Chip MacGregor

July 19, 2012

Thursdays with Amanda: How to Promote Old Titles


Amanda Luedeke Literary AgentAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.

Today, we’re going to gear things a bit more toward published authors and, for the time being, away from strictly talking platform-marketing. Today, we’re going to talk a bit of book marketing, thanks to Tina’s question:

I once heard MJ Rose say we shouldn’t stop promoting past novels. She even told a story about a guy who promoted his book for two years after a publisher dropped theirs and he sold an amazing 100,000 copies.

It seems even more important to promote when we are in between novels, but I don’t want to beat people over the head.  At the same time, I feel like I need to keep promoting my writing to keep from disappearing from the industry. Thoughts?

The simple answer (in my opinion), is yes. You should continue to promote all of your books. Lets talk numbers, here…

You write a book. The publisher gives you $10,000 as an advance. The book comes out. It almost earns out that advance before the publisher wants to do another book. They give you another $10,000. In the course of one year, or so. You’ve made $20,000. Not too shabby, but it’s still not a solid income.

At this point, most authors stop focusing on their old book and focus on their new one. New is exciting! Fresh! It’s a way to start over! And maybe earn out that advance!

But let’s think about this…your first book is almost going to earn out. That means, once the publisher recoups the $10k, you’re going to start seeing royalty money come in. If you drop the book altogether, chances are it will go out of print, and you haven’t made a single dollar on it past the $10k you were given. BUT if you continue to promote the book, not only will you see better sales numbers, but you’ll start earning money without putting in much effort.

This is how financially sound writing careers are made…when you make your books work for you, instead of you working for your books.

Royalty money is the best money in the business. It’s literally money for something you’ve already written, already sweated over, already made personal sacrifices for. And you don’t have to do much to keep those royalty checks coming in.

Another reason to promote your old books, is because most of your readers don’t own each book you’ve ever written! Sure, your die hard fans are going to have all your books, but a majority of your readers are people who have one, maybe two books of yours total. So if you’ve written five books, that means there’s 3-4 books they don’t have. And if you ask me, those should be the easiest sales to make!

How to promote you “old” books

1) Feature them on your website, social media pages, newsletters and book signing tables. Be unashamed and unhindered! When you’re talking with readers at a book signing, talk up your old books (and have them on the table, ready to sell). When you’re designing your cover photo for Facebook, put your old books right up there with your new one. When you Tweet about your books, talk up the old ones just as much as you talk about the new one. When you blog about your books (or about themes in your books), don’t forget your old ones!

2) Build off your new release. Yes, you should protect the release of your new book. But after you’ve given your book 4-6 weeks, it makes sense to take all of that interest you’ve built up, and push it toward all your books.

3) Plan out the “in between” times. Let’s say you release a book every year in January. You promote it through March, but then run out of steam until October when you’re ramping up for your new book. That’s six months of dead time! Use it to promote old books. Give each book (old and new) between 2 weeks and a month in which you focus on it in all your social media. Cycle through your books over and over until it’s time to focus on a new book. Your schedule could look like this: April – old book 1; May – new book; June – old book 2: July – new book; August – old book 1; and so on.

When things gets tricky…

Many novelists who are making a living at this, are doing so by writing multiple books per year. They may have anywhere from three to five books coming out in 2012 alone, and on top of that, they do other writing.

It’s most difficult for those authors to make the switch and start promoting old books, because they naturally have to think about “what’s next” all the time. But my challenge to those authors would be to stop living advance to advance. Scale it back. Get to the point where you’re doing two books per year and have shifted your focus to promoting your 10+ books already in print. Then, see what happens. You may find you’re able to write better stories. You also may find that focusing on bringing in royalty money is easier and more profitable than cranking out a bazillion novels.

Just a thought 🙂

What thoughts or ideas do you have? What are the struggles of promoting old titles? What have you found works?

And for all you unpublished authors out there who dream of having this problem, what’s your game plan when you’re faced with chasing advances versus royalties?



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  • Great post…welcome to my life….:)

  • Thanks for answering my question, Amanda! The words that ring true for me are unashamed and unhindered. Those old titles are my babies, right? I’m going to keep promoting them while I’m in that in between stage. Thanks for the great tips. I’m sure your comments will be helpful to many other authors, as well. It’s great to finally have it addressed. 

  • Karen Cioffi says:

    I’ve read that you can tie your books, old and new, to current themes or holidays. Write a post about it, connecting it to your book. With holidays or other annual days, this gives a yearly opportunity to promote old titles.

    I’m a traditionally published children’s author and self-published nonfiction writer, but haven’t put this strategy to use yet. 🙂

    You can also do two for one deals to generate new interest.

    As you mention, the more books you have out, the more difficult this all becomes, but what a great problem to have. 🙂

  • Connie Almony says:

    I guess I see this as a no brainer. I have lots of friends who are now re-issuing out-of-print backlist books as ebooks. Fewer sales, but more percentage. I’m not published … yet, but one plan I have is to write series novels which point to previous books, hopefully piquing interest in the previous story. I also have ideas to use spin-off characters leading to a new set of series. We’ll see if it works :o).

  • Twobellesandabook says:

    Book giveaways are a great way to sustain buzz even for an old book. features CBA giveaways. 

  • Laurasmith says:

    Old books are part of an author’s identity. What if JK Rowling just ditched Harry Potter altogether because she has a new mystery coming out? I read excerpts from my books during author talks, discuss them on radio shows and highlight them on my website. I’ve been fortunate that my publisher has offered some of my old titles as free Kindle downloads. I use those promotional periods to majorly amp up my marketing. It gives me the excuse to contact reader bases and tweet & FB furiously – I mean it’s a freebie, who doesn’t like that? Meanwhile my hard sales go up during those periods, my Amazon rankings shoot up, it encourages more readers to try my books in the first place and then hopefully purchase the others as well. 

  • M.J. Rose says:

    Thanks for quoting me but just to be clear I don’t think 100,000 books is modest – it is amazing!

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