Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – May 2018

by | May 10, 2018

By Amy Collins

At a writer’s conference last week, I met a number of authors who were pitching their books to agents and the media. This month’s DTNT is based on what I saw and heard.

What They Did

Writers tried to pitch their books for foreign rights, media attention, or for publishing deals without knowing enough about their genre’s strong sellers.

A number of the writers I met last week knew a LOT about THEIR books, but did not know enough about the books and authors that were driving their genre. I also met a number of very talented writers who were pitching editors, journalists, agents and publishers without a full understanding of what the editors, journalists, agents and publishers were looking for.

What I Suggest

No matter where you are in the publishing process, it is imperative that you become very well-versed in the industry and genre that you are working in.

In the book world, the difference between an author and a writer is that authors are writers who are willing to learn about and invest the time needed to fully understand the business of publishing. Authors are writers that do more than just write. They actively participate in the publishing process. That starts with learning about the authors and books that make up their genre. It is a simple and easy first step to create an updated and current knowledge of the bestsellers and strong sellers in your genre.

USA TODAY Bestseller List
Start by going to the USA TODAY Bestseller list. What I love about this site is that you can sort by category AND you can look back on previous dates. This site and list is one of the fastest way to become familiar with the books and authors that are doing well in your genre. These are the books that are selling online and in stores everywhere.

Amazon Books
Want an even deeper understanding and better idea of what titles and authors are driving your category? is the next step. This link will take you to a list of categories on Amazon. Click on your category and look to the left. You will see opportunities to see:

  • their bestsellers
  • award winners
  • editor’s choices
  • and more

Spend some time on this part of the site and you will quickly start to become a well-informed author.

Time spent on this sort of research separates the hopeful authors from the successful authors. These two sites are only the beginning. They are not the complete answer to your industry research needs, but if you want to be a successful author, these first steps will help you in a number of ways, which brings us to:

What You Should Do Then

Once you have a list of the authors and books driving your genre, you can use that list in a myriad of ways. We call these COMPARABLE (Comp) TITLES and COMPARABLE (Comp) AUTHORS.

  1. You can search for:
    • media venues
    • journalists
    • reviewers

    that mentioned and supported the comp authors on your list. The comp authors got a lot of reviews and press when THEIR book came out. Google their names and you will find a list of journalists and reviewers. You know that those reviewers and journalists have an interest in your type of book because they have shown interest in your type of book already.

  2. You can find potential readers for your book on book sites like GoodReads. Searching book discussion sites is a terrific way to find readers of your genre and finding readers is the key to becoming a successful author.
  3. You can use the sales and successes of a comp title to convince a buyer or librarians of the potential success of your book. Haven’t you ever heard “If you liked XXXX you will like YYYYY?”. Sure you have. If you enjoyed SPACE PUPPIES, then you will love DOGS IN SPACE!
  4. You can share the success of other books in your genre to convince an editor or agent that your book’s topic is both needed and wanted.

Does it sound trite? Silly? Well, it works. It works beautifully. Every time.

Spend the time becoming an expert on your category and you will be in a better position than most to become a truly successful author. Stay vigilant and informed and you will be able to converse with, sell to, and negotiate with those in the publishing industry who hold the key to your success.

Photo: BigStockPhoto

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. S. Caldwell

    One of your suggestions is one of my absolute pet peeves.

    Whenever random ad copy tells me that I will love something, I ignore the product completely. I find it absolutely obnoxious. And it’s just not true. If I liked X, I might not like Y at all. There’s NO formula for subjective taste.

    I’m sure that verbiage works for some people, but I’m just letting people know that I’m one of many people who is super turned off by that kind of advertising. And, I find blanket statements saying it works beautiful EVERY TIME to be really off-putting and erroneous.

    Just FYI.

    • Amy Collins

      You know what? You are right. It does work quite often, but saying EVERY TIME was hyperbole and a tad overstated. My marketing side got away with me there….


    Hmmm. You know, I never really thought of that. Hard stuff for a lazy bum like me. BUT–If I ever finish that great American novel I’ve been working on since before I married my wife in 1955 [actually before I joined the navy in 1948]–I shall take some of this information under advisement.


    I love you.

    Larry Winebrenner

  3. Joan Stewart

    Amy, I’ve excerpted a short tip from this article and using in my publicity tips newsletter May 12.

    I’m also suggesting that authors go a few steps further with their competitive intelligence. Study the bestselling authors and the types of publicity they have received. These same media outlets might be ideal for you.

    Who follows these authors on social media? Find out and connect with their followers.

    What kinds of content are the authors sharing? What topics are they blogging about? Are they creating videos? Do a Google search and see what else you can learn about them.

    • Amy Collins

      Absolutely. Your advice over the years on how to find and court avid fans has been a huge influence on me and my authors!

  4. michael n. marcus

    Thanks for the good advice. There are at least three more important reasons to examine bestseller lists before beginning a book project.

    (1) Maybe the genre is already overcrowded. Does the world really need yet another barbecue cookbook, analysis of the JFK assassination or fantasy novel about post-apocalypse teenage lesbians?

    (2) Analyze the prices of the popular books. New authors often have an unrealistic value of their books which can be noncompetitive because of high prices. Author-services companies often dictate or allow stupidly high prices.

    (3) Don’t duplicate another book’s title or cover art. Titles can’t be copyrighted, but try to be original.

    • Amy Collins

      Solid advice Michael! Emulate? yes. Copy? NO!

  5. The editor

    Great article and i really appreciate the time taken to share it . From my experience in any field you need to understand the context and basics of where your working. I also like your point about the difference between authors and writers – not really the same animal.


    • Amy Collins

      Thank you!



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