry. Who is going to buy such a book?

There are many great book cover designers out there. Then contact Charity at Mighty Pen Editing for your editing needs before editing. Don’t skimp on the editing, because you WILL make mistakes (trust me on this-there are probably a few in this article).

3. Select a high-quality publisher.

Lulu Press is great if you just want to print a few books for your friends or make an inexpensive galley to send to editors, agents, or distributors. You are often asked to send a “galley” of your book. This is simply a printed copy of your book with a blank cover. Lulu Press is great for making galleys at a minimal cost.

As we’ll show you in our forthcoming comprehensive guide to self-publishing, which POD company you choose will depend on your intentions and desires. If you want to have your book professionally edited and the cover professionally designed by your publisher (rather than outsourcing it to an unknown person), companies like Cold Tree Press may be a good choice. Other companies offer a varied level of marketing packages. Personally, I’d rather not have these publishers market my book and instead go to a good book marketing expert or media specialist.

But there are a few small publishers (like Cold Tree Press or Arbor Books) that have excellent book marketing packages ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars (you get what you pay for!).

4. Approach book marketing with no holds barred.

Spend some money on publicity and book marketing if your book is your life or an important part of your business marketing plan. Too many people, especially business people, write a book, put a page on their website (and on Amazon) and hope they sell something. Your book is like a 250-page business card and should be used accordingly.

If your book is your life story or a novel, you will still have to spend some money on marketing, although your approach will be different. Be sure to check in with a media relations specialist (Marika Flatt at or a book marketing specialist (Penny Sansevieri).

5. Market Your Book on the Internet.

The old ways of marketing books, such as book tours, are dead and gone. Sure, you can still do them, but if you really want to sell books, you need to go online — and not quietly.

Use techniques such as blogging (blogging), podcasting, and videocasting (something like online infomercials). Be sure to check out the advanced book marketing teleseminar series at http://www.writeandpublishyourbook.comYou should also learn how to do a virtual book tour (a class that Penny Sansevieri will teach through Write and Publish Your Book).

So write a great book, find a good book cover designer and book editor, partner with a quality publisher, market your book, and use the internet to market your book with podcasts, blogging (an author’s blog), videocasts, and virtual book tours .