I recently received an email from someone asking what angle he should take in promoting an older release. It was one of those situations where he’d sold the first book to a big publisher and a year later, sales were lagging…right as he was wanting to pitch books two and three to the publisher.
Unfortunately, this is a drawback with traditional publishing—if the sales aren’t great, then they’re not going to be keen on buying book two and launching it. Even though…launching book two can bring book one back to life again.
What do you do if they don’t buy book two (you’ve probably got a “right of refusal” clause in your contract that will tell you how long it will be before they make that decision.) You have, actually, a couple of options to get your other books in front of readers.
You could pitch another traditional publisher with book two. This pitch would probably be more successful with a bump in sales for book one (and I’ll touch on promo ideas below).
You could ask for the rights to your characters back and then self-publish the remaining books in your series. Incidentally, this has been my approach and the sales for the first book in the series have remained strong for a year now. This, as a matter of fact, might be the better option (i.e…this is what I would do.)
Let’s say that you’ve chosen one of those two options above. Exactly how do you promote an older book?
Don’t even mention that it’s not a recent launch. As far as I can tell…it just doesn’t matter. Back before digital books, shelf space at bookstores was fairly ephemeral. You needed to promote your book directly after it released…otherwise, they’d send the books back to the publisher (the dreaded ‘returns’) and free up shelf space for other, newer titles. Now the books stay up on a retail cloud as long as you want them to. Why not promote them a year or two years later? I see older releases promoted every day. Yeah, your title might not be as exciting for book bloggers as the hottest new release, but it shouldn’t ultimately matter. A good book is a good book. If it’s undiscovered, it’s not old news. Consider a blog tour or a Goodreads giveaway. A spike in sales and reviews for the title is never a bad thing.
Write more books in the series (if you have the rights and if you’re choosing the self-pub option). This results in higher visibility for your name and your titles on retailers like Amazon. Then your previous title comes along for the ride.
Create a platform where you interact in readers without being strident. Learn which are your favorite social media sites…are you more of a Twitter person or a Facebook person? What about Pinterest? Would you enjoy blogging? You don’t have to go crazy with it…just have some sort of consistent online presence in a form that doesn’t drive you nuts. Interact with others, share things your followers have shared, make friends, and build a name for yourself.
My favorite? Definitely continuing a series by self-publishing it. You have more control and have the opportunity to have Amazon’s “customers who bought this, also bought this” algorithm to work in your favor. It’s all a matter of visibility in a very crowded virtual bookstore.
How about a much older book? What about a book that came out in the 70s or 80s? If you’ve got the rights to those books, they might as well be available for sale…they have the potential to bring in additional income. You’ll need some new, updated cover art (usually the cover art doesn’t revert to the author anyway…at least, it didn’t in my case for my 2009 book.) You’ll need to hire someone to format the book for digital release and/or print on demand (unless you want to learn how to do it yourself…I didn’t.) Hopefully, the editing was good the first time around at your traditional publisher. You have the option of updating the book’s text—or not. It could be a charming snapshot of life in a different decade. Or you could tweak it to make it appear to have been set in the modern day. As author and publisher—it’s all up to you. You’ve got total creative control.
Have you had any success re-launching an older book?