Traditional Publishing

How to market and promote your books

By Jeffrey Sussman
President, Jeffrey Sussman, Inc. – Wednesday August 30, 2017

Every author and every publisher wants to sell as many books as possible. Each may try a variety of tactics as well as resort to conventional means of publicity, but results often fall short of expectations. It is one reason why publishers make significant profits from only a small fraction of the books they publish. And the vast numbers of authors cannot count on royalties to support themselves. What to do?

Here are several examples that have helped publishers increase the quantity of sales and have even helped self-published authors make money from their books.

A number of years ago, Workman Publishing hired me to publish a book about Brooklyn. It had contributions from well-known artists and writers. I decided to conduct a contest in which I asked several hundred Brooklyn residents to identify the individual who best represented qualities that were typical of what was good about Brooklyn. The person who received the majority of votes was Senator Chuck Schumer. I notified the senator’s press secretary that his boss had been chosen as a person who best represented the qualities that made Brooklyn as a special place to live. The senator agreed to attend the publication party which was to be held at an art gallery in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. I notified the media of the event via a media alert. The senator arrived and delivered a powerful and engaging speech that captivated an audience of about hundred people. The next day, a photo of the senator appeared in several local newspapers holding the cover of the book as well as a polo shirt with the book’s cover emblazoned on it. Book sales shot through the publisher’s expectations.

On another occasion, a book about how women should dress on dates, at the office, and at parties was languishing on the shelves of booksellers; if not sold, it would soon be returned to publishers.  I made a deal with a national chain of women’s clothing stores to offer the book as a premium incentive to shoppers who spent $150. The chain bought several thousand copies of the book which were given to customers.

Several years ago, the author of a self-published book about Easter was having a difficult time selling copies. We turned the book’s cover into an Easter greeting card, and we arranged with a religious publisher to purchase a large quantity of cards. The publisher offered the cards as a special Easter holiday bargain and sold out its entire inventory. Each card carried a website address for my client’s book; and if customers had purchased the cards, they were entitled to a 15% discount on the cost of the book.

In 1984, I had been retained to promote the World Almanac and Book of Facts, which had been published for 105 years at that time. The Almanac ran a contest for junior high school students called the Heroes of Young America. The contest had previously resulted in rock and movies stars winning the top position; however, that didn’t result in significantly increased sales. That year, I saw that the pope and the president were on the list, though not in the top position. I sent a letter to the White House, letting them know that President Reagan had been voted a hero of young America. Since he was running for re-election in 1984, I suggested that publicizing his position as hero of junior high school students would prove positive. His office agreed, and the publisher and I were invited to the White House to present President Reagan with a plaque naming him a hero of young America. A press release and photo of the presentation was sent to news organizations around the country. The ensuing publicity was more than we had hoped. Next on the list was the pope. We couldn’t afford to present a plaque at the Vatican, so we made arrangements to present plaque to New York’s Cardinal O’Conner  to present to the pope on his next visit to the Vatican. A photo and press release were sent to every Catholic newspaper and magazine and every Catholic college in North America. The result of our activities was that the World Almanac rose to number one on the New York Times paperback best-seller list. Thereafter, the Times even published an article that the Almanac had not only made it onto the best-seller for the first time in 105 years, but also that it had risen to the number one position.

Last year, I was retained to help an author who had written a book about how a double mastectomy had destroyed her career as a top fashion model and how it affected her family. I arranged for a number of articles to be published under her byline in national health and fitness magazines; each of the articles was about how to maintain one’s fitness after surgery and while undergoing chemotherapy. In addition, articles appeared in meditation publications about the value of meditation during chemo and recovery. Each of the many articles had a link to a website for the book. In addition, one of the articles led to the author being hired as a keynote speaker for a national fitness association that purchased copies of the book to be sold to its members. Altogether, she continued to sell books on her road to recovery.

One of my clients was a former minister who had become disaffected about religion. He wrote a moving account of his own experiences and how he had lost his faith. We established an organization for people who no longer believed in their various religions and needed to speak with others who felt similarly. We established multiple city organizations around the country where people could get together and talk candidly about their experiences. Each person who joined such groups was offered the opportunity to buy the former minister’s book and nearly all of them did so.

Marketing and PR are essential elements for authors and publishers. Without those elements,  books would languish unread in warehouses, and only friends and relatives of authors would know of their books.  With a creative and well-executed PR/marketing campaign, an author can enjoy significant sales. One should not light a candle and hide it under a barrel. Each author should shine a spotlight on the book that required months of devoted hard word: writing, editing, getting it published.

Whether one uses a public relations - marketing professional, or takes advantage of one's own creativity, one should develop a strategic PR/marketing plan that will be effective in producing results. Not to do so means that one’s book will not find the audience for which it was written.

About the Author

Jeffrey Sussman is president of Jeffrey Sussman, Inc. a marketing public relations firm in New York City. He is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling POWER PROMOTING: How To Market Your Business to the Top! His website is and his e-mail is