If your books aren’t selling, what then?

When I read the latest e-mail News from best-selling author Maria Murnane, I realized that I was not doing enough to market my own work. In fact, I think most authors do not do enough to market his or her work.

Murnane—the author of three chick-lit novels with number four on the way: Perfect on Paper; It’s a Wavery Life; Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two coming in April—made it official that she had met her sales goal for 2012 and sold more than 100,000 books.

I first heard Murnane at a Saturday morning monthly meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club. She was a dynamic guest speaker. After hearing her, it was obvious that she is probably an extrovert, and that helps when it comes to an author promoting his or her work, and the evidence says Murnane is a one person industry.

On her Website/Blog—Maria Murnane.com—she offers book marketing tips for free and for a price.

Because I’m not a dedicated extrovert but more into writing alone in my man-cave, I don’t expect I will be following  in Murnane’s marketing footsteps in the fast lane. Instead, I’ll stick to Blogging and Social Networking. Besides, I’m okay with being a mid-list author with sales of about 12,000 copies, so far.

However, a recent piece—Failure to Launch by Donald Maass—published in the February 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine supports what Murnane is doing, and if what she is doing doesn’t work for you, Maass offers advice for that too.

Maass says, “You’ll never meet an author who admits to publishing a ‘failed’ novel. You will, though, encounter authors in bars and on blogs who will loudly tell you what’s wrong with the book industry. … If you encounter disappointments in your publishing career, don’t despair. That happens to pretty much every author. This trick is not to simmer but to learn.”

Writer’s Digest also lists the Seven Secrets of Successful Self-Published Authors.

In fact, you may want to learn from authors like Maria Murnane. Other authors you may want to learn from are: Hugh Howey; John Locke; Amanda Hocking; J.A. Konrath; Boyd Morrison; Michael J. Sullivan; Michael Prescott; Barbara Freethy; Charles Orlando; James Altucher; Dean Wesley Smith;  Michele Scott/A.K. Alexander; Barry Eisler; Louise Voss and Mark Edwards; Kerry Wilkinson; J. Carson Black; Tanya Wright; Denise Hamilton; Vivian Yang; Laurel Saville, and Elle Lothlorien

If learning from these successful authors doesn’t work, then return to Maass’s advice and learn how to become a more powerful storyteller. Maass says, “While the industry isn’t without blame, the fact is that you can’t change the business. You can only change your writing.”

It seems that Murnane discovered that secret long ago, because her writing has found more than 100,000 readers. The strongest path for promotion is readers spreading the word, and writing that needs improvement does not earn word-of-mouth.

Discover Authors Finding Readers


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Authors Finding Readers – Part 4/4

How does an author build an Internet platform to attract readers to his or her work?

Here’s how I did it and it seems to have worked for my first three novels:

I launched iLookChina.net (my first proper Blog after taking three workshops on the subject), the platform for my first-three historical-fiction novels set in 19th century China. Instead of writing about the writing process and my angst as a writer, as I have discovered many authors do with his or her Blog/s, I focused on topics about China and the Chinese.

Does that make sense?

Here are the results:

I launched iLook China.net near the end of January 2010. Since launching the Blog, I have posted more than 1,500 articles about China and the Chinese.

However, my first novel, My Splendid Concubine was released December 2007.

Sales in 2008 = 221 copies.

Sales in 2009 = 341 copies.

After I launched a Blog to support the novels, sales for 2010 = 2,375 copies (a 696% increase in sales over 2009 when I did not have a proper platform Blog).

Sales in 2011 = 4,641 copies.

So far, sales in 2012 have reached more than 2,700.

As of 6:10 PST on August 19, 2012, iLookChina.net had 285,272 all-time views that I’m sure have contributed to almost 10,000 book sales.

What do these numbers say? Answer: It is crucial for an author to identify the interests of his or her potential readers before building and branding a proper Internet platform.

For example, if an author publishes a cookbook, he or she should consider a Blog about food.

There is more to building an author Internet Platform than just launching a Blog. For example, in 2008, I was a guest on 31 radio talk shows (only one was a Blog radio station) and I have linked from my Website to a few of the reviews that were converted to podcasts.

Recently, actually this morning (as I worked on this series of posts), I read a piece by David Vinjamuri for Forbes.com called Publishing Is Broken, We’re Drowning in Indie Books – And That’s a Good Thing.  It’s a long piece but worth reading for anyone that wants to learn about the current state of publishing. Near the end of Vinjamuri’s six-page on-line article, he says that Indie books must get reviewed, and from the start back in 2008, getting reviews was one of my goals.

I do not pay for reviews, but I have been on three Internet book tours of my work and I paid publicists to organize these Blog tours, which generated maybe 50 – 60 reviews. Most were positive. A few were not. I also submitted my work to literary contests and lost more than I earned some recognition in.

