“City Mouse, Country Mouse,” was one of my favorite early readers. This well-known Aesop fable teaches us about perspectives and schemata. In my child’s mind, however, it was just fun to follow the adventures of mice.

Today, I’m reminded of this story not because of the message being content with one’s lot in life; but rather reaping and sowing and how it relates to marketing and sales.

(Yes, in challenging economic times everything relates to successful selling.)

Since I grew up in the city, I didn’t know much about sowing and reaping. I never planted or harvested anything. The concept was lost on me.

‘Fast forward to the future; I wrote and published my first novel, and it was then ‘sowing and reaping’ made a lot of sense. Initially, My small audience was proof I reaped precisely what I sowed.

If you know anything about sowing (planting), the most essential step is cultivating the soil in preparation for planting.

The same is valid for cultivating an audience.

I didn’t make any preparation for my book to actually flourish once I published it. (I will write more on cultivating an audience in another post.)

Sadly I’m not alone. With almost 1 million books published in 2009 – there were an estimated 3 billion books sold in the same year. If every newly published book sold equally that year, it would only account for 3000 copies sold per title.

There are enough reports to know that a self-published bestseller is about 500 copies sold. Most self-published titles sell less than 200 copies each. Further, we have to figure back-list titles are still selling strong, and they too are included in that 3 billion books sold.

Back-list: A previously published title that remains in stock – sometimes even 50 years after its publication date. According to J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” sells about 200,000 copies per year.

Looking at these figures, one can see clearly some ‘farmers’ are better at reaping (and sowing) than others. Sort of like the difference between the corporate farmer and the independent farmer. They’re concerned with the quality of the crop. But it’s personal for the independent farmer. And for the corporate farmer, it’s business.

The traditional publishing house is like a corporate farm. The self-publisher, like the independent farm, may not have the resources that are available to the corporate farm. Still, it can operate with the same goals: high volume selling and multiple revenue streams.

Case-in-point, when I was on the marketing teams of big publishing houses such as G.P. Putnam and Sons and Penguin USA (they’ve since merged), it was easy to get the lion’s share of the public’s dollars for our offerings. We had different divisions for marketing and sales -including Academic Marketing & Sales, Publicity, Special Sales, Institutional Sales, Catalog Sales, Salespeople in different territories, salespeople visiting college bookstores, etc.

My department, Academic Marketing, and Sales, consisting of eight people, would travel around the country to get college professors to adopt our titles. We would go to conferences, conventions, and exhibits, anywhere we could find decision-makers, those who would and could say yes to our titles, say yes.

‘Getting to Yes’ would be a cinch for self-publishers and even mid-list authors in general; if not for one thing, neither group sees their book as a product.

Here’s how self-publishers and mid-list authors can begin to make the shift in 3 steps. Once a self-publisher/mid-list author begins to think like a traditional publisher, they can start to do some high volume selling too.


Once you publish your book it is no longer your book; it is now a TITLE. In traditional publishing, editors coddle books; marketing and sales people promote and sell titles.

Distance yourself.

You took off your author’s hat when you published your book. You are now a business person. You should have set up a business that is independent of you, the novelist/author.
My business, The LeadStory: media relations & communications, handles all of my business operations including publishing my titles.


Your self-publishing business sells titles wholesale. Traditional publishers sell books primarily business-to-business – not business to consumer.

As a front-list author of your self-publishing business, you have the luxury of setting up a web site for you, the author. You can set up that arm of your publishing business as a retail site.

Traditional publishers have author pages where you can purchase your favorite author’s books retail. That is, however, the extent of retail selling for publishing houses. As a self publisher, your business model should include an author web site as your only connection to the retail world. Do not, however, expect selling one book at a time to sustain your business revenue model. You must create several revenue streams in which your title(s) can generate revenue. For perspective, check out Penguin’s customer service page to give an idea of the many ways they harvest.



The NAICS defines a wholesale business as one that operates out of an office or warehouse, advertises to trade and displays little of no merchandise. Your publishing business may operate like a retailer on your web site or at a book fair – the publishing business is a wholesale business which sells titles in large quantities.

This doesn’t mean to hit up every brick and mortar bookstore with your title either. Your must think differently for your self-publishing business. While you have 1 title or a few; a traditional publisher has many titles to offer. Also they’ve been in a relationship with these booksellers for many years. You are basically coming to booksellers looking like a one-night stand. In addition to booksellers, look for other businesses in which to form relationships. There may be some looking for a business just like yours.

So now that you have a glimpse into publishing, what will it be self-publisher, “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear?” ~Town Mouse and The Country Mouse

Copyright (c) 2010 Mel Hopkins

Day 16
Gift: Understanding
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