Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Don't Spend Too Much Energy on Book Marketing

My past few blogs have focused on marketing tactics. I thought it would be informative to have a somewhat different viewpoint on marketing this week. I much appreciate the wisdom offered by successful author and school visits expert Kim Norman (, who shares her thoughts on book marketing with you this week.
            “I now caution against spending too much time on promotion. I’m a little sadder but wiser from my own experiences with book marketing.
“I think it's just that without many MANY thosands of eyes on our book covers, over and over again, it's hard to affect a book's overall sales.

           “It's not just a matter of those eyes seeing the item only once. Most folks have to be exposed to that item several times over (I think there's a rule of seven) before they act and buy, the exception being events such as a Scholastic Book Fair where people are there with money in hand, prepared to buy.

          “That's why TV commercials run over and over again. Sales really do drop off when even the most annoying commercial stops running. Out of sight, out of mind.

          “Then there's the recognition factor, which is where the "stars" have it over us. Even if buyers haven't memorized an author's name, they'll respond to a blurb that says, "By the author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." I've seen this effect on my own school visit bookings this year. Invitations are up, and I think it's because of the wide distribution of my Ten on the Sled last year thanks to Sterling and Scholastic. If educators are shopping for an author to visit their school and land on my website, via a general Google search, these days I have that recognition factor working for me. They've never heard of me, but they'll say, "Hey, this lady wrote Ten on the Sled. My kids loves that book. Let's invite her!"

“When I published my first book, I worked much harder than I do now to promote it. Nothing seemed to work. None of the usual outlets reviewed it. That was one big blow to the book’s sales: librarians didn’t know it existed. I put up a website. That’s generally considered a must-do for everyone, though I not sure even a website is an absolute necessity if you’re not interested in doing school visits.”

Kim’s list of promotional tactics is long: She was Alice Pope’s first featured debut author when Pope launched the CWIM (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market) newsletter. She spent countless hours creating videos, networking, attending and submitting proposals to conferences, preparing for and doing school visits, creating a mailing list of area schools, teachers’ guides and a press kit, helping with writing and editing the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI newsletter, giving (poorly attended) book signings at libraries, filling her website with content, developing an author-school-visits website, writing a column for a children’s newspaper, and more. She did all that and her first book was remaindered after fourteen months.

Kim has now reduced her promotional efforts. She does not update her press kit because she has never used it. She does not bother much with Amazon other than keeping her author page updated, which shows her current books. (So, no Amazon lists, no asking friends for reviews. The published reviews from Kirkus and the like seem sufficient.) She is happy if a local newspaper wants to run an article, but she does not send press releases about her books and events because she feels that the number of books sold in response to a press release (likely NONE) will not equal the work spent keeping up with press releases.

Her advice is: “Don’t spend too much energy on marketing. There are so many factors out of your control that will affect the sales of your book. Spend MOST of your time writing good books. I’d estimate that you want to spend no more than 20% of your time on promotion. Maybe 25 or even 30% when you have a new book coming out. But as soon as that new book cools, get back to your new manuscript!”

More about Kim Norman, her books, advice for writers, and other resources can be found at: The home page also lists her blog site and her school visits site.


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Maggie. As someone with little time and/or money for marketing, I found this advice quite helpful.

  2. Thanks for this, Maggie, and Kim, too, for sharing your knowledge. I have suspected there was a point of optimal effort in terms of book promotion, and I am glad to hear that someone else has found this, too. I think a certain amount is important, but driving yourself too crazy with it is not!