Why You Should Sell The Author As Well As The Book

As an author, are you shy of promoting yourself alongside your book? Don’t be – it’s a really useful trick to help you sell more books. 

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the ...

What’s the connection between BBC Broadcasting House and a book of poems on my bedside table? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night, looking forward to an extra hour’s reading due to the end of British summer time, I was checking out the books by my bedside when I reached a surprising conclusion.  I had chosen nearly all of these books not because I liked their subject matter or genre, but because something about the author appealed to me. Here are a few examples:

  • Open Window is a book of poetry by the late Joyce Williams. Chatting at my recent book launch to her husband, I discovered that she used to write stories for the children’s radio programme Listen With Mother. Just hearing the programme’s title brought back treasured memories of my childhood. In that pre-digital age, toddlers’ radio airtime was limited to just 15 minutes on BBC Radio 4. At 1.45pm every afternoon, the programme began with the magic words “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.” The theme music, the Berceuse from Faure’s Dolly Suite, must have been balm to fractious children and exhausted mothers everywhere. I’m sure that even now the opening bars have the power to lower my blood pressure.  (The television equivalent, Watch With Mother, came later in the afternoon, featuring delights such as The Woodentops, Rag, Tag and Bobtail and Andy Pandy. I cried every Tuesday because it would be a whole week until I’d see Andy Pandy’s sidekick, Teddy. No Sky+ or video recorders in those days!) Listen With Mother wove an entrancing spell of words, and I wanted to see if Joyce William’s poems would have the same effect.
  • White Mountain by Sophie E Tallis was a book I’d discovered via the Facebook page of my local independent bookstore, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. They highlighted it because it was written by a local schoolteacher. It’s a fantasy novel, a genre I usually avoid, but who could fail to be take an interest in a book written by a near neighbour?
  • A Limey In the Court of Uncle Sam by Ken Wise is a novel that follows the career of an air force officer – something that’s alien to me, but finding out that the author had moved with his family to the USA as a teenager intrigued me because I’d have a similar experience at a slightly younger age. (I went, with my family, to live in California for a year at the age of eight.) I vividly remember taking offence when the local ice-cream vendor who visited our apartment complex referred to me as a limey, and so Ken Wise and I had a bond.

If I hadn’t known these authors’ back stories, I might easily have passed all three books by. But feeling I had something in common with each author, I made the effort to acquire their books.

Boxed set of novels by James Herriot

Sharing his back story made James Herriot a household name (even though it was his pen-name)

It therefore makes me sad when authors decline to share interesting autobiographical details when they’re promoting their books. Such facts often add  authority and conviction to a novel – would James Herriot have sold so many books if he didn’t actually been a vet?

But they can also be strangely alluring even if irrelevant to the book’s content. Are you intrigued by the notion of a GP who writes time travel fantasy novels, for example? Or a top romantic novelist who has a City and Guilds in Bricklaying? I know I am.

I accept that not all authors want to live their lives in the public eye, but even if you’re hiding behind a pen name, this tip could still be invaluable to you. So take a moment to consider what lies in your back story and decide if you have something worth sharing that could help you sell your books. I’m sure you’ll find something useful if you really try.

To find out the identity of the time travelling GP and bricklaying romantic, read my new book promotion handbook for authors, Sell Your Books!



6 thoughts on “Why You Should Sell The Author As Well As The Book

  1. Hmm … that’s an interesting point about the fine line between protecting personal privacy and the desire for increased sales. I may have to rethink!

    • You don’t have to sacrifice your privacy if you don’t want to and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to share things that make them uncomfortable. A pen-name can be very handy if you are a very private person – used by some of the very best authors for a reason!


  2. Pingback: How to Sell More Books: Seize Handselling Opportunities | Off The Shelf Book Promotions

  3. Pingback: How to Use Your Hobbies to Sell More Books: with Historical Re-enactor Paula Lofting | Off The Shelf Book Promotions

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