Publish or Perish. No, no, no…Market or Perish - Part Two

In the previous post, Edward Trayer (a.k.a Billy Bob Buttons) wrote that the best time to consider how you will market the book is before you have written the first word. Today he continues with some specifics to consider and more of his reasoning on why a marketing plan can’t be an after-thought.

I sold thousands of my first set of books all about a girl called Felicity Brady who finds a magic bookshop (Felicity Brady and the Wizard’s Bookshop), and I realistically plan to sell 6,500 Gullfoss Legends in the next academic year. But to do this I must do a colossal amount of marketing. This is helped by the fact I already had a market in mind i.e. schools, prior and during the writing of the novel.

But if you too wish to market your children’s book to schools then STOP! THINK! There’s an awful lot to do. You can’t just pop in the school, set up a table in the hall and sign away. First, you must persuade the literacy co-ordinators to allow you to visit. This is no easy task! I offer free literacy workshops - this gets me in the door - but I’m an ex-secondary school English teacher so I (sort of) know what I’m doing. Also, if you suffer from stage fright, this might not be the route for you. I visit approx. 200 primary schools in the UK a year and I talk to small groups of children (20 or so) and large groups of children (up to 1,000!) so it’s important you enjoy being stared at by so many critical eyes. And my job in these workshops is not just to educate; I must entertain too. Basically, my job is to get them to laugh, and by doing so, get them to learn (and buy a book too).

I no longer teach; I’m a full-time author, so I guess my workshops must be a success. I think (hope) they get better and better. Last year I spoke to over 27,000 children just in London. My secret formula to a good workshop for kids: energy; lots and lots of energy. I do get fantastic feedback from teachers and pupils and they do buy a lot of my books. And doing this: writing and giving workshops; well, I would not give it up for anything. Half of my life is spent writing and half in front of a hall full of kids. Wonderful fun!

Knowing the market for your book also helps when you’re looking for a publishing contract with the ‘Big Boys!’ Often a publisher wants to know how you, the author, see the market for your book. If you can confidently tell them you planned and wrote the book with an affluent market in mind then Bob’s y’ uncle and y’ best pal too. Even better if you self published your book and now with so many orders flooding in you need help!

I understand many authors believe a book is sacred and the idea of a marketing plan prior to writing it is sacrilege. I guess Tolkien did not have multi-million dollar films in mind when he wrote The Lord of the Rings, and nor did C S Lewis when Aslan growled in his mind. But we live and write now, and now is a much more competitive world with wild, hungry packs of authors all juggling for shelf space and a publishing contract. So think market. I knew prior to writing The Gullfoss Legends that there was a tourist centre by the Gullfoss waterfall. Now, there’s my market, I thought, and happily, they ordered a truck-full.

Just a note on bookshops. Personally I think most of them want too big a cut and frankly, unless you do a book signing or your novel hits it big, your book will be lost on a tiny shelf in a dusty, slightly cobwebby corner of the shop. The trick to self publishing is to sell direct and the trick to selling direct is to identify a market you can tap directly in to. No greedy middle men!

Finally, the title of the book. These days, think Google and think Amazon. Do not choose a title that will get lost in the vast world of the internet. For example, if you decide to call your new fantasy book, ‘The Wizard and His Magic Wand!’ then anybody looking for your book who puts the title in Google will be met with an eye-popping 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 hits (most of them probably rather unusual and very creative porn!). With The Gullfoss Legends, Gullfoss is a word which is only associated with the waterfall in Iceland I’m writing about. Consequently, there are hundreds, not trillions of hits for ‘Gullfoss’ on Google so my book has a chance of being discovered on the first page or two of the results.

So, if you want to self publish your novel, wonderful! The very best of luck to you. But if you want to sell it and sell it ‘BIG!’ then you can’t just be a writer, you must be a very enterprising entrepreneur too. And the time to be that entrepreneur is when you plan the book. Basically, first think ‘Market’ and then think ‘Book’.

Billy Bob Buttons, the pen name of Edward H Trayer, is the author of six independently published books and the organizer of The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards (, the first independent book award based in the UK. Visit his website:

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