Monday, April 18, 2011

HOW TO SELL 70 MILLION BOOKS-A CONVERSATION WITH JERRY JENKINS

We were delighted to have Jerry Jenkins visit Tate Publishing last week to discuss his future books, The Christian Writers Guild and Guide, and several other possibilities. We were honored he chose to come and discuss with us numerous options.

When it comes to selling books in the Christian publishing market, you won't find a much bigger name than Jerry B. Jenkins , co-author of the Left Behind series of books. Along with his co-author, Tim LaHaye, Jenkins has had 16 bestsellers in the series, with more than 70 million copies sold. To say Jenkins knows something about selling books is like saying a fish knows something about being wet.

Jenkins also heads the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, which offers courses geared toward helping aspiring writers perfect their craft. It was in this role that Jenkins visited the offices of Tate Publishing today to take a tour and see what our company was all about. It's not everyday you get to do a Q & A with an author who has sold 70 million books about what it takes to sell those books. Surely, there must be some secret, right?

When I am given the opportunity to ask an author like Jenkins questions about book promotion and marketing, I try to do it from the standpoint of an author trying to make it in the industry, not as someone who sells books for a living. With this introduction now out of the way, I will let Jenkins explain how things work in the publishing industry, in his own words (from notes taken during our meetings).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

"Too many authors think everything starts with their book. Starting your writing career with a book is like a five year old starting graduate school. Writers need to work up to their first book by writing articles and short stories and perfecting their craft."

What kind of expectations should a new author have with their first book?

"(New) authors are thoroughly unrealistic. They think that "if my book was just in a bookstore it would become a bestseller. If only I could get on Oprah." It takes word of mouth, telling people about your book, attending conferences, doing speaking engagements and getting the word out. Authors are going to do most of the work, and they need to. Publishers count on authors being the Number One salesperson. Nobody knows more about their book and can speak about it with more passion than the author."

Something that appeals to me about Tate Publishing is the personal attention they offer. This is a tough game, and if you are intimidated by the odds of making it in the publishing industry, this may not be the game for you. Use those long odds as a challenge to be one of the authors who do make it."

What is the difference between marketing your first book and promoting your more recent books?

"It really doesn't change. When Left Behind became a bestseller and was doing so well we just held on for dear life. Look at bestsellers as a season. They don't last, and one bestseller doesn't mean your next book is going to be a bestseller. Just because a book has my name on it or I wrote Left Behind doesn't mean it's automatically going to be a bestseller. It always takes work, speaking engagements and conferences. The work doesn't change regardless of success."

At this point, Jenkins' wife of 40 years, Dianna, pointed out that Jenkins hires his own publicists when it's time to promote another book.

What advice do you have for authors who are struggling with book sales?

Most authors miss it. They think most of the promotion starts at the beginning when the book is released. Most publishers stop promoting a book after six months to a year. New York publishers stop promoting after three months or less if the book doesn't take off. Then it's all on the author. When you still have 1,000 or 2,000 books left to sell, THAT'S the time to really start promoting. Hire a publicist. Get interviews. Speak at conferences. Connect with the audience with which you are an expert. Even if there are only 50 people there, that's 49 more people than you are talking to right now.

Nothing is going to happen automatically. Word of mouth is the best sales tool, and that should come from the author. There are no shortcuts."

Jenkins stated "If you are intimidated by the odds, you are in the wrong profession. It should be a motivation."

We were delighted to have Jerry here touring our campus, speaking to our staff, and sharing with us his visions and dreams. We look forward to working with him in the coming days.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I am new to your blog and just read Jerry Jenkins insightful interview and your other posts about writing and getting published. Thanks for spending your time providing such useful information and guidance to new writers. I have been writing for years but have just completed a YA book and am learning so much from agent, author and publisher blogs. Thanks for inspiring me.