Publishing

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Harvey Mackay Says, “Just Do It – Publish Or Bust!”

All the money in the world can’t sell a bad book. But, many, many good books never see the light of day because of poor promotion. Remember, nothing sells itself. You must be passionately involved in the entire process for your book to get the shot it deserves. After publishing seven books, here are some of the lessons Harvey has learned.

  1. Hire an agent if at all possible. Self-publishing is certainly an option, but working with an agent will save you from having to learn all about book publishing yourself…the hard way. Good agents are worth every penny of the royalties you pay them. But be forewarned, you will probably have to sell an agent harder than they will ever have to work to sell the publisher.
  2. Interview everyone you know who is “in the know.” This includes agents, attorneys, writers, publishers, and booksellers. Each person will have tidbits of information that will help you become more educated about the world of books. Never assume that publishers know everything about publishing. And never assume that you know enough either.
  3. Find a great title. When I wrote my first book, I hired a creative team to hold focus groups to generate possible titles based on sample chapters. We inserted “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” among the 800 titles voted on in the final ballot. It won the vote, but until we tested it, I didn’t know if “Sharks” had legs.
  4. Add a sub-title. If your title hooks them, your sub-title has to reel them in. Buyers want to know what your book is about. Don’t leave a prospective reader guessing.
  5. Endorsements are critical. Seek endorsements from people with recognizable names or from recognizable organizations. Be sure to include various constituencies. Different readers will be impressed by different endorsers. Allow four to six weeks to receive them.
  6. Never send out galleys to endorsers. Instead, send a super-clean manuscript with a photocopy (in color) of your cover. They need the look and feel of a book to write a lively endorsement.
  7. Take part in design decisions. Do your homework. Study what colors people respond to on book covers. Find out which type styles and sizes are the most readable. Choose paper that is easy to handle and easy on the eyes.
  8. Take complete control of the copy inside the jacket cover. This is crucial marketing information that could turn a prospect into a buyer. It is not to be taken lightly.
  9. Consider your chapter titles. Make chapter titles fun, interesting, challenging, or quotable–anything to make the reader want to read further.
  10. An index is extremely helpful to the reader. It will also help you remember where you said what you said. Don’t be published without it.
  11. Consider having your own publicist. Although your publisher will assign a publicist to you, that person may be doing the publicity for dozens of other books at the same time. The focus and attention your own publicist will bring to the project are invaluable. Properly executed, this is the single most important strategy you can initiate. It will require an investment and willingness on your publisher’s part to coordinate with your own publicity efforts. It will also require an investment of dollars on your part. Do it. You’ll never regret it.
  12. Spend your own money. Few investments will pay back as well as the dollars spent on promoting your book. Remember, you have a short window of opportunity when the book first comes out to get it in front of every reader, reviewer, commentator and promoter you possibly can. Don’t blow it by being cheap. (Window of opportunity means 3-4 weeks maximum.)
  13. Hold a launch party in your own city. Hold a gala book signing party at an influential local bookstore to which you can invite friends, relatives, friends of friends, acquaintances, associates, well wishers, heck, even nay sayers. As long as they come to the party, buy a book and give you the pleasure of signing it, all are welcome. It’s good for the bookstore, great for your book, and an unforgettable feeling.
  14. Go all out on the book tour. Most publishers will plug you into ten to fifteen cities at most. Make it fifteen to twenty. Or better yet, twenty to thirty. And don’t forget the smaller cities. They don’t see as many famous authors in Fargo, and they’re sure grateful to the ones who come.
  15. Leave a remembrance for those who help you. This will eventually include hosts, tour coordinators, bookstore managers, and many others. I had “shark” lapel pins made that I kept in my pocket to give away. When I visited bookstores, every employee got one. And it wasn’t unusual to go back to a store days or weeks later and find someone still wearing their pin. Often, I’d also find my book featured prominently in the store’s window.
  16. Request free books for your own promotional use. You might be able to get free books, or buy books at a reduced rate, from your publisher to give out to radio and television hosts and bookstore owners.
  17. Write personal messages in books. People love autographed books, and appreciate receiving them as gifts. Take the time to personalize.
  18. Decide on a “killer” quote or phrase. Don’t use some dull, boring message when you sign books. Choose one that’s memorable and brings home your message.
  19. Send books to state and local libraries. They will appreciate receiving your book gratis and will be encouraged to read it, display it, and recommend it.
  20. Send out at least 100 books in the first forty-eight hours. Not to relatives, but to the most influential one hundred people you can think of who may be able to help promote it during those first critical weeks. This might include columnists, writers, executives, television and radio hosts, professional speakers, business page editors, and reviewers. Remember, word of mouth is essential.
  21. Do your homework. Use the Mackay 66 to profile the person who is going to interview you. The more you know about them, the most they’ll know you care about them. On “Larry King Live” I quoted from Larry’s own book “Tell It To the King.” Result? He kept me on the air for two full hours!! Learn something about the towns you will be visiting, or the show or publication that will be featuring you.
  22. Critique your own performance. Request an audio or video tape of any radio or television you do. No matter how experienced you become, there will always be room for improvement. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
  23. Make yourself quotable. Before being interviewed, memorize quotable quotes from your book that will liven up your answers and make you more entertaining.
  24. Carry a supply of thank you notes. “Thank you” is one of the most important underutilized phrases in the English language. Take thank you notes with you on the plane, the train, the bus, the subway, and in the car. Send a personal thank you to your host within twenty-four hours of any television, radio or print interview, or book signing. They’ll remember you for a long time. Maybe even until your next book comes out.
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