The New York Times today (May 13, 2007) wrote an article exploring why some books become best-sellers and some don’t.

They made a few good points:

1. The book industry is based on intuition. No one does any market research to find out what people are interested in reading.

2. The book industry lives on its back list — books that were best-sellers and classics, as well as the break out books in the current year.

3. Many people try to write the same book, like the Secret, but only the Secret broke out to sell millions.

So I asked myself, “What other factors contribute to success?”

Here’s a starting point. Remember, I wrote six books for John Wiley & Sons, so I know and have helped more than 2,500 authors get publicity with my PR LEADS service:

1. Having a platform. You must market your books your self. No publisher has a clue how to attack a market the way my best clients have done. You need publicity, a blog, a newsletter and any other way to reach people who really care about your message on a regular basis. Without that, you are dead in the water.

2. Do research. Just because you have a calling to write a book doesn’t mean there’s a market for it. In my days as a high-tech publicist, I’d cringe when a new prospect would tell me they created another spreadsheet program. The world didn’t need another spreadsheet that was 1 percent incrementally better than what was out there. Ask the market what they need, and give it to them. That very well could involve surveying your list of customers, or surveying a traditional mailing list to find large markets that would be interested in your message. Any good list broker would be willing to share their insights into their markets with you.

3. Promote the book like crazy. Nothing happens without awareness. It is up to you to create that awareness.

Recommended Services:

PR LEADS can put you in touch with reporters who are writing articles about your field. 2,500 happy clients can’t be wrong. See other posts on this blog to see recent success for clients, and the PR LEADS website for hundreds of testimonials.

Low cost press release services like ExpertClick can distribute your press releases to thousands of reporters and make sure Google indexes your press releases so reporters will find them.

If you want to hire a PR firm, go right ahead. But ask them to prove that they have the contacts you need. In today’s email-overloaded world, reporters will only respond to PR people and experts they know on a first-name basis. Find a the PR firm that has those contacts and you will have made a good investment. Email me if you need recommendations, but be very specific about what you are looking for and what you are trying to accomplish. A client who has unrealistic expectations will have disastrous results.

What tactics have you found that helped sell books? I’ll post the best responses.

Dan Janal
Your Fearless PR LEADER
PR LEADS Expert Resource Network