The most valuable reviews came from Writer’s Digest judges (my work has had two); The Midwest Book Review (three); City Weekend Magazine in China; and Historical Novels Review Online—all reputable, established media sources linked to traditional publishing, and this is the quality of reviews/recognition for Indie work that Vinjamuri says Indie authors need to prove credibility equal to that of traditionally published authors.

In addition, I belong to Authors Den, write reviews for Amazon Vine, LL Book Review, leave comments on other Blogs for posts that interest me (the posts I leave comments on have to really interest me—if they do not, I don’t leave a comment).

I belong to other on-line social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Historical Fiction eBooks, and the Independent Authors Guild to name a few where I spend time commenting in chats, etc.

One fact for sure: there is NO guarantee that anything an author does will attract a sizable reading audience.  In fact, there is no guarantee that the Blog/Internet platform I’m building for my next novel, Running with the Enemy, will succeed in finding readers interested in that story.

Unless an author belongs to the rarified A-list of the most successful authors that have sold hundreds of thousands or millions of books, each book an author publishes is another venture into the unknown. For example, one of the most successful Indie authors is Amanda Hocking, and it took her about nine years of hard work building her platform before she graduated to the A-list that most authors will never join.

In conclusion, I want to share a few more depressing thoughts—According to Mental Floss, Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix, in the United States:

1. One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

2. Forty-Two percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

3. Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

4. Seventy percent of U.S., adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

5. Fifty-seven percent of new books are not read to completion.

Then, according to a 98-page, 2007-study by the National Endowment for the Arts, reading is declining as an activity among teenagers.

1. Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers.

2. The percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period.

3. For age 9, fifty-four percent read for fun almost every day; for age 13, thirty percent read for fun almost every day but by age 17, only 22% do.

4. The percentage of college graduate that read literature was 82% in 1982 down to 67% by 2002, and 65% of college freshman read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all.

5. Literary readers are more than twice (43%) as likely as non-readers (16%) to do volunteer or do charity work.

6. Deficient readers are far more likely than skilled readers to be high school dropouts. Half of American’s Below-Basic readers failed to complete high school—a percentage gain of 5 points since 1992.

Now, do you understand why writers and authors have to promote to find his or her readers?

Return to Authors Finding Readers – Part 3 or start with Part 1

View as Single Page


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves


Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The NEED to Edit – Part 3/6

There are different levels of copyediting. Some work may need only a light touch while other manuscripts require heavy editing and the price is flexible. To learn more, I suggest you visit Editors Forum.org.

The Editors Forum says, “A freelance copyeditor corrects errors, queries the author about conflicting statements, requests advice when the means of resolving a problem is unclear, and prepares a style sheet.”

Writer’s Digest, a magazine established in 1920, says, “Smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually gross $35,000 and up—sometimes into the $150,000-200,000 range.”

For trade copy editing of books, Writer’s Digest says that the high hourly rate is $100 and the low is $16 with the average $46. If charging a page rate, the high is $20 a page and the low is $3.75 with $8 the average.

Remember—the editing rate is flexible but the final cost may be determined by the complexity of the editing.

However, if the author is a starving artist and cannot afford to pay a freelance editor, he may want to follow in Amanda Hocking’s footsteps but hear what she has to say first.

“Just the editing process alone has been a source of deep frustration, because although she has employed freelance editors and invited her readers to alert her to spelling and grammatical errors, she thinks her e-books are riddled with mistakes. ‘It drove me (Amanda Hocking) nuts, because I tried really hard to get things right and I just couldn’t. It’s exhausting, and hard to do. And it starts to wear on you emotionally. I know that sounds weird and whiny, but it’s true.'” Source: Ed Pilkington writing for The Guardian

If you are not a starving artist and have the money to pay for a freelance editor, you may want to contact Rich Adin, or check Writer’s Digest Magazine’s classified section under Editorial Services, or visit Proof Reading Pal.com.

Since I have not used a freelance editor yet, I cannot recommend one—caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

The other choice is to edit your own work with some help from friends as I did. Although there are mistakes in my work, the novels are not riddled with them and the mistakes that remain do not drive me nuts as they did to Amanda Hocking.

However, I did not edit my work alone. I had some friends and tools to help.

All authors/writers come to the table with different editing skills and that includes me. There are two literacy levels: The first is comprehension to understand what one reads. The other literacy is grammar, mechanics and spelling—the editing literacy. You will understand why this makes a difference to authors later in this series of posts.

For example, although I read and comprehend at a college graduate level, my editing literacy is not as high.

Continued August 9, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 4 or return to Part 2

View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page

Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”