Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns.
LP: Tell us about your background and how and why you started Author Marketing Experts.
PS: I started the company because I’m an author and I wanted to give authors a company that understood them, knew the publishing industry and knew what they wanted.
Before I started AME I was in corporate America, working in marketing – but nothing as exciting as marketing authors. Then I got laid off not once but twice. Two companies I worked with shut down, I took it as a sign and started AME. I guess I am what you call an accidental entrepreneur.
PS: Our focus is on promotion, reaching potential buyers and readers. There are a lot of phases to getting a book out there, from editing to publishing, but we’re the go-to for the exposure.
LP: What can AME do for an author that they can’t do for themselves?
PS: What makes my team special is that we know what works and what doesn’t. For a lot of authors who try to tackle marketing on their own it’s a lot of trial and error. I’m not saying we can knock it out of the park 100% of the time, no company can do that, there’s a lot out of our control, but we really do know what strategies work for which types of books and which types of readers. We also have a lot of boots on the ground at any one time, pushing a book from multiple channels, no single person can make that happen on their own.
LP: Okay let’s talk about price. What are the different packages you offer and what do they cost? What can an author get for their money?
PS: First let me say our price ranges have varied somewhat through the years, to some degree they change based on what’s working in the industry, what we can offer our clients and what’s getting authors solid results over and over again. That being said, right now for the types of strategies and approaches we’re really seeing making an impact, the starting budgets are around $1500-$2000. They go up from there based on needs.
And for what they can expect, honestly we customize each campaign for the book and author, rarely are there two campaigns that are exactly alike in our recommendations, but our core strategies usually include guaranteed reviews, Amazon Search Optimization, eBook-specific promotions, and some media pitching. Our goal is to cover as many channels as possible. So we don’t encourage our clients to put all their investment in media for example.
LP: Tell us about two author success stories that AME was involved in – and walk us through what you did for them and what the results were in terms of exposure, sales etc . . .
PS: Some years back, we worked on a book called Cookin’ for Love. by Sharon Boorstin. The book was self-published and turned down by the author’s traditional publisher because he thought that the characters in the book (who were over 50) were too old. So we worked with the author to promote the heck out of the book. We pitched Boomer bloggers and we told them the *why* of why she wound up self-publishing the book, which engaged then even further and fired up her reader base. She wound up doing so well with the book, Lifetime came after her for a movie deal.
The Kennedy Detail, with the former Kennedy Secret Service seemed like a slam dunk. I mean, it’s Kennedy, right? So we had a lot of blogger pitching on this campaign – I mean a ton. But once we started pitching we found out quickly that most of the bloggers only want to talk conspiracy theories (most of them anyway, and we weren’t pitching that specific market). So instead we turned to author events – and the two former Secret Service, including Clint Hill who was the agent who threw himself onto Kennedy’s car when he was shot, toured the country. We often had standing room only crowds. At Warwick’s Books in La Jolla, we had almost 300 people trying to get into that tiny store.
In regards to sales, we don’t track those. No marketing company should because they can’t take credit, or blame, for sales on their own. Too many factors affect sales, a lot of them are established before we join the party and many we have no control over, like competition for example.
LP: You also write for the Huffington Post – how did that come about and what are some of the topics you write about?
It was offered to several us, by Arianna Huffington directly at a publishing event I was speaking at – they were looking to build their book and publishing track. I write about publishing but mostly marketing.
I try to focus on topics authors can run with the day they read the article. So easy to implement marketing strategies, strategies that are proven to drum up more sales, warnings and guidelines that can save authors a lot of headaches. People don’t have a lot of time and I respect that, so I want to be a reliable source for go-to help.
That publishing is a business – yes, it’s creative and exciting and all of that, but at the end of the day it’s a business. You’ve got to make decisions that are business minded. It’s pretty easy to let the ego guide you, I mean in terms of what might look pretty on paper, but be a bad choice for the book. An example of this might be a full page ad in the New York Times. I love NYT but book ads in newspapers tend to only do well for authors with big platforms – like James Patterson, etc.
LP: In your experience – what are some big no-nos that you see authors do online.
PS: I hate to say there are so many, but back to what I said about it being a lot of trial and error, that’s really a big part of doing it on your own. But a handful of things that we see over and over again that can make a big impact are: pricing your book too high; not creating engaging copy for your Amazon page; not having a home base, be it a basic website or just a well-run Facebook page; and not engaging with readers. The biggest mistake an author can make is just sitting back and assuming because the book is for sale, people will buy it. Nothing is that easy, and certainly not in this market, where over 4,500 books are being published every single day.
LP: What are three things that you believe every newbie or struggling author ABSOLUTELY needs to do EVERY SINGLE DAY.
PS: Reach out to fans and potential readers. This is where social media comes in handy. You may not love it, but chances are your buyer market loves it. And maybe your readers aren’t on Facebook, maybe they’re on Twitter – figure it out, know your demographics.
Don’t spin your wheels doing things that don’t matter. This is more of a don’t, but honestly it means take that time and put it into something that works. If you only get 5 visitors to your blog every month, don’t kill yourself writing blog posts. Take that time and research bloggers to pitch yourself to, or spend more time on social media you know is popular for your market, or finish that next book! Anything productive is better than something unproductive.
You don’t have to read every marketing blog or every success newsletter, but find a few that fit your style, that motivate you, and commit to not only reading them, but implementing strategies you learn about. But make sure you make it more than just busy work, this is not busy = productive. This is about making your next book release that much better!
PS: Well so this is like picking my favorite child, that’s pretty hard. Honestly, I love authors who work it. We have worked through several books with Leslie Hachtel – she is tireless and she gets it. If she isn’t writing she’s looking for a way to promote her books. Tawny Weber is another one, and Sarah Andre – all of these gals are just “out there” and pushing their books. I could go on, because we’re so lucky to work with so many authors who never let a “no” get in the way of their success. Honestly, those are my favorite authors because these days, anyone can write a book – it takes a lot more effort to get it seen and read.