Guest Post: Where Do Un-Marketed E-Books Go to Die?

Like Tina’s novel, this piece is trudat and funny.

But seriously, Tina knows the real deal: that you can only be a single-minded champion for your book if you have really, really finished with it before sending it to the copy-editor.  It’s a challenge not to let impatience or exhaustion or self-satisfaction stop you from continuing to make the book better.  But once you know in your heart that you cannot do any more or any better, that you can’t write with any more insight, more feeling, or more energy, well, then you can start selling like a maniac.

Really, you almost can’t help yourself. – Lorene


When they asked, “Where do elephants go to die?” they were really asking, “Where do e-books that nobody knows about go to die?” I’m still not sure about the elephants, but I know for sure the un-marketed e-book dies on the hard drive of the author who wrote it. If you’ve written a book completely and haven’t begun to market it, you are already way behind.  Marketing your book should begin the second you type “The End.”

Let’s stop here and face some facts: (1) you’ve written the most wonderful book in the world. (2) Nobody but your friends and family care. (3) They are your first customers.

The second you hit the final “enter” on the end of your book, call somebody, anybody, among your family or friends and say this exactly – “I’ve just finished my novel (Fish and Grits, my book title) and it will be available for sale in about six months or so.  Would you Facebook and tweet that for me please?” You have just begun to market your book.  The sooner you begin the more recognition you will receive, the more recognition, the more sales, etc. etc., etc. Don’t be afraid of the announcement, it will keep you honest.

Why six months? If you’re smart, and I know you are because you’re still reading this post, you will pay to get your book professionally copy-edited. Copy-editors do an incredible job of finding those little holes that will kill your book if the reader finds them first. While you are going back and forth with the copy-editor about why your protagonist needs to drive a Porsche while working part-time at the local fast food restaurant, get busy on your cover design. Covers can be costly, unless you can design your own. Shop around and see if you can find graphic arts student at the local college, or your cousin’s uncle on your father’s side, or anybody else who can produce the cover you’re been seeing in your mind while writing the book.  Remember that person you called when you typed “The End”; call them again. Then call a few other people and make your announcement. Find that artist who will work for cheap because the real marketing begins when you have that cover in your excited little hand. Ask for at least three examples to give you a short range to choose from and cross your fingers that they will deliver (young artists, while cheap, can be a bit un-reliable, especially on weekends).

Okay, you have your cover; now make it work for you. Before I chose my final cover, I had a contest asking my family, friends, and Facebook contacts to vote for which cover they liked best. This served two purposes – I got honest feedback on which cover to use and I increased my marketing reach. I began to receive emails asking, “When will the book be released?”

By the time my copy-editor and I were both satisfied, the cover was ready, and I decided which e-publishers to use, everyone in my life, in the life of my friends, at my workplace, school and local supermarket knew about Fish and Grits and wanted to buy a copy. You will never sell your book if you don’t talk about it every chance you get to everyone who will patiently allow you share your enthusiasm.  You can apologize later, after the sale.

By now you should have planned a kick-off (I used a fish-and-grits brunch) and began pre-sales of your book.  Sounds complicated? Not really. You already have your market for the kick-off because of your phone calls, contest, and follow-up contacts.  Google different book clubs and invite them to your affair. Contact your local newspaper and try to get a special interest story. Collaborate with a local restaurant, non-profit, or community organization for the kick-off. It takes a lot of mouth-to-mouth to keep an elephant from dying, even more to save a book. Blow, baby, blow.


Tina Smith-Brown is a Graduate of Temple University’s Journalism Program, the Art Institute on Line and currently working on a graduate degree in creative writing from University College, a division of Denver University. She is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Fellowship and two Leeway Foundation Art and Change Awards. Fish and Grits is her first independently published novel. Tina resides in Philadelphia, PA with her family. Follow her blog at

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