Why JK Rowling SHOULD Keep Writing, and Lynn Shepherd is Wrong, But Not for the Reasons You Think

For those of you whom I have not met, my name is Kelly Peterson, and I’m a huge fan of JK Rowling.  I’m certainly not alone, and if you’ve read this article from Lynn Shepherd, you’ve seen thousands of people defend her writing.  Lynn postulates that authors like JK Rowling dominate the room; they are the only books that people read, and it stifles the ability to find new, interesting authors.


Lynn Shepherd, Huffington Post contributor

I disagree.  The fact is big name authors like JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer help other authors when they write books; their success doesn’t hurt anyone.  And I’d like to share with you some tips of my own to help you piggyback off of that type of celebrity.

As a lifelong bookseller, I’ve learned one big truth. When there are big releases, like a Twilight Saga, a ton more copies are sold overall than when there’s a gap in the schedule.  When I worked at Borders, everything could be defined by those books: low sales (“Well, last year we had a Dan Brown”) and high sales alike (“When you take out JK Rowling, we’re still 100% to last year!”)  There’s a static bottom, but that bottom is low, and getting lower all the time.

Why is it getting lower?  Competition for your eyeballs continues to increase.  Facebook feeds, Twitter updates, Tumblr dashboard, and email; marathon Netflix episodes; the newest Madden and World of Warcraft; and oh, yeah, sometimes, you stumble across a book.  Your eyeballs are all worn out!

With personalization, you see all kinds of things you like, every day.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that Facebook gives you ads for your favorite authors, or the places you shop?  If you’ve searched for Barnes and Noble, I bet you see ads for Barnes and Noble pop up on your sidebar, email and social media accounts;that’s what Search Engine Marketing does for you.

JK Rowling

By announcing a new release, JK Rowling gives other authors all kinds of opportunities.  At online retailers, her title page will be up for months collecting pre-orders, driving more people to retailers sites, which results in more browsing.  Other books will be sold, building up those “Customers Who Bought This, Bought That” carousels.  Other pre-orders (like yours!) will sit next to her book on the web, and will be seen by customers who would otherwise be checking their text messages.  Let’s be honest; the trick is first getting customers onto the site.  Then get them to see your book.

But how do you get customers the chance to think of you like a JK Rowling?  Here are the best ways I know:

  • Pre-Order!  Be marketed with the books that are driving people to online retailers.   Many people try to launch the minute they have a final formatted manuscript, and that loses them tons of opportunity.
  • Market Your Pre-Order!  Drive people to your pre-order page to build anticipation and excitement—and guarantee a strong first week of sales when all of those pre-orders are reported by retailers!
  • Book Reviews!  Use a service like Netgalley to gain reviews in advance of your release date.  Get Goodreads buzzing.  Then, reach out to those reviewers at launch to remind them that online retailers want to know what they thought, too.
  • Plan Well Ahead!   Put links to your next book (or other great books) in the back of your new release.  For upcoming titles, you can put those up as pre-orders too!  (All you need is a cover and metadata.)  It means more sales—and more importantly, it works.
  • Target Your Audience!  Get the word out to people who will love your book: bloggers, fan clubs, other authors who are similar to you.  They will drive the right “Customers Who Bought This” algorithms.
  • Love Your Fans!  Get your readers and reviewers to help you by showing them how much you appreciate them.  They will sell your books for you.

JK Rowling has a lot of advocates; you can too.  With reader support, solid planning and a little marketing savvy, you could be the next big thing.  And let JK Rowling sell your next book when she sells hers!