Small Press Publishing for Profit, Part 3: ‘The Tribe’

The third installment of a series in which Valley Press founder Jamie McGarry reveals his tried-and-tested formula for making a living as a self-employed literary publisher. This week: how to sell books.

A young publisher, early in his career, reading poetry to commuters over a train intercom. (Photo: FirstGroup)
  • Advertising. Whether on a train station billboard, in a literary magazine, or through targeted online campaigns, it’s easy to put your book’s cover and details in front of people who might be interested.
  • Reviews. Positive book reviews in respected outlets definitely do lead to sales. For best results, employ a top publicist who has close relationships with the literary editors to pursue reviews on your behalf. Or, publish authors with an existing national profile.
  • Publicity/media. While you’re employing the publicist, get them pitching for author appearances on radio and TV, or features, news stories and interviews in online and print media.
  • Events. A glamorous ‘launch’ will pack in the readers, and a national tour of festivals and bookshops will also lead to guaranteed sales.
  • Word of mouth. This is a natural process, but one you can kick-start; famously, Vintage sent out 8000+ promotional copies of John Williams’ Stoner, which worked like a defibrillator on conversation around that book, and made it a bestseller after five decades in the shadows.

Further reading:

  • ‘Please shut up’ by Delilah Dawson — a self-published author explains why you need to pull, rather than push, to sell books.
  • Publishers adding value’ by Mike Shatzkin — for advanced readers, details of how the biggest publishers are using these same ideas.

Founder @valleypress. Have mostly written here about small press publishing, but am starting to branch out. Stay with me, people!

Founder @valleypress. Have mostly written here about small press publishing, but am starting to branch out. Stay with me, people!