Monday, October 15, 2012

Musings On A Munday What Could An Author Do


MC900384040 Let’s say a genealogist authors a book on a subject related to genealogy research. The book is a how-to book, not a case study. What does the author want the reader to do with the book?

  1. Buy it
  2. Read it
  3. Recommend it
  4. Talk about it
  5. Hire author to speak about it

More could be added to the list, but this seems like a good top five list of what an author would want. Now I wonder what the author could do to increase the number of times these five things happen? Obviously advertising in various ways online and offline are options. Also, depending on whether you self-published or hired a publisher your options would vary.

For the sake of this musing, let’s assume that you are an author that has self-published a book and you have limited advertising dollars. What could you do to increase the opportunities of 1-5 happening? What if 6 & 7 were added to the list?

  1. Buy It
  2. Read it
  3. Recommend it
  4. Talk about it
  5. Hire author to speak about it
  6. Market book to small genealogy libraries to use as a book club topic
  7. Market book to small genealogy societies to use as a monthly meeting topic

The first objection I can see to this is “but that will limit the authors opportunity to present the book themselves, either in person or in a webinar format.” Potentially that could interfere with speaking engagements, however, there are a number of small libraries and societies that will simply never hire the author due to lack of funds. Does the author simply write that audience off? That, to me, looks like a missed opportunity.

What if the author actively encouraged the use of their book in this fashion? What if on the back flap of the book they added to the standard about me information?

  • Contact Me
  • Visit my website
  • Read my blog
  • Buy these other books
  • Book me to speak
  • Purchase learning guide for libraries and societies

What would be in the learning guide? Copyright details should be front and center, with something like: “You can talk about my book all you want while giving me all the credit for the ideas but don’t you dare copy pages and distribute them. “If your audience would like to purchase a book of their own, here is a coupon for 10% off.” The author could then list key points they feel are highlights in each chapter and maybe explain in detail any concepts that are particularly difficult. It wouldn’t have to be a long, lengthy study guide. The point is to get the library or society to contact you and pay you for permission to present your book.

I could go on and on with this entire topic, getting into co-branding, ambassadors etc. but I won’t do that here. My point is the fact that this isn’t a “potential” missed opportunity, it “is” a missed opportunity. Why? Because I will bet that somebody, somewhere is doing exactly what I’m suggesting, using somebody else’s book to teach a class. Can you as an author police all the uses of your works? No, you can’t, so look at this as another option in controlling your brand, mitigating missed opportunities and expanding your audience.

I’m interested to hear if some authors are doing this or have tried and it simply didn’t work.


  1. I'm seriously looking for creative ways to share my new book on archiving family keepsakes, and your suggestions seem to hit the mark. You're right Jenna, it would be nearly impossible for an author to personally speak before every group that might want to learn more from a book. (I don't say im-possible, because I suppose some folks might want to try it.) Maybe that's why book clubs are so popular. Essentially, a book club group "teaches" the book to its members. Books are shared around, borrowed from the library, and some copies purchased outright. However the book itself is circulated, the value of the book is circulated too in the content that each person reads.

    I didn't write my new book to get rich. That would be nice... but I'm not so naive to think it will rival James Patterson on the best-seller list. I think I'm probably like many authors who love to write and want to share a passion. I like your idea of encouraging groups to "teach" from a book, and I'm going to be thinking of ways this might work with my own title. I hope you get some more feedback on this topic and hints for success with the concept.

  2. I've had writers in to my genealogy society to speak on their books. We didn't pay them but allowed them to sell their books after their talk (usually 1/2 hour to 45 minutes). And they sold their books at what ever price they set and they was between them and their customer. We were just a platform to make that possible, nothing more.

  3. Denise, I was trying to think of ways to extend the life of a book and to capitalize on what I know is already going on. Teachers get a learning guide that goes along with the students text book. While I'm not suggesting anything that extensive, it's sort of the same premise.

    Congratulations on your book, it looks beautiful. Where do we order the autographed copies?? :)

    Thanks for posting!

  4. Jenna, I will autograph your copy anytime! And thanks for the nice shout-out.

    I think your post really spoke to me because I was a high school teacher and loved teaching. A book guide isn't that hard to do, especially with a how-to reference guide like my title. I think it could be a "package program" for societies with small budgets and a keen interest in the subject, but I don't know how many other genealogy writer/speakers agree.

  5. This sounds like great advice for how-to books, specifically because they are how-to. Family memoirs like mine can't attach themselves to genealogy societies or libraries, though, because they are not really utilitarian or how-to. But they do perhaps serve as examples (even models) of how to turn genealogical research into a book and how to describe family members as characters, and family history as plot with theme. I think you'd probably classify them as case studies. I realize you excluded case studies from your musing. But if you considered them, what ideas come to mind?

  6. Leslie, that works, but what can that author do to extend the "life" of the book after they present on it? How much of the book did the author cover, brief overview or highlighted a couple of chapters? Hopefully the author teased the audience with just enough to make them want to buy the book.

  7. Mariann, in the that situation I agree with your word "model". If a genealogy society was having a meeting with the topic of "how to write your family memoir" it would make sense that they would bring in examples of several memoirs. What if your memoir stood out from the rest because you also provided a guide or a template that covered the various pieces of the book? Might people be more apt to purchase you book so they could follow along with the guide? Possibly. That type of book would be more challenging than a how-to book, but it could be done.

  8. Jenna,

    Yes, these are questions every author thinks about nearly every day. Ideally, we would do all these things, all the time. But, practically... each of us has a somewhat different set of priorities... these influence our decisions, of course.
    My "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" came out in 2010. I didn't market it heavily, and kind of regret that. It could still have a life, as you say. Supplemental question - would a 2nd Edition be a good idea, now two years later???
    I'm not in a position to 'make speeches or appearance' is another challenge.
    Great question. I appreciate the responses along with you. Hope they keep coming in. ;-)

  9. Bill, I think a 2nd Edition is a fine idea! Do you have more you can add? A supplemental something or other? That will give you the opportunity to market it more or via different avenues. I've never marketed a book, but I do utilize that "new", "improved", "updated" philosophy.
    Thanks for your comment